What are the Costs and Benefits of Public Grazing Programs?
Many critics of public lands livestock grazing argue that the government unjustly subsidizes ranchers through low grazing fees and money losing management programs. Proponents of public grazing counter that ranchers already paid full value for the forage when they purchased their ranches, that direct comparisons with private range lease rates are difficult if not impossible, and that grazing permittees receive far fewer subsidies than the average citizen. Still for many people the question is no longer whether permittees should pay more, but rather how much more they should pay. A second debate turns on the importance of ranching to local and regional economies. Supporters of public grazing programs emphasize that they provide jobs and income to remote areas where economic opportunities are few and that eliminating public lands grazing would devastate these communities and destabilize the livestock industry as a whole. Opponents argue that these economies are rapidly changing and that the importance of ranching is overstated. Often these opposing camps are speaking past each other about different scales of impact. Read carefully and judge for yourself.
Are ranchers paying fair market value to graze public land?
- Charging Fair Market Value for Using Federal Lands: Some Implications of an Ignored Policy: Addresses the question of whether some user groups are subsidized to a much greater degree than others and whether if they were treated equally there would a significant change in net benefits received by users and agency revenues.
- Comparison of forage value on private and public grazing leases: Examines the federal grazing fee system of using a set formula rather than open market transactions between willing buyers and sellers. Journal of Range Mangement 50(3): 300-306 May 1997.
- Factors Affecting Private Rangeland Lease Rates: A study to evaluate how responsive private rangeland lease rates have been to short-term (yearly) fluctuations in market conditions. Journal of Range Management 50(2):178-184 March 1997
Should grazing fees be increased?
- Alternative Grazing Fee Formula Impacts on Representative Public Land Ranches: A study to further quantify the impacts of alternative grazing fees on the economic viability (level of income and risk) of ranches leasing public range lands in the Western United States. Journal of Range Management 46(6):548-554 Nov 1993.
- An Evaluation of the Pria Grazing Fee Formula: Looks at how the federal grazing fee is currently set using the Public Rangeland Improvement Act (PRIA) fee formula established in 1978 and modified in 1986 and adjusted annually. Looks at 30 years' data now available as to how well this is working.
- Public Land Policy and the Market Value of New Mexico Ranches, 1979-94: Examines the recent trends in market value for New Mexico Ranches, including public land ranches to see if the proposals outlined in Rangeland Reform '94 have altered grazing use on public lands as has been generally perceived. Journal of Range Management 49(3):270-276 May 1996.
- The Economic Impacts of Increased Grazing Fees on Gila National Forest Grazing Permittees: Examines the impact of grazing fee increases on small, medium, and large permit holders. Journal of Range Management 50(1):94-105 January 1997.
How important are ranching operations to rural economies?
- Cohesion, Integration, and Attachment Owyhee County Communities: How social change occurs is an important consideration when analyzing the effects of public land management policies on rural communities. This paper utilizes data from a recent study in Owyhee County, Idaho, to explore the combination of social attributes that contribute to community attitudes of cohesion, integration, and attachment in a set of rural communities.