by Bonnie Kohleriter
PLEASE CONSIDER TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF WILD HORSES AND BURROS ALLOWED ON
29 M ACRES OF OUR PUBLIC LANDS IN ORDER TO PRESERVE THEIR CONTINUED VIABILITY
CONCURRENTLY PLEASE CONSIDER TO DECREASE THE NUMBER OF ALLOWABLE LIVESTOCK IN
THOSE SAME AREAS TO PRESERVE THE RANGELANDS
THESE STEPS TAKEN WILL PROVIDE A COST SAVINGS TO THE AMERICAN TAXPAYERS
The BLM manages 245 M acres of our public lands and the USFS manages 191 M acres. Wild horses and burros (WHBs) are limited to 27 M acres on BLM land and 2 M acres on USFS land. Only 26,600 WHB are allowed on the BLM 27 M acres and only 2000 on the USFS 2 M acres. In addition, some 400,000 livestock are allowed on the same 27 M acres as well as uncounted wildlife.
The BLM claims it wants “healthy” horses on “healthy” rangelands. The current allowable numbers appear to be arbitrary. The BLM manages 168.25 Herd Management Areas (HMAs) with assigned allowable numbers (AMLs) for each HMA. (See attachment) If assigned numbers are maintained as proposed, 107 of the 138 horse herds and 27 of the 30 burro herds will be genetically compromised and unsustainable. The 1976 FLPMA Act calls for sustainable yields.
Recently horse and burro numbers have increased threefold within these areas. This has put a strain on the rangelands as well as on the relationship between the public lands ranchers (permittees) and the WHB advocates. Livestock are allowed not only on the 29 M acres of BLM and USFS land, but on 229 M acres of BLM and USFS land as well. It is important to keep in mind, the conflict here has to do with the 29 M acres and not with the 200 M acres.
The grazing fee for the public land rancher is $1.87 per cow/calf (an AUM), but the fee for the private rancher is on average $20.10. Taxpayers pay $143 M per year for permittees’ grazing but receive from them around $18 M, a loss of $125 M. The permitees maintain they feed the world but only provide 2.7% of all the US meat from the 229 M acres and ½ of 1 % from the 29 M acres.
To appease the ranchers, wildlife carnivores are destroyed yearly through brutal poisoning, aerial gunning, and trapping costing the taxpayer $60-$70 M yearly. Then to appease the ranchers, massive gathers, removals, and off-range housing of wild horses and burros is also done costing the taxpayer another $60 M yearly.
It is time to consider to increase the number of allowable wild horses and burros on the range to sustainable populations with then applying fertility control measures to maintain and stabilize the herds. It is time to consider to increase access of the WHB into their Herd Areas (HAs), areas around the HMAs that once was where they were found in 1971. It is time to decrease the number of livestock within the 29 M acres to preserve the rangelands. The increases and decreases would more likely insure the continuation of our wild horses and burros on our public lands for viewing and for tourism, and would decrease the costs to the taxpayers for subsidized ranching, for killing the wildlife carnivore, and for holding the WHB in off range facilities.
We as Americans are at a crossroads in regard to the use of our public lands. Do we want our public lands for ranching, for mining, for hunting, for gas and oil fracking, solely for profit taking, or do we want our public lands for connecting with wildlife and with nature, for feeding our soul, or do we want a balance? To ignore the health of our wild horses and burros, to brutally slaughter them on and off the range because only an arbitrary number of 26,600 or 2000 is wanted by a few, and to not avail use of modern day contraceptives as proposed in Zinke’s and Trump’s budget is insensitive, is reverting back to the “good ol’ days of “just shoot ‘em,” and is unconscionable. Have we as a nation forgotten compassion? Have we developed no other tools in our toolbox except to “shove ‘em, “knock ‘em down,” kill ‘em?”
SOURCES OF INFORMATION:
- A Report on the US Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services Program, Revised January 2017, Wild Earth Guardians. In 2014 the cost for killing was $66 M of govn. funds, the latest year currently disclosed, and in 2015 1.6 M were reported killed.
- Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands, Center for Biological Diversity, 2015, Chuck Romanello, Karyn Moskowitz, and Christine Glazer.
- BLM National Statistics and Budget,
- Wild Horses and Burros (WH&B)-The National Picture, 2013, Carla Bauer.
THE HEALTH OF THE BLM WILD HORSES AND BURRO HERDS
Gus Cothran, the retained geneticist for the BLM, states a “minimum” of 150-200 horses or burros should be retained within a herd with 50 effective breeding animals to maintain genetic variability and long term viability with a slow rate of loss. He adds, if herds are adjacent to one another and are intermixing, the 150-200 rule may not need to hold. Then, if the allowable numbers (AMLs) are below 150, 1-2 horses may be imported into a herd to help variability though the 1971 Law says the horses are to be where found. Below are the number of herds state by state with their low allotted numbers. Each herd is given a high and low number. Herds are gathered and removed to the low number, allowed to grow to the high number, and then gathered and removed again.
The BLM currently has 168.25 wild horse and burro herds on 27 M acres of BLM land. Of the 138 horse herds only 31 of them have allowable numbers of 150 or more in them. The other 107 horse herds are genetically compromised. Then of the 30 burro herds only 3 of them have allowable numbers of 150 or more in them. The other 27 burro herds are also genetically compromised. 80% of the herds are not genetically sustainable over time as stand alone herds. The BLM claims some herds intermix, but no formal research has been done to verify these claims. Allowing only 17,000 to 26,600 horses or burros in 10 Western states in 168. 25 different locations appears to render these animals as threatened or endangered as a species. The bottom line is, in spite of the rant of the greedy and monied on our public lands to decimate the wild horses and burros on our public lands, we need to increase their allowable numbers if we are to have healthy horses (and burros) on our public lands.