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Published January 29, 2010, 10:55 PM

Grazing fees on public lands unchanged for 2010

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal officials say livestock grazing fees on public lands across the West and much of the Midwest will remain unchanged in 2010 for the fourth year running.

The $1.35 per head monthly fee applies to land in 16 states administered by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service. The two agencies authorize grazing on about 250 million acres nationwide.

Conservation groups criticize the program as a government giveaway that fails to reflect grazing's environmental costs. Livestock producers counter that they put public lands to good use and are responsible stewards.

The fee is tied to cattle prices. But BLM spokesman Tom Gorey says because those prices have been low, the fee would likely be substantially less if not for a 1986 Executive Order that set $1.35 as a minimum.

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