West! It is time to round up the American taxpayers’ dollars
back into their wallets and grant the wild horses and burros the
freedom to exist. The Bureau of Land Management correctly refers to
wild horses and burros as 'Living Legends.' However, since Senator
Conrad Burns (R-MT) added his now infamous amendment to the 2005
Omnibus Appropriations bill, these 'living legends' are available to be
rounded up and sold 'without limitation through auction et. al.' to the
highest bidder. That bidder could be a ‘killer
buyer’ who will take the animals to the nearest foreign owned
slaughterhouse – most likely in Texas as Illinois is rather
inconvenient. Once these animals endure the trip while tightly packed
in trucks, they will meet the ‘captive bolt’ gun.
This method of driving a bolt into the animal's skull –
developed for bovines - may or may not render the horses and burros
unconscious as required before ‘processing.’ The
thought of any animal being bled and butchered while conscious is
horrifying. Their flesh will then be sold as a gourmet
delicacy in Europe and Japan.
Senator Burns deliberately repealed the 'Wild Free-Roaming Horse and
Burro Act of 1971' - also known as 'The Wild Horse Annie Act' - which
had protected the wild horses and burros from exactly the fate
described. The BLM states the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption program is
being heavily promoted; roughly half of the wild horse and burro
population of the United States has the tremendous misfortune of living
in the state of Nevada.
Within the State of Nevada, the Bureau of Land Management administers
almost 48 million acres of public land. BLM public lands comprise 67
percent of the entire area of the state. 45 million acres are leased
primarily by cattle ranchers, but there are some sheep and goat
ranchers. The remaining acres are allotted for the wild horses and
burros, however the horses and burros overlap onto the leased land.
An ‘animal unit per month' is comprised of the forage
necessary to feed one cow and one calf, or five sheep, or
five goats. Lessees pay $1.79 per month for each AUM. Wild horse and
burro AUMs are comprised of one horse or one burro. Nevada BLM reports
there are currently 1,370,366 AUMs being consumed on 45 million acres
of public land. With millions of public grazing acres available in
Nevada, why are the wild horses and burros perceived as such a problem?
The forage in Nevada is somewhat sparse and there is competition for
grazing between the 100-200 thousand cattle with most spending the
entire year on BLM land, and the 28 thousand wild horses and burros in
that state. This begs the question of why 28 thousand wild horses and
burros are considered "competition" to the 100-200 thousand privately
owned cattle, and some sheep and goats? The Nevada BLM is correct about
the competition for forage, however, upon inspection, it becomes
evident that this 'competition' is unnecessary. Also evident is that
the American taxpayers are unaware of exactly who
the lessees are that their tax dollars are subsidizing, and the
complete lack of understanding that Congress has regarding
environmental management. Laws enacted by Congress have given the BLM a
huge task and a huge problem and the wild horses and burros are paying
Paul Rogers of the 'San Jose Mercury News ("Cash Cows" page
2S, column 2 Nov. 7, 1999)' (Original source:
Forest Guardians) performed nine months of
research that included studying 26,000 leases. Mr.
Rogers’ research revealed that 10% of the total grazing
leases are held by lessees that control 65% of the total public land.
Furthermore, these lessees include billionaire ranchers and
corporations such as Ted Turner, Baron
Hilton, Mary Hewlett-Jaffey,
JR Simplot, Annheiser-Busch, and the
Hunt Oil Company of Dallas. The
reports that the federal grazing program operates at a loss, costing
taxpayers at least $500,000,000 annually. This figure includes direct
program costs and millions of dollars spent on emergency feed, drought
and flood relief, and predator control to support or mitigate damage
from public lands grazing.
In Nevada, the cost to the government for maintaining the wild horses
and burros for one year is $794,760.00. The cost to the lessees to
graze their privately owned livestock for one year is $2,452,955.14.
The BLM fee, when compared with an average of $12 on private land in
the west, is quite a bargain for the ranchers.
In reality, the wild
horses and burros are not the problem, rather it is the privately owned
livestock grazing on public lands subsidized by American taxpayers at
great expense. It is important to note that cattle are
‘static’ animals in that they do not move much and
they destroy the ground. It takes ten years to reclaim land
destroyed by cattle, and longer in arid areas such as Nevada. The
cattle grazing on public lands are ‘anecdotal’ to
the beef industry as they comprise a mere 2.5% of the total beef
consumption in the United States. Why is this
allowed? Perhaps the land leases in Nevada - at least -
should be nullified.
The wild horses and
burros need not be rounded up in Nevada, rather the privately owned
livestock do. Congress must actually read the
bills they pass and demand much more ‘intelligence’
regarding public land management. Congress must enable the
Bureau of Land Management to perform its primary function: to
protect the public land and the wild life that lives on it.
We all know how the 'Tale of the Rolex Ranchers and the Living Legends'
will end. This is an American tragedy and it should not be this way.
© March 17, 2005 by Ellen-Cathryn Nash
Manes and Tails Organization
Special thanks to Mr. Billy Stern of the
Forest Guardians Organization
and the staff
District Offices for their kind help.