The Facts: Cattle Grazing on Public Lands

How did Public Land Grazing come about?

In the beginning of the 1900s many people were still homesteading the west. With a lack of understanding about the ecosystems in the west and overgrazing soil, plants and water resources were harmed resulting in the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. Congress passed the bill to create grazing districts. The first grazing district was established in Wyoming on March 23, 2935. The department that was then created to regulate grazing was the U.S. Grazing Service which later became the Bureau of Land Management. With controlled grazing through fenced areas forage surveys were being conducted to determine the balance between grazing and forage health, this is where the determinations for “carrying capacity” evolved.

During the mid 1900s land and watershed improvement was well but new management expectations increased when laws like the Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 were passed. The BLM was now required to do more than manage grazing, the Bureau modified its regulatory means to implement range improvement projects to continually improve rangeland conditions. Today the BLM manages livestock grazing by following rangeland health standards and guidelines that were developed in the 1990s. Ranchers that hold public land permits invest their own time and money encouraging wildlife populations to keep growing, manage noxious weeds, prevent fires and much more.

Which Legal Mandates affect Public Land Grazing?

Taylor Grazing Act of 1934

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976

The Public Rangeland Improvement Act of 1978

Who can get a grazing permit?

Any U.S. citizen or licensed business can apply for a BLM grazing permit or lease. In order to apply an individual must buy or control private property this is known as base property. Those who have base property are legally recognized by the BLM as having preference to grazing public lands. Applicants can then transfer the preference for grazing privileges from the base property to the acquired property (which would become the new “base property”. A private landowner holding a grazing lease or permit from the BLM or U.S. Forest Service does not have to allow public access across his private property as a condition of the lease or permit.

 Federal Grazing Fee

The Federal grazing fee that applies to the 16 Western states on BLM or U.S. Forest Service land is set by Congress following the formula in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978. By executive order the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM). Any increase or decrease may not exceed 25% of the previous year’s level. (An AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five seep or goats for a month.)


What is the current Grazing Fee?

The Current (2015)grazing fee is $1.69 per AUM.

In 2014 and 2013 the grazing fee was $1.35. In 2014 the BLM alone collected $12,117,000 in grazing fees. These fees are shared with state and local governments.

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