BOISE, Ida. Feb. 3, 2020 – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service announced the 2020 grazing fee on Friday – once again, the bare minimum allowed under current law and a pittance compared to grazing leases on private lands and what the program costs to administer. By setting the fee at $1.35 per month per cow/calf pair, the agencies are once again putting the livestock industry’s cost of doing business on the American taxpayers’ shoulders.
“It’s ironic that the American cowboy is supposed to be an icon of self-reliance, and yet the public lands business model relies so heavily on what is essentially a welfare program for very few ranchers in the arid West,” said Josh Osher, Policy Director of Western Watersheds Project. “At a time when you can’t even ride public transportation for $1.35, it’s a complete shame that our tax dollars are paying to support this narrow extractive interest that destroys habitat for native wildlife, increases the spread of invasive species leading to more frequent and severe wildfires, and bankrupts the capacity of our public lands to sequester carbon.”
“American taxpayers are subsidizing the degradation of native landscapes, the loss of rare wildlife, and the desertification of the American West on an epic scale,” said Kirsten Stade, Advocacy Director at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, whose organization has been in federal court since last fall to compel the BLM to provide records justifying last year’s low grazing fee (https://www.peer.org/rock-bottom-federal-grazing-fees-probed/). Stade also notes that the $1.35 fee, in effect for both 2019 and 2020, is the lowest allowed by law and is a fraction of the fees charged by private owners, states, and even other federal agencies.
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While federal agencies continue to charge $1.35 for a full month’s grazing for a cow-calf pair or five domestic sheep, the same rates charged when the agency first set rental rates for public land grazing almost 50 years ago, the rental fees charged for comparable livestock grazing on private lands average $23.40 per head across 16 western states, according to a 2019 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
Friday’s fee announcement also comes during the public comment period for revising the grazing regulations on BLM managed lands, which will gut public participation, undermine the application of Land Health Standards, allow permits to be renewed with even less environmental analysis, and cover up trespass livestock grazing.
“Public lands ranchers get artificially low leases, drought and disaster payments, predator ‘control,’ solar panels and stock tanks, vegetation ‘treatments,’ new wells and new fences all on the backs of the American public, while simultaneously seeking to cut that same public out of grazing decision-making” said Josh Osher, policy director for Western Watersheds Project. “They want to have their cake and eat it too. It’s fundamentally unjust in a program with a long history of injustice.”