Dear Public Lands Grazing Permittee or Lessee:
We are writing to inform you of a legislative proposal that - if enacted by Congress - would allow any federal grazing permittee (or lessee) to voluntarily relinquish their interest in public lands grazing to the government in exchange for compensation of $175/animal unit month (AUM). To offer an example-if this proposal became law-a permittee with 300 cow/calf pairs that graze public lands for five months every year could receive $262,500.
Environmental conflicts with domestic livestock grazing are increasing, not going away. Under current policy, allotment closures for resource protection leave permittees without compensation for lost grazing privileges. Federal law is clear that no property right is vested in a grazing permit. However, financial and real estate markets do place a value on such permits. Understandably, permittees strongly resist cancellations and closures needed for resource protection, while agency managers are often reluctant to take action where needed because of the negative economic impact on permittees. We propose to compensate permittees who are willing to relinquish their permits as the obvious way to eliminate this barrier to better resource protection. While some voluntary buyouts of federal grazing permits are occurring on a very limited basis with private conservation funds, the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign is proposing a federal buyout program to meet increasing demand.
The undersigned are eager to find common ground with federal grazing permittees, who, for whatever reason, are willing to voluntarily relinquish their interest in federal livestock grazing in exchange for compensation. Permit retirement would resolve conflicts between public policies of conservation and restoration of species, ecosystems and watersheds, and the practice of livestock grazing on public lands.
The average westwide market value of a federal AUM is $50-75. The proposed fixed price of $175/AUM is generous and independent of market value to avoid expensive appraisal costs for each grazing permit. The $175/AUM would also cover any improvements a permittee has made to an allotment.
Convincing Congress to enact a permit buyout program will require political pressure from conservation organizations and taxpayer watchdog groups, and also support from public lands grazing permittees interested in relinquishing their permits for cash (either now or in the future). Such expressions of political support from individual permittees will be crucial to the political debate.
This letter has been sent to every National Forest System and Bureau of Land Management grazing permittee in the West. The proposed buyout program would also be available to federal lessees on National Park System, National Wildlife Refuge System, Department of Defense and Department of Energy holdings.
If this buyout proposal is attractive to you-either now or possibly in the future-please contact your elected representatives, local agency officials, and livestock industry leadership to notify them of your interest. A voluntary federal grazing permit and lease buyout program is a win-win-win proposal. It's good for the environment, public lands grazing permittees and taxpayers.
We don't have all the answers to environmental-livestock grazing conflicts. However, we believe the voluntary grazing permit buyout program is consistent with the Bush Administration's effort to work together, where possible, to achieve conservation through cooperation, communication and consultation.
If you would like more information about the conservationists' buyout proposal or the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign, please visit our website at www.publiclandsranching.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your consideration of this proposal.
P.S. Depending on the amount of political support and opposition, it may take some time to persuade Congress to enact a comprehensive voluntary permit buyout program. If you are interested in proceeding now, it may be possible with the assistance of local conservation groups to draft legislation for a site-specific buyout that could be jointly proposed to your state's congressional delegation. To begin this process, please contact one of the organizations below that work in your state:
Martin Taylor, Center for Biological Diversity (Arizona, California)
If you do not see a local contact, please contact me and I will connect you with the appropriate people. Thank you.