Congressional panel addresses issues affecting western states at grasslands meetingWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Newcastle – Congressional staff from three western states spoke on a panel in Newcastle on Sept. 14 at the Association of National Grasslands annual meeting. They reviewed relevant issues in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
“One of the things Sen. Hoeven (R-N.D.) has been involved in recently is acknowledging that it’s important for the Forest Service to utilize existing science when building biological capability studies,” noted Sen. John Hoeven’s western North Dakota Regional Director John Cameron.
Recent fires in the state have sparked conversations about how range and grazing areas should be managed.
“He is also trying to increase communication between the Forest Service and the grazing associations when environmental assessments and records of decision are being made,” Cameron continued.
Daryl Lies, district representative for Congressman Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), added, “There are also concerns about science dealing with the Bighorn sheep and domestic sheep issue.”
In South Dakota, freshman Senator Mike Rounds (R) has been tackling issues concerning the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) waters of the U.S. rule, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the sue-and-settle tactics often used in environmental policy cases.
“These are three examples of areas where Sen. Brown is really committed to addressing our government’s over-regulation problem,” stated Sen. Rounds’ staffer Katie Murray.
Sen. John Thune’s (R-S.D.) field representative Mark Haugen addressed budget concerns related to fighting wildfires and protocols for listing endangered species.
“In the Black Hills, we are facing the potential listing of the northern long-eared bat,” he said. “They are dying from a disease called white-nosed syndrome. They are not dying because their environment is being destroyed.”
Representing Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (R), DeAnna Kay noted that Sen. Enzi is concerned about many of the same issues discussed by other congressional staff representatives and echoed statements supporting better science backing federal policies.
“Sen. Enzi is the lead sponsor on a bill that would require the federal government to consider science prepared by state, local and tribal biologists and wildlife experts when making a determination under the Endangered Species Act,” she remarked.
Some of the main concerns for Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) include controlling government spending and public lands issues.
“Congresswoman Lummis and Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) recently held a field hearing near Evanston, mainly concerning H-2A visas and having to pay sheepherders more money, which would have huge impacts on the wool market,” commented Congresswoman Lummis’ field representative Matt Jones.
He also stated, “As a rancher and a person who has worked the land, public land issues are a passion of hers.”
In conclusion, Jones reiterated the sentiments of the congressional panel as attendees of the Association of National Grasslands annual meeting. He noted that it provided a good opportunity for federal officials to gain insight about the real issues affecting the people of the western states.
“Being here, I have heard some good things discussed. I want to thank everyone, including the local elected officials for being here,” he said.