Horse News

Wild Horses: NY Times Writer Gets It Wrong – It’s a Livestock Crisis

by Debbie Coffey as published on Wild Hoofbeats

David Philipps’ New York Times article “A Mustang Crisis Looms in the West” (3/22/20) requires correction for falsely blaming degradation of public lands in the West on wild horses, in both the headline and the body of the article.

Data and maps from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conclusively show private livestock, not wild horses, are overwhelming public lands in the West, both in grazing territory and sheer numbers (relative to wild horses).

Grazing Allotments

Herd Management Areas

Compare the green areas showing BLM livestock grazing allotments (on the left) to the light blue areas showing BLM wild horse Herd Management Areas (on the right).  This clearly shows that wild horses aren’t all over public lands in the West (as both Mr. Philipps and his sources claim), but cattle are.

On the Challis HMA referred to in Philipps’ article, 185 wild horses (BLM number) have at times been outnumbered by over 6,000 cows according to the BLM’s Rangeland Administration System (BLM grazing management reports).

The BLM counts a cow/calf pair as only ONE animal, so the graph below shows the ACTUAL number of cattle (both cows and calves) on the Challis HMA (in red), as compared to numbers of wild horses (in blue):

The numbers of cattle and grazing periods are from the BLM’s Rangeland Administration System (RAS).  The numbers of cattle have been reduced on these charts based on the percentage of the grazing allotment on the HMA.  The numbers of wild horses are based on BLM’s low AML (Apppropriate Management Level).

The BLM claims there are 177 Herd Management Areas in the West, but only 160 of these have any wild horses or burros on them.  The wild horses & burros on these HMAs are being squeezed out by livestock grazing and oil and gas leases.

The real crisis, and degradation to public lands, is caused by the BLM allowing huge numbers of privately owned livestock to graze on public lands.  Ranchers fiercely fight to not lower the numbers of their livestock, since many get bank loans based on their BLM grazing allotments (public lands).

According to a report by WildEarth Guardians titled Mortgaging Our Natural Heritage:

“Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt has written that federal public lands livestock grazing ‘is the most damaging use of public land,’ and reams of scientific studies support that assertion.

Federal public lands grazing is also among the most expensive public lands boondoggles foisted on American taxpayers.  The Government Accountability Office determined that federal grazing programs cost at least $144 million annually (minus grazing fees).  A separate economic study conducted by independent and BLM economists found that the direct and indirect costs of BLM and Forest Service public lands grazing are probably much higher, between $500 million and $1 billion per year.”

Philipps quoted a rancher, Jackie Ingram, who “shared 168,700 acres of public land with the mustang herds for 46 years.”  (Note, ONE rancher has privately owned livestock grazing on 168,700 acres of public land.)

Philipps then adds “In some years, she said, the wild horses left so little grass to eat that other wildlife disappeared, and her family had to cut back their cattle herd.”

According to the BLM’s Rangeland Administration System (BLM’s records on livestock grazing on public lands that are available to the public online), authorization #1100700 for Gary and Jackie Ingram, there is no indication that any AUMs (forage allowed per animal per month) have been suspended.

Ingram grazes cattle on 2 allotments on this HMA.  On one allotment, the Warm Springs allotment, she grazes 490 cattle for three and a half months a year on 98% public land.  Since the BLM counts a cow/calf pair as only one animal, in actuality, Ingram likely grazes 980 cattle.

The BLM only allows 185-253 wild horses on the Challis Herd Management Area, so on 2 grazing allotments, Ingram’s privately owned cattle eat about as much, or more forage, than all of the wild horses eat on the entire HMA during the year.

The real “crisis” looming in the West is due to huge numbers of privately owned livestock grazing on public lands.

Here is the article that Philipps wrote:

9 replies »

  1. Thank you Deb Coffey for exposing Phillips. I can only assume that Phillips wrote his article just so he could see his name passed around the media because he certainly did NOT write it to share any true research because if he had researched the wild horse issue his article would have been far different and would have shown (as Deb Coffey did) that livestock is a major problem on our public lands and a major problem for the existence of our wild horses and burros on their legal lands.

    The law clearly states The United States of America Code of Federal Regulations states: § 4710.5 Closure to livestock grazing.
    (a) If necessary to provide habitat for wild horses or burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros from disease, harassment or injury, the authorized officer may close appropriate areas of the public lands to grazing use by all or a particular kind of livestock.

    If the BLM were truly striving for a thriving natural ecological balance, removal of corporate/private livestock would be the very first priority decision to promote a thriving natural ecological balance. I realize this is a complicated issue but it has a simple answer, “What can be done to address the problems associated with public lands livestock grazing? There is a simple answer: end it. Get the cows and sheep off, let the wild creatures reclaim their native habitat, and send the ranchers a bill for the cost of restoration.” -“Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Question: is the Challis HMA held precisely at low AML consistently or is this a non-reproducing HMA? The chart, while illuminating, doesn’t show any wild horse reproduction, which seems unlikely. Since it shows variation in cow/calf numbers it should also show variation in wild horse numbers, to be consistent. Even showing the low-high AML would be more useful to readers, as I expect even the high AML is still far below the numbers of permitted livestock.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Icy, I have in the past done variations of similar charts to include high AML, too. The lines for high AML (in those graphs) for wild horses are still extremely low compared to livestock. I clearly indicated that these were numbers of wild horses the BLM “allows” for HMAs and livestock according to BLM’s Rangeland Administration System. The BLM’s numbers of wild horses are vastly exaggerated, climing some herds increase by 700% in only a year. Grandma Gregg has posted many articles regarding this information. Also, as we know, livestock grazers also violate the permitted time frames, and overgraze. BLM often turns a blind eye, even if overgrazing violations are reported. I welcome your help with any future charts if you want to file FOIAs on livestock overgrazing violations or the raw data from BLM aerial census surveys, so we could use more accurate numbers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I understand, and thank you for your tireless efforts. My thoughts were more for those less familiar with these matters (or less favorable towards wild horses and burros), and how they might notice the horse populations graphed show only the lowest possible AML, while the livestock numbers shown fluctuate. Were I still teaching my students would have called me out on this!


      • So here’s the info on the Challis HMA from the BLM website if anyone is interested:


        The Challis Herd Management Area (HMA) encompasses over 168,700 acres and has an Appropriate Management Level (AML) of 185 – 253 wild horses.

        Purpose of Gather:

        The BLM Challis Field Office removed wild horses within the Challis Herd Management Area (HMA) to reduce overpopulation. Prior to the start of the gather, the population was estimated to be around 429 animals within and directly outside of the Challis HMA. Learn more in our Frequently Asked Questions.
        Details of Gather:

        The gather using the helicopter-assisted method was conducted on November 5-11, 2019. The BLM planned to gather approximately 365 wild horses and remove approximately 244 excess wild horses. The BLM gathered 295 wild horses from public lands during gather operations. Those mares that will be released back to the range were treated with fertility control. Approximately 185 wild horses will remain in the HMA following completion of the gather.


  3. THANK YOU Debbie for your continued investigation into a corrupt system that is long over-due for an overhaul.
    A system that is supported by the taxpaying public….

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  4. So glad you did this expose showing up Dave Phillips very deceptive and shallow article blaming wild horses. Let’s keep it up. The greater truth and just must prevail for the naturally living horses and burros! When you have time check out our just released YouTube video pointing out the greater truth also and the great value of these free living horses and burros. Here’s the link:

    Liked by 1 person


    Roundup’s Other Problem: Glyphosate is Sourced from Controversial Mines
    As concern over the health and environmental risks of the most-used herbicide mount, the ecological impact of its sourcing from phosphate mines are equally problematic.
    ENVIRONMENT, Pesticides
    Posted on: June 24, 2019

    Roundup, the world’s top herbicide, has been mired in controversy in recent months as the jurors in three court cases have found it causes cancer. Bayer Crop Science, the company that produces Roundup, has been ordered to pay billions of dollars in damages, and thousands of other cancer cases are pending in state and federal courts.
    And while the majority of the nation’s corn, soybean, and cotton growers continue to use it, Roundup’s damage to soil health and history of producing herbicide-tolerant “superweeds” are also critical concerns to farmers and consumers.
    Few people know that Roundup is equally contentious at its source.
    Glyphosate, the herbicide’s main ingredient, isn’t manufactured in a lab, but originates in a mine. To produce it, phosphate ore is extracted and refined into elemental phosphorus. While Bayer, which recently bought Monsanto, touts its sustainable mining process, environmentalists contend that the process involves stripping away the soil off mountaintops, which destroys vegetation, contaminates water and creates noise and air pollution that is detrimental to wildlife and the environment for years to come.
    Get the latest articles in your inbox.

    For decades, Monsanto has quietly mined the phosphate ore in a remote corner of Southeast IDAHO known as the phosphate patch. Because its current mine is nearly tapped out, Bayer has applied for a permit to start a new mine nearby. In May, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released the final environmental impact statement analyzing the proposed mine. The agency will issue its final decision later this summer.

    But opponents say the government has failed to properly analyze environmental damage, including impacts to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and a connecting regional wildlife corridor, the dwindling greater sage grouse population, and local Native American tribes who depend on the land and wildlife.


  6. This is not the first time a biased article on our wild horses has been printed in the Times. I write to them regularly trying to get a decent op ed printed but hear nothing. They need a person of clout to rebut their partisan BLM repetition of the overpopulation lies. The main media also promotes the BLM lies and it does no good correcting them as they ignore reality.

    Liked by 1 person

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