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Taylor Grazing Act (1934)

Taylor Grazing Act (1934)


This act established federal management policy on public grazing lands, the last major category of public lands to be actively managed by the government. The delay in its passage was due to a lack of interest (the lands were sometimes referred to as "the lands no one wanted") and due to competition between the Agriculture Department and the Interior Department over which department would administer the new program.

The purpose of the Taylor Grazing Act was to "stop injury to the public grazing lands...to provide for their orderly use, improvement and development...[and] to stabilize the livestock industry dependent on the public range." To achieve these purposes, the Secretary of the Interior was authorized to establish grazing districts on the public domain lands. The lands within these established districts were to be classified for their potential use, with agricultural lands to remain open for homesteading. In 1934 and 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Orders that withdrew all remaining public lands for such classification, an action that essentially closed the public domain. The Secretary was authorized to develop any regulations necessary to administer these grazing districts, including the granting of leases for up to ten years, the charging of fees, the undertaking of range improvement projects, and the establishing of cooperative agreements with grazing landholders in the area.

Another important feature of the law called upon the Secretary of the Interior to cooperate with "local associations of stockmen" in the administration of the grazing districts, referred to by supporters of the law as "democracy on the range" or "home rule on the range." This was formalized in the creation of local advisory boards. The law created a Division of Grazing (renamed the Grazing Service in 1939) to administer the law, but for a number of reasons, the agency was ineffective. It became quite dependent on the local advisory boards and was often cited as an example of an agency captured by the interests it was supposed to be controlling. In 1946, the agency merged with the General Land Office to create the Bureau of Land Management .

Also included in the bill was the phrase "pending final disposal," which implied that these grazing lands would not necessarily be retained in federal ownership. This phrase was included because many thought the lands would eventually be transferred to the states or the private sector and because it lessened opposition to the law. The uncertainty introduced by this phrase made management of the grazing lands more difficult, and it was not eliminated until passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act in 1976.

The grazing fees charged to ranchers were initiated at a low level, based on a cost-of-administration approach rather than a market level approach. This has led to lower grazing fees on public lands than on private lands. Typically, three-fourths of the fees go to the local advisory boards and are used for range improvement projects.

[Christopher McGrory Klyza ]


RESOURCES

BOOKS

Dana, S. T., and S. K. Fairfax. Forest and Range Policy. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980.

Foss, P. O. Politics and Grass. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1960.

Peffer, E. L. The Closing of the Public Domain: Disposal and Reservation Policies, 19001950. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1951.

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