March 30, 2004


Andy Kerr, NPLGC director (503-701-6298 or

Major Conservation Groups Endorse Grazing Buyout Legislation

As support for a voluntary grazing buyout grows among ranchers, two more national conservation groups -- the Sierra Club and Greater Yellowstone Coalition -- have endorsed federal legislation that would accomplish this goal.

The Voluntary Grazing Permit Buyout Act (H.R. 3324, "Shays-Grijalva"), a bill introduced by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), would allow federal public lands ranchers to waive their interest in grazing permits in exchange for compensation in the amount of $175 per animal unit month (or AUM, the amount of forage to sustain one cow and calf for one month).

The Arizona Voluntary Grazing Permit Buyout Act (H.R. 3337, "Grijalva-Shays") is a similar bill that applies specifically to Arizona. The Sierra Club and GYC have also endorsed this bill.

"We are pleased to join nearly 200 ranchers [in Arizona alone] and numerous other conservation organizations in supporting this legislation," said Don Steuter, conservation chair of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon chapter.

The Sierra Club endorsed the buyout concept in February 2003. The buyout bills were introduced in Congress in October.

"GYC is happy to be supporting [the legislation]," said Dick Dolan, the group's program director.

The voluntary buyout program would pay federal permittees about four times the average market value to relinquish their grazing permits. Under the plan, a permittee with 300 cow/calf pairs that graze on federal public lands for five months of the year would receive $262,000.

Conceived by the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign, the buyout is now endorsed by more than 200 groups across the country.

"This is a simple step which allows struggling ranchers a chance to get out of public lands grazing without serious economic consequences," said Wayne Hoskisson, chair of the Sierra Club's national grazing committee.

"Voluntary retirement of federal grazing permits is a great opportunity for ranchers and conservationists to work together," said Jennifer Ferenstein, former president and current board member of the Sierra Club.