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Livestock Grazing: Federal Expenditures and Receipts Vary, Depending on the Agency and the Purpose of the Fee Charged

GAO-05-869 Published: Sep 30, 2005. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 2005.
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Ranchers pay a fee to graze their livestock on federal land. Grazing occurs primarily on federal land located in the western states managed by 10 federal agencies. Generally, the fee is based on animal unit months (AUM)--the amount of forage that a cow and her calf can eat in 1 month. For most federal land, the fee per AUM is established by a formula. Advocates argue that grazing uses federal land productively and that the grazing fee is fair. Opponents argue that grazing damages public resources and that grazing fees are too low. GAO was asked to determine the (1) extent of, and purposes for, grazing in fiscal year 2004 on lands 10 federal agencies manage; (2) amount federal agencies spent in fiscal year 2004 to manage grazing; (3) total grazing receipts the 10 agencies collected in fiscal year 2004 and amounts disbursed; and (4) fees charged in 2004 by the 10 agencies, western states, and ranchers, and reasons for any differences. In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service neither agreed nor disagreed with the findings. The Forest Service stated that the report accurately described the purpose of the grazing fee. The Army and Air Force and the Department of Energy provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. The departments of Commerce and of Justice responded that they did not have comments.

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Cost analysisFederal property managementFinancial analysisGrazing rightsLand managementLand use lawLivestockPublic landsUser feesWaterborne diseases