By Jim Gibbons
Former Nevada Governor
It is understandable why ranchers are worried about the future of their grazing rights on public lands. When the government unilaterally changes the rancher’s permit to a license, granting the rancher only a revocable interest in grazing on the public lands there is more at stake than just the type of document. The threat to the rancher is subtle but extremely harmful. The grazing “license”, like your government issued driver’s license, is only a “revocable-privilege”, not a “right”. Thus the cattle rancher loses the right to challenge the government in a court of law to protect what he has been given, compared to the grazing rights that are protected as a “right” under a contractual grazing “permit”.
A “license” is completely different than a “permit”. The license merely says a rancher has the permission, or privilege, to graze on the subject public ground. The license can be revoked by a simple decision at any time, including right in the middle of the granted grazing period. On the other hand, a grazing “permit” is a contractual agreement between the rancher and controlling government agency. The permit provides a vested “property right” in the use of the land. When signed by the parties, the document becomes a binding contractual agreement, and the resulting vested right of the rancher cannot then be simply revoked unless there is due process of law.
It is unclear whether or not the BLM has the legal authority to change the permit to a license. However, it is clear that the rancher is not benefited by giving up his vested grazing right for a revocable grazing privilege without the legal right to resolve a governmental challenge to it in a court of law.
Reprinted with permission.