Most Americans are shocked when they find out that ranchers are allowed to graze their private livestock on our public lands – including deep within protected Wilderness areas – for literally pennies on the dollar, and at a great cost to the land and wildlife that depends on it for survival.
Incredibly, private livestock are currently authorized to graze over a quarter of the 52 million acres of protected wilderness in the lower 48 states. For example, in Nevada, 70 percent of all federally-protected Wilderness acres are open to livestock grazing. In Utah, the number is 51 percent, New Mexico 45 percent, and Arizona 41 percent. In California, nearly 2 million acres of Wilderness are open to grazing.
Livestock grazing damages Wilderness and our public lands in a number of ways – including harming water quality, spreading invasive weeds, trampling riparian vegetation, and displacing wildlife – yet at one-tenth of a percent of all forage fed to livestock in the United States, grazing in Wilderness hardly contributes to the U.S. livestock industry.
The original authors and supporters of the Wilderness Act of 1964 wanted to end grazing in Wilderness, but the politics at the time wouldn’t allow it. Today the negative impacts are much more clearly understood and the importance of livestock grazing in Wilderness to local communities is markedly less.
The federal public lands and Wilderness grazing program costs taxpayers a whopping $110 million annually! And, adding in additional direct and indirect costs, may bring to program’s true cost to $500 million to $1 billion annually. Existing law does not allow for the voluntary, permanent retirement of grazing permits despite grazing’s negative impacts on wilderness, wildlife, watersheds, and the surrounding ecosystem. But, the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act (HR 5737) would allow federal grazing permit holders to waive their grazing permit back to the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Park Service in exchange for compensation by a third party. The associated grazing allotments would then be permanently retired from livestock grazing.
Now is the time to retire all grazing permits on America's public lands — to protect Wilderness, watersheds, native fish, wildlife and plants, and save tax dollars.
Urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor and support the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act (HR 5737)!
Urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor and support the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act!
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Please visit our website at www.WildernessWatch.org to see what other actions you can take to help defend our National Wilderness Preservation System.