Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal has vetoed a bill that aimed to protect ranchers who use public lands for grazing by providing state funding for environmental assessments of rangelands.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal has vetoed a bill that aimed to protect ranchers who use public lands for grazing by providing state funding for environmental assessments of rangelands.
House Bill 213 would have provided $300,000 in grants to conservation districts, allowing them to conduct more rangeland monitoring. The monitoring helps federal agencies make decisions on renewal of public land grazing permits.
Bill supporters said federal land agencies are too backlogged to keep up with necessary monitoring. But law requires the agencies to issue grazing permits anyway. The bill's backers said this has allowed environmental groups to oppose grazing leases in court over procedural points.
In his veto explanation Wednesday, Freudenthal said the state budget is too tight to take on rangeland monitoring responsibilities currently overseen by federal land agencies and permit holders.
"For the permittee or federal land manager to ask for help is one thing — for us to step into their shoes is quite another," Freudenthal said in a letter to Secretary of State Max Maxfield.
Freudenthal also said the bill lacked consensus among conservation districts and permit holders.
Bobbie Frank, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, said about 30 of Wyoming's 34 conservation districts supported the bill. He said they already participate in rangeland monitoring to the extent their budgets allow.
She said those districts that were uncomfortable with the proposed state program would not have been required to participate.
"For those districts that did have concerns, it wasn't a mandate — it was an option," Frank said.
Freudenthal acknowledged that the state has an interest in protecting public land grazing, but said the bill was the wrong vehicle.
Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said the governor's objections were "shortsighted."
Magagna said the Bureau of Land Management will face about 700 permit renewal requests over the next five years that require environmental analysis. The overwhelming number of mineral permits can push grazing permits to the bottom of the pile, he said.
Freudenthal "has a discomfort level with the conservation districts and this isn't the first time it's showed itself," Magagna said.