Save money by selling off federal public grazing range

Here is an idea from 1982 whose time has come.

Writing at Forbes magazine online today, Steve Hanke, a one-time senior economist on President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, resurrects an idea he broached 36 years ago — sell off federal grazing lands with the first right of refusal going to current grazing permit holders.

Hanke says Reagan endorsed the idea, as did then-U.S. Sen. and Reagan confidant Paul Laxalt. He quotes Laxalt as saying:

Before we proceed any further, let me tell you where I stand. I believe a need does exist to sell some of our excess public lands. However, I intend to do all in my power to protect existing public land users from being “locked out.” To this end, I endorse a proposal developed by Dr. Steve Hanke, a senior economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, that deals with the protection of existing grazing rights which, I believe, can serve as a model for protecting miners as well. Basically, Dr. Hanke has proposed that ranchers currently holding grazing permits be given the right to purchase, on a first refusal basis, the public grazing permits that they currently rent from the BLM.

Hanke says the federal government should stop renting grazing land — a process by which the government loses 91 cents an acre — and sell it at a profit.

Hanke concludes:

The question now is: what would be the benefits associated with this privatization proposal?

First, the productivity of federal grazing lands would increase.

Second, federal revenues would be generated. Instead of receiving annual grazing fees, the federal government would receive an equivalent lump-sum payment.

Third, the annual federal costs (and these do not include, as they should, capital carrying charges) exceed the annual revenues generated from federal grazing lands. Therefore, privatization would eliminate negative cash flows for the federal government. This would obviously benefit all U.S. taxpayers, who must now pay taxes to support the federal government’s retention of public grazing lands.

Lastly, a state and local property tax base would be created. Western dependence on Washington, D.C. would be reduced and federalism would be enhanced.

Sounds like a winning proposition, especially for taxpayers.

BLM pix

 

Obama’s budget is a declaration of war on the West

President Obama’s budget may well be dead on arrival, but its fetid corpse tells a tale of just what his administration thinks of the West, according to this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

The budget proposes to raise grazing fees on both Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land by $1 a head per month — a 74 percent increase.

The budget also seeks to pick the pockets of drillers of oil and natural gas wells on federally controlled land by increasing royalty payments by $2.5 billion over the next 10 years.

Cattle grazing near Austin, Nev.

While the Obama administration is trying to declare various species across the West threatened or endangered — most of which are threatened or endangered due to the huge increase in wildfires — his budget proposes to slash funding for a program to reduce the dried brush and trees that fuel those fires by $90 million in 2014.

Both Reps. Mark Amodei and Steven Horsford — who together represent the bulk of rural Nevada, 85 percent of which is controlled by various federal agencies — were dismissive of the Obama budget.

Amodei, a Republican, commented, “With yet another budget from the president that doesn’t balance, increases spending, raises taxes, raises grazing fees, and continues to block American energy production, I suspect it will meet the same fate as his last budget — voted down 97-0 in the Senate and 419-0 in the House.”

Horsford, a Democrat, said, “The president’s budget is just one of many budget proposals, and as we hopefully continue through the budget process, we will have to consider a variety of funding priorities. I will fight to make sure the rural communities in my district have the resources they need and the representation they deserve to maintain their livelihood.”

“Our nation is nearly $17 trillion in debt,” observed Sen. Dean Heller. “At a time when Nevadans are simply trying to keep their heads above water, the president is asking for another $8.2 trillion, partly on the backs of our ranchers and rural communities.”

Dustin Van Liew, a spokesman for both the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said the budget shows this administration has no understanding of American agriculture.

“The president’s lack of understanding for the federal lands grazing industry, as evidenced by his proposed 74 percent tax on federal land ranchers, is extremely disappointing,” Van Liew said. “Effectively increasing the grazing fee during these times of economic uncertainty will unnecessarily increase burdens on livestock producers and hamper their ability to create jobs and generate economic growth in their communities.”

Read the full column online at Ely and Elko websites.