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Special to the Herald Times
RBC — The Federal grazing fee for Western public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service will be $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM) in 2008, the same level as it was in 2007. The fee, determined by a congressional formula and effective on March 1, applies to nearly 18,000 grazing permits and leases administered by the BLM and more than 8,000 permits administered by the Forest Service.
The formula used for calculating the grazing fee, established by Congress in the 1978 Public Rangelands Improvement Act, has continued under a presidential Executive Order issued in 1986. Under that order, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per AUM, and any increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year’s level.
An AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse or five sheep or goats for a month.
The annually adjusted grazing fee is computed by using a 1966 base value of $1.23 per AUM for livestock grazing on public lands in Western states. The figure is then adjusted according to three factors — current private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production. In effect, the fee rises, falls, or stays the same based on market conditions, with livestock operators paying more when conditions are better and less when conditions have declined.
Without the requirement that the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per AUM, this year’s fee would have dropped below $1 per AUM because of declining beef cattle prices and increased production costs from the previous year.
The $1.35 per AUM grazing fee applies to 16 Western states on public lands administered by the BLM and the Forest Service. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The Forest Service applies different grazing fees to national grasslands and to lands under its management in the Eastern and Midwestern states and parts of Texas. The national grassland fee will be $1.35 per AUM, down from $1.37 in 2007 and will also take effect March 1. The fee for the Eastern and Midwestern states and parts of Texas will be out later this month.
The BLM, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, manages more land — 258 million surface acres — than any other federal agency. Most of this public land is located in 12 Western states, including Alaska.
The Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, manages 193 million acres of federal lands in 44 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.