There are 95,114 wild horses and burros roaming on America’s public lands, according to a story published August 26 by the Jackson Hole News and Guide, compared to a recommended maximum of 26,770.
In Wyoming, the population exceeds the state’s goal by 4,900 animals and ranchers say the excess “robs rangeland from their cattle.”
Curiously, the article did not include any complaints by drillers, miners and loggers.
There is a problem, however. There aren’t any excess horses and burros on America’s public lands, overall.
Yes, some areas are overpopulated in terms of their true AML—the number of animals the land can support if forage diverted to privately owned livestock was returned to the horses and burros. For example, the pre-gather population in the Sulphur HMA, now in a roundup, included 88 excess horses.
But numbers like that are more than offset by shortfalls in other areas. The 68,344 excess animals indicated above is fiction.
The story did not mention that according to the WHB Act, areas set aside for wild horses and burros are to be managed principally for them. Instead, the government supplanted the statute with a regulation. We’ll do that if we feel like it.
It did not mention that almost half of the land set aside for wild horses and burros is no longer managed for them, usually due to ‘inadequate resources.’ Roundups do occur in those areas and many are subject to permitted grazing. The gather at Jakes Wash in Nevada provides an example. The Caliente roundup of 2019 is another.
The article noted that wild horses have no natural predators but did not mention that in most cases they share their land with livestock. The animals that would keep horse populations in check would also be interested in cattle and sheep, and the ranchers aren’t going to tolerate that.
They’ve never been able to tolerate the WHB Act either and have pushed for several amendments since it was signed into law almost 50 years ago.
Today, the WHB program, like predator management programs, is nothing more than a grazing program ancillary, designed to give ranchers unfettered access to cheap feed on America’s public lands.
The enterprise, which has outlived its usefulness, should be shut down effective Monday morning, as the cost of those programs far exceeds the fees paid by the ranchers.