U.S. Senate Committee Allocates $35 Million For Cattlemen's Plan to Roundup and Incarcerate Wild Horses
Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a Fiscal Year 2020 spending bill that includes a shocking $35 million in funding to implement a potentially catastrophic mass mustang roundup proposal promoted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the so-called “American Mustang Foundation” and other agribusiness lobbying groups and, shockingly, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the ASPCA, and Return to Freedom, a sanctuary.
It could increase the number of horses to 150,000 maintained in captivity at taxpayer expense with no guarantee of funding for their long-term care. "This scheme is the biggest threat to wild horses and burros in the West in decades, and the American taxpayer is going to finance the whole shebang” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action and a lifelong horseman. “If this ghastly plan is implemented, we'll see massive round-ups, swelling captive wild horse populations, and jubilation from cattlemen's associations that secured political cover from the Humane Society of the U.S., Humane Society Legislative Fund, and ASPCA for their long-time aspiration to secure a government-funded wild horse depopulation program."
Key components of the “controversial and dangerous” cattlemen’s proposal includes:
Humane solutions that should be implemented instead:
We might as well call this what it is: “The Path Backward” or “The Path to Extinction,” since they’re reducing wild horses to the number that existed in 1971, stated Ginger Kathrens, Director of The Cloud Foundation. That extinction-level number is what caused Congress to unanimously pass the Wild Horse and Burro Act. This 'plan' will rip tens of thousands of horses and burros from their dedicated land and their families at catastrophic cost to the American taxpayer billions of dollars spent to incarcerate them in cramped corrals for the rest of their lives, except for the few that are adopted. Why? So private livestock interests, (subsidized by the BLM through your tax dollars), can run cattle on public lands. It's time for the American people to stand up and say, 'No more. Not with my tax dollars. There are better programs to spend these billions of dollars on than this.'
Who’s overgrazing BLM lands? Subsidized livestock. BLM data shows it.
The below spreadsheet converts grazing receipts reported by the BLM for private livestock grazed under the public lands grazing program, allowing a direct head-to-head comparison between the number of wild horses (WH) estimated by the BLM and permitted cattle grazing from 2002-2018 (see column 9). What does the data show? Cattle historically outnumbering WH by a factor of 71:1 (in 2002), 92:1 (2007) and 28:1 (2018).
This isn’t the story the BLM tells the public. In fact, the BLM doesn’t publicly report subsidized livestock numbers. It hides them, instead spinning a story of overpopulation and overgrazing by wild horses to justify costly WH roundups, removals, sterilization and sale/euthanasia proposals.
The column 9 ratios prove that justification to be false. And the ratios low-ball how many cattle actually compete with wild horses for water, forage and land, since grazing fees are calculated according to self-reported rancher AUMs and do not reflect underreporting and trespass grazing (like the more than $1 million that Cliven Bundy owed in back grazing fees in 2014). So the actual number of subsidized, privately owned livestock on public lands is likely much much higher.
Other Key Findings:
The identities of the permittees are sometimes obscured by corporate names, but data provided by the BLM shows that the folks leasing great swaths of public land to graze their cattle and enjoy enormous government subsidies include both people and corporations on Forbes “Billionaires” and “Richest Americans” lists (see p. 138 or click here).
When advocates claim that livestock outnumbers and out-grazes wild horses on public lands, this is not an emotional argument or an opinion. It is an argument based on the above data from the BLM and other government sources — data that the BLM doesn’t make available to the public and media, because it doesn’t want them to know…about the cattle, their owners, the damage they cause, and the massive subsidies they are taking from average Americans.
Sources for BLM spreadsheet data:
Column (1) BLM budget justification reports. 2018 $ are estimated. 2002-2017 are actual. (2) BLM website (3) calculated by dividing column 1 by column 2, then by 12 (4) multiply column 3 by 2 to account for 1 animal unit = 1 cow and her calf or 1 horse (5-6) BLM website (7) total columns 5+6 (8) column 4 divided by column 7 (9) column 4 divided by column 5. All data compiled by dailypitchfork.org.
Source: The Daily Pitchfork
Republican Congressman Chris Stewart brought together ranchers, animal-protection advocates and others on Wednesday to brainstorm solutions for protecting wild horses.
Evocative symbols of the American West, wild horses have also become a thorny national political issue that's often left ranchers and animal-protection advocates at odds.
Congress budgeted more than $80 million for the wild horse program last year, but the U.S. Bureau of Land Management overspent that by more than $2 million. Stewart has introduced an amendment to a recently passed House spending bill that gives the BLM more authority and a $15 million funding increase for managing horse populations. The U.S. Senate also included provisions in its version of the Interior Department spending bill that address wild horses.
But the opposing sides agree money alone is not the answer.
"Everyone agrees the problem is untenable the way it is," said Stewart after the closed-door meeting ended Wednesday. "There's wide agreement—I would say 90 percent agreement—on what it's going to take to fix it.
That includes capturing and removing from public land about 90,000 horses so they won't compete with livestock and wildlife for food and water.
Stewart said the solution also means settling on an effective sterilization program that would allow the BLM to remove the ovaries of wild mares. Sterilization would prevent herds remaining on the range from growing fast. The target is to hold herd numbers steady at roughly 27,000 horses.
U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, brought together groups that are typically at odds for a discussion of solutions for the nation’s wild horse program.
Among the groups that attended were:
They asked Stewart to continue the talks.
Nancy Perry, a lobbyist for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the national program for wild horses is at a crossroads.
"That's causing everyone to come together, put aside our differences and ask, 'What can we do together on this issue?'" Perry, who also attended the roundtable, said.
Beaver County Commissioner Tammy Pearson, who is also a rancher, conceded that solving the wild horse problem will take collaboration and time.
"We've had years and years that we've been saying, and begging and pleading to get this done," said Pearson. "And the problems have been that BLM has been restricted in what they can do."
Stewart, who calls himself a horse lover, said no one wants to see the horses, the land and rural Utah communities suffering. In a previous version of his amendment, Stewart gave the BLM authority to euthanize healthy horses in government corrals. But that's no longer part of his proposal.
"This coalition will stay together because we truly love these animals," said Stewart, adding that some wild horses in southern Utah are starving to death. "Most people think that's not a great outcome for them."