Grazing plan springs a leak

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  The Department of Interior's revised grazing reform regulations are not due out until the end of March, but leaked copies are already making headlines. According to the Washington Post, the big changes from last year's reform proposal will be a grazing fee increase scaled back from $4.28 per animal unit month to $3.96; new incentives and fee reductions for good stewardship; local resource advisory boards following the Colorado model; and elimination of national standards and guidelines in favor of regional requirements yet to be developed. The plan has drawn cautious support from Western hard-liners, such as Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., but four of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's key allies on Capitol Hill say it leaves them "deeply troubled." In a scathing six-page letter, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., Mike Synar, D-Okla., and Bruce Vento, D-Minn., warned that the new system of local advisory boards and relaxed standards and guidelines "threatens to cripple professional land management" of Western grazing lands. The group told Babbitt they could not support the revisions in Congress. In addition, Miller, who is chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, says the administration's concessions on grazing make him reluctant to take a tough stand on mining law reform.

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