Study: Livestock Grazing on Public Lands Cost Taxpayers $1 Billion Over Past Decade

Information supplied by The Center for Biological Diversity

BLM’s Welfare Ranching Bedfellows come with a huge price tag…

WASHINGTON— A new analysis  finds U.S. taxpayers have lost more than $1 billion over the past decade on a program that allows cows and sheep to graze on public land. Last year alone taxpayers lost $125 million in grazing subsidies on federal land. Had the federal government charged fees similar to grazing rates on non-irrigated private land, the program would have made $261 million a year on average rather than operate at a staggering loss, the analysis finds.

Click Image to Download Full Report

Click Image to Download Full Report

The study, Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands, comes as the Obama administration prepares Friday to announce grazing fees for the upcoming year on 229 million acres of publicly owned land, most of it in the West. The report was prepared by economists on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Public lands grazing has been a billion-dollar boondoggle over the past decade and hasn’t come close to paying for itself,” said Randi Spivak with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Livestock owners pay less to graze their animals on publically owned land in 2014 than they did in 1981. Today the monthly cost of allowing a cow and calf to graze on federal lands is about the equivalent of a can of dog food. This damaging and expensive grazing program has been broken for years and needs to be fixed. Taxpayers, and the land we all own, deserve better.”

The gap between federal grazing fees and non-irrigated private land rates has widened considerably, according to the study. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service grazing fees are $1.35 per month per animal unit (a cow and a calf), just 6.72 percent of what it would cost to graze livestock on private grazing lands. This is a marked decline from the federal fee being 23.79 percent of non-irrigated private rates when the federal fee first went into effect in 1981.

“The fees for grazing on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands needs to be seriously reevaluated,” said Christine Glaser, an economist with GreenFire Consulting and author of the report. “Over the past three decades the fee formula has clearly decoupled public grazing fees from the development of private, state and other federal agencies grazing fees. Bottom line, this formula shields public lands ranchers from grazing rate increases that every other livestock operator has to live with.”

There are about 800,000 livestock operators and cattle producers in the United States. Of those, fewer than 21,000 — or 2.7 percent of the nation’s total livestock operators — benefit from the Forest Service and BLM grazing programs in the West.

“The Public Rangeland Improvement Act subsidizes a small segment of the livestock industry,” said the study’s co-author and former Interior Department economist Chuck Romaniello. “There needs to be a discussion as to what the appropriate level of that subsidy should be, including if there should be a subsidy at all.”

The federal subsidy of the grazing program goes beyond the direct costs and fees. There are vast indirect costs to grazing on federal lands, including the government killing of native carnivores perceived as threats to wildlife, wildfire suppression caused by invasive cheat grass facilitated by cattle grazing, and expenditure of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds from protecting other species threatened by livestock grazing. “The full cost of the federal grazing program is long overdue for a complete analysis,” the study said.

John Holland, Pres. of Equine Welfare Alliance, with an update on horse slaughter, on Wild Horse & Burro Radio (Wed., 1/28/15)


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Guardian’s Wild Horse Meat Story Contains 92% Beef

Photo: Jennifer Maharry

Rated: F

Article Review:

Why You Really Should (But Really Can’t) Eat Horse Meat

the Guardian  –  Jan 09, 2015

Michael Moss’ powerful New York Times’ investigation into the United States Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center (“U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer In Quest For Profit”) predictably outraged readers. The collective angst came not just because of the center’s ghoulish and inept experimentation; not just because the research animals suffered to boost profits in the livestock industry; but because the public learned that taxpayers had footed the bill — and had been doing so — for fifty years.

Compare that discovery to the recent media attention given to a very similar program, one involving even more animals, conducted to boost livestock industry profits, costing even more taxpayer dollars, and degrading millions of acres of public rangelands in the American West: The Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burros Program (WHB).

The news media regularly covers this program. Articles about wild horses appear daily, in fact. So why is the public incensed over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center while the WHB program goes ignored?

The difference is in the reporting. Coverage of the Meat Animal Research Center (which we review here) was initiated by government whistleblowers within the research facility. An experienced investigative reporter subsequently spent a year researching the claims, largely through Freedom of Information Act requests. Federal and corporate perspectives were handled with appropriate suspicion.

Coverage of the WHB program, on the other hand, is typically sourced almost entirely from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the industries benefiting economically from wild horse roundups: notably, private ranchers holding public grazing permits (though mining and energy development companies profit, too).

If Moss, in his reporting on the Meat Animal Research Center, had turned to the USDA’s web site and livestock producers to ask about doing research to boost industry profits, would anyone ever know about “easy-care sheep” and lambs left to perish in rainstorms courtesy of unknowing taxpayers? Of course not.

But coverage of the WHB program was dominated by those groups making money off it. David Philipps’ New York Times article (“As Wild Horses Overrun the West, Ranchers Fear Land Will Be Gobbled Up,” critiqued here) and Caty Enders’ Guardian piece (“Why You Really Should, But Really Can’t, Eat Horsemeat”) are two cases in point.

Non-industry sources comprise less than 8 percent of the articles’ collective text. The other 92 percent is all industry boilerplate. Enders’ loyalty to the ranchers’ perspective even creeps into her word choices. Notably, she uses rancher lingo to refer to wild horses, calling them “feral.” Her point of view is clear, and it’s 92% bull.

This kind of source bias would be understandable coming from a reporter for a beef industry trade publication. But Enders is a reporter for a major media outlet.

An over-reliance on federal and industry sources is problematic not just for animals, but for the consumers who eat them (and care about their welfare). Enders’ piece notably fails to answer the two questions posed in her own headline: a) why you should eat horse meat, and b) why you can’t.

One reason why you can’t eat horse meat is that some states ban it outright. The larger reason is that Congress passed an amendment banning inspections in horse slaughter plants, preventing them from opening. These facts are well documented in the media, as this January 17, 2014 NPR article exemplifies.

A bipartisan majority supported this amendment because the drugs horses routinely take are banned in food animals. Furthermore, there is no proper system in place to track these drugs, making it impossible to keep tainted horse meat out of the food chain. As a reporter, Enders should have known these facts. And reported them.

Enders’ suggestion that wild horses would be suitable alternatives is equally misinformed. For one thing, wild horses in BLM holding facilities are wormed and vaccinated (therefore not free of drugs banned in meat animals). For another, Congress prohibits the slaughter of wild horses. As a reporter, Enders should have known that, too.

Why did she not? Simple: industry, whom she relied on for her reporting, doesn’t offer this information. The only place you’ll learn about the intricacies of horse slaughter (and wild horse round-ups) is from advocacy groups: the very people Enders and Philipps gave one word of text to for every eleven it handed to ranchers and the BLM.

rapa das bestas photo_Getty_Miguel RiopaAgain, sources matter. Consider, as a final point, the dramatic photo in Enders’ piece showing wild horses fighting, one with its teeth bared and the caption, “Overcrowding on the frontiers of the American west could lead to a depletion of natural resources for wild horses.”

The photo confirms the article’s bias. The problem is that it doesn’t depict wild horses fighting over depleted natural resources in the American West at all. Rather, it was taken in Sabucedo, Spain during a 400-year-old “horse festival” called rapa das bestas, a macabre ritual in which wild horses are driven down from the mountains, wrestled to the ground to have their manes and tails trimmed, and “corralled into a village where they face aloitadores or fighters in this man vs. animal challenge – minus weapons, just bare hands and hooves.”

There’s a reason why complex topics — such as Moss’ investigation into the Meat Animal Research Center and wild horses rounded up by the BLM — require thoughtful digging and reporting. The alternative — an easy reliance on self-interested federal and industry sources — keeps the public in the dark about the inept, incomprehensible and inhumane things that the government is doing with its money. Journalists should not be abetting that corruption. They should be exposing it.


About Vickery Eckhoff (3 Articles)
Co-founder and Executive Editor Vickery is a New York City-based writer whose investigation of wild horse politics and the underground horsemeat trade has produced six radio interviews, a book proposal and more than two dozen articles on, the Huffington Post, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Alternet. As part of her research, Vickery has interviewed Dr. Temple Grandin, local and state legislators, horsemeat-loving chefs, slaughter plant owners, kill buyers, ranchers and officials at the USDA, Bureau of Land Management and other government agencies. She has been a guest speaker at four equine conferences on the topic of correcting disinformation about horse slaughter and animals in the media.
Contact: Website



N.C. Stallion is Young, Wild and Ready for Action

Story By Jeff Hampton as published on

Gus was named after genetics expert Gus Cothran of Texas A&M University, who determined that the Corolla herd needed a blood line from another group of wild horses to stay healthy.

COROLLA, N.C. – Meet Gus, the newest, most eligible bachelor in town. He’s quite a stud – a wild stallion, if you will.

Gus, the Shackleford Banks stallion, was transferred to the Corolla wild horse herd with expectations of adding a different line of wild horse DNA. His genetics are anticipated to help alleviate birth defects found often in the Corolla foals. Photos courtesy of Debra Rothrock, a member of (Debra Rothrock | Corolla Wild Horse Fund)

Gus, the Shackleford Banks stallion, was transferred to the Corolla wild horse herd with expectations of adding a different line of wild horse DNA. His genetics are anticipated to help alleviate birth defects found often in the Corolla foals. Photos courtesy of Debra Rothrock, a member of (Debra Rothrock | Corolla Wild Horse Fund)

His mission? Gather a harem of mares, mate as often as possible and get them pregnant to save the wild Corolla horses. Sounds like a dream job, right?

Well, maybe not so much.

To woo their affections, he must challenge other stallions – many much larger than him.

Did we mention about 50 mares in the herd have been injected with a contraceptive and can’t get pregnant for a year?

Poor Gus. And he’s only 4.

But he’s up to the challenge, insists Karen McCalpin, director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

“It’s all about attitude,” she quipped.

Gus was selected from the wild herd in Shackleford Banks, which is about 150 miles south of Corolla near Cape Lookout, near Beaufort.

Gus arrived in the Currituck Outer Banks in November. His genetics could diversify the Corolla horses enough to stop the increased number of birth defects, McCalpin said.

“This is history-making,” she said. “This is the first time in centuries that new DNA from another wild herd has been introduced.”

Two of eight foals born two years ago had birth defects, McCalpin said. Last year, one of two foals was flawed.

Gus was named after genetics expert Gus Cothran of Texas A&M University, who determined that the Corolla herd needed a blood line from another group of wild horses to stay healthy. Small populations tend to interbreed, causing birth defects. The herd of about 100 horses is down to one maternal line, McCalpin said.

“That’s not a good place to be genetically,” she said.

DNA tests indicate the horses descended from Spanish mustangs left here more than 400 years ago. The herd divides into smaller groups typically led by a stallion. They roam the dunes, maritime forests and neighborhoods in the northern Outer Banks four-wheel drive area above Corolla. Tourists pay hefty sums to take tours in hopes of spotting a few.

A bill submitted in Congress for the third time would permit the herd to grow to between 120 and 130 horses, a better size for genetic diversity, according to Cothran. The bill has died in the Senate in each of the earlier attempts.

A new management plan that does not limit the herd size was signed recently, McCalpin said. The former plan kept it to 60 horses. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, desires a smaller number to check habitat damage.

Meanwhile, year-round residents are reporting sightings of Gus. Some are accurate, some are not.

“All these spottings,” McCalpin said. “He’s like Elvis.”

NY Aqueduct Horse Deaths Cited in Call for Federal Regulations

Story by Mike Clifford of Public News Service

“These animals do end up at slaughter, they are pumped full of drugs, it is unhealthy for people and it should be banned.”

Advocates for animals say the record number of horse deaths during the Winter Meet at Aqueduct is a sure sign that federal regulations are needed. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Advocates for animals say the record number of horse deaths during the Winter Meet at Aqueduct is a sure sign that federal regulations are needed. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

NEW YORK – It has been a deadly season for racehorses at Aqueduct and animal advocates say the time has come for federal regulations.

A dozen horses have died at Aqueduct since the current Winter Meet started in December. Brian Shapiro, the New York state director of the Humane Society of the United States, says the New York State Racing Authority has failed when it comes to protecting the health and safety of racehorses.

“It really is horrible,” says Shapiro. “These animals are being pumped full of drugs. Casino gambling is fueling this, and it points to, once again, the lack of the state authority to be able to regulate itself.”

The New York State Racing Authority announced emergency measures following the three most recent horse deaths this month. In a written statement it said it was exceeding recommendations made by a 2012 task force on racetrack health and safety.

Shapiro disputes that, saying it has not followed through on all of the suggestions. He says things won’t change until there are uniform federal regulations for horse racing.

Shapiro says the slaughterhouse is where some racehorses end up when they are no longer able to compete. He says unlike other forms of agriculture, there is no way of knowing where the horses are coming from when they go to slaughter and he hopes New York lawmakers will take action.

“It could be a companion animal, it could be a horse from a petting zoo, it could be a racehorse, it’s indiscriminate,” says Shapiro. “These animals do end up at slaughter, they are pumped full of drugs, it is unhealthy for people and it should be banned.”

Shapiro says he expects a measure that failed to garner enough votes last session will be resurrected soon in Albany. He says it would outlaw sending New York horses to Canada for slaughter; and prevent them being slaughtered in New York should a slaughterhouse be opened in this state.

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet

Submitted by Grandma Gregg ~ words by Edward Abbey

“‘Feel Good Sunday’ and it is time for us to ‘feel good’ about ourselves and what we do; so Grandma Gregg’s submittable for today strikes home in more ways than one.  Take a deep breath, please, and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.” ~ R.T.

A recently traumatized wild horse reaching out to R.T. Fitch at BLM's Palomino Valley holding facility ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

A recently traumatized wild horse reaching out to R.T. Fitch at BLM’s Palomino Valley holding facility ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“Devoted though we must be to the conservation cause, I do not believe that any of us should give it all of our time or effort or heart. Give what you can, but do not burn yourselves out — or break your hearts. Let us save at least half of our lives for the enjoyment of this wonderful world which still exists. Leave your dens, abandon your cars and walk out into the great mountains, the deserts, the forests, the seashores. Those treasures still belong to all of us. Enjoy them to the full, stretch your legs, expand your lungs, enliven your hearts — and we will outlive the greedy swine who want to destroy it all in the name of what they call GROWTH.

God bless America — let’s save some of it.

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet!” 

― Edward Abbey

Horse activists ejected from BLM meeting

by Kurt Hildebrand as published in the Record-Courier

Wild horse rights activists said they were ejected from a public meeting held by the Bureau of Land Management and lost their hotel rooms in the process on Thursday night.

The members of Friends of Animals, who flew across the country to protest at Thursday’s meeting on the Pine Nut Resource Management Plan, had a different definition of public comment than the agency did.

BLM Project Manager Colleen Sievers said that the meeting was to explain how to comment on the document, which is in the draft stage. The bureau didn’t have a court recorder present to take comments at the meeting.

After Sievers was done, Edita Birnkrant, director of New York Friends of Animals, grabbed the microphone and unfurled a yellow banner, and as some members of the audience booed, said the BLM was abusing wild horses.

The microphone was turned off after short time, but Birnkrant continued to yell…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story and to comment

Police seize 27 horses, charge Galveston woman

By CHACOUR KOOP as published in the Galveston Daily News

“Here at SFTHH we try not to support one rescue or another so as not to have any hard feelings but this one is close to home and up until recently I sat on the Board of Directors for years.  Jerry Finch, founder and president of Habitat for Horses, has been saving horses for decades and is one of the finest folks you would ever be lucky enough to meet.  This story is just one example of the great work that Jerry and HfH volunteers do; Hats off to HfH.” ~ R.T.

Shawn Loupe, with Habitat for Horses, walks one of 28 horses seized Wednesday in Jamaica Beach.  ~ JENNIFER REYNOLDS/The Daily News

Shawn Loupe, with Habitat for Horses, walks one of 28 horses seized Wednesday in Jamaica Beach. ~ JENNIFER REYNOLDS/The Daily News

JAMAICA BEACH  – Galveston police on Wednesday seized more than two dozen horses found in poor condition and being held in a large pen used by a riding business.

Terri Glenn, 45, of Galveston, was charged with cruelty to livestock animals, a misdemeanor, and was being held in the Galveston County Jail on $7,500 bond, according to jail records.

Glenn is the owner of S-n-G Horseback Riding, according to the business’ website.

Law-enforcement officers and workers with the rescue group Habitat for Horses arrived at the property in the 17300 block of FM 3005 in a caravan of police cars and four livestock trailers to load 27 horses. The animals, many of which were showing ribs and losing tufts of hair, appeared to be malnourished, officials said.

“None of them are in what we would consider pristine health or excellent health,” said police Sgt. Joel Caldwell, who oversees the city animal services unit. “There’s three that are literally in danger of death or serious bodily injury.”

Because three horses were in serious condition, police seized the entire group, Caldwell said.

The horses will be taken to Habitat for Horses’ facilities to be examined and receive medical care, food and water. Police and veterinarians will conduct further investigations to decide whether any additional charges will be filed, Caldwell said.

Jerry Finch, president of Hitchcock-based Habitat for Horses, said the main goal will be to rehydrate and feed the animals on a diet of high-quality coastal hay.

“When they get thin like this, heart murmurs start because of a lack of food and their heart and muscle was being eaten away,” Finch said. “They’re in a very precarious situation right now.”

Click (HERE) to comment at the Daily News

Public comment sought on Pryor wild horse population control programs


photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BILLINGS – The Bureau of Land Management Billings Field Office is beginning a public comment period on an environmental assessment which analyzes the continued use of fertility control on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, the agency said in a press release Tuesday.

The agency is accepting public comment and is requesting any information, data or analysis pertinent to the environmental analysis for 30 days beginning Jan. 20, 2015. The environmental assessment is available for review by visiting the field office website at

Fertility control has been used to control the wild horse population since 2001. The current fertility control program began in 2011 and expires this year. A new proposal, based on the results from existing and previous treatments, is being developed.

“The Billings Field Office is excited to be on the cusp of nearly eliminating the need for wild horse removals due to the use of fertility control administered in the field,” said Billings Field Manager Jim Sparks.

The environmental assessment looks at two alternatives. The proposed action was developed based on results from the 2011-2015 fertility control using a vaccine. It is composed of a specific treatment prescription along with allowing for other management steps depending on changes in the wild horse herd.

The no action alternative is the continuation of existing fertility control treatment.

Comments can be emailed to by Feb. 18, 2015. Written comments may be mailed or hand delivered to James M. Sparks, Billings Field Office, 5001 Southgate Drive, Billings, MT 59101.

The BLM will issue a final decision at a later date.

The agency warned that including your address, phone number, email address or other personal identifying information in your comment to be aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask the agency in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, it cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

If you have questions or would like to request a hard copy of the EA, please contact Jared Bybee at the Billings Field Office at (406) 896.5223.

Ginger Grimes & Julie Smith of Dust Devil Ranch Sanctuary for Horses, on toughening animal cruelty laws in Utah, and Elsa, the horse found starving and frozen to the ground, tonight on Wild Horse & Burro Radio (1/21/15),


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