The Rolex Ranchers and the Living Legends
10% of BLM Land Lease Subsidy Recipients are Billionaires and Control 65% of all BLM Lands--
Hoboken, N.J. - infoZine -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Senator Burns deliberately repealed the 'Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971' - also known as 'The Wild Horse Annie Act' - which had protected the wild horses and burros from exactly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 the price.
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 Public Lands Ranching Organization 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.
With a bit of luck and properly placed outrage, H.R. 297, a bill introduced by Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), ranking member of the House Resources Committee and Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), will pass. This bill will restore the 'The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971' to its original language.
Special thanks to Mr. Billy Stern of the Forest Guardians Organization and the staff of the Nevada and Montana BLM District Offices for their kind help.