Ranchers holding permits to graze public lands should have an easier go of it for a while, as the Bush administration plugs in its people and policies to manage the nation’s forests and rangelands.

"Permit owners will find themselves involved in policy-making earlier in the process and will also provide incentives compliance with conservation objectives," says Jason Campbell, Washington D.C., executive director of the Public Lands Council (PLC).

The former system of land management under the Clinton administration often pitted private owners against the federal bureaucracy in adversarial relationships.

The era of mandates from Washington is giving way to the Bush administration’s common-sense solutions, says Campbell. He has confidence in Interior Secretary Gale Norton’s agenda and is looking forward to working with the new secretary. The Interior Department is the parent agency for the Bureau of Land Management.

"She knows the best natural resource planning is done at the local level and involves private landowners," says Campbell.

Norton said publicly early on in her term that the cooperative approach preferred by Bush will contrast the litigious system used for eight years by the Clinton administration.

Lawsuits filed by environmental groups under the Endangered Species Act, for example, have clogged the courts and diverted crucial resources of the Interior Department.

"Norton is proposing a new system of prioritizing which species need the most protection," explains Campbell. "She will then direct her agency to work with state and local regulators in conjunction with the local landowners."

Campbell works day to day with PLC president Paul Frischknecht of Utah and K.L. Bliss, Montana, PLC vice-president.

Among the long-term goals is for the PLC to maximize regulatory relief with the Bush administration, Frischnecht says.

"PLC will seek to streamline the environmental review process and enact National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) exclusions within land use planning for existing or ongoing activities," he says. "PLC would like to more closely examine the economic impact some federal regulations have on the ranchers who use federal lands."

But, Campbell says it’s important to work quickly.

"With the new administration in place, our interests are looking at a window of six to 18 months to get some of these needed changes enacted," he warns. "Our members need to act now; when this window closes, the focus of the Bush administration turns to re-election and avoiding controversy."

New Forest Chief

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman selected Dale Bosworth as the new chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Bosworth succeeds former chief Mike Dombeck.

Bosworth is a career forester with the Forest Service. His most recent post was as regional forester for the Forest Service's Northern Region, which include northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota.

The Forest Service has an organization of more than 30,000 employees and a budget of $4.6 billion.

Prior to his current assignment, the native Californian was the regional forester in the Intermountain Region and deputy regional forester in the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service. He also has worked as a forest supervisor and district ranger.

Bosworth graduated from the University of Idaho in 1966 with a bachelor of science degree in forestry.

Graze-Out Payments

The Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 provides for "Graze-Out" payments instead of Loan Deficiency Payments (LDPs), for the 2001 crop year only to eligible producers who elect to use acreage planted to wheat, barley or oats the grazing livestock. Producers must agree to forgo any other harvesting of the commodity on such acreage during the 2001 crop year.

The acreage must be planted on a Production Flexibility Contract (PFC) farm, certified on the acreage report as intended for grazing only, and cannot be harvested by any means other than grazing. Application for the Graze-Out program begins on the first day of mechanical harvest (as determined by the FSA County Committee) and ends on August 31, 2001.

For more information on the Public Lands Council contact Jason Campbell, Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Center for Policy, jcampbell@beef.org or call 202/347-0228.