An AUM or HM – treated as equivalent measures for fee purposes – is the occupancy and use of public lands by one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.
The newly calculated grazing fee, determined by a congressional formula and effective on March 1, applies to nearly 18,000 grazing permits and leases administered by the BLM and more than 8,000 permits administered by the Forest Service.
The formula used for calculating the grazing fee, which was established by Congress in the 1978 Public Rangelands Improvement Act, has continued under a presidential Executive Order issued in 1986. Under that order, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per AUM, and any increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year’s level.
The annually determined grazing fee is computed by using a 1966 base value of $1.23 per AUM/HM for livestock grazing on public lands in Western states. The figure is then calculated according to three factors – current private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production.
In effect, the fee rises, falls, or stays the same based on market conditions, with livestock operators paying more when conditions are better and less when conditions have declined.
The BLM manages more than 253 million surface acres. The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of Federal lands.