Horse News

Surprise, Surprise: BLM and USFS Fail to Identify, Track, Penalize or Deter Unauthorized Welfare Livestock Grazing on Public Lands

Source: The Wildlife News

“…but both the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service have PLENTY of time to exploit, harass, roundup, hold and spread rumors and bogus propaganda about a handful of federally protected wild horses and burros on their rightful public land.  Something is WAAAAAYYY out of alignment and skewed totally to benefit federally subsidized welfare ranchers…the “Good Ole Boy Club” smells more like rotting fish than simple cow poop!” ~ R.T.

“The report also highlights the extent to which public lands livestock grazing is heavily subsidized by American taxpayers.”

Giant BLM Bovine Mowing Machine ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Giant BLM Bovine Mowing Machine ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week detailing the extent to which the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have failed to follow agency regulations in documenting and penalizing unauthorized or trespass livestock grazing on federal public lands. The report, entitled Unauthorized Grazing: Actions Needed to Improve Tracking and Deterrence Efforts, was requested by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee. The request came in response to several high profile cases of trespass grazing and a recognition of the devastating ecological impacts it can have on wildlife habitat.

The report came to several important conclusions. Trespass grazing is pervasive and causes widespread degradation of public lands, agencies do not document it adequately, and the Forest Service trespass fees are too low to be a deterrent.

The report also highlights the extent to which public lands livestock grazing is heavily subsidized by American taxpayers.  In 2016, BLM and the Forest Service charged ranchers $2.11 per animal unit month for horses and cattle, and $0.42 for sheep and goats. But, average private grazing land lease rates in western states ranged from $9 to $39.

In a separate press release, Grijalva stated, “We know we’re leasing public land at well below market value. What we don’t know nearly enough about is the extent or impact of unauthorized grazing on public lands. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management need to bring grazing fees in line with the modern economy and take illegal use of public lands more seriously going forward.”

In addition to the agencies’ failure to document or penalize trespass grazing, the report states that according to agency personnel, “high-profile cases of intentional unauthorized grazing and related antigovernment protests can affect agency decision making regarding enforcement … (and) that not taking enforcement action on violators is likely to encourage more unauthorized grazing.” The report also states that “lack of support from higher-level managers for strong enforcement action does not incentivize field staff to act on unauthorized grazing and, in some cases, lowers staff morale.”

The report also acknowledges the significant ecological damage that trespass grazing can cause. The report states, “(U)nauthorized grazing may create various effects, such as severely degrading rangelands under certain conditions.” This damage was witnessed firsthand by the GAO investigators. “During our field visits, we observed locations where unauthorized grazing had resulted in severely damaged natural springs, overgrazed meadows, and trampled streambeds.”

“Western Watershed Project (WWP) has been documenting these types of abuse for years. Our reports often fall on deaf ears or are purposefully ignored by agency land managers who refuse to follow the law and punish or even document illegal grazing on public lands,” said Jonathan Ratner, the groups Wyoming Director.

Because the agencies rarely track and report on unauthorized grazing, the GAO concluded that the frequency and extent of unauthorized grazing on agency lands are largely unknown. The report found that rather than report and penalize unauthorized grazing as required by agency regulation, agency personnel are far more likely to handle incidents informally with no subsequent documentation. This leads to both a lack of institutional knowledge and makes identifying and prosecuting serial violators much more difficult.

“Trespass grazing occurs far more often than the agencies are willing to admit. We often find cows grazing inside exclosures, in the wrong pastures, or long after the permitted season of use. In fact, this is more the norm than the exception,” said Josh Osher, WWP’s Montana Director.

Even when trespass grazing is reported and the agencies take action, the GAO found that the penalties assessed are often too low to act as a deterrent.  This is especially true for the Forest Service where the penalty for trespass grazing may be even less the cost of permitted grazing elsewhere.  The report points out that agency field staff stated, “that penalties for unauthorized grazing are rarely or never an effective deterrent … some told us that there are permittees who view the penalties for unauthorized grazing as a cost of doing business because paying the penalties is cheaper than seeking forage elsewhere.”

A previous GAO report on trespass grazing in 1990 reached similar conclusions, including “when offenders were detected, BLM frequently exacted no penalties and, for the more serious violations, seldom assessed the minimum penalties its own regulations required. As a result, unauthorized grazing was not adequately deterred, which could lead to degradation of public rangelands, among other things.”  At that time, GAO made recommendations to the BLM including that all incidents of unauthorized grazing be documented and that compliance inspections be expanded to “provide systematic compliance coverage.”  Unfortunately, these recommendations were largely ignored by the agency.

“A culture of willful ignorance is pervasive within the BLM and Forest Service. The agencies rarely inspect grazing allotments and even when violations are found, corrective actions are rarely taken and violators are rarely punished,” said WWP’s Idaho Director Ken Cole.

In this latest report, the GAO makes similar recommendations to the agencies about identification, documentation, and deterrence of trespass grazing. While the BLM and Forest Service generally agree with the conclusions of the report and claim they will make changes to agency policy, based on past experience, WWP is not confident that changes will occur or that local field managers will change current practices.

GAO Report:

17 replies »

  1. I know for a fact that BLM does not give a hoot about livestock trespass and only makes very minor attempts to rectify these trespasses on OUR land by welfare ranchers. I know of many trespass issues that were documented with photos and locations and number and description of cattle and dates of trespass that were reported to BLM and yet it continued for months and months (May through Sept) after being reported to them numerous times with numerous incidents.

    Long story, but eventually BLM did charge one trespass rancher a small token fee but it was far from being what should have been appropriate – which should have been confiscation of the domestic livestock after the rancher failed to remove the cattle after numerous ignored warnings by BLM. In addition, since the rancher had been warned and continued to allow it there should have been major “serious and willful” charges (per the law) but those were dropped by BLM. To top it off, that rancher didn’t even have a grazing authorization for that area!

    One more interesting piece of information … the BLM eventually ONLY charged the trespass rancher for those particular days when the BLM actually saw the livestock and the intermittent days when BLM did not actually see them (didn’t go out and look) were NOT even charged. So did they think that the livestock were only there and only grazed on the days when BLM saw them? Give me a break … these people (ranchers and BLM) are corrupt to the bone.

    PS And that was only the cattle trespass … there were hundreds and hundreds of trespass sheep documented and reported and NOTHING was done about the sheep at all – nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “They” are already counting the money they intend to make.
    This article highlights some of “them”

    Food and Agriculture Groups Express Optimism and Confidence in Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (a few excerpts)

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2015 Leaders from across the U.S. agriculture and food sector have continued to express their optimism and confidence in the newly reached Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Yesterday, trade ministers from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam concluded negotiations for the TPP-one of the largest trade deals in recent history.

    TPP countries accounted for 42 percent of U.S. agricultural exports in 2014, contributing $63 billion to the U.S. economy.

    As food and agriculture groups continue to review the final agreement, they expressed their support in the following statements:

    Statement by Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (American Farm Bureau)
    “The Trans-Pacific Partnership has promised to open restricted markets for American business around the Pacific Rim. The American Farm Bureau Federation looks forward to reviewing the details of the agreement reached today to guarantee it fulfills that promise for the nation’s farmers and ranchers.”

    North American Meat Institute Applauds Conclusion of Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations (North American Meat Institute)

    USHSLA Supports Landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership Deal (United States Hide, Skin & Leather Association)


  3. This deal has been in the works for 8 years. When you look at the timeline, certain things start to add up.
    It was 2008 when the “final solution” FOIA documents were obtained
    It was 2009 when many of us first heard that BLM was going to “euthanize” all of the captured Wild Horses & Burros in holding facilities because they “could not afford to keep them”.

    From OPEN SECRETS (excerpts)
    Millions spent by 487 organizations to influence TPP outcome
    by Will Tucker on October 6, 2015

    For interest groups that sought to influence Washington’s thinking on the massive trade package set to bind together 40 percent of the world’s economy, Monday’s announcement of an agreement on the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was a long time coming.

    Over eight years of negotiations, 487 clients paid lobbyists to meet with or contact lawmakers and administration officials to discuss the trade pact, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of lobbying data shows. “Trans-Pacific Partnership” or “TPP” was mentioned 4,875 times in lobbying filings since 2008, when the U.S. entered the negotiations. (Not included are third-quarter 2015 lobbying reports, which are due to Congress on Oct. 20.)

    The format of lobbying reports makes it impossible to tell exactly how much money companies threw behind efforts to influence those lawmakers and officials on TPP. All told, companies and groups paid lobbyists $2.6 billion while TPP was on their agenda, though that figure includes the companies’ outlays to lobby on all issues listed along with TPP on each report.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you RT for keeping us updated. Shared on FB. When is the world going to listen to our heartfelt issues with the Mustangs and Burros. They belong to us. They do not belong to the government. Aren’t we part of the public?


  5. I wonder how much blm employess pocket in under the table cash for ‘allowing’ this to happen….they are as corrupt an organization as has ever existed.


  6. Here’s what they’re doing in Canada (just posting for FYI). They do ‘cull’ also, so I suppose it’s an improvement? The mindset is the same tho:

    “You can’t just let 1,000 large grazers wander aimlessly through the ecosystem haphazardly and say, ‘Leave them alone, they’ll look after themselves.’ They won’t,” Marry Bates, a retired wildlife warden, told Global News.”

    Why not? We do it with humans and cattle all the time. 😦


  7. Confirmation that BLM and USFS are lawless all the way around. This is the second report that comes to the same conclusions. Other orgs and individual advocates have produced evidence of this for years. Now that Rep. Grijalva has yet more evidence of illegal doings what is he going to do about it? More nothing? Have taxpayers just paid for another useless report? How many millions did that cost this time?
    Grazing fees need to be raised but since Congress is controlled by cattlemen’s friends that proposal will probably fail as it did last time. Meaningful penalties, the kind that do get notice, and confiscations need to start happening.

    Am I confident that any one of those things will occur? Sadly I am not.


    • There are no comments other than mine on this article! Honestly, whether it does any good or not – I don’t know. Anyone who reads WWP reports, already knows this.


  8. The answer is to work the land 6 years then let the land rest or go farrow for a year. The punishment is to let the land rest for each year of abuse, they will pay the fines, but if you take away their grazing rights until they comply then you are getting somewhere. Like everyone else they are trying to make a living, grow a family, but they also need to be responsible for the damage done.
    This did not start yesterday, this started right after the first explorers discovered the lush valleys in the west. The 1920’s dust bowl was from overgrazing and overworking the land. Cattle barons brought herds of cattle here followed by herds of sheep. They got into a huge range war over who was overgrazing the land more. Then we had the great depression and many went broke leaving the devastated land to return to government hands. So, now where are we, they grow cattle on sage brush lands it makes the meat stink and taste bad, then they take the cows to concentration camps and feed them grain to get the meat to quit stinking. Meanwhile they remove the horses on taxpayers dime and move them to huge grassy pastures in the mid-west on the taxpayers dime and have the sage brush ranchers pay a minimum fee to graze. Does the grazing fee money even cover the cost of the BLM range managers? Much less does the money go to restoring the land? This is what it took to restore the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, they took the cattle off the land for 19 years, to be able to restore it.

    Click to access MalheurNWR_FCCP_table_contents.pdf


Care to make a comment?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.