This story, presented yesterday by KOLR News of Springfield MO, features Fred Woehl, chair of BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. You might get the impression from his remarks that livestock are a minority on western rangelands.
Let’s take a look at the numbers. What matters is resource loading.
BLM currently allocates about nine million AUMs annually to privately owned cattle and sheep on public lands in the western U.S.
If the grazing season lasts three months per year, as stated by Woehl, there must be three million cow/calf pairs on western rangelands. If the season lasts six months per year, there must be 1.5 million cow/calf pairs on those lands.
Compared to 80,000 wild horses and burros (90,000—the figure he uses—may be a bit high).
Livestock have access to 155 million acres of BLM land, wild horses and burros have 27 million acres.
That puts the population density for livestock between ten and twenty cow/calf pairs per thousand acres, compared to three animals per thousand acres for wild horses and burros.
Now which species is overpopulated?
An AUM is the amount of forage consumed in a month by one horse, one cow/calf pair or five sheep. Wild horses and burros consume one million AUMs annually (because they’re on the range 12 months per year, as stated by Woehl).