Congressman Adam Smith has reintroduced legislation that would address the wasteful, environmentally damaging, and economically inefficient federal grazing policy on our public lands. H.R. 2201, the Rural Economic Vitalization Act, would change federal law to allow ranchers with grazing permits to voluntarily relinquish their permits to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service in exchange for private market compensation. It would further allow the BLM and U.S. Forest Service to permanently retire the grazing permit.
"The current federal grazing program is among the most economically inefficient uses of our public lands," said Congressman Smith. "This legislation opens the door for private solutions to a long-standing problem that costs taxpayers millions and has prevented public land ranchers from efficiently utilizing resources available to them."
Current law does not allow for the retirement of grazing permits. This not only is to the detriment of wildlife, watersheds, and the surrounding ecosystem, which continue to be harmed by domestic livestock grazing, but also to federal taxpayer dollars wastefully spent to continue an antiquated grazing policy on public lands.
"Grazing is an important use of our public lands, but it's a very impactful use", said Rep. Raul Grijalva, who joined Congressman Smith in introducing the legislation. "Excessive grazing impacts wildlife habitat, soil composition, local hydrology, and even heightens the impacts of climate change. Retiring some permits will help save taxpayer money and benefit federal conservation efforts. Right now, when we are looking for ways to save taxpayer money, REVA is a win-win. Ranchers that want to retire their permits should have that opportunity."
"Many permit holders would choose to retire their grazing permit if they could recoup their investment from private funds," Smith said. "By providing federal grazing permit holders the freedom to exchange permits for market value compensation, this legislation would spur private investment, provide ranchers with the opportunity to pursue new business ventures or retire with more security, and protect public lands from the damaging environmental effects of livestock grazing."
In addition to the environmental damage, the federal grazing program is heavily subsidized and costs American taxpayers over $115 million a year. The Government Accountability Office reported that the BLM and Forest Service spend over $132 million a year on managing the grazing lands, yet they only collect $17 million a year in fees.
"At a time when the federal government is looking for ways to cut outdated programs and become more efficient, this bill eliminates wasteful spending and saves taxpayer dollars," continued Smith. "This legislation is a win for all involved. The American taxpayer saves money, ranchers have a choice to retire their permits for market compensation, and public lands are given the opportunity to rebuild their natural habitats, native plants, and wildlife."