The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project, (520) 623-1878
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians, (503) 757-4221

Groups to Obama: Cut Livestock Subsidy to Fix Agency Budgets


Conservation groups sent a letter to the Obama administration today
detailing how the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service can
meet the president's June 8 directive to cut 5 percent from agency
budgets: reform or eliminate the money-losing, habitat-destroying public
lands livestock grazing program.

"Instead of trimming the budget, the agencies should
start by cutting their losses," said Greta Anderson, Arizona director
of Western Watersheds Project. "The fee has failed to keep pace with
inflation, failed to cover even the administrative costs of operating
the grazing program, and incentivizes destructive grazing practices on
public land. In a time of budget crisis, it makes good economic sense
to address these issues."

The two agencies charge a paltry $1.35 monthly fee for
each cow and calf that the livestock industry grazes on public land in
the West. That's far below private market rates and far short of
providing enough revenue to correct the ecological damage caused by

The Government Accountability Office reported in 2005
that the BLM loses $46.5 million every year administering its grazing
program. That's equal to 5 percent of the agency's 2011 budget request.
The Forest Service loses at least $69.5 million dollars a year on its
grazing program, which is equivalent to more than 1 percent of its 2011
budget request.

"Reforming or eliminating the public lands livestock
program would save the public's money, land, watersheds and wildlife,"
said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center
for Biological Diversity. "It makes perfect economic and environmental
sense, and it's something the Obama administration can do quickly and

In 2005, some of the same conservation groups that sent
today's letter petitioned the government to reform the formula used to
calculate public lands livestock grazing fees. Those groups filed a lawsuit in June 2010 after the government
failed to respond to the petition.

"Given the massive budget shortfall our country is
facing, we can no longer afford to subsidize a small group of ranchers
to graze public lands at public expense," said Mark Salvo, director of
the Sagebrush Sea Campaign for WildEarth Guardians.

The letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was submitted by Western Watersheds
Project, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Great
Old Broads for Wilderness, Ventana Wilderness Alliance. Public Lands
Without Livestock and Sequoia ForestKeeper.

A copy of the letter is available by clicking here.

A copy of the memo is available by clicking here.

A copy of the Government Accountability Office report is
available by clicking here.

A copy of the rulemaking petition is available by
clicking here.