Bill to Phase Out Grazing Gets Support from Enviros and Ranchers

Environmentalists and ranchers alike are getting excited about a bill that would have the federal government pay ranchers to give up their rights to graze cattle and sheep on public lands in the West. The legislation, soon to be introduced in Congress by Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), calls for grazing allotments to be permanently retired after the feds buy them up. The idea behind the bill comes from veteran environmental activist Andy Kerr and his new project, the Oregon-based National Public Lands Grazing Campaign. Kerr wants to get cattle off public lands, where they harm streamside areas, trigger erosion, threaten endangered species, and cause other problems — but he wants to do it without driving ranchers into bankruptcy. Kerr argues that the buyout plan would pay for itself because the current grazing program is a money-loser for the government, and the damage that cattle inflict on public lands costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year.