Public Lands Council v. Babbitt, 529 U.S. 728 (2000)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the tenth circuit

No. 98-1991. Argued March 1, 2000—Decided May 15, 2000

The Taylor Grazing Act, inter alia, grants the Secretary of the Interior authority to divide the public rangelands into grazing districts, to specify the amount of grazing permitted in each district, and to issue grazing leases or permits to "settlers, residents, and other stock owners," 43 U. S. C. 315, 315a, 315b; gives preference with respect to permits to "landowners engaged in the livestock business, bona fide occupants or settlers, or owners of water or water rights," 315b; and specifies that grazing privileges "shall be adequately safeguarded," but that the creation of a grazing district or the issuance of a permit does not create "any right, title, interest, or estate in or to the lands," ibid. Since 1938, conditions placed on grazing permits have reflected the grazing privileges' leasehold nature, and the grazing regulations in effect have preserved the Secretary's authority to (1) cancel a permit under certain circumstances, (2) reclassify and withdraw land from grazing to devote it to a more valuable or suitable use, and (3) suspend animal unit months (AUMs) of grazing privileges in the event of range depletion. Petitioners, ranching-related organizations, challenged several 1995 amendments to the regulations. The District Court found four of the new regulations unlawful. The Tenth Circuit reversed as to three of them, upholding regulations that (1) changed the definition of "grazing preference," 43 CFR 4100.0-5; (2) permitted those who are not "engaged in the livestock business" to qualify for grazing permits, 4110.1(a); and (3) granted the United States title to all future "permanent" range improvements, 4120.3-2.

Held: The regulatory changes do not exceed the Secretary's Taylor Grazing Act authority. Pp. 739-750.

(a) Section 4100.0-5's new definition of "grazing preference" does not violate 43 U. S. C. 315b's requirement that "grazing privileges" "be adequately safeguarded." Before its amendment, 4100.0-5 defined "grazing preference" as "the total number of [AUMs] of livestock grazing on public lands apportioned and attached to base property owned or controlled by a permittee or lessee," but the 1995 version refers only to a priority, not to a specific number of AUMs, and it adds a new term,

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