U.S. Supreme Court upholds livestock grazing rules

May 15, 2000 15/00

For the case law, go here: http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/98-1991.ZS.html

The Supreme Court rejected a challenge by farming and ranching groups by ruling unaminously that Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit did not exceed his authority under a 1934 federal grazing law when he issued regulations which took effect in 1995. The decision affects federal regulations for livestock grazing on about 170 millions of acres of public rangeland in the western United States which the Interior epartment manages.

The regulations were challenged by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Sheep Industry Association, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the Public Lands Council and the Association of National Grasslands. These are only three of the more than 20,000 livestock producers which have permits to graze their cattle and sheep on public lands.

The regulations issued by Babbit and contested by the industries replaced established grazing preferences with variable "permitted uses," amended the permit process by making a new connection between grazing-use decisions and land-use plans, and gave the government title to permanent range improvements, such as fences made and paid for by the permit-holders, and allowed grazing permits for people who were not in the livestock business.

A federal judge in Wyoming ruled the regulations were invalid on the grounds that they exceeded Babbitt's authority, but a U.S. appeals court upheld the rules. In the opinion for the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer said the appeals court rulling was correct. He affirmed the regulatory changes do not exceed the authority that a 1934 federal grazing law gives the interior secretary.