If Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., has his way, the Resource Advisory Committees, which just turned one year old, will never reach their second birthday.
sponsored by Domenici would phase out the RACs by early 1997, and
reinstate the grazing advisory boards dominated by ranching
interests (HCN, 6/12/95). The bill would also keep grazing fees
under $2 per AUM (the amount of rangeland eaten by a cow-calf pair
in one month) for the next five years, according to estimates by
the Economic Research Service.
The Domenici bill
was once thought dead, but it has been revived by the strenuous
effort of House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He convinced Rep. Sherwood
Boehlert, R-N.Y., a leading environmental advocate, to sit down
with the House Resources Committee and draft a grazing bill that
could dodge a presidential veto. According to Jim Jontz of
Defenders of Wildlife, Boehlert agreed to compromise because his
East Coast constituents don't consider grazing a pivotal issue.
But for Western Republicans, passage of a
grazing bill is key to pleasing voters. According to Reeves Brown
of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, even ranchers who
appreciate the RACs are willing to ditch them for Domenici's
"(The RACs have) been
pretty positive for getting different viewpoints out there," says
Caûon City, Colo., rancher Nate Patton. "So far as any
practical achievements ... I don't think the RACs have accomplished
a whole lot or are going to."
Chris Wood of the
Bureau of Land Management disagrees: "More people are moving West
and using these lands ... This bill gives preferential treatment
for one use of public lands ... We think we have a program that is
working ... And the genius of these regulations is in the RACs."