However, the report omits the impacts of millions of head of cattle and sheep on western public lands and the unfair distribution of forage for them. 82% of forage on average is allocated to livestock while burros and horses receive only 18%. The Cloud Foundation contends that this disparity is driving the massive removal and subsequent warehousing of wild horses and burros at taxpayer expense.
“We applaud many recommendations and findings by the NAS but find it hard to believe that the major driver of wild horse and burro removals was not included in this otherwise thorough review,” states the Cloud Foundation (TCF) Executive Director, Ginger Kathrens. “The number one reason wild horses and burros are being warehoused at taxpayer expense is the influence welfare ranchers have on BLM management decisions.”
Public land permittees pay so little for the privilege of grazing their cattle and sheep that the taxpayer subsidizes the program to the tune of $121 million a year, hence the often used moniker welfare ranching.
“Clearly the BLM did not want the NAS to scrutinize public lands grazing and how it impacts range conditions and wild horses removals,” says Lisa Friday, TCF Board member and adopter of 10 Pryor mustangs. “While we value our adopted mustangs here at Legacy Mustang Preservation in Virginia, we realize that 50,000 more are held captive at taxpayer expense even though solutions to this money draining situation are available.”
The Cloud Foundation has long recommended that the horses in short-term feedlots be released back to some of the over 20 million acres where they once legally roamed. It appears that BLM did not request an analysis of livestock grazing or solutions to reduce the number of horses in holding pens and pastures.
“This is unfortunate, but the report made a number of recommendations which, if implemented, can improve the management of our wild horses and burros,” Kathrens says. “Let’s hope BLM doesn’t put the report on a bookcase somewhere to gather dust.”
Some of the NAS on-the-range management recommendations include:
• Increased use of the fertility control vaccine, PZP
• Scientific census methods
• Monitoring the genetic health of the herds
• Including public input in decision making
• Using adaptive, flexible management
• Setting the population of wild horse herds through scientific reasoning
• Increased transparency.