Comment on Council on Environmental Quality NEPA Rules
On January 9, the Trump Administration’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued proposed regulations improving implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The proposed amendments are intended to “facilitate more efficient, effective and timely NEPA reviews,” according to a CEQ fact sheet. The current average timeframe for NEPA reviews—which impact authorization of range improvements and renewal of term grazing permits for ranchers grazing on federal land—is four and a half years.
Regulations implementing NEPA—signed into law in 1970—were last substantively revised more than thirty years ago, in 1986.
The proposed regulations suggest streamlining NEPA analysis in part by limiting the “effects” of proposed federal actions that agencies like the BLM and US Forest Service must consider; currently, federal agencies consider direct, indirect and cumulative effects of proposed actions, but the proposed amendments would direct agencies to consider only those effects which are “reasonably foreseeable and have a reasonably close causal relationship to the proposed action,” reducing agencies’ workload and limiting the analysis that potential environmental litigants can scrutinize.
The proposal also promotes the use of more efficient analyses, encouraging the use of categorical exclusions (actions which are exempted from detailed review) and environmental assessments (which are less burdensome than environmental impact statements), and CEQ proposes time limits and page limits on environmental analyses to ensure that most NEPA reviews are completed within two years.
CCA welcomes CEQ’s announcement of the proposed rulemaking, as reforming and streamlining NEPA analysis has been a focus of CCA and CCA’s public lands permittees in recent years.
To provide comments to CEQ in support of the proposed rulemaking, click here and click “Comment Now!” prior to March 10. Comments can also be made through NCBA and PLC’s hosted online comment submission platform, which can be accessed at by clicking here.
CCA Encourages Ranchers to Report Current Conditions to Update U.S. Drought Monitor
Producers across the state have commented that the drought monitor ratings for California, which determine access to forage programs, do not reflect the current conditions on the ground—especially after a dry month of February.
CCA encourages ranchers to report current conditions to update the U.S. Drought Monitor. If you would like to share information on conditions or impacts due to dryness or drought, please use the established protocol to do so by visiting The National Drought Mitigation Center’s website here and selecting the “Submit a Report” tab. From this page you can view and submit the conditions that you would like to report.
Click here to go directly to the submission form.
View the latest map released here.
USDA Announces Additional Disaster Relief Assistance for Agricultural Producers
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will open signups on March 23 for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). The program is aimed at helping producers who had losses in 2018 and 2019 from natural disasters, including but not limited to losses from wildfires, drought and excess moisture.
The funding of over $4.5 billion is coming from a disaster relief package that was passed by Congress and signed by the President earlier last year, as well as The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 signed by the President in December 2019.
The Appropriations bill added additional assistance for relief including losses due to excessive moisture and D3 and D4 drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor during 2018 or 2019.
WHIP+ also has new programs for relief including assistance for losses of milk. Livestock losses however, are not covered in WHIP+ as FSA has other programs that cover these losses.
To learn more about WHIP+ and eligibility, click here.
CDFW Expands “Three Strikes” Mountain Lion Policy to Central Coast and Southern California
On February 13, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a memo expanding its “three strikes” mountain lion depredation policy to the Central Coast and Southern California regions. The memo makes clear that the policy is in response to the recent petition to list mountain lions in the region as threatened, stating that the policy’s geographic extent includes “the full extent of the proposed Southern California and Central Coast [Evolutionarily Significant Unit] boundary as set forth in the petition to list the ESU of mountain lion as threatened under CESA, which was recently filed with the Fish and Game Commission.”
Under the policy, CDFW will only permit non-lethal “take” of a mountain lion (e.g. pursuit and hazing) after the first and second instances in which a mountain lion is confirmed to have perpetrated a depredation of livestock or domestic animals. Only upon the third confirmed depredation by a mountain lion will CDFW issue a lethal take depredation permit.
Beginning in December of 2017, CDFW issued the policy for mountain lions in portions of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Santa Ana Mountains. CCA and other agriculture organizations have challenged the legality of the policy.
The memo also declares that “all mountain lion depredation permits within the” region “will require the convening of a Response Guidance Team (RGT) and no final permit decision will be made without RGT/headquarters involvement and approval.”
The policy does not appear to impact one’s ability to take a mountain lion caught in the act of depredation. Fish and Game Code § 4807(a) is clear that “any mountain lions that is encountered while in the act of pursuing, inflicting injury to, or killing livestock, or domestic animals, may be taken immediately by the owner of the property or the owner’s employee or agent” so long as the take is reported to CDFW within 72 hours.
CCA believes that the three-strike policy is contrary to California law, and is pressing CDFW to reverse the policy. To see CDFW’s memo (including a map of the policy’s geographic boundaries), click here.
GET INVOLVED: Tell Fish & Game Commission Not to List Mountain Lions as Threatened
Last month, the California Fish and Game Commission received more than 4,500 comments in favor of a petition to list mountain lions as threatened throughout the Central Coast and Southern California.
Most of those 4,500 comments likely came from supporters of the Center for Biological Diversity, which on February 7 emailed its vast network of contacts asking them to “Tell the California Fish and Game Commission…It must grant these mountain lions protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act.”
While CCA has vocally opposed the petition, to ensure that CBD’s vocal members do not drown out ranchers’ voices it is essential that ranchers write to the Commission and tell them that mountain lions should not be protected under California’s Endangered Species Act. The most successful comments will be those that address mountain lion impacts to your ranch and likely impacts that mountain lion protections would have upon your operation. Any information you may have about mountain lion population abundance in Southern California or the Central Coast may also be valuable.
Because the Commission has yet to release its agenda for its April 15-16 hearing, CCA encourages you to send your letters to CCA’s Kirk Wilbur at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to the CCA office. Letters should be addressed to Eric Sklar, President; California Fish and Game Commission; 1416 9th Street, Room 1320; Sacramento, CA 95814.