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November 1, 2021

USFS Region 5 Proposes Hazard Tree Removal
Last Monday, the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region (Region 5), which covers virtually all U.S. Forest Service lands in California, announced a proposal for “hazard tree felling and removal, as well as removal of downed woody fuels resulting from hazard trees (slash), to reduce public safety hazards along portions of roads, trails, and near facilities.” The proposed project would be undertaken within the Inyo, Klamath, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Plumas, Sequoia, Shasta-Trinity, Sierra and Six Rivers National Forests.

Given the time-sensitive nature of this hazard tree removal, Region 5 is seeking to expedite the fuels removal project. To that end, the initial scoping period for this proposal will only be 21 days (closing on November 15), and Region 5 may seek an Emergency Situation Determination, which would streamline the regulatory process, “enable the capture of the commercial value of the salvaged timber [and] facilitate the accelerated reduction of fuel accumulation and tree disease risk.”

In recent years, CCA has advocated for Region 5 to take swift action to remove hazard and downed trees which pose significant risk of subsequent wildfire activity (private forest landowners have worked expeditiously to remove downed and hazard trees forest-wide, capturing economic value while reducing subsequent wildfire threats). CCA and the California Public Lands Council will be supporting Region 5’s proposed project, but will also urge the agency to expand the scope of the proposal beyond merely roads, trails and facilities, as the threats from hazard trees exist throughout California’s forests.

The full scoping document for the proposed project is available here, with additional resources available here. CCA encourages grazing permittees within the impacted forests to convey their support for the project prior to the November 15 deadline; comments may be submitted online here.

Episode 6: Sorting through the research with Dr. Mitloehner
What’s the research on cattle and air quality say? Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist in cooperative extension for the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, joins Katie on the podcast to share about his research and provide an update for producers on the recent work he’s doing pertinent to cattle and the environment. We also ask his advice on the best way ranchers can share about the positive role cattle have on California rangelands with those who might have heard otherwise.

To listen now and learn more about Dr. Mitloehner’s work, click hereSorting Pen: The California Cattleman Podcast is also available on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts and Spotify.

USFWS Moves to Rescind Two Trump-Era ESA Rules
On Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published two proposed rules rolling back federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) reforms instituted under the Trump Administration.

The first proposed rule aims to rescind a December 16, 2020 final rule which defined “habitat” for purposes of designating critical habitat as an area “that currently or periodically contains the resources and conditions necessary to support one or more life processes of a species.”

The second proposed rule seeks to rescind a December 18, 2020 final rule which allowed the USFWS to exclude federal lands from critical habitat designation on a case-by-case basis based on undesirable “economic or other impacts” that critical habitat designation would have.

Both 2020 rules were strongly supported by CCA and were issued in response to the U.S. Supreme Court case Weyerhaeuser v. USFWS (in which CCA submitted a “friend of the court” brief), which had held that the USFWS could not designate as critical habitat land which does not logically meet a species’ habitat requirements.

In proposing to rescind the two rules, USFWS now argues that neither rule was required by the holding in Weyerhaeuser and that the rules conflict with the broader conservation purposes of the ESA.

USFWS is accepting public comment on the two proposed rules through November 26; ranchers are encouraged to submit comments via the Public Lands Council’s public comment portal prior to that time. CCA is partnering with PLC and the Western Resources Legal Center to craft responses to the agency’s proposals.

For more information, see the June 2021 edition of Hot Irons or contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.

UPDATE: SWRCB Temporarily Suspends Certain Curtailments in Multiple Watersheds
On Tuesday the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) announced that all curtailments in the Delta Watershed will remain temporarily suspended “at least until the start of November” (curtailment suspensions were previously reported in last week’s Legislative Bulletin). Updates on curtailment statuses in the Delta Watershed are available here.

On Friday, the SWRCB announced an extension to the temporary suspension of all curtailments in the Upper and Lower Russian River Watersheds. This extension is anticipated to last through November 30, though the SWRCB will continue to provide updates as conditions change. More information on curtailment statuses for the Russian River Watersheds can be found on the Russian River Drought Response webpage.

The SWRCB also announced on Friday that there will be temporary suspensions to the curtailment orders for all water rightsholders in the Scott River Watershed until November 8 at 11:59pm. This temporary suspension is contingent on the minimum flow levels at the Fort Jones gage remaining above 60 cubic feet per second (cfs). The SWRCB also announced that there will be a temporary suspension of curtailments for water rights in the Shasta River Watershed with a priority date of July 30, 1923 or earlier if  flow levels at the Yreka gage reach sustained flows of 150cfs  (as of press time, flow levels are only 133cfs, so curtailments remain in effect). Once triggered, such suspensions will remain in effect until December 31 at 11:59pm so long as 150cfs flows are sustained. Updates on curtailment statuses for these watersheds are available on the Scott River and Shasta River Drought Response webpage.

CCA will continue to monitor drought conditions and provide information on any further updates from the SWRCB. For assistance with compliance issues, ranchers may contact the Rancher Technical Assistance Program at (916) 406-6902 or rtap@wrstrat.com.

Cattle Contract Library Act Introduced in Congress
At the end of October, Congressmen Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) introduced the Cattle Contract Library Act of 2021 (H.R. 5609). The bill would establish a cattle contract library under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS).

In a press release, CCA applauded the Act’s introduction, noting that “CCA has long advocated at the federal level for greater market transparency alongside our partners at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association” and that “creation of a contract library would equip cattle producers with the market data they need to make informed business decisions and exert greater leverage in negotiations with the packers.”

The Cattle Contract Library Act would require USDA to establish a library documenting each type of contract packers offer for the purchase of fed cattle. The library would collect information about the type and duration of such contracts, contract provisions which may affect the base price, any premiums or discounts offered and the total volume of cattle covered by the contracts, among other details.

USDA AMS would be required to report this data on a weekly and monthly basis, with information reported being subject to USDA’s confidentiality rules.

CCA’s Price Discovery Subcommittee Chair Seth Scribner reacted to the bill’s introduction noting that “As a cattle industry, this is an opportunity to ask ourselves what the data from a cattle contract library should look like and more importantly, how we can design it to help with adequate price discovery.”

CCA is actively tracking H.R. 5609 and will keep members apprised of updates on this bill and other market transparency efforts as they become available.

CNRA Releases Draft Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy
The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) has released a public comment draft of its Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy. The document was mandated by Governor Gavin Newsom’s Oct. 7, 2020 Executive Order which also initiated the state’s “30×30” initiative – the goal of conserving 30% of the state’s land and waters by 2030 in an effort to preserve species diversity and slow climate change.

CCA has been working closely with CNRA and the Newsom Administration throughout the development of the Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy. As a result, much of the draft strategy acknowledges the vital ecological contributions of well-managed livestock grazing. For instance, the strategy identifies “science-based grazing” as a method to “reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire,” and acknowledges the benefits of grazed rangelands for sequestering carbon and improving water storage.

CCA and California Cattlemen’s Foundation staff are currently reviewing the draft strategy and will continue engaging directly with the Administration in addition to submitting formal comments on the draft strategy prior to the November 9 deadline.

CCA encourages members to submit comments on the draft strategy by selecting “How to Provide Input on the Draft Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy” here. For further information, contact Victoria Rodriguez at the California Cattlemen’s Foundation at victoria@calcattle.org.

Dept. of Insurance Orders FAIR Plan Coverage Increase, Reinitiates Wildfire Risk Rulemaking

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has ordered the California FAIR Plan to increase its coverage limits – which were set more than 24 years ago – to keep pace with the rate of inflation and “to be a more effective backstop for California’s commercial businesses.” As a result of this year’s Senate Bill 11 (Rubio), the state’s insurer of last resort now provides coverage for certain farm and ranch structures.

Once implemented, the order will result in Division I commercial property insurance limits being increased from $4.5 million to $8.4 million and Division II businessowner program insurance limits increasing from $3.6 million to $7.2 million.

The Department of Insurance has also announced that it is re-initiating previously-delayed public hearings regarding new rules “to require that insurance companies take into account fire-preparation actions by homes and businesses when they determine the risk of wildfires” in an effort to increase insurance availability.

The public hearing will be held next Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 1:00pm. Interested persons can register for the virtual hearing here; the draft text of the proposed regulations is available here. Finally, a press release overviewing the Department of Insurance’s recent actions relating to agricultural business coverage and wildfire insurance is available here.

 from California Cattle Country Podcast Releases New Episode

Six-year-old Chesley Tipton is the highlight of the Stories from California Cattle Country podcast’s latest episode. Listen to learn more about roping and branding from Chesley and hear more about the Maddalena Ranch from his mom, Annie. You can see photos related to the episode and listen at https://calcattlecouncil.org/maddalenaranch.

The episode is also available on a variety of platforms for streaming podcasts. Stories from California Cattle Country is produced by the California Cattlemen’s Foundation with support from the California Cattle Council.

Upcoming CCA Events

105th Annual CCA/CCW Convention and California Cattle Industry Tradeshow
December 1-3, Peppermill Reno
We are a month away from this year’s Convention! Register today and find out who is speaking at https://calcattlemen.org/convention2021. The CCA room block at the Peppermill for the event has also been extended! Reserve your room at the Peppermill today by calling 800-282-2444 or by clicking here.

Industry News

Skelton: California spending billions on water projects — without borrowing The Mercury News “State politicians have done something laudable, and it has gone unheralded. They haven’t even bragged about it themselves. So, here’s some heralding. They’ve authorized spending about $5 billion on drought-related water projects without charging it on the credit card.” To continue reading, click here.

In reconciliation, climate-smart agriculture and forestry is the way forward The Hill “One key solution, too often overlooked, is already here — in the land under our feet and the trees that surround us. Farmers, ranchers and foresters are uniquely positioned to address the crisis head-on through climate-smart stewardship.” To continue reading, click here.

Biden vowed to cut wildfire risk in California’s forests. Here’s how much he plans to spend The Modesto Bee “On Thursday President Joe Biden released a legislative package that would spend more than $15 billion over the next decade to help make forests less combustible in California and other states.” To continue reading, click here.

Episode 6

Sorting Pen: The California Cattleman Podcast
Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist from UC Davis shares an update for producers on the recent work he’s doing pertinent to cattle and the environment. We also ask his advice on the best way ranchers can share about the positive role cattle have on California rangelands. Click here to listen.

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