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Be careful what you ask for: The stated agenda of Montana Republicans is to transfer federal lands to the state of Montana (individual GOP candidates may now deny this, but it is in writing). A lot of people are concerned about this, not just hikers and birdwatchers. No one should be more concerned than those who have federal grazing permits.

The federal (BLM and U.S. Forest Service) grazing fee for 2018 is $1.41 per animal unit month. The State of Montana grazing fee for 2018 is $11.03 per AUM. The Montana grazing fee has been as much as 10 times the federal rate. This differential in grazing fees would have a huge effect on rancher operating costs, which in turn couldn’t help but be felt on Main Street in many small Montana communities. But that would only be the beginning: The negative effect on ranchers due to the comparative grazing permit structure between state and federal would be huge, the state structure being much more competitive.

For many voters who want to keep public lands in public hands, the choices for the upcoming U.S. congressional election couldn’t be clearer. Those voters who are also federal grazing permit holders have a choice between voting the GOP ideological party line, or voting in their own best interest. Does the current crop of U.S. congressional Republican candidates know the difference between a federal and a Montana state grazing permit?

Gary Gerth


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