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BLM must reconsider its policies on wild horses 

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From: The Denver Post Idea Log
By: Ashley Matthews

Guest Commentary

Ellie Phipps Price is the producer of “American Mustang,” a documentary on wild horses that was screened at the Denver Film Festival. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

Ellie Phipps Price is the producer of “American Mustang,” a documentary on wild horses that was screened at the Denver Film Festival. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

Media reports consistently declare overpopulation of wild horses causes an environmental burden on Bureau of Land Management lands. This media spin by the BLM has been used to gain public support for removal of thousands of wild horses so commercial interests like the highly profitable cattle industry can use these public lands for a nominal fee. Over the weekend, the Denver Film Festival premiered “American Mustang,” a film addressing this dishonest, costly and cruel federal program undermining protections for wild horses afforded by the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act.

There are more than 1.75 million cattle on public lands. They outnumber horses 50-to-1. Wild horses number less than 30,000 on only 11 percent of public lands, which are still shared with cattle. Wild horse rangeland has been reduced by 75 percent and populations by more than 270,000 since 1970.

Unlike cattle, wild horses actually benefit the ecosystem. Their moist, nutrient-rich manure builds the soils and their tendency to move over long distances to forage spreads grazing pressure over vast terrain.

So why would the BLM tell a different story about wild horses?

Powerful lobbies like the National Cattleman’s Beef Association have the support of the BLM advisory board. The going rate for cattle on private land is over $16 a head but on public lands ranchers pay just 1/16th of that.

To make room for the nearly 2 million “$1-per-head cattle,” taxpayers also shell out over $100,000 per day to feed 50,000 wild horses stockpiled in government holding facilities. Only a handful of cattle ranchers benefit from this incredible handout as a mere 3 percent of the beef industry is supported by public land. The total cost to taxpayers for this corporate welfare to a lucky few: $132 million per year.

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