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PRIVATE GRAZING ON PUBLIC LANDS: Uncovering the Struggle Between Dollars and Sense




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PRIVATE GRAZING ON PUBLIC LANDS: Uncovering the Struggle Between Dollars and Sense by Spencer Reed Cearns A Thesis: Essay of Distinction Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Environmental Studies The Evergreen State College June 2010 This Thesis for the Masters of Environmental Study Degree by Spencer Reed Cearns has been approved for The Evergreen State College by ____________________________________________ Tyrus L. Smith Member of the Faculty June 9, 2010 © 2010 Spencer Reed Cearns All rights reserved. 18 The BLM and Administration of Grazing on Public Lands Grazing is allowed on BLM and Forest Service lands for the purpose of fostering economic development for private ranchers and ranching communities by providing ranchers access to additional forage. Grazing on public lands allows the ranchers’ forage to be replenished during the spring and summer on their private property. Thus, particularly in the western states, where federal agencies manage anywhere from 30 to almost 85 percent of the land, access to forage increases the total forage available to ranchers, enabling them to increase the number of livestock they can support and sell. Under The Federal Land and Policy Management Act of 1976, the Taylor Grazing Act, and the Granger- Thye Act, BLM’s and the Forest Service’s permits and leases are set for not more than 10 years and can be renewed without competition at the end of that period, which gives the permittee or lessee a priority position against others for receiving a permit or lease—a position called ―preference.‖ While ranchers have preference, they do not obtain title to federal lands through their grazing permits and leases, nor do they have exclusive access to the federal lands, which are managed for multiple purposes or uses.32 19 Historically, however, the BLM has shown preference toward the livestock industry and given it free range of vast public land holdings, which creates a ―tragedy of the commons‖ degradation situation. Indeed, The Wildlife Service has claimed that BLM’s rules are so friendly to livestock grazing interests that the agency’s ―rules could or would damage wildlife, water supplies, streamside areas, vegetation and endangered species … and would tend to give grazing a higher priority than other uses, remove the public from the decision-making process, and give away public rights on public land.‖33 Permit fee amounts and agency costs34 The Forest Service and BLM’s set fee for graze permits is a result of an executive order, which currently sets the fee at $1.35 per AUM (Animal Unit of Measure). An AUM is calculated as a months use and occupancy of the range by one animal unit which includes one yearling, or one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats. In 2009 there were approximately 18,000 BLM and 8,000 Forest Service grazing permits.35 The low fee enables ranchers to stay in production by keeping fees low to account for conditions in the livestock market. Most other federal agencies generally charge a fee based on competitive methods or set to obtain ...





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