Footnotes EP1 – Another Look at Oregon Ranchers

What will be part of Millennics’ regular system, “Footnotes” offers a mid-week look at issues that are either lingering from the last episode, or something new that has happened since the last Millennics Podcast, but before the upcoming Millennics Podcast.

To that end, the first episode of “Footnotes,” offers another look at the issue in Oregon, where armed ranchers have seized control of a federal building at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  Millennics host, Jonathan J. Cianfaglione, will review the arguments presented by the ranchers, and the benefits of federally owned land.

Information regarding the BLM, their purpose, and the programs they run can be found here.

The 2012 congressional report regarding all the issues related to grazing, and the BLM: Grazing Fees: Overview and Issues

Show Notes:

Millennics Podcast “Footnotes Ep1” – Jan 8, 2016

Welcome Everybody, and it’s the Millennics Podcast here discussing Policy, Politics, and Law from the viewpoint of Millennials.  I’m your Host, Jonathan Cianfaglione.  Most days, we have lengthy discussion about topics that matter most to us—Millennials—regarding policy, politics, and law.  While some days, like today, are what  we call “Footnotes,” where Millennics discusses something itching us; something hanging from either the last episode, or something that happened throughout the week.

Today, I wanted to go back over what’s going on with the Oregon Standoff, and the Ranchers.

On Tuesday, I casually dismissed the sequence of events in Oregon, where armed ranchers seized control of a federal building at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  The catalyst for the event is that ranchers are taking issue with the Feds having so much land under their control.  The ranchers argue that it is burdening their use of the land, while also encroaching on their constitutional rights.  I want to make note, again, that the latter argument—that ranchers have some sort of constitutional right, or the Feds are violation their constitutional rights—is flatly wrong.

Here, there is no constitutional right to hang on.  However, I do recognize that citing the constitution is lucrative, in that it rings cords for people; it excites them, and; I can probably make a general statement here: most people, certainly not these ranchers given their argument, even know what their constitutional rights are.  There may be, however, an issue if a state’s water rights run through federal lands.  We don’t know if that is present here, but that was an argument raised in Nevada last year.

And worse, lately, I’ve been getting into more and more conversations of people doing just that: throwing the word, “Constitution” out there like its the ultimate trump card.  Generally, even that isn’t 100%.

Moving away from the Rancher’s Constitution argument, it’s worth a look at the cons and pros of both sides of ownership:

The Ranchers have a simple argument: Let us do what we want.  And, as I mentioned in Episode 1 of Millennics, they would use the land for a variety of things, but mainly agriculturally, and hunting.

What’s funny out of all of this is that the ranchers actually derive a larger benefit if the Feds own the land; not to mention the entire populous is a beneficiary, as well.

Here, the Feds do multiple things with land under their possession:

-Large swath are considered preservation, so the Feds aim to protect animals, plants, etc

-In addition, they are also protecting some Native American artifacts, which, by the way, Native’s have expressed concern that the ranchers may accidentally destroy an artifact.

-Under government ownership, ranchers get severely discounted prices on tags for their cattle to graze the land.  This is easily the biggest piece that just doesn’t make sense to me.  First, the government already subsidizes a large part of this industry.  Second, on federal land—or public land—the government sells them tags at prices well under the market rate.

-Specifically, the current rate the BLM charges ranchers that wish to allow their cattle to graze is $1.69 per animal unit month (AUM).  An AUM is a the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow, her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.  As a reference point, in 2012, the going rate on private land was $20/AUM.   I mean, only like a 95% discount.

-Lastly, federal lands, or public use lands, are used to help develop more sustainable energy sources, and offer a variety of recreational activities, like rafting, hiking, etc.

I’ve left out a large part of the background story involving the two big families here—the Hammonds, and Bundy—as I don’t think it is really relevant to the issue at hand.  Suffice it to say, though, that these guys have a history of pushing back the government, because apparently every subsidy and program the government has to offer, is just not enough.

What is the aggregate, in dollars, that the ranchers are either saving or beneficiaries of from gov’t programs?

That number is in the ball park of around $350 million.  Here is how I got that:-First you have to dismiss, any federal disaster relief, or Small Business (SBA), as those are individual benefits, and are on a case by case basis.

-With that out of the way, we can then turn to programs that the government conducts that provide a direct benefit to grazing—some may say they do these programs solely to accomplish this goal: $100 million for a program to kill or capture predators that feed off of cattle; $75 million to remove wild horses that trample and run out cattle.  Thus, here, we have approx. $175 mil.

-In 2014, the BLM reported a total of 8.4 million AUMs; at $1.69 per AUM comes out to $14.2m.  Comparatively, if this was at the private price of $20 per AUM, the ranchers would have to pay a total of $168m.  That’s $153m in savings.

-Finally, of those grazing fees received, the feds redistribute 50%, or $10m—whichever is greater—of its receipts into a Range Improvement Fund, where the money is used to keep the lands in the condition needed for grazing.  In this case, $10m would be greater.  So add that to the top.

Combining everything, the ranchers are looking at a total of $350m that they are either saving, or benefitting from by using public lands.  Am I missing something here?

In sum, I would say the ranchers are definitely getting the better deal here, when the land is owned by the feds.  Additionally, it is important to point out that public-owned land, is just another word for government owned land, and, thus, no single person has a right to use that land; rather, the government can restrict use, or open the use, as much as they would like.

For more information about the BLM, and their programs, visit our website at for a link to the BLM, and their programs.  As you can imagine, this is issue is raised in Congress almost every year.  I’ve posted a link to a congressional report discussing grazing permits, and proposed legislation on the issue.

That’s going to wrap things up.  Thanks for listening to Millennics, and I’m your host, Jonathan Cianfaglione.  Be sure to subscribe and download all our podcast, and those can be found on SoundCloud, iTunes, and now Google Play.