Today, cow and sheep ranchers lease approximately 300 million acres of public land in 11 Western states. The combined area is as large as the entire Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Florida, with Missouri thrown in! Approximately 90% of U.S. Bureau of Land Management land and 69% of land managed by the U.S. Forest Service is leased to livestock producers at below market prices. The federal grazing fee, for instance, is notoriously underpriced, often 8 to 10 times lower than fees charged on comparable private grazing land. For years, the federal grazing fee has been only $1.35 per animal per month - less than it costs to feed a gerbil for a month.
Source: Jack Rosenberger, "Wasting the West: How Welfare Ranchers and Their Livestock are Damaging Public Land," E Magazine, July/August 2004, p. 20-22. Refers to book by George Wuerthner and Mollie Matteson called Welfare Ranching.