For months, we’ve been hearing about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to expand their federal authority over “waters of the U.S.” While the agencies contend that the proposed rule change is just a “clarification,” many landowners, including ranchers, are worried about the potential impact on property rights if oversight is extended beyond the traditional “navigable waters” definition. For instance, under the proposed rule, could that puddle of water alongside the ranch driveway soon fall under federal control?
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In a recent op-ed piece, Bob McCan, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president, asks the EPA if that puddle is really “navigable.”
McCan writes, “The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are taking public comments on a proposed regulation that would expand the federal government’s authority over waters; private property rights be damned. Many in the agricultural community have called this proposal the largest land grab in history, and I don’t think that is far off the mark. If landowners are required to get a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit for spraying pesticides, applying manure, or simply grazing their cattle, there is no way to describe it but ‘land use planning.’ Once a responsibility of city and county governments, the federal agencies will now have the power to either give you a permit or not and thereby dictate what activities you can perform on your property.
“How did they do it? Through vague terms such as ‘neighboring,’ ill-defined terms like ‘floodplain,’ and expansive definitions such as ‘tributary.’ The agencies also leave most of these important key terms up to the ‘best professional judgment’ of the federal regulator. These legal terms give the regulatory agencies the loopholes they need to find your pond, puddle or ditch to be a ‘water of the U.S.’ and leave landowners with more confusion than ever before.”
McCan urges folks to tell EPA to ditch the rule. There is still time to comment on this rule, and I’ve rounded up eight resources and articles to read, so everyone can have a better understanding of exactly what this rule entails and how it might impact cattlemen.
What do you think about the proposed rule? Are you worried about how it might limit what you are able to do on your land? Is the regulatory environment in Washington, D.C., spinning out of control? What can we in the country do about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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