1997 Scorecard Vote
Privately owned domestic livestock graze on approximately 250 million acres of public land. Excessive grazing by domestic cattle and sheep damages fish and wildlife habitat on our federal lands and is contributing to declines in wildlife populations, including desert tortoise, Sonoran pronghorn antelope, and numerous bird species. In addition, overgrazing destroys native vegetation, and the livestock pollute streams, cause erosion, and interfere with recreation activities.
Grazing regulation is currently administered by land managing agencies (primarily the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service) under broad statutory authority. Fees are limited by law and are adjusted by the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior. When President Clinton and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt attempted to reform grazing practices and fees in 1993, their efforts provoked a bitter fight with Congress, where they were blocked. Secretary Babbitt then attempted more modest reforms over the next two years. The legislation before the 105th Congress, H.R. 2493, prevents Secretary Babbitt, or future administrations, from achieving needed reforms by locking in current practices and fees by statute.
For decades, western livestock operators have paid a fee far below fair market value for grazing cattle and sheep on federal rangelands. The federal government subsidies encourage overgrazing by setting the fee far lower than fair market value, which allows ranchers to graze more livestock, resulting in widespread environmental damage to the public's fish, wildlife, and water resources on millions of acres of our national forests and public lands. Below-market fees also cost U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues each year. It is estimated that the federal government loses approximately $4.00 for every $1.00 spent to administer the grazing program on federal lands.
During House consideration of H.R. 2493, Rep. Scott Klug (R-WI) offered an amendment to require livestock operators to pay a fee equal to the state grazing fee for the state in which the federal lands are located. State grazing fees in every western state are higher than the federal fee. In 1996, state fees ranged from just over $2.00 to more than $7.00 per adult cow per month.
On October 30, 1997, the House defeated the Klug amendment, 205-219. Yes is the pro-environment vote.