BLM and Forest Service Announce 2009 Grazing Fee

The Subsidized Destruction of the American West Continues. $1.35 per AUM

The Federal grazing fee for 2009 will be $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and $1.35 per head month (HM) for lands managed by the Forest Service. The grazing fee for 2009 is the same as it was in 2008.

This seems to contrast with President Obama’s campaign promise to go line-by-line through the Federal budget to eliminate plans that don’t work.

January 30, 2009
Contact: Tom Gorey (BLM), 202-452-5137
Donna Drelick (Forest Service), 202-205-0914

BLM and Forest Service Announce 2009 Grazing Fee

The Federal grazing fee for 2009 will be $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and $1.35 per head month (HM) for lands managed by the Forest Service. The grazing fee for 2009 is the same as it was in 2008.

An AUM or HM – treated as equivalent measures for fee purposes – is the occupancy and use of public lands by one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. The newly adjusted grazing fee, determined by a congressional formula and effective on March 1, applies to nearly 18,000 grazing permits and leases administered by the BLM and more than 8,000 permits administered by the Forest Service.

The formula used for calculating the grazing fee, which was established by Congress in the 1978 Public Rangelands Improvement Act, has continued under a presidential Executive Order issued in 1986.  Under that order, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per AUM, and any increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year’s level. 

The annually adjusted grazing fee is computed by using a 1966 base value of $1.23 per AUM/HM for livestock grazing on public lands in Western states. The figure is then adjusted according to three factors – current private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production.  In effect, the fee rises, falls, or stays the same based on market conditions, with livestock operators paying more when conditions are better and less when conditions have declined.

The $1.35 per AUM/HM grazing fee applies to 16 Western states on public lands administered by the BLM and the Forest Service.  The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.  The Forest Service applies different grazing fees to national grasslands and to lands under its management in the Eastern and Midwestern states and parts of Texas.

The BLM, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, manages more land – 256 million surface acres – than any other Federal agency.  Most of this public land is located in 12 Western states, including Alaska.

The Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, manages 193 million acres of Federal lands in 44 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.



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  1. meadow Avatar

    Ridiculous. If I remember correctly, I think a postage stamp in 1966 was about 5 cents. Now its 42 cents. Using that same multiplier, the grazing fee should be $10.33. This indicates that grazing fees haven’t kept up even with inflation. since the fees can’t go lower than they are setting it now and given that it is based on market conditions it means markets are even worse now for ranchers than in 1966. How heroic do we have to be as taxpayers to keep bailing out ranchers before we just say “enough”.

  2. Brian Ertz Avatar

    the sad thing is many of the landscapes being woefully undervalued in this way are being permitted to corporate ‘absentee’ ranchers — i.e. this de facto subsidy is going to multimillionaires.

  3. Salle Avatar

    Indeed, there is no performance review for these guys, no oversight, no getting fired for failing to return a profit for receiving this handout. All you have to do is whine and you get the administrative folks to bend over and give you carte blanche in the form of $$ and the endless service of the federal “hit squad ~ WS.

    So then, why is it so damned hard for the average underpaid and now, probably, unemployed citizen to get unemployment insurance benefits at about 1/3 the amount they were making? There are far more complex hoops one has to jump through just to get less than half of what they need to get by and the welfare ranching community gets millions just for the whining and they all drive around in brand new pick-up trucks and ATVs every year. Not to mention the respect they demand because they claim they are “feeding the world” ~which is BS.

    Go figure. If it’s okay for the average citizen to fail to the point of life in a homeless shelter, I think these folks should be allowed to fail. Nothing is “too big to fail” when it comes to actual fairness, not banks, not hobby ranchers and corporate ranching-poseurs.

  4. Ken Cole Avatar

    While looking for a story to add to this post I came across this article saying that the grazing fee in 1984 was $1.37 which was down from the previous year’s price of $1.40.

  5. mike post Avatar
    mike post

    I know a woman and her son who own a small ranch since 1934 adjacent to the USFS and who use leases. They lead a hand to mouth existence and even work minimum wage jobs in town to have the cash to keep going. Their ranch looks beautiful: no terracing, lots of oak woodlands, nice riparian areas. I think they (as do I) would take offense to the sterotyping and cultural bias that fills this blog when it comes to talking about ranchers. Yes the fees for grazing and logging are out of whack, yes there are exploitive ranchers out there, but you guys paint all ranchers with the same brush: land rapers and corporate pirates. If we were talking about religion or race I know what kind of label you would get…

  6. Steve Avatar

    In my opinion, nobody, no matter their economic status, who is sending thousand pound animals lumbering over our public lands grazing down the sometimes quite unique and sensitive vegetation, is not guilty of gross abuse of our environment. These animals are shitting all over the place, especially in the streams, eroding trails conspicuously, and stomping holes in the habit, munching off the plants wholesale, and competing with all the natural inhabitants of those ecosystems. If you were more of a botanist or biologist Mike, you might not take so lightly the destruction your friend’s animals cause. The impact upon our native plants is outrageous, just compare any grazed to non-grazed location. Since use of grazing allotments amounts to welfare, we might as well send these people regular welfare checks and eliminate their animals freeloading on and damaging our lands.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    If I have given that impression that is unfortunate.

    I like to use the word livestock operator because it is free of the connotations of the word “rancher.”

    The “ranchers” I see most people complaining about are those who hold political power and the cattle and sheep associations that have an incredible amount of power, especially relative to their economic contribution.

    The woman and son you write about are not going to be elected to the state legislature or to an office in the cattle association.

    There are basically four kinds of livestock operators: corporate (not really ranchers at all); traditional large; traditional small; and hobby.

    Your example would be number 3, and in fact most of those folks do a lot of things to keep body and soul together, such as working in town.

    Hobby ranchers are complicated category too. Some are people who bought rural property and figure that’s what you do with it — run a little livestock.

    The objectionable operators are usually corporate or large traditional (who have often formed their own LLCs). In Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and eastern Oregon they also often have more acres in grazing permits than in deeded property.

    The number of large operators are so few that you get to know them by name time after time.

    Hell, my son-in-law pastures about 10 calves and I help him feed them milk and brand them when I’m around. He’s not a rancher.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    One word about hobby ranchers. Some of them are people who bought rural property, built a house and could owe a lot of property tax. However, they learned that their taxes drop dramatically if they run a few cattle or sheep or lease their land for it.

  9. Alan Gregory Avatar

    Good comparison with postage costs. And the U.S. Postal Service now intends to cut back its services to 5 days a week to close budget shortfalls. Meanwhile, the AUM ripoff continues unabated.

  10. earl m Avatar
    earl m

    I was wondering if anyone knows where I can find information on 2009 Idaho private land grazing fees (per aum)? I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Thanks

  11. Dave M Avatar

    Earl, Per a review of data from the National Ag Statistics Service Website (ink included), the average private grazing rate in Idaho has ranged from $12.00 to $13.80 per AUM or ($14.00 to $16.50 per month for a cow-calf pair) over the last five years. The 2008 rate was listed at $12.60 per AUM and $16.30 per pair.

    To find the data you seek on the NASS webiste you want to select the State of “Idaho” and “State – Prices” in the window Go to individual States Data for: (Select State & Type) , then click to Go button. Then in the subsequent page Step 1 the data type you want to select is Grazing Fee Rates. The only option available for that selection in step 2 is Cattle & Calves – All. Then is Step 3 you specify the span of years and the interval . You then click the “Get Data” button to retrieve the query results.

  12. MuleKist Avatar

    Steve, Ralph, I have just come across an old but interesting article on “Public Land Policy & Changes,” and it also concludes that it is MOST important to identify the “types” of public lands ranchers before implementing any changes. As with anything, it is not good to generalize and distinctions do need to be made between the various kinds of “ranchers” using our public lands. Here is a link to that old but interesting and informative report;

  13. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    You are absolutely right about this. I read this article the other day. Someone sent it to me. I wasn’t aware it was available on-line.

    Thanks for the link.

    There is another article out there that breaks ranchers into 4 categories and gives the per cent of each, describing their characteristics. I wish I could find that one again.


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Ken Cole