Public to Subsidize Public Land Destruction, Species Endangerment for Cattle Grazing

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Public to Subsidize Public Land Destruction, Species Endangerment for Cattle Grazing

[Ed. Note: Go vegan and end your participation in the destruction of our public lands!]

From Center for Biological Diversity
February 2010

“That the Obama administration continues such an antiquated, destructive, and costly use of Americans’ public lands is the exact opposite of change,” said McKinnon. “It shows that both public lands and endangered species remain near the lonely bottom of the administration’s agenda.”

On Friday the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management announced that in 2010 it would not increase the paltry $1.35 monthly fee charged for each cow and calf that the livestock industry grazes on western public land. The fee remains far below what the agencies spend to administer grazing permits, it remains far below market rates, and it remains far short of providing revenue needed to correct the severe ecological damage caused by livestock grazing.

Habitat destruction caused by livestock is a primary factor contributing to the decline of threatened and endangered species including the desert tortoise, Mexican spotted owl, southwestern willow flycatcher, least Bell’s vireo, Mexican gray wolf, Oregon spotted frog, Chiricahua leopard frog, in addition to dozens of other species of imperiled mammals, fish, amphibians, and spring snails that occur on western public land. Livestock grazing is also a primary factor contributing to unnaturally severe western wildfires, watershed degradation, soil loss, and the spread of invasive plants.

“Livestock grazing destroys western public land and the habitat that species need to survive,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The federal grazing program makes the public subsidize public-land destruction and species endangerment.”

The fees will apply to livestock grazing across 258 million acres of western public land administered by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management — 81 percent of the land administered by the two agencies in the 11 western states. There are approximately 23,600 public-lands ranchers, representing about 6 percent of all livestock producers west of the Mississippi River.

A 1986 executive order and 1978’s Public Rangelands Improvement Act prohibit the fee from falling below $1.35 per animal unit month, which is only $.12 more than monthly rates charged in 1966 and $.08 less than one 13-ounce can of dog food. Market rates for grazing unirrigated western private land exceed $10 per animal unit month.

“That the Obama administration continues such an antiquated, destructive, and costly use of Americans’ public lands is the exact opposite of change,” said McKinnon. “It shows that both public lands and endangered species remain near the lonely bottom of the administration’s agenda.”

A report released by the Center for Biological Diversity has detailed how the federal grazing program fails to cover its own administrative costs or those attending the environmental problems it creates. The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups have since petitioned the federal government to increase the grazing fee to account for the costs of its administration and ecological damage. The groups await a response from the government.