Hoeven Outlines Efforts to Ensure Access to National Grasslands, Advance Livestock & Energy Priorities

Senator Hosts USFS Chief in ND, Discusses Funding for Priorities like Noxious Weed Management & Reclaiming Orphaned Oil Wells

DICKINSON, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, this week hosted U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Randy Moore in North Dakota as part of his efforts to ensure access to public lands for multiple uses, including grazing, energy development and tourism, among other priorities. To this end, Hoeven held meetings with Moore, western North Dakota grazing associations and local oil and gas producers, where he outlined the importance of:

  • Consulting all local stakeholders, including grazers and energy producers, in the development of USFS’s Travel Management Plan (TMP) and maintaining adequate access to the grasslands.
    • Under the TMP, the agency will identify and inventory roads in the Little Missouri National Grasslands, while designating those that are available for public use.
    • USFS will begin the scoping process, including drafting the environmental assessment (EA), in January 2025.
  • Better managing challenges like noxious weeds and prairie dogs on USFS land.
    • Hoeven previously worked with USFS Deputy Chief Chris French to secure $4.5 million for noxious weed spraying on the Dakota Prairie Grasslands.
  • Enabling grazers and the state to reclaim orphaned oil wells for beneficial uses, including freshwater wells for livestock, drought relief and fire suppression.
    • Hoeven helped secure funding for the state to cap and reclaim wells.
    • Following his efforts with Deputy Chief French last year, USFS began approving the conversion of oil wells to freshwater wells, which can be used for cattle in the region.
  • Promoting voluntary conservation partnerships across public and private lands.
    • Hoeven is sponsoring legislation to reauthorize the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
    • The program has provided more than $3.2 million for partnerships with private landowners to help improve and restore grasslands in North Dakota.

“North Dakota is home to more than 1.2 million acres of national grasslands, which are intermingled with private and state acres, creating a checkerboard of ownership and complex legal and regulatory issues for industries in our state, including livestock and energy producers,” said Hoeven. “Congress has mandated that federal lands be made available for multiple uses, but in the past, we’ve seen efforts to undermine the law and restrict access to the grasslands and other taxpayer-owned lands. That has real impacts on our ranchers and oil and gas producers, who provide two essential resources to our nation – a low-cost, high-quality food supply and reliable, affordable energy. We’re holding these meetings as part of our efforts to ensure continued access to the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, while addressing challenges important to livestock and energy operations, including pest control and reclaiming old oil wells. Where we can, we are converting these orphaned wells to freshwater wells, which are particularly beneficial for our grazers with cattle on the grasslands. We’re also working to give the state more flexibility in using the orphaned wells funding to make these conversions.”

At the same time, Hoeven continues working to pass a strong farm bill that makes needed investments in the tools farmers and ranchers use every day. Among other priorities, his efforts include:

  • Ensuring adequate access to credit by passing his legislation to modernize Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan limits as part of the Farm Bill.
  • Strengthening livestock disaster programs, including the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP).
    • Hoeven is sponsoring legislation, which he is working to include in the Farm Bill, to better align coverage between LFP and ELAP and make these improvements permanent.
  • Expanding the risk management tools available to livestock producers, such as Livestock Risk Protection (LRP).
  • Improving transparency and competition in cattle markets.
  • Making sure programs are voluntary and farmer-friendly, instead of one-size-fits-all, to reduce the regulatory burden on producers.