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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Oregon / Washington

Rangelands/Grazing

Inside Passage Articles
rangeland
Sheepshead Mountain in the BLM Burns District. Photo by Mark Armstrong, BLM.

Rangelands

In Oregon and Washington, the BLM administers approximately 14 million acres of rangelands.

These arid and semiarid lands stretch from the salt and alkali deserts of the Humboldt River drainage in extreme southern Oregon to the glaciated highlands of the Okanogan in northern Washington. The diverse climates, terrains, soils, and plants of the region call for an approach to land management that is respectful of the characteristics of individual sites and incorporates those characteristics into management decisions.

In managing rangeland ecosystems, the BLM conducts monitoring and rangeland health assessments to assess watershed function, ecological processes, water quality and habitats for native and threatened and endangered species.

Management of these lands is focused on restoring rangeland health where necessary and maintaining healthy landscapes where they currently exist.

Treatments like prescribed burning, rehabilitation of burned lands, fencing, water developments, juniper management, weed control and implementing planned grazing systems are aimed at land health restoration and maintenance.

Much of the BLM-administered rangelands are grazed by livestock under a system of permits and leases in which ranchers pay grazing fees for the privilege of use.

Grazing on Federal Lands

Legal Mandates relating to Public Lands Grazing

rangeland
Cattle grazing next to reservoir.

Laws that apply to the BLM's management of public lands grazing include the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, and the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978. Federal Grazing Fee

The Federal grazing fee, which applies to Federal lands in 16 Western states on public lands managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, is adjusted annually and is calculated by using a formula originally set by Congress in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978. Under this formula, as modified and extended by a presidential Executive Order issued in 1986, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM); also, any fee increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year's level. (An AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.) The grazing fee for 2008 is $1.35 per AUM, the same level as it was in 2007.

The Federal grazing fee is computed by using a 1966 base value of $1.23 per AUM for livestock grazing on public lands in Western states. The figure is then adjusted each year 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. Without the requirement that the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per AUM, the 2008 fee would have dropped below one dollar per AUM because of declining beef cattle prices and increased production costs from the previous year.

Number of Livestock on BLM-managed Lands

The Bureau does not make an annual "count" of the livestock that graze on BLM-managed lands because the actual number of livestock grazing on public lands on any single day varies throughout the year and livestock are often moved from one grazing allotment to another. So an aggregate head count would provide very little information on overall livestock use. Instead, the BLM compiles information on the number of Animal Unit Months (AUM) used each year, which takes into account both the number of livestock and the amount of time they spend on public lands. (For the definition of an AUM, see previous section.)

Grazing Permit System

Any U.S. citizen or validly licensed business can apply for a BLM grazing permit or lease. To do so, one must either:

  • buy or control private property (known as "base property") that has been legally recognized by the Bureau as having preference for the use of public land grazing privileges,
  • or acquire property that has the capability to serve as base property and then apply to the BLM to transfer the preference for grazing privileges from an existing base property to the acquired property (which would become the new "base property")

The first alternative happens when base property (a private ranch) is sold or leased to a new individual or business; the buyer or lessee then applies to the BLM for the use of grazing privileges associated with that property. The second alternative would happen when a rancher wants to transfer existing public land grazing privileges to another party while keeping the private ranch property. Before buying or leasing ranch property, it is advisable to contact the BLM Field Office that administers grazing in the area of the base property. The BLM has information on the status of the grazing privileges attached to the base property, including the terms and conditions of the associated grazing permit or lease that authorizes the use of those privileges and other important information. All applicants for grazing permits or leases must meet the qualifications for public land grazing privileges that are specified in the BLM's grazing regulations.

Oregon/Washington BLM Range and Grazing Programs

Much of BLM administered rangeland in eastern Oregon and Washington is grazed by livestock under the system of permits and leases in which ranchers pay grazing fees for the use of public land. There are nearly 14 million acres of rangeland in Oregon and XX in Washington. Presently, livestock management activities are authorized on 754 Section 3 grazing permits (960,288 Animal Unit Months (AUMs) and 794 Section 15 grazing leases (93,510 AUMs). The BLM Vale District is the largest grazing district and BLM Prineville District has the greatest number of allotments. BLM is moving forward with completion of grazing lease renewals by the end of 2009.

Livestock Grazing Authorized Use

The Federal grazing fee for 2010 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 2010 fee is the same as it was in 2009.

Livestock Grazing Authorized Use for 2010

Districts Permits AUMs Leases AUMs
Burns 159 243,559 9 3,946
Coos Bay -- -- -- --
Eugene -- -- -- --
Lakeview 90 168,785 76 6,343
Medford -- -- 60 14,064
Prineville 122 85,430 284 32,351
Roseburg -- -- -- --
Salem -- -- -- --
Vale 382 462,514 75 2,977
Oregon Totals 753 960,288 508 59,730
Spokane -- -- 266 32,976
Washington Totals -- -- 266 32,976
Click for Hope on the Range Brochure

Hope on the Range

"Hope on the Range" is the product of exhaustive research and scores of interviews with academic and scientific experts, conservationists, ranchers, and other stakeholders. It is designed to dispel myths associated with stewardship and use of western rangelands, promote the multiple use concept of public lands management and advance the idea of the interdependence of public and private rangelands. We believe it represents a well-balanced and objective examination of a very timely and important public policy issue.

This documentary specifically focuses on livestock grazing and how this legacy of the frontier has evolved from a practice that was once considered a detriment to the health of the land, to a practice that today can be used to promote healthy rangelands and conservation values. The "Hope" of the program embraces the hope of ranching families to preserve a traditional way of life, the hope of communities to preserve their social fabric and existence and the hope of many that rangelands can be managed sustainably and preserved as our legacy to future generations.

Click to watch the video on our YouTube page.