Western Ranchers Testify in Two Hearings on Capitol Hill
May 26, 2017

This week, ranchers from Arizona and Idaho testified on behalf of the Public Lands Council in two hearings on Capitol Hill.

Arizona rancher David Cook testified before the U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, calling on Congress to remove layers of red tape and bureaucracy that have become detrimental to the management and health of public lands. Specifically, Cook addressed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the Wilderness Act.

"I do not believe it was the intent of Congress to disenfranchise communities like mine when laws like FLPMA and the Wilderness Act were originally enacted, but that is certainly where we have ended up," explained Cook. "The burden of compliance with these processes - not to mention the struggle to have our voice as a stakeholder heard and respected - has become the dominant consumer of time and resources for anyone or any entity interacting with federally-managed lands."

Cook and his wife, Diana, own and operate DC Cattle Company, as well as partner in several ranches in Gila County, Ariz. Gila spans 4,800 square miles and contains less than 5 percent private deeded land. All of the ranches Cook operates must utilize a federal grazing permit with the Tonto National Forest to remain economically viable.

In a separate hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs and Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and Environment, Darci Helmick testified on how environmental advocacy groups and federal agencies regulate through consent decrees using citizen lawsuit provisions in environmental laws, which is known as "sue and settle."

Helmick, Land Manager for Simplot Land & Livestock, stressed to Congress that if family ranching operations and rural economies are going to survive another generation, Congress must address the problem of so-called "sue and settle" abuse. The current practice is allowing these radical groups to drive the regulatory agenda at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency by targeting rules that further their causes by selectively filing lawsuits in federal court to bring enforcement to the front burner.