The grazing of public lands has become a very controversial issue over the last couple of decades. This is due to the fact that there are some people who believe that grazing the land is beneficial to the wildlife and the different plant species there. Then there are other people who have the belief that the grazing of livestock on public lands is detrimental to wildlife and plant health. Therefore, they believe that it is actually doing more harm than good.
What are Public Grazing Lands?
Public lands are properties that are not owned by private land owners, but instead are owned by the federal government. Ranchers are given permits or leases to graze their livestock on these government owned lands. The government agency that has been charged with the care and maintenance of these public lands is The Bureau of Land Management (BLM). According to the BLM’s website their mission statement is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. According to the BLM’s fact sheet, presented on their website, the BLM’s objective is to ensure the long-term health and productivity of these lands, and to create multiple environmental benefits that result from healthy watersheds.
The BLM also says that the public lands, and the private ranches next to them, maintain open spaces in the fast growing West, provide habitat for wildlife, offer many recreational activities provided on public lands, and helps preserve the character of the rural West. There is also a Federal Grazing Fee which applies to the 16 western states on public grazing lands that are managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service. This fee is adjusted annually and is calculated by using a formula originally set forth by Congress in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978. To achieve these desired conditions the BLM uses range health standards that were developed in the 1990s; with the input of the citizen-based Resource Advisory Council across the West. This act was modified and extended in 1986 by an executive presidential order. The modification put a price ceiling on the grazing fee so that it could not fall below $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM).
Taylor Grazing Act
The Taylor Grazing Act as passed in 1934 (Stimpert). According to Marc Stimpert in, “Counterpoint: opportunities lost and opportunities gained: separating truth from myth in the western ranching debate”, after the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act the Congress started to use the Forest Service’s system of allocating grazing lands. There were three purposes for passing the act 1) to regulate occupancy of remaining public lands; 2) protect rangelands from harm; and 3) to stabilize the livestock industry (Stimpert). The passage of the act gave power to the Secretary of Interior to create “grazing districts” on public lands (Stimpert). The Taylor Grazing Act also has the BLM regulate the occupancy and use of a grazing district....