Governor Signs Two CCA-Sponsored Bills into Law
Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law two CCA-sponsored bills. On Wednesday, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bills 332 (Dodd), legislation which incentivizes the application of prescribed fire by minimizing prescribed fire practitioners’ exposure to liability. The following day, the Governor signed a package of bills intended to support rural communities, including CCA-sponsored Assembly Bill 1103 (Dahle), which establishes a statewide framework for county “Livestock Pass” programs to safely provide livestock producers access to their ranches during wildfires and other emergencies.
Both bills previously passed through both houses of the Legislature without recording a single “no” vote.
AB 1103 facilitates county adoption of “Livestock Pass” programs which grant livestock producers ranch access during wildfires and other emergencies to safely care for and evacuate livestock. While some counties have already developed emergency ranch access programs, others lack the resources to develop and implement Livestock Pass programs. AB 1103 requires CAL FIRE to establish a statewide training program for Livestock Pass holders, codifies a requirement that law enforcement and emergency responders grant ranch access to Livestock Pass holders and establishes certain minimum standards for administration of the programs, facilitating and streamlining adoption of county Livestock Pass programs throughout the state.
SB 332 reduces prescribed burners’ potential liability when a planned burn becomes uncontrolled. Under existing law, when CAL FIRE responds to a prescribed fire that escapes containment lines, the agency can seek ‘cost recovery’ from the prescribed burner for the agency’s fire-suppression costs. SB 332 will immunize prescribed fire practitioners from this cost recovery unless the practitioner acts in a grossly negligent manner. According to prescribed fire experts, this immunity from cost recovery will remove a significant disincentive to burners’ use of prescribed fire – thereby incentivizing greater application of prescribed fire.
More information from CCA about SB 332’s signing is available here, with more details about AB 1103’s signing available here.
For more information regarding AB 1103 and SB 332, as well as a preview of CCA’s 2022 legislative priorities, see the November edition of California Cattleman or contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office. A full rundown of CCA’s 2021 legislative priorities is available in the October edition of California Cattleman.
CEQ Announces Proposal to Revise NEPA
On Wednesday the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced that they will be revising regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in two phases. CEQ published Phase One in the Federal Register on Thursday, beginning a 45-day comment window on the proposed changes. CEQ’s NEPA regulations were previously amended last year under the Trump Administration – the first substantive amendments since 1986.
CEQ is proposing three changes to the 2020 NEPA regulations in Phase One. First, CEQ is proposing to eliminate language stating that the “purpose and need” for an Environmental Impact Statement must be based on the goals of an applicant and the agency’s authority. In the 2020 NEPA regulation, CEQ under the Trump Administration had stated that the purpose of this language was to clarify that when an agency is reviewing a proposal for authorization, they must base that authorization on the stated goals of the applicant. This had the effect of limiting the impacts the agency would consider and streamlining the NEPA authorization process.
Second, CEQ is proposing to reinstate discretion for agencies to develop procedures beyond the CEQ regulatory requirements. Under the 2020 NEPA regulation, agency NEPA procedures could not be “inconsistent” with CEQ regulations. This was interpreted to mean that agencies could not require more extensive review than that required by the CEQ regulations. Similar to the “purpose and need” language, this language was added to the 2020 NEPA regulation to help streamline the process and ensure that a proposal that would be approved under CEQ regulations would also be approved at the agency level.
Third, CEQ is proposing to revise the definition of “effects” or “impacts” to restore the definitions of “direct” and “indirect” effects and “cumulative impacts” from the 1978 NEPA regulations. This proposal would eliminate language defining “effects” as those that “are reasonably foreseeable and have a reasonably close causal relationship.” CCA strongly supported the removal of these terms and the addition of this definition of “effects” during the 2020 NEPA regulation revision process to remove confusion, reduce the length of NEPA documents and increase the efficiency of NEPA environmental analyses.
As CEQ is currently in the public comment period for Phase One, the California Cattlemen’s Foundation will be providing comment on the proposed revisions and emphasizing that NEPA must consider the economic impacts of proposed decisions and do so in a timely manner. CCA and the Foundation will continue to support efforts to streamline the NEPA process and aim to ensure that NEPA isn’t a limitation to the important work of California ranchers.
SWRCB Releases Measurement and Reporting Deficiency List
2015’s Senate Bill 88 required water diverters with diversions greater than 10 acre-feet to install a water measuring device at the point of diversion and requires all diverters to annually report their diversion and use of water to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). For appropriative water rights such as permits, licenses, registrations and certificates, annual diversion and use reports are due by April 1. Reporting for riparian and pre-1914 rights is due annually by July 1.
The SWRCB maintains a Searchable SB-88 Measurement Regulation Deficiency List for water rightsholders who have failed to certify the installation of a measurement device or who have failed to timely file their annual diversion and use report. The SWRCB’s online Deficiency List was last updated October 6.
Because failure to file can subject diverters to fines of up to $500 per day, CCA strongly encourages members to search the Deficiency List for their names or other identifying water right information.
Ranchers in need of compliance assistance are encouraged to contact Noah at the Ranchers Technical Assistance Program at firstname.lastname@example.org or (916) 406-6902. Support through the Ranchers Technical Assistance Program is available at no cost.
SWRCB Provides Update on Curtailment Statuses in the Delta Watershed
On Wednesday, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) updated the Delta Watershed Curtailment Status List for October based on the most recent water supply and precipitation forecasts. This update includes the suspension of some curtailments in the American River sub-watershed and the San Joaquin River watershed.
While not all curtailments are expected to be suspended, additional precipitation this week and further into the month will provide additional water supplies. Evaluation of water supply forecasts occurs weekly and the SWRCB will continue to update curtailment statuses depending on these results. Curtailments in the Delta Watershed are based on forecasts from the California Nevada River Forecast Center, and they take into consideration anticipated precipitation in the next two weeks.
To see more information about curtailments and drought in the Delta Watershed, visit the Delta Drought webpage. Information about curtailment compliance and responses can be found here. For assistance with compliance issues, ranchers may contact the Rancher Technical Assistance Program at (916) 406-6902 or email@example.com. Any questions may also be directed to Bay-Delta@waterboards.ca.gov or the Delta Drought phone line at (916) 319-0960.
Stories from California Cattle Country Podcast Releases New Episode
Last month, The California Cattle Council and the California Cattlemen’s Foundation launched Stories from California Cattle Country—a new podcast that takes listeners to some of the most beautiful parts of this diverse state to learn more about the people and practices of ranches and dairies. The second episode of the podcast is out now and takes listeners to the Dorrance Ranch in Monterey County to discuss the ranch’s history, the River Fire and the hustle that is securing the future of the ranch for the next generation.
To listen, search “Stories from California Cattle Country” on your preferred platform for streaming podcast episodes or click on one of the following links to go straight to it: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or calcattlecouncil.org/dorranceranch.
CCA Calls on Governor to Authorize Emergency Livestock Grazing on State Lands
Late last month, CCA sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom asking that he authorize emergency livestock grazing on state-owned lands to mitigate the drought-induced feed shortage confronting California’s livestock producers.
Specifically, the letter asks that the Governor “direct the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) to evaluate grazing grounds and livestock feed opportunities that could be made available on state-owned and -managed lands where those activities are consistent with the ecological needs of those lands.”
On August 15, the Western Governors Association wrote to President Biden asking that he declare a FEMA drought disaster throughout the west, allowing western states to access additional resources to address the drought crisis. In the letter signed by Governor Newsom, Governors of western states also asked that President Biden direct the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to “evaluate grazing grounds and livestock feed opportunities that could be made available for emergency situations where lands can support the additional use” to help alleviate drought impacts on agricultural producers.
CCA’s letter to Governor Newsom simply asks him to take the very action on state-owned lands that he has advocated on federally managed public lands.
While CCA’s letter calls for emergency (that is, temporary) access to livestock forage on state-owned lands, CCA continues to advocate policies to permanently expand livestock grazing on state-owned lands as an ecologically sound land management tool. For instance, CCA has sponsored Assembly Bill 434 (R. Rivas), which will be considered during the 2022 Legislative Session.
CCA will continue to press the Governor, CNRA and the California Department of Food & Agriculture to take swift action to mitigate the drought’s impacts on California ranchers and will keep members apprised of any developments on this front.
RFPs for Grazing Lease on Bobcat Ranch Being Accepted
The Bobcat Ranch in Winters, Calif., owned by Audubon California, is currently accepting requests for proposals (RFP) for a grazing lease of 3,640-acres. The lease will be for one-season and is expected to begin at the start of January and last up to June 1, 2022.
“In recent years, the Ranch has supported 175-250 cow-calf pairs for 6-8 months,” the announcement for the RFP states. “Due to extreme drought and fire conditions, Bobcat Ranch is being offered primarily as winter/spring ‘finishing’ grounds, and may be better suited to stocker-steer operations.”
Click here to download a PDF document with full details about the RFP and the process for applying. Any questions regarding the RFP can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virtual AB 589 Water Measurement and Reporting Course Scheduled for Nov. 4
The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) has announced that it will offer a virtual water measurement and reporting course as authorized by CCA-sponsored Assembly Bill 589 (2017) on Thursday, November 4 from 9:00am-12:30pm. Those interested in attending the virtual course can pre-register and pay for the course here. It is likely the last training being held in 2021, so early pre-registration is encouraged.
Senate Bill 88 (2015) requires all water right holders who divert more than 10 acre-feet of water per year to annually measure and report their water diversion (detailed information on the regulatory requirements is available here). As originally written, the legislation required diverters of 100-acre feet or more annually to have a measuring device installed and certified by an engineer, contractor or other professional. AB 589 amended that require by allowing any diverter who has successfully completed a UCCE instructional course to be considered a qualified individual when installing a measurement device.
At the workshop you will: clarify reporting requirements for ranches; understand what meters are appropriate for different situations; learn how to determine measurement equipment accuracy; develop an understanding of measurement weirs; and learn how to calculate and report volume from flow data.
Should you have any questions about this training, please contact Larry Forero at email@example.com or Sara Jaimes at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Shasta UCCE office at (530) 224-4900.
CCA Wraps Up Wildfire Risk Management Education Series; Recordings Available
Last month, CCA held its fifth and final workshop on Wildfire Risk Management under a grant provided by the Western Extension Risk Management Education Center and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The series covered topics including federal relief and recovery programs, pre-fire precautions and prevention efforts for ranchers to employ, emergency ranch access and livestock evacuation, considerations for federal lands permittees and information on prescribed fire.
All workshops were recorded in hopes they could inform producers not able to join the live events. A YouTube playlist of all five workshops is available at CCA’s YouTube channel, here.
Based on content from these workshops and the input of other fire experts, CCA is currently working on a Ranchers Wildfire Handbook which can act as a resource before, during and after a wildfire. CCA will notify ranchers via Legislative Bulletin when that resource becomes available on the CCA Website.