How wild horses on the Cold Springs HMA in Oregon are being squeezed off of their federally protected land by welfare ranching

ws_splash_2Photo:  BLM

by Grandma Gregg

Read HERE for an example of the way “welfare ranchers” seem to skim money from public funds for their private use to raise privately owned livestock for private profit.


“Welfare” rancher Joe McKay is one (of two) of the permitees for the North Star Mountain grazing allotment.  BLM just announced their 10-year plan to capture almost all of the wild horses in the Oregon Cold Springs HMA (public comments due April 8th).  The Cold Springs HMA is entirely within the North Star Mountain grazing allotment.  The BLM plans to keep the wild horses below a genetically viable population.  Ten years of below ~100 population, along with sex-skewing and PZP should just about finish them off for good.

Joe McKay controls 3957 AUMs in this allotment. (enough for about 330 wild horses)

Joe McKay runs hundreds of his private cattle on our public lands under this permit.

Joe McKay and wife Joyce have received at least $22,608 in federal farm subsidies in recent years per fed subsidies webpage.

A few years ago Joe McKay applied for a grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) for a project on his private land that would include massive destruction of juniper trees and miles of fencing/cross-fencing and even a new water trough for his cattle.  The OWEB is a state agency that provides grants to Oregonians to take care of local streams, rivers, wetlands and natural areas. McKay agreed to pay about half of the about $60,000 cost of these “improvements” on his private property if the OWEB would pay for the rest of it.  It appears that this particular grant was not funded, but the decision board told him how to fix his grant request and reapply for the grant, so it may have been funded or will eventually be funded.

The point is that not only is it bad enough that these welfare ranchers pay almost nothing to graze their for-private-profit domestic livestock on OUR land but they also get federal farm subsidies plus they also get these state grants for improvements on their private property, and worst of all … they are a LARGE reason that our wild horses and burros are captured, removed, and eventually “disappear.”  Wild horses & burros are absolutely being “managed” for extinction.

The other permittee on this North Star Mountain grazing allotment (Cold Springs HMA) is the Michael Bentz family, who have 5,073 AUMs (enough for another 432 wild horses) and who have received at least $300,839 in in recent years from federal farm subsidies.



  1. According to the Cold Springs Environmental Assessment:

    2.3.1 Closure of HMA to Livestock Use
    This alternative was not brought forward for detailed analysis because it is outside the scope of this EA for analysis.

    “the wild horses have a statutory right to be there, whereas livestock only have a privilege that can be revoked at any time by BLM, ”


    “I am also very concerned about BLM’s agreement with RSGA to permanently zero out the Salt Wells HMA and the Divide Basin HMA, leaving no wild horses in those areas that have long contained wild horses. I have been to fifteen of the sixteen HMAs in Wyoming, and to my knowledge none has ever been zeroed out by BLM. It is my view, based on everything I know about these areas and the way these public lands are used by wild horses and livestock, that BLM has no biological or ecological basis for zeroing out a herd of wild horses in an HMA that existed at the time the wild horse statute was passed in 1971, as is the case with both the Salt Wells and Divide Basin HMAs. And, again, because the wild horses have a statutory right to be there, whereas livestock only have a privilege that can be revoked at any time by BLM, there also is no authority or precedent, to my knowledge, for the agency to zero out these two longstanding wild horse herds simply to appease private livestock grazers.”
    Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746, I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
    Lloyd Eisenhauer

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How Much Of Your Heritage, Nobility, And Honor Are You Willing To Give Up, America? (excerpts)
    Capt. William E. Simpson April 21, 2015

    Overgrazing’ of public range land is nothing more than the expected result of the BLM’s intentionally defective management policies, which are designed to scapegoat wild horses as a problem.

    Frankly, it seems that the industrial cattle ranchers clearly will not be happy until they have it all (uncontrolled greed)! And these same industrial enterprises raise beef and sheep cheaply outside the U.S. and then import that foreign meat (and any associated diseases) back into America, thereby unfairly competing with American family ranchers. American family ranchers pay local taxes for the lands they own and use in the production of higher quality American-grown meat, which has a higher cost of production. Unbridled greed leads to nothing but serious problems for everyone.

    And finally, when all else fails in the ruse to disguise the planned extermination of American wild horses, both industrial ranchers and the BLM engage in propaganda that falsely claims that horses are more damaging to the range lands than cattle or sheep. This unsupported fiction attempts to paint wild horses as a current problem on public range lands. It is very well known that cattle and sheep operations have wreaked more havoc on U.S. range lands than all other species combined over the past 5,000 years, as cited by Professor Thomas L. Fleischner, Ph.D. to wit:
    The most severe vegetation changes of the last 5,400 years occurred during the past 200 years. The nature and timing of these changes suggest that they were primarily caused by 19th-century open-land sheep and cattle ranching.
    Added to which, the current ratio of cattle to horses (on lands allocated under the ACT for horses) is at least 300 cows to each horse. The BLM admits to issuing over 8.5 million grazing AUMs (one AUM is issued for each cow, and can include a calf weighing as much as 500 pounds). This means there are likely 10 million or more cattle grazing on the public range lands. If we do the cursory math, dividing 10 million cattle by 31,000 horses, we find that there are about 322 cows for each horse on the range; and the cows and horses are very close in body weight (about 800-1,000 pounds each).

    So a less academic analysis of the alleged ‘damage’ to range land could be explained by any rodeo clown; ‘it’s far better to be trampled by a single horse than 320 steers’!!

    Even though the western United States may seem distant to those Americans who live east of the Mississippi River, the West holds many of America’s most esteemed treasures, including the legendary wild horses of America. We all owe some appreciation for the fact that horses literally helped to build the America we all enjoy today


  3. How Much Of Your Heritage, Nobility, And Honor Are You Willing To Give Up, America? (excerpts)
    Capt. William E. Simpson April 21, 2015

    The BLM currently manages approximately 245 million acres of public American land (not private land), according to this BLM report. And interestingly, they also claim to manage (a form of ownership?) 700 million subsurface acres of American public lands. Of these millions of acres, 53.8 million acres were set aside specifically for the Wild Horses under Congressional ACT in 1971. However, since then, the BLM has been complicit in undermining the spirit and direction of the ACT and has since, acting on their own devices, reduced that Federally (by the American People) mandated land area provided for wild horses to just 58% of what Congress had allotted; it’s now only 31.6 million acres. Why?


    • Thank you Sue –
      Here is that link written out and we must repeat it over and over.
      43 CFR 4710.5 – Closure to livestock grazing.
      Authorities (U.S. Code)

      § 4710.5 Closure to livestock grazing.
      (a) If necessary to provide habitat for wild horses or burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros from disease, harassment or injury, the authorized officer may close appropriate areas of the public lands to grazing use by all or a particular kind of livestock.

      (b) All public lands inhabited by wild horses or burros shall be closed to grazing under permit or lease by domestic horses and burros.

      (c) Closure may be temporary or permanent. After appropriate public consultation, a Notice of Closure shall be issued to affected and interested parties.


  4. I received another email from Madeleine Pickens this am – it seems the BLM is being the BLM – yet again flip flopping on what their agreement is. I have to admit I haven’t agreed with everything shes done – BUT with all the controversy within the wild horse advocates right now – maybe its time we started pulling together! I’m sure the BLM & ranchers love the dissent that’s going on – splitting us apart & making it impossible to accomplish what we all want to – SAVING the free-roaming wild horses & burros!


    A Visit to Stinkingwater: An Oregon Herd (excerpts)

    Good luck finding the main access road into Stinkingwater if you didn’t have lots of tips beforehand. You take Hwy 20 east out of Burns and when you reach the summit and pass a bunch of snow fences you go right across a cattle guard and down an unmarked gravel road. Bill wrote a requirement for signage into the land use plan for all the herd management areas in the District but so far there are no signs, and that was twenty years ago. The reason: money.
    I suggested to Bill that if the district wasn’t spending millions on roundups, then a few signs to let the public know they were driving past (and could drive into) wild horse ranges could be posted.

    I passed several ephemeral waterholes that were dried up this late in the season but were completely stamped with cow prints- not a horse hoof print to be found.

    I drove around the top in a lightning storm with rain – unwise to go down further into the HMA with the roads already slick. I found and photographed many areas with sharp volcanic rock, more salt blocks, more cow damage, bundles of BARBED WIRE , DOWNED FENCES, more cows themselves and no horses.

    More BARB WIRE– let’s have a public clean-up day!! (Picture)

    Early the next morning, we emerged from the tent and I was half-hoping to find a curious band of horses nearby, but found only the same seven cows on the same hill where they grazing the previous night. We walked down to Clear Creek—still no horses. I started to drive back out to the main road, but then, after a mile, turned the car around, opting to drive farther down the small dirt road near camp. I was glad I did. Parking near some MORE DOWNED FENCE AND A LOOSE BUNDLE OF BARBED WIRE I stopped to photograph again, I found horses!

    DOWNED FENCE -hazard for all wildlife (PICTURE)

    From my perch I could see Pluto’s band spook when they began to enter the ravine below me. They weren’t looking up at me so I moved quietly and spotted the reason. It was not their natural predator, the mountain lion, but a cow- perhaps their unnatural predator if you consider the range resources cattle are allotted over the wild horses.

    What if BLM makes the mistake of not clearly instructing the Cattoor roundup crew not to drive in this band? Then I am not at all certain he would survive.

    No promises have been made but observers on the only observation day this Thursday will be looking out for Pluto and all the other horses. Pluto is at incredible risk because he is so young and his feet so tender- but all the other horses are also at in jeopardy. If they can successfully navigate the sharp volcanic rocks, the NUMEROUS BARBED WIRE FENCES and the DOWNED BARBED WIRE- along all the other threats of a summer helicopter roundup- then they face a life in captivity where very few will be adopted into good homes.

    The Stinkingwater range may be well-managed, but it is managed as a cattle ranch with a string of horses and room for game species (deer, pronghorn and elk). Until Secretary Salazar and the BLM are required to manage wild horses as the principle users of their very limited ranges, we are not going to see an end to BLM’s massive roundups. Wild horse and burros populations have been carved down to a pittance where there should be thriving, self-sustaining herds.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cold Springs Roundup (Past History)

    The Cold Springs roundup is to start Monday despite language in the BLM’s handbook and the Cold Springs Decision Record that “The BLM also avoids gathering wild horses by helicopter during the 6 weeks prior to and following the peak foaling season (i.e., March 1 through June 30).”
    They are not abiding by this although when we raised the issue in Stinkingwater (OR roundup planned to start July 1) they delayed until August 18th. As background, the Cold Springs decision record was signed and released BEFORE the allotted comment period was up.

    Tuesday will be the only “public observation day” and that will may not be at the trap site (essential for viewing heath of horses post-roundup) but at a far off observation point. They are citing unwarranted safety concerns they have also closed the entire herd management area despite only having 2 people sign up to try and observe the roundup.

    This really is a sad commentary on a public agency and their management of such a treasure as wild horses.

    BLM’s facts– (no mention of livestock grazing in this same area)


  7. Cold Springs (OR) Roundup update: (Past History)

    158 wild horses and foals have been rounded up over Monday and Tuesday. Another foal has died, this one at the Burns corrals. Avg 2 month old foals or less and their mothers were rounded up and then without adequate time to recuperate, trailered 3 hours to Burns, OR holding corrals. Roundup over now we suspect but do not have updates for today as of yet. One mare and VERY young foal were apart from their band and were not rounded up as decided by chopper pilot but we believe the rest of their family was, putting them at great risk.



    Cold Springs, OREGON – Roundup Update (Past History)

    BLM contractor (Cattoor Livestock) rounded up 47 mares + 15 foals, & 47 studs. 20 went immediately to Burns corrals, 35 will be shipped out tomorrow pre-roundup (3 hr trip). One foal looked strange according to APHIS vet and was not dehydrated but something was ‘off’. They shipped him & his mom to Burns and when they unloaded he was dead. Cause of death not yet determined. Foal was aged at 6-8 months, most foals are 2 months old or less. Horses in great condition overall. They are doing a selective removal of over half the horses- reducing this herd to 45 males and 35 females. Another roundup that is timed for contactor availability and mostly closed to the public. Observation point is 1/2 mile from trap site- today only. Binocs essential.


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