BLM, Forest Service cut public lands grazing fee

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Cattle graze on public land at the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory in Northern California last year. Days later, the U.S. Forest Service conducted a helicopter roundup of 290 wild horses there to “allow recovery of range and riparian ecological conditions.” Photo by Steve Paige for Return to Freedom.

The federal grazing fee for public lands will be lower in 2017, the Bureau of Land Management has announced.

The fee will be $1.87 per Animal Unit Month on BLM lands and $1.87 per Head Month on U.S. Forest Service land managed by the BLM.

In 2016, fees stood at $2.11 per AUM / HM.

The fee is calculated based on private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices and the cost of livestock production. Beef prices have fallen as ranchers continue building back herds following the Western drought, during which cattle numbers were reduced to their lowest total since 1951.

Congress established the formula for grazing fees in 1978 that has continued under presidential executive order since 1986. The fee cannot fall below $1.35 per AUM or fall more than 25 percent from last year’s level, under the order.

The lower fee comes as BLM continues to round up and permanently remove thousands of wild horses from the range rather than aggressively implement proven, humane management solutions for horses on the range. Horses continue to be outnumbered 35 to 1 — and even by 50 to 1 in some places — by cattle on public land.

Of the 245 million acres of BLM-managed land, 155 million are available for livestock grazing compared to just 26.9 million open to wild horses and burros.

An Animal Unit Month is the amount of forage needed to feed a cow, one domestic horse or five sheep for one month. A Head Month is a month’s use and occupancy of range by one weaned or adult cow with or without calf, bull, steer, heifer, horse, burro, or mule, or five sheep or goats.

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