Robert Redford: Protect our wild horses

Robert Redford has long been a staunch advocate for wild horses. ~ HfH

From: USA Today
By: Robert Redford

We can protect our environment, and give wild horses the freedom they deserve.

horseHorses and I have had a shared existence, personal and professional, for as long as I can remember. And while I carry a strong passion for all horses, my tenacious support for the preservation of habitat for wildlife and the American mustangs derives from their symbolic representation of our national heritage and freedom.

Any infringement on their legally protected right to live freely is an assault on America’s principles. The varied and subjective interpretation of laws intended to protect these animals on our public lands, continues to leave wild horses under attack.

Recent “stand-offs” between ranchers and the federal government are reminiscent of old westerns. But this American tragedy does not have a hero riding in to save the day, and wild horses have become the victim in the controversies over our public land resources.

In 1971, as a result of concern for America’s dwindling wild horse populations, the US Congress passed the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act. . The Act mandated that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), protect free roaming wild horses and burros, under a multiple use management policy, on designated areas of our public lands.

The BLM manages 245 million acres of our public lands, with livestock grazing permits on 155 million acres. Wild horses are designated to share a mere 26.9 million acres. That means only 17% of BLM-managed public land are made available to wild horses. Wild horse populationsvary between 32,000 and 50,000 while livestock grazing allocations accommodate numbers in the millions. Yes, in the millions.

Advocates are only asking that the horses be treated fairly. Wild horses are consistently targeted as the primary cause of negative impact to grazing lands resulting from decades of propaganda that ignores math, science and solutions that can be implemented today.

Ranchers hold nearly 18,000 grazing lease permits on BLM land alone. Grazing costs on BLM land goes for $1.35 per cow and calf pair, well below the market rate of $16. This price disparity derived from BLM’s current permit policy establishes an uneven playing field on grazing economies. Understandably ranchers have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Although less than 3% of America’s beef is produced on federal land, this subsidized grazing program costs the taxpayer more than $123 million dollars a year, and more than $500 million when indirect costs are accounted for.

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  • Sue


    November 6, 2014
    • Daniel Cordero Fernandez

      Great op-ed piece by Robert Redford, glad to hear there are still influential people willing to stand up for the horses.

      In my opinion one of the answers, rather than stop eating beef, lies in either increasing grazing fees to match market value or granting grazing permits only on an income / wealth basis so as to make sure that only those who fall below a set level (namely those who really can’t afford market costs and do not have other assets or fall below poverity levels) are allowed to use public lands. In other words, public land grazing as a last resource / contingency measure.

      It would be interesting to know how many of these welfarized ranchers that are pushing for further land grabs and sale for commercial slaughter of wild horses have indeed leased their properties to oil/gas/fracking interests. Such people should be totally uneligible to hold any sort of grazing permit on public lands. Let them use their own resources before resorting to what belongs collectively to us all.

      November 8, 2014