Institute Offers Grazing Reform to Chew On

Establishing, tradable grazing rights will go a long way to resolving the differences between ranchers and environmentalists, according to a new study released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, How to Reform Grazing Policy: Creating Forage Rights on Federal Rangelands.

“If 'forage access' rights were defined and made legally transferable to any new owner, environmental organizations could purchase the forage rights to federal lands which are now available only to ranchers,” writes study author Robert H. Nelson, CEI Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies.

The study outlines ways in which grazing permits would become a formal right for existing holders along with provisions for transferring those rights to other parties. The character of the permit would be changed in the following ways:

  • Eliminate the use-it-or-lose-it requirement for forage rights so that rights may be used for purposes other that livestock grazing;

  • Eliminate the base property requirement that a rancher must own nearby property or water rights in order to own forage rights;

  • Eliminate the requirement that a holder of a grazing permit must be a livestock operator;

  • Eliminate the restrictions on rangeland subleasing;

  • Shift from a permit system to a leasing system for forage rights.

“Many ranchers have pressed for decades for a more formal establishment of their tenure status on federal rangelands. What is new today is that some prominent members of the environmental movement are beginning to reach a similar conclusion- that a delineation of formal rights to use would create an institutional setting that would also promote a more responsible environmental management and use of the federal rangeland resource. The blurred lines of responsibility resulting from the lack of any clear rights on the federal rangelands have been as harmful to the environment as they have been to the conduct of the livestock business,” Nelson argues.

For more information, contact Greg Smith at (202) 331-1010 or [email protected].