Wild Burros

How much forage does the BLM allow livestock to eat on public lands vs. what they allow for our wild horses & burros?

Fax this to your Congressional Representatives:

SOURCE:  Animal Welfare Institute

“of the total number of livestock and wild horses and/or burros known or authorized to graze within HMAs and their associated grazing allotments, 1.8 percent are wild horses, 0.4 percent are wild burros and the remaining 97.8 percent are livestock.”

We encourage all people interested in public lands issues to be sure to read the Animal Welfare Institute report (2012) Overview of the Management of Wild Horses & Burros.  AWI presented this to the National Academy of Science.  Although this report was issued in 2012, the issues are all current.  This report gives an excellent overview of wild horse & burro issues and the mismanagement of the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse & Burro Program.  We will be pulling out a few excerpts for some articles, since this report counters all of the false information by sources at the recent National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board meeting, by the livestock grazing activists and in the media.

AUM is Animal Unit Month – The BLM has defined this as the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. (AML is Appropriate Management Level)

Pages 145-149 of this AWI report indicate the following:

 Figure National – 7

For the ten western states occupied by wild horses and/or burros, BLM data reveals that the total number of authorized AUMs for 2011… included actual AUM use of 8,297,403 for cattle, yearlings and domestic bison, 53,119 for domestic horses and burros, and 708,280 for domestic sheep and goats.  The 2011 estimated combined population size for wild horses and burros within HMAs was 33,805, while the combined high AML for wild horses and burros was 26,576.
These figures correspond to AUMs of 31,537 (for the estimated population) and 25,225 (based on combined high AML). Consequently, the number of AUMs for livestock within the ten western states in which wild horses and/or burros are found are 287 times the AUMs based on estimated wild horse and burro population size and 359 times the AUMs for wild horses and burros based on high AML.  It is worth noting that, in a number of instances, the permitted use AUMs designated by the BLM were well in excess of the active AUM level (amount of use that could be allowed); a discrepancy that could not be explained by a BLM official.
Figure National -8
According to the BLMs Rangeland Administration database (accessed in September 2012), a total of 4,565,208 livestock (i.e., cattle and yearlings, domestic bison, domestic sheep, domestic horses and burros, and goats) have be en grazed on the estimated 669
allotments found entirely or partially within HMA boundaries within the past BLM billing cycle. This equates to 4,286,252 permitted use AUMs. When adjusted to compensate for the percentage of each allotment found within or outside of HMA boundaries, the total number of stock grazed is 1,302,259, which correlates to 1,626,450 seasonal/annual permitted use AUMs. When compared to the combined high AML for wild horses and burros for 2012, which corresponds to 299,562 annual AUM s, total livestock AUMs on HMAs is 5.4 times higher than the AUMs for wild horses and burros.
This is only an estimate since livestock use is not consistent across an allotment. This is because the animals tend to utilize those portions of an allotment that are most suitable in regard to water, forage, shelter, and other requirements. For the purpose of this analysis, the number of AUMs and individual livestock obtained from various BLM data sets was multiplied by the percentage of the allotment found within each HMA. Due to the lack of equal distribution of livestock a cross an allotment, these figures may under-or over-estimate actual use.
Livestock authorization and stocking rates are not static, but frequently change over time as a consequence of rangeland condition, economics, environmental factors (such as prolonged drought), changes to allotment permit conditions, changes in the type of
livestock grazed, and other factors. For the ten states that harbor wild horses and burros, livestock AUMs are highly variable. For example, based on BLM data, total livestock AUMs were 9,708,638 in 1996, declining to 9,058,802 in 2011.
In sum, based on the BLM data referenced above, 1,302,259 livestock are authorized to graze within HMAs occupied by an
estimated 24,264 wild horses and 5,017 wild burros as of February 2012. Therefore, of the total number of livestock and wild horses and/or burros known or authorized to graze within HMAs and their associated grazing allotments, 1.8 percent are wild horses, 0.4 percent are wild burros and the remaining 97.8 percent are livestock. At the state, individual HMA, or HMA complex level, these
statistics differ. Regardless of the geographic scale of the analysis, however, the number of livestock grazing on HMAs is far in
excess of the number of wild horses and/or burros.

8 replies »

  1. This is good but most Congresspeople only know about grass by paying their landscape companies to mow their lawns. What they do understand are economics, so they need to see not just how many cattle and sheep are out there (most will assume this is either neutral or a right) but HOW MUCH ALL THIS COSTS TAXPAYERS TO PROP UP AROUND 20,000 PERMIT HOLDERS.

    The grazing program loses well over $100 million annually, externalizes significant environmental costs, necessitates killing of millions of numbers of wildlife at the hands of Wildlife Services, then costs us all even more for the bizarre “management” strategies of roundups, removals, and warehousing brought to us by our paid professional managers, the BLM and USFS.

    Here are some links from a quick search, there are many others:


    Click to access factsheet_Grazing_Fiscal_Costs(3).pdf

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported the federal government spends
    at least $144 million each year managing private livestock grazing on federal public lands, but
    collects only $21 million in grazing fees—for a net loss of at least $123 million per year.1


    Federal Grazing Fees Don’t Pay For Agency Costs

    Federal grazing fees were never designed to make the government money. But the current rates are low enough that the federal agencies who manage rangelands — the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service — recover roughly only one sixth of the cost of administering the grazing permits. That means taxpayers cover the rest.


    The data includes 2014 year-end grazing receipts of $17.1 million published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service (USFS), a figure that equates to a livestock total of 2.1 million cattle. This is 37 times greater than the 56,656 free-roaming wild horses and burros estimated by both agencies in 2014.


    Click to access CostsAndConsequences_01-2015.pdf

    Click to access Ecol.+Costs+of+Livestock+Grazing.pdf









    Lead author Dr Tara Garnett explains the key takeaways from this report: “This report concludes that grass-fed livestock are not a climate solution. Grazing livestock are net contributors to the climate problem, as are all livestock. Rising animal production and consumption, whatever the farming system and animal type, is causing damaging greenhouse gas release and contributing to changes in land use. Ultimately, if high consuming individuals and countries want to do something positive for the climate, maintaining their current consumption levels but simply switching to grass-fed beef is not a solution. Eating less meat, of all types, is.”

    Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-grazing-livestock-climate-impact.html#jCp


  2. Peer-reviewed articles regarding ecosystem recovery after removing livestock:

    At Hart Mountain, the land came back – High Country News, April 7, 2015

    Creating a National Sagebrush-Ecosystem Conservation Area – The Greater Hart-Sheldon Landscape of Oregon and Nevada

    Batchelor, J. L., Ripple, W. J., Wilson T. M., & Painter L. E. (2015).
    Restoration of riparian areas following the removal of cattle in the Northwestern Great Basin
    DOI: 10.1007/s00267-014-0436-2 . See also: ScienceDaily | EurekAlert!

    Beschta, R. L., Kauffman, J. B., Dobkin, D. S., & Ellsworth, L. M. (2014).
    Long-term livestock grazing alters aspen age structure in the northwestern Great Basin.
    Forest Ecology and Management, 329, 30-36.

    Dobkin, D. S., Rich, A. C., & Pyle W. H. (1998).
    Habitat and avifaunal recovery from livestock grazing in a riparian meadow system of the northwestern Great Basin.
    Conservation Biology, 12(1), 209-21.

    Earnst, S. L., Dobkin, D. S., & Ballard, J. A. (2012).
    Changes in Avian and Plant Communities of Aspen Woodlands over 12 Years after Livestock Removal in the Northwestern Great Basin.
    Conservation Biology, 26(5), 862-872.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Debbie, another great post, & IcySpots, for the terrific references: these are keepers. A note of caution: If u fax or email attachments to Congressional offices, their automatic sorting machines will remove your signature leaving only the text, and your message will probably be disregarded. The only sure way to get an attachment to a Senator or Representative is in person or through slow mail, unfortunately. This is where knowing a staffer in the District office comes in handy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congresspeople probably aren’t going to drill down deep into who eats how much forage, and may think more livestock than wildlife is a good thing. What they do understand is numbers, so arguments about forage use should include the related costs.

    The livestock grazing permit program regularly loses over $100M annually, and to that must be added the cost of Wildlife Services to “control” livestock predators and a lot of collateral wildlife, as well as the majority of the Wild Horse and Burro Program since essentially all remaining HMAs include livestock grazing, and equine AMLs are calculated with this competition in mind.

    Boiled down, the grazing program brings nothing to taxpayers but around 3X the cost of the entire Wild Horse and Burro Program right now, not including any other costs. So 325 million citizens are being forced to pay to prop up around 20,000 private permit holders, who also benefit by billions in loans against these grazing privileges. Nice work if you can get it!

    “BLM/USFS combined grazing receipts for 2014 = $17.1 million, for 2.1 million cows/calves.”

    Click to access BLM_USFS-grazing-analysis_2014_Daily-Pitchfork.pdf

    The GAO Reports:
    “The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported the federal government spends at least $144 million each year managing private livestock grazing on federal public lands, but collects only $21 million in grazing fees—for a net loss of at least $123 million per year.”

    Click to access factsheet_Grazing_Fiscal_Costs(3).pdf

    “In fiscal year 2004, federal agencies spent a total of at least $144 million. The 10 federal agencies spent at least $135.9 million, with the Forest Service and BLM accounting for the majority. Other federal agencies have grazing-related activities, such as pest control, and spent at least $8.4 million in fiscal year 2004. The 10 federal agencies’ grazing fees generated about $21 million in fiscal year 2004–less than one-sixth of the expenditures to manage grazing.”

    Click to access d05869.pdf

    “In fact, 2014 BLM and USFS livestock grazing receipts ($17.1 million) show the equivalent of 2.1 million cattle outnumbering 56,656 federally protected wild horses and burros (WHB) by 37:1 on our nation’s public rangelands. These privately-owned livestock are allocated 97% of western forage on all 251 million acres. This is compared to 3 percent allocated to 56,656 wild horses and burros occupying just 29.4 million acres. (2) Studies also show cattle, not horses, as the focus of considerable research on domestic overgrazing and a major cause of global climate change.

    Taxpayer-funded livestock grazing on public lands costs more than $132 million dollars per year. Yet only 3% of America’s beef supply comes from these cattle. (1) This is not small mom and pop cattlemen, these are large scale agribusiness ventures ran by the 1% of the wealthiest Americans in the country. While a quiet war wages on between the state and our wild horses and public rangelands; these big business interests will continue to profit as simultaneously, our habitats are exploited and our ecological balance and humanity diminish. Profits have been chosen over the protection and preservation of our precious places and people.”


    Liked by 1 person

    • Barbara, I think a program-wide independent audit is long overdue, but in the meantime horses are (in all likelihood) being killed right now. Those rounded up in WY went straight to private facilities — no branding, no processing, no ID, no traceability, no accountability for nearly 2,000 animals owned by the public, and guilty of nothing but being free born in the USA and living in their legal homelands.

      I think an effort should be made NOW to seek a moratorium on any killing until this audit and a peer-reviewed census of all remaining wild horse and burro populations is completed. This is a manufactured crisis and killing thousands of animals while contracepting the he** out of those still alive is not a “sustainable” management strategy for the public or for these animals in our care by no choice of their own.


  5. The wild horses deserve more respect than they are getting!! Our wild ones may have been returned to the wild, but there is proof they have been here for thousands of years! They DO have a place in our inviroment ! Are cattle wild and deserve to take the place of our horses?? No! Please listen to our petitions to keep the wild horses on the ranges! If need be, use pregnancy protection for the mares! Please! Hear our hearts to save the wild and free! They do have a place in our culture and in our history!


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