What’s getting more expensive? Everything but grazing fees.

Fees to ranch on public lands will remain the same despite dizzying inflation felt by consumers.

 

Cattle graze along the Snake River-Mormon Basin Back Country Byway, Oregon.

Inflation may be at a 40-year high, but the cost of grazing on public lands is lower now than it was 40 years ago, in 1981. Last week, the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service announced federal grazing fees for 2022: Just $1.35.

Grazing fees dictate how much ranchers pay for each “animal unit” — one cow and calf, one horse or five sheep — per month. This year’s fee — just $1.35 per animal unit — keeps the grazing costs at the same rate since 2019, when Trump’s BLM lowered the fee from $1.41. Fees apply to roughly 18,000 BLM grazing permits and leases and 6,250 Forest Service permits; income is funneled to rangeland betterment funds, the U.S. Treasury, and the states where the grazing occurs.

The formula used to calculate fees, implemented by the 1978 Public Rangelands Improvement Act, includes private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices and the cost of livestock production, which is driven by things like gas and equipment. Right now, grazing fees are as low as they can possibly be: A 1986 executive order from President Ronald Reagan prevents grazing fees from dropping below $1.35. Under the current law, grazing fees cannot increase or decrease by more than 25% each year. Fees have ranged from $1.35 to $2.31, with an average of $1.55.

 

Consumer Price Index is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Consumer Price Index is one of the many measures that track inflation trends overtime.

If the 1981 grazing fee of $2.31
had merely kept up with inflation,
the fee would be $7.46 in 2022
.

The total inflation rate from 1981 to 2022 is 281.15%.

Grazing fee reform is occasionally considered by Congress and has been proposed by past presidents, but to no avail. An Obama administration proposal in 2015 would have boosted fees to $2.50 in an attempt to close the gap between how much money grazing fees bring in compared to the cost of maintaining rangeland. Conservationists say fees are far too low given the ecological consequences of livestock grazing, while many ranchers oppose any increase to their operating expenses.

The stagnant cost of grazing livestock on public lands comes at a time when prices for other goods and services are soaring in the United States. According to the Labor Department, consumer prices increased 7% between December 2020 and 2021, the largest year-over-year inflation since 1982. Core inflation, which excludes energy and food prices that fluctuate frequently, rose 5.5% over the past year, the most rapid increase since 1991.

Note: This story was updated to correct the 1981 grazing fee, adjusted for inflation at today's rate, and to correct the graph's vertical access description from inflation trends to Consumer Price Index.

Kylie Mohr is an editorial intern for High Country News writing from Montana. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor. See our letters to the editor policy. 

 

High Country News Classifieds
  • POLICY DIRECTOR - FRIENDS OF THE INYO
    Seeking Policy Director to lead our policy programs to ensure the health/vibrancy of CA's Inyo/Mono Co. public lands. FT or PT. Remote OK but frequent...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Friends of the San Juans (Friends), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is seeking an experienced, passionate, and charismatic environmental leader to continue its strong community leadership...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, ARIZONA CHAPTER
    What We Can Achieve Together: Arizona's Director of Development (DoD) is responsible for directing all aspects of one or more development functions, which will secure...
  • CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Capacity Building Program Manager works directly with the business unit's Arizona Healthy Cities Program Director to advance the Healthy...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND OFFICE MANAGER - FRIENDS OF THE INYO
    Friends of the Inyo - Donor database management & reporting, IT/HR, and office administrative support. PT or FT. Partly remote OK but some in-office time...
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    New Mexico Land Conservancy is seeking a qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating,...
  • GRAPHIC AND DIGITAL DESIGNER
    Application deadline: December 17, 2022 Expected start date: January 16, 2023 Location: Amazon Watch headquarters in Oakland, CA Amazon Watch is a dynamic nonprofit organization...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eugene, Ore. nonprofit Long Tom Watershed Council is seeking a highly collaborative individual to lead a talented, dedicated team of professionals. Full-time: $77,000 - $90,000...
  • GIS SPECIALIST
    What We Can Achieve Together: The GIS Specialist provides technical and scientific support for Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, data management, and visualization internally and...
  • LOWER SAN PEDRO PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Lower San Pedro Program Manager directs some or all aspects of protection, science, stewardship and community relations for the...
  • FOREST RESTORATION SPATIAL DATA MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Forest Restoration Spatial Data Manager fills an integral role in leading the design and development of, as well as...
  • WATER PROJECTS MANAGER, SOUTHERN AZ
    What We Can Achieve Together: Working hybrid in Tucson, AZ or remote from Sierra Vista, AZ or other southern Arizona locations, the Water Projects Manager,...
  • SENIOR STAFF THERAPIST/PSYCHOLOGIST: NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENT SPECIALIST
    Counseling Services is a department strategically integrated with Health Services within the Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management. Our Mission at the Counseling Center...
  • THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IS HIRING A LOCAL INITIATIVES COORDINATOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks a Local Initiatives Coordinator to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator to develop, manage and advance...
  • LAND AND WATER PROTECTION MANAGER - NORTHERN ARIZONA
    We're Looking for You: Are you looking for a career to help people and nature? Guided by science, TNC creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our...
  • SENIOR CLIMATE CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) seeks a Senior Climate Conservation Associate (SCCA) to play a key role in major campaigns to protect the lands, waters,...
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • STRAWBALE HOME BESIDE MONTEZUMA WELL NAT'L MONUMENT
    Straw Bale Home beside Montezuma Well National Monument. Our property looks out at Arizona fabled Mogollon Rim and is a short walk to perennial Beaver...
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.