Wild Horse Education

Deranged War (Or the “God Complex” of public land ranchers)

Babies run in extreme heat for miles and miles at Triple B

Babies run in extreme heat for miles and miles at Triple B, where there is intense public land grazing in counties where ranchers hold the government reins.

UPDATE 7/22/2014:

Since this article was first written a number of things have occurred. Trespass livestock has been noted on the range. In one instance trespass cattle in an HMA (where no use is regularly permitted in summer and in areas no livestock should be at all) have been found. The claims of “degradation” due to wild horse use are increasing as instances of undocumented domestic livestock go unaddressed.

Those behind the Nevada Association of Counties legal actions against wild horses have increased their assertions through propaganda that misrepresents the truth. The legal action has now been joined by Nevada Bighorns Unlimited (a hunters group) and Crawford Cattle Company (Crawford entered into an agreement with Inception mining in 2013 for 16,000 net acres of mineral rights in Humbolt and Elko counties 70 miles north of Winnemucca. That puts the interest in the area of the Owhyhee Complex. Wild Horse Education currently carries litigation against unjustified removals in a ten year removal plan in the Owyhee Complex). Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education is also an Intervenor against the NACO claim itself. Briefs will be filed again with the court shortly.

Of note the “Grass March” fizzled after a petition was delivered to Nevada’s Governor Sandoval. Instead they are now camped out in a lot across from the BLM Battle Mountain office “making themselves known” awaiting BLM to cater to their wishes and dismiss the manager responsible for the drought restrictions.

“The NACO case is logically absurd. The case makes broad statements that are not backed up by site specific data. When you look at site specific areas we see decades of over grazing by domestic livestock and in several cases we see illegal use of the range by non permitted livestock.

This summer I have seen cattle in areas that are winter use only. I have seen cattle where there should not be any at any time of year. I have seen salt blocks placed illegally within feet of water sources where cows are present. The assertions that degradation is caused by wild horses is not only unsubstantiated, but an outright lie.” Laura Leigh

(note: we are not saying every permittee is in violation. We are saying that broad claims against wild horses are invalid)


How can you understand why something happens and how to appropriately fight it, if you don’t truly take the time to understand it? This post is not a “sound bite.” We want you to understand more of why we are so very concerned right now for our wild horses and burros on the Western rangelands. We will be writing much  more on this subject in the days to come. It is important that we as an advocacy be ready for the storm.

Much in the news right now is based on sensationalistic misinformation. The intense amount of chest beating always happens in an election year (remember that when you contact your Congressional Representatives. ALL seats in the horse and 48 in the Senate are up for election in November). None of what most media is now reporting really helps to to gain an informed public but will gain hits to their websites and up the price that they can charge for ads.

As our function is advocating for wild horses and burros what we write will be aimed at helping you to understand what is happening and exactly “who” is behind the destruction of our wild horses.

Jackson Mountain where BLM chose to run newborn foals in July while cows grazed on the range, claiming "drought emergency"

Jackson Mountain where BLM chose to run newborn foals in July while cows grazed on the range, claiming “drought emergency”

This article is intended to inform you about how the insanity beginning to happen (Utah County Commissioners threatening the federal government that they will destroy horses while they organize huge demonstrations and drive through sensitive public land areas on ATVs. The Nevada Association of Counties poised to use wild horses as a scapegoat as they sue BLM to destroy wild horses).

We now have a “March,” based on the Ghandi “Salt March,” to take back Nevada’s rangeland for ranchers, being organized in Nevada. This is again being done while waving an American flag and tromping on the rights of other public land users. On Monday, May 26, Memorial Day, a group of Nevadans are planning what they are calling a “Grass March”to publicly protest what they call the “plight of ranchers who are methodically having their grazing rights on federal land stripped away by federal agencies.”

Yes, it is absurd. Public land ranchers re-write history, ignore range conditions, ignore all other rights but their own, receive government subsidies to make more money than most Americans and cost the tax payer more than the entire wild horse and burro program every year. This charade of the “public land rancher” representing the “little guy” in America is more than offensive. Equitable action is not the aim here, the aim is control everything for their own benefit and the heck with the wishes and rights of the rest of Americans.


There is drought. Most states where wild horses and burros exist are in the arid American West. Drought is a natural part of the eco-systems. In normal times every three out of ten years is drought. If you treat a drought stricken range like a healthy one (ie graze as many cows as you can) you create an obstacle to the range recovering, in the years that are not drought, to the productive capacity that they had before. It aint rocket science.

We are seeing a huge semantics game played right now by public land ranchers in the West. They say the “Feds can’t own land. My daddy used it and the feds are unlawfully infringing on me.We were here before them so we get to do what we want. Help us stop them from hurting us.” Basically they are full of the stuff their bulls leave in patties on the range. They fail to tell you that “daddy” basically had “uncontrolled” use of the land, was turning it into another dust bowl, and the federal government realized they needed to step in or we’d have no American West left and began with the Taylor Grazing Act in 34.

To get a background on the current system of public land ranching, how it evolved and the various agencies that controlled jurisdiction go here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/welfare-ranching/ The most important thing to remember is that the federal government “helped” these people through “homesteading” (that gave them land and rights) in exchange for helping America expand West and has continued to provide “entitlements” to these public land ranchers ever since. We have very spoiled children here that have basically been allowed to be the most destructive force to Western grazing land while the government creates subsidy after subsidy to help line these pockets. These “children” have wrecked your house and expect you to give them their allowance and then they want to trash the house even more.

Cattle watching as wild horses are loaded for shipment to holding facilities

Cattle watching as wild horses are loaded for shipment to holding facilities. Image copyright Laura Leigh. Use by permission only.

Today’s Public Land Ranching

Studies that have been published showing that no use is more detrimental to the health of the public lands than livestock grazing. The Center for Biological Diversity published: Cattle destroy native vegetation, damage soils and stream banks, and contaminate waterways with fecal waste. After decades of livestock grazing, once-lush streams and riparian forests have been reduced to flat, dry wastelands; once-rich topsoil has been turned to dust, causing soil erosion, stream sedimentation and wholesale elimination of some aquatic habitats; overgrazing of fire-carrying grasses has starved some western forests of fire, making them overly dense and prone to unnaturally severe fires. Thomas Fleishner wrote in an extensive scientific review at Prescott College: The ecological costs of this nearly ubiquitous form of land use can be dramatic. Examples of such costs include loss of biodiversity; lowering of population densities for a wide variety of disruption of ecosystem including nutrient cycling and succession,, change in community organization; and change in the physical characteristics of both terrestrial and aquatic habitat. Because livestock congregate in riparian ecosystem which are among the biologically richest habitats in arid and semiarid region the ecological costs of grazing are magnified in these site. Range science has traditionally been laden with economic assumptions favoring resource use.”

As an example of the “favorite child” BLMs Total Livestock Authorizations for 2009: 11,063,926 AUMs (Animal Unit Month, or what a cow/calf pair eat)* Total National Forage Allocations for Wild Horses & Burros: 304,482 AUMs.  *AUMs were taken from BLMs 2009 Rangeland Statistics available at: http://www.blm.gov/landandresourcesreports/rptapp/menu.cfm?appCd=6

This “gift” to public land ranchers was done at a loss of more than $120 million dollars to the tax payer in direct receipts. This loss does not cover impacts that are not direct.

Cattle grazing (at the very moment) wild horses were removed during a purported drought in June at Jackson Mountain

Cattle grazing (at the very moment) wild horses were removed during a purported drought in June at Jackson Mountain

As a wild horse advocacy organization we can not even begin to count the number of times we have witnessed wild horses stampeded and removed from the range to accommodate the wishes of ranchers. Ranchers politically influenced what BLM calls “Appropriate Management Level” (AML) of wild horses. These numbers were NEVER based on science only what was “leftover” after livestock got their share (usually between 75-80% of every blade of grass unfortunate enough to grow on the Western range). This would leave 20-25% to be utilized by wildlife or wild horses and burros. This occurred in areas where the intention of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was to protect wild horses as “principle but not exclusive” to the landscape. Instead the law was twisted by BLM to favor livestock that is managed as “principle” on America’s public land.

Water hauls on public land to facilitate cattle. Diamond Complex

Water hauls on public land to facilitate cattle. Diamond Complex in 2012 as livestock destroy the range during drought

Drought Restrictions

In 2012 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began to restrict livestock on public land. Drought is real (just because you want to make your bottom line and graze more cows to keep up with an economy that is hurting everyone, does not make the drought “go away”). However the problem stemmed from the BLM historically giving ranchers priority. What ensued is the equivalent of a temper tantrum. How BLM could have expected anything less?

In an overwhelmingly rancher owned county in Nevada we saw the very first restrictions. The Diamond Complex became ground zero for scapegoating wild horses from the lack of forage on the range. Restrictions occurred in areas where there were no wild horses as well. Yet the traditional scapegoat for the damage privately owned livestock do to the range is the wild horse.

Chart from showing forage allotments in the Diamond Complex. Wild horses at AML are orange, current is blue and green represents livestock

Chart from showing forage allotments in the Diamond Complex. Wild horses at AML are orange, current is blue and light green represents livestock. Even though wild horses were over “AML” they were only utilizing a fraction of the “AUMs” allotted for their use.

The Diamond range was beginning to look like a wasteland in 2012. Livestock producers were still turning out animals. Because of the devastation to the range by domestic livestock and the fencing used to contain them (effectively cutting off half the land of the “HMA COMPLEX” (area for wild horse use) the wild horses were in trouble on that range. Please read our report here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/2012/07/16/diamond-drought-report-issued-by-whe/

The Diamond range sits in an area that has some very powerful ranchers that somehow had much of their land marked “no wild horses” in 1971 after the Act was passed even though they sit between the Diamonds and Triple B (Triple B is a huge area). The restrictions angered that county and the push for the Nevada Associations of Counties (NACO) lawsuit was born. Please read here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/naco/

There is no coincidence that this “Grass March” will end in Battle Mountain. Battle Mountain was the first area to restrict livestock use. A use that should have been restricted decades ago.

Antelope Complex NV wild horses at a BLM holding facility in Utah.  A casualty of public land ranching.

Antelope Complex NV wild horses at a BLM holding facility in Utah. A casualty of public land ranching.


The logic behind the “March” is simply not based on anything but greed. It is in retaliation for restricting livestock, that should be restricted, should have been restricted, and should never have been allowed to rule public land for so long.

If your livestock is restricted due to drought and the potential damage it will cause to an overly stressed range it does not give you the right to take away everything from everyone else. Times are hard for all Americans. Why should ranchers be treated so much better than the rest? Because they are better at threats?

You can read about the March here: http://elkodaily.com/news/new-blm-battle-brewing-over-lander-county-grazing/article_9fea15d6-d4cf-11e3-8650-001a4bcf887a.html

Please note that no litigation was filed in this instance against the BLM. The area has no wild horses. I guess the ranchers reserve that avenue only to destroy wild horses. It seems a bit absurd that one of their arguments is that we need the “grass grazed away” to prevent fires (when there are no wild horses) and when there are wild horses we hear that the grazing done promotes fire.

Things are going to get worse until the drought lifts.

Things are going to get worse until the drought lifts.

Things are going to get become increasingly tense this year. Wild horses and burros will be a huge target as restrictions on livestock happen in areas where wild horses exist. Will this be the year we see BLM “buck it up” and fix the mistakes they made by catering to “welfare ranchers?” Or will this be the year that American Mustangs drop further off our public lands or into serious trouble on the range and die because a spoiled child could not be controlled?

The story of the “Grass March” is just beginning to break. We will have much more for you soon but wanted you to have some background as fast as we could get it to you.


Wild Horse Education is devoted to gaining protections for wild horses and burros from abuse, slaughter and extinction. We need your help to stay in the fight from range through courtroom. http://WildHorseEducation.org/donate


Categories: Wild Horse Education