Should the U.S. Subsidize Public Grazing?

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Should the U.S. Subsidize Public Grazing?

Public grazing has sparked disagreement ever since the first cattlemen came west. Whether the criticism came from fellow ranchers and homesteaders, or from the government and environmentalists, there have always been problems with the use of public resources. The United States should subsidize grazing on public lands. Opponents to subsidized grazing cite the economic and environmental benefits that would emerge if the grazing was to be greatly reduced or stopped. However, proponents of subsidized public grazing cite equally important benefits favoring the continuation of the program. The benefits of subsidized grazing extend beyond the rancher that holds the permit.

Subsidized grazing occurs when the government leases public land to a rancher for the purpose of grazing. The grazing fee on the land is usually lower than comparable private land fees. The first public grazing in the United States was created by the Forest Service through the Timberland Reserve program in 1891 (Thomas 1994). Grazing fees were not charged until 1906 (The Secretary of Agriculture & Secretary of The Interior 1986). In 1934, the Taylor Grazing Act was created to establish control over grazing on public lands. The Independent Agencies Appropriations Act of 1952 stated that the grazing fees needed to be “self-sustaining, uniform, and fair and equitable to the public and user.” (The Secretary of Agriculture & Secretary of The Interior 1986) The concept of fair to both the public and the user is where the public grazing disagreement begins. Opponents to the public grazing program insist that the program is ineffective, a waste of money, detrimental to the land, and does not benefit enough of the public.


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