2021 GRAZING FEES ON AMERICA'S PUBLIC LANDS REMAIN AT LEGAL ROCK BOTTOM: $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM)
Today the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service announced that 2021 federal grazing fees on national forests and grasslands will remain at $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM) — the lowest price allowed by law.
An animal unit month (AUM) is the use of public lands by a cow/calf pair, five goats or sheep, or by a single bull, steer, heifer, horse, burro, or mule. The fee will apply to nearly 18,000 grazing permits and leases administered by the Bureau of Land Management and nearly 6,250 permits administered by the Forest Service.
A CONFLICT WITH WILD HORSES AND WILDLIFE
Many grazing permits overlap with Herd Management Areas (HMA) where our wild horses and burros are legally entitled to graze under the statutes of the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. 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.
SUBSIDIZING WELFARE RANCHERS ON THE TAXPAYERS DIME
$1.35 per AUM is an outright giveaway to ranchers that graze millions of environmentally destructive cattle and sheep on America's public lands. In addition to the ecological cost, the program is funded by the U.S. taxpayers, estimated at $500 million to $1 billion per year. In contrast, the grazing fee on private lands in 16 western states is approximated at $22.00 a month.
The formula used for calculating the AUM grazing fee was established by Congress in the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act and as amended in the 1978 Public Rangelands Improvement Act and has continued under a presidential Executive Order issued in 1986. Under that Order, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per head month and any increase or decrease cannot exceed 25% of the previous year's level. The grazing fees apply to rangelands managed by both the USDA Forest Service and the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.
Raising grazing fees would be a good start. The increased cost might encourage ranchers to find new ways to raise their animals instead of relying on subsidized use of public lands — and to protect fragile habitats in the process. In addition, federal legislation, the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act, would provide grazing permit holders the option to voluntarily waive their permits to graze on federal lands in exchange for market value compensation paid by private parties. The federal agency would then be directed to retire the associated grazing allotment from further grazing activity.