The original article, ignored by WHW, portrayed the horses as thieves—stealing forage from the poor ranchers—on land set aside for the horses. Of course, they didn’t mention that last part.
Ray Hendrix, the main rancher with grazing allotments on these rangelands, expresses frustration about what the horses are doing to the land. In late August, he visited what he calls the “lower country,” where he planned to graze some of his 900 cows this winter. He was thrilled to see abundant “winterfat” – a nutritious shrub that makes for excellent winter forage.
“I thought, this is fabulous. We’ll turn out this fall and there will be a lot of feed,” says Mr. Hendrix, a no-nonsense rancher in a baseball cap and Carhartt jacket. “Then I go back in October and it’s all gone. The horses ate it.”
The AML for the Desatoya HMA is 180, which corresponds to a forage allocation of 2,160 AUMs per year. Those 900 head, assuming they’re actually cow/calf pairs with a six month grazing season, would require 2.5 times as much, typical for HMAs that have almost achieved a thriving ecological balance.
On public lands taken away from the horses, almost everything goes to privately owned livestock, with a few crumbs for wildlife.
Yet, we’re supposed to feel sorry for the ranchers.
In the third letter, the reader argues that “the [Christian Science] Monitor should have published a completely different kind of article – one that exposed the money ranchers receive from the U.S. government.”
That money comes from you, the American taxpayer.
Think of it as redistribution of wealth. Government confiscates a portion of your wages and uses the money to remove wild horses from their home range. Their food is sold to the ranchers at fire-sale prices, and they pocket the profits.
Other funds go to wild horse outplacement programs (adoption, marketing, training and long-term holding) and population control programs (contraceptives, sex-ratio skewing and sterilization).
Thus, the WHB program is really just an appendage of the grazing program, designed to clear the range of wild horses and burros so they can be replaced by privately owned cattle and sheep. Paragraph 1332(c) of the statute be damned.