There are many wild stories and rumors about the BLM and their mismanagement of the wild horses of the United States. We do not shares those here on Habitat for Horses. Fortunately, Vickery Eckhoff is known for her journalistic integrity. Her writing is backed up by research that is fact-checked. Whenever you find an article by her about our American wild horses, you know the truth is being told. ~ HfH
By: Vickery Eckhoff
The facts are in: There are 10.6 times as many livestock as wild horses grazing public range lands in Utah’s Iron and Beaver Counties.
For anyone following the news about ranchers looking to round up 697 wild horses there on the taxpayers’ nickel, this is an auspicious (and overdue) piece of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) data. For everyone else, pay attention: that 10:6 to 1 ratio is significant to you as a U.S. taxpayer and citizen—and my latest article on AlterNet (“Ranchers Want Our Public Lands for Their Livestock, and Want the Govt. to Stick It to Wild Horses and Taxpayers”) explains why.
What’s auspicious about the figure of 10.6 to 1? Everything.
The story behind the story
The wild horse issue is a numbers story shaped by two taxpayer-supported federal programs: the BLM’s Wild Horses and Burros Program and the Federal Grazing program. Together, these two programs are responsible for the overgrazing by privately owned livestock of 245 million acres of public land. These programs are also responsible for the simultaneous blaming (and removal) of thousands of wild horses protected by an act of Congress. Both programs are huge money drains for U.S. taxpayers that exist to aid a declining population of ranchers in ten western states supplying two percent of the nation’s beef supply.
It’s a common misperception that the programs are justified because of what ranching contributes to western state economies. According to Western Watersheds founder Jon Marvel, however, these ranchers’ economic contributions are miniscule, both at the state level and within their own communities. In other words, neither program is justified on economic grounds. Neither are they justified on the basis of the ratios of cattle and sheep to wild horses and burros (which varies from area to area), nor on the basis of protecting wild horses, nor the range lands themselves.