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.*

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.

Update from the Field: Lockdown at Stephens Creek as Yellowstone Sends Buffalo to Slaughter

Source: BuffaloFieldCampaign.org

“Sadly, ignoring public opinion and strong statements made with direct action, Yellowstone insists on catering only to Montana livestock interests and is still sending buffalo to slaughter.”

A yearling buffalo struggles to free herself from the the Silencer, as a Yellowstone bison biologist stands by, waiting to conduct invasive procedures. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Last Wednesday morning, two people with the direct action collective Wild Buffalo Defense locked down to the “Silencer,” the squeeze chute located inside Yellowstone National Park’s infamous Stephens Creek buffalo trap. Cody Cyson, an Ojibwa man, and Thom Brown, a former volunteer with BFC, risked life, limb, and freedom to halt buffalo slaughter operations facilitated by Yellowstone, and draw attention to the trap that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of the country’s last wild, migratory buffalo. The trap’s squeeze chute has been a vehicle for terrifying and torturing countless wild buffalo who have been captured inside Yellowstone’s trap. Read the full press release about yesterday’s heroic actions.

Another member of Wild Buffalo Defense, Hannah Ponder, was later arrested, allegedly, for violating Yellowstone’s extensive closure surrounding the trap. All three of these good people have been charged with misdemeanors, including “interfering with a government operation,” and are currently in jail in Gallatin Count, Montana. As Wild Buffalo Defense put it in a Wednesday press release, “The fact that Cody and Thomas were charged with interference with a government function assumes that one of the functions of the Yellowstone National Parks Service is to capture and slaughter endangered buffalo. These individuals sought to do what the parks service should be doing, which is protecting the wild buffalo and expanding their habitat in cooperation with the other agencies that are a part of the Interagency Bison Management Plan.” We couldn’t agree more. Read the latest here.

There is a hearing scheduled for Monday morning at 10:30am, at Yellowstone National Parks Justice Center, Mammoth, Wyoming. Because Cody and Thom allegedly occupied the squeeze chute, shipments to slaughter were halted for hours. While, as an organization, BFC can’t take these kinds of actions, we are deeply grateful to these brave souls. We are in solidarity with anyone who is working to liberate wild buffalo and protect them from slaughter, quarantine, and domestication. Ironically, this action marked the four-year anniversary of when Comfrey locked down to the access road that leads to this very trap, stalling trucks that would take buffalo to slaughter.

Cody, Thom, and Hannah would love your support! If there’s any chance you can be present in solidarity on Monday, March 12, when they have their next hearing, that would be wonderful. You can also send them letters for the next few days c/o Gallatin County Detention Center, 605 South 16th Avenue, Bozeman, MT 59715.

2018 03 08 02 002 Update2 Buffalo Field Campaign Stephany Seay photo 800

A two-year old bull drink’s mama’s milk. Young buffalo may still attempt — and be allowed — to nurse long after they are no longer calves. These patient, incredible buffalo mothers only want the best for their children, at the end of a long and trying winter, that good, rich milk might be just the thing to see a young buffalo through, especially if they can keep their distance from Yellowstone’s trap or the killing fields of Beattie Gulch. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Sadly, ignoring public opinion and strong statements made with direct action, Yellowstone insists on catering only to Montana livestock interests and is still sending buffalo to slaughter. An estimated 200 buffalo have already been moved through the park’s trap and sent to slaughter facilities. An estimated 300 or more buffalo are still inside Yellowstone’s trap, awaiting the same fate.

We can only estimate the number of buffalo who are suffering these “management” actions because Yellowstone is not disclosing the information in a timely manner, and, more importantly, because of the extensive public closure that Yellowstone places around the trap. A whopping seven miles in diameter, it is impossible to see anything happening there with the naked eye, ridiculous to try even with binoculars, so spotting scopes are the only tools available to us to even make educated guesses about how many buffalo are in that monstrous contraption. This closure is overly broad and designed to limit the ability of the public to document publicly funded government activities carried out by the National Park Service to systematically destroy the sacred buffalo. From the pubic’s perspective, we are the ones who are violated by the existence of not only the trap itself, but Yellowstone’s extensive and unnecessary public land closure, which is only in place because Yellowstone doesn’t want the people to see what they are doing to our national mammal — the country’s last wild buffalo. In fact, this year, Yellowstone has even cancelled the token media tours that they have held for the past couple of years.

With combined hunting and capture-for-slaughter and unapproved quarantine, bison managers have already met and are likely to exceed the lower end of their 600-900 kill quota. Nearly 450 are already dead and at least 300 more are still imprisoned inside Yellowstone’s trap.

2018 03 08 02 003 Update3 Buffalo Field Campaign Stephany Seay photo 800

A yearling buffalo jumps and runs for the pure feeling of joy. It is always an incredible pleasure to see buffalo celebrating life. Many times, these actions are infections, and a single buffalo can get the whole family going in an incredible buffalo dance. Maybe this buffalo is feeling the positive changes that are coming. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Like the news of the Wild Buffalo Defense heroes who took direct action, not all of our updates are bad news. We are fighting for the buffalo on every possible level, including in places they agencies can understand: the courts and the policy arena. We recently had a huge victory with our petition to list the ‘Yellowstone’ buffalo under the Endangered Species Act when Judge Cooper ruled in our favor when we challenged the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s negative finding.

We’ve also gained thousands of signatories on our Report: Bison as a Species of Conservation Concern, including giant representation from the Piikani Nation, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Western Watersheds Project, Patagonia Clothing Company, and so many more. We think it will offer you inspiration to read the letters the Piikani Nation of the Blackfeet Confederacy and the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe sent to the US Forest Service. Powerful, powerful stuff with very sharp teeth.

The buffalo have many champions and we are all doing our best to fight for their freedom on every level. Each and every one of these efforts are possible because you enable us to be on the ground, in the field with the buffalo, seeing things from their perspective, being in the face of these agencies and knowing first-hand what is actually taking place. This is a centuries-old range war and there are many battles to fight. And you know what? We’re going to win. The buffalo are going to win.

The Three Great Myths about America’s Wild Horses

by as published on HorseTalk

One of the favorite tools used by the cattle industry to push competing grazing animals off the lands they covet is that of supporting outright myths and also funding questionably designed studies and then promoting the highly questionable results.

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Throughout American history, the cattle industry has been for the most part unreasonable to other livestock producers. The American range and Sheep Wars of the 18th and early 19th centuries are clear evidence of this statement, as is outlined in this summary:

Wikipedia: The Sheep Wars, or the Sheep and Cattle Wars, refers to a series of armed conflicts in the Western United States which were fought between sheepmen and cattlemen over grazing rights. Sheep wars occurred in many western states though they were most common in Texas, Arizona and the border region of Wyoming and Colorado. Generally, the cattlemen saw the sheepherders as invaders, who destroyed the public grazing lands, which they had to share on a first-come, first-served basis. Between 1870 and 1920, approximately 120 engagements occurred in eight different states or territories. At least 54 men were killed and some 50,000 to over 100,000 sheep were slaughtered…(CONTINUED)

Read more at https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2017/10/23/three-great-myths-america-wild-horses/#PXpdyTuImrxqT47k.99

Congress Targets our Wild Horses and Burros

Many thanks to Susan Wagner, Pres. of Equine Advocates, for writing this excellent OpEd for the New York Daily News.

SOURCE:  New York Daily News

photo by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

by Susan Wagner, Pres. of Equine Advocates

Special interests in the ranching, oil and gas and mining industries and the lawmakers who do their bidding have a nefarious but underreported agenda: to round up and destroy the wild horses and burros on America’s public lands.

This is not the first time they’ve tried, but this time, the stars are aligned in the worst way, and they just might succeed.

First, some quick history. Back in the 1950s, wild horses were at the brink of extinction. They had no federal protections. People known as Mustangers were chasing, rounding up and selling them for slaughter by the thousands. Anyone who has seen the classic 1961 Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe film “The Misfits” has a sense — albeit a sanitized, Hollywood sense — of this dirty work.

That changed when activist Velma Johnston, famously known as Wild Horse Annie, inspired the passage of the Wild Horse Annie Act in 1959, which provided some protection for these animals. That law was followed by even stronger legislation — the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. It expressly prohibited the hunting, capture, injury and disturbance of wild horses and burros.

Over the years, however, lawmakers have chipped away at this legislation, removing many of its vital protections. Tremendous damage was done by the 2004 Burns Amendment; it passed without so much as a hearing and permitted the sale of these animals for commercial purposes. Many ended up at slaughter.

The biggest threat to wild horses today is a group of ranchers — known as “welfare ranchers” — who use federal lands to graze their cattle. They have made it clear that they want the horses and burros gone. They believe they are entitled to the land and water rights for their livestock.

Though they style themselves as independent pioneers, these ranchers are given huge subsidies by the federal government, enabling them to lease our public lands for a pittance, while the wild horses and burros are rounded up and sent to holding facilities operated by the Bureau of Land Management, a division of the the Interior Department.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, this program has cost the American taxpayer more than $1 billion over the past decade and is “ruinous to the public lands and the wildlife that inhabit it.”

There is no doubt that our wild horses and burros can be managed humanely, but that is not what is going on. Nearly 50,000 healthy animals are now being held captive in Bureau of Land Management holding facilities. Many suffer and die horrible deaths during the roundups, which are cruel and unnecessary.

Making matters worse, a five-year investigation released in July by the Wild Horse Freedom Federation accuses the bureau of deliberately trying to deceive American taxpayers and members of Congress about the costs and consequences of their actions.  READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.

 

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I-Team Video Update: NV Elko County’s Strict Building Codes Biased Against Mustang Monument?

By George Knapp , Matt Adam as published on LasVegasNow.com

“You take the hatred of horses aside, there is no good reason why anybody should be opposed to this here, or anywhere else,”

LAS VEGAS – A California businesswoman who invested $25 million in creating a tourist attraction in rural Nevada says she probably wouldn’t make the same decision again.

The founder of the Mustang Monument wild horse sanctuary in Elko County says that further investment would be a waste of money because she’s been blocked from opening, not only by the BLM, but also by Elko County officials who say they don’t want to support anything that keeps wild horses on the range.

Madeleine Pickens is rich, blonde, female, and is from California, and those are four strikes against her in some circles.

But the fact that she wants to create a sanctuary for wild horses in a county known for its ranching industry is what probably doomed her Mustang Monument project. Ranchers are not fans of the BLM, but animosity toward wild horses is the one issue on which both of those camps can agree.

At travel expos around the world, including Europe and China, Madeleine Pickens pitched her Mustang Monument eco-sanctuary as something different for high-end tourists, a chance to interact with wild horses in the same region where the first horses on earth were born.

Travel agents loved it, state tourism promoted it, and the visitors who stayed last year were overwhelmed. It looked like 2016 would be a huge success, but it never happened.

“We had to reimburse them. We had to cancel reservations. It’s terrible,” she said.

Pickens knew she would have trouble with the BLM if she tried to put mustangs on her public acreage, but she continued to pour millions of dollars into fixing up her 20,000 deed acres with new water systems, massive pivots to grow alfalfa, first class guest accommodations and a hangar filled with expensive SUV’s and customized coaches.

Local contractors were hired to do the work, local ranch hands to care for the mustangs. The monument represented jobs, tourists, and tax dollars but from the beginning Elko County said no thanks.

County commissioners, several of them cattle ranchers, voted against the sanctuary in 2010. In the minutes of public meetings, commissioners said they opposed any use of water rights for wild horses. Another said he didn’t have enough information to make a decision, but still didn’t like Pickens’ idea. Elko is cattle country, and ranchers see wild horses as a threat.

“You take the hatred of horses aside, there is no good reason why anybody should be opposed to this here, or anywhere else,” said Clay Nannini, Elko realtor.

Since the county commission’s vote, Pickens encountered obstacles at every turn. Building inspectors imposed and enforced standards unknown in Elko County and delays became commonplace.

“They don’t discriminate. They all apply the same standard, which is, it’s Madeleine Pickens. She can wait a little while. She’s from California, so she can wait,” said Jerry Reynoldson, wild horse advocate.

“Every time the building department comes by, they now want me to fix another building for another $750,000. They don’t like this. They don’t like that,” Pickens said.

Example, an old house converted into a dining hall and kitchen. It took two years to get the permits and cost a million dollars.

She intended to build a kitchen that could handle up to 45 diners maximum to match the ranch’s capacity, but instead had to construct a stainless steel mega-kitchen that looks like it belongs at the MGM Grand.

“You could see this kitchen in a restaurant in San Francisco that served 500 people, and you know it’s totally out of place here. She will never use what’s there but they just made her build it because they could,” Reynoldson said.

Kitchen mops had to have their own walled-off section, and it required its own permit. A walk-in refrigerator was nearly approved, until an inspector wanted to see evidence it was earthquake-proof.

“So I asked the engineers, the builder and he said, ‘We’ve never been asked for this kind of information on a walk-in refrigerator,'” Pickens said.

Pickens spent a million dollars buying what she calls safari tents, tee-pees, to provide visitors with an upscale western experience. The county required that each tent sit atop a slab of concrete and rebar 7 feet thick, then added, the tents would need their own sprinkler systems in case of fire.

“I said, I’m out of this. I rolled up the tents. They’re all stored and I will probably sell them in another state or somewhere else,” she said. “They’ve all had a wink and a nod. In other words, give her a hard time. That’s hard to take. You come in, you’re sincere, but after a while, you don’t want to continue to throw money away.”

Not only has the BLM prohibited Pickens from putting mustangs on her public acres, she couldn’t open her own property to visitors if she wanted to. That massive mega kitchen still doesn’t have a permit to operate commercially, and she was told she can’t even use it for family dining. The airplane hangar of custom SUV’s will likely be sold off, without the vehicles ever being used at all.

The I-Team called Elko County for a comment and will let you know what they have to say when they call back.

http://www.lasvegasnow.com/news/i-team-elko-countys-strict-building-codes-raise-questions

Can wild horses co-exist with ranchers and their grazing cows?

Story by James McWilliams ~co-founder of The Daily Pitchfork ~ as published on The Pacific Standard

“Anytime a self-actualized journalist turns an inquisitive eye to the plight of our nation’s wild horses and burros it is time to celebrate as they are the ones who cannot speak for themselves.  But when editors, mostly unaware of the facts surrounding a story, cast a headline with skewed numbers/counts of said equine it instantly slants the story into the favor of the adversaries of the wild one before the first word of the article is ever read by John Q Public.  So is the case with the story below, written by animal journalist and co-founder of the Daily Pitchfork, James McWilliams.  James and Vickery Eckhoff have been champions for and of the truth regarding not only horse slaughter and the wild equines but animal agriculture in general.  We highly recommend the Daily Pitchfork and likewise ask you to read and visit the article below which features quotes from our own Debbie Coffey and a photo of our Carol Walker in the field documenting the disaster of mismanagement that goes by the name of BLM.  A very good read.” ~ R.T.


Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation at Palomino Valley

Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation at Palomino Valley

Twenty miles north of Reno, after casinos and strip malls yield to the high desert, the Bureau of Land Management holds 1,100 wild horses in a series of corrals. From the highway, the federal facility—the National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley—looks like a dusty feedlot, the kind of place you might smell before you see passing through some forlorn corner of Texas or Oklahoma.

But walk down the hill from Route 445 and stand alone among the pens as the sun rises in late July, and you’ll find that the place smells fine, sort of earthy and clean. Instead, what concentrates the mind is something altogether unexpected: silence. Somehow, amid 1,100 wild animals held in confinement, the only sound I hear is the wind whistling across the plastic lid of my coffee cup.

These horses and burros are a mere fraction of the roughly 45,000 kept in BLM holding facilities across the country. The primary reason they’re confined is the nearly 18,000 ranchers grazing an estimated 747,963 “animal units”—a bureaucratic term that can represent either a horse, a cow/calf pair, or five sheep—on 155 million acres of land. The horses might be silent, but lately these cattlemen have been quite loud indeed...(CONTINUED)

The Rest of the Story: http://www.psmag.com/nature-and-technology/western-cattlemen-square-off-against-60000-mustangs

21 Alleged Stray Horses Killed in Wyoming

Unedited article from The Casper Star-Tribune

“Have Wyoming’s Welfare Ranchers Raised the Bar on their Wild Horse War?”

Dead HorseTHERMOPOLIS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says it’s investigating the killing of 21 stray horses on federal and state land northwest of Thermopolis.

A BLM spokesperson said the horses were found Wednesday. Investigators believe they were killed sometime in the last two weeks.

Wild horses also roam parts of northern Wyoming but BLM spokeswoman Sarah Beckwith said Friday these horses were stray domestic horses.

The horses were abandoned on public land and have been seen running loose for the past few years, Beckwith said.

Beckwith declined to provide additional information including whether the horses may have been shot or poisoned. She said the BLM doesn’t want to compromise the investigation by federal, state and local officials by disclosing too much information.

The BLM is offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved.

The Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Department, state officials and a local brand inspector are assisting with the investigation, according to a news release.

In 2010, the Hot Springs County undersheriff shot and killed a horse 100 feet from its owner’s home because he assumed it had been neglected and decided to put it out of its misery.

Chris and Larry Bentley later settled a lawsuit with former undersheriff David Larson, who agreed to pay the cost of the horse along with legal fees.

In a separate suit, a jury awarded the couple $25,000, saying a Sheriff’s Department policy that allowed deputies to kill sickly or dangerous animals was too broad and infringed on the Bentleys’ constitutional rights.

Under Wyoming law, abandoned horses that come under the care of the state can be sold to cover the cost of their care, or euthanized by a veterinarian.

People who abandon horses can be required to pay costs required for the state to round up and care for the animals, and may face fines or jail time.

“Data Trespass,” Wyoming’s Fancy Name for Ag-Gag

By Sue Udry, Dissent NewsWire | Op-Ed

Jonathan Ratner tests water. He visits streams in Wyoming, takes samples and tests it for E. coli. He’s been testing streams for years, concerned that waste from Wyoming’s 1.3 million cattle is polluting streams. And it is.

There's a lot of BULL rambling around in the office of Wyoming's Governor

There’s a lot of BULL rambling around in the office of Wyoming’s Governor

Ratner sends his results to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ so that streams with too much E. coli can be put on the impaired waters list. That list goes to the Environmental Protection Agency, and, under the Clean Water Act, state and federal regulators should then take action to reduce the level of pollution. Ratner says that means keeping cattle from grazing too close to streams.

But this is Wyoming, “the cowboy state,” and ranchers don’t take kindly to being told where their cattle can roam. So last week, Governor Matt Mead signed Senate file 12, a bill that makes it a felony to trespass to unlawfully collect data, and prohibits any data collected “unlawfully” from being used in and civil, criminal or administrative proceeding. Animal rights and environmental activists are calling it an “Ag-gag” law, and, according to Wyoming Public Radio, “Wyoming agriculture interests are supporting the bill to thwart environmental researchers, who, they claim, often collect environmental data to support their legal efforts.” But legislators say it’s all to do with property rights and privacy.

“I want to remind the body that this is information, this data, is private information,” said Senator Larry Hicks during debate. “In a lot of ways it is no different than your social security number.  It has some of the same ramifications if that resides in the public domain.”

Ratner has been collecting his samples on public property, he isn’t sneaking onto private ranches in the dark of night. But the bill would still make what he does a felony. To understand that, you need to understand this about Wyoming: it’s big, there aren’t a lot of people, and while most land in the state is public, the roads everyone drives on often cut through private property. Ratner says it’s not uncommon for the Bureau of Land Management to build a road on private property and not bother to get an easement from the owner. They’re mostly just dirt roads anyway.

Because of this quirk of Wyoming roadways, which force people to drive on private land (and therefore, trespass), the law “makes millions of acres of BLM land off limits to me,” Ratner says.

The sense around the state is that the law is specifically targeted at Ratner and his organization, Western Watersheds, but it could apply to whistleblowers in various industries. Paige Tomaselli, a senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety told Wyoming News “Our reading of the law is it is broad enough that it could apply to any facility, including animal processing facilities or factories. It might not specifically say it deals with animal facilities, as a law in Idaho does, but we think it would still apply.”

An amendment that would have specifically exempted data having to do with “the health, treatment or welfare of a domesticated animal” was defeated on a voice vote, according the Wyoming News.

 

Greedy welfare ranchers dictating public land use…Wyoming wild horse roundups to begin

CarolWalkerWyoming_331

PLAINTIFF Carol Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation writes:  BLM is being “very vague even about when they will allow public observation, saying it depends upon weather, if it is on private land or not, and told us they will inform us the night before public observation is available – basically making it as hard to get there and be there as possible.”

WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO ATTEND THE ROUNDUPS.

Appellate Court Denies Emergency Motion and Allows Unprecedented Wyoming Wild Horse Roundups On Public Lands At the Request of Private Landowners

Denver, CO (September 10, 2014) – Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied an emergency motion to block the Bureau of Land Management”s (BLM) wild horse roundup in the Wyoming Checkerboard. The motion was filed by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom and wild horse photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl.

The one-sentence decision by the Tenth Circuit does not address any of BLM’s admitted violations of the Wild Horse Act and clears the way for the roundup of more than 800 wild horses from public and private lands in the Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek and Great Divide Basin Herd Management Areas. The helicopter capture operation is scheduled to begin this week after being twice delayed by the lawsuit filed by the wild horse preservation groups and advocates on August 1, 2014.

Read the rest here.