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No adequate survey has ever been made to determine the value in terms of dollars and cents of the surface resources of the public land in grazing districts: Any attempt to do so at this time, therefore, must be based upon many assumptions. It may be assumed, for example, that 144 million acres of grazing land have an average value of $1.25 an acre for soil and forage. The estimated 230 million cords of wood are considered to have a value of 50 cents a cord.
Many factors enter into the problem of attaching a tangible cash value to these lands for watershed purposes. What is the value of a watershed, for example, to a community which derives its domestic water supply from it? What protection values may be assigned to a given area for the control of floods, the prevention of the deposition of silt in streams and reservoirs, or the abatement of dust storms? Certain areas rank high in these respects and at the other extreme, certain other areas have practically no watershed value. Hence, the dollar value of watersheds, ranging from $12 or $15 an acre or more in some localities to nothing in others, may be arbitrarily set at $1 an acre for the 144 million acres of Federal range.
It would be difficult to estimate the value of the public lands for training and testing grounds and the parts these lands played in winning the war. Had the Federal Government been obliged to purchase the 1472 million acres of public lands used for war purposes, a considerable item would have been added to the cost of the war. The availability of these lands for war purposes and for special uses as home sites, commercial photography purposes, rights-of-way, and stock driveways, for which the Federal Government derives revenue, is arbitrarily placed at $52,000,000.
In addition to the foregoing, range improvements placed on the Federal range at public expense during the past 10 years, consisting of 17 major types, are estimated to have a residual value of $10,000,000.
On the basis that has been outlined, the capital value of the 144 million acres in the custody of the Grazing Service may be tabulated as follows:
Soil and forage at $1.25 an acre.-----------------$179, 000, 000
---- 144, 000, 000
115, 000, 000
10,000,000 Special uses-------
52, 000, 000
- 500, 000, 000 In undertaking to rehabilitate the range and stabilize its use, the Grazing Service generally has had the active support and cooperation of the users themselves, including the district advisory boards. A much greater interest and concern in the condition of the range on the part of the stockmen is noticeable as compared to a decade and a half ago. The Grazing Service is hopeful that the willing cooperation of the range users, who, after all, are most vitally concerned in maintaining and improving forage production on the range, will bring about, within practical time limits, the further adjustments that may be needed wherever necessary to stop further range deterioration and to turn the trend in favor of range rehabilitation.
In addition to rehabilitation, extensive further development of the range is needed to facilitate range administration, promote its full economic utilization, make possible better handling of livestock, and improve the quantity and quality of the resources. Needed projects include water developments, fencing, construction of roads, trails, and telephone lines, rodent control, the installation of improvements for fire control, soil and moisture conserving structures and improvements of the forage cover by both natural and artificial reseeding.
The forage cover, and hence the grazing capacity, can be improved within justifiable economic limits on literally millions of acres of the Federal range by mechanical treatment and reseeding. The presence of thrifty sagebrush, for example, which occurs on millions of acres of land, is indicative that soil and moisture conditions are ample for the production of a good forage cover. Over extensive areas the sagebrush has thickened to an extent that the better forage plants have been greatly reduced or almost entirely eliminated. By the judicious use of controlled burning or breaking down the sagebrush with heavy equipment, the land can be freed of sagebrush in a manner to permit the growth of grasses and other forage plants. Where the remaining native forage plants are insufficient to revegetate the land naturally, reseeding will be necessary. A vast opportunity lies ahead in this line of endeavor in the grazing districts. The same is true also for extensive areas of nonsagebrush land needing rehabilitation.
The Grazing Service has presented estimates for a postwar conservation program for use especially in the event that an emergency employment program should become necessary. Employment under this program, in addition to the unskilled labor, would include engineers, draftsmen, range technicians, carpenters, drillers, truck drivers, tractor operators, dragline operators, and many other types of skilled labor.
Since the areas where the work is proposed are remote from centers of population and the projects variable in size and charácter, it would seem feasible to operate from work camps to be distributed over the territory. This will likewise be attractive to local citizens who seek employment within reasonable proximity of their homes. The plan contemplates construction of 150 portable camps with facilities to accommodate 100 men at each camp.
The backlog of work in sight is estimated to require 67,000 manyears or full employment of 20,000 men for 3 years at a total cost of $191,422,500. Of this total, the amount of $50,714,500, about 26
percent, is estimated on the basis of actual needs of the range, to be in the interest of the livestock industry, and predicated on increased forage production values which would compensate for the carrying costs of the investment. The balance is considered to be a responsibility of the Federal Government to rehabilitate, preserve, and protect the capital values inherent in the land and its resources in the public interest.
Forage conditions during the year were, on the whole, better than average during the previous year but extreme drought persisted in localized areas causing some losses. The grazing load in terms of permitted animal units declined 1 percent while the numbers of permitted livestock decreased 6 percent from 10,694,305 to 10,019,178 head. There were 725,464 fewer sheep, but 86,174 more cattle during 1945 than in 1944. For the first time in grazing district history the number of permitted cattle exceeded 2,000,000 head,
Ranch sales involving grazing preferences on the Federal range and transfers of privileges under the Federal Range Code reached a new high during the year. Livestock generally were in good condition and with the current high prices and consumer demand the users were encouraged to cut down their numbers, especially cattle, as a means of providing for the dry years which, according to experience, inevitably lie ahead. Losses of forage caused by trespassing stock and range fires are still excessive. This situation cannot be corrected fully until adequate manpower on the ground is available to patrol and supervise the area.
The grazing district advisory boards are an important part of the Grazing Service organization. Their cooperation in lending advice on range problems, improvement, wildlife protection, and economic conditions within the industry aided materially in the administration of grazing districts during the eleventh year of their participation in the program.
Recheck of grazing capacities and proper seasons of use and the reexamination of many dependent properties are recurrent jobs. The ultimate goal of properly stocked ranges subdivided into units or allotments, to be utilized under term permits by all who are entitled to share in the use of the range has not been wholly achieved.
Only two-thirds of the authorized users are operating on a termpermit basis although most of the licensees and permittees can now plan their year-to-year range operations with reasonable assurance, subject, of course, to the variable weather conditions and other unforeseen factors, including needed adjustments which will be necessary in some cases upon completion of range surveys and base property inventory.
GRAZING FEES In regard to the fees to be charged, section 3 of the act provides: “That the Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized to issue or cause to be issued permits to graze livestock on such grazing districts * * * upon the payment annually of reasonable fees in each case to be fixed or determined from time to time.” Grazing fees of 5 cents for cattle and horses per month and 1 cent for sheep and goats were established in 1936 when the livestock industry was beginning to recover from drought and depression and when grazing districts were new. During the year consideration was given to increasing the grazing fees pending the completion of a comprehensive range appraisal. This matter was first broached to the National Advisory Board Council in November 1944. Since then and up until September 10, 1945, further study and 10 hearings on the matter have been conducted by the Senate Committee on Public Lands and Surveys, in Washington, D. C., and 8 of the Western States. Recommendations on the fees by the Director are being delayed until the facts presented at the hearings and obtained through various studies have been fully analyzed.
LICENSES AND PERMITS Due to transfers, liquidation, and suspension of emergency licenses there was a reduction of licenses and permits issued during the year from a total of 22,562 in 1944 to 21,650 in 1945, a difference of 912. Livestock use the range under licenses and permits at various periods during the year. The statistical detail is shown by regions in table I at the end of the chapter.
Big game numbers in grazing districts represented by 11 major species totaled 583,432 head. A proper distribution of game animals over the range generally has not been achieved and, as a consequence, many “sore spots” exist where game is concentrated to the detriment of both game and forage.
Approximately 20,000 excess horses were removed from the range during the year. Action under the Secretary's orders of March 16, 1943, and January 29, 1944, resulted in the removal of about 100,000 surplus horses from grazing districts and adjacent lands during the past 3 years. Steps are needed to encourage purchase and shipment of excess horses by appropriate agencies for food and farm purposes in devastated countries.
RANGE SURVEYS Extensive range surveys were accomplished on 2,065,964 acres in four regions. On 1,051,661 acres previously surveyed the grazing capacities were checked in preparation of range management plans. In connection with the allocation of range privileges in one district, 3,819,697 acres were surveyed on a reconnaissance basis. Approximately one-third of the above acreage is within approved soil and moisture conservation projects. Property examinations were made on 1,839 cases during the year. An estimated job load of 17,959 such cases exists in 60 grazing districts of which 13,673 have been examined to date, only one-third of which are completed to required standard. The appropriate decision as to the relative claims of about 5,000 bona fide applicants for range privileges is still tentative and unsettled. This program should be augmented in order to achieve the conservation objectives of grazing districts.
HEARINGS AND APPEALS During the fiscal year 1945, 100 appeals from decisions of the local administrative officers were filed, 86 of all pending appeals being disposed of by cooperative actions between the appellants and district graziers or through formal hearings and decisions of examiners. Ten examiners' decisions were appealed to the Secretary.
LAND PLANNING AND UTILIZATION
Fundamental in the conservation program is a policy which will fit the complexities of land ownership within grazing districts into manageable units whereby the land can be properly administered and the greatest benefits will accrue to both public and private lands. This is accomplished mainly through exchange of lands, exchange of use, cooperative agreements with States, counties, and individuals, and by leasing lands within the boundaries of grazing districts under the Pierce Act.
Land planning in grazing districts to improve the pattern of ownership was undertaken and considerable progress has been made during recent years. Detailed plans involving a long-time program of exchange, blocking and negotiation were submitted for review. One of the most effective means of coordinated land administration in areas of mixed ownership is through cooperative agreements with the individuals, groups, or agencies affected. A number of such agreements were inaugurated during the year and many that were entered into during previous years were continued.
COOPERATION WITH MILITARY SERVICES At the end of the fiscal year 14,403,302 acres of public land in grazing districts were involved in military withdrawals and use permits representing a reduction of 25,617 acres from the amount used for such purposes during the previous year. Major military uses of public lands include testing ranges for bombing, aerial gunnery, machine-gun practice, and areas for airfields, airports, landing fields,