Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse yesterday urged Congress to streamline environmental regulation to preserve ranching as well as the land itself.
The fifth-generation southern Arizona rancher told members of the Subcommittee on Federal Lands that America’s vast, largely government-owned grazing lands would be much worse off without private sector caretakers who work to maintain federal and state lands just as they do the privately-owned ranch land located next to and within federal and state rangeland.
“This partnership maintains open space on private, state and federal lands through management of watersheds,” she said. “It encourages capital investments for the benefit of livestock and wildlife on working landscapes, and supplies a large workforce to manage and care for the public trust without added expense to the taxpayer.”
Smallhouse also brought her testimony home by sharing her own ranch story. “My own family ranches in Southeastern Arizona,” she said. “The Carlink Ranch straddles the Lower San Pedro River and operates in the same location it did for more than 130 years ago. My husband and I are raising the sixth generation to live and work on this cow-calf operation. We have been recognized locally and nationally for our conservation ethic and the sustainability of our practices is evident in our longevity. We also produce a very fine beef product!”
Smallhouse reminded the Subcommittee that ranching’s open spaces ensure all species have the chance to migrate and move across the countryside. Such mobility is not guaranteed by most other land uses. Access to government lands also helps ensure that cattle will not overgraze any area in which they live, which further helps the environment. “Western ranches tend to be vast in acreage to survive periods of drought, combat creeping development and mitigate for restrictive environmental actions,” she told the subcommittee.
Even so, Smallhouse said, federal review of projects that help the environment, as well as the economy, take much too long.
“Agencies should focus on cutting red tape so that more time and effort is devoted to on ground improvements. In addition, greater flexibility should be provided to land managers and permittees, while at the same time improving the conservation of the land. Both Congress and the agencies need to start thinking of how to resolve this problem now. Unless solutions are found, western rangelands and the rural economy will continue to decline.”
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