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Subsidization and Privatization of Federal Rangeland: A California Perspective

WithBernard Shanks

The perspective from California is fairly interesting and fairly unique. California is a major public lands state. It has the third largest acreage of federal lands of any state, exceeded only in total acreage by the states of Alaska and Nevada. Family ranchers in the west have earned a tremendous windfall profit from public land subsidies. From the political perspective to say that ranchers have a private property right in the grazing permits, and that such a right should continue, is incorrect. The availability of water is the biggest issue in the arid west and it's been a major reason for almost a hundred years of concern for watershed. Many communities were severely impacted by overgrazing of sheep in the 1880s and 1890s. They prevailed upon the federal government to acquire private lands to protect the watershed.