This letter is in response to the recent articles in the Herald Times regarding wild horse management on public lands.
To begin, there is no overpopulation of wild horses on public lands in Colorado. In fact, the cost to subsidize public land ranching to American taxpayers is enormous. The cost to graze in an AUM (Animal Unit per Month) — one cow/calf, or five sheep) is only $1.35 per month, a price that has remained unchanged since the mid-1970s.
Direct government expenditures to administer public land grazing constitute an annual loss to taxpayers of at least $123 million and more than $500 million when indirect costs are accounted for. according to a report by the Western Watersheds Project.
Private land leases in the Western states are anywhere between $10-$15 per AUM. BLM and the U.S. Forest Service would need to charge between $7.64 and $12.26 per AUM, respectively, to recoup their expenses. Livestock grazing on public lands is a welfare program subsidized by the American taxpayers.
American taxpayers subsidize all livestock permittees who utilize our public lands. These privileged few account for roughly 4 to 6 percent of all livestock produced and consumed in the United States. Our rural communities support public land livestock permittees, not the other way around.
The damage to public lands by overgrazing livestock is significant! Eighty percent of streams and riparian areas in arid regions of the West have been impacted (most don’t even have wild horses.) The number of cows and sheep in the White River Resource Area as compared to wild horses is significantly much higher, even by using numbers supplied by the BLM.
Therefore, the negative impact to public lands as previous articles have stated, as being directly attributed to wild horses, is significantly unsubstantiated.
Wild horses are a protected species with a law passed by Congress at the request of the American public to protect and manage wild horses as a National Heritage species. The law states they are to be managed in self-sustaining, genetically viable numbers in areas where they were found in 1971.
Livestock, on the other hand, utilizes public lands as a privilege (as reaffirmed by the Supreme Court), not a priority, a right nor a use to be put above of the land or wildlife, which includes wild horses. Therefore, when White River Field Office manager Kent Walter informed local livestock permittees in a special meeting that livestock numbers needed to be reduced for the upcoming year due to range conditions, there was an immediate outcry. The permittees’ protest apparently led to Mr. Walter revoking that plan to accommodate permittee requests over good range management practices. Hence, the aggressive attack on our wild horses.
So, who will the permittees or BLM blame when all the wild horses are gone? Will it be oil and gas, hunters, OHV users, recreational users such as hikers, cyclists, and photographers.? Wait!! Who wants to photograph a cow?
I have made it clear that I am not against ranching. I think ranchers are some of the hardest working people on the planet. My aunt is a rancher in Wyoming and one of my closest friends is a rancher in Gunnison.
But, BLM and ranchers, please stop blaming the wild horses for range degradation.
The proof is out there. You just need to drive around and you will not see a lot of horse feces in degradation areas, but cow feces. And for the BLM and permittees, like the signs say, “Your Public Lands.” Remember, the land is for all of the uses I mentioned above, not just for cattle.
And yes, BLM, you are managing the only hoofed animal to live in tight family bands, to extinction!
Rio Blanco Count