Cattlemen Say Great American Outdoors Act Could Exacerbate Ranching Challenges

Aug 7, 2020  | 3 min  | Ep4551

The U.S. House and Senate entered Friday without a coronavirus relief bill putting the financial survival of some Americans in a precarious position.

Finding common ground in Washington, D.C. is easier said than done, especially when an election is less than 90 days away.

The president did sign a bill this week focusing on protecting federal public lands and waters. As the measure becomes law, the critics contend this is more than upkeep at national parks.

Josh Buettner has more.

This week, President Trump signed landmark environmental legislation into law.  Under the Great American Outdoors Act, $3 billion annually will go toward conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands.

President Donald Trump: “President Theodore Roosevelt was right when he called these exquisite resources the most glorious heritage a people ever received.”

The measure overwhelmingly passed an otherwise log-jammed Congress and in-part requires $900 million in annual mandatory funding of the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund – in existence since the mid-1960s.  The endowment is generated through federally administered oil and gas leases – and gives some allowance for land acquisition.

Nearly $2 billion more will enable improvements to parks, forests, wildlife refuges and rangelands every year.

President Donald Trump:  “We want every American child to have access to pristine outdoor spaces. When young Americans experience the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon, when their eyes widen in amazement as Old Faithful burst into the sky, when they gaze upon Yosemite, Yosemite's' towering sequoias, their love of country grows stronger.”

Supporters hailed the move as the most significant conservation legislation in nearly 50 years - one which will create 100,000 jobs.  Opponents counter the money isn’t even enough to cover the estimated $20 billion maintenance backlog on federally owned lands – a problem across multiple administrations of both parties.

Kaitlynn Glover/Executive Director of Natural Resources/National Cattlemen’s Beef Association:  “We love the great American outdoors.  We all want a sustainable and healthy future for these landscapes.  The problem is that this bill, as it was enacted, didn’t quite get us to the place we needed to be.”

For those whose livelihoods create taxable profits from the land - particularly in the American West, where the majority of the nation’s 640 million federally-owned acres are found – the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is concerned the new law could allow the federal government to acquire more property at taxpayer expense over the long term – exacerbating challenges ranchers have wrestled nationwide for decades.

Kaitlynn Glover/Executive Director of Natural Resources/National Cattlemen’s Beef Association:  “It was a bailout, effectively of federal agencies and their deferred maintenance at any cost.  For my producers and the producers I represent, the big priority is going to be making sure that these funds don’t take private lands out of private hands – these funds are not used to create a voluntary separation of those private property rights to make sure we are not taking these lands out of a productive capacity.”

For Market to Market, I’m Josh Buettner.  Producer contact: josh@iowapbs.org

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