Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Characteristics of public land grazing permittees

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  • The federal government is the largest single landowner in the 11 western states. The majority of federal lands is grazed by domestic livestock, a consumptive resource use. Communities have evolved dependent on traditional consumptive uses. Recently, non-traditional users today have contested public land management decisions and these users have become strong advocates for changes in our existing public land policies. Several grazing policy changes have been discussed in this policy debate. Changing public land policy means changing the allocation of economic resources on regional and local levels. Very little is known about the public land rancher, confounding analysis of policy impacts. Past research suggests that ranchers are very heterogeneous in terms of individual rancher characteristics and their economic behavior ranges on a continuum from ranching for personal consumption to that of a more classical profit maximizing firm. A survey instrument was designed to collect demographic and socioeconomic data and discrete responses to proposed policy changes. The policy changes examined include increases in the grazing fee, reductions in permit size, and elimination of seasons of use. Cluster analysis was used to identify groups across a spectrum of preferences from consumption of the ranching lifestyle to classic profit maximizing behavior. Eight distinct groups emerge exhibiting a broad range of profit preference. Ranchers' discrete responses to policy change scenarios were then modeled using a Random Utility Model (RUM). Determinants modeled include relevant socioeconomic attributes and the rancher specific opportunity cost of the policy change in question. The results from the RUM suggest that ranchers do value consumptive uses and that typical profit maximizing behavior cannot be expected across all ranchers. Both analyses present similar policy implications. Both show that increasing the grazing fee a small amount would likely have very little affect on the status quo. Also, both results show the heterogeneity of ranchers across the west and their economic irrationality in the face of policies that increase ranching costs.
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