On March 3, Reps. Adam Smith (D-WA) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced federal legislation that would provide conservation interests a chance to permanently end livestock grazing in Wilderness and elsewhere on public lands. The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act of 2022 (VGPRA), HR 6935, is important legislation that would help protect wildlife and watersheds, and improve recreational experiences in potentially hundreds of individual Wildernesses.
Under the VGPRA, if a rancher voluntarily waives their grazing permit back to the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, the permit would be permanently retired and couldn’t be reissued by the agency. This provides conservation interests an opportunity to end grazing on portions of public land by making a deal with the rancher—in essence paying the permit holder to waive their permit. The permit would then be permanently retired. Current regulations either prevent such retirement of public lands grazing permits, or make the process very difficult. Wilderness Watch has supported similar legislation in previous Congresses.
Cattle and sheep grazing inflicts harm across millions of acres of Wilderness in the West. Of the 52 million acres of protected Wilderness in the lower 48 states, cattle and sheep are authorized to graze 13 million acres. Due to the grazing language in the Wilderness Act and its 1980s-era corollary, the Congressional Grazing Guidelines, grazing has been occurring in otherwise undomesticated Wilderness areas for over half a century.
Cattle and sheep grazing is fundamentally at odds with the ideals of the Wilderness Act. Livestock grazing in wilderness creates conflict with native species, including bighorn sheep, salmon, grizzly bears, sage-grouse, amphibians, and rare plants. It also contributes to a “de-wilding” of the landscape for visitors, many of whom head to Wilderness areas to escape reminders of human influence. It diminishes an area’s wilderness character and the opportunity to experience the unique benefits that authentic Wilderness provides.
The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act of 2022 can go a long way in resolving the inherent conflict between grazing and Wildernesses preservation, and would provide enormous benefits to Wilderness, wildlife, and watersheds. It deserves the support of all public officials and citizens who believe in protecting truly wild, natural ecosystems and the benefits they provide to people and wildlife.
Urge your representative to co-sponsor and support the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act of 2022 (HR 6935)!
Urge your representative to co-sponsor and support the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act!
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