Grazing rights

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Grazing rights is the right of a user to allow their livestock to feed (graze) in a given area.


Grazing rights in action: Leyton Marshes in London, where historic grazing (and other) rights are still in place, although not always willingly acceded by the authorities LammasLand-485.JPG
Grazing rights in action: Leyton Marshes in London, where historic grazing (and other) rights are still in place, although not always willingly acceded by the authorities
A large sheep farm in Chile. Sheep, Torres del Paine.jpg
A large sheep farm in Chile.
Historically dry stone walls were used for managing and protecting sheep livestock which had been a major food staple in Dalmatia. Velebit Ljuotic Mataci 02.JPG
Historically dry stone walls were used for managing and protecting sheep livestock which had been a major food staple in Dalmatia.

United States

Grazing rights have never been codified in United States law, because such common-law rights derive from the English concept of the commons, a piece of land over which people, often neighboring landowners, could exercise one of a number of such traditional rights, including livestock grazing. [1] Prior to the 19th century, the traditional practice of grazing the open range in the United States was rarely disputed because of the sheer amount of unsettled open land. However, as the population of the western United States increased in the mid-to-late 19th century, range wars often erupted over the ranchers' perceived rights to graze their cattle as the western range deteriorated with overuse. [2]

In 1934, the Taylor Grazing Act formally set out the federal government's powers and policy on grazing federal lands in the western United States by establishing the Division of Grazing and procedures for issuing permits to graze federal lands for a fixed period of time. The Division of Grazing was renamed the US Grazing Service in 1939 and then merged in 1946 with the General Land Office to become the Bureau of Land Management, which along with the United States Forest Service oversees public lands grazing in 16 western states today. [3] However, grazing was never established as a legal right in the U.S., [4] and the Taylor Grazing Act authorized only the permitted use of lands designated as available for livestock grazing while specifying that grazing permits "convey no right, title, or interest" to such lands. [5] Although the regulations stipulated by the Taylor Grazing Act apply only to grazing on Bureau of Land Management lands, the Chief of the Forest Service is authorized to permit or suspend grazing on Forest Service administered property, and many Forest Service grazing regulations resemble those of the Taylor Grazing Act. [6]


In Dalmatia, judgments about grazing rights are a fundamental part of the jurisprudence. The oldest court verdict in Dalmatia in a court case about grazing rights dates from the 14th century. It is a usufruct of property, which belongs to someone else, or it is a use of a property. Use of someone else's property requires a contract (written or not) about the usufruct. The court may declare parts of the contract as unlawful.

If there is no contract, common law (also called case law) comes to apply. The decisions on who was allowed to judge on grazing rights cases were different in the Middle Ages, which reasoned in tradition and in the natural resources in each area, such as water, meadows, lawns and others. Some peasants wrote their own statute, like Poljica republic in 1440. Also, some dukes wrote together with some peasants their own statute, like Law codex of Vinodol from 1288. [7]

See also

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Taylor Grazing Act of 1934

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Kinkaid Act

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United States Grazing Service organization

The United States Grazing Service was a part of the United States Department of the Interior that managed grazing lands and carried out the Taylor Grazing Act, which leased public land for grazing. It was later merged with the General Land Office to form the Bureau of Land Management.

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Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971

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Open range

In the Western United States and Canada, open range is rangeland where cattle roam freely regardless of land ownership. Where there are "open range" laws, those wanting to keep animals off their property must erect a fence to keep animals out; this applies to public roads as well. Land in open range that is designated as part of a "herd district" reverses liabilities, requiring an animal's owner to fence it in or otherwise keep it on the person's own property. Most eastern states and jurisdictions in Canada require owners to fence in or herd their livestock.

Bundy standoff 2014 armed confrontation in Nevada

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Grazing rights in Nevada covers a number of rangeland Federal and state laws and regulations applicable to the state of Nevada. Rangelands are distinguished from pasture lands because they grow primarily native vegetation, rather than plants established by humans. Ranchers may lease or obtain permits to use portions of this public rangeland and pay a fee based on the number and type of livestock and the period for which they are on the land.

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  1. Merrill, K.R. 2002. Public Lands and Political Meaning: Ranchers, the Government, and the Property Between Them. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 183.
  2. Fleischner, T. L. 2009. Livestock grazing and wildlife conservation in the American West: historical, policy and conservation biology perspectives. Wild Rangelands: Conserving Wildlife While Maintaining Livestock in Semi-Arid Ecosystems (eds J. T. du Toit, R. Kock and J. C. Deutsch). Chidester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, p. 235-265. pdoi: 10.1002/9781444317091.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-29. Retrieved 2012-05-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. Donahue D. 2005. Western grazing: the capture of grass, ground, and government. Environmental Law 35:721-806.
  5. United States Code of Federal Regulations 4130.2 (c) Retrieved from;sid=65dfe1cec94944c989e83b4eb39cd3ba;rgn=div5;view=text;node=43%3A2.;idno=43;cc=ecfr#PartTop
  6. United States Code of Federal Regulations 36 § 222.1-54.
  7. Magyar Országos Levéltár