Overview of the U.S. Forest Service & Livestock Grazing Permits

Rincker Law Environmental Law, Food & Ag Law, Property Law 3 Comments

I thought it would be helpful to educate my readers on the government agencies that affect the food and agriculture system in the United States.  I will be going through the various agencies one by one.  So please stay tuned!

My dog Taylor and I at the Teton National Forest

My dog Taylor at the Teton National Forest – enjoyed my time living in Wyoming a few years ago.  Beautiful part of the country.

The U.S. Forest Service (“FS”) is a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) and overseen by the Under Secretary of Natural Resources and the Environment. FS manages 193 million acres national forests and grassland and works with state and local agencies helping manage an additional 500 million acres of non-federal rural and urban forests.  Federal forest and grasslands are located in 44 states, including New York, comprising of 9% of the total land in the U.S.

FS is divided into nine regions across the United States:

Region 1 — Missoula, Montana (covering Montana, Northern Idaho, North Dakota, Northwestern South Dakota and Northeast Washington), overseeing twelve National Forests and one National Grassland;

Region 2— Golden, Colorado (covering Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and most of Wyoming and South Dakota), overseeing sixteen National Forests and seven National Grasslands.

Region 3— Albuquerque, New Mexico (covering New Mexico and Arizona) overseeing eleven National Forests.

Region 4– Ogden, Utah (covering Southern Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Western Wyoming), overseeing twelve national forests.

Region 5— Vallejo, California (covering California and Hawaii), overseeing eighteen National Forests.

Region 6— Portland, Oregon (covering Washington and Oregon), overseeing twenty-one National Forests and one National Scenic Area.

Region 8— Atlanta, Georgia (covering Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia; and Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands), overseeing thirty-four National Forests.

Region 9— Milwaukee, Wisconsin (covering Maine, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, and New Jersey), overseeing seventeen National Forests, one Grassland and America’s Outdoors Center for Conservation, Recreation, and Resources.

Region 10— Juneau, Alaska (covers Alaska) and oversees two National Forests.

Region 7 was eliminated in 1965.

FS primary statutory authorities are the following:

  • Forest Service Organic Administration Act (1897) (16 U.S.C. §§ 473-478, 479-482 and 551);
  • Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. §§ 528-531);
  • National Forest Management Act of 1976 (16 U.S.C. §§ 1600-1614);
  • Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978 (16 U.S.C. §§ 2101-2111);
  • Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Research Act of 1978 (as amended by the Food Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (“Farm Bill”), Title XII, Subtitle B) (16 U.S.C. §§ 1641-1648);
  • Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (“Farm Bill”) (P.L. 110-234) (specifically, Title VIII on Forestry and Title IX on Energy);
  • Foreign Operation Appropriations Act of 1978 (16 §§ U.S.C. 4501 note, 4501, 4502, 4503, 4503a-4503d, 4504, 4505, 1641, 1643, 2101, 2109);
  • National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4347); and
  • Endangered Species Act (16 USC 1531-36, 1538-40).

Livestock producers who wish to graze livestock on land managed by FS may apply for a permit. FS supports controlled grazing of federal lands for several reasons.  There are essentially three types of permits.

  • Temporary Grazing Permit— used for a short period of time, usually to allow livestock to remain on National Forest land while the FS processes the application for a Term Grazing Permit.
  • Term Grazing Permit—are issued by the FS for up to ten years and are commonly used in the West
  • Livestock Use Permit—issued for incidental use and are not intended to authorize commercial livestock production on federal lands.  These permits may be issued for up to one year (typically much shorter).  These permits are more commonly used to authorize a Guide’s stock animals during a short period when operating in a National Forest.



To be eligible for a permit, the applicant must be (1) be a citizen of the US or have demonstrated intent to become a US citizen by filing a petition for naturalization) or if a corporation or partnership must be 80% own by U.S. citizens and (2) of legal age.  If applying for a Term Grazing Permit, the farmer or rancher must own a base farm/ranch property and livestock.

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Comments 3

  1. I am a young cattle producer and want to inquire information on forest service grazing. I’m from Hermiston, Oregon United States. I Currently run about 130 head of mother cows and am trying to build my herd. I would like to know who I need to talk to about the possibility of a grazing permit. Thank you, Ethan Parks.

  2. Hi, thank you for this blog. Regarding the waiver of a term grazing permit with the Forest Service to a new permittee that purchases the associated cattle, it is my understanding the permit must be written exactly as is – number of cattle, special terms etc. until such time it has NEPA analysis to be able to change something like the number of cattle authorized on the prior permit. Is this correct?

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