Economics of Off-Range Holding

Yesterday’s article by The New York Times noted that the BLM spends $60 million per year to keep 51,000 wild horses and burros in off-range holding.  The story did not indicate what the agency receives from the ranchers to whom their food is sold.

A report from August 2020 shows that approximately 98% of the animals in off-range holding are horses so let’s assume it’s 100% for simplicity.

The forage sold to the ranchers would be 51,000 × 12 = 612,000 AUMs per year.

Grazing fees would provide 612,000 × $1.35 = $826,200 per year, at current prices.

The government spends $60 million per year on the horses so it can collect less than $1 million per year from the ranchers.  Nobody in the private sector would do that.

Wild horses and burros are removed from their home range to make sure the ranchers receive their allocated share of the resources, not because they’re overpopulated.

Opposition to the practice has been minimal, although the method of removal has been the subject of recent debate: The advocates want to get rid of them with contraceptives, while the government and the ranchers prefer helicopters.

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