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Obama proposes Public Lands Grazing Fee increase

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Wild Horses Cost Taxpayers Virtually nothing on Federal Lands


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:

PEER Release on BLM REA’s:

How Wild Horses & Burros Help N. American Ecosystems, by Craig Downer:

6 thoughts on “Obama proposes Public Lands Grazing Fee increase”

  1. The irony is that it’s not even about the cattle. The grazing leases increase the values of the ranches. That’s that real issue. Some ranchers even lease cattle to get more grazing rights. So when they take out a mortgage or sell the ranch then it’s worth many times more with the BLM leases. By the way, I read that the Hilton family own nearly half of all the grazing leases. And we all know how they need every tax dollar…


  2. In January of 2005 I did a study of the ‘Rolex Ranchers’ who get these acres for who knows what. Ted Turner uses his in Idaho to raise Bison for slaughter. The beef raised by these people is ‘anecdotal’ with regards to the Nations Beef Supply. Also, the AUM’s for Wild Horses and Burros counts each animal, unlike a bovine and her calf, or sheep or goats, which were not mentioned in this article.

    I know that Ms. Pickens with her ‘Mustang Monument’ will have non producing herds. Also, her husband, Oil guy T. Boone Pickens has land leases for wind powered energy. I wonder how they can justify either of these scenarios? If Ms. Pickens thinks that any tourist will actually see a wild horse or burro, while driving in an ATV, she is a bit daft. Horses and Burros will flee at the sound of the ATVs!

    It is traditional at this point to ignore the science, the fossil records and everything else that proves these animals are not ‘Feral’. Craig Downer is brillliant, he got his degrees from UC Berkley! He is ignored, ignored, ignored. Obama sickens me.



  3. Very good article, now if we could only get the public angry about how these loser-user corporate cattle ranching interests use and abuse the so-called “system” that’s been in place way too long (and I almost hit a steer on the rural highway I was on right at dusk, but luckily, I only drive 45-50 mph when I know I’m in a cattle area, so barely clipped him on his hind end with my truck–went back and checked on him and he appeared to be fine–Open Range grazing is an antiquated practice that served a purpose in the days before 65+ mph highways, but now it is simply a motorist hazard that should be stopped), then we might really make some changes and stop the head-long eradication of our precious wild horses and burros. Disgusting what these powerful lobbies get away with, and makes me ashamed to even be associated with these “people” by being another of the same species.


    1. This leads to questions. Are outside (title holders to) owners of properties still getting these valuable leases on public lands now? For example, I sell an existing ranch property to an owner in New York and he owns outright. The occupant of that property may be a tenant who runs a cattle operation. That tenant wants to graze his cattle on these public lands. Could the out of state owner/investor buy rights to graze cattle on these public lands and get that right attached to his property forever? If so, can that owner also sell the rights he bought for his tenant if he chooses, separately? Are those rights attached to that property forever or can they be sold to another investor/owner upon the desire of the property owner?

      Another question: who gets to buy these rights? Does it or did it take special influence to buy these rights? Are they all historical or inherited rights? The appearance is of almost a separate little economy or black market in these taxpayer supported lands which could be used at taxpayer expense. The owner could possibly write off the taxes for the investment property, which would make such a property a very convenient way to write off tax debts from income or actually hide wealth. This behavior can be a factor in any real estate investment, no matter where it is.

      I know these questions are more appropriate for a real estate agent in that locale but I am very curious how far this dodge goes relating to tax payments and history on the ways used to increase a property’s value re these taxpayer supported public grazing lands. With this latest move to increase costs for use, buying these rights or holding them is far less attractive & will continue to be less so, as time goes on.

      I am curious about the traditonal ways these lands have been used and how rights were obtained. This is interesting re taxpayer-assisted real estate uses. Thanks for any information you may have.


  4. So cattle producers who use our public lands to graze their stock at our expense might offset the costs of their use of our public lands? This would reduce the support for re-electing corrupt politicians like Sue Wallis and others, who support slaughter at taxpayer expense.

    The slaughter supporters like The Cattlemens Association will scream and cry but increasing costs for abusing taxpayers will also reduce the likelihood of the continued reign of the elected slaughter-supporters. That would help remove these longtime elected advocates of killing horses, since they keep using public lands for their personal buddies, ala the Conrad Burns model. Basically, these elected officials soak taxpayers and get horses killed while they hand off the land to their friends. I don’t think there would be any way to recover the money lost to the many years this taxpayer abuse has taken place. To audit unethical longtime politicians would require an army of forensic auditors. It is just too expensive. What would be proven? We already know. Horse slaughter costs us taxpayers from the front to the back end.

    This is a way to finally hold these abusers in office accountable for their own histories. Sue Wallis will again have a fit and blame this President for her own special interest actions again. That will be entertaining. Sue has been the comic female figurehead for this corrupt activity for a while now. The corrupt males hide behind her and she takes the heat for them. That is why she is used for that job. Sue is very handy as a paid liar and yet, keeps getting elected. Isn’t that telling?

    BTW, the right to rip off taxpayers is not a state’s rights argument. That is a specious sidebar to this issue and used by those like Sue, who have an agenda to keep the money from killing coming in as usual. This has gone on for many years. It is always the same song and dance for cash.

    Over time, those wild horses may end up where they belong and with more space to live instead of ending up at kill pens and kill plants if this can continue and be a rising cost for the squatting cattle industry. Let the squatters on our public lands pay their own bills. Horses will benefit by this increased cost of doing cattle business on our lands. I am now encouraged about the wild horses situation. Financial pressure will change behavior, voluntarily or involuntarily. It is the most effective means of exerting pressure. Calls for responsibility and moral behavior mean nothing to elected horse killers and their supporters in Congress.

    As to the situation with Quarter Horses and Thorobreds, it would sure help if all of us in this country could join forces and be as vocally active for all equines as the advocates are for the wild horses. We are not well funded so it is harder for us. If there was a way to hold all elected slaughter advocates and their funders accountable as they sit in Congress, we could see a day soon when this scourge finally ended with the passage of law in Congress. Funding for enforcement has to be allocated adequately to each state and monitored by an outside agency, not the BLM. That will help end slaughter faster.

    Ending slaughter first would force breeders and the rest in the industry to get serious about solutions instead of denying the issue, pretending it won’t work and the usual other excuses and dodges. Combining resources to temporarily care for our own equines as the domestic economy recovers makes sense and would get us over the temporary speed bump of getting back to a normal market and normal demand for our own horses. There is no need to kill any equines, for any reason, by slaughter. There never was. Every horse generates income over a lifetime. They always have.

    Greed is killing our horses and costing taxpayers. This is a good first step.


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