Wild Horse Education

Tax Payer Burden?


Wild horses and burros in federally run holding facilities cost about 50 million to house and feed. Looking at other costs of programs on public land and comparing is vital before we point to this as “the problem.”

As the debate rages on for the fiscal year 2018 final budget, that is usually passed in November the previous year as a “fiscal year” for the federal government begins in October of the previous year, we want to point out a few things to you as you make your calls and prepare comments for the Advisory Board. We have already begun debates on the FY 2019 budget. This creates more ground for underhanded games by industrialists. The following facts are presented as a defense to the federal wild horse and burro program run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). (Please make YOUR call TODAY! https://wildhorseeducation.org/2018/03/19/silence-is-not-an-option/)

Wild horses graze on less than .2% of public forage. Even when the federal government says they are “overpopulated” they still consume less than .2% of public forage. That is because wild horses can legally exist on only 11% of public land and in those tiny spaces, are allotted about 16% of the grass (however  management levels are not based directly in that allocation, they are set lower to allow for population growth).

The word “overpopulated,” used in government speak, simply means over “Appropriate Management Level,” (AML). AML is not actually based on a scientific equation using data based variables. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has failed BLM on data since 1982.

In practice we see removals prioritized on politics, not range or herds health. Occasionally, due to the absolute neglect in managing public land, you will see an “emergency,” that those on the ground saw coming for years, and a removal only after the horses start to suffer.

We need to be clear, wild horses are not suffering because of wild horses.

Federal land is not managed by a bunch of scientists and research biologists trying to balance use and resource preservation. Public land positions are filled with degrees from agriculture schools and business schools. A handful of actual biologists struggle to exist, get hooked on the government paycheck and benefits, and then tag along for the ride.

“Healthy herds on healthy rangelands,” has become a public relations tagline not a mandated mission. Our rangelands are prioritized due to politics and personal relationships, not facts.

As an example we just completed the Triple B roundup in Nevada. Triple B has been rolled into Antelope in one massive removal plan, not management document. The document is large not because it is filled with information on the wild horses, but because it lumps 4 million noncontiguous (not connected) acres into one document. The areas are distinct in elevation, rainfall, forage components, unique populations of horses and wildlife, and are separated by fences and highways. The prioritized area (the first horses removed as a pending government shutdown loomed) had healthy wild horses on moderate to healthy ranges. But killing mountain lions and removing wild horses was a priority for a state that will face severe emergency later this year, in areas in the same district. (note: It feels like one last gift to politics from John Ruhs as he leaves the helm as state director in NV to go run fire in Idaho).

Before healthy herds on healthy rangelands can be an actuality rangeland must become a priority. Removing wild horses for political purposes, satisfying a drinking buddy, or because of failures deep in rangeland management practices, is simply kicking the can down the road.

A valid equation for range management can be reached. However wild horses are only a variable in that equation. It appears on the surface as simply illogical; under the surface it’s layers and layers of laziness, buddy systems and corruption. (When attempts are made to create those equations we need to remember Fish Creek and the fall-out. Fish Creek is still wrapped up in the “BLM buddy syndrome.” That syndrome is illegal and all the participants might surprise you.)

We always like to use this simple video by Earth Fix Media to demonstrate something overlooked when we discuss wild horses. We could not have done a better one that gives such a fast overview of the invalid nature of the equation.


The public land grazing program is the broken equation. Wild horses are a scapegoat for a problem that goes very deep into history and politics. Wild horses are a fractional expense to the tax payer in comparison and only represent that cost because of a larger failure to address rangeland degradation and massive subsidizes that allow it to continue.

At a time when we are talking about killing tens of thousands of wild horses to save money we are not addressing any underlying factor and are even cutting grazing fees on public land. This is politics, pandering and, simply, wrong.

The Federal grazing fee for 2018 will be $1.41 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and $1.41 per head month (HM) for lands managed by the USDA Forest Service. The 2017 public land grazing fee was $1.87. (Please note for a private land rancher these base expenses run about $20 in comparison)

In addition to the change in grazing fees there is now a “sliding scale” template now in play that bases fees on what the profit line reflects, creating on more bolster system of subsidies.

A few more subsidies include; disaster relief (fire and drought), insured business loans on permitted public land, Wildlife services foots the bill for killing predators, rangeland improvement fund (water development etc) is simply deducted from and fees and given back to the whole, reimbursement for animals hit on roads or killed by predators and, of course, wild horses are removed.

To be clear the federal grazing program produces less than 3% of the meat in the US. These programs began during the Civil War to feed western expansion and miners pulling gold from the land to fuel the war effort. Today one casino in Las Vegas employs more people than the entire agriculture industry in Nevada.

Unlike all other industries of that day public land ranching has barely changed.

Think about it? Newspapers have evolved from the pressing of paper to ink by hand, through massive mechanical production lines,  into a digital format. The employment base, resources it uses, and income derived, has fluctuated with the times and the needs of the country. We have had massive bailouts for ranching, and banks, in hard times. We have encouraged the lack of evolution.

As an historic and lawful use of public lands ranching has its place. To allow it to continue to be the greatest surface destructive use of public grazing land, as it has become all but meaningless to the national economy, is wrong. Encouraging an evolution of the equation, as we use subsidizes to change the direction of individual livelihoods, is a better option toward sustainability.

Until we take a hard look at the large equation, how it can all co-exist to create the baseline of “healthy rangeland,” we will continue to scapegoat the wild horse as a “tax payer burden.” We also need to stop the threats, petty politics and unprofessional conduct that perpetuates the “buddy system.”

(We will publish comments to the Advisory Board. However we have never seen that as a priority use of our time. The WHB Advisory has no legal authority except a requirement for it to exist. The board is not made up of experts, in any fashion, but represent a group of novices that represent an interest they benefit from financially. Until a time comes when the Advisory Board is made up of those creating recommendation for the benefit of wild horses, and then those recommendations are then passed on to BLM for integration into a “multiple use, we will continue to see it as a low priority. The “wild horse and burro” board should not be a board of “multiple use first” but of “protection of the resource, the wild horse” first. Then BLM should do any “integration” of recommendation. EDIT: The board meeting was cancelled. Read HERE)


We are continuing to document reality and try to get it into the room. If that fails? We will take it into the courts… one more time.


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Categories: Wild Horse Education