WESTERN RANGELANDS REFORM: AN ANALYSIS OF THE 1996 SENATE VOTE ON FEDERAL GRAZING FEES

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Abstract

Grazing of livestock on public lands is a controversial environmental issue, despite a long history of federal regulation of this activity. Environmentalists and economists have argued that grazing fees charged by the Bureau of Land Management subsidize livestock operators and that higher fees would help bring rangeland usage in line with environmental and economic goals. In 1996, the U.S. Senate voted to determine whether higher fees would be charged for use of federally owned land. Based on a theoretical model, probit regressions are used to analyze this vote with respect to the influences of the general electorate, special interests, party affiliation, senatorial preferences, and electoral security. We find that political competition among producers utilizing federal lands was a crucial factor in determining voting decisions. However, environmental interests had a smaller direct impact on the grazing fee vote.

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