Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


Increased emissions of greenhouse gases are causing the Earth􏰂s climate to change producing extreme temperatures and dangerous conditions for mankind. Livestock is positioned at a unique juncture of the current and future fight against atmospheric temperature rise. These animals produce the very nutrients a growing world population needs to survive, and the meat they yield plays an important role in all world cultures. Unfortunately, the production of livestock is considered one of the most significant emitters of greenhouse gases, of which cattle is the largest contributor. Therefore, a balance must be struck between livestock production and preservation of the Earth. One way to rebalance this relationship would be to reform the federal cattle grazing permit system.

Federal land in the Western United States contains hundreds of millions of acres and makes up over half the landmass of some states. The Bureau of Land Management and Forestry Service oversee most of the federal land in the West. On this land, these agencies operate grazing

programs in which they allow private ranchers to apply for permits to graze cattle on the lands for a fee. The fee is based on an archaic formula that has not been updated in decades and is based on outdated economics of cattle grazing. As a result, the permit fee is far below market value, and the government operates the cattle grazing programs at a deficit of tens of millions of dollars annually.

The subsidizing of cattle grazing on land owned by the American people, which directly exacerbates climate change, is wrong. Action should be taken to redress the impacts on the climate and the costs to the federal government. Modernizing the permit fee can be accomplished by a two-fold change. First, the minimum rate has to be raised to make certain the government is at least getting close to a fair price. This avenue was pursued but ultimately not accomplished in the Obama Administration. Second, the permits should be auctioned to the public for a price in excess of the minimum rate, and the permit length shortened to allow more frequent fee adjustment through auctions. Additionally, the increased revenue resulting from these changes should be allocated to efforts to mitigate cattle production's effect on climate change.

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