Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

Greg Walden on livestock grazing in eastern Oregon: “this is a life-and-death matter for the ranchers out there”

June 7, 2018
Press Release

Greg Walden on livestock grazing in eastern Oregon: “this is a life-and-death matter for the ranchers out there”

Presses NOAA official for more local input and science-based grazing management policies

Click here or on the image above to view Walden’s remarks from today’s hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River), Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, today pressed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Assistant Administrator Chris Oliver for answers as to the science behind environmental rules that limit grazing activities in eastern Oregon. During a hearing before the Energy and Commerce Committee, Walden called for increased local input when determining grazing management policies, and stressed the importance of livestock grazing for rural communities in Oregon.

“On Friday, Mr. Oliver, your agency finalized a year-overdue grazing biological opinion for the Malheur National Forest allotments on the Malheur National Forest. I have repeatedly heard concerns about the process and concerns about the science used,” said Walden. “As an example, I understand from your regional staff that there is no science behind using the three trampled redds as a threshold for ‘take’ forest-wide, just that it is an easy way for the agencies to monitor.”

Representative Walden was referring to the monitoring process for the destruction of fish egg nests --  referred to as redds -- that is used to determine the severity of the impact on fish populations throughout the Malheur National Forest from cattle grazing. Walden relayed the concerns he has heard from ranchers in the area, and asked Assistant Administrator Oliver to detail how their concerns are being taken into account.

“There is no science behind this. Ranchers and others had barely a week to read and comment on the 300 plus page document but they did their best. Can you explain how their concerns are being addressed in the final biological opinion?” asked Walden.

“While there may be some questions about the three trampled redds threshold for re-initiation, that was altered from the original one redd per year that was at one point proposed. So that was one way in which we hoped to address some of the concerns or alleviate some of the concerns,” said Assistant Administrator Oliver.

"What I would like is the science behind this determination about the redds,” said Walden.

Representative Walden also called for more engagement from federal agencies such as NOAA with communities on the ground when implementing policies that impact grazing activities that ranchers in eastern Oregon rely upon.

“These communities are pretty upset when it comes to taking all of the hits, applying it all to grazing, when it comes to trying to do a balanced effort to restore salmon and steelhead fishery. They really want a little more face-to-face time with the National Marine Fisheries Service,” said Walden.  “This is a life-and-death matter for the ranchers out there. A lot goes on out in the ocean that we’re told is just a black box that you can’t do anything about. Then we watch the fish get devoured by the sea lions coming up the river and then the only thing you can do is shut down cattle operations and blame it all on them. We’re not going to put up with that.”

For more information on today’s hearing, including witness testimony, background memo, and archived webcast, please click here.