Launchbaugh range propaganda

Source:  The Wildlife News


In a March 26th Times News article, Karen Launchbaugh, a University of Idaho range professor, propagandized misleading ideas about livestock grazing. Like nearly all range professor, Ms. Launchbaugh, sees her job as promoting livestock grazing. I know because I studied range management both as an undergraduate and in grad school, so familiar with the emphasis that one gets in such programs.

As is typical of the range “profession”, a term I use loosely, proponents of range management see ranchers as their constituency, not the general public.

So it’s not surprising that Ms. Launchbaugh only tells half of the story about the negative impacts of livestock grazing. Now for the rest of the story.

First, Launchbaugh asserts that “grazing has always been part of sagebrush ecosystems”.  This is a half-truth. Yes, ground squirrels, grasshoppers, jackrabbits and other smaller animals, along with modest herds of deer and pronghorn have always grazed sagebrush ecosystems, but throughout most of the Great Basin including southern Idaho, large herds of grazing bison were rare or absent. As a consequence, native grasses and soils are intolerant of grazing pressure.

Another example of a half-truth is Launchbaugh assertion that livestock can reduce cheatgrass through grazing. It is misleading because of the short time window when livestock will consume cheatgrass.

Livestock will eat cheatgrass early in the season while it is green. This is usually no more than 2-4 weeks. Most ranchers are unwilling to go through the collecting and transport of their cattle out to a site to graze it for such a short time.

Furthermore, since cattle will tend to graze the more desirable native grasses first, if there are any of these plants left on a site, they suffer from overgrazing.

Third, cheatgrass is favored by soil trampling and destruction of soil crusts—something that cannot be avoided, especially if cattle are bunched up to target grazing of cheatgrass.

Then she compounds all her previous flawed assertions by suggesting that grazing can prevent large range fires.  Sure, if you graze a pasture down to a golf course with inch-high stubble, fires are less likely to spread.

However, rangelands that are depleted to stubble provide no hiding cover for wildlife and reduce forage that might support native wildlife. Native plant species suffer and soil is compacted. And any grazing that is that so severe so as to reduce grasses to stubble will invariably trample biocrusts, wetlands and riparian areas.


Karen Launchbaugh


How Welfare Ranchers Take Taxpayers for a Ride

Source:  Pacific Standard

How Welfare Ranchers Take Taxpayers for a Ride

Ranchers on BLM land have 94 percent of their grazing costs covered by taxpayers. And they target wild horses for removal in order to preserve the rangeland that makes this financial windfall possible.
(Photo: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images)
Congress is expected to vote sometime this week on an omnibus-spending bill that includes a proposal to kill wild horses captured from public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and re-open horse slaughterhouses that were shut down in 2007. Should the main backer of this proposal—Congressman Chris Stewart (R-Utah)—get the required votes, 46,000 wild mustangs, and untold numbers of domestic horses, would be slaughtered.

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.*


Kirsten Stade, Advocacy Director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), on Wild Horse & Burro Radio (Wed., 3/21/18)


Wild_Horse_Burro_Radio_LogoJoin us for Wild Horse Wednesdays®, this Wednesday, March 21, 2018

5:00 p.m. PST … 6:00 p.m. MST … 7:00 p.m. CST … 8:00 p.m. EST

Listen to the archived show (HERE!)

You can also listen to the show on your phone by calling (917) 388-4520.

This show will be archived so you can listen to it anytime.

0                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Our guest tonight is Kirsten Stade, Advocacy Director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

For nearly 20 years, Kirsten Stade has worked on public lands ecology and conservation, and has published research with WildEarth Guardians on the impacts of livestock grazing on fire ecology and ecosystem health in the American west.  She has a Master’s degree in Conservation Biology from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s in Earth Systems from Stanford University.  Tonight, Kirsten will be talking about issues in connection with the Department of the Interior, wildlife, public lands and livestock grazing on public lands.

PEER combats the political manipulation of science, makes sure that laws are enforced, defends whistleblowers, protects public health, shields scientists from interference, helps local state and federal law enforcement agencies pursue violations of anti-pollution and wildlife protection laws, safeguards public lands, shelters wildlife and works to end giveaways of your public resources.

PEER is known to wild horse & burro advocates for the many reports they have published about the BLM’s skewed data minimizing the effects of livestock grazing on public lands.  PEER also published the famous PEER WHITE PAPER titled “Horses to Slaughter: Anatomy of a Coverup within the Wild Horse & Burro Program of the Bureau of Land Management.”

This show will be hosted by Debbie Coffey (V.P. and Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs) of Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

To contact us:


To find out more about Wild Horse Freedom Federation and our work to keep wild horses and burros wild and free on our public lands visit

Donate Here:

1/17/18 – Carol Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation, on efforts to get the BLM to allow her to photograph wild horses at Axtell (Utah) and Bruneau (Idaho) off range corrals (where the public is not allowed to see them) to help facilitate adoptions.  Listen HERE.

1/19/18 – Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project.  Erik is a contributor to The Hill and his blog posts can be found here.  Western Watersheds Project (WWP) aims to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and legal advocacy.  Listen HERE.

2/21/18 – Ann Marini, Ph.D., M.D., and John Holland of Equine Welfare Alliance on veterinary drugs banned in animals (including horses) used for human consumption, food safety issues, and the banned drugs that the Bureau of Land Management gives to wild horses & burros.  Listen HERE.

3/14/18 – Jonathan Thompson, a Contributing Editor at High Country News and the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster, on the 2015 Gold King Mine disaster, and the environmental, economic and social impacts of mining, energy development, and fracking in southwestern Colorado.  Listen HERE.

Action alert! Wild Buffalo Running Out of Safe Places

Source: Buffalo Field Campaign

Buffalo in the Gardiner Basin, in the vicinity of Yellowstone’s trap. BFC photo by Stephany Seay.

Update from the Field: Wild Buffalo Running Out of Safe Places

Yellowstone is gearing up to capture wild buffalo in the Gardiner Basin. Park employees were seen putting out hay in the outer catch pens of Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek buffalo trap, and have opened the gate, in an attempt to lure buffalo into the facility. Three buffalo were seen in there earlier in the week, but, with the gate opened, they soon left. Winter is a difficult time for grazing animals, and when they see free hay, it’s something that is hard for them to resist.

Montana’s state hunt ended today, February 15, but there are still a number of tribes hunting under treaty right. If Yellowstone begins capturing buffalo in earnest while treaty hunting is ongoing, it will interfere with the treaty hunts of multiple tribes. In the past, Yellowstone’s response is that they don’t think hunters are killing enough buffalo. With a goal of killing upwards of 900 buffalo, with about 200 killed so far, Yellowstone is feeling a sense of urgency to capture and kill as many as they can, to ensure that Montana livestock interests are pleased. After all, when it comes to wild buffalo, that is who Yellowstone is working for, rather than the buffalo who they are obligated to protect. Yellowstone always claims that their “hands are tied”, that they are forced to capture and kill the last wild buffalo. They always like to play the victim saying that it’s Montana’s fault (which, in large part, it is), but Yellowstone is absolutely responsible for their operation of the trap, and for never defending the buffalo. They bend over backwards to do the killing wanted by Montana’s livestock industry. It is good to remind them that the document they signed, which became the Interagency Bison Management Plan, for which their trap is a tool, can be terminated by them or any agency, at any time. All they have to do is provide a 30-day notice to terminate this nefarious plan. That’s it! See the Executive Summary of the Final Impact Statement of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (PDF), page iii, the last sentence of paragraph one, where it states clear as a bell: “Finally, the agreement provided that any agency could terminate the agreement by providing a 30-day notice to the other parties that the agency would withdraw from the agreement.”

TAKE ACTION! Call Yellowstone’s Superintendent Dan Wenk and tell him to keep their trap shut! Remind him that Yellowstone’s hands are not tied, they can pull out of the IBMP, stop the slaughter, and refuse to choose to serve Montana livestock interests. # 307-344-2002


Erik Molvar, Exec. Dir. of Western Watersheds Project, on Wild Horse & Burro Radio


Wild_Horse_Burro_Radio_LogoJoin us for Wild Horse Wednesdays®, for a special show on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018

4:00 p.m. PST … 5:00 p.m. MST … 6:00 p.m. CST … 7:00 p.m. EST

Listen to the archived show (HERE!)

You can also listen to the show on your phone by calling (917) 388-4520.

This show will be archived so you can listen to it anytime.

Our guest is ERIK MOLVAR, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. Erik fought oil and gas projects in Wyoming during the Bush administration. He is a wildlife biologist with published research in the behavior, ecology, and population dynamics of Alaskan moose as well as large-scale conservation planning. Erik has been a conservation advocate, the Exec. Dir. of Wyoming-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, and led WildEarth Guardians’ Sagebrush Sea Campaign. Erik is a contributor to The Hill and his blog posts can be found here.

Western Watersheds Project (WWP) aims to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and legal advocacy. WWP works to influence and improve public lands management throughout the West, with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250 million acres of western public lands.

This show will be hosted by Debbie Coffey (V.P. and Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs) of Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

To contact us:


To find out more about Wild Horse Freedom Federation and our work to keep wild horses and burros wild and free on our public lands visit

Donate Here:

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Researcher Marybeth Devlin corrects the misinformation in a biased OpEd written by Barry L. Perryman

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?
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.

BLM plans to “zero out” Seaman & White River wild horse Herd Areas, while digging in heels to keep privately owned livestock grazing on these public lands


by Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) changed the Seaman and White River wild horse Herd Management Areas into Herd Areas in 2008.   Now, this proposed BLM Environmental Assessment (EA) is a 10 year plan for the BLM to “zero out” (remove ALL wild horses and leave “0” as the population) the Seaman and White River Herd Areas in Nevada.

Please be sure to send your personal comments to the BLM about their plans to remove the last, remaining wild horses from these two Herd Areas.  (DO NOT JUST SIGN A FORM LETTER PROPOSED BY ANY ADVOCACY GROUP.)  Write comments in your own words and email, mail or fax them to the BLM.

Comment submissions will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018.  All comments received during the public comment period will be fully considered and evaluated for preparation of the Final PEA.

Questions and written comments should be directed to:  Bureau of Land Management, Ely District Office, Attention: Ruth Thompson, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist
702 N. Industrial Way, Ely, NV 89301

Comments can also be submitted electronically at

Email messages should include “Seaman-White River Herd Areas Wild Horse Gather” in the subject line.

You can read the Environmental Assessment HERE.

At a quick glance, some of the many things that chap me about this plan are:

1)  The BLM is removing the last 42 wild horses and foals from the Seaman HA, and the last 323 wild horses and foals from the White River HA (ALL WILD HORSES FOREVER) while:

still allowing the Blue Diamond Oil Corporation (Gary Sprouse, Pres.) to graze 5,590 sheep and 76 cattle for 5 months and 10 days each year (11/1 – 4/10) on the Fox Mountain allotment (100% public land),

still allowing Double U Livestock to graze 1,269 sheep for 6 1/2 months each year and 210 cattle for 5 months each year on the Needles allotment, and another 724 sheep for 5 months each year and 147 cattle for 4 months each year on the Dry Farm allotment.

still allowing Carter Cattle Co. to graze 650 cattle for 8 months each year on the North Cove allotment and another 650 cattle to graze for 8 months each year on the Wells-Dee Gee allotment.

still allowing 635 cattle to graze for 5 1/2 months each year on the Hardy Springs allotment, on 100% public lands.

still allowing 1,517 sheep to graze for 4 1/2 months each year on the South Coal Valley allotment

still allowing 226 cattle to graze for 10 months each year on the Forest Moon allotment.

(REMEMBER, the BLM counts a cow/calf pair as only 1 animal, so all of the numbers above will likely double):

There are many other allotments listed on page 36 of the EA.  On this page, the BLM omitted informing the public of the number of “public acres” on each of the allotments – many of the allotments are on 100% public acres.

2)  The BLM refuses to consider reducing livestock grazing on the Herd Areas.  In section 2.4.5 of this EA:

“2.4.5  Remove or Reduce Livestock within the Seaman and White River HA 

This alternative would involve no removal of wild horses and would instead address the excess wild horse numbers through the removal of livestock or reductions in livestock grazing allocations within the Seaman and White River HA. This alternative was not brought forward for analysis because it would be inconsistent with the current land use plan. This gather document and subsequent Decision Record is not the appropriate mechanism for adjusting the authorized livestock use within the allotments associated with the Herd Areas in order to reallocate forage to wild horses.”

3)  The BLM once again mixes apples and oranges: while the BLM states the estimated number of wild horses and foals on the Herd Areas, the BLM only describes livestock (privately owned cattle and sheep) by AUMs, the amount of forage the livestock eat per month (Animal Unit Month).  This makes it more difficult for the general public to actually figure out the number of privately owned livestock grazing on public land, compared to the number of wild horses on public land.

4)  The BLM cites its authorization to zero out (remove all) wild horses as the Ely District 2008 Resource Management Plan (RMP).  The Record of Decision was signed by John Ruhs, who was then the BLM’s Ely District Manager (and who is now BLM’s Nevada State Director), and Ron Wenker, who was then the BLM’s Nevada State Director (and who was arrested in 2012 for sexually abusing a girl – a relative –  from the time she was 8 years old until she was 13 years old, when he was finally caught by the girl’s brother.  In May, 2013, Wenker was sentenced to three life terms after pleading guilty to Sexual Assault and Lewdness with a Minor Under the Age of 14.  He will be eligible for parole in 2043.In my opinion, all decisions signed by Ron Wenker on behalf of the BLM should be reviewed and revised.

Five parties filed protests to this 2008 RMP:  Cindy MacDonald (a great wild horse & burro advocate and researcher.  Be sure to see the blog she still maintains at American Herds), longtime wild horse & burro advocate Craig Downer, Center for Biological Diversity, Clay Iverson and Western Watersheds.  However, the BLM determined that only two of these parties “had standing” as defined in the BLM Land Use Planning Handbook (H-1601-1).

On pages 3 & 4 of this EA, the BLM states “The Ely District Record of Decision (ROD) and Approved Resource Management Plan (RMP) (August 2008) at Management Action WH – 5, which states: “Remove wild horses and drop herd management area status for those … as listed in Table 13.” Seaman and White River were reverted from Herd Management Area (HMA) to Herd Area (HA) status with this management action and identified the need to have all excess wild horses from these HAs (manage “0” wild horses).

The management action of achieving 0 wild horses within the Seaman HA as well as White River HA result of a management evaluation using multi-tiered analysis from the Ely Proposed Resource Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement (November 2007) table 3.8 – 2 and page 4.8 – 2. The EIS (November 2007) evaluated each HMA within the Ely District for five essential habitat components and herd characteristics: forage, water, cover, space, and reproductive viability. If one or more of these components were missing, or there was no potential for a stable shared genetic pool, the HMA was considered unsuitable. The Seaman HA as well as White River HA have inadequate forage, marginal to very little water on public lands, and inadequate reproductive viability. The combined Seaman HA also has no summer habitat and inadequate cover.”

So, the BLM admits that it has failed to maintain a “thriving natural ecological balance.”

You can read this 2008 RMP HERE.

5)  On Page 16, the BLM also states: “While the BLM is authorized to remove livestock from HAs “if necessary to provide habitat for wild horses or burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros from disease, harassment or injury” (43 CFR§ 4710.5), this authority is usually applied in cases of emergency and not for general management of wild horses since it cannot be applied in a manner that would be inconsistent with the existing land use plans. (43 CFR § 4710.1)”

It is an EMERGENCY if the BLM needs to remove an entire species from an area because there is not enough forage, water or habitat.

6)  Everyone should ask the BLM to provide the Land Health Status for each of the allotments listed on page 36 of this EA.

7)  The BLM is planning to completely REMOVE these wild horses from these public lands FOREVER.  Note that the BLM is not attempting to relocate these horses to other Herd Management Areas or Herd Areas.

8)  Since the BLM complains about the cost of wild horses & burros in BLM holding facilities, and has a poor record of adoptions (many horses have been sold to slaughter), the BLM should leave these wild horses on public lands, where they can live and graze at no cost to American taxpayers.






Please sign petition to rectify the heavy impact of livestock grazing on public lands

photo:  Western Watersheds Project

Please sign this petition HERE.


We the people ask the federal government to Call on Congress to act on an issue:

Livestock Grazing on Public Lands Rectify the Heavy Impact

Created by T.B. on November 23, 2017

Reductions will address ecological problems caused by commercial livestock grazing such as:

● displacement of wildlife, reduction of wildlife populations;
● degradation is occurring to the land;
● transmission of pathogens;
● degradation is occurring to plant communities;
● native wildlife are killed to advance the interests of public lands ranchers;
● livestock are damaging to sensitive wetlands or riparian areas; or
● Ruminant grazing contributes to the nitrogen load in streams as well as nitrous oxide gasses also
a greenhouse gas.

Livestock grazing extremists obscure real-world solutions

by Debbie Coffey

In my opinion…

We need to find a fix for the unhealthy populations of non-native, domestic cattle and sheep on public lands.

Imagine a proposal to introduce privately owned livestock onto the public lands of the American West.  The owners of the privately owned livestock would successfully gain use of 229 million acres of public lands in the West.   The livestock would be owned by a politically powerful industry that attracted a passionate following — people who love using public lands for their private profit so much that they influence the federal management of their privately owned animals so that they would rarely, if ever, be restricted by law.  Some of them would be so passionate that they would take over and occupy government buildings for 41 days, and end up costing taxpayers at least $9 million, including $2.3 million on federal law enforcement and $1.7 million to replace damaged or stolen property.

The downside of these privately owned livestock would be that they destroy native vegetation, damage soils and stream banks, and contaminate waterways with fecal waste.  After decades of livestock grazing, once-lush streams and riparian forests have been reduced to flat, dry wastelands; once-rich topsoil has been turned to dust, causing soil erosion, stream sedimentation and wholesale elimination of some aquatic habitats; overgrazing of native fire-carrying grasses has starved some western forests of fire, making them overly dense and prone to unnaturally severe fires.  Not to mention that predators like the grizzly and Mexican gray wolf were driven extinct in southwestern ecosystems by “predator control” programs designed to protect the livestock industry.

Livestock grazing of privately owned livestock on public lands is promoted, protected and subsidized by federal agencies.  A new analysis  finds U.S. taxpayers have lost more than $1 billion over the past decade on a program that allows cows and sheep to graze on public land.  Last year alone taxpayers lost $125 million in grazing subsidies on federal land.  Had the federal government charged fees similar to grazing rates on non-irrigated private land, the program would have made $261 million a year on average rather than operate at a staggering loss, the analysis finds.

Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands

Just imagine what would happen if this livestock industry continued to thrive while all other natural resources were exhausted and while wildlife starved, died of thirst or became extinct.

Clearly, this is a difficult scenario to support.  Congress needs to overhaul the outdated livestock grazing program and reign in the use of livestock grazing on public lands.  These “welfare ranchers” treat public lands as if they are their own private lands and don’t want to share public lands with wildlife (unless that wildlife can be hunted).  The Bureau of Land Management is supposed to to “maintain a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple use relationship” but it heavily favors the livestock grazing industry, even though livestock grazing has damaged 80 percent of the streams and riparian ecosystems in the West.

There are currently very powerful lobbying efforts using misinformation to convince Congress to “euthanize” (kill) or sterilize over 46,000 wild horses and burros in BLM holding facilities, and tens of thousands more on public lands.  But what about the millions of privately owned cattle and sheep on public lands?

There was recently a secretive meeting (closed to the public) in Salt Lake City, Utah, called the National Wild Horse & Burro Summit.  The only groups invited were special interest groups that promote livestock grazing, and academia/universities who rely on money from these special interest groups and government agencies who favor these special interest groups.  The Summit focused on the supposed damage done by wild horses and burros on public lands, while ignoring the real source of the widespread and well documented damage to water and rangeland ecosystems:  domestically owned livestock.   Since they talked about killing our wild horses and burros, this conference was aptly dubbed the “Slaughter Summit.”

Cattle slurping up water in the West (photo: EPA)

Go to the websites of the livestock industry, and you’ll notice that there’s no mention that millions of domestically owned livestock graze on public lands and overgraze or harm wildlife species.  There is no mention that cattle and sheep are not native to North America, since they arrived on Spanish and English ships about 500 years ago.

These extremists try to justify their interests by claiming they grow food, but only 3% of beef grown in the U.S. is grazed on public lands.  Most privately owned livestock graze on privately owned land.

The wild horse & burro population estimates used by these special interest groups are compiled by the BLM and have been found to be scientifically impossible, since the BLM, per its own population estimates, has claimed some wild horse herds increased by as much as 750% or 1250% in only one year.

Fringe “cowboys” have been effective at lobbying for the slaughter of old, unadoptable – or really any – horses.  The BLM has taken away over 22 million acres from Herd Areas, which were supposed to be the federally protected areas for wild horses and burros, and allows livestock grazing on most of the remaining, smaller Herd Management Areas (in addition to millions of other acres on public lands).

It’s easy for people in the other 40 states to be swayed by the livestock grazing extremists.  They look like real cowboys.  But many “ranchers” are large corporations.  Their efforts are responsible for the current situation, in which taxpayers support their private businesses of grazing millions of privately owned livestock on public lands, leaving us with no end in sight, not in numbers, not in funding, not in ecological damage.  What is a real-world solution?

George Wuerthner, (Exec. Dir. of Public Lands Media, V.P. on BoD of Western Watersheds Project & author) to talk about the impacts of the livestock industry on the West (Wed., 11/1/17 on Wild Horse & Burro Radio)


Wild_Horse_Burro_Radio_LogoJoin us for Wild Horse Wednesdays®, this Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017

5:00 p.m. PST … 6:00 p.m. MST … 7:00 p.m. CST … 8:00 p.m. EST

Listen to the archived show (HERE!)

You can also listen to the show on your phone by calling (917) 388-4520.

You can call in with questions during the 2nd half hour, by dialing (917) 388-4520, then pressing 1.

This show will be archived so you can listen to it anytime.

Our guest tonight is GEORGE WUERTHNER, the Exec. Director of Public Lands Media (a project of the Earth Island Institute), Vice President on the Board of Directors for Western Watersheds Project and the author of 38 books.  George will be talking about the multiple ways that the livestock industry impacts the West, from water use, to sage grouse, to bison being shot in Yellowstone and to the killing of predators like grizzlies and wolves.

George’s books include Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction Of The American West, Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy, Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth, Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation, Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of Earth, and Protecting the Wild: Parks and Wilderness, the Foundation for Conservation.

Most recently, George was the Ecological Projects Director/Senior Scientist for the Foundation for Deep Ecology and Tompkins Conservation for 12 years. Previous to this position, George taught ecology courses and environmental writing as adjunct lecturer at a number of universities, worked as botanist/backcountry ranger, river ranger, biologist and forestry technician for various federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and the Forest Service, and was a wilderness guide in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park. George studied Zoology/Wildlife Biology/Botany at the University of Montana, and for graduate school, studied Range Science at Montana State University, Science Communication at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Geography at the University of Oregon.

This show will be hosted by Debbie Coffey (V.P. and Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs) of Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

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To find out more about Wild Horse Freedom Federation and our work to keep wild horses and burros wild and free on our public lands visit

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