Multi-Millionaire Cowpoke Ladd Drummond, whose little “missus” is Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman), rakes in Taxpayer Dollars

by Debbie Coffey                      Copyright 2015                   All Rights Reserved.

It has been 2 1/2 years since the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last gave the public a tour of any BLM Long Term Holding Pastures, which are used to warehouse once wild horses that were rounded up by helicopters used by BLM contractors and permanently removed from America’s public lands.  So much for the BLM’s claim of transparency.

Millions of readers follow Ree Drummond as she blogs about ranch life, her children, and her husband, whom she calls Marlboro Man. Photograph by Sylvia Plachy.   Millions of readers follow Ree Drummond as she blogs about ranch life, her children, and her husband, whom she calls Marlboro Man. Photograph by Sylvia Plachy. (Source: The New Yorker)

Ladd Drumond, his brother Tim and their dad, Charles, are partners in Drummond Land and Cattle, which has a BLM contract for Long Term Holding pastures for our wild horses.  Ladd is married to “The Pioneer Woman,” Ree Drummond, a Food Network cooking show host/blogger/photographer/cookbook author who writes folksy blogs about her life on their ranch in Oklahoma.  Kind of like she’s a pioneer woman.  Except in real life, Ree is wealthy and has both a house and a nice lodge on her ranch.  (Nothing like the real pioneers, who had to trod across the plains in a covered wagon.)

In a 2013 article on Modern Farmer about America’s 100 Top Landowners (“The who’s who of modern American land moguls”) the Drummond family was listed as #17 (the 17th largest landowner in the U.S.), with “433,000 acres.”

While some of this land may belong to other Drummond family members, Ladd and the little missus are getting by.

It was estimated that Ree’s blogsite income was about a million dollars or more per year just from display advertisement alone.  She also makes dough from her Food Network cooking show, her cookbooks,  her book, the movie option based on her book “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels,” based on her life (and persona) as “The Pioneer Woman.”

But Ree didn’t exactly fall off the back of a turnip truck.  Her father, William Dale Smith, is an orthopedic surgeon and Ree grew up on the grounds of a country club in Bartlesville, OK.  Ree went to the University of Southern California, lived in Los Angeles, before she met Ladd.

Besides all of the fingers Ree has in other pies, she and Ladd renovated a building for an office and a deli in Pawhuska, OK, near the ranch.  It’s good to know Ladd won’t starve, especially since he claims he only makes $100,000 profit per year.

He seems too modest.  From 1995-2012, Drummond Land and Cattle has received $1,573,102 in USDA farm subsides. $81,458 of the subsidies were since 2011, when Ree started her cooking show on the Food Network.  Let’s just look at 2003-2012, when Drummond Land and Cattle has had the BLM contract to warehouse wild horses:


Income from Tax Payers

 (Ladd Drummond photo:

(Ladd Drummond photo:

To be fair, Ladd did seem to try to save a bit of money by using his kids as ranch hands.  Here’s a photo of Ladd and Ree’s little cowboy son in the saddle in the top photo. (He’s the short one in the brown jacket.)  However, the BLM contract requires that the horses have “management by individuals who are knowledgeable and experienced about the behavior and nutritional requirements of equines…”  (I assumed this meant adults, not 7 year olds.  Or adolescents, who aren’t listed on the contract as key personnel.)  Other people have noticed the child labor, too.

On Nov. 9, 2010 the BLM had a tour of the Drummond long term holding pasture, but only allowed credentialed media. However, at a blogging event held by Ree Drummond, bloggers got to see and take photos of the wild horses.    And although you can no longer see many wild horses on any public lands, or even on the private property where the BLM warehouses them, Ree and Ladd and their friends can see the wild horses right out of the windows of their house.  Any time they want to.

Ree has written stories about and posted photos of our wild horses on their property on “The Pioneer Woman” blog, uses photos of the wild horses at the top of her facebook page, and uses footage of the wild horses running on the promo for her cooking show.  Could her use of these photos/video of our wild horses have made her image seem a little bit more “pioneer-like,” and, in part, contributed to her (and also Ladd’s) fame and personal financial gain?

It seems like Ladd Drummond wrote about the wild horses on Ree’s blog (after articles about Ladd Drummond were posted on this website).  Boy, his writing is so good that it almost seems like a professional PR person wrote it!

Ladd, Tim and Charles Drummond, partners in Drummond Land and Cattle, are listed as key personnel on the BLM contract.  A 2007 story in Tulsa World revealed that Charles R. Drummond, his sons Ladd Drummond and Tim Drummond, and nephew Thatcher Drummond, received more than 40 speeding tickets in the state in the last decade.  At least 18 of those were dismissed in their home county.

The article states: “The four members of the Drummond family have been clocked by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol driving 95, 97 and 112 mph, all speeds listed on tickets that have been dismissed by judges in the county.  Although the Drummonds paid a fine and court costs on all dismissed tickets, the tickets do not go against their driving records.

And here’s my favorite part of this story: “Osage County Special Judge John Boggs, who approved many of the dismissals as an assistant prosecutor and later as a judge, said he had no idea how fast the cited speeds were…Boggs said he had been to several bar association parties at the Drummond ranch but does not believe that he gives the family special treatment.”

The Pioneer Woman has written about Ladd’s cousin, Thatcher Drummond.  Thatcher, who seems to have been arrested for speeding and driving under the influence in 2008, is the son of Tom Drummond, who was a president of the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association, on the tax committee for the National Cattlemen’s Association, and chairman of the tax committee for the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association.

The Drummonds are active in the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, which was listed on United Organizations of the Horse original website as opposing the prevention of cruelty to equines bills that make it a felony to market, transport, consume or use of horses for human food.”

Charles R. Drummond seems to be listed as a partner of Drummond & Hull Oil Company.  Charles and Ladd Drummond have been listed as shareholders and on the Board of Directors of a company called, an e-commerce company that provided pharmaceuticals to office-based physicians., was previously called, which was previously called Golden Pharmaceuticals.  According to a 1999 Los Angeles Times article:

“The Internet is a financial miracle.  Just ask Santa Ana-based Inc.  Three months ago, it was a dog of a company called Golden Pharmaceuticals Inc. that lost money in 13 of its previous 14 quarters and had been virtually ignored by investors.  It also is a defendant in 47 lawsuits in three states related to personal injury claims by consumers who used the Phen-Fen diet drug combination it sold.

Since the BLM places our wild horses on private property, this invites questions about the people who oversee the horses and about the proximity of the horses to homes and to activities in the area, as well as any supposed “oversight” by the BLM.

While the Pioneer Woman seems nice and I’m sure we’d all like to race through town (don’t worry about any speeding tickets) to go visit and have some blackberry cobbler, there’s a nagging feeling about the unfairness in seeing a select few people have the privilege of unfettered access to our wild horses, that we, The American People, don’t have access to any more.  Even while our tax dollars pay for every aspect of the BLM’s mismanagement of the Wild Horse & Burro Program.

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.

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



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.

BLM selling wild horses & burros like used cars

imageprint (2)
A mare/foal pair in the sale program because they were offered 3 times on the Internet adoption

by Grandma Gregg
Remember when we saw how the BLM was posting lots and lots of wild burros online in order to get them 3-strikes fast so they could sell them to Guatemala?   Recently, and now, the BLM is running our wild horses (and burros!) through the same way – like used cars – and are advertising them for sale on the internet.  (A few links and pics attached, but there are many more online – see the links – and a “new” internet adoption is starting in a few days.)
The BLM is doing this because they can’t use Tom Davis to dispose of horses anymore – so they’re now advertising them to get rid of them as fast as they can, and as I know from personal experience … all the buyer has to do is sign a paper that says they won’t send them to slaughter.  BUT the BLM will NEVER check on them and the buyer can then sell them that same day to another person and bye bye … off to slaughter.
Nobody EVER, EVER, EVER, checked on my wild horse, ACE, and I could have sold him that same day to a kill buyer.
The internet “adoption” has become a bargain “fire sale” clearance rack for our wild ones.  The BLM has to make space for the horses they’ll be rounding up in upcoming roundups.

?????????? in the sale program because he was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption

Sex: Gelded Jack Age: 4 Years   Height (in hands): 12.2Necktag #: 4325   Date Captured: 11/01/10Color: Gray Captured: Born in a Holding Facility

#4325 – (Freezemark 10184325)
4 yr old Gray Gelded Jack. Born Nov 1, 2010 at CAF56 Ridgecrest Regional Wild Horse & Burro Corrals.

This Gelded Jack is in the sale program because he was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption. If you are interested in purchasing FM 10184325 please contact Palomino Valley at (775) 475-2222 for the paper work.

Pickup location Palomino Valley Wild Horse & Burro Center Reno, NV

imageprint in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption

Sex: Jenny Age: 3 Years   Height (in hands): 12.2Necktag #: 4584   Date Captured: 10/01/11Color: Brown   Captured: Outside an HMA

#4584 – (Freezemark 11184584) 3 yr old Brown Jenny. Gathered October 1, 2011 from Outside Herd Area in California.

This Jenny is in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption. If you are interested in purchasing Freezemark 11184584 please contact Palomino Valley at (775) 475-2222 for the paper work.

Pickup location Palomino Valley Wild Horse & Burro Center Reno, NV


?????????? in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption


?????????? in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption


imageprint in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption


imageprint in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption


imageprint (1) in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption

and many more…

Misrepresenting Wild Horses At The New York Times

Announcing The Daily Pitchfork!

They state “The human-animal relationship is not only central to our economic lives, but it bears directly on the environment, food and public safety, policy-making and even basic constitutional rights.”

And most importantly, “Accurate animal journalism is journalism that follows clear and proper guidelines, relies on credible sources, presents accurate facts in the most appropriate language, embraces real science and data, and includes a range of perspectives, including those of animals themselves.  These qualities are fundamental to the media’s mission and, as such, they are central to ours.”   

Thanks to Vickery and James for taking the time to dig for facts to give much needed accuracy.  Below is a recent article by Vickery. SOURCE:  The Daily Pitchfork

Misrepresenting Wild Horses At The New York Times

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

Rated: F

Article Review:

As Wild Horses Overrun the West, Ranchers Fear Land Will Be Gobbled Up

New York Times  –  Sep 30, 2014

How much disclosure does the media owe its readers?  Two New York Times articles illuminate the complexity of this timely question: “Hidden Interests, Closer to Home,” by Public Editor Margaret Sullivan (Sept. 20, 2014), and “As Wild Horses Overrun the West, Ranchers Fear Land Will Be Gobbled Up,”by Times staff writer, Dave Philipps (Sept. 30, 2014).

Sullivan’s and Philipps’ articles bookend a discussion about think tanks exploiting op-ed pieces (or other articles) to advance policies in a way that obscures conflicts of interest.  Sullivan’s article clarifies the Times’ position on this issue.  She writes, “For [Times’] readers to evaluate ideas, they need to know where they’re coming from — and who might be paying for them.”  A related corollary is that to evaluate ideas, readers also need access to accurate data and context.

But Philipps’ story, which appeared ten days after Sullivan’s essay, accomplishes neither of these objectives.  In fact, it repeatedly violates them, despite Sullivan’s presentation of them as essential to the Times’ editorial mission.

The relevant policy under examination is the federal government’s Wild Horses and Burros program.  Philipps suggests that reducing costly roundups and slaughtering horses held in captivity would fix the problem by lowering the expense of long-term holding facilities, where close to 50,000 horses now languish.

There’s just one problem: both Congress and the U.S. public oppose that “solution.”

Rather than address the concerns of Congress, Philipps quotes a couple of self-interested Utah ranchers who predictably claim that an over-abundance of wild horses are eating their cattle out of house and home, threatening the horses’ and ranchers’ existence, and costing taxpayers a bundle.  He adds the perspective of a sympathetic wildlife biologist and a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manager for support.

An overpopulation story—especially one exposing federal spending that goes against the public’s interest as expressed through their elected officials—is essentially a numbers story.  Philipps’ story, however, doesn’t provide a proper accounting.

The population numbers he uses—48,000 wild horses roaming free compared to a maximum sustainable herd size (called Appropriate Management Level) of just 26,000—aren’t reliable.  These figures are BLM estimates.  They are estimates, moreover, that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) sharply criticized as inaccurate in a 398-page, 2013 report (“Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward”).

The BLM itself commissioned the NAS report, but Philipps, in failing to mention the study, neglects the NAS finding that BLM roundups increase horse populations (p. 5-6)that the BLM underutilizes fertility control (p. 303); and that conducting “business as usual” is unproductive (p. 14).

These omissions are only the tip of an iceberg of confusion.  Philipps did not provide Times readers with the relevant context. For example, readers should have known that of the 155 million acres of western rangeland that the BLM oversees for public grazing, 83 percent has no wild horses on it at all—just privately owned cattle and sheep.  The remaining 17 percent is designated as wild horse habitat, but horses share it, yet again, with privately owned livestock, which are allocated 77 percent of the forage there, according to Zachary Reichold, BLM senior wild horse and burro specialist.

The BLM doesn’t explicitly provide the number of privately owned livestock on public lands, but those numbers can be gleaned by visiting its Rangeland Administration System (RAS) database, where public grazing allotments are tracked.  There you can learn that, in Utah’s Beaver and Iron Counties—where the ranchers Phillips interviews blame the horses for compromising the rangeland’s health—it would be a physical impossibility for horses to overrun the landscape.  Notably, the RAS shows cattle and sheep there outnumbering wild horses by almost 11:1.

Nationally, cattle outnumber wild horses 50:1 on BLM-managed lands, contradicting the Times claims of wild horses “overrunning the West,” “gobbling up land,” “causing long-term damage,” and fleecing taxpayers.  It’s true that public rangelands have deteriorated from overgrazing.  But there’s no evidence that wild horses are to blame.

But there is evidence that livestock are.  Damage caused by private livestock grazing is confirmed by watchdog groups such as Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility(PEER) and Western Watersheds—and that’s without even analyzing the immense cost to taxpayers of the federal grazing program. The issue is analyzed here.

Philipps also neglects to mention the massive gas development deal announced back in 2012 on 1.1 million acres of mixed federal, state and private land in Carbon and Sweetwater counties.  This land is the Wyoming “checkerboard” from which the BLM has just finished removing 1,263 horses—a roundup that Philipps attended as a reporter.

The BLM states that the Wyoming roundup was carried out at the request of private land owners and had nothing to do with horses eating too much or being in danger of starvation.  Who made that request has not been made clear.  A FOIA request sent to the BLM back in April seeking that information has still not received a response (as of today).

In her September 20 article, Ms. Sullivan, The New York Times Public Editor, notes disclosure lapses in several recent Times op-ed pieces and articles, quoting a reader who complains: “the NYT may be unwittingly aiding and abetting the very manipulations of public opinion and government policies that it publicly deplores.”  This claim could easily be made about Dave Philipps’ fact-challenged, selectively reported, and lopsided article.

Editor’s note: Both Ms. Sullivan and Mr. Philipps were asked, via e-mail, to comment on the claims in this article.  They never responded.  The New York Times corrections desk did not respond to the editors’ request for corrections either. 


Vickery Eckhoff – Co-founder and Executive Editor

VICKERY headshotVickery is a New York City-based writer whose investigation of wild horse politics and the underground horsemeat trade has produced 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 animals in the media.  Contact:

James McWilliams – Co-founder and Senior Editor

James iJAMES_headshots a writer based in Austin, Texas and a professor at Texas State University.  His books include Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly (Little, Brown) and A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America (Columbia University Press).  His writing on food, agriculture, and animals has appeared in The Paris Review (online), The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper’s, The Washington Post, Slate, The American Scholar, Texas Monthly, and The Atlantic.  He’s a columnist at Pacific Standard and his literary non-fiction has appeared in The Millions, Quarterly Conversation, The Los Angeles Review of Books and The New York Times Book Review.  In 2009, he won the Hiett Prize, a national award given annually to a pioneer in the humanities by The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.

The Destruction of Our Wild Burro Herds Accelerates

After being chased by a helicopter and roped and kicked by this wrangler who is paid with our tax money, this wild burro is then further abused by being pulled by the ears.  Photo by Carl Mrozek

After being chased by a helicopter and roped and kicked by this wrangler who is paid with our tax money, this wild burro is then further abused by being pulled by the ears.
Photo by Carl Mrozek

What will be the fate of our captured Wild Horses and Burros?  With the past evidence of our wild horses and burros “disappearing” under the supposed “protection” of BLM and with the past BLM record of roundup brutality … I am afraid to even think about it … but it is happening NOW … and the few Wild Burro Herds that remain on American soil will disappear forever unless the unwarranted roundups and removals are stopped.

In March of 1981, 648 American wild burros were secretly shot and killed under direction of the U.S. Navy at California’s China Lake Naval Weapons Center.  The Animal Legal Defense Fund – stepped in after they heard about the 1981 mass murder and were able to save some burros.  Then in 2011 China Lake NWC captured and removed more burros and the “word” was that they are doing it because the burros had  been seen eating the LAWN of the office!  Now, it appears that ALL burros from both the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station and the nearby Centennial Herd Management Area (not managed for burros) will be captured and removed in the immediately. $148,245 has already been allocated to Cattoor Livestock Inc. for the roundup, which is due to start on January 16 and continue through January 20.


CNN aired this shocking video of a BLM contractor knocking over a wild burro with the helicopter skids.  The footage was captured by film maker Carl Mrozek.

Here is an example of how BLM “plays the game” (i.e. BLM’s deception to the public):

BLM states on their 2015 winter gather schedule that 20 burros will be captured from NE California’s Twin Peaks HMA but the actual legal (cx) document clearly states they plan to capture and remove from 90-110 of our wild burros!  This is another example of BLM’s deception to the public regarding what they say to us (the public) versus what they REALLY plan on doing.

At the 2013 BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting, Dr. Lori Eggert, University of Missouri, said that genetic diversity of burro populations are well below what you would see in healthy populations and that 12 burro HMAs have populations between 2 and 49 animals.  Those herds are far below the population numbers for genetically healthy herds.

According to a 2007 Wild Horse & Burro Capture Status Report obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by American Horse Defense Fund, 12% of the burros rounded up in March of 2007 were dead within six months of the gather.  That’s a far cry from the 1-2% BLM is so fond of sharing with the public.

The following account from an article in AMERICAN HERDS reveals a chilling insight into what happens behind the scenes, away from public scrutiny:

“An eyewitness exposed how yet another lone burro was run for miles via helicopter until it collapsed.  If this weren’t enough, contractors then proceeded to jump up and down on the helpless burros rib cage and belly, grabbed its ears and repeatedly slammed its head into the ground until, finally satisfied, walked away to leave the burro to die a long and agonizing death.”

America’s Federally Protected Wild Horses and Burros deserve better than this!


The Burros at China Lake – Animal Legal Defense Fund

Welfare ranchers trying to keep their hands in the cookie jar

While wild horses & burros are removed from public lands FOREVER, the mooooochers continue to try to mooch off of public lands.

Dustin1   Dustin Van Liew   (photo:  Public Lands Council)

Dustin Van Liew, the Exec. Dir. of the Public Lands Council, (who’s also the Federal Lands Director of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association)  makes the unsubstantiated claim that livestock AUMs have been suspended on a “quarter of U.S. grazing land.” It seems doubtful that Liew has ever closely reviewed the BLM’s Rangeland Administration System website.  If he had, he’d know that many grazing allotments haven’t had any AUMs suspended.  However, he was right on the money when he stated that “ranchers consider permits property.”


Ranchers Wary of Proposed BLM Handbook

by John O’Connell

Livestock grazing on BLM lands near Price, Utah.  Photo:  BLM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Cattle industry leaders fear ranches throughout the West stand to lose value and access to potential rangeland if the Bureau of Land Management implements a proposed change to its grazing handbook.

BLM bases grazing densities on animal unit months — the amount of forage a cow would need to subsist for a month.  Dustin Van Liew, executive director of the Public Lands Council, explained most grazing permits include a percentage of AUMs that still exist but have been suspended based on poor grazing conditions. Those AUMs may be reactivated once conditions improve.

In the draft version of the BLM’s updated handbook, which offers guidance on how BLM rules should be implemented, the agency has proposed to give field managers authority to remove suspended AUMs that are unlikely to be active in the foreseeable future when they reissue grazing permits.

Van Liew said ranchers consider permits property, and even suspended AUMs are taxed and carry weight with lenders.  He worries it would more difficult for a rancher to get new land added to a permit than to demonstrate recovery of suspended land.  “Our biggest concern is those suspended AUMs are part of the overall value of a permit to our members,” Van Liew said.  He believes suspended AUMs provide the BLM flexibility to adjust for improved rotations and watering practices and cost nothing to maintain on the books.

Van Liew advises members to be vigilant of suspended AUMs when they renew permits.  He knows of a few cases in which BLM offices have stripped suspended AUMs from permits, apparently anticipating the likely change to the handbook.  The ranchers all succeeded in getting their suspended AUMs restored.

Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott said some of those suspended AUMs were removed from Idaho permits.  “Technically a suspended AUM is still an AUM, and in the right conditions, can be reinstated,” Prescott said.

Dick Mayberry, BLM’s rangeland management specialist, said the proposed handbook update is now under review by state BLM offices, and the agency hopes to release the final version during the summer.  He said a public comment period isn’t required to update the guidance document.

Mayberry said the grazing management handbook was last updated in 1988, based on rules from 1978, and the new handbook will align the guidance with 1995 rules, which make no mention of suspended AUMs.  Mayberry said BLM managers would still have the ability to retain suspended AUMs, provided that they list a reason, and ranchers could appeal decisions to the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Hearings and Appeals.

Mayberry said suspended AUMs have been carried forward for more than 40 years in many cases.  BLM had no figures available on suspended AUMs but Van Liew estimated they could represent up to a quarter of U.S. grazing land.

“From the bureau’s viewpoint, if there are additional AUMs of forage available, we can always allocate those back, and we have a history of who used AUMs, whether they’re suspended or not,” Mayberry said.

An official with Western Watersheds, based in Hailey, Idaho, said he’s unfamiliar with the proposal but supports the concept, noting suspended AUMs are inactive for good reason.

BLM to permanently remove 100 wild horses from Little Fish Lake HMA, but allows cattle to keep on grazing

The BLM plans to permanently remove 100 wild horses from Nevada’s Little Fish Lake Herd Management Area, stating that the wild horses are “threatened by lack of forage from within the HMA.”  However, the BLM will continue to allow the Wagon Johnnie Grazing Allotment permittee to graze 201 cattle for 6 months of each year on 100% public lands. (per BLM Rangeland Administration System information).  We know the number of cattle could be doubled since the BLM counts a cow-calf pair as only 1.

But, what’s really interesting is that a 2014 Forest Service report claimed there were 528 cattle on the Wagon Johnnie Allotment.  Even though the Forest Service notedPermittees should expect that, if drought impacts to plant production occur, they may be required to exit the allotment earlier than normal this grazing season,” it seems that there have never been any suspended AUMs for the Wagon Johnnie Allotment permittee, Colvin & Son, LLC.

So, the BLM continues to let 528 cattle graze while they remove wild horses to a non-viable herd number of 89 (with 50 of those remaining 89 remaining horses given the experimental fertility control drug, PZP).

The managing member of Colvin & Son LLC is the 17 Bar Cattle Co., LLC, in Dammeron Valley, Utah.  The 17 Bar Cattle Company seems to share the same telephone number as Desert Electric, Inc.

Another interesting thing the 2014 Forest Service report stated about another grazing allotment: “Colvin & Son, LLC was allowed double their permitted numbers in Little Fish Lake C&H allotment as per the District Ranger for the 2014 grazing season with the agreement to rest the allotment for the 2015 grazing season.  Utilization studies will be performed by Austin/Tonopah District personnel to determine if the allotment can sustain a permanent increase.

So, during a “drought” in Nevada, which is supposed to last years, another government agency, the USDA’s Forest Service, is considering a PERMANENT INCREASE in cattle grazing.  Go figure.  –  Debbie


Drought Prompts BLM to gather horses in Nevada

Drought Prompts BLM to Gather Horses in Nevada

The BLM plans to gather about 150 wild horses threatened by lack of forage by using a helicopter to locate and guide wild horses toward a set of corrals.     Photo: Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management Nevada’s Battle Mountain District Tonopah Field Office is scheduled to begin a drought-related wild horse gather in the Little Fish Lake Herd Management Area (HMA), near Tonopah, on or about Feb. 8.

The BLM plans to gather about 150 wild horses threatened by lack of forage using a helicopter to locate and guide wild horses toward a set of corrals. Fifty horses will be released back into the HMA, and all mares will be treated with the fertility control drug porcine zona pellucida. About 100 horses will be transported to the Ridgecrest Regional Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Ridgecrest, California, where they will be will be prepared for adoption by the public. A total of about 100 horses will remain in the HMA after the gather.

Drought conditions have persisted throughout Nevada since 2012, leading to pending emergency conditions in Nye County that seriously threaten the health and well-being of these wild horses. The U.S. drought monitor shows the HMA is in severe drought which, coupled with overutilization by wild horses, has left the HMA with limited available forage for the winter. Lack of vegetation and range impacts from overpopulation by wild horses is also affecting important habitat used by Greater Sage-Grouse.

Wild horse gathers due to drought conditions were analyzed in the Battle Mountain District Drought Management Environmental Assessment dated June 22, 2012. A Determination of National Environmental Policy Act Adequacy, and a Finding of No Significant Impact were completed for this gather; the documents can be viewed online.

The BLM will offer public viewing opportunities during the gather operations and will be updating the gather hotline (775/861-6700) with more information. Photos, daily updates, and other information will be available on the Little Fish Lake Gather website.

Horse advocates want to save Heber herd


by  Brenna Goth, The Republic



Three young chestnut, black and chocolate-colored stallions from the wild herd that roams the forest here spent a recent Friday morning lazing in a clearing, offering no clarity on where they came from.

The animals — known by their backers as the Heber wild horses — have drawn support from residents, visitors and an Arizona congressman who say they were born in the wild and should stay there as a federally protected symbol of the West.

But the U.S. Forest Service says few of the horses, whose exact herd size is under survey, are actually descended from the original free-roaming creatures. Instead, the agency argues that lost and abandoned horses have proliferated on public land to the point that the population needs to be controlled.

Rumors of a roundup have swirled in these small Navajo County communities on the Mogollon Rim, where about 2,800 people live. Trucks in the forest, helicopters overhead and unanswered questions led some to fear capture of the animals was imminent.

The Forest Service addressed those concerns in a public e-mail this month. The agency said that it’s developing a management strategy for the horses, but that a plan likely won’t be completed until at least 2016.

That’s little comfort for advocates who have fought for the horses before and say they are ready to do it again. A Facebook page started in June with photos and stories of the horses has more than 2,000 “likes” from animal-rights activists worldwide.

Mary Hauser, 61, printed red, white and blue fliers, reading, “THEY NEED OUR HELP!!!!” for the restaurant bulletin boards and shop doors here. Hauser, who has been tracking the horses for years, said she has distributed 500 fliers since September.

“Our American spirit spikes up,” she said.

Wild status

Horse advocates and the Forest Service disagree about the horses’ ancestry. Animal-rights groups took the agency to court over the issue in the early 2000s.

The federal Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burro Act — passed in 1971 to protect the animals from sale and slaughter by hunters and ranchers — led to the creation of the Heber Wild Horse Territory on about 20,000 acres in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.

The Forest Service says the original wild herd likely no longer exists.

The seven horses recorded in the 1974 census dipped to two mares in 1993, according to the agency. It argues that federal protection under the act applies only to the original wild horses and their progeny — not the strays that currently live in the forest.

Wild horses are a genetic mix of the domestic breeds that once escaped from Spanish explorers, Western settlers, ranchers and Native American tribes. They’re not a native species but were determined by Congress to be an integral part of the landscape under the landmark federal act.

“Wild” is a legal status given to unbranded and unclaimed horses on public land.

All the free-roaming horses and burros on public land in 1971, when the act was passed, were designated as wild.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management manages two herds in Arizona totaling about 200 wild horses, according to the agency’s website. The Forest Service also manages several horse and burro territories in the state.

The agencies have the authority to determine how many horses the land can support and whether the herd’s population is managing itself.

In some cases, federal agencies say, domestic horses enter the wild after escaping from or being abandoned by private owners.

“I would estimate a substantial portion of horses out there. … God knows where they came from,” said Ed de Steiguer, a University of Arizona professor and author of a book about the history and politics of wild horses in the U.S.

In 2002, the Forest Service says, the Rodeo-Chediski fire burned fences near Heber, allowing a large number of horses to wander from neighboring White Mountain Apache tribal land and other owners.

Many of them live on forest land not included in the horse territory, the agency said.

Without the legal status of a wild horse, the animals are treated as unauthorized livestock and are “subject to impoundment,” the agency told The Arizona Republic in a statement.

That was the basis of Forest Service plans in 2005 to gather about 120 trespass horses for relocation and sale. At the time, advocates estimated 300 to 400 horses lived on the forest land.

Activists took the agency to court, arguing the horses were descended from the original Heber herd.

Plans were halted under a 2007 settlement requiring the development of a Heber Wild Horse Territory management plan under the National Environmental Policy Act, which allows for public input.

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., spoke about the horses that year during a speech in the House of Representatives. He called them “a most precious natural resource to be preserved for our children and grandchildren who will be able to see them for generations to come.”

The Forest Service says it was consumed with other land-management issues and recovering from the 2011 Wallow Fire, delaying work on the plan until now.

Grijalva said in an e-mail that the horses are a public asset and that he will be monitoring the management plan as it moves forward.

The Forest Service hasn’t proposed a roundup yet. But it did say in a statement to The Republic that the increase of horses has “created conflicts with other landowners and users” of the forest. Parts of the forest are also used for livestock grazing allotments and recreation.

Throughout the West, it’s still unclear what effect wild horses have on the land, de Steiguer said. But Heber advocates argue that there is plenty of space and grass for the herd.

“It’s like taking a drop of water out of a 5-gallon bucket,” said Robert Hutchison, who has lived in Overgaard for nearly 25 years.

On a recent drive through the forest, Mary Hauser spent nearly two hours before coming across the three young horses in the clearing.

“They have not trashed this place,” she said.

Still collecting data

A Forest Service team is still collecting population and environmental data and expects to complete its management plan by 2016.

Backers fear the agency will identify a limited number of horses to stay on the land and gather the rest for euthanasia or adoption.

Federal management of wild horses is controversial throughout the country.

The BLM estimates there are nearly 50,000 wild horses and burros on its land in 10 states. The Forest Service manages an additional 37 horse and burro territories.

The number of free-roaming wild horses and burros is already almost double the number the BLM has determined ideal for a healthy ecological balance. That’s not counting the nearly 50,000 captured wild horses and burros in corrals and pastures as of November, according to the agency.

There’s no long-term fertility vaccine to stop the growth of the free-roaming herds, BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said. The agency does use a short-term drug that lasts about a year.

And adoption rates are down, he added, straining the agency’s holding capacity.

The BLM rebuts claims of using inhumane practices to gather the horses and says it does not sell them to slaughter. But after an adopted horse’s title is transferred to the owner, the BLM no longer tracks the animal.

“There are a lot of success stories with adoption,” UA’s de Steiguer said. “There are a lot of unhappy stories, as well.”

But wild horses have few natural predators and spend most of their time eating and breeding, de Steiguer said. He added that herd populations can double in five years and that it’s likely that — if left unchecked — growth could lead to problems.

“It’s one of those wicked public-lands issues,” he said.

Attachment to Heber horses

The public has sentiment for free-roaming horses, wild or not, de Steiguer said. It gets more complicated when people identify with a specific herd.

Overgaard resident Donna Doss said she first remembers seeing the Heber horses during childhood hunting trips with her father.

“That’s an animal that’s part of Arizona history,” said Doss, 70, during her shift at the Lone Eagle Outdoor Shop. “I go out once a week to see them and the beauty of the freedom of them.”

Hauser frequently follows the washes, meadows and clearings where the “Magnificent Seven,” a band of male horses, and Old Buck, her personal favorite, spend their days. She said she has never touched or fed the horses but has seen births, deaths, fights and tender moments.

The Forest Service plan will be open for public input under the federal process. Advocates are collecting stories about the horses and searching for proof of how long they’ve been there to present to the agency.

“These are my horses, in my forest, on my land,” Hutchison said. “There are some stubborn people that are going to go to bat.”


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