THE Clinton administration on Aug. 9 moved to more than double grazing fees and tighten controls on ranchers who use federal land, sidestepping Congress, which has resisted changing Western land policy for years.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt called the policy change "a reasonable balance" between protecting the long-term health of America's range and ensuring that ranchers who rely on federal grazing can survive.
He said it would be a first step in the administration's effort to protect federal lands from commercial abuses.
The higher grazing fees were originally included in President Clinton's budget, but the administration allowed Congress to remove the provision because of opposition from Western lawmakers whose votes were needed to pass the plan.
The Interior Department will implement the new policy through changes in federal rules that do not require congressional approval.
Under the plan, monthly fees would increase from the current $1.86 per animal unit to $4.28, still well below the average of about $10 charged for using private land. An animal unit is a cow and calf or five sheep. Support for budget slips
Public opposition to President Clinton's economic program surged even as it was squeezing through Congress.
The latest ABC News-Washington Post poll showed a growing number of people who believe the plan is fair, but that less than half think it will do what it is supposed to do - reduce the deficit by $496 billion over five years. Two in three said it taxes too much and cuts spending too little.
The survey released Aug. 9 found 48 percent of those questioned oppose the plan and 43 percent support it.
A week earlier, a similar poll showed the plan's supporters and detractors were evenly split at 38 percent each.
Asked whether the plan will help shrink the deficit, 45 percent said yes and 46 percent said no. And the 45 percent who thought the economy would be helped were outnumbered by the 48 percent of doubters.
Sixty-six percent agreed with the statement that the program raises taxes too much and doesn't cut spending enough.
Mr. Clinton's overall job approval rate was little changed from a poll taken in late June, with 51 percent giving him a negative rating to 45 percent giving him a positive view.