LaMalfa, Vasquez introduce legislation to encourage grazing to mitigate wildfires

Representatives Doug LaMalfa and Gabe Vasquez introduced a bipartisan bill to direct the United States Forest Service to expand the use of proactive, targeted animal grazing in fuels management programs to reduce wildfire risk.

“Utilizing livestock for fire fuel management is common sense,” LaMalfa, Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Forestry, said. “It’s an important tool that unfortunately isn’t being utilized enough. In California, we’ve seen firsthand what happens when we can’t use every authority available to prevent wildfires.”

“New Mexico knows all too well how disastrous wildfires can be for our families and homes,” said Vasquez, a member of the House Agriculture Committee’s Forestry Subcommittee. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan Utilizing Grazing for Wildfire Risk Reduction Act. This bill will help cut through red tape and make it easier to use livestock grazing proactively to prevent wildfires and keep New Mexicans safe.”

Currently, agencies are limited in the scope of tools they can consider, and often the post-fire teams bear the burden of suggesting “creative” tools like livestock grazing for fuels reduction as pilot programs.

While targeted grazing is a powerful tool to combat wildfires, it can often be found as a difficult option because any change to a federal grazing permit requires environmental assessments that take up to 10 years to complete.

Additionally, current federal regulations make it nearly impossible for ranchers with federal lands grazing permits to use overgrown fields and keep the invasive cheat grass, a highly flammable forage, at bay after a fire, only increasing the likelihood of another fire occurring again.