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PUBLIC LANDS GRAZING FEE ANNOUNCED; Biden Administration Continues to Subsidize the Destruction of the American West

For immediate release: Feb. 1, 2022 

Media contacts: Josh Osher, Western Watersheds Project; 406-830-3099; josh@westernwatersheds.org

 

HAMILTON, Mont. – Today, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service announced the fee for grazing on federal public lands in 2022: a mere $1.35 per cow/calf pair per month (also called the animal unit month, or AUM), the lowest possible fee allowed under a Ronald-Reagan-era Executive Order.

“The absurdly low fee paid by commercial beef cattle producers to graze public lands flies in the face of this Administration’s commitments to conservation, biodiversity and addressing the impacts of climate change,” said Josh Osher, Public Policy Director for Western Watersheds Project. “President Biden should immediately rescind Reagan’s Executive Order and establish a fee that reflects the true costs of public lands grazing.”

Despite contributing only 2-3 % of all the beef consumed in the United States, commercial grazing is one of the most heavily subsidized activities on public lands.  The program costs taxpayers a minimum of over a billion and half dollars every 10 years, and the minimal fee recoups just one-tenth of the cost of its administration. The cost to beef producers to feed their stock on public lands is substantially less than the cost to feed a pet hamster each month.

“It’s a great deal for the beef industry, but it’s a horrible deal for the American public because of the compounded costs of plant and animal extinction, fouled waterways, increased risks of wildfire, ongoing predator killing, and the irreplaceable cultural resources being trampled to bits,” said Osher.

The grazing fee is based on a temporary formula set in 1978 and continued through Executive Order in 1986. The fee was $2.31 per AUM in 1981, the highest fee ever charged, which adjusted for inflation would be the equivalent of $7.09 today, more than five times the current fee. Lease rates for private pastureland in the Western U.S. average over $20 per AUM.

“Beef producers on public lands are the only tenants in the country whose rents stay low, year after year,” remarked Osher. “The livestock industry is getting a sweet deal to stay on public lands while many people in the country struggle to find affordable housing.”

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