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Washington -- Wyoming U.S. Senator Mike Enzi helped defeat a proposal that could have crippled Wyoming ranchers who depend on public grazing for their livelihood.

The Bureau of Land Management must meet a Sept. 30 deadline for completing environmental studies on grazing permits, but with 5,000 permits set to expire the BLM is running behind. If the studies aren't done ranchers would not be able to use the land they depend on for their cattle. Language in the Department of Interior Appropriations bill now being debated in the Senate would protect ranchers with grazing permits scheduled to expire at the end of the month, but an amendment proposed by Senator Richard Durbin, D-Ill., would have stripped that protection and put ranchers at risk of losing their livelihood.

The Senate voted 58-37 to table the amendment.

Senator Enzi's full statement follows.

Statement by Senator Michael B. Enzi

In opposition to Durbin anti-grazing amendment

Sept. 9, 1999

With more than 5,000 federal grazing permits scheduled to expire in FY 1999, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is hard pressed to meet its September 30 deadline before hundreds of American ranchers are forced to shut down business and move off the land. This could result in local economies suffering dramatically for the BLM's inability to keep up with bureaucratic regulations.

The Senate Interior Appropriations Committee has included language in this bill that would allow the BLM to complete its permit renewal process without forcing ranchers out of business.

It is important to note, that, in spite of misconceptions put forward by the other side,

1. The BLM must still comply with all Federal environmental laws and the BLM must still complete all of its environmental reviews. The cost of delays, however, will be borne by the agency and not by individual ranchers who have no control over the completion of the environmental reviews.

2. The current language does not dictate any new terms or conditions. After the BLM completes its final reviews the BLM still has the authority update the terms and conditions of all permits.

3. The BLM still holds the authority to terminate grazing permits for unauthorized use or noncompliance.

The goals of environmental protection and economic stability are not mutually exclusive. Please help keep western livestock producers on the land while protecting the financial future of family ranches and Western economies.

I strongly urge my colleagues to support the existing language in Section 117 of the bill, and oppose this and any amendment that may adversely impact the delicate balance of sound livestock production, and the sustainability of western landscapes for wildlife habitat and other recreational opportunities.