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
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:
- There are too many wild horses on the range. BLM needs to capture more.
- Once the BLM captures them, they cost the government too much money to keep in long term holding
- They are destroying the habitat and will soon starve to death.
- Their numbers need not only to be reduced but they need to be kept from reproducing so much.
- Maybe wild horses should be hunted . . . or eaten
- 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.
Thanks for reading this and thanks for joining me on U.S. Horsemanship,