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For Immediate Release, February 1, 2011

Contact: Taylor McKinnon, (928) 310-6713

Agencies Refuse to Raise Paltry Fee for Destructive Cattle Grazing on 258 Million Acres of Public Land

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management on Monday announced that in 2011 they will not increase the paltry $1.35 monthly fee charged for each cow and calf grazed by the livestock industry on western public land. The fee remains far below what the agencies spend to administer grazing permits, far below market rates, and far short of providing revenue needed to correct the severe ecological damage caused by grazing. Habitat destruction caused by livestock is a primary factor in the decline of dozens of rare and endangered species including the desert tortoise, Mexican spotted owl, southwestern willow flycatcher, least Bell’s vireo, Mexican gray wolf, Oregon spotted frog and Chiricahua leopard frog. Grazing is also a primary cause of unnaturally severe western wildfires, watershed degradation, soil loss and the spread of invasive plants. 

“Livestock grazing destroys western public land and the habitat that species need to survive,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The federal grazing program makes the public subsidize public-land destruction and species endangerment. That the Obama administration continues such an antiquated, destructive and costly use of Americans’ public lands is the exact opposite of change.”  

The fees apply to livestock grazing across 258 million acres of western public land run by the Forest Service and BLM — 81 percent of the land administered by the two agencies in the 11 western states. There are about 23,600 public-lands ranchers, representing roughly 6 percent of all livestock producers west of the Mississippi River.

A 1986 executive order and 1978’s Public Rangelands Improvement Act prohibit the fee from falling below $1.35 per animal unit month, which is only 12 cents more than monthly rates charged in 1966.

A 2005 Government Accountability Office report  found that BLM and Forest Service grazing receipts fail to recover even 15 percent of administrative costs and are much lower than fees charged by other federal agencies, states and private ranchers. The GAO found that the BLM and Forest Service grazing fee decreased by 40 percent from 1980 to 2004, while grazing fees charged by private ranchers increased by 78 percent for the same period. To recover expenditures, the BLM and Forest Service would have had to charge $7.64 and $12.26 per animal unit month, respectively.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned the government in 2005 to revisit its grazing fee and were compelled to sue to get the agencies to respond to their petition. The agencies finally responded in January 2011, refusing to reconsider their outdated grazing-fee formula.

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