Draft legislation that would retain the present system of fees for grazing livestock on federal lands is being circulated for comment by four key Senate and House panel chairmen.
The proposal, which runs counter to the Reagan administration view that the fees should be raised, also contains provisions aimed at satisfying environmentalists who say public lands are being damaged by overgrazing.
The package was produced by Sen. James A. McClure (R-Idaho), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.), chairman of its public lands subcommittee; Rep. Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.), chairman of the Interior Committee; and Rep. John F. Seiberling (D-Ohio), chairman of the Interior panel's public lands subcommittee.
But in a letter accompanying the proposal, the four chairmen stopped short of unequivocally endorsing the plan, and made clear that it could be modified later.
The proposal, emerging after lengthy negotiations among the lawmakers and their staffs, has been sent to environmental and rancher groups, which have been asked to submit comments by June 17.
Fees, which raise about $23 million a year, are tied to beef prices and production costs. They now are $1.35 a month per animal, down from $2.35 in the late 1970s, when beef prices were higher.
For environmentalists, the proposal contains language requiring greater protection of stream banks and wetlands and would require federal agencies to spend 25 percent of the fee income on stream and wetlands improvements.
Earlier this year, the administration asked for public comment on six approaches to the fee question, ranging from keeping the current structure to increasing fees to as much as $8 a month per animal.