Originally published Tuesday, January 8, 2019 at 09:23a.m.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – On Dec. 26, legislation was approved amending the Navajo Nation tribal ranches grazing fee from $4 per animal unit per month to $6 per animal unit per month.

Pursuant to the Navajo Nation Code, the Resources and Development Committee (RDC) has the authority to establish lease fees based on the recommendations from the Navajo Nation Ranch Program, Department of Agriculture and the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources.

The Navajo Nation Ranch Program oversees designated ranch lands and ensures that sufficient revenues are generated to pay taxes, land use fees and the cost of administration.

RDC vice chair Council Delegate Benjamin L. Bennett (Crystal, Fort Defiance, Red Lake, Sawmill), who co-sponsored the legislation, asked the committee to increase the grazing fees to financially sustain the ranch program.

“The last fee adjustment was made 17 years ago. The fee needs to be increased due to the rising costs of managing ranch lands. Currently, the ranch program lacks financial stability, which hinders them from doing their duties and responsibilities,” Bennett said.

During the discussion, RDC member Council Delegate Davis Filfred (Mexican Water, Aneth, Teecnospos, Tółikan, Red Mesa) recommended that the grazing fee be gradually increased annually for the courtesy of tribal ranchers.

“The first year grazing fee increase should be five dollars per animal unit per month, then gradually increase it to $5.50 and six dollars over a year or two. The tribal ranchers would need adequate time to adjust to the new fee charges. The fees should also be determined by drought conditions,” Filfred said.

The legislation states that the fees may be adjusted annually because of unforeseen natural disasters and adjusted every five years based on the recommendations of the ranch program.

RDC member Council Delegate Walter Phelps (Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Leupp, Tolani Lake, Tsidi To ii) stated that the increased grazing fee is feasible.

“This is the cost of doing business. I assume that the tribal ranches file taxes every year and their operating expenses and livestock are claimed as deductibles. I do not understand why the tribal ranches are complaining about a two-dollar increase. Initially, it was a four-dollar increase and six-dollars is a reasonable fee,” he said.

The Resources and Development Committee approved Legislation No. 0351-18 with 3-2 vote and serves as the final authority for the bill. The increased fee will take effect in 2020.

Information provided by the Office of the Speaker

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