You're going to pay more, but ranchers to pay less to use public lands this year

They’ve gone and done it again — dropped public land grazing fees as low as the law allows. For a buck, thirty-five a month ranchers can let a cow stomp all over the the public land trample the banks and shit in the streams. Oh, yes, and their calves get to do it for free.

For those not so favored, you will be paying more fees this year to access your land. For $80 you can get the card below that will let you into many public land areas.


The High Country News blog has some thoughts on the new grazing fees. Buddy can you spare a cow.

The Missoula Independent has an article too. Unfair warning. Scaling back recreation on public lands, quietly. By John S. Adams



, ,




  1. Alan Gregory Avatar

    So much for the “rugged individualist,” the supposed “icon” of the West. Most public land ranchers are, in fact, simply welfare recipients, quenching their thirst at the watering hole of taxpayer-funded subsidies. This is mind-boggling.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think that’s how the word “welfare rancher” was invented.

    They were debating some bill about single women with children, and some of the boys on “Sirloin Row” weighed in all self-righteous about welfare cheats, and someone decided to fight back.

    Maybe there are other stories out there how this term came into being

  3. Alan Gregory Avatar

    Denzel and Nancy Ferguson’s screed, “Sacred Cows at the Public Trough,” is back in print (see
    It’s the classic review of what happened to a Western landscape (in this case Malheur NWR) when cows were turned loose.
    It’s a great read for any public land activist.

  4. Rob-S Avatar

    You guys never cease to amaze me! Ranchers never have thought of themselves as’welfare recipients’ as they work harder and more hours than any of you do. Do you put in 15-hr days every day of the week. I hardly call that welfare. It is too bad that this stigma is attached. In fact, they may be paying $1.35 per aum for public land grazing but what you do not realize is that they pay enormous property taxes and then when they sell their property or die, which ever comes first, they pay taxes again for property that they have been paying taxes on all their life. So the government gets their money back from the ranchers for the difference between the $1.35 aum and fair market value for pasturing cattle on private land.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Now Rob, remember we are talking about public land ranchers. I know folks with private property only who deeply resent these overprivileged self-annointed “knights of the range.” They are the ones stirring up this anti-wolf sentiment and false statements, and folks aren’t going to be very nice about that fact. Leading the hunters astray is a serious sin in my book.

  6. Elizabeth Avatar


    I’m not sure why those of you who defend public lands ranchers think that there aren’t other business owners who put in 15 hour days, 365 days per week. I don’t receive welfare from the government i. e. subsidies in any way, yet my husband and I started our own business with nothing and put in 24 hour days frequently. 15 hour days were normal including all holidays. We worked this way for years. I know others who work just as hard outside of ranching who also put in ridiculously long hours. We all make our choices.

    Ranchers need to get over themselves and realize there are people who work harder than they do, yet receive no preferential treatment from the government.

    And, by the way, my business contributes millions to the economy via jobs to highly skilled workers in the high tech sector. What do ranchers contribute to the economy of the western states? Contrary to what they would have you believe, not much!

  7. kt Avatar


    We all pay for the weed spraying, the road blading to nearly every remote cow project, often much of the cost of the cow projects, the predator killing every time a rancher even dreams a coyote might look cross-eyed at a sheep [seriously – APHIS Wildlife Services can go in and scorch the earth of predators BEFORE the range maggots are even turned out into public land areas under the Idaho Wildlife Services EAs – purposefully segmented to try to “minimize” environmental effects so they do not have to do an EIs]. NOT TO MENTION nearly every agency staffer in your basic BLM office – except the Minerals guy being there almost solely to try [ineffectively] to mitigate to some small degree the trout streams sullied, the sage grouse nesting habitat chomped away , etc. Not to mention the whole corps of cowboy sycophants in various state and federal ag. agencies – NRCS, U of I “range” dept., ag extension agents, etc.

    Here is a Report that discusses some of this:

  8. be Avatar

    ag land, which ranchers pay property tax on, is significantly lower than any other property tax incurred (how about you look up the exact figures rob-s and prove me wrong). additionally, ranchers do not pay property tax on the public lands in dispute.

    i’ll add my voice to Elizabeth’s –
    i know what it is to work and i recieve NO subsidy from the government for my private business.

    the irony is that the cowboy mentality has been a leading figure in spitting hate upon welfare recipients. maybe if
    those ranchers who demonstrate such hatred stood in line like the rest are forced to do there’d be an opportunity to experience some compassion/empathy.

    maybe the whole idea that it is the worker recieving the benefit from the subsidies is a sham and in reality it is a corporate bottom line that is being artificially inflated to the detriment of free-market competition.

    maybe it is these corporate “ranchers” who have acquired and maintained half of the public lands leases available, in Idaho alone, who are pushing off the independent rancher and whose artificially subsized hyper-competitiveness is forcing the folk hero cowboy off his land –

    maybe its not the conservationists?

    what do you think rob?

  9. kt Avatar

    And then, to top it all off, there is this – Public lands ranchers use OUR lands to get loans so the can continue to be on public welfare.

    Go to this Website:

    (it doesn’t seem to link directly to the article)

    Then click on the link to right hand side “1.1 Billion in Bank Loans …”

    “Among the banks and insurance companies that have issued loans to western ranchers using publicly owned grazing permits as collateral are some of the largest financial institutions in the world, including Metropolitan Life Insurance, Mutual Life Insurance, and Prudential Insurance. However, many BLM permit “lienholder agreements” are also held by federal and quasi-federal lending institutions such as the Federal Land Banks, the Farmers Home Administration and the Farm Service Agency.

    In a report released today, Mortgaging Our Natural Heritage: An Analysis of the Use of Bureau of Land Management Grazing Permits as Collateral for Private Loans, Forest Guardians and the Sagebrush Sea Campaign claim that federally sanctioned permit-based loans have enabled the finance industry to become a silent player in the subsidized destruction of western public lands. Since banks and insurance companies have loaned $1.5 billion dollars on federal grazing permits, they use their considerable clout in Washington, D.C. to oppose any public land grazing reforms that may threaten their investment”.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    And I understand that if a permittee tries to do a good job, the bank will come around and say, “I still see some grass. You could run more and pay us off.”

  11. Rob-S Avatar

    Well, lets see Elizabeth. Do you happen to eat. They feed America. Thats enough for me.

  12. Jordan Avatar

    Rob – might you want to list those ranchers who work those “15-hour days”? Pour souls. Violins or dueling banjos please? Like no one else works?

    I’ve been around a lot of ranching, probably more than you, and THIS IS WHAT’S REAL with regards to PUBLIC LANDS RANCHING:

    The rancher turns out his cattle in May or June and maybe checks on ’em or has to move them to another pasture a few times, otherwise — it the Christopher Columbus method of livestock mgt. Let ’em out and hope to discover them in the fall.”

    If the wolves get a few calves, no problem, the Wildlife Services’ airforce will come in and exterminate an entire wolf family so a lazy rancher can keep working on his tan by the family pool, or off vacation to the coast. “Honey, please pass the pitcher”.

    Sheepmen hire poor Peruvian herders to watch their flocks because they can’t be bothered.

    On your last post – “Do you happen to eat.” Yes. I do. It might be hard for you to fathom but a LOT OF PEOPLE DO NOT EAT MEAT.

    Signed – a redneck, wolf lovin’, gun totin’ local. If you want to have a wood splitin’ contest, or a shoot off blasting Coors beer cans (you’ll have to supply those) let me know. I’d try to recycle the aluminum, if you don’t mind.

  13. Elizabeth Avatar

    As an offshoot to this topic, I would also like to mention another reason why public lands ranchers make themselves look bad besides the main and obvious reasons always pointed out…

    While studying raptors on public lands in Utah, which were overgrazed by cattle in the Columbus style fashion stated in Jordan’s post, we would find the most horrendous amount of trash left behind by ranchers. Trash of all sorts, but mostly beer cans, soft drink bottles, plastic bags. If these ranchers have such high respect for the land, why do they litter it so??? I would see them throwing trash out the window of their pickup while driving desolate roads in remote ares. Why is basic respect for the land not instilled in so many ranch families? Every time I would go out onto these grazed areas, I would keep an open mind about ranchers but was always shown why I should not give them the benefit of the doubt.

  14. be Avatar

    the percentage of beef produced by public lands ranching is miniscule – the ‘feeding america’ argument is yet another misrepresentation of fact. let’s say public lands ranchers account for 3% of beef production – (there’s that benefit of the doubt so many of us are realizing gets exploited all-too often)

    i’d say americans might do well to lessen their beef intake by 3% annually. if given a good-faith informed chance about what that extra 3% was doing to their children’s natural heritage i’d even be willing to bet they’d willingly cut back.

    either way – there are much more efficient means of food production.

  15. Rob-S Avatar

    Well, to all the pro wolf loving, public land rancher haters on this thread. I know you all have an agenda for your beloved wolf and one way to keep them in the wild is to defeat the ranchers and get them all removed from public lands. It is ironic cause the very folks on this thread that comment about their enormous contribution to the economy are the ones who in a heart beat will stand behing a bill that would protect a snail on the snake river while driving a fishing company out of business, save an owl so lumber yards go out of business. So I guess you can say that your business contributes more that a ranchers to the local economy but you will drive another 100 people out of business.

    Jordan – give me your phone number and well talk about your comments in #12.

  16. Jordan Avatar

    Rob S – Nope, you can’t have my phone number. I might be a backcountry hick but am not THAT naive. Am goin’ out to the back porch and listen to hear if the wolves are singin’ tonight.

  17. Elizabeth Avatar


    Yes, I eat beef. I do the economic merit of your comment has been addresses by others who have posted.

    It is terrible for someone to lose their job or for a community to lose their economic base, however as a business person I would say all businesses need to compete on an even playing field. My “beef” is with ranchers spoiling our public lands and having all americans foot the bills for their business expenses. No one pays my personal or business bills but me and my family and I would expect that others do the same.

    In addition, while I am not a right-wing christian, I can adhere to their same logic on abortion in that I protest my tax dollars being used to help ranchers spoil public land. An equal waste of my hard earned tax money is to kill predators for anyone. I have a moral problem with both issues. If a rancher wants to kill a predator on his private land that is killing his livestock, that’s fine. But on public lands with tax payer money is a totally different issue.

  18. be Avatar


    i’ll be waiting for a response to the merits

    p.s. – let’s not forget that corporate livestock operations have rendered far more (by a HUGE number proportionally) independent ranchers’ operations insolvent than any conservationists… thank simplot for that…

  19. Rob-S Avatar

    No be, you won’t be hearing from me again on this thread. You already have your mind made up as do the rest. No matter if what I say is true, you all will always blast the person who has animals on public lands so why waste my breath any longer. So, you’ll continue to put 100s of people out of business which drives up the cost of products all for the protection on an endangered snail or whatever. Yea! you’re really doing something positive for the economy. Aren’t you! Drive off all the ranchers from the public lands and there will be less animals and less animals which drives up the price of beef. Hey, we will import more from Canada, Mexico and Japan. That makes total economic sense. Obviously, you do not understand economics very well so what little education I have provided you may help.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan