The U.S. Bureau of Land Management - Utah's single largest landowner - predicts it will survive even though the House issued what is a possible death warrant by stripping all its 1994 funds this week.
"The programs of the bureau are too important in terms of protecting the environment and taxpayer interests not to be funded," BLM director Jim Baca said Friday.During debate on the annual House Interior Appropriations Bill that passed this week, Republicans removed all BLM funds by raising a point of order that the agency had not been reauthorized as required by Congress for years. Funds may only be appropriated for authorized agencies and programs.
That stopped, for the moment, part of the bill that would have raised grazing fees in the West by a third, from $1.86 to $2.48 to graze a cow and calf per month.
Western ranchers say such increases could bankrupt them, while environmentalists say it would stop overgrazing, and easterners say it would end what they see as unfair subsidies to ranchers.
But killing the grazing provision also killed all funding for the BLM. The agency said that is essentially throwing the baby out with the bath water.
"While it was unfortunate that House Republicans felt it necessary for whatever reason to strip our funding, we strongly support efforts to reauthorize our programs," Baca said.
Republicans and most Westerners want the battle over grazing fees worked out in that reauthorization fight later this year and not in the appropriations bill.