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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) management of the federal livestock grazing program in the Southwest desert areas, known as hot deserts, focusing on the program's environmental and budgetary costs and benefits.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Congress may wish to consider providing more funds for BLM to monitor livestock grazing in the hot deserts, recognizing that increased monitoring will lead to better livestock grazing decisions on more allotments. The resulting higher overall monitoring costs could be offset, at least in part, through an increase in grazing fees, which would provide greater revenues to the Treasury from this activity.
Closed - Implemented
The Administration originally announced on August 9, 1993, that it would impose higher fees and tougher environmental restrictions on ranchers who graze their cattle and sheep on public rangeland. However, the final federal range policy completed in February 1995 deleted grazing fee increases, leaving any grazing fee charges to be determined by the Congress.
Congress may wish to consider eliminating operators' preferences, thereby giving BLM the opportunity to adjust authorized grazing activity on hot desert allotments on the basis of the amount of forage actually available each season. While staff and budget requirements may not change, the risk to the environment should decrease as BLM seasonally adjusts the level of grazing.
Closed - Implemented
While Congress considered a California Desert bill with language that addressed the substance of this recommendation, the final bill passed in October 1994 did not change grazing policy for desert lands.
Congress may wish to consider discontinuing livestock grazing in hot desert areas. This option would free the resources that BLM now spends to manage livestock grazing in hot deserts for use in other areas of the country where the environmental risks are lower and productivity is higher. Some range resources would still be necessary in the hot deserts to protect against livestock trespass and to perform other duties.
Closed - Implemented
While Congress considered a California Desert bill with language that addressed the substance of this recommendation, the final bill passed in October 1994 did not change grazing policy for desert lands.

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