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A statute must, if possible, be construed in such fashion that every word has some operative effect.
The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 (43 USCS 315 et seq.) granted the United States Secretary of the Interior authority to (1) divide the federal public rangelands into grazing districts, (2) specify the amount of grazing permitted in each district, (3) issue leases or permits to graze livestock, and (4) charge reasonable fees for use of the land. In 43 USCS 315b, the Act (1) gave preference, in respect to permits, to (a) landowners engaged in the livestock business, (b) bona fide occupants or settlers, or (c) owners of water or water rights; and (2) provided that (a) grazing privileges would be adequately safeguarded, but (b) the creation of a grazing district or the issuance of a permit did not create any right, title, interest, or estate in or to the lands. Petitioners, a group of nonprofit ranching-related organizations with members who held grazing permits brought, against defendants including the Secretary, an action challenging 10 of the new federal grazing regulations issued by the Secretary in 1995. The United States District Court for the District of Wyoming found 4 of the 10 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. Certiorari was issued.
Did the respondent Secretary of the Interior exceed his authority pursuant to the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act, 43 U.S.C.S. § 315 et seq., by amending regulations governing grazing preferences, permit issuance, and ownership of range improvements?
The Court affirmed the judgment and held that respondent Secretary of the Interior did not exceed his authority pursuant to the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act, 43 U.S.C.S. § 315 et seq., by amending regulations governing grazing preferences, permit issuance, and ownership of range improvements. The Court rejected petitioners' argument that the grazing preference amendment defined in terms of allocated rights failed to safeguard their rights. The Court reasoned that the statute had qualified the duty to safeguard, and that ranchers' interest in permit stability was not absolute. The Court found the amendment to the provision of the Taylor Act that governed the issuance of permits lawful because the statute continued to limit Secretary's authorization to issue permits to bona fide settlers, residents, and other stock owners. Finally, the Court upheld the amendment pertaining to allocation of ownership of range improvements because nothing in the statute denied Secretary authority reasonably to decide when or whether to grant title to those who made improvements.