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.
Coalition of Bipartisan U.S. Reps Lead Effort to Fund FY21 Spending on Humane Management of Wild Horses with PZP
U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), a longtime member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, today led a letter to House Leadership requesting it retain his Interior and Environment appropriations amendment requiring the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to utilize $11 million in funding for humane, reversible fertility control for tens of thousands of wild horses and burros under the BLM’s protection. The letter reads in part:
“We write to urge your continued support for the humane and sustainable management of wild horses and burros on our public lands. To that end, we request dedicated funding in any final spending package for the implementation of humane, proven and reversible fertility control, namely the porcine zona pellucida (PZP) immunocontraceptive vaccine by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). We are pleased this amendment to support this effort was adopted by voice vote in the House of Representatives as part of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill.” CLICK HERE to read the entire letter.
In addition to Rep. Cohen, 21 Congress members co-signed today’s letter including; U.S. Representatives Vern Buchanan, Salud Carbajal, Gerald E. Connolly, Peter DeFazio, Ted Deutch, Brian Fitzpatrick, Raúl M. Grijalva, Deb Haaland, Alcee L. Hastings, John Katko, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Barbara Lee, Ted W. Lieu, Carolyn B. Maloney, Joe Neguse, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Jan Schakowsky, David Schweikert, Adam Smith and Dina Titus.
Last July the U.S. House passed Cohen's amendment which would require the Bureau of Land Management's FY21 budget to utilize $11 million of its Wild Horse and Burro Program budget to implement PZP humane, reversible fertility control to manage wild horse populations. There was only one U.S. House member who vocalized opposition to the amendment: Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), who is a leading architect and signatory of the nefarious, "10 Years to AML, Path Forward" plan. CLICK HERE for more info on Stewart's attempt to block funding for PZP.
The Bureau of Land Management plans to test a controversial sterilization method on wild mares in Utah that's a key part of a herd-reduction strategy the agency is trying to implement. The agency's strategy incorporates much of the 10 Years to AML agenda, which calls for the mass round-up of wild horses and a "panoply" of fertility control methods. The sterilization technique proposed for the Utah herd is called ovariectomy via colpotomy, which involves removing the ovaries from mares. BLM has stepped up efforts, particularly in the past six months, to round up wild horses and to test longer-range fertility control methods.
In a decision record issued this week, BLM approved a plan to round up as many as 590 wild horses from the Confusion Herd Management Area in Utah. The 235,000-acre HMA has about 661 wild horses, and BLM wants to bring that number down to within the so-called appropriate management level of about 70 animals. The first of what could be several wild horse "gathers" could start next month.
Michael Gates, acting manager of BLM's West Desert District in Utah, wrote in his decision record that previous research has shown "strong evidence that this method can be used by BLM in wild horse management, with an acceptable level of safety for people and treated horses." Without the use of sterilization, Gates added, BLM would likely need to remove wild horses from the Confusion HMA "every 3 to 5 years" to keep populations under control. Challenges to the plan can be filed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals—and appeals are likely.
Most advocacy groups and a number of congressional Democrats, including House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, favor expanding the use of porcine zona pellucida, or PZP. While effective, the vaccine renders mares infertile for about a year.
This will mark the fourth time in the past decade that BLM has attempted to test ovariectomy via colpotomy, dating back to the Obama administration. Each time, lawsuits from advocates have prompted BLM to stop the research or walk away from it.
Source: E&E News
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