Back in December, Congress awarded an additional $21 million to the BLM to further address the wild horse ‘problem,’ courtesy of the ill-conceived ‘Path Forward.’
Keep in mind that most of the affected lands were set aside for the horses and that the agency involved is responsible for their protection.
Q. How many wild horses could be removed with the additional funding?
A. Given a cost of roughly $1,000 to gather and process one animal, as many as 21,000 could be removed beyond what the BLM had already anticipated in FY 2020. This does not mean the agency has the capacity in its outplacement programs to handle that many horses. Probably not. So let’s reduce the number to 10,000.
Q. Which areas would be targeted first?
A. Given the agency’s bias toward livestock grazing, which existed before FLPMA, HMAs where the poor ranchers are suffering from AUM cutbacks (because of the horses) would likely be at the top of the list.
Q. What economic benefits might accrue from the $21 million expenditure?
A. The government could receive up to $162,000 per year in incremental grazing fees from the ranchers to whom the ‘liberated’ forage is sold (10,000 horses × 12 months per year × $1.35 per AUM).
Q. Are there any other economic benefits?
A. Not to the government, only the cost of warehousing that many more horses, about $2 per day per head. The ranchers would benefit, of course, but they’re not the ones spending the $21 million. Think of it as redistribution of wealth: From your pocket to theirs, assuming you pay federal taxes.
Q. Could the expenditure be described as an investment in America’s future?
A. No. There is no payout and no rate of return. It’s negative cash flow all the way. You don’t spend $21 million up front so you can spend an additional $7.1 million annually after that ($162,000 per year – 10,000 horses × $2 per day × 365 days per year).
Q. I thought the ‘Path Forward’ would cut costs and reduce government spending?
A. It’s not about saving money. There are no plans to close departments, sell buildings and lay people off when AML is achieved. It’s about enriching the public-lands ranchers and those who operate off-range pastures, sanctuaries and preserves.