House of Representatives Passes Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
Late Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 228-206 to pass H.R. 3684, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684 is the bipartisan hard infrastructure bill, not to be confused with the “Build Back Better Act,” the Democrats’ $1.75 trillion social spending reconciliation bill).
The bill previously passed the Senate by a vote of 69-30 with the support of 19 Republican Senators, and President Joe Biden intends to sign the legislation.
In addition to $127 billion for roads, bridges, ports and waterways, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act contains several wins for cattle producers, including:
- A 150 air-mile exemption to Hours of Service regulations on the back end of livestock hauls. A 150-mile exemption already exists for the front-end of livestock hauls, and the additional back-end exclusion is intended to give haulers additional time to safely navigate rural roads and to ensure animal welfare;
- Broadband internet expansion, including $42.45 billion to states and territories to expand broadband internet infrastructure and $2 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand broadband in rural areas;
- Wildfire prevention and suppression. The bill allocates more than $3.3 billion through 2026 to the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior for wildfire prevention and suppression activities, including $500 million for prescribed fires;
- Codification of “One Federal Decision.” Former President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13807 sought to streamline permitting for major infrastructure projects through a “One Federal Decision” framework which aims to complete environmental review and permitting for major infrastructure projects within two years with one federal agency taking the lead in navigating the project through the regulatory process. H.R. 3684 codifies the One Federal Decision rule, which the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association notes “is valuable for all cattle producers who engage with EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture” because “A government-wide commitment to ensuring uniformity in decision-making drastically increases access to federal programs by saving regulated stakeholders valuable time and resources.”
Stories from California Cattle Country Podcast Releases New Episode
Likely Land & Livestock Company in Modoc County is the feature of the latest episode of Stories from California Cattle Country, released today. Fifth generation rancher Myles Flournoy talks about the ranch’s multigenerational history and about Treasure Island which is a boneyard of old ranch vehicles some of which fell victim to Myles and his brother Dan’s creative driving. Their uncle Dave who runs the ranch’s auto shop refers to Treasure Island as his parts department. Listen and see photos from the ranch, including photos of gems from Treasure Island, at http://calcattlecouncil.org/likely.
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.
UPDATE: SWRCB Announces Temporary Curtailment Suspensions
On Friday the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) announced the continuation of suspensions to the curtailments for all water rights in the Scott River Watershed. This suspension is contingent on a minimum flow level of 60 cfs being maintained at the Fort Jones gage. These temporary suspensions will end on November 16 at midnight, unless the SWRCB announces a further extension. More information on drought action in the Scott and Shasta River Watersheds can be found here.
Additionally, on Friday the SWRCB announced that all curtailments on water rights in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) Watershed remain temporarily suspended. The SWRCB has not stated when these suspensions are set to terminate, but CCA will continue to monitor action in the Delta Watershed and provide any updates as they come up. More information on drought action in the Delta Watershed can be found here.
Three Proposed Ballot Initiatives of Note Cleared for Circulation
Last week, three proposed 2022 ballot initiatives previously reported on in the October edition of Hot Irons (“Proposed 2022 Ballot Initiatives May Impact Cattle Producers”) were cleared for circulation by the Secretary of State’s office. Now that the initiatives are cleared for circulation, proponents may begin gathering the signatures necessary to qualify the measured for the November 2022 ballot.
The “Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022” would require that 2% of the State’s annual General Fund Revenue – between $2.5 billion to $4 billion per year – be transferred to a “Water Supply Infrastructure Trust Account” to fund water projects until the state’s water supply has increased by 5 million acre-feet.
Initiative 21-0016 – titled “Provides that Local Land-Use and Zoning Laws Override Conflicting State Laws” by the Secretary of State’s office – would enshrine local control in the state Constitution by providing that “in the event of a conflict with state statute,” a city or county regulation regarding “the zoning, development or use of land…shall prevail over” the conflicting state statute.
Finally, the “Repeal the Death Tax Act” – proposed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association – would roll back certain provisions of 2020’s Proposition 19 relating to intergenerational transfers of real property and provide additional exemptions from property tax reassessment for non-residential real property.
All three initiatives would be amendments to the California Constitution, and thus require signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast in the 2018 Gubernatorial Election – or 997,139 valid signatures from registered voters. The Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022 and local land use initiatives must gather these signatures by May 2, 2022 to qualify for the ballot; the Repeal the Death Tax Act must qualify by May 3.
CDFW Confirms October Wolf Depredation Incident in Siskiyou County
On Monday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) released a livestock loss determination report confirming wolf attacks on five calves in eastern Siskiyou County. One calf was attacked on October 23 and four others were attacked two days later, on October 25. While none of the five calves was initially killed in the attacks, “All five calves had significant bite injuries to their left rear leg” and two of the calves subsequently had to be euthanized due to the severity of those injuries.
An investigation by CDFW and Siskiyou County personnel revealed the DNA of the wolf designated OR-103 in each of the five calves’ wounds, and OR-103’s satellite collar confirmed that the wolf was present at the site of the attacks on October 23 and October 25.
OR-103 is a dispersing wolf and does not belong to Siskiyou County’s Whaleback Pack of wolves. OR-103 was previously identified as the wolf likely responsible for “probable” depredations in June which left at least two calves injured.
Later in the week, CDFW released a separate livestock loss determination report for Siskiyou County, finding that the Whaleback Pack had fed upon the carcass of a 700-pound yearling heifer but determining that wolves were not the cause of death due because “no sign of predation was observed.”
CNRA Extends Deadline for Public Comments on Draft Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy
Early in October, the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) 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. CNRA recently announced the deadline for public comments has been extended to November 24.
As detailed in previous editions of Legislative Bulletin, 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 email@example.com.
USFWS Moves to Rescind Two Trump-Era ESA Rules
Late last month, 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.
USFS Region 5 Proposes Hazard Tree Removal
On October 25, 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.