Livestock grazing has been a part of the western landscape of the United States since settlers arrived. The first recorded livestock policy, according to the U.S. Forest Service, was published in 1905 when the agency was created by Congress. Further and more defined regulation of livestock grazing came in 1934 via the Taylor Grazing Act.
Who sells grazing permits?
Most grazing permits are handled by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Permits can also be sold on private and state lands, including lands owned by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
Land managers determine the amount of available forage in an area and then sell what they determine are an appropriate number of permits.
What do permits cost?
Ranchers are often frustrated when critics of the grazing program use one number — $1.35 — to argue it’s cheap to run cattle on federal lands. That number is the beginning point for the formula that dictates the actual bill.
The $1.35 fee is applied to an "Animal Unit Month" or AUM — the approximate amount of forage a 1,000-pound cow with a calf will eat in one month. Ranchers are charged based on the number of AUMs they use and how many months they use them. For instance, if a rancher has 1,000 AUMs and runs cattle on federal lands for four months, the fee is $5,400.
Longer-term grazing permit holders are expected to make and maintain improvements on the land, primarily water developments and fencing. Those not using fencing, particularly those running sheep, are expected to patrol their herds and keep them on the proper allotment. Moving the animals from summer to winter range is costly, and livestock lost to predators can reduce potential profits.
Randy Parker, chief executive office of the Utah Farm Bureau, says the $1.35 figure is a "misnomer."
"There are many additional costs. Some years [ranchers] might be in good shape and other years they get beat up pretty good," Parker said. "They are hard working, they love the land and they love to work the crops or livestock. They also do a lot to help the land and the wildlife they share it with." Environmental groups argue grazing damages ecosystems and endangers other species, and have called for restrictions and increased fees.
A 2005 Government Accountability Office report found that the BLM and the Forest Service would have to charge an AUM fee several times higher than the $1.35 to recover their expenditures. The Obama administration rejected a proposed overhaul in 2011, the New York Times reported. More recently, advocates for wild horses have argued grazing livestock, not an overpopulation of wild horses, are more damaging to the drought-stricken western range, contending the horses are being unfairly used as a scapegoat.
Are all grazing permits based on the $1.35 fee?
SITLA is charging $4.78 per AUM for certain areas and $8.32 per AUM on select allotments. So the same rancher with 1,000 AUMs would pay $19,120 for four months.
Terry Padilla, Intermountain Region range director for the U.S. Forest Service out of Ogden, said current private AUM fees run between $11 and $12. The current $1.35 federal grazing fee, according to the BLM, is applied to federal lands managed by the BLM and Forest Service in 16 western states.
The fee is adjusted each year using a formula involving private grazing land rates, cattle prices and the cost of livestock production. The grazing fee drops when the prices are low and increases when appropriate. It can’t drop below $1.35, due to a 1986 executive order.
Is grazing on public lands increasing?
The BLM reports there has been a gradual decrease in livestock grazing over the years. "Grazing use on public lands has declined from 18.2 million AUMs in 1954 to 7.9 million AUMs in 2013," according to a BLM fact sheet.
Parker said Utah’s numbers for livestock on public lands have also declined since the 1940s, when 5.5 million AUMs were allocated. In 2012, Parker said, that number was about 1.3 million.
Source: Salt Lake Tribune, by Brett Prettyman
BLM Seeks Bids for New, Short-Term Facilities to Care for Wild Horses and Burros Removed from Western Public Rangelands
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of its responsibility to manage and protect wild horses and burros, including those removed from overpopulated herds roaming Western public rangelands, the Bureau of Land Management is soliciting bids for new, short-term holding facilities (corrals) located in 17 Western and Midwestern states.
The BLM’s solicitation is for multiple short-term facilities accommodating a minimum of 200 wild horses and/or burros in a safe and humane condition. The short-term facilities must be close to and readily accessible from a major U.S. interstate or highway.
Each short-term facility must be able to provide humane care for a one-year period, with a renewal option under BLM contract for four one-year extensions. The animals will remain in a short-term holding facility until they are adopted or can be transported to a long-term pasture. The solicitation is open until June 2, 2014.
The states under consideration for this solicitation are Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. In the case of Oregon and Washington, the area west of the Cascade Mountain Range is excluded. A future solicitation will cover states in the East.
The BLM’s bidding requirements are posted in solicitation L14PS00389, the details of which are available at http://www.fedconnect.net. To obtain the solicitation: (1) click on "Search Public Opportunities"; (2) under Search Criteria, select "Reference Number"; (3) put in the solicitation number (L14PS00389); and (4) click "Search” and the solicitation information will appear. The solicitation form describes what to submit and where to send it. Applicants must be registered at http://www.ccr.gov to be considered for a contract award.
The BLM manages wild horses and burros as part of its overall multiple-use, sustained-yield mission. Under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the BLM manages and protects these living symbols of the Western spirit while ensuring that population levels are in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses. To make sure that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands, the BLM removes excess animals from the range to control the size of herds, which have virtually no predators and can double in population every four years. The free-roaming population of BLM-managed wild horses and burros is at least 40,605 (as of February 28, 2013), which exceeds by nearly 14,000 the number determined by the BLM to be the appropriate management level. Off the range, there are more than 48,000 wild horses and burros cared for in either short-term corrals or long-term pastures. All these animals, whether on or off the range, are protected by the BLM under the 1971 law.
Source: Bureau of Land Management Press Release
Release Date: May 7, 2014
Contact: Tom Gorey , 202-912-7420