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The Price of Plundering Public Lands Just Went Down

For Immediate Release 1/31/2018

Media contacts:
Josh Osher, Western Watersheds Project (406) 830-3099
Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project (520) 623-1878



MISSOULA, Mont. – The public land management agencies have announced the fee for using public lands for private livestock in 2018: a mere $1.41 per cow/calf pair, one horse, or five sheep or goats. Both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forage Service use this outrageously low fee to bill public lands livestock operations, a far lower price than private or state lands across the West.

“You can’t get a large cup of coffee at McDonald’s for $1.41 but the government thinks it’s OK to let an animal each month eat a half ton of native vegetation, foul our rivers and streams with their waste, and displace wildlife and game animals for that price?” asked Josh Osher, policy director for Western Watersheds Project. “It’s industry welfare and the public is getting snookered into paying for the massive deficits – economic and ecological – the grazing program entails.”

About 250 million acres of public lands in the West are leased to private livestock operations for their use. In addition to the enormous operating deficit of the program itself caused by the insufficient fees, ranchers get additional subsidies for building infrastructure like fences and wells, for wildlife “management” to support their businesses (which usually involves killing predators), through drought and disaster payments, and through their undo political influence at local, state, and federal levels.

“When you compare the fee reduction for the private livestock industry to the increased entrance fees the public has to pay on National Park Service lands, you can really see where this Administration’s priorities are,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director for Western Watersheds Project. “It’s handouts to big corporations and a slap in the face for individual Americans who enjoy and appreciate public lands.”

“Western Watersheds Project and our allies have tried for years to get the agencies to charge fair-market value so the taxpayers don’t have to subsidize the federal grazing program, but the government has been intractable so far,” said Osher. “Ironically, whenever it comes to the same agencies’ failures to monitor and maintain land health conditions on public lands, it’s always, ‘We don’t have the money, Judge.’ Well, whose fault is that?”


A copy of a Congressional Research Service report on grazing fees from 2016 is here.

A report comparing Idaho state trust land fees to fair-market value private land grazing leases is here.

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