From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 46 - February 10, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

PLC opposes buyouts

by Cat Urbigkit

Jeff Eisenberg of the Public Lands Council told a recent meeting of livestock producers that PLC “opposes the buy-out proposal” advocated by anti-grazing advocates.

Those against public lands livestock grazing, and even some who claim that they aren’t against grazing, are supporting proposed legislation to allow the buy-out and retirement of federal grazing permits by the federal government. The list of supporters range from the Western Watersheds Project to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Wyoming Outdoor Council.

But the issue has caused some division within the livestock industry, Eisenberg explained, because some grazing permit holders, under pressure, look at the buy-out as a way out of the industry, with pay.

“There are plenty of people who are interested in it,” Eisenberg told a recent committee meeting of the American Sheep Industry in Reno, Nev. The bottom line is that support for the buy-out is a negative.

“It has a corrosive effect on the industry,” Eisenberg said, adding that the industry needs to pull together to “fight to keep our infrastructure intact.”

Although some ranchers argue that agreeing to a buy-out is an individual private-property-right decision, others argue that when the action closes a public lands grazing allotment to livestock grazing, it’s not that simple, that it’s no different than allowing anti-grazing activists to hold permits not to graze.

Anti-grazing activists recently sent a letter to all permittees letting them know of their support for a federal government buyout of $175 per animal unit month.

The four-page letter noted that there were three voluntary buy-out bills introduced in the last Congress that will be reintroduced into the next Congress. One bill is national in scope, while the other two would create site-specific voluntary buy-out programs in Arizona and central Idaho. Additional site-specific buy-out legislation is also likely to be introduced in 2005, according to the letter.

“Actually, we believe most public lands grazing permittees support our proposal for the federal government to generously compensate any federal public lands rancher who wishes to retire their grazing permit,” noted Andy Kerr, director of the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign. “While a majority of the public lands livestock industry leadership appears to oppose voluntary buyout, it is also apparent that a majority of the membership supports the proposal.”

PLC is responding by sending a letter to all members of Congress opposing the buyout. Eisenberg’s point is that the federal government doesn’t need to be giving incentives to closing allotments.

PLC is a non-profit coalition of livestock industry groups.

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