Hoeven Calls on Forest Service Chief to Work With Local Ranchers To Resolve Federal Grassland Disputes

Senator Invites Forestry Chief to North Dakota to Work with Ranchers

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator John Hoeven today urged U.S. Agriculture Department’s Forestry Chief Tom Tidwell to use more equitable means of resolving disputes over grassland management in western North Dakota. To further understanding, the Senator also invited the chief to North Dakota to work with ranchers on ways to best manage rangelands.

Hoeven urged the agency chief to use North Dakota Ag Mediation Services and the USDA’s own National Appeals Division to address disagreements. Tidwell said the agency uses Ag Mediation Services when there is a decision to suspend or reduce grazing numbers, but that other disputes are resolved through the Forestry Service’s internal appeals process, including the agency’s long range management agreements with ranchers.

“There are some unique challenges in managing the grasslands,” Hoeven said. “Clearly, you manage for multiple uses, but the ranchers feel that when there is a dispute with the Forest Service, they’d like to go to Ag Mediation Services. They feel that would be a fair venue.”

The Senator also encouraged the Forest Service to use the National Appeals Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to resolve disputes. Currently, the Forest Service uses only an internal appeals process to resolve disagreements.

“They live there, they work there, and they’re making a living out there. They understand multiple uses, and they’re good stewards of the land. Their concern is that if they go through your internal process, how is that arbitration or a fair hearing process where both sides have the same relative standing?”

Tidwell told Hoeven he would like to work with the Senator to get a better understanding of the issue. Hoeven invited him to come out to North Dakota to discuss this with the state’s ranchers, and the Forestry Chief accepted.

The Senator also encouraged the Forestry Service to use the skills and knowledge available at North Dakota State University to develop proper rangeland management.