Thursday, January 20, 2011

Grazing Fees

A president has great power to change land policy. Much of this is set by institutional directives, not Congressional legislation.

Thus, it's awfully disappointing that the Obama Administration has decided to not raise the grazing fee on public lands. A farmer must pay the government all of $1.35 per month to graze on the public lands that are theoretically for all of us. $1.35 a month. That's nothing. In fact, it's the lowest legal cost. It's been at this level since the Bush Administration. And Obama decided not to change it. It's unclear why, as it's not easy to get into why decisions get made deep within the government. Perhaps Ken Salazar has a lot of friends in ranching. Maybe Obama is fooling himself into thinking that grazing fees actually influence voting patterns (which they don't--90% of ranchers are voting Republicans regardless). But cattle seriously degrade watersheds throughout the West. I'm not saying there's no place for cows on the public lands, but it'd be nice to get more than $1.35 a month for each one. This is almost as big of a ripoff as the General Mining Act of 1872, which allows mineral companies to basically steal valuable materials from the ground for nothing. Neither grazing law nor mining law ever changes--the people who really care about these things have lots of money and control a few key state legislatures.