Ranchers now have a way out

Mark Salvo and Andy Kerr write about the voluntary grazing buy-outs included in the recent Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, and how these “win/win” solutions could become a more generalized tool across western public lands to resolve often contentious resource conflicts.

Ranchers now have a way outHigh Country News, Writers on the Range

Grazing-permit retirement is a voluntary, non-regulatory, market-based solution to grazing problems. Congress last legislated this approach in 1998, when it provided for permit retirement in Arches National Park in Utah. With the omnibus bill, Congress has now authorized ranchers to retire many more grazing allotments on much larger expanses of public land.




  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Absolutely! This is good. There really are a lot of hidden provisions in the the Omnibus Public Lands Bill.

    Now we need is a small appropriation (small relative to the bank buyouts, etc.) — about 3-5 billion — to let all the livestock operators on public lands avail themselves of a buyout if they think they can improve their financial situation that way.

    In addition the public lands will be freed up for more valuable uses, such wildlife, carbon storage, aquifer recharge, erosion control and recreation. The economy and the environment will benefit.

  2. paulWTAMU Avatar

    Hell yes. I hope we get some of this going on in Texas.

  3. Brian Ertz Avatar

    With climate change threatening species – conflict between land uses is going to get more and more contentious. Just as climate change and localized desrtification & degradation caused by grazing put the squeeze on biodiversity – that squeeze will be felt by ranchers whose use of public lands is ecologically innappropriate anyway given the arid & semi-arid landscapes of the West anyway – warming of the generalized atmosphere compounds the the degradation & makes it even more apparent that ranching is not consistent with existing environmental laws.

    I am conflicted about the piecemeal approach to buy-outs that Andy Kerr & Mark Salvo celebrate in this piece. Politically, I understand the pragmatic argument to introduce this tool & elevate its relevance with the hope that it will be more practical generalize as more & more find it palatable.

    However, the political hoops are prone to soften one’s approach to calling out an egregious mis-use/abuse of public resources.

    Ranchers -including large corporate permittees, are abusing public resources of which they have no right to – and these buy-outs applied on a piecemeal basis, puts the onus on private conservationists to foot the bill for buy-out ? And what for the majority of lands more obscure than Owyhee ? With the political urgency dispelled in better known landscapes, what will become of support to end grazing elsewhere – perhaps just as, if not more, ecologically imperilled but less known ? Do piecemeal buy-outs send the message that ranchers are entitled to a greater property interest in the public land than ought actually exist ? Will Salvo, Kerr, Marvel, & whomever else be more or less willing to lean into potentially controversial issues in need of urgent, up-front advocacy with buy-outs held on the burner for the next decade, similar as “W”ilderness bills have been leveraged across political issues before to dilute conservation voices.

    I hope Salvo & Kerr succeed in national buy-out legislation soon because Salvo’s piece already sounds a bit ‘accomodating’ – and I hope we don’t forget that these lands belong to all of us, people who abuse them aren’t entitled to a payday for doing so.

    It seems to me that given the socio-political predispositin of ranchers & associations at their political helm, the best hope for buy-outs will be when ranchers themselves take up the cause for themselves. IMO – The best way to do that involves working toward illustrating the alternative – proper enforcement & more bold conservation protection. From what I’ve seen, the best way to kill an effective advocacy for something as urgent as ecological integrity & biodiversity is to premise its success on being liked be the interest that’s threatening it.

  4. Indamani Avatar

    This is encouraging news. It’s time for some of these ranchers/cowboys to ride into the sunset.

  5. Craig Avatar

    Is there a website to see where these ranchers are running there sheep or cattle? I’m sick and tired of being up on Marsh creek or Bear Valley, Valley Creek and they run their herds through our camp. My Border Collies have been in a number of fights with there dogs and the hearders can’t speak English and don’t care! My Male.. Fred has actually chewed the hell outta a couple of Pyrenees guard dogs who walked through our camp. Fred is very protective of our camp and I thought these dogs were there to keep out Wolves! But he chewed them a new ass and made them run!

  6. DB Avatar


    I agree buy-outs may have a place but I’m with you on how distasteful they seem. They legitimize damaging, wasteful, even fraudulent practices long foisted on an unknowing and uncaring public. And I agree that buy-outs could even delay adoption of measures that need immediate attention. But I doubt ranchers will ever take up the cause themselves unless they are forced by the agencies and the courts to reduce grazing intensities, etc. thus forcing them to realize that the buyout is their only alternative. It’s a sad pickle we’ve got ourselves into.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Legally public land ranchers aren’t owned a dime. They don’t have any property rights to the grazing allotments, but practically, they will have to be bought off.

    That’s one reason they were so nutty about bighorn sheep in the legislature the other day — all that yelling about property rights! The yelling is because they have no legal property rights to public grazing allotments, and it galls them. So they stomp and curse, throw their teabags, and pass laws to kill bighorn sheep should they come near domestic sheep on the public allotments they graze but don’t own.

  8. Brian Ertz Avatar




    don’t get me wrong, I support buy-outs in practice (not principle), usually, it’s better than nothing – especially on a poor excuse for a “W”ilderness bill like the OI – sheesh, the buy-outs’ll bring more ecological benefit than the designated landscape – I just get sick to my stomach when I think about the damage that’s done & that these crooks’ departure would be so reminiscent of their presence ~ i.e. they make out like bandits on a publicly owned asset – and then to see how the political process would necessitate activists who know damn well what’s going on, but have to bite their tongue & articulate political hogwash as if on a tight-rope to accomodate the crooks’ feelings & to get a piece of real-estate in what’s becoming a inept mainstream media.

    Perhaps I’ll take my medication and go to bed …

  9. ChrisH Avatar

    I have had success getting info on various allotments, and even a map of the whole forest (showing the allotments) by going to the particular National Forest you are interested in. For me, it was the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila N.F.’s. Try looking 1st under their NEPA calender. I am not sure how well this works on other forest websites but if I can get info on Apache-Gila, it should work anywhere!
    P.S. I had to write to get the whole forest map, that will probably not be on the web. Also, for the Yellowstone Area, the Great Old Broads for Wilderness will send a free map of grazing allotments – go to their website.

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Brian Ertz