Reps. Huffman and Smith Introduce the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act to Promote Smart Land-Use Practices

March 03, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Representatives Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.)  released the following statements after the introduction of the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act of 2022, which would give grazing permit holders the flexibility to voluntarily waive their grazing permits on Federal lands for equitable compensation and to promote conservation of public lands.
“Voluntarily retiring grazing permits to advance conservation goals on public lands shouldn’t be difficult or costly. I’m glad to join Congressman Smith in this legislation to advance conservation and promote smart land-use by giving ranchers the flexibility they need to overcome barriers to voluntary permit retirement,” said Rep. Jared Huffman. On top of the benefits to permit holders, this will ease grazing pressure on public lands and help natural ecosystems recover and thrive. It’s a win-win-win for taxpayers, ranchers, and the environment.”

“As ranchers across the country face increasing costs and land management challenges, this legislation would provide them with the flexibility to do what is best for their land and families. Federal grazing permit holders often face barriers or have limited flexibility to give up their grazing permits, even when it is the best option for their own situation,” said Rep. Adam Smith. “A voluntary federal grazing permit retirement program is a commonsense step to support flexibility for ranchers and promote smart land-use practices. The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act aligns with the Biden-Harris Administration’s ‘America the Beautiful’ initiative to conserve and restore our lands, waters, and wildlife through incentives and rewards for voluntary conservation efforts by ranchers.”
The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act provides grazing permit holders the option to voluntarily waive their permits to graze on Federal lands in exchange for market value compensation paid by private parties. The federal land management agency would then be directed to retire the associated grazing allotment from further grazing activity.
In some cases, federal grazing permittees may want to give up their grazing permits simply because it’s the best choice for their business model or their life circumstances. However, due to the structure of the grazing program and the investments made in their permits, this may be financially untenable without some form of compensation. The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act facilitates agreements between third parties and grazing permittees that increase flexibility for the permit holders while ensuring that the conservation gains from removing livestock are permanent.
Livestock grazing on federal public lands can lead to conflicts with other multiple uses including impacts to wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. Current law and regulations either do not allow for the retirement of grazing permits or make the process unnecessarily difficult and uncertain. The voluntary retirement of grazing permits is the most cost-effective and equitable way to address this issue.
The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act is purely voluntary – giving grazing permit holders on Federal lands the opportunity to relinquish their permits if they choose. Retiring these permits will ease grazing pressure on public lands to the benefit of wildlife, the surrounding ecosystem, and other multiple use activities on public lands.
The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act is endorsed by several leading environmental, conservation, and wildlife organizations including Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society Legislative Fund, American Bird Conservancy, Wilderness Watch, Humane Society of the United States, Western Watersheds Project, Predator Defense, Horses for Life, and Oregon Natural Desert Association.
The full text of the bill can be found here.
See below for statements of support for the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act.
Sierra Club

“Grazing of private livestock on public lands sometimes creates conditions and conflicts that can only be resolved by removal of the livestock. Existing policies make livestock removal extremely difficult. The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act (VGPRA) creates a proven, effective, free market-based mechanism to resolve problems when conservation goals and livestock production dynamics clash on our public lands. It is a win-win solution when willing ranchers and private conservation dollars come together to allow permanent grazing retirement. Salmon, sage grouse, wolves, recreationists, ranchers, taxpayers and many more will benefit from the passage of this simple bill that allows for a permanent, common-sense solution to some of the thorniest challenges of our times. The Sierra Club enthusiastically supports Representative Smith's forward-looking approach to public lands management.”

Sierra Club is a grassroots environmental organization in the United States that amplifies the power of their millions of members and supporters to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world.
Natural Resources Defense Council

“This legislation will increase the flexibility our federal land managers have to efficiently and effectively manage the hundreds of millions of acres under their purview at a time when these lands are increasingly experiencing the harmful effects of climate change. Critically, it will allow land managers, ranchers, public land users, and other stakeholders to pursue smarter land use strategies that can also drive much-needed conservation gains.”

Natural Resources Defense Council works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends, combining the power of more than three million members and online activists with the expertise of some 700 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates across the globe.
Monica Goldberg, Vice President of Landscape Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife

“Voluntary grazing permit retirement has repeatedly proven to be successful at resolving management on public lands. The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act is a win-win-win for interested grazing permittees, conservation, and our public lands.”

Defenders of Wildlife is a non-profit conservation organization based in the United States which works to protect all native animals and plants throughout North America in their natural communities.
Western Watersheds Project

“The reintroduction of this legislation is coming at a critical time for Western public lands.  As we continue to experience the worst drought conditions in over 1200 years, tools like voluntary grazing permit retirement are essential for protecting public lands, wildlife and native plants both now and into the future.  We applaud Reps. Smith and Huffman for their efforts to advance this common sense solution to one of the greatest problems facing our public lands today.”

Western Watersheds Project is a non-profit environmental conservation group that works to influence and improve public lands management throughout the western United States in order to protect native species and conserve and restore the habitats they depend on.
Wilderness Watch

"The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act can go a long way in resolving the inherent conflict between livestock grazing and Wildernesses preservation.  It deserves the support of all public officials and citizens who believe in protecting truly wild, natural ecosystems and the benefits they provide to people and wildlife."

Wilderness Watch is America’s leading organization dedicated to defending and keeping wild the nation’s 111-million-acre National Wilderness Preservation System.
George Wuerthner, Scientific Advisory Board, Predator Defense

“The voluntary grazing permit retirement legislation is an equitable measure that will reduce conflicts between predators and livestock producers on public lands.”

Predator Defense is a national nonprofit advocacy organization working to protect native predators and to end America's war on wildlife.
Oregon Natural Desert Association

"Voluntary grazing permit retirement has proven to be an effective mechanism for resolving management conflicts in Oregon, to the benefit of both grazing permittees and public lands. Oregon Natural Desert Association would welcome establishment of a program to provide this option throughout Oregon's high desert."

Oregon Natural Desert Association is the only conservation organization dedicated exclusively to preserving Oregon's high desert.