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Grazing Fees: An Overview and Current Issues
Charging fees for grazing private livestock on federal lands is statutorily authorized and has been
the policy of the Forest Service (FS, Department of Agriculture) since 1906, and of the Bureau of
Land Management (BLM, Department of the Interior) since 1936. Today, fees are charged for
grazing on approximately 160 million acres of BLM land and 81 million acres of FS land
basically under a fee formula established in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978
(PRIA) and continued administratively.'
On BLM rangelands, in FY2008, there were 15,682 operators authorized to graze livestock, and
they held 17,812 grazing permits and leases. Under these permits and leases, a maximum of
12,526,006 animal unit months (AUMs) of grazing could have been authorized for use. Instead,
8,592,419 AUMs were used.2 The remainder were not used due to resource protection needs,
forage depletion caused by drought or fire, and economic and other factors. BLM defines an
AUM, for fee purposes, as a month's use and occupancy of the range by one animal unit, which
includes one yearling, one cow and her calf, one horse, or 5 sheep or goats. On FS rangelands, in
FY2008, there were 6,289 livestock operators authorized to graze commercial livestock. A
maximum of 8,505,933 head-months (HD-MOs) of grazing were under permit; 6,796,581 HD-
MOs were authorized to graze.3 There were more than 8,000 grazing permits on FS lands as of
February 2008. The FS uses HD-MO as its unit of measurement for use and occupancy of FS
lands, similar to AUM. Hereafter AUM is used to cover both HD-MO and AUM.
The BLM and FS are charging a grazing fee of $1.35 per AUM from March 1, 2009, through
February 28, 2010. This is the lowest fee that can be charged. It is generally lower than fees
charged for grazing on other federal lands as well as on state and private lands. A study by the
Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that other federal agencies charged $0.29 to
$112.50 per AUM in FY2004. While the BLM and FS use a formula to set the grazing fee (see
"The Fee Formula" below), most agencies charge a fee based on competitive methods or a market
price for forage. Some seek to recover the costs of their grazing programs. State and private
landowners generally seek market value for grazing, with state fees ranging from $1.35 to $80 per
AUM and private fees from $8 to $23 per AUM.4 The average monthly lease rate for grazing on
private lands in 11 western states in 2007 was $15.60 per head.5
1 P.L. 95-514, 92 Stat. 1803; 43 U.S.C. 1901, 1905. Executive Order 12548, 51 Fed. Reg. 5985 (February 19, 1986).
These authorities govern grazing on BLM and FS lands in 16 contiguous western states, which is the focus of this
report. Forest Service grasslands and "nonwestern" states have different fees. In addition, grazing occurs on other
federal lands, not required to be governed by PRIA fees, including areas managed by the National Park Service, Fish
and Wildlife Service, Dept. of Defense, and Dept. of Energy.
2 These statistics were taken from U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Public Land Statistics,
2008, Table 3-8c and Table 3-9c, available on the BLM website at http://www.blm.gov/public_land_statistics/
s These statistics were taken from U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service Range Management, Grazing Statistical
Summary, FY2008, March 2009, p. 4, available on the FS website at http://www.fs.fed.us/rangelands/ftp/docs/
4 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Livestock Grazing: Federal Expenditures and Receipts Vary, Depending on
the Agency and the Purpose of the Fee Charged, GAO-05-869 (Washington, DC: September 2005), p. 37-40.
s These statistics were taken from U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Agricultural
Statistics 2008, Table 9-48, at http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/AgStatistics/2008/Chap09.pdf.
Congressional Research Service
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Grazing Fees: Overview and Current Issues, report, September 4, 2009; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc806888/m1/4/: accessed December 12, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.