Wild Horses and Burros Facing a Bleak Future?

So say the writers of a guest column published last week by Deseret News of Salt Lake City.  The original piece was commissioned by the Property and Environment Research Center of Bozeman, MT.

There are too many wild horses and burros struggling to scrape out an existence on limited rangeland, according to the writers, the premise of the article.  (‘Axiomatic basis’ might be a better term—as if the idea was already established, accepted as true, self-evident.)

That these animals have lost over 40% of the public lands originally set aside for them seems to have been overlooked by the writers.  That they are being forced off the remaining land to accommodate privately owned livestock was not mentioned.

The words ‘cattle’ and ‘sheep’ appear nowhere in the article, as though it’s possible to discuss the ‘problem’ of wild horses and burros independently of public-lands ranching.

Consider these points made by the authors:

1. The new $1,000 incentive will benefit wild horses and burros.  It may stimulate adoptions, at least in the short term, but how many of these animals will end up at auctions because the owner’s motivation was a cash reward (extrinsic), not a concern for the horses (intrinsic).

2. Wild horses and burros have no natural predators.  Yeah, they’re the same predators that take down privately owned cattle and sheep.

Cattle Grazing on Hill-1

3. Wild horse and burro populations are three times higher than their Appropriate Management Level.  So what?  AMLs have nothing to do with the carrying capacity of the land.  Rather, they represent the forage loss the ranchers are willing to tolerate.  How can you say there are too many horses and burros on public lands when they are far outnumbered by cattle and sheep?

Wild Horse Overpopulation Current-1

4. Wild horses and burros have consumed so much forage on public lands that they’re literally on the brink of starvation.  These are free-roaming animals, they do not stand around on dry lots and starve to death.  Why can’t they move to greener pastures?  Because of fences installed by the ranchers?

5. The government spends $50 million annually to care for horses and burros in long-term holding.  Yep, the BLM spends two dollars per day to feed a horse on private land so it can collect 4.5 cents per day from the public-lands rancher to whom the forage is sold.  If it was really about the money, the government would leave the horses on the range and tell the ranchers to go pound sand.

Cash Flow Roundups-1

6. Finding ‘good homes’ for wild horses and burros is clearly a better outcome than starving on the range.  The best home for these animals is the territory set aside for them by the WHB Act of 1971.  True, there are some areas where livestock grazing is not allowed but they are the exception not the rule (three for horses and one for burros).  What’s so good about being locked in a stall and having a big pain bit shoved in your mouth?


Folks, there is no wild horse problem, only greed and deceit on the part of the ranchers, their overlords, cheerleaders and political allies.  If they achieve their goals, this is what the charts will look like:

Wild Horse Overpopulation Planned-1

The nine million AUMs per year currently allocated to privately owned cattle and sheep on public lands in the western U.S. would support 750,000 wild horses and burros, enough to empty all of the off-range corrals and long-term pastures fifteen times over.

RELATED: Wild Horse Overpopulation?, Economics of Wild Horse Gathers.

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