In an article published online last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced an increase of grazing fees on public lands by the maximum amount of 25%. Effective March 1, 2015, fees will increase from the minimum fee of $1.35 per AUM in 2014 to $1.69 per AUM. (AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.)
The BLM administers about 245 million acres of public lands in twelve states and manages livestock / cattle grazing on 155 million acres of those lands. Nearly 18,000 permits and leases are issued to ranchers who graze livestock (primarily cattle and sheep) at least part of the year on more than 21,000 allotments – affecting a number of ranches for sale by Ranch Marketing Associates. BLM permits and leases are for ten years and are renewable if the conditions of the expiring lease are being met. In addition, the US Forest Service (USFS) issues 8,000 permits on 193 million acres in 44 states.
Historically, grazing management was designed to increase productivity and reduce soil erosion by balancing forage demands with the land’s carrying capacity. In 1934, congress passed the Taylor Grazing Act to prevent overgrazing of land and unintended damage to soil, plants, and water. The act led to the creation of regulated and apportioned grazing districts.
But by the 1960s and 1970s, the public’s expectations of public land management brought about new policies including the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. As a result, the BLM’s role increased from management of grazing districts to management and protection of riparian areas, threatened and endangered animal and plant species, and cultural/historical concerns. This resulted in modified terms and conditions for grazing permits and leases along with improvement projects for public rangelands.
Currently, the BLM’s objective is to create environmental benefits as well as maintain the long-term health and productivity of public lands. In administering public land, the BLM provides livestock-based socio/economic opportunities in rural communities. Together, public lands and private ranches contribute to open spaces, provide wildlife habitat, offer recreational opportunities and preserve the character of the rural West.
The Federal grazing fee applies to public lands managed by the BLM and USFS in 16 western states. Adjusted annually, the fee uses a formula originally established by Congress in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978. Under this formula, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM) and any fee increase or decrease cannot exceed 25% of the previous year’s level. The 2014 fee was $1.35 per AUM. The grazing fee for 2015 is $1.69 per AUM.
The federal grazing fee is market-driven; it increases, decreases or stays the same based on market conditions. The fee is computed on a base value of $1.23 per AUM and then adjusted annually according to three factors: current private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production.
*In Fiscal Year 2014, the BLM spent $79.2 million on its rangeland management program and approximately $10 million on its Range Improvement Program, for a grand total of $89.2 million. Of that figure, the agency spent $32.8 million on grazing permit administration. The other $56.4 million covered such activities as weed management, rangeland monitoring (not related to grazing administration), planning, water development, vegetation restoration, and habitat improvement. In 2014, the BLM collected $12,117,000 in grazing fees (see section on grazing fee below). The receipts from these annual fees, in accordance with legislative requirements, are shared with state and local governments.
* From DOJ: BLM Livestock Grazing