Hoeven Urges Forest Service Chief to Meet With North Dakota Ranchers to Resolve Disputes Over Grassland Management

Senator Calls for Extended Resolution Discussions, Good Research, Regulatory Flexibility

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, in a letter sent yesterday, urged Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell to provide a 30-day extension of formal talks with North Dakota ranchers to resolve differences of opinion regarding management practices on the Little Missouri National Grasslands. In the letter, Senator Hoeven raises concerns over the Forest Service’s response to ranchers’ objections to a recent draft grazing allotment management plan and urges the Forest Service to hold further meetings with ranchers to more thoroughly address the disputes.

Hoeven also pressed Tidwell to rely on the best science available when developing regulations, citing a recent grassland study being conducted by North Dakota State University (NDSU), and to allow regulatory flexibility to better address specific local conditions. This letter follows a meeting hosted by Hoeven this May in Dickinson with Tidwell and multiple North Dakota grazing associations.

“Our ranching families have worked their land as good stewards for generations, and their knowledge and input are vital to developing an appropriate management plan for our grasslands,” said Hoeven. “I am urging Chief Tidwell to hold further meetings to respond to our ranchers’ objections, to find remedies to these disputes and to avoid a one-size-fits-all-approach when developing the grassland management plan.”

The text of the letter follows.

Mr. Thomas Tidwell
United States Department of Agriculture
Forest Service
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20250 -0002

Dear Chief Tidwell,

Thank you for taking time to travel to North Dakota to meet with the North Dakota delegation, state officials, grazing association members, and area ranchers on May 30, 2014 in Dickinson. I appreciate your willingness to hear North Dakotans’ concerns on issues such as controlled burns on grasslands, the North Billings Allotment Management Plan Revision Project Final Environmental Impact Statement, utilizing internships from North Dakota State University to relieve workload issues facing the U.S. Forest Service, and the value of our state’s research to evaluate grassland management. In addition, I would like to thank you for bringing your new Deputy Regional Forester, David Schmid to participate on the panel.

Subsequent to this stakeholder discussion, North Dakota grazers have expressed disappointment over the Forest Service’s responses to objections filed on the draft Record of Decision (ROD). Accordingly, I urge a 30 day extension on the time available for responding to objections and strongly encourage the Objections Review Officer to participate in an objection resolution meeting with the objectors to address remaining disputes.

Additionally, I want to reiterate the need for the use of the best science and adequate regulatory flexibility. As I have emphasized at numerous oversight hearings, I want to again highlight the importance of using valuable information from the grasslands study being conducted by North Dakota State University to determine best practices for managing grasslands. In addition, I urge you to provide more flexibility in the requirements that 20-30 percent of the pastures have a minimum 3.5” Visual Obstruction Reading (VOR). Finally, I encourage the Forest Service to provide flexibility for year-to-year and location-to-location management of grazing allotments to avoid policies that establish a one size fits all approach.

I appreciate your continued effort to sustain cooperative relationships within our state and look forward to a prompt response to our request.



John Hoeven

U.S. Senator