BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Grazing fees for cattle and sheep on state-owned land in Idaho could rise about 50% next year.
The Idaho Department of Lands on Tuesday presented a draft proposal to Republican Gov. Brad Little and four other members of the Idaho Land Board that would be the first change in the grazing rate calculation since 1993. The board could take action later this year.
Land Board members are required by the Idaho Constitution to maximize profit from state lands over the long term, mainly to benefit public schools. But grazing fees the state charges are only about a third of what private landowners charge. That opens up Land Board members to potential lawsuits for possibly shirking their constitutional duty.
The proposed new grazing rate would still only be about 60% of what private landowners currently charge.
The Idaho Department of Lands is taking public comments on the proposed plan through Sept. 3.
The grazing rate is currently $7.07 per animal unit month, or AUM, and for next year under the current plan will drop to $6.86 per AUM. An AUM is based on one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats grazing for a month. The proposed new plan would see that rise to above $10.73 per AUM on state-owned land in 2022. The current rate for grazing on private land is about $18.50 per AUM.
The Lands Department manages about 1,100 grazing leases, ranging from one AUM to 25,253 AUMs. The average grazing lease size is 232 AUMs.
Idaho received about 5,600 square miles, about 5.5% of the state’s total land base, when it became a state in 1890 to use to generate money for beneficiaries. Besides public schools, the University of Idaho, state hospitals for the mentally ill, Lewis-Clark State College, state veterans homes, Idaho State University and several others receive the funds.
The state has about 3,900 square miles remaining that generated, along with endowment funds, nearly $90 million for beneficiaries in the current fiscal year.
Timber harvesting on state lands by far generates the most money for Idaho’s beneficiaries. Grazing leases, state officials said Tuesday, are expected to generate about $1.8 million after expenses.