• April 14th, 2024
  • Sunday, 01:32:19 AM

Grazing on Public Lands is a Privilege, Not a Right

Photo: Office of Congressman Gallego

By Ruben Gallego


Editor’s Note: On July 18th, House Republicans rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) to end taxpayer subsidization of ranchers, like Cliven Bundy, who engage in illegal grazing. Following President Trump’s pardon of Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, the amendment was an effort to reassert that Western ranchers should be required to meet their legal obligations. The following are Congressman Gallego’s remarks on the House Floor on July 19th:


Mr. Chairman: Grazing on public lands is a privilege – not a right – and ranchers who use these lands should abide by the law and pay their fair share.

Freeloading on federal lands is unlawful and unfair. Let’s pass my amendment and reaffirm that ranchers need to play by the rules, just like the rest of us.

On average, federal rates for grazing are more than 90 percent lower than what the private sector charges. In fact, these rates are so low that the government actually loses money administering the grazing program. My amendment would simply reaffirm that grazing permits or leases should not be issued to anyone who refuses to comply with the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) regulations, including the payment of fees.

Mr. Chairman, this is a narrow amendment, but it speaks to a broader principle. We can’t claim to support the rule of law and then look the other way when ranchers like Cliven Bundy ignore their obligations.

Bundy thumbed his nose at the executive and judicial branches of our government, running up over $1 million in unpaid fees. He then put the lives of local and federal officials in danger during a standoff at his Nevada ranch. Later, when two Oregon ranchers named Dwight and Steven Hammond – who also have a history of disregarding grazing regulations – were sent to prison for fires they intentionally set near federal lands, members of the Bundy family led an armed occupation of a National Wildlife Refuge.

Mr. Chairman, President Trump recently pardoned the Hammonds, validating these violent tactics and insulting the courageous law enforcement officers who risked their lives during the confrontation in Oregon.

With these pardons, Trump has effectively given his blessing to groups that intimated, threatened and occupied local communities.  He has legitimized the Bundy’s extreme right-wing movement.

Make no mistake – Donald Trump is sending a clear message to militant anti-government organizations: you can break the law, threaten federal employees, and endanger public safety with complete impunity.

That’s unacceptable.

Mr. Chairman, freeloading on federal lands is unlawful and unfair. Let’s pass my amendment and reaffirm that ranchers need to play by the rules, just like the rest of us.


Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego serves as a Senior Whip for the Democratic Caucus, the Second Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Vice-Chair of the Equality Caucus. Congressman Gallego currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee. He served in the Marine Corps, serving in Iraq.