Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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SOURCE WATCH

Sustainable Cowboys or Welfare Ranchers of the American West?

Report analyzes taxpayer bailout of U.S. public lands ranching [Part II of a series on ranchers]

Each public lands livestock operator cost taxpayers nearly a quarter of a million dollars in subsidies over the last decade. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, John Locher)

Five hundred million dollars[1]. That’s what 21,000[2] ranchers who graze their livestock on America’s iconic western rangelands are estimated to have cost US taxpayers in 2014 — and every year for the past decade. This averages out to an annual taxpayer subsidy of $23,809 per rancher — approximately a quarter of a million dollars each since 2005. So why does this small subset, representing just 2.7% of US livestock producers, protest the “welfare rancher” label?

 The public lands grazing program is welfare.

That $23,809 — and it’s a lowball figure — is a form of public assistance similar to other welfare programs. The only difference is, it doesn’t arrive as a check in the mail. It instead represents a loss covered by taxpayers: the very large difference between what public lands ranchers pay in fees to the US government and what public lands grazing costs taxpayers every year. But it’s still a subsidy, as a newly updated economic analysis, Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands, makes clear. And the recipients aren’t low income; a large number are millionaires and some are billionaires and multi-billion dollar corporations on Forbes various “rich lists”. Cattle barons, if you will.

Public lands ranching costs western ecosystems, wildlife and taxpayers.

“Several federal agencies permit livestock grazing on public lands in the United States, the largest being the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of Agriculture’s United States Forest Service (USFS).

The vast majority of livestock grazing on BLM and USFS rangelands occurs in the 11 western states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Rangelands are non-irrigated and generally have vegetation that consists mostly of grasses, herbs and/or shrubs. They are different from pastureland, which may periodically be planted, fertilized, mowed or irrigated.”

So says the report, which was prepared by three economists for the Center for Biological Diversity and published in January 2015, the latest of numerous studies (see list at end of this article) to examine a program Americans know nothing about.

The 44-page fiscal analysis describes a federal program that exploits not just taxpayers but is ruinous to public lands and the wildlife that inhabit it, a viewpoint shared by rangeland science experts and conservation groups, from Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity, to WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and many others.

An obvious culprit identified in the report (and its predecessors) is the negligible fee that livestock operators pay to graze a cow and her calf or five sheep for an entire month on public lands, otherwise defined as an AUM (animal unit month). In 2014 it was just $1.35 (priced less than a can of dog food) — a figure that is the lowest fee that can be legally charged.

The $1.35 figure has barely budged over the past 34 years[3] and is well below the market price to graze on private land ($21.60). Fees set by other federal agencies and individual states on public property are also significantly higher.

In 2014, BLM and USFS permit holders paid an estimated $18.5 million in fees to graze 1.14 million livestock “units” on the 229 million acres of federal land used for grazing. But only a fraction (between one-third and one-quarter) of that $18.5 million actually went into the US Treasury, according to the report. The majority was diverted to range rehabilitation and improvement funds to construct fences for containing livestock, and improving vegetation and forage. In other words, two-thirds to three quarters of the low fees ranchers pay go right back into their pockets, leaving approximately $7.9 million to help defray total costs…which are, well…enormous.

Indirect costs significantly higher than direct costs.

The study indicates that, in 2014, $143.6 million was directly appropriated to the grazing program (an amount that’s been consistent over the last 10 years). Some quick math reveals that, on average, public lands ranchers paid just $376 for what cost taxpayers $6,838 last year.

But that doesn’t reflect the indirect costs: 34 related programs and services enumerated at the back of the report (Appendix A, tables 1-4) that aren’t directly budgeted under grazing by BLM and USFS budgets or that are carried out by other government agencies or at the state and local level. These aren’t figured into the $143.6 million appropriated for the grazing recipients.

The entries either benefit livestock producers or remediate damage tied to their operations. Multiple programs deal with soil erosion, desertification, and the spread of noxious weeds while others deal with damage to streams, watersheds and riparian areas. Several others address harm to archeological and cultural resources (oftentimes, of indigenous peoples) and recreational areas used by the public. Four remedy harm to wildlife. Fire management and control is a big issue, too.

Two controversial programs directly remove and kill wildlife that threaten livestock at taxpayer expense. USDA Wildlife Services spends $8 million[4] to kill millions of native predators every year, courtesy of an unknowing public. The BLM’s Wild Horses and Burros program also removes thousands of federally protected horses and burros each year from designated wild horse habitat so that, during the ongoing drought, more water and forage are available for ranchers on public assistance. The cost of that program tops $80 million a year. That’s $380 per rancher to kill predators (wolves, coyotes, bear, cougars, bobcats and eagles) and ten times that much ($3,809) to get rid of wild horses and burros.

Add in the USDA’s livestock assistance program, under which payments are made directly to ranchers due to natural disasters, like droughts. And don’t forget all the various agencies indirectly involved with federal grazing issues and consequences: The US Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA, the USDA, and Dept. of Justice. What does it equal? Special interest welfare estimated between $500 million and $1 billion a year.

Here’s where the cattlemen’s claim to be great stewards of public grassland and forest preserve gets exposed — just like their disavowal of receiving welfare payments.

States the Western Watersheds Project,

“Public lands ranching is the most widespread commercial use of public lands in the United States. Ranching is one of the primary causes of native species endangerment in the American West; it is also the most significant cause of non-point source water pollution and desertification.

Public lands ranching significantly contributes to climate change by emissions of the global warming gases nitrous oxide and methane; it causes loss of soil carbon reserves by causing erosion and by substantially reducing the landscape’s potential to sequester carbon.”

Almost a year ago, Cliven Bundy ripped into low-income Americans for collecting government subsidies at the same time that he was stiffing the government of $1 million in back grazing fees. Since then, only a handful of articles have called out the rest of his public-lands ranching brethren for the hand-outs they receive. The mainstream media acts as though all that welfare ranching stuff disappeared with Bundy’s armed rebellion.

The time is here for journalists to inform the public about the federal grazing program. For too long, they’ve let the 2.7% of US livestock producers run away with the “sustainable” cowboy narrative — leaving the public, public lands, and wildlife paying the price.

 

This is Part II of a four-part SourceWatch series on ranchers in the media. 

Coming next:

Part III: Bad Ranchers, Bad Cows (peer-reviewed study of damage caused by cattle grazing in a national wildlife refuge)
Part IV: Forbes Billionaires Top US Welfare Ranchers List 

Read Part I: The Media Adores Ranchers. Here’s Why They Shouldn’t.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Studies and Reports:

Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands, (Jan. 2015) by Christine Glaser, Karyn Moskowitz and Chuck Romaniello for the Center for Biological Diversity

Grazing Fees: Overview and Issues (June 2012) by Carol Hardy Vincent, Specialist in Natural Resources Policy for the Congressional Research Service (Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress) 

Trampling the Public Trust (Jan. 2010) by Debra L. Donohue for the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review

Fiscal Costs of Federal Public Lands Livestock Grazing (2005) Wild Earth Guardians

Taking Stock of Public Lands Grazing: An Economic Analysis by Thomas M. Power, Ph.D., Chair of the Economics Department at the University of Montana

Livestock Grazing: Federal Expenditures and Receipts Vary Depending on the Agency and the Purpose of the Fee Charged (Sept. 2005) Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Assessing the Full Cost of the Federal Grazing Program (Oct. 2002) by Karyn Moskowitz and Chuck Romaniello for the Center for Biological Diversity

Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West Edited by George Wuerthner and Mollie Matteson

Articles:

Big Cattle, Big Gulp (Feb. 4, 2015) by Christopher Ketcham for The New Republic

Federal Grazing Program in Bundy Dispute Rips-Off Taxpayers, Wild Horses (April 25, 2014) by Vickery Eckhoff for Forbes

Grazing Improvement Act Will Fleece Taxpayers While Harming Environment (Dec. 3, 2013) by James McWilliams for Forbes 

On Wyoming’s Range, Water Is Scarce but Welfare Is Plenty (July 9, 2012) by Andrew Cohen for The Atlantic

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Fiscal Costs of Public Lands Livestock Grazing, WildEarth Guardians, 2005; http://www.sagebrushsea.org/pdf/factsheet_Grazing_Fiscal_Costs.pdf; Moscowitz, K. and C. Romaniello.2002. Assessing the Full Cost of the Federal Grazing Program. Center for Biological Diversity. Tucson, Az. The estimated cost of the deferral grazing program at $500 million is consistent with estimates developed by other experts, Karl Hess (former special advisor on policy to the Assistant Secretary for Program, Policy, and Budget of the Department of the Interior) and Johanna Wald (senior attorney and Land Program Director, Natural Resources Defense Council) estimated the annual cost of the federal grazing program to be approximately $500 million. Hess, K. and and J.H. Wald. 1995. Grazing reform: here’s the answer. High Country News 27 (18). The Economic magazine has also reported the annual cost of the federal grazing program to be $460 million. Subsidized Cow Chow. The Economist (Mar. 7, 2002): 9.

[2] Costs and Consequences: the Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands, p. 6: “In 2013, the BLM issued 15,739 permits to livestock operators and there were 5,711 livestock operators who had permits to graze in the national forest system. The numbers of USFS and BLM permits and livestock permit holders are not directly additive, but due to a number of livestock operators who have permits from both agencies and/or more than one grazing permit per agency, the total number of livestock operators is likely to be fewer than 21,540. This compares to the approximately 800,000 ranchers and cattle producers in the United States. (Statistic Brain, 2012). The number of operators benefitting from the USFS and BLM grazing program in the West is therefore less than 2.7 percent of the nation’s total livestock operators.

[3] The fee for 2015 was raised to $1.69 per AUM. According to Christine Glaser, one of the analysis’ three authors, “This miniscule increase does not change the basic message that the PRIA fee percentage of private fees has been decreasing pretty dramatically since 1981, and also between 2002 and 2013. See Table 10 in the report.”

[4] Fiscal Costs of Public Lands Livestock Grazing, WildEarth Guardians, 2005; http://www.sagebrushsea.org/pdf/factsheet_Grazing_Fiscal_Costs.pdf

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About Vickery Eckhoff (10 Articles)
Vickery Eckhoff is the co-founder and executive editor of The Daily Pitchfork. Her articles on wild horses, public lands grazing and the meat industry have been published in Forbes, the Huffington Post, Newsweek/The Daily Beast, Alternet and Salon.
Contact: Website

81 Comments on Sustainable Cowboys or Welfare Ranchers of the American West?

  1. Teresa Wagner // February 12, 2015 at 5:35 pm // Reply

    Thank you for all the details. It is depressing but important to know.

    • According to the 10th Federal circuit up until last week when a newly appointed judge set aside a ruling made in 2006 this is all Cow dung. No one in the USA has the right to kill eagles or any other predator that are protected under the endangered animals act. Now as far horses and burro the Government rounds them up every year to sell for slaughter to politicians friends they aren’t worried about grazing cows. This whole article is just an opinion who personally sounds like they are jealous they are getting a larger cut for themselves.

  2. Regarding Cliven Bundy, Fox News likes that he steals welfare from taxpayers because it thinks it makes for lower meat prices:

    “’When you graze your cattle there, you keep the price of meat down for the American consumer,’ [Sean] Hannity said.”

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/04/sean-hannity-inflames-brewing-range-war-between-feds-militia-over-nv-cattle-roundup/

    Of course one rancher cannot possibly affect the price. It just fattens his own profit. Not that lower prices would justify it anyway.

    • GAYLA STAHL // March 6, 2015 at 6:36 pm // Reply

      Why did they pick on one farmer, Mr. Bundy, I think they need to appologize.

      • Cliven Bundy, owed (and prob still owes) more than $1 million in back grazing fees, and his family and supporters pointed weapons at federal agents. I don’t think anyone needs to apologize to him.

  3. Trish Pauley // February 12, 2015 at 5:49 pm // Reply

    It is so wrong, unfair and many other words I would like to say that American Taxpayers are forced to pay for the abuse and suffering of these Historical wild herds. The cattlemen and mining operations have very deep pockets and are lining those of congress, senate and higher to use the public lands that belong to every American to not only destroy them but to kill out our National Treasures. The wild herds have bloodlines that go back to the same bloodlines of the horses that not only helped build our country but they also carried our soliders to battle. The saddest part is my grandchildren will not be able to enjoy seeing the beauty of these herds in the wild or the visit the beauty of these lands once the mining operations are finish stripping the National resources from them. I as a USAF veteran, American taxpayer and animal lover believed the when the Constitution says “Government for the People” was true. Now I know it is now “Government is for the Greedy”.

  4. Excellent article – the American public does need to know this exploitation of OUR PUBLIC LANDS is causing desertification (as GAO Reports have stated for decades) and extinction of native species that have key roles to play in these arid rangelands. Wild horses for instance disperse seeds replenishing what they consume, they also consume dry brush thereby reducing wildfire fuel. They can not fill their niche at ridiculously low populations and continue to be eradicated by the agency mandated to protect them, BLM. BLM is funded by taxpayers but serves special interests plundering our public lands.

    • Maureen Gerety // January 30, 2016 at 8:42 pm // Reply

      Agree, it would have stopped if they were not making a profit from it, government crooks. Paid by the ranchers, and big business, that are already taking the taxpayer money.

  5. Taxpayers should not have to prop up livestock producers who cannot make it on their own. Time to bring an end to welfare ranching.

  6. Grandma Gregg // February 13, 2015 at 2:01 pm // Reply

    What can be done to address the problems associated with public lands livestock grazing? There is a simple answer: end it. Get the cows and sheep off, let the wild creatures reclaim their native habitat, and send the ranchers a bill for the cost of restoration.
    http://www.publiclandsranching.org/book.htm

  7. Grandma Gregg // February 13, 2015 at 2:12 pm // Reply

    A Must Read:
    MAD COWBOY: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat
    by Howard F. Lyman
    A fourth-generation Montana rancher, Lyman investigated the use of chemicals in agriculture after developing a spinal tumor that nearly paralyzed him. He blasts through the propaganda of beef and dairy interests — and the government agencies that protect them. Persuasive, straightforward, and full of the down-home good humor and optimism of a son of the soil, Mad Cowboy is both an inspirational story of personal transformation and a convincing call to action for us all.

  8. Tricia Fidone // February 13, 2015 at 2:25 pm // Reply

    Really really, so let me get this straight, we pay these wranglers with our tax money, also these ranchers don’t really pay much for the grazing rights on public lands so if there’s a shortfall, we are also left with the bill?????Next with their profits these ranchers are able to live quite well, and if they need money to pay lobbyists to get the wild horses, burros, and wolves off the land, we also are paying these goons who call themselves lobbyists and ranchers are able to pay with our tax money which sustains them quite well, this is all too much for me, our Wild horses and burros, and the predators that kept everything in check, (the wolves) have been scuttled off our public lands, at the pleasure of these goons who call themselves “ranchers” makes me wanna holler@@@@STOP it.This really is a form of upper level WELFARE and it certainly isn;t fair to all of us who are paying for these whiners to keep us their abuse of the horses and burros, the BLM has already gotten rid of all the wolves, they call it “management????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  9. Barbara Warner // February 13, 2015 at 6:16 pm // Reply

    I think the welfare ranchers are backed by the Cattlemen’s Assoc. , Big Ag and the Farm Bureau and that they have paid off politicians in D.C. too.

    • Maureen Gerety // January 30, 2016 at 8:45 pm // Reply

      Yes it involves HP computers, Ted Turner, Hilton Hotels, and the Bundy’s and more , like they need it.

  10. Thank you for exposing this massive disgrace. Like so many issues, it has been “business as usual” for decades out of the public eye. The only hope is getting the word out. What I hate about it even more than the environmental degradation is the persecution of wildlife species on behalf of ranchers. No species is exempt, from wild horses to coyotes to crows to wolves to bears to bobcats, and on and on and on. The brutality of methods and the immense, ongoing suffering is staggering. Once again, Vickery, thank you. All of us who care about wild horses and other species and who value ecosystems that exhibit wholeness must talk and talk and talk and talk and talk about it — never being silent. Every one of us has an ownership stake in public lands, but you’d sure never know it. Keep talking until our collective ownership is evident.

  11. Please get this to the public. Welfare ranchers need to be held accountable. Save our wild horses and wild life. Am tired of paying for there stealing.

    • re sold at auction for non slaughter purposes so Jay buys them for nothing and he sells the to K who then sells them for slaughter for animal and human consumption, You are I or anyone who wants to purchase these horse would never even get a chance to bid of these animals because if you aren’t on the list from DC folks or you are actually what they call a welfare rancher having 10 acres per animal This whole article is just more BS. Instead of worrying about public lands used for grazing hunting or whatever if people in this country do not stop the feds from selling public lands to foreign corps for strip mining and don’t even have to follow EPA rules about ground contamination or back filling then we are in trouble Read how you extract yellow cake uranium will get you sick because after the area is mined most groundwater is contaminated forever more and the remaining ground is also useless

  12. our wild horses and burros need to remain free and wild. These horrific and terrifying roundups are unnecessary and cruel. It is the cattle that need to be reduced.

  13. Carolyn Ellertson // February 14, 2015 at 11:54 pm // Reply

    The BLM is getting very close to having a rebellion on it’s hands!! ARE YOU LISTENING BLM??? The American taxpayer is damned sick and tired of dishonest, on the take, self serving, special interest sustaining, politians and departments who pay us no mind until it’s election time again. WE HAVE HAD IT!! You are basically pawns for the self serving life stock ranchers on OUR land. We did not authorize what you are doing,despite what you think, and we will keep on until changes are made.. and you lose your jobs in the process.. Graft and corruption has consumed you!! Don’t let he door hit you on the way out..

    • I would say that yes rebellion is not too far off. No leadership has emerged to deal with this issue that is seriously starting to boil over. People will not stand by and allow themselves to be used and abused, and they are completely horrified and sick to death with the abuse and utter mismanagement of their iconic wild horses and burros. Isn’t anyone bloody listening? Hello? You can’t say you didn’t see the public unrest coming. Stop the round ups, return the 60,0000 warehoused horses to the homes guaranteed to them by the 1971 Act, and start moving these cows and welfare ranchers off the land. Public IS public folks. DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM. It’s a no brainer, if you have a spine.

  14. This article, though not terribly surprising, is both disturbing and important. Unfortunately, it is a very small tip of a very large iceberg of externalities big AG would rather stay below the surface. Hopefully, articles such of this will shed more light on the issues. Realistically, we are a long way from seeing any real change.

  15. Shane Destry // February 17, 2015 at 8:30 pm // Reply

    Thank you Vickery Eckhoff for as always getting to the nitty gritty of $ costs to the taxpayers for subsidizing welfare cattleman destroying our public lands and driving our wildlife into extinction. Although other forms of welfare corporations like Haliburton or Pfizer get more attention in the media, those among the welfare cattlemen deserve to have the spotlight shown upon them as you do so well. For in the darkness in which they operate unknown to the public they are bringing about the turning of our Western lands into Wasteland and the extinction of our wild horses, wolves and other species who are about to vanish forever – collateral damage in the war waged on Mother Earth by corporate greed.

  16. Christine Calderon // February 18, 2015 at 9:27 pm // Reply

    perhaps some welfare ranchers will meet up with some of the illegals who marijuana farm on public land and a huge battle will wipe out both sides. There’s cartel in them woods too. Why bother smuggling it when they can just grow it here. The BLM is on the take and not just from those ranchers… Those welfare farmers need to buy some land already and work it.

  17. Janet Curtis // February 24, 2015 at 7:32 am // Reply

    pls copy and paste this so we can have readable material to hand out on thursday..there will be tons of people in and outside the nugget..we cant get their attention with just shirts or signs. not many going, but the general public and others need to see this stuff. most are pro blm and fall for their lies. we need to make more advocates right now!! pls my printer is broken and i cant send pictures i dont know how or obama would get all the grapic photos we have to see. ty

  18. The time is way overdue to expose these thieves. They are destroying what is cherished by Americans and are dictating what lives and dies on public lands, while the BLM and USFS caters to their every whim. Thank you Vickery Eckhoff for another well written and informative article.

  19. Thanks for bringing the greater truth to light! This is such an ignored issue and so much of this travesty of justice occurs because of the abject complacency of people. It’s high time to wake up and change our lifestyle, before this whole marvelous life-supporting ecosystem comes crashing down around up. I particularly detest how the wonderful returned North American native wild horses are being scapegoated and blamed by the public lands livestock industry, the big game hunting establishment, etc. This is so devilishly wrong and must be countered. Thanks for the breath of fresh air for the living planet Earth, all you great researchers and writers who still care. Now to translate this into much needed reform. This remains our challenge, everyone’s.

  20. article posted by our ex Governor Schweitzer. About half way through you will see information about the Koch Bros and their dealings in Montana. I had no idea. Welfare ranchers for sure.

  21. Debra weber // June 12, 2015 at 10:24 pm // Reply

    Keep it coming.

  22. This is just mind boggling??? B.S., politics, probably illegal!!!

  23. Wilderness Packer // December 7, 2015 at 12:40 am // Reply

    Starting out using data and numbers from Center for Biological Diversity pretty much ruins your whole so called ‘facts’. Aren’t they the same institute that was fined $600,000 for fabricating fraudulent evidence! And of all things, for trying to take Federal grazing rights from a rancher! Makes your whole numbers skewed from the start.

    • Wilderness Packer: there’s only one way to settle that, and that’s for you to list the data you say is fabricated below. I’ll be happy to take a hard look at any numbers with you as well as sources and confirm if they are indeed real or fabricated. Let’s get started!

      • Wilderness Packer // December 9, 2015 at 5:30 pm // Reply

        How about just starting with getting your links to your foot notes to work?

      • Wilderness Packer // December 10, 2015 at 12:22 am // Reply

        Once you get proper links to your footnotes we sure can.
        But first off I can see this – “The entries either benefit livestock producers or remediate damage tied to their operations. Multiple programs deal with soil erosion, desertification, and the spread of noxious weeds while others deal with damage to streams, watersheds and riparian areas. Several others address harm to archeological and cultural resources (oftentimes, of indigenous peoples) and recreational areas used by the public. Four remedy harm to wildlife. Fire management and control is a big issue, too.”
        So are you trying to say the horse’s deer, elk and antelope do not spread noxious weeds? Don’t ever damage streams, watersheds or riparian areas? Soil erosion? How is that only tied to the cows Ms Eckoff? I am pretty sure I have never seen a horse with wings on any of the many ranges I have been to, so they must walk on the land too.
        So without the links fixed to check the numbers, right off the bat I have a problem with your 500 million number if you are trying to say everything done to benefit the range is only for the ranchers. Re-seeding certainly benefit’s all animals and all the range animals are guilty of either walking on or eating some of the rangeland(not just the cows). And also if you are getting your number of $500 million from CBD then I certainly see why your numbers are skewed.

  24. What a horrible and misleading article. You should be ashamed for even writing such drivel.

    For one – when a rancher rents from private ground, the lessor bears responsibility for insurance costs, maintenance, fencing and feed costs. When a rancher has a grazing permit, the rancher is responsible for all those costs. The difference in those costs is why there’s a difference in the AUM costs to lease the ground for grazing.

    The costs of administrating are self-regulating costs. They would be there regardless if the ranchers were there.

    The Burro program – that’s a cost to manage them at levels so they don’t starve themselves out or over-graze the lands they roam. And the costs to manage wildlife are again not the responsibilities of ranchers.

    Seriously – this type of journalism is HORRIBLE. You should be ashamed.

    • Let me cut and paste for you — again — what the challenge was. Here it is:

      “As for overgrazing, if you can find me a peer-reviewed article on research showing that damage to federal grazing permitted lands is caused by wild horses and not cattle and sheep, I will give you $50. If you can’t, you give me $50.”

      The challenge says “federal grazing permitted lands”, not “federal grazing lands.” Further, it’s specific to “overgrazing damage” that is attributable to horses and not cattle and sheep.”

      Your study is not on permitted land, so you’ve failed.

      You, sir, owe me $50.

    • I think Justin was one of those guys in the movie Unbranded. It flopped and he doesn’t have 50 bucks.
      Or he buys “grass-fed beef” at Whole Paycheck and hes busted till next week. Give him a break.

  25. It’s okay. I’m very familiar with how progressive liberals twist things around to avoid paying money out of their own pocket. You owe me $50 and everybody can see that. Good.

    That you ignore the study about the difference in AUM costs on private v. public lands is also very telling about your biased agenda and horrible articles. Because it doesn’t fit in with your preconceived notions, you ignore it and start some silly spaghetti monster bet (although I supplied with you a peer reviewed study identifying riparian damage to the environment done by wild horses on federal grazing lands – so it’s not quite the spaghetti monster in that sense).

    It’s rather simple: you only report that which spins the needle toward whatever cause of the month you’re willing to support, facts be damned.

    But don’t worry your pretty little head much longer. The case determining federal unenumerated land ownership in perpetuity is coming up soon. Your socialistic land practices won’t survive much longer.

    • Justin,

      I knew from the get-go that there are no peer-reviewed studies proving that overgrazing damage on federal grazing permitted lands is caused by horses and not cattle, and you fell for it. You accepted the deal, you did not come up with a study on permitted land; and you lost.

      Yes, I am a liberal. But that’s has nothing to do with your failures of reading comprehension. The economic data above isn’t biased, it’s from the BLM, the USFS and the GAO. Those are facts, and they are not damned. But you are.

      You’re out $50, friend.

  26. Jo Anne Normile // January 28, 2016 at 9:41 pm // Reply

    Justin, pay up already! You are SO out of your league here and can’t believe you can’t see that! Shame on you!

  27. Justin, come on pay up! It’s ok to lose, you just have admitted it, pay up and fight for the wild horses. Welcome to the truth!

  28. Pay up, dude!

  29. Lisa LeBlanc // January 28, 2016 at 10:27 pm // Reply

    There really isn’t a way of writing this that isn’t going to sound snotty, but I hope it translates…
    There are folks who see ” wild horses and burros” and it sets off all kinds of negativity. It doesn’t matter how logical the rebuttal, how thorough or deep the research goes or how many citations are provided to show proof of the veracity of the information; there are people who find wild equines and the people who advocate for them repugnant. And nothing can be said to dissuade them.
    Justin seems to be very passionate about his belief system, and it would take more than Vickery’s considerable knowledge to dissuade him. Capitulating to a ‘loss’ would likely cost Justin MORE than simply the $50. It might also weaken a lifetime of single-minded prejudice against animals that cost taxpayers absolutely nothing while they live on the range – but 10’s of millions after capture.

  30. Justin pay up, you need a different line of work. Cattle ranching like no profit movies will come to an end

  31. Nancy Hilliard // January 28, 2016 at 10:31 pm // Reply

    Justin, man up n pay up!!! You failed to provide any study.

  32. Sorry, but that study counts. It shows that damage to the environment does IN FACT occur due to horses on federal grazing land. Your implication was that horses do not cause damage – the study proves they do. PAY ME. See, there’s this little legal thing called inference, and the inference here is that I supplied the necessary study meeting applicable and reachable requirements. In a court of law, I would win without question. You owe me $50.

    The rest of your BS is immaterial as I did not say cattle do not do any damage to the environment – but then again, you didn’t mention what good the cattle do for the environment either. By design, I’m sure.

    From the article – the numbers you cite are misrepresented. The public grazing fee is not a welfare subsidy, and the study I presented you proves it. It costs the rancher MORE to run on public grounds when all the other fees that the rancher doesn’t have to pay for private ground are calculated in. Not to mention even including the cost of managing wild burros as those are costs that would be incurred anyway. Due to you being so used to reporting biased spins, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that you can’t comprehend that your “interpretations of data” are flawed and biased.

    Later. I’m done with this nonsense. Liberals: staring facts in the face and shouting “NOPE! NOT TODAY, FACTS! NOT TODAY!”

    You owe me $50 bucks.

    • Angie Friehauf // January 29, 2016 at 10:49 am // Reply

      Justin, just grow a pair and pay up. You weren’t able to rise to Vickery’s polite challenge, and trying to twist words and come up with excuses is pathetic. PAY UP OR SHUT UP. Sheesh.

  33. BTW – if we really wanted to get technical, there was not a time limit anyway. I could provide a study 8 years from now if I had to, although, the first study met your requirements anyway. Ta ta.

    • I welcome any peer-reviewed studies proving that overgrazing on permitted federal grazing land is attributable to horses and not cattle and sheep. If you find any, please send; and thanks for trying, Justin!

      • I expect a follow up UNBIASED article detailing the costs of AUM comparing private to public lands based on the report I linked to above. It is misleading to say ranchers are getting a welfare deal on public grazing allotments by simply comparing the leasing fees. There are other fees involved in public leasing, as well as benefits to both. A conscientious journalist would report ALL the facts and let the chips fall where they may.

        To say that overgrazing on permitted federal grazing is ONLY attributable to horses and not cattle is a ridiculous assertion, and a ridiculous quest. We do know that cattle do disturb the environment – that’s never been a question. But to say that horses do not also disturb the environment is a naive fallacy. Given the same number of cattle and horses in similar environments, you may even be able to declare which disturbs more, or which does more damage. But without those conditions, you’re simply attempting to prove or disprove the flying spaghetti monster, and the only way you’re going to do that is by fallacy conjecture, which is a failure in itself.

        For those of you who seem to think I don’t know what I’m talking about: I was raised on a cattle, sheep, and horse ranch on the Western Oregon coast. 2800 acres private + a USFS lease on another 1200 acres. I’m very familiar with what cows and sheep accomplish, as well as being familiar with what horses can accomplish when enough of them are together. We also wintered about 80 head of elk on two different plots and I’ve seen firsthand just what damage they can do when feed is running scarce. That’s pretty much what animals do: search for food, and as it dwindles, do whatever is necessary to survive, and I’m confident you’re not going to legislate any of them into feeling empathy for grouse or turtles. That management practices are always in order is beyond question – but understanding how all of them work together and compromising the needs of all involved is a better workable solution. We cannot be adamant about removing cattle so our children can hike everywhere they want to anymore than we can be adamant about overgrazing to the point of making millions of acres of sand dunes. Land has resources, and as such, should be utilized, as without it, we’re left with an economic impact in the red zone. Instead of complaining that those costs are there, we should be investigating opportunities to mitigate those costs. Taking extreme positions either way isn’t going to be for the benefit of anyone.

        Ms. Warner: horses do indeed create paths, as well as utilize existing paths. They also “unload” where ever it is they decide – water or land. Please don’t make extreme prejudicial comments that don’t have any basis in reality. I’m not longer a rancher, nor a BLM employee. I’m a salmon fishing guide :) But I still go big game hunting, mushroom hunting, and hiking all over Oregon. I’m not against wild horses per say, but I’m not going to suggest that running too many horses won’t damage the ecosystem as much as cattle. ALL animals need to be managed appropriately, and all avenues of economic gain need to be explored, especially in areas of renewable resources.

        And now I’m tired of typing. Good day.

  34. Barbara Warner // January 29, 2016 at 8:20 am // Reply

    Justin, the 1990-91 GAO study found that the millions of cattle on public lands have caused the range and riparian area destruction and not the few thousand wild horses. Look it up and pay up. Western Watersheds Project has lots of proof also. Furthermore my dad raised cattle and I have seen the erosion they caused and know how they pollute the water with E.coli. I’ve had horses most of my 77 years and they have never made “cow paths” and ditches or defecated in the water. Maybe you are a welfare rancher or a BLM employee as you are so against our wild horses. I have 5 rescued mustang mares also as well as domestic horses.

  35. I’ll tell ya what – to all these people thinking I owe $50. If any of you can find a study proving there is NOT a flying spaghetti monster in space, I’ll give everyone here who comments $50. If you can’t find one, then you all owe me $50.

    See the ridiculousness of her “challenge” yet?

    • Teasdale Gal // January 30, 2016 at 10:53 am // Reply

      Having raised a lot of horses myself I can attest that, per head, they are every bit as destructive to land as cattle, PLUS they chew up wooden fences.

      • That’s a specious argument: because, according to grazing fees, in 2014, there were 30 times as many cattle as wild horses in BLM territory; 83 times as many cattle as wild horses in US Forest Service territory; and in 83% of all federally permitted grazing lands, no wild horses, whatsoever. Furthermore, those ratios are at their lowest levels, due to declines in grazing. Only a few years prior, there were 50 times as many cattle as wild horses on BLM land. Further, there is extensive research on the damage done by cattle on grazing lands (but virtually none about horse damage).

        You can see that data and that research here: http://dailypitchfork.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/BLM_USFS-grazing-analysis_2014_Daily-Pitchfork.pdf

        As a closing point, I’ll say that raising horses doesn’t qualify you to judge the impact of horses in the wild. But that should be obvious to anyone.

  36. Teasdale Gal // January 30, 2016 at 10:51 am // Reply

    Dear feral horse lovers,

    Lacking predators, these equines proliferate freely on some of the most arid, fragile real estate in the US. Their habits are every bit as destructive as cows, plus they travel much farther and guard water sources from wildlife and cows alike. In just the past 4 years managing feral horses has cost taxpayers nearly $300 million, plus $50 million annually for feeding the captive horses culled from public lands. If you REALLY love these creatures, perhaps you need to adopt a half dozen or so.

    • So you would agree, then, that it’s silly for US taxpayers to hold wild horses in captivity, because of the cost. But you know what cost is even larger? The cost to subsidize 21,000 livestock permittees. That program (which is the driver of the wild horse round ups) is economically ruinous for US taxpayers, not to mention environmentally ruinous to the grazing lands the public owns, and the wildlife that lives there, protected by law.

  37. I agree with Justin that there are many more data points that need to be factored into determining the appropriate level of federal grazing fees and the environmental trade-offs.

    I agree with Vickery that federal grazing fees have largely been determined by politics and not the result of a clear headed analysis of what is reasonable for the lessee, the tax payer and the environment.

    A task force composed of respected public lands advocates, public lands grazers, federal agencies, economists, and biologists, if left to their own devices might actually come up with some constructive proposals. Of course they would immediately come under withering fire from the very communities they represented. And therein lies the problem, not just with this issue, but with much of our national discourse in general.

    For anyone who believes the answer is to simply remove the cattle and let wild horses and burrows take their place, I ask you to take a longer view. The wild horses, and burrows compete with elk, deer, pronghorn, bison and all manner of wildlife for the limited natural resources. They have two imperatives, eat and procreate, which the do exceedingly well. If left unchecked they already have demonstrated that they can (and would on a grander scale) abuse sensitive habitats ultimately to the detriment of themselves and all our native wildlife. Cattle at least have the advantage of being limited to defined numbers.

    What is the long term answer for wild horse and borrow management? Most wild horse advocates object to hunting, which addresses elk, deer and pronghorn. Most object to round-ups, which addresses livestock.
    So what are we left with?

    Contraceptives are not practical other than in very small scale controlled circumstances and certainly not in the vast numbers that would present themselves after removing the public land grazing. Does anyone anticipate the introduction of mass numbers of wolves, bears and mountain lions to keep things in check?

    If none of the controls above suit your tastes morally or practically, then you are ultimately left with starvation and disease for your controls and only after catastrophic habitat damage. I’ll let everyone decide for themselves if those are moral and practical options.

    If we want to preserve ferral horses and burrows because of their link to the romance of of our western history, then I say we preserve the western rancher for the same reason….but, under terms that respect both their rights and the rights of the public.
    P.S. I won’t hold my breath.

  38. Eat less meat it is healthier and preserves much more than our health. It preserves land and water.

  39. Well I hate to bring this up . All you wild animal loving cow haters. You need to realize that the horse is an invasive species in the US. It was introduced by the Spanish conquistadores.
    As such, it (by law) must be eradicated from all public and federal land.
    Now I am not a horse hater , but I do find this fact interesting.
    I also find it interesting that most if not all environmentalists ignore this fact.

  40. Pay up Justin, you know deep down you owe it, at least show 1 of you guys is a man of their word.

  41. Pay up, Justin.

  42. Justin, hold firm and thank you. You may be a lonely voice here but you are not alone in your views.

    All food production in this country is subsidised, folks. Even the farmers markets contributors are eligible for breaks, to reward their good works,I suppose. And the mid-west ranchers who are looking after all of those displaced wild ponies? They probably won’t want to give them back, since they’re a good income stream, thanks to you and me.Someone gets to pay, no matter what.

    • Yes, and in this case, those paying aren’t just taxpayers, but hundreds of millions of acres of public lands damaged by livestock overgrazing, and the attendant destruction of biodiversity, wildlife and watersheds. This is a disproportionate amount of damage that supplies under 3% of the nation’s beef. Adding insult to injury, most public lands ranchers do not accept responsibility for that, and many don’t even recognize their grazing leases as being a form of public assistance. I could go on.

      • Please do, Vickery. Please expand on how grazing leases are a form of public assistance even though I’ve already provided you the necessary materials to show how it’s simply not true. But, by all means, please show your stance so I can refute it too.

  43. The solution to this mess is to acknowledge that the “business” of Western cattle ranching on public lands exists only on artificial life support. Bundy et al are simply freeloaders, who think that waving bibles and wearing cowboy hats gives them a pass on what, in any other context (e.g., SNAP) would be called “welfare”. I would advocate for a 10 year program to re-purpose those subsidies, train Western cattle ranchers for a new economic activity that is not environmentally destructive, and puncture once and for all the absurd myth of god-fearing, rugged individualist patriot rancher.

  44. Hatchit piece…I want to see all the softies on here whining for the wild horses, and wild land you’ll never see cause you aren’t interested in leaving your ivory towers to even go there, get off your butt and raise your own meat. According to the constitution that you’ve never read this land is not all ours cause the federal government is legally not suppose to ne holding this land. It belongs to the states it falls in…so tired of ignorant whiners..I’d love to see ya’ll get off your pansy butts and do one tenth of the work this ranchers do so you can eat your fillet mingun with feat of it being tainted meat from china…ya’ll disgust me. Sheep you are.

    • You did everything but address the numbers which do not lie.

      PS: I stopped eating filet mignon years ago. And I stay away from food with China as a country of origin. Further, there are many commenters here who live in Western states. More, probably, than ranchers who, it may be argued, don’t get out of their manure silos much. If they did, they might come to understand why the subsidies they get aren’t welcome by the taxpayers who pay for them.

  45. Barbara Warner // February 10, 2016 at 5:15 pm // Reply

    Watch the documentary, “Cowspiracy, the Substainability Secret”. Cattle are destructive to our environment. My dad raised them and I saw what they did to his farm–polluted water with E.coli, caused erosion, ruined trees, etc. Ranchers and farmers have caused the killing of 2.7 predators too.

  46. rayson tupper // March 23, 2016 at 6:43 am // Reply

    Thank you, Vickery…… Many BLESSINGS

  47. Thank you, Vickery ….Well said!

7 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Sustainable Cowboys or Welfare Ranchers of the American West | Habitat For Horses
  2. Sustainable Cowboys or Welfare Ranchers of the American West? | Straight from the Horse's Heart
  3. Sustainable Cowboys or Welfare Ranchers of the American West? | The PPJ Gazette
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  5. America’s billionaires among welfare ranchers | The Wildlife News
  6. Armed Occupation of Oregon National Wildlife Refuge Has Roots In Anti-Environmental Movement | Enjeux énergies et environnement
  7. How the Wise Use Movement Is Tied to the #OregonStandoff | Enjeux énergies et environnement

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