Wild Horses Cost Taxpayers Virtually nothing on Federal Lands
THE CLOUD FOUNDATION PRESS RELEASE
COLO. SPRINGS, CO (Feb. 16, 2012) – The Obama Administration proposal to increase public land grazing fees from the regulatory minimum will do little to match the administrative costs of the program according to the Colorado-based, Cloud Foundation (TCF). The fee would increase by $1.00 per month for a cow/calf pair or five head of sheep. TCF has long advocated for a dramatic increase in the fees for “welfare” livestock ranching on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service lands.
“Fees would have to increase by an impossible 600% just to match the administrative costs of the public lands grazing program,” states Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “We continue to request a reduction in the destructive overgrazing of livestock on public lands and to allocate a fair share of forage for wild horses and other wildlife.”
Livestock grazing covers over two-thirds of BLM maintained land while wild horses occupy only 11% of these lands and are outnumbered by cattle and sheep by as much as 100 to 1. The grazing program costs $144 million annually to administer while netting only $21 million per year, leaving taxpayers to foot a yearly $123 million bill.
“My lessees near Maybell, Colorado on the Western Slope, pay 10 times more than what public land permittees pay,” states Lyn McCormick, a horse and buffalo producer in northern Colorado. “Here on the Eastern Slope of Colorado it’s even higher, ranging from between $20 – $40 per cow/calf pair per month—a far cry from what permittees pay, which does not begin to cover the cost of the effects of overgrazing and the degradation of the public lands.”
BLM is currently conducting six Rapid Ecoregional Assessment (REAs) studies across the West, but eliminated livestock grazing from scientific evaluation due to “anxiety from ‘stakeholders,’ fear of litigation, and lack of available data on grazing impacts” according to Public Employees for Environment Responsibility (PEER), a government watchdog group representing the public interest.
“How can you do any credible study of public land health without looking at the impacts caused by the single largest user?” asks Craig Downer, wildlife ecologist and author of the just released The Wild Horse Conspiracy. “What happened to the pledge of transparency from the Obama Administration and the application of science-based decisions?”
It is estimated that 2-3 million head of livestock graze on public lands, resulting in less than 3-4% of the nation’s total beef output. Public lands livestock permittees currently pay $1.35 per AUM (a cow/calf pair or five sheep per month) to graze on public lands—the regulatory minimum according to standards set by the Public Rangelands Improvement Act (PRIA).
In the early 1990’s, former President Clinton’s Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, attempted to raise public land grazing fee but was met by staunch opposition from the livestock producers and the Administration withdrew the increase.
Links of Interest:
“The Fiscal Costs of Public Lands Grazing” from Wild Earth Guardians: http://bit.ly/yZm9rj
PEER Release on BLM REA’s: http://bit.ly/xVATwM
How Wild Horses & Burros Help N. American Ecosystems, by Craig Downer: http://bit.ly/hnojcc