- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2017

Well, Memorial Day is upon us. You’ve spruced up the deck and patio, public swimming pools are about to open, the shiny new grill is ready to be fired up and … and … and what’s your beef?

Seriously, David Cook wouldn’t have a beef with beef. He’s a cattleman, a rancher and a member of the Arizona State House. He’s no Beltway insider.

Mr. Cook came to Washington this week to spell out his beef. In short, he wants Congress to stop trying to lasso other ranchers and rural Americans with regulations.

“I do not believe it was the intent of Congress to disenfranchise communities like mine when laws like FLPMA and the Wilderness Act were originally enacted, but that is certainly where we have ended up,” Mr. Cook told the House Natural Resources subcommittee on oversight and investigations Wednesday. “The burden of compliance with these processes — not to mention the struggle to have our voice as a stakeholder heard and respected has become the dominant consumer of time and resources for anyone or any entity interacting with federally managed lands.”

Most city slickers probably have no idea what the FLPMA is. FLPMA stands for the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which was enacted in 1976 “to provide for the management, protection, and development of the national resource lands, and for other purposes; An Act to establish public land policy; to establish guidelines for its administration; to provide for the management, protection, development, and enhancement of the public lands; and for other purposes.”

The words “other purposes” opens the door for presidents to do as they please. Another unfortunate consequence is that farmers, ranchers, cattlemen and rural Americans — the very people who feed us — are seemingly an afterthought.

Mr. Cook and his wife, Diana, own and operate DC Cattle Co., and are partners with several other ranchers in Gila County, a 4,800-square-mile Arizona county that contains less than 5 percent privately deeded land. The feds own and/or claim most of the land and every ranch Mr. Cook operates must use a federal grazing permit to generate revenue.

Why the tight restrictions on ranchers? Because of Gila County’s Tonto National Forest and other federally protected areas, including the Salt River, parks, forests and wilderness sites.

“Unfortunately and unintentionally, the delegation of authority from Congress to the land management agencies and the resulting unchecked authority over land-use planning has been abused by administrators and capitalized on by radical environmental groups through relentless offensive litigation,” Mr. Cook testified. “This has led to further restrictions on public lands, specifically for permitted activities, thereby eroding the intent of multiple use. The intent to consult with local governments has not been properly used and instead we have seen de-prioritization of local input in the planning process.”

Remember, now, Mr. Cook is a cattleman, businessman and state lawmaker. If he says the federal government is overreaching, I doubt he’s perpetrating “fake news.”

More importantly, the general public needs to appreciate Mr. Cook’s beef with Washington, and the inside-the-Beltway crowd, in particular, needs to get a clear understanding of how what happens right under their noses affects other Americans’ wallets and dinner tables.

We’ve come to question much of what the Founding Fathers agreed upon in the U.S. Constitution, and we’ve blasted, for various reasons, every president who’s come down the pike. That Congress wrote a law to do one thing, and one thing led to unintentional consequences, is not unusual. Take the congressional support for FDR’s Social Security creation. Every Congress since and every president thereafter considers Social Security untouchable. Those are the political consequences.

For sure — unless you’re a vegan or vegetarian — beef, veal or lamb is on your summer menu. What more, there’s taste-like beef vegan food for those who can’t or don’t eat beef. And that’s fine.

Many of us, though, are looking forward to American-raised beef — as a beef burger, threaded beef on a kabob stick or tender, buttery slice of beef tenderloin. (Hmm, hmm, good.)

Besides, the closest Congress and its staff get to living, breathing cattle is probably at the National Zoo.

Give Mr. Cook and other cattlemen a break. They help feed America.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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