Source: Pacific Standard
How Welfare Ranchers Take Taxpayers for a Ride
Based on the claim that wild horses overgraze Western landscapes, the BLM routinely removes them and places them in temporary holding facilities—mostly in Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico—before moving the horses to permanent corrals. By closing these facilities and opting to put down the horses, backers of the bill note taxpayers will save $10 million a year. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke supports the measure on account of its fiscal belt-tightening.But that $10 million in savings requires some context. Ranchers leasing BLM land cost taxpayers an estimated $500 million a year (and probably much more—some say a billion dollars). According to Stephen Nash’s Grand Canyon for Sale, about 15,000 ranchers receive a $33,000 from the federal government annually.
This windfall of this bill comes in the form of radically reduced leasing fees (that some ranchers, such as Cliven Bundy, refuse to pay altogether). The cost of grazing cattle on privately owned land in the West is $21.60. BLM ranchers pay $1.41 per animal unit month (AUM), the amount of monthly forage eaten by a cow and her calf. In essence, ranchers on BLM land have 94 percent of their grazing costs covered by taxpayers. “Welfare ranchers,” as critics call them, target wild horses for removal in order to preserve the rangeland that makes this program possible.*
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