Horse News

Opinion: Cattle Grazing Impact on Public Land

Editorial from the Salt Lake Tribune

BLM Can No Longer Dodge the Truth

As most of you know the BLM’s favorite, trumped up excuse to remove wild horses and burros from their rightful public land is usually centered on range protection from their grazing; even if private cattle out number the native horses 200+ to 1, it makes no difference.  But recently the BLM got caught with their pants down as they tried to interfere with a scientific study and the editorial staff of the Salt Lake Tribune is not impressed, nor are we.” ~ R.T.

“We will be laughed out of the room if we don’t use grazing. If you have the other range of disturbances, you have to include grazing.”

Private Cattle being moved onto Antelope Complex while the BLM was removing wild horses ~ photo by Terry Fitch

The use of public land for cattle grazing is a political hot potato and one that can easily burn the federal Bureau of Land Management. But the BLM can’t rightfully avoid dealing with the practice, no matter how unpleasant, because grazing can ruin riparian areas, dirty public waters and damage wildlife habitat.

And the agency’s mission is to balance multiple uses of public lands so that one doesn’t preclude the others.

Grazing is one of the West’s traditional industries and one that conservative lawmakers in Utah staunchly defend. But science now provides better data on its impacts. The BLM should follow its own policy, which prohibits political interference with, or manipulation of, scientific work.

A court case and a misconduct complaint recently highlighted the BLM’s seeming affinity for ranchers at the expense of a healthy environment. If proven, that affinity should be replaced by a more objective assessment of all factors affecting public lands.

An administrative law judge will rule on a dispute pitting two environmental groups against the BLM’s grazing policies in the Duck Creek area near Bear Lake. The groups have been intensely studying the effects of cattle grazing on native grasses and willows that are essential habitat for the threatened sage grouse. They contend that the BLM renewed grazing leases without doing enough to protect the grouse habitat.

And they dispute a claim by ranchers, local officials and the BLM that the condition of the riparian areas has improved. Those areas entice cattle to trample stream banks and overgraze on plants needed by wildlife.

Meanwhile, in November the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a scientific misconduct complaint with the Department of Interior that says the BLM intentionally removed a study of grazing disturbance from the agency’s $40 million Rapid Ecoregional Assessments project to map ecological trends throughout the West.

Scientists were asked to choose the “change agents” such as fire or invasive species that would be part of the study. According to PEER, when the scientific teams were assembled, BLM managers told them that grazing would not be studied due to anxiety from “stakeholders,” fear of litigation and lack of available data on grazing impacts.

One incredulous scientist was quoted in workshop minutes as saying, “We will be laughed out of the room if we don’t use grazing. If you have the other range of disturbances, you have to include grazing.”

We agree. The impact of grazing is too great to be ignored.

Click (HERE) to comment at The Salt Lake Tribune

36 replies »

  1. Brilliant. Now pick up the challenge of partnering with allies to build this position. The western ranching interests with these grazing permits managed to put their opposition out on the “fringe” for generations, using DoI bureacrats and power to do what they want with the West. It’s time now to bring the position in this article back to the mainstream where it has always belonged. Rehabilitate the position with our “friends,” so we can in turn rehabilitate the land and the habitat.


  2. I’m glad this PEER thing is getting some traction, in Utah no less.

    I hope that for every legal case the plaintiffs (Laura, TCF, etc) use this information to PROVE that wild equines are unfairly and unscientifically removed from their Act granted lands.


  3. I was truly Incredulous when I 1st read about this “little trick” that BLM/DoI attempted to pull!! Glad to see that at least Some of our Public employees are Demanding their own work maintain appropriate Integrity!!
    See “#Complaint of *Scientific and Scholarly MISCONDUCT* –{filed Against BLM!}
    *Intentional Exclusion* of LIVESTOCK Grazing* as a “Disturbance Factor” from *Rapid_Ecoregional_Assessments”. (via PEER link above , OR my Blog comment @ 13, 2011 ) …absolutely Amazing!!


  4. National Cattleman’s Beef Association.
    1301 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Suite 300
    Washington, D.C. 20004
    (202) 347-0228
    Fax: (202) 638-0607
    Send e-mail:

    To the National Cattlemans Beef Association,

    We .the undersigned , are commited to joining onto this beef boycott in order to support all the wildlife throughtout America that is being killed because of the all out attempt to kill ,maime,poison all competive lifeforms on public lands that threaten livestock either through competitive grazing or predatorship of livestock.
    The removal of wild horses from their lawful designated Herd Management Areas, as well as the natural predators that keep their populations under control is no longer acceptable to me as a consummer and therefore I commit to boycotting all forms of beef (except small ranchers who keep their herds (and are certified of doing so) within their privately owned properties).
    As your foundation states below you are suppose to be committed to Environmental Stewartship.
    This is clearly not being done and as a result Americans must use whatever non-violent means to stop the distruction of our wildlife populations now being witnessed from the removal of bison ,wild horses and burros to every other life form that competes with grazing or livestock encroachments.
    Your organizations do this through heavy lobbying reaping a favortism of our public representatives of which we the public cannot compete with.
    We commit to the keeping of this boycott until our wild horses are returned to their rightful HMAs and predators that keep their numbers controlled are allowed to dwell amoungest them as is required under The National Environmental Protection Act and The Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act.
    Therefore be it known to all concern I sign my name and honor to this petition.
    I withhold the right to privacy in regards to my address for fear of reprecussions it may bring forh from any angry members of your organization but I want it to be known that I shall boycott all forms of beef except that stated above until a visable change is made and our wildlife is allowed to return to their rightful places upon our public lands and your commitment to your pledge below is fulfilled.


  5. So, why arn’t the wild horse and burro advocates boycotting beef?
    Time to sacrifice. Only buy from ranches that don’t use public lands. You can find these ranches selling their beef at Whole Foods and other health food outlets.
    I signed. Won’t you commit for the horses and burros as well?


    • Because the point of boycotting beef ( which equines are considered a beef “variety by USMEF) doesn’t stop slaughter. I am not against meat. I am against improperly managed livestock that turn into meat. Horse/Equines are not bred and raised as a human meat source in the US.

      That the government and assh*t owners allow HCHS does not negate the use of animal protein for humans. I have a big problem with the “system”.


    • The public lands beef is truly inconsequential to our economy. It is more about preserving a lifestyle and decades old entitlement complex than anything else.


  6. We have been warned. Grazing leases will just be exchanged for mining and energy projects:
    May 9, 2011 by ppjg
     by Debbie Coffey Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved.
    Investigative Reporter/PPJ
    “Petroleum products and other chemicals could result in groundwater contamination through a variety of operational sources including but not limited to pipelines, well (gas and water) construction, and spills.
    Similarly, improper construction and management of reserve and evaporation pits could degrade ground water quality through leakage and leaching.”
    ”Water wells developed for oil and gas drilling could result in a draw down in the quantity of water in the residential wells”
    So, the BLM finds this to be of no significant impact?
    5)  Also, regarding “a thriving natural ecological balance” and protecting “the range from deterioration,” let’s just take a little peek at two other things: the proposed oil shale and tar sands projects you’re planning in your district (Wyoming, Utah and Colorado).


    • Yep, & NOW this weekend–we have NEWS that overzealous FRACKING practice has already Caused 6–7 EARTHQUAKES! near Youngstown, OHIO over last couple weeks !! {which of course, “could never happen”} ? Think the West is being overrun by Extractives?? it’s completely overtaken us here in WV/PA/OH…& so pervasive that our City had to pass a Law: to keep wells 1 mile out of the town-proper…& LOST in court! Now they can Drill up to 500-625 Feet from your Home!
      {the Only bright spot here…is the sure knowledge that the *haughty Cattlemen* Will also be “undermined” by extractive industry, despite their big Lobby, and there will be 00000 they can do abt ‘their’ truly *ruined* welfare–allotment Range lands.} :[


  7. Thank you Ms Leigh….I hope the PEER information will help you (and other’s cause). They are NOT doing multi-use. We know that…maybe the courts will get it.


    Link to PEER article about grazing. Also more interesting articles at their site.
    Not only is the BLM leasing our public lands for fracking ( See Gasland doc.) but it’s now putting solar panels out in the desert instead of on roof tops and bulldozing the Joshua trees too.
    What next “As the World Turns –Upside Down “?!!


  9. Meanwhile, we need to formulate the blueprint for what we DO want, and get the captives out of danger and back out to the range, where they belong, ASAP
    January 3, 2012 by admin • Leave a Comment
    Some Fear for Wild Horses’ Fighting Spirit as Castration Is Proposed to Thin Herd
    Wall Street Journal
    Dr. Messer, a professor of equine medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia, instead urges the government to euthanize surplus horses. Held in captivity, “they just become a herd of unwanted horses, really,” he said. “They’re no longer a symbol of the American West.”


    • —> no, so now ‘the Symbol’ will become: a broken Fracking well-head at the bottom of a 1000 FT crack in earth, where it lands After the Earthquakes & crust collapse it caused ?!?


  10. So to me the question remains, what do we DO about it?

    The fact is, wild horses and burros can STILL live on wild land in the West, and cattle can still have a home on the range, if that range is well-managed. Energy development can STILL occur on these same lands, if it is all integrated in a REAL multiple use plan. Everything else is a $moke $creen.

    So how do we lift it, and get the mainm body of public lands owners, the American taxpayers all over the country, to take notice? And then say, h – ll no, you aren’t going to hurt my horses!

    It’s my belief that when this happens, things will change.


  11. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to use this comment which I found on a blog regarding the castration of 200 wildhorses in Nevada and thought it was very appropriate, but I will use it anyway so here goes.

    I am a seventh generation cattle rancher who has lived in and around the wild horses of the west [Wyoming – Idaho – Nevada – Oregon] for my entire life. Despite the general perception that most cattlemen do no want the horses on their range, we have supported the wild horses since the inception of the initial legislation protecting them in the 1970’s.

    This article points out how — in the infinite wisdom of the federal government and its innate ability to rationalize their efforts — plan to eradicate the wild horse population. Note in this article they’ve taken a cue from the environmentalist (remember the Snail Darter fish that stopped an entire irrigation project?) and identified the sage grouse as a quasi-endangered species. Please – when did this happen?

    Living in-and-around approximately 300 head of wild horses on the southern Idaho/northern Nevada range, I have never in 30 plus years seen a sage grouse “habitat” harmed by the wild horses. Probably because sage grouse are smart enough to place their nests where it’s difficult for predators to reach and insure other unintentional damaging factors don’t damage them. To have done otherwise the species would long ago have disappeared. For that matter, there doesn’t seem to be a lack of sage grouse on either our Idaho or Wyoming ranges, so what’s the problem?

    As for damaging water habitat, that’s more an issue of poor range management. Horses and cattle – be they wild or domestic – do not congregate around water holes unless that’s the only grass. These are ranging animals by nature and prefer to “eat as you go”. If you want to save a creek/river – shoot a sheep.
    Sheep and llamas are an entirely different matter, and they are notorious for eating all of the grass near streams and watering holes if given the chance. As a matter of range management, we strive to make certain to not overgraze our range and make certain of ample water supplies.

    This is more an issue of simply attempting to balance the USDA’s out of control spending, whether it’s on the Forrest Service’s or the Bureau of Land Management’s bloated bureaucratic budgets. If either of those agencies actually practiced being true stewards of the land, they’ve stop giving away mineral leases, the timberland, water resources and the like to large corporations. All the while assisting them in destroying natural habitat by lacing the west with multiple unnecessary primitive roads that do more to create erosion problems and pollute the streams/rivers.


    • Welcome, Jean. It’s great to get your informative comments from somebody who actually lives on the land. I take it you own your ranch and you don’t use public ranges. Is that true? Some corporations and large ranches lease the BLM ranges and those are the ones who have the millions of cattle and have always hated the wild horses. It is so good to know that you don’t.
      Not only have our public lands been misused by the Forest Service and BLM but the Fish and Game Dept. has killed millions of predators.
      My father raised cattle on his farms in KY and my main complaint about them was how they would defecate in the water. They also caused erosion on hillsides and ruined woods. We have no cattle on our little farm ,and it is still recovering from damage cattle caused that previous owners had.
      I realize ranchers and farmers have a hard time making a living but I hope the day comes when raising livestock won’t be necessary. Since you allow wild horses maybe you could have a bed and breakfast and we could come visit.


  12. “According to PEER, when the scientific teams were assembled, BLM managers told them that grazing would not be studied…because of lack of available data on grazing impacts.”

    So grazing won’t be allowed to be studied to collect data on it, because there is a lack of available data on grazing impacts. Ok, now that logic just plain hurts my head.


    • BUT…alleged over grazing by wild horses, even when out numbered by cattle, is the primary reason for their extraction in almost every EA the BLM shovels out, so if there is no data does that not negate the validity of the EAs?!? DOINK!



      • The other problem is the covert reduction of the herd areas, to include seasonal migration requirements and the arbitrary population sustainability numbers without scientific data.

        I say this PEER situation calls into question every EA ever done.


      • ;D yep, DOINK*, R.T., u are totally right! As is Denise (I think), who states that “the PEER info should call into question every EA that’s been done”….
        However, we know BLM-speak will somehow manage to claim all such comments as “out of scope” or “moot” or “refer to h3QC450z10 HMAP of 50 years ago”….
        * But the More I read of these TOO Rapid REA’s…being extended to “all lands & resources administered by BLM” …to be done ASAP —-the More it really Worries me !?
        So, now we know there are a Few decent *employees & scientists Of Integrity* out there…will it make any difference at all ??
        {& we Knew this; but like Craig Downer, & others, Those of Integrity get so disgusted as to Quit; they are discarded; & easy-to-buy ppl with ‘letters’ replace them? !}
        So…what Will happen about this claim filed of “Scientific and Scholarly MISCONDUCT”, does any one know? CAN they simply Ignore it, like everything else they Choose to ignore ?


  13. Craig Downer understands the principles of IN THE WILD MANAGEMENT combined with RESERVE DESIGN. He has just written another book. This is from a past article on this blog, and
    as has been pointed out by one of our very astute advocates, roundups and removals are POLICY NOT LAW. The FREE ROAMING WILD HORSES AND BURROS ACT is still the Law:
    Dear Sirs:
    Thank you for this opportunity to give input. I have reviewed the E.A. and am disturbed by the repeated arguments that I have read many times before as concerns “wild horse overpopulation,” “multiple use,” “thriving ecological balance,” etc. The employment of these terms to justify what you are planning to do to the wild horses makes a mockery of their true meaning.
    Objectively there is no overpopulation of wild horses in the herd management areas/wild horse territories under consideration. How can there be when the current estimated population of 2,198 wild horses translates into 766 acres per individual wild horse in 1,682,998 acres of hma’s (BLM) or wild horse territories (USFS)? After the proposed roundup to reduce the population by 1,726 to 472 wild horses, there would remain an immense 3,566 acres of legal habitat per individual wild horse. This would be a nearly wild-horse-empty wild horse hma complex. This mocks the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act (WFRHBA) where it clearly states that wild horse/burro herd areas shall be dedicated “principally though not necessarily exclusively” to the wild horses/burros in the wild. This latter is in keeping with the multiple use concept of the public lands (upheld by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act as well as the Multiple Use Act), since the wild horse and burro areas only represent a small percentage of the public lands (ca. 12%). To squeeze their population down to such radically low levels expands the monopoly of livestock upon the public lands as a whole. I detect a biased motivation operating to the detriment of the wild horses and burros. Year after year, this further displaces the wild equids and reduces their numbers, ignores their legal right to freedom and land, further disrupts their natural adaptation where found as well as their self-stabilizing societies, etc.


  14. What kinda 2nd grader people are the BLM??? Even us Canuks learned of the disastrous damaged done to the US from cattle grazing, started way back..about the time when the greatwild west would have been the huge dust bowls, after the cattle of the wests baron were done with the land..Oh ya that was the same time that a person was hung for stealing horses and definitely never eaten…Them same history lessons were never taught in the USA schools where the BLMers went..Most of those cattle ranchers moved to Canada after that..Most learned not to destroy the land here..most..but there were some real stupid ones that did it all over again..lots of them lands are still dust bowls…not sure where them stupids went to..probably back to the states and raised a brood or two that is the BLM clans today..Few of them stayed in Canada also and became the breeding stock for our Government yes boys…


  15. We need to be worried about this. But what is so maddening about it is that the BLM tries to keep pulling this stuff as if the American people were absolute idiots.

    If they were serious about the job they are supposed to be doing they would be tryingmto take care of our natural resources, not our national leeches.


  16. BLM managers said there was lack of data on grazing impacts? The GAO reports have been documenting this for decades and it’s not good. If I remember correctly, one actually said it was causing desertification. Anyone can read them online. Not only have the impacts of cattle grazing been documented but also sheep. Let’s litigate shall we?


    • Right, Lisa. The 1990-91 GAO study found the millions of livestock guilty of range and riparian area destruction and the few thousand wild horses innocent. This study is ignored when it’s been mentioned in EA comments.


  17. Saw the long list of cattle “owners” grazing on PUBLIC lands once and the name that struck me most was “Barrick Gold”. The breaking backs of the taxpayers subsidize these corporations for having their cattle on PUBLIC lands. WE are paying Barrick Gold, one of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, to destroy fragile ecosytems on OUR PUBLIC lands! Yet 40% of our nation’s children live in poverty. We are no longer the United States of America, we are the United States of Corporations.


  18. Corruption, greed and manipulation………that pretty much sums it up. All at the cost of our wild life, our environment and our hard earned tax dollars. Enough!


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