This winter has been long and hard. Wild things move into lowlands when snowpack gets deep in the uplands.
Our public lands lowland areas have been bashed and battered by domestic cattle for over a century. Rangeland health standards have not been met on vast areas of public lands; the primary cause is livestock (explore the PEER map). On many ranges BLM has not even performed (required) assessments. Yet, they continue to authorize livestock use. (Fact: When we asked BLM for the assessments in our ongoing fight for wild horses in New Mexico, BLM simply stated they did not have any and, outrageously, does not need them before approving a removal of wild horses.)
Many in the media, public and Congress have been led to believe that domestic livestock is out for brief periods on public lands. In the vast majority of Herd Management Areas (HMA, or the areas where rangeland is designated for wild horse or burro use) livestock is permitted all year long (or for 10 months out of 12).
Many HMAs in the West are continuing to experience snow and high biting winds. The amount of forage left on centuries of battered landscapes is scant.
Does that mean BLM is requiring livestock to be removed? no. In fact, BLM is approving the feeding of livestock. While livestock is out they have decimated existing forage and now require feeding. (Fun fact: Did you know that some ranchers intentionally graze cattle on sagebrush, even though it contains toxins that cause behavioral issues?)
A recent article in the Elko Times begins by referencing a blizzard in 1949 when “Operation Haylift,” when bales of hay were dropped from the air over grazing areas in rural Nevada for livestock. Public lands ranchers are having to buy hay (like private land ranchers) and will probably be reimbursed through disaster funding offered by the USDA, not mentioned in the article. The article goes on to talk about 2023; the winter of 2023 he has relied on bulldozers to cut through snow drifts, estimating it took 120 hours on the equipment in early January to create lanes “just so we can get to the animals.” (more HERE)
While we have sympathy for the poor cows that get dumped to fend for themselves each year on the range, what about all the grazing animals that have to deal with the weather AND the ranges that have been bashed by livestock? The natural pattern of wild things mould be to move into the lowlands that even in good weather those lowlands are not particularly productive due to livestock.
Outfitters (hunting) are reporting that the winter die off in Wyoming may be the “worst anyone there can remember.”
From the article: “It goes on for miles: dead animal after dead animal after dead animal,” state Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “The antelope are dying by the thousands. Starvation is an ugly thing.”
It has been reported that as many as half of the Antelope in the Red Desert will die as a result of the winter storms. (more HERE)
BLM Nevada put out a press release that they are “monitoring” wild horses that are having a hard time this winter (we assume for removal). Horses can eat sagebrush but it can impact them neurologically if they eat too much; normal behavior resumes after they return to a normal diet.
Is BLM talking about feeding wildlife and wild horses? No, just cows and sheep that battered, fenced and damaged the range in the first place. BLM does not allow you to feed wild horses on the range.
Will BLM even consider keeping domestic livestock off the range so wildlife and wild horses (that survived) can recover? probably not.
Not only do public land ranchers have federal assistance and priority, they get state assistance as well. Arizona has created two multi-million dollar assistance packages that turn ranchers into essentially a “protected class.” (more HERE)
WHE and WLD filed an appeal to address the deficits in the BLM plan to drop hay for livestock. This plan is not justified in underlying paperwork that allows ranchers to leave supplements on the range. As an emergency measure, it ignores the needs of the natural inhabitants of the range and prioritizes livestock… again.
Our teams need to get out to monitor more herds and keep up the fight to protect them. Travel right now is rough and we need to make sure our teams have what they need.
Help keep us in the fight.
Categories: Wild Horse Education