The issue of wild horses and burros is not simple, but one thing is very clear; if the American public does not intervene we will lose the wild horses forever. Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation.
In 2013 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues its morally, fiscally and environmentally irresponsible management of America’s wild horses population. Over 3200 horses in ten western states are roundup targets, although there is space for fewer than 2000 remaining in long term holding. The annual cost to taxpayers – $75 million and growing.
The BLM claims it removes horses to protect the herds from overpopulation and prevent competition with private livestock grazing, deer and elk populations. But the rate of wild horse roundups will soon destroy our western herds. Over the last four years, the BLM has rounded up and removed over 37,000 wild horses from their home ranges. In 1971, 339 herds of wild horses roamed our federal lands; today, fewer than 179 herds remain, only 44 of which are genetically viable. (According to leading equine geneticist, E. Gus Cothran, 150 to 200 adult horses are required for genetic viability.)
In New Mexico alone, over 75 percent of the state’s Congressionally designated wild horse and burro habitat has been eliminated. Only three Wild Horse Territories (WHT) still exist in New Mexico: Jicarilla WHT in northwestern New Mexico where the BLM would still like to round up 277-332 horses and leave only 73, Jarita Mesa WHT just north of El Rito where only 60 horses remain after 97 were removed in 2012, and Socorro where only 46 horses remain after 56 were removed in 2012.
BLM cites preservation of rangeland for 240,000 – 480,000 head of private livestock grazing as the primary reason for reducing the numbers of horses on federal lands.
According to a 2005 GAO Report the American taxpayer is losing $123 million dollars each year – ($144 million administrative costs less $21 million collected in grazing fees) in subsidized grazing on federal land, which they predict to increase at a rate of 15-18% per year. This does not include costs incurred by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Environmental Protection Agency in mitigating for grazing damage. Economists estimate that federal public lands grazing on BLM and Forest Service lands may cost as much as $500 million to $1 billion annually.
Many of the grazing permit holders are large agribusiness corporations, not small family ranchers. According to one report, the top 10% of grazing permit holders control 65% of all livestock on federal land. Some of these lease holders are John Simplot, Hilton Family Trust, Anheuser-Busch – in other words subsidies are going into the pockets of large corporations and millionaires, not small family ranchers. Only 15% of western ranchers graze livestock on federal lands and only 2% of the beef produced in this country is from federally land grazed livestock.
Another disturbing cost of federal grazing is the millions of dollars dedicated to killing predators to protect livestock on federal land. Wildlife Services killed 71,196 predators in 16 western states in 2007 alone. These predators are nature’s way of keeping populations in balance.
By comparison, the 53 million acres of federal land allocated for Wild Horse Territories (WHT) under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act has been cut down to less than 31.6 million acres in ten western states. More than 50,000 wild horses languish in wild horse holding facilities while BLM estimates 36,000 wild horses and burros remain free; although many equine authorities claim that fewer than 20,000 wild horses remain free.
But even on WHT, wild horses remain the scapegoat. Cattle and other wildlife are given the highest priority. BLM continues to remove horses so that cattle will have more to eat.
Public outcry has brought about some reform in Wild Horse and Burro. In November 2012 the Farmington office of the BLM received 5500 comments in response to its Preliminary Environmental Assessment on it’s proposed roundup of 277-332 horses at Jicarilla WHT. In 2012 over 20,000 letters were presented to Secretary of Interior Salazar and President Obama, demanding that roundups be stopped. But the roundups continue, inhumane, unnecessary, and costly, both financially and environmentally.
Help stop cruel, expensive and unnecessary roundups of wild horses. Call President Obama, Senators and Representatives. Demand that the roundups be stopped. There are sustainable alternatives available.