Where's the Beef? Facilitating Voluntary Retirement of Federal Lands from Livestock Grazing
Breaking the Logjam: Environmental Reform for the New Congress and Administration Paper
30 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2009
Grazing of domestic livestock, the most widespread extractive use of federal lands, taking place on well over one quarter of a billion acres primarily in the West, is causing profound ecological damage (likely to be exacerbated by climate change), even though the meat produced from public land forage is a tiny fraction (about 2 percent) of national meat production and provides few jobs or economic activity in the region. Over the last decade or so, a promising non-regulatory solution to the problem has emerged, involving conservation-minded purchasers acquiring federal land grazing permits from willing sellers, and then offering to relinquish the permits to the government if it will retire the federal lands from livestock grazing. The problem is that, on most federal lands, existing law creates a serious risk that the lands covered by the purchased grazing permits will be reopened by the government to grazing by another rancher. This article addresses this problem in some detail, offers a simple statutory solution, compares this solution to alternatives, and explores the politics of securing its adoption by Congress.
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