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Rep. Gallego's Cliven Bundy Amendment to FY ’16 Dept. of the Interior Appropriations Bill

July 8, 2015

Mr. Chairman,

I rise to offer an amendment that will reaffirm Congress’s support for the enforcement of grazing fees on public lands.

Grazing on public lands is a privilege, not a right, and it’s critical that individual ranchers who use those lands abide by the law and pay their fair share.

My common-sense amendment simply confirms that grazing permits or leases should not be issued to anyone who does not comply with BLM regulations.

My amendment does not penalize people for forgetting to repair a fence or forgetting to make a payment once or twice. Rather, this amendment ensures that egregious violations of grazing regulations are not financed by the American taxpayer by preventing appropriated funds from being used to issue grazing permits to those with unpaid grazing fees. 

Mr. Chairman, revenues from grazing fees go toward the management, maintenance, and improvement of public rangeland. The vast majority of ranchers understand how important these efforts are and pay their fees on time.

But some ranchers are outright refusing to pay their grazing fees.

One particular rancher who is well-known to the media is more than $1 million in arrears since 1993.

He has ignored the executive and judicial branches of our government, expanding his herds further onto federal lands.

Unauthorized grazing, such as in this case, has the potential to destroy habitat for protected species and damage public property.  In addition, he has instigated volatile situations that put the lives of local and federal government officials at risk.

Unbelievably, some in this body have actually applauded these dangerous actions.  That’s simply irresponsible. 

Mr. Chairman, I strongly suspect that if anyone in my congressional district in Phoenix forcibly resisted paying the federal government more than $1 million, he would be in handcuffs instead of on television or meeting with presidential candidates.  

Ultimately, however, this amendment is about more than one man.  It’s about upholding the basic principle that our laws should be applied fairly to everyone who lives in this country and uses its public lands. 

Mr. Chairman, we must ensure that egregious violations of grazing regulations are not financed by the American taxpayer.

To that end, I hope all members will support this critical amendment and I reserve the balance of my time.