Researcher Marybeth Devlin has corrected the misinformation in an OpEd in the Daily Caller, found HERE. This inaccurate OpEd, titled “It’s Five Minutes To Midnight: The Wild Horse And Burro Tragedy,” more aptly should’ve been titled “It’s Five Minutes to Bullshit: Let’s Ignore The Livestock Grazing Tragedy on Public Lands ” The OpEd was written by Barry L. Perryman, a professor of rangeland ecology at the University of Nevada, Reno. Our thanks to Marybeth Devlin for setting the record straight, and for allowing us to share her comments (below) with you.
Barry L. Perryman, who did not mention livestock grazing on public lands once in his inaccurate OpEd
by Marybeth Devlin
Tragedy … or travesty? The “overpopulation” of wild horses and burros is a pernicious lie. The government doesn’t have a wild-horse problem — the wild horses have a government problem. Overpopulation is a fraud. Birth control and roundups do not fix fraud.
Arbitrary management level (AML): The maximum number of wild horses that BLM says the Western range can sustain — 26,715 — is a political construct. BLM uses the AML to concoct the perception of a crisis. BLM must have a crisis. Why? Politically, agencies have to justify their existence. They must show they are needed. Nothing works better than a perceived “crisis” to secure continued and even increased funding. It’s a way to protect jobs and paychecks. BLM then chooses high-cost management-methods, such as multi-million-dollar contracts for helicopter-roundups — contracts against which the agency can add on its 20% administrative fee.
Sparsely populated, widely dispersed: Wild horses are few and far between. Per the 31,583,386 acres — 49,349 square miles — of dedicated wild-horse habitat across the Western states, the AML establishes a maximum stocking density of 1 wild horse per 1,182 acres — nearly 2 square miles. Imagine if cattle were held to the same standard! However, many herds are more severely restricted. Here are examples of stocking densities that BLM deems “appropriate” in Nevada.
1 wild horse per 3,102 acres ( 5 square miles) — Antelope Complex
1 wild horse per 3,566 acres ( 5½ square miles) — Triple B Complex
1 wild horse per 6,606 acres ( 10 square miles) — Eagle herd
1 wild horse per 9,591 acres ( 15 square miles) — Silver King herd
Contrast with livestock density: To put this in perspective, nationally, BLM allows a stocking density of 1 cow-with-calf pair (or 5 sheep) per 76 acres, which means 8 cow+calf pairs (or 40 sheep) per square mile. Further, within dedicated wild-horse habitats — where the mustangs are, by law, supposed to receive principal benefit of resources — livestock are often awarded 90% or more of the grazing slots. Examples from Nevada:
96% of AUMs to livestock — Antelope Complex
94% of AUMs to livestock — Triple B Complex
Normative annual herd-growth = at most, 5%: Gregg, LeBlanc, and Johnston (2014) found the average birth rate across wild-horse herds to be just under 20%. But they also found that 50% of foals perish before their first birthday. Thus, the birth rate is just a temporary blip in the data. Starting with the surviving-foal rate (10%), and then subtracting a conservative estimate of adult-mortality (5%), the expected normative herd-growth rate would be, at most, 5%. At that rate, it would take 14 years for a wild-horse herd to double. Meanwhile, the corresponding growth-rate for wild-burro herds is 2%. At that rate, it would take 35 years for a burro-herd to double.
Fraudulent figures on the range: Why am I and other advocates persuaded that there can’t be anywhere near as many wild horses as BLM alleges? Because BLM’s herd-growth figures are falsified. Repeatedly, we find BLM reporting one-year increases that are 50, 100, even 200 times the norm, far beyond what is biologically possible. Examples:
237% — 47 times the norm — Great Divide Basin — WY
260% — 52 times the norm — Shawave Mountains — NV
293% — 59 times the norm — Diamond Hills South — NV
317% — 63 times the norm — Jackies Butte — OR
418% — 84 times the norm — Black Rock Range East — NV *
522% — 104 times the norm — Salt Wells Creek — WY
525% — 105 times the norm — Carracas Mesa — NM **
1,218% — 244 times the norm — Centennial — CA
1,257% — 251 times the norm — Carter — CA
* BLM claimed the Black Rock Range East’s population grew from 88 horses to 456 horses in one year, an increase of 368. If so, that would mean each filly and mare gave birth to 17 foals.
** BLM claimed the Carracas Mesa population grew from 12 horses to 75 horses in one year, an increase of 63. If so, that would mean each filly and mare gave birth to 21 foals.
Fraudulent figures off the range
: A report was just released following a 5-year investigation by Wild Horse Freedom Federation. It revealed that BLM has been publishing fictitious figures regarding the number of wild horses removed from the range and now supposedly boarded in private pastures. BLM is paying, but where are the horses? http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/white-paper/
Fraud and embezzlement are crimes: BLM’s figures with regard to mustangs are false and misleading. Making false and misleading representations = fraud, which violates Title 18 USC 1001 of the Federal criminal code. Embezzlement and theft violate various sections of Title 18 USC Chapter 31.
Lagomorphs: Jackrabbits, cottontails, and hares — the lagomorphs — are dominant herbivores on the Western Range. A recent study in Utah found that jackrabbits were consuming 34% of the forage on local grazing-allotments.
Locusts: In normal times, grasshoppers and crickets — locusts — consume 20-to-25% of the forage in areas where they are present. However, in times of outbreaks, locusts can devour nearly all of it. The 2017 USDA map shows locust-infestations in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. The 2016 map revealed that Nevada was experiencing an outbreak.