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Range Buyout Proposal gets Partial Backing

by Tam Moore, Staff Writer
Capital Press - June 28, 2002

BANDON, Ore. -- The environmental program to buy out public land grazing permits got a partial endorsement during informal review by the Oregon Cattlemen's Association Public Lands Committee June 20.

In a wide-ranging discussion cattlemen dismissed the $175 per animal unit month figure proposed by the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign, but said there's a place for allowing some permittees to leave allotments or to get compensated when the U.S. government reduces stocking rates.

The Oregon position will be part of consideration July 16 through 20 in Reno when National Cattlemen's Beef Association takes up a response to the buyout. The antigrazing campaign, led by Andy Kerr, an Ashland, Ore., environmental consultant, mailed out 27,000 letters to permittees across the West in May.

Their proposal is dependent on getting a federal appropriation and changes in laws authorizing grazing permits. Kerr has said the coalition running the campaign wants to permanently retire any permit bought, closing that allotment to future livestock use.

"With a tough cattle market and tough times, there are a lot of people going to have to make some decisions in the next few years," said John O'Keeffed, chairman of the public lands committee.

OCA President Bob Skinner said permittees in Southern Oregon's Jackson County are interested in buyouts now. They've faced steady reduction in permitted cattle numbers as the U.S. Forest Service interprets an aquatic management strategy in the 1994 Clinton Forest Plan. It covers 18 national forests in Washington, Oregon and California.

The $175 per AUM is far above market value for federal grazing permits sold with base ranch property. Economic studies put market value at $50 to $80 per AUM. Kerr has said the higher figure was proposed to recognize other producer investments in the allotment.

"It has to be market value, or you'll upset the economy of the West," O'Keeffe said.

He called the $175 figure a "bounty" that has little support.

The committee also told O'Keeffe it wants an NCBA buyout policy that doesn't change the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act, which set up a system of grazing preferences on public domain lands administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Tam Moore, Capital Press Staff Writer
Range Buyout Proposal gets Partial Backing
Capital Press - June 28, 2002

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