Fox Needs Facts about Wild Horses

Enough is enough. Sometimes I get a little bit over whelmed at the crock that is dumped on us by the U.S. government and the crock I’m fed up with this time is titled “American West running out of room for wild horses, officials weigh options”  by Kelly David Burke 3/26/13  from Fox News.com

You can read it here: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/26/american-west-running-out-room-for-wild-horses/?test=latestnews#ixzz2Okjnw454

So that I don’t leave any doubt in your mind how I feel about this article let me say loud and clear that it is another in a long series of propaganda put out by the BLM to brainwash the general public into accepting the destruction of the wild horse.

BLM is the acronym for the Bureau of Land Management.  It’s part of the Department of the Interior of the United States and is in charge of managing federally owned land in the U.S. The federal government owns almost 30 percent of the land of the United States, most of it in the Western states.

In 1971 Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (Public Law 92-195) 

The opening statement is “To require the protection, management, and control of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands.

You can read the law on the BLM site here http://www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov/92-195.htm

The Bureau of Land Management, which administers about 245 million acres of public lands, manages livestock grazing on 155 million acres of those lands, as guided by Federal law.

In 1971, when Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, these animals were found roaming across 53.8 million acres known as Herd Areas, of which 42.4 million acres were under the BLM’s jurisdiction.  Today the BLM manages wild horses and burros in 179 subsets of these Herd Areas (known as Herd Management Areas) that comprise 31.6 million acres, of which 26.9 million acres are under BLM management.

The article makes the following points:

  1. There are too many wild horses on the range. BLM needs to capture more.
  2. Once the BLM captures them, they cost the government too much money to keep in long term holding
  3. They are destroying the habitat and will soon starve to death.
  4. Their numbers need not only to be reduced but they need to be kept from reproducing so much.
  5. Maybe wild horses should be hunted . . . or eaten
  6. The poor BLM is trying hard  but soon they won’t be able to help

Whew! Where to start here in order to put this into an organized post!

1.  There are too many wild horses on the range. BLM needs to capture more.

Currently there are about 37,000 wild horses running on the 155 million acres of livestock grazing land managed by the BLM.  This land is meant for multi use grazing, so it is not only for horses.  The BLM only wants 27,000 wild horses on the land and is worried that there will be 7,400 new foals this spring. So the BLM wants to capture 10,000 more horses and add them to the approximately 50,000 horses that are currently in holding facilities in the United States. There are 16 long term holding facilities, mostly in Oklahoma and Kansas and the BLM plans to open 4 more this year, the newest being in 15,000 acres Ennis, Montanna which will house 700-1000 geldings.

According to the Land Report one of the Oklahoma facilities is owned by the Drummond family who owns approximately 120,000 acres which Debbie Collins of the BLM, says 24,292 acres are allotted to about 3400 wild horses.

Currently there are more wild horses in captivity than there are in the wild.

2.  Once the BLM captures them, they cost the government too much money to keep in long term holding.

When the mustangs are captured they go into short term holding facilities where they are gelded, vaccinated, and wormed and then are housed until the BLM decides whether they should be adopted or go to long term holding pastures. The BLM claims that it costs about $5.50 per day per horse for this care.

According to BLM representative, Collins, ranchers are  paid $1.35 to $1.50 per head, per day for housing the mustangs on their long term properties..  For these 3400 horses at the Drummond land & Cattle Co. mentioned earlier that’s about $4590-$5100 a day or $1,675,3500-$1,861,500 a year.  The ranchers have to maintain the pastures and fences and might have to supplement with hay in extremes but for the most part the equipment required (chutes, corrals, fence panels) is the same equipment they use for their cattle. (You can read more about a visit to this facility in RTFitch’s blog http://rtfitchauthor.com/2010/11/12/blm-long-term-holding-wild-horse-heaven-or-hell/ In my book these ranchers are making out pretty well housing wild horses.

OK so before I go any farther let’s talk about the ranchers. In 1978, the Public Rangelands Improvement Act (PRIA) instituted a grazing fee based on the economic value of the land being grazed.  That grazing fee was assessed for grazing leases and permits to certain ranchers who owned or leased ranches near federal lands. The current fee is $1.35 per AUM.  An AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.

The average grazing rate for a rancher to graze cattle on private lands is currently $14.50/animal unit month (AUM) as opposed to $1.35 that the BLM assesses for public land. The private grazing rate is about 10 times as much as the government grazing rate.

Incidentally, and this ought to make your heart do flips over the fiscal capabilities of our government, a 2005 federal report found that the government collected $21 million in grazing fees for land that cost about $144 million a year to manage. So grazing rights for big ranchers are nothing more than another government subsidized welfare program but this time not so much for the poor. And lest you believe these cattle are ending up on the plates of Americans or in the tummies of starving children, think again because most of this is exported.

Another interesting search would be how many Senators have grazing rights, but I don’t have time for that right now, but how about starting with Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey? http://www.omaha.com/article/20120806/NEWS/708069921

What the BLM isn’t telling the public is that as soon as the horses are removed via a round up, herds of cattle are being turned loose to graze in the very same area that the horses just got removed from.

OK in case you’re not seeing my point:

1 AUM (animal unit per month) on our Federal land costs $1.35
1 AUM grazing on private land costs $ 14.50 per month
1 wild horse in short term holding costs $165.00 per month
1 wild horse in long term holding  costs $ 40.50 to $45.00 per month

In 2012 holding care for wild horses cost $43 million

The only accounting I could find for total grazing fees was for the 2005 report that the government collected $21 million in grazing fees (money which by the way is distributed to the Federal Government and certain states) for land that cost about $144 million a year to manage, a loss of $123 million dollars in order to subsidize ranchers.

Not only do I think the ranchers should pay the total $144 million for the land they use, I think they ought to have to pay the $43 million it costs to house the wild horses.  In fact, maybe the ranchers should pay the whole $74.9 million dollars that Congress budgeted for wild horses in 2012.  And here’s why:

The BLM is currently managing 37,000 wild horses on public lands and approximately 50,000 in holding, so 87,000 wild horses.

Meanwhile the BLM has issued permits for 8.9 million AUMs in 2012.  Since an AUM is a cow and calf, or 5 sheep the number of actual bodies is way higher than 8.9 million.

87,000 horses verses more than 8.9 million cows and sheep on 155 million acres designated for grazing although the horses are only occupying 31.6 million of those.

So let me make this really clear.  Our government leases grazing rights to ranchers at one tenth what it normally costs and at a loss of $123 million to the American people.  Then they capture the horses who were given the right to graze on the land and put them in holding where they pay other ranchers $43 million dollars for their care. Plus the cost to the American people is actually $74.9 million when you include the round up process and advertising and events.

And after all that I can go to purchase a wild horse that has been turned down for adoption 3 times or is over 10 years old and it will only cost me $25.

3. They are destroying the habitat and will soon starve to death.

With all of the videos, photos and eye witness reports that I have researched, very few of these horses are even thin, much less starving. But ahhh, tell the American public that something is going to starve and watch the people start to listen. After all nothing should starve in America.

The truth is that some of the horses suffer for water and that is usually due to their water sources being fenced off by ranchers who lease grazing rights.

Have you ever seen what cattle do to a water supply? They wallow in it, lie down in it. . .

Oh, by the way, if the horses are starving shouldn’t we also see cattle and sheep starving? After all there are at least 240 times as many cattle and sheep as there are horses.

4.  There numbers need not only to be reduced but they need to be kept from reproducing so much.

The BLM has experimented with PZP, porcine zona pellucida, a birth control drug that can last up to two years. Mares have been treated and returned to the wild.

The trouble with birth control and also with reducing herd sizes is that it reduces the gene pool dramatically and that will cause inbreeding which will reduce the strength , health and quality of the wild horse.

5.  Maybe wild horses should be hunted . . . or eaten

or in the words of Fox News

“When it comes to other grazing animals like deer, elk and bison, hunting acts as a substitute for natural predation.
Hunting horses, though, is prohibited.
And while horse meat is consumed by humans in much of the world, selling any of the horses to slaughter houses is a public relations nightmare the Bureau is determined to avoid.”

First of all slaughtering horses for human consumption is a bad idea without even going to the emotional side of it. Even horses that have only gone through the BLM hands, and that would be the 50,000 in long and short term holding, have been vaccinated for flu, rhino, west nile virus, strangles, eastern and western sleeping sickness and tetnus.  They’ve also been wormed and in the case of geldings they have had tranquilizers and in the case of mares, well, she just might have received the PZP. Eating meat with all of that residue in it is just plain unhealthy.

The whole wild horse issue is an emotionally charged but since there is no real solution to this problem perhaps hunting should be considered. After all the wild horse in the wild is free of chemicals, except for the mares that have been treated with PZP.  But more importantly, when the horse is in the wild he is still just that, a wild animal.  He hasn’t been touch or handled.  He hasn’t even incurred expense.  While hunting is never a fair game at least the horses would not have to be chased by helicopters, terrified, crippled, winded and lame, separated from families, and relegated to pens and human handling.  I think it could be a less barbaric option, if it was controlled by a draw at a certain time of year, so many from each HMO, with rules followed.

As far as eating horse meat goes, Americans in general are not a horse eating people, even though Wyoming’s State Rep. Wallis, also known as  “Slaughterhouse Sue”, would like it to be otherwise.  The only Americans that I have known that ate horse meat were Native Americans. But in the event that people hunted horses and chose to eat the meat at least wild ones would not be ladened with chemicals.  Personally I’ll never intentionally eat horse meat.

I’m not a fan of hunting but then I’m not a fan of slaughter or of any torture or abuse that the wild horses receive.  But I’m smart enough to understand that any animal population that is left without a natural predator could grow to a unmanageable population. I just don’t think 37,000 wild horses are unmanageable.  Unless the government decides to end range welfare ranching and remove millions of cattle (sic) and return the wild horses, some other solution needs to be found.

I’m not sure we have another animal that is domesticated to the degree a horse is and is also hunted.  It would give me the creeps to enter someone’s home to see a horse head mounted on the wall in the same way a deer is mounted.

Personally I would love to read a genuinely innovative idea that would save the freedom of all the wild horses.

6.  The poor BLM is trying hard  but soon they won’t be able to help. 

The BLM is an agency made up of ranchers who serve ranchers.  They have mucked up the wild horse issue from the beginning and show no signs of improving.  (But I have to add a caveat that the BLM employees that I have met on the local level have been caring, concerned horse lovers.)

But the story line that the BLM is pushing is intended to desensitize the American public to the wild horse. In my opinion they are paving the way to send thousands upon thousands of wild horses to destruction and if reporters like Fox New’s Kelly David Burke just buy the story line and don’t go looking for what lies beneath the surface, Fox news becomes part of the problem.  Fox News needs to research the facts rather than listen to stories.

Listed below are a few of the web sites I visited to research the wild horse problems mentioned in the Fox News article.  Visit them if you want to learn more.

http://www.thebeckoning.com/environment/cattle/grazing.html#2-3

http://www.blm.gov/or/resources/rangelands/index.php

http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/grazing.html

http://www.omaha.com/article/20120806/NEWS/708069921

http://beefmagazine.com/business/rising-lease-rates-decreasing-prices

http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/blm-moves-wild-horses-to-ranch-in-ennis-mont/article_3297051f-50ea-50d4-84e2-5266935ace84.html

http://elkodaily.com/lifestyles/nature-notes-montana-is-home-to-new-wild-horse-facility/article_6d39174c-8dac-11e2-bcc1-0019bb2963f4.html

http://m.farmandranchguide.com/news/equine/blm-plans-to-move-wild-horses-to-ranch-near-ennis/article_e58ff51b-36d9-5328-a29a-e94a9d70103b.html?mode=jqm

http://rtfitchauthor.com/2010/11/12/blm-long-term-holding-wild-horse-heaven-or-hell/

http://www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov/92-195.htm

http://www.omaha.com/article/20120806/NEWS/708069921

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/26/american-west-running-out-room-for-wild-horses/?test=latestnews#ixzz2Okjnw454

Thanks for reading this and thanks for joining me on U.S. Horsemanship,

Barbara Fox

http://www.ushorsemanship.com

5 comments on “Fox Needs Facts about Wild Horses

  1. Jerry

    I think we should follow the money. There was an article once that stated there were about 4.5 million head of cattle on these public lands. Lands that are leased for a dollar an acre to these huge cattle operations. These ranchers can get crop insurance and huge tax credits/refunds for having these large ranches.

    What a freakin deal.

  2. John Keeter

    Although, a few of the so called Wild Horses, can be traced back to the horses of the Conquistadors, the vast majority of feral horses on public land are descendants of horses abandoned on public land during the Great Depression. Most have a considerable amount of Morgan, and Standardbred, in their background. Most of the feral cattle in Arizona, and New Mexico, exist for similar reasons. Horses are an invasive species, much like feral hogs. Like it are not, the BLM Adoption Program can only rid the land of so many horses. The BLM, should follow a plan like the USFS, uses for feral cattle….. And Jerry, you have been misinformed about ranchers who run cattle or sheep on BLM, and Forest Permits, receiving money. This is totally untrue. Nothing could be further from the Truth.

  3. barbaraellinfox

    John Keeter,
    In the words of Inigo Montoya, from the movie “The Princess Bride”, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    You are wrong and misinformed. These are indeed wild horses. The definition of wild follows:

    1.living in a state of nature; not tamed or domesticated: a wild animal; wild geese

    And while even the horses descended from the conquistadors’ horses had domesticated ancestors, the ones that exist today are not domesticated and haven’t been for many horse generations. They are as wild as any deer, elk or coyote.

    Like wise the definition of feral:
    1. existing in a natural state, as animals or plants; not domesticated or cultivated; wild.
    2. having reverted to the wild state, as from domestication: a pack of feral dogs roaming the woods.
    3. of or characteristic of wild animals; ferocious; brutal.

    You will notice that the definition of feral matches the definition of wild in intent and even uses the term “wild”.

    The wild horse may not be indigenous (which can also be disputed by definition) to North America but that has no bearing on its standing as a wild horse. Even a feral horse is a wild horse.

    You are incorrect and misinformed regarding your statement that most of the horses are descendants of horses who were abandoned on public lands during the Great Depression (1929-1939).

    Just before the Mexican War Lt. Ulysses S. Grant said of the wild horse in Texas, “I have no idea that they could all have been corralled in the state of Rhode Island, or Delaware, at one time.”

    In 1900 North America had an estimated 2 million wild horses. They were the progeny of horses from the Conquistadors but also from the horses that got free from the many people who moved west. There were all kind chosen according to need.

    The Morgan Horse was used a great deal during the 19th century. They were a favorite of miners during the California Gold Rush (1848-1855), they were used by the Army during the Civil War, and they were also used to improve herds of horses in Texas. It stands to reason that some North American wild horses have Morgan and Standardbred blood in them but there are also herd groups that have more Thoroughbred blood and others with more draft blood, and even some with pony blood. The various herds have differing characteristics due to their variety of ancestors.

    In the first part of the 1900s, Mustanging and horse slaughter for the pet food industry drastically reduced the number of wild horse in North America creating the catalyst for the Wild Horse Annie act of the late 50’s which was later followed by the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros act of 1971.

    So, like it or not, America’s Wild Horses are protected by law and it’s the job of the BLM to manage them NOT “rid the land of so many horses” as you put it in your comment. The legal intent is MANAGE not RID. Managing requires some culling.

    The BLM is a group of ranchers serving ranchers and it’s the rancher or rancher wannabe mindset that wants to get rid of the wild horse. Revision needs to be made to the laws that subsidize the Western ranchers. Land leases need to be made equally favorable to all ranchers. The land needs to be put to better use that will finically benefit the American people. And those using the land need to cease detrimental grazing practices.

    You are misinformed about how animals of all species graze grasslands. You don’t understand that cross grazing is helpful to the environment while single species grazing is detrimental. Countries that use cross grazing on large parcels of land and pasture rotation on small parcels have repeatedly proven their method is better than that of the Western rancher who wants the government to subsidize their cattle operations.

  4. John

    I am most definitely a senior citizen. I am also a fifth generation rancher in the US. Both sides of my family have been herders for many hundreds of years. I don’t remember the first time I was on a horse because I was riding before I could walk. I have spent a life time on the back of a horse, riding across the land observing nature, and being as good a steward of the land as I can possibly be. Much of what I know has been passed down for generations. The land, whether it be deeded, leased or by government permit is what sustains the people, livestock, and wildlife that live upon it. I am a product of the land and part of it. The USFS, and the BLM, have some of the best educated, hardest working, and truly sincere conservationist, that you can find anywhere. They also live and work on that same land. They and I, know whereof we speak. No one loves and respects horses more than I do, but the so called wild horses, are not wildlife, but domestic horses put on the land by man, that have become a feral invasive species. They need to be managed responsibly for the benefit of the land, period, not for the benefit of peoples amusement.

  5. barbaraellinfox

    John Keeter

    I respect your heritage as a rancher. Heritage and history are not automatically equal with right.

    It’s about the law
    
There is a law on the books charging the government with protecting and managing the free roaming wild horses and burros. This is not about whether or not some horses should be removed from the range. It’s about the inhumane treatment that the horses are receiving. Whether or not you like the origins of these horses has nothing to do with the law.

    The BLM, which has been put in charge of managing the free roaming wild horses and burros, is not doing a good job. The BLM is ranchers serving ranchers. The horses and burros need to be managed responsibly for the benefit of viably sustaining a symbol of the American West.

    It’s about land management:
    Most western ranchers are not good stewards of the land. This is evidenced by the fact that as time goes on more acres are needed to sustain the same amount of cattle. Instead of managing the land they manage the herd and seek to rid the land of wild animals that compete for grass. The scorched earth policy used by western ranchers has raped the land at the expense of the American tax payer

    It’s about business:
    Most western ranchers do not have a business model that is sustainable in a free market economy. Ranchers should support their ranches on their own. They should be permitted to buy the land they currently lease at a fair market price, rather than have the American tax payer subsidize their ranch on government land through cheap leases. When the land belongs to the rancher he can do whatever he wants with it. As long as the land belongs to the government, ranchers can not do what they want.

    Its about fairness:
    Cheap land leases favor a few western ranchers at a cost to the American tax payer.

    The government should either hold land in trust for the American people or it should be sold to ranchers who would then stand on their own two feet and support their own cattle operations. Using the land and cheap leases to subsidize the ranching operations of a handful of western ranchers does not benefit the American people. It’s not like it’s the only place to buy beef.

    The western ranchers to which I refer, have an entitlement mindset just like everyone else who is taking a welfare payment. They believe they have the right to the land and the cheap lease. They want the government to use the citizen’s money to subsidize their own lifestyle.

    So I wonder, in hundreds of years and 5 generations of a ranching family, has your heritage been part of the solution or part of the problem?

Let me know what you think! I'd love to hear from you