Grazing Fee Drops in 2017, Further Undervaluing Public Lands

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LARAMIE, Wyo. – The public lands management agencies announced the grazing fee for federal allotments today, which the federal government has decreased to a mere $1.87 per cow and her calf (or 5 sheep) per month, known as an Animal Unit Month, or AUM.  

 

“This has got to be the cheapest all-you-can-eat buffet deal in the country,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Our public lands are a national treasure that should be protected for future generations with responsible stewardship. It makes no sense to rent them to ranchers for below-market prices to prop up a dying industry that degrades soil productivity, water, wildlife habitat, and the health of the land.”

 

Two hundred and twenty million acres of public lands in the West are used for private livestock industry profits through the management of approximately 22,000 grazing permits. The low fee leaves the federal program at an overwhelming deficit. This year’s fee is a a decrease of 11 percent from last year’s fee of $2.11 per AUM far less than the average cost for private lands grazing leases.  The fee is calculated using a decades-old formula that takes into account the price of fuel and the price of beef, and this year’s fee falls far below the level of $2.31 per AUM that was charged in 1980. Additionally, the fee doesn’t cover the cost to taxpayers of range infrastructure, erosion control, vegetation manipulation, and government predator killing – all indirect subsidies that expand the program’s total deficit.   

 

“The subsidy to public lands livestock grazers just got bigger,” Molvar said. “It’s a totally unjustified handout that persists for purely political reasons, with little or no benefit to Americans.” 

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