Saturday, October 21, 2017

Bringing Accuracy and Context
to Animal Journalism


Livestock Data Fills Gap in Ongoing Wild Horse Debate

BLM and USFS-reported grazing stats reveal the extent of private livestock production on millions of acres of overgrazed western public range and forest land, challenging rancher claims that wild horses and burros are to blame.

Photography: Bryce Gray

A side-by-side analysis of 2014 grazing data shows wild horses greatly outnumbered by millions of privately owned livestock across 251 million acres of western public grass and forest land.

The data includes 2014 year-end grazing receipts of $17.1 million published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service (USFS), a figure that equates to a livestock total of 2.1 million cattle. This is 37 times greater than the 56,656 free-roaming wild horses and burros estimated by both agencies in 2014.

Other BLM and USFS reported data show private livestock allocated 97 percent of the forage across all 251 million acres of BLM and USFS-managed lands. Wild horse and burros inhabit 12 percent of that land and are allocated 3 percent of forage overall.

A key finding of the analysis is the abundance of studies on overgrazing and climate change due to livestock production, and the lack of comparable studies on wild horse impacts.

You can download the analysis (“BLM and USFS livestock grazing stats: Examining key data in the debate over wild horses on western public lands”) here.


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

19 Comments on Livestock Data Fills Gap in Ongoing Wild Horse Debate

  1. Barbara Warner // November 11, 2015 at 9:04 am // Reply

    The 1990-91 GAO study provd it was the millions of cattle that have destroyed the range and riparian areas and not the few wild horses. Cattle also pollute the water with E.coli.

  2. Such a simple, fundamental conclusion. Kinda like not seeing the forest for the trees. The Ubiquitous cattle MUST GO !

  3. Barbara Warner // November 11, 2015 at 2:25 pm // Reply

    I think the 56,656 wild horses still free is a huge over-estimation by the BLM and USFS and the 2.1 million cattle is under estimated.

  4. Thank you for exposing the problem with livestock on our public lands. We have so few wild horses left out on the range that they are nearing extinction. What is even more upsetting is that BLM is now targeting herds such as the Kigers that we never thought they would touch.

  5. Outstanding report! The analysis done using their own numbers, definitively proves what everyone already knew- including BLM, NFS, DOI, and the ranching industry orgs that lobby so fervidly for the complete demise of wild horses and burros in this country. So far, they’re getting exactly what they want, with very little pushback by anyone- except those ‘dreaded’ equine advocates (aka people who care about the lives and legacies of America’s wild equines). I hope this report helps drive a meaningful effort by our leadership to put things right for our wild horses and burros before they’re all gone. There’s not much time left.

  6. nancy Guertin // November 11, 2015 at 5:29 pm // Reply

    ranchers are getting richer and richer. our government officials are being “bribed” to allow this use of public lands and allowing the herds of horses that originated here on these lands and have been a part of our heritage to be rounded up and slaughtered. Surely there is some way to expose the amount of money used to influence the officials and make the names known to the general public. The givers and the takers need to be held accountable for the misuse of our public lands.

  7. Marybeth Devlin // November 11, 2015 at 6:32 pm // Reply

    Although the grazing-fee receipts do reflect millions of invasive, non-native livestock overgrazing our public lands, their true population is surely understated. Why? Because BLM allows the permittees to self-report how many livestock they put out on their respective allotments and for how long. Form 4130-5 “Actual Grazing Use Report” is that one-page document which, BLM estimates, can be completed in just 15 minutes. BLM takes the permittees at their word, using Form 4130-5 as the basis on which to bill the ranchers. Gaming such a laissez-faire system would not be difficult. Further, the ranchers pay below-market-rate fees … or maybe none at all. See Bundy, Cliven and — just recently — Finicum, LaVoy. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, the direct and indirect costs of the Federal Grazing Program may result in the loss of as much as a billion dollars each year to the American people. However, Taxpayers for Common Sense’s calculations likely assume that the ranchers are actually paying their grazing fees. But a growing number of ranchers may be following Bundy and Finicum’s lead — not paying, not recognizing BLM’s authority, not complying with the terms of their permits. Thus, the grazing-fee receipts reflect underpayment and under-reporting, and they hide the overgrazing.

  8. I don’t understand why the BLM goes to such lengths to round up and house these animals. What’s in it for them? Are the taxes we pay for their salaries sponsoring this, even though almost all Americans want to keep wild horses wild?

  9. Carole Menninger // November 12, 2015 at 8:53 am // Reply

    With Obama’s recent Presidential memorandum re: a shift in federal land management, I HOPE I am not being too naive to think, given all the controversy and outrage from horse advocates, this will include a more thorough investigation on just how these public lands have been utilized up to now, and that this will be done by a non-biased party……someone who has no ties to ranchers or the BLM. I know many of us continue to bombard our Congressmen, Jewell, Obama and the BLM to stop these roundups and give more serious consideration to all the alternative solutions put forth by Cloud Foundation and others. I live in TX where both Senators Cruz and Cornyn and my own US. Rep, McCaul, SUPPORT horse slaughter, they never respond to my emails saying why, and of course have never voted for the SAFE Act. They also all have poor voting records when it comes to any wildlife legislation. If you don’t already know, there is a site maintained by The Animal Welfare Institute where they track HOW each members votes on wildlife/animal-related bills, as well as list all the current bills. It can be a real eye opener for some who learn that their legislators are not supporting our horses. I continue to write and call and hope others aren’t too discouraged and will as well.

  10. Carole Menninger // November 12, 2015 at 8:55 am // Reply

    Sorry, meant to include that site –

  11. It is America’s obsession with eating beef that is driving this entire problem. I wonder how many of you reading this report are still eating beef and lamb, etc. If there were not such a huge demand and market for it our wild horses would still be out there. Instead they are penned up like prisoners and sentenced to death. The day that the wild horse no longer roams our lands will be a shameful one for sure. No different than what we did to the Indians. Think about it.

  12. Seems to be a lot of misinformation on both sides. “Wild” horses are not native. Any information I have from people actually working on the range indicates horses are more destructive than cattle and that a well managed cattle herd can keep down invasive weeds and improve feed for cattle and wildlife. I love to watch a beautiful horse in the wild and do not want to see them gone. I suggest that more progress can be made by recognizing factual information than by the emotional outbursts. Just sayin….

    • Cattle are not native either. Would it help you if we just called them horses? Horses do not do the damage that cattle do to the soil. Also wolves and coyotes and prairie dogs and such are not slaughtered for “wild” horses…..

  13. I used to work for BLM when I a was teenager, but I feel bad that I even knew who there are. They aren’t anything like they used to be. All the wild horses are our history and they where here before any cattle company. I’m wondering know do we change history classes?

  14. I don’t want the cows killed but there should be room enough to share with the horses, besides this country eats too much meat and needs to change!

  15. Barbara Warner // November 24, 2015 at 12:21 pm // Reply

    It past time to quit eating meat. Cattle should just not be raised. They pollute the air and water and cause erosion and also over-graze. Keep as pets only.

  16. Larry Kanter // January 11, 2016 at 5:40 pm // Reply

    I whole heartedly agree that the horses and burros should be saved and not decimated in the name of the cattle ranchers, however I must disagree with those who advocate that people in this country eat less beef, thereby reducing the size of the cattle herds. It will make no difference if this country cuts down on it’s beef consumption, as that will only lead to the export of beef to the rest of the world. As is currently happening in the oil industry. Once we became capable of meeting the needs of this country, the oil will now be exported throughout the world. The same thing would happen with animal products. The answer simply lies in protecting our wild animals, weeding out the corrupting influences in Washington and states governments so that the conservation laws are complied with.

  17. Shareen Goodroad // February 27, 2016 at 2:20 am // Reply

    Everything that happens on public lands needs to be publicly accountable and transparent. Bureaucrats in agencies will only do as much as they have determined to be within minimum federal requirements. Public processes do exist for informed and engaged citizens. There is a growing body of empirical evidence – such that as reported by The Savory Institute, Circle Ranch, and many others – that is contrary to how federal land managers currently manage these lands for grazing. One need only search YouTube for literally thousands of videos on it. Biodiversity builds on itself – it’s an ecological and natural process. Only when humans create mono-cultures (such as one type of plant or one species of animal) that the ecology of the area suffers and wilderness characteristics are diminished. The current administration is pushing for “landscape plans” that off-set climate change and ignore (by design or practice) the environmental lessons learned by the lack of biodiversity in places like Yellowstone NP. The presence of equines (and other ungulates) on the land is not the problem. The sole presence of unmanaged cattle are.

Leave a Reply to Shareen Goodroad Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.