Hoeven, Berg, Grazing Associations Call on Forest Service Chief to Amend National Grassland Policies

DICKINSON, N.D. –Senator John Hoeven today sponsored meetings in Watford City and Medora for grazing association leaders and U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to press for third party mediation and more state university involvement in deciding management practices for ranchers on the Little Missouri National Grasslands. Tidwell is in North Dakota meeting with ranchers at Hoeven’s request. Rep. Rick Berg participated in the Medora meeting, and N.D. Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring attended both.


Commenting on the Forest Service meetings, Hoeven said: “Ranching families in North Dakota have been good stewards of the grassland for decades. They depend on them, and want to see them healthy and productive for the next generation. Now that Chief Tidwell has seen the situation on the ground, we hope he will work with our ranchers to develop a reasonable plan for appealing Forest Service policies that uses the very capable range specialists we have in North Dakota prior to making decisions.”


“Growing up in Hettinger, I understand how livestock serves as an important economic engine here in southwest North Dakota,” Congressman Berg stated. “I hope that Chief Tidwell will continue to look to our ranchers and range specialists for insight as they work to settle any disputes regarding Forest Service range management policies in North Dakota.”

Chief Tidwell said he was receptive to finding ways to evaluate Forest Service policy with local input and mediation prior to the actual decision, and said he would work with Hoeven’s office, local grazing associations, and state and county officials to develop a process. On employing mediation services to resolve disputes, he suggested that it would take a change in regulations.


Hoeven invited Tidwell to visit the state during a hearing of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which Hoeven serves, to give the agency head a better understanding of the challenges facing ranchers in the grasslands. The Senator was represented at the meetings by his State Director Shane Goettle, who grew ranching near Donnybrook.


Ranchers, Senator Hoeven, Representative Berg and Ag Commissioner Goehring are encouraging the Forest Service to use the National Appeals Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to resolve disputes, rather than the Forest Service’s internal appeals process. They also urged the agency to use North Dakota Ag Mediation Services to give ranchers a more equitable voice in resolving disputes.