LIVESTOCK ON AMERICA'S PUBLIC LANDS
Domestic livestock grazing is one of the most pervasive and damaging uses of U.S. public lands. Across the American West, millions of non-native sheep and cattle destroy vegetation, contaminate watersheds, spread invasive weeds, deprive native wildlife of forage and shelter, accelerate desertification, and contribute to global warming.
In addition to the destruction caused by livestock, ecosystems within the grazing allotments are being further damaged by prolonged drought and an increase in invasive grasses. Furthermore, threatened wildlife populations, changing attitudes about public lands management, and a burgeoning outdoor industry are increasing the demand to end this federal program. With the existential threat of the climate crisis looming, the need to restore the wilderness of the West is paramount.
A PLIGHT FOR WILD HORSES
In addition to native predators such as cougars, bears and wolves — wild horses are continually targeted for removal because of conflicts with domestic livestock on public lands. Through lobbying and lawsuits, the American mustang has become both a target and a scapegoat for the livestock industry's agenda to dominate and control public lands for their own grazing use.
BURDEN ON TAXPAYERS
There are approximately 25,000 federal grazing permits managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Subsidized by taxpayers, this outdated program costs Americans over $117 million a year. In fiscal year 2014, the BLM and U.S. Forest Service spent $134 million on grazing management, but only reported collecting $17 million in grazing fees.
A WIN-WIN SOLUTION
Introduced by Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act (VGPRA), expands upon a successful model of landscape conservation. For several decades Congress has recognized that facilitating the buy-out of federal public lands grazing permits provides a market-based, cooperative tool that's a win-win for public lands, wildlife, and the grazing permittees. VGPRA would provide grazing permit holders the option to voluntarily waive their permits to graze on federal lands in exchange for equitable compensation paid by private parties. The federal agency would then be directed to retire the associated grazing allotment from further grazing activity.
- Permitted livestock grazing occurs on over 200 million acres of public lands, costing the taxpayers over $100 million a year.
- Private livestock outnumbers Wild Horses and Burros on public land by at least 50 to 1
- Wild horses are routinely removed from public lands at the behest of the livestock industry.
- Predators like wolves, cougars, bears, and coyotes are killed to facilitate and appease livestock operations.
- Fee to graze one cow and calf for one month (AUM) on most federal public lands—$1.35.
- To effectively recoup grazing costs, BLM and the Forest Service would need to charge $7.64 and $12.26 per AUM respectively.
- Federally grazed cattle only account for 3% of all beef in the country.
HELP KEEP PUBLIC LANDS WILD
Domestic livestock grazing on federal public lands is a leading cause of conflict with other uses, including wild horses and burros.
If passed into federal law, the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act would provide permit holders the option to relinquish their contractual agreements in exchange for a fair market price. Reducing livestock on public lands will help restore the health of ecosystems and allow for native wildlife to safely thrive throughout our Western states.
Help protect America's public lands, wild horses, and other wildlife by reaching out to your federal lawmakers. Urge them to support this vital legislation by becoming a cosponsor.