Many different stakeholders have put forth recommendations and their preferences for how access to grazing land in Nevada is managed. Taking all of these stake holder views into consideration, we have created what we believe to be the most appropriate policy recommendation that fairly approaches the concerns of all stakeholders. We ask that Congress use this recommendation as the basis for their anticipated legislation.
We recommend that Congress make considerable changes to the TGA. Primarily, Congress should remove the stipulation within the Act that prohibits the BLM from raising the grazing fees by more than 25% of the previous year’s cost. This restricts the BLM from charging near market prices for similar private land. Due to insufficient funds raised by the grazing fees, the BLM is no longer able to properly uphold its mission to protect and conserve public land, and recently, has been forced to overspend by millions of dollars (Glaser et al. 2015). Therefore, increasing the rate the BLM can charge per AUM would allow the department to cover its costs and potentially expand its conservation programs and enforcement presence in Nevada.
We recommend that the BLM be permitted to incrementally increase the grazing fee to within 50% of the private rate on private, non-irrigated grazing land by 2030. This change would allow for a significant increase in revenue for the BLM, and it would still make public lands an accessible grazing option for ranchers, as it would only be increased to 50% of private costs, allowing ranchers to still account for transportation of their livestock and other associated costs. Furthermore, the increase would happen incrementally over the next fifteen years, which would give the ranchers and the beef market time to adjust to the changing cost of land use.
In addition, we wish to instate a program that would create economic incentives for ranchers who practiced ecologically friendly grazing. These economic incentives would include deferred grazing fees, reimbursements, or cash payments, and would act as an encouragement for ranchers to uphold sustainable practices as a way to decrease the cost of using the land, specifically as the prices of using the land are increasing. We believe that this program would also double as a way for the BLM to reduce administrative costs with more ranchers taking better care of public lands in order to receive the economic incentives. The criteria for ‘ecologically friendly grazing’ and the corresponding reward would be determined after the program was approved by Congress and would be developed by the BLM with the aid of BLM and independent scientists.
Lastly, we recommend a transfer of 2.5 percent of the land managed by the BLM to state agencies of Nevada. This would effectively create a small sector of state grazing land. This land would be transferred to the state’s jurisdiction under a 25-year lease agreement with the potential for lease extension after 25 years. The permanent transfer would occur if the state met two conditions: 1) the state must show that it is able to effectively manage and conserve the ecological environment on the land that it has been granted and 2) the state must show that it is able to improve rancher-government relations on that land. Although the state of Nevada does not have the same management resources that the BLM does, we believe that 25 years is sufficient time to develop an adequate system with the assistance of the BLM. Furthermore, the state of Nevada may also have a better relationship with the local ranchers, and therefore, have more success enforcing their permitting policies. The state of Nevada has already indicated some of the lands that it wishes to gain control over, so the 2.5% would be a section of their desired region. The success of the state after 25 years would be determined by the BLM.
Thus, the recommendation we present to Congress is that they remove the restrictions on grazing fee increase set by the TGA and allow it to be incrementally increased to 50% of the private fee by 2030. Furthermore, we request that Congress initiate a reward or subsidy program for ranchers who practice ecologically friendly grazing. Lastly, we would allocate 2.5% of the current federal land to the state of Nevada on a 25-year lease.