Thursday, February 22, 2018
Breaking News
Home » New West Blog » Public Lands: Cows vs. RATs

The Forest Service and the BLM have just announced the 2010 fee for grazing one cow and calf on public land.

Back in 1966, the fee was $1.23 per month. For comparison, here are the prices of some common items in 1966 and today:

Item  In 1966   Today
New car $2,650   $23,000
Gallon of gas .32   $3.72
Gallon of milk .99   $2.68
Postage stamp .05   .44
Minimum wage $1.25   $7.25

 

So given those sorts of price increases, what do you think the 2010 grazing fee is? $5? $10? $15? Nope.

The actual grazing fee for 2010: $1.35. That's right, just 12 cents more than it was in 1966. One dollar and 35 cents for all the forage and water a cow and calf can consume in a month, in our national forests, wildernesses, and BLM land. The same grazing privilege on private land goes for at least $10 - $15.

Public Lands: Cows vs. RATs

The Forest Service and the BLM have just announced the 2010
fee for grazing one cow and calf on public land.

Back in 1966, the fee was $1.23 per month. For comparison,
here are the prices of some common items in 1966 and today:

Item  In 1966   Today
New car $2,650   $23,000
Gallon of gas .32   $3.72
Gallon of milk .99   $2.68
Postage stamp .05   .44
Minimum wage $1.25   $7.25

 

So given those sorts of price increases, what do you think the 2010 grazing fee is? $5? $10? $15? Nope.

The actual grazing fee for 2010: $1.35. That’s right, just 12 cents more than it was in 1966. One dollar and 35 cents for all the forage and water a cow and calf can consume in a month, in our national forests, wildernesses, and BLM land. The same grazing privilege on private land goes for at least $10 – $15.

Eighty percent of the land that the two agencies administer can be leased for such grazing (that’s 258 million acres). Yet less than 3 percent of the beef produced in the U.S. comes from cattle on public range.

Meanwhile, other users of public land don’t get nearly such a sweet deal. Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (also known as the RAT, or Recreation Access Tax), agencies charge additional fees for public land use at hundreds of sites (see NewWest.net for a great timeline on the tax). For instance, the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness near my home exacts a $3 fee per person to dayhike, $10 to camp overnight in an unimproved site. (Also see our story “Fed up with paying to play“.)

Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) have been trying to repeal the Bush-era policy for years:

“Every tax day we pay to use our public lands, we shouldn’t be taxed
twice to go fishing, hiking, or camping on OUR public lands,” Baucus
told NewWest.Net (in April). “Paying twice just doesn’t make any sense. …”

And once Congress has slain the RAT, maybe it finally can move on to the mother of all public-land giveaways, the 1872 mining law.

 

Note: This post is cross posted from The Goat blog on High Country News.

About Guest Writer

Check Also

One Big Sky Center

Hammes Company Joins One Big Sky Center Venture in Billings

Billings, Montana is moving ahead with discussions on the One Big Sky Center proposal, which ...

5 comments

  1. Without cows and sheep munching the west away, there wouldn’t be cowboys and cowboy hats. Without cowboys and cowboy hats there wouldn’t be cowboy movies and John Wayne wouldn’t be an icon. Without John Wayne as an icon America would lose its spine and its good guy image. Without its spine and its good guy image of itself, America would lose it grip. So you see we need to subsidize cows.

  2. Can you say “Welfare Ranching?”

  3. My goodness, we’ve got High Country News criticizing the livestock industry. Call the paramedics.

  4. Why not welfare for a guy or gal who owns a few cows but has to work in town to make ends meet? Is it any worse that welfare for people living in urban slums or rural shacks and trailers?

  5. Better check on the cost of the fencing, labor, property restrictions, etc before concluding the ranchers are getting rich. Many of the allotments have been cut in half (cow-calf) and the rancher is still maintaining the property with half the income. I find that elk, deer and sage grouse are found in greater numbers where some grazing is allowed. That has been confirmed by both the ranching community and some wildlife personnell.

    If Yellowstone National Park were required to meet the same standards for their grasslands as the BLM requires, they would be in violation most years. How about some howling about that.