Good Cop, Bad Cop, Grazing, & Sage Grouse


You sometimes think you have things all figured out until you realize that you don't.  Such was the case when, last week, a good cop, bad cop scenario unfolded in Washington, D.C.  Three agricultural organizations were in town lobbying on the Hill, talking to members of Congress, and getting updates from various federal agencies.  Where do you think the detective tactic of Hollywood fame played out?  Haylie Shipp spoke with Jim Magagna, Executive Vice President of the Wyoming Stock Growers.  

“We left with a very uncomfortable feeling that these two agencies, both which are under the direction of the Department of Interior, were sort of playing good cop, bad cop,” said Magagna in a Tuesday interview.  

The two agencies causing such discontent were none other than the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  The topic, of very high importance to Magagna, was cattle grazing and sage grouse.

Explaining the presentations, Magagna says that the message from Dan Ashe, Director of USFWS, was positive.  If possible, Ashe told the group that they wanted to keep sage grouse off the Endangered Species List.  What's more, Magagna says Ashe's message was that livestock grazing is not a significant threat to sage grouse.  In fact, if done properly, it can compliment sage grouse habitat.  “As long as we maintain good grazing practices,” said Magagna about the feeling of Ashe's presentation, “we really shouldn't have too much to fear in terms of the sage grouse.”

That was the discussion from USFWS.  BLM was different.

Steve Ellis is the Deputy Director of BLM.  Recapping his talking points and his interaction with the rancher audience, Magagna says people were uneasy.  “We left there with a feeling that BLM, unlike Fish and Wildlife Service, may be looking at significant impacts on our grazing operations,” said Magagna.  

Bottom line, Magagna wants people to be aware of the discrepancy between the agencies.  While hoping that the issues can be worked out, he has also brought it forward to Wyoming's Congressional delegation.  “If BLM is in fact moving far beyond what Fish and Wildlife deems necessary in terms of impacting grazing in the name of sage grouse habitat,” he said, “we may need to be prepared with some Congressional intervention.”



© Haylie Shipp 2015


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