By Dennis Myers, News & Review
Cliven Bundy's tantrum over his unpaid grazing fees has accomplished one thing—there are more people paying attention to how low the fees are for ranchers grazing livestock on public lands.
Credo, a liberal telephone services company, sends out letters in its customers' names each month to their members of Congress. Two issues each month are offered. In July, Credo sent out letters urging increases in grazing fees. All customers had to do was check a box on their phone bills.
Studies have indicated that federal grazing fees are well below competitive market prices. That's because Congress, instead of the executive agencies, sets the fee level, which does not cover the cost of damage to the land. Ranchers respond that they make improvements to the land that increase its value.
With ranchers agitating to get wild horses off “their” range, American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign director Suzanne Roy put out a statement saying, “The hyper-focus on mustang numbers is a concerted effort to scapegoat wild horses and distract attention away from the massive level livestock grazing that is occurring on our public lands at great expense to the environment, wildlife (including wild horses) and taxpayers, who subsidize the below-market grazing fees that ranchers enjoy.”
“The biggest thing to understand here is that the grazing fee is not a cost-recovery fee,” BLM spokesperson Tom Gorey told the Fiscal Times. “If you want to blame Congress for that, go ahead, because they created the formula that we use.”
It's spilling over onto the state level, too. In Idaho officials are considering raising fees for grazing on state lands. Not surprisingly, a ranching lobbyist, Jared Brackett, told the Twin Falls Times News that ranchers might then switch entirely to grazing on those bargain-rate federal lands.