Fort Hood - The Army Command at Fort Hood will extend an exclusive no-fee grazing arrangement for the Central Texas Cattlemen's Association (CTCA) this week despite warnings from military officials that such deals must be competitively bid, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER).
Since 1954, the CTCA, an exclusive group made up of 83 descendants of the original ranchers in the region, has held the sole rights to nearly 200,000 acres of land on the Fort Hood Military Reservation. When the long-standing grazing lease was set to expire in March 2001, Army memos stipulated that the 50-year "monopoly leasing arrangement" must end and that "any new lease must be offered under competition."
Under intense pressure from congressional and state officials, the Army has delayed putting the lease out for bid. Instead, Fort Hood has repeatedly extended the no-bid free grazing privileges for three-month periods. This Wednesday, Fort Hood will extend the former lease for the 7th time in two years.
"This grazing lease is a sweetheart deal for the politically connected," stated Texas PEER Director Scott Royder."In the twenty first century our public lands are still being given away to elite members of a private club."
Royder noted that cattle operation has long posed environmental problems on the vast Fort Hood Reservation. Cows have overgrazed native grasses on much of the base, and the animals attract cow-birds, non-native brood parasites that destroy nests of native songbirds, including the Fort's significant populations of endangered black-capped vireos and golden-cheeked warblers. To combat these problems, the Fort has spent years preparing a wide-ranging environmental assessment of the negative impacts cattle pose to the land.
"The Army has been held hostage by politics," commented Royder."The fort is now spending millions of taxpayer dollars studying the impacts of cattle grazing, even as they spend millions more to subsidize these destructive operations - it makes no sense, whatsoever."