In 2016 the BLM grazing fee for a cow/calf was $2.11. Last month, the BLM lowered its grazing fee from $1.87 to $1.41. This further 25% reduction is a proverbial slap in the face to both American taxpayers as well as to wild horse advocates. Why is the rate going down, instead of up?
Quite simply, the BLM is a corrupt agency and is no longer pretending to work for the environment or the animals it purportedly supports. Lower grazing fees not only help support their cronies in the cattle industry, but less money they show coming in give them a better argument that they should slaughter the wild horses they currently have in holding pens. The BLM is purposefully reducing the amount of money coming in so they can show that they are no longer able to care for the tens of thousands of horses they captured so cattle can graze on federal lands.
Cattle ranchers try to state that they are beneficial to the equation, paying the BLM close to $12 million in 2014. Unfortunately, the BLM roundups that have taken horses off of the range in order to allow those same cattle to graze on federal lands cost taxpayers $46 million, not to mention the millions spent on the roundups that kill the horses. Private grazing fees can run from $15 to $45, so more and more ranchers are turning to grazing their livestock on federal lands, either legally or illegally. Most of the cattle on BLM lands are shipped overseas to China for slaughter, so these ranchers are paying virtually nothing while their cattle continue to destroy the environment, all on the taxpayer dime.
What is an AUM?
AUM stands for Animal Unit Months. One AUM is the equivalent of one horse, one cow/calf pair, or five sheep. The BLM has authorized 320,580 AUMs on federal lands. It is estimated that there are over two million cows on federal lands. How can there be two million cows on federal lands, when there are only 320,580 AUMs allocated? The answer is that there is an enormous amount of unauthorized grazing be subvertly allowed by the BLM. We say subvertly allowed, because the BLM is aware of these unauthorized animals overgrazing on federal lands, literally destroying the environment, causing huge amounts of methane and reducing the water table, but the BLM does nothing to prevent it from continuing.
Too Many Illegal Cattle
Both the Government Accountability Office and PEER, the public employees group, have notified the BLM about the illegal and unauthorized grazing. They also gave the BLM recommendations in how to prevent the unauthorized grazing. Under the Obama administration, the BLM started to implement procedures that would stop the abuse, but by last summer, under the Trump administration, they stopped both inspecting any abuses, as well as terminating any new procedures that would identify and prevent illegal grazing. It should be noted that Ryan Zinke, Trump’s choice for the Department of the Interior, has close ties to Protect the Harvest, a pro-horse slaughter group that has often advocated more cattle on federal lands.
BLM Collusion with Protect the Harvest to Mutilate Horses
Under Zinke’s administration, the BLM covertly sold 10 fillies to Protect the Harvest to be “spayed,” which is both brutal and inhumane when performed on horses. The surgery is akin to colic surgery, which requires months of rehabiliation, and the horse is constantly in excrutiating pain. The goal would be to perform the surgery, then leave the mutilated horses out in the wild to recover on their own. It is truly a sadistic response to what should be a relatively straightforward issue: there are too many cattle on federal lands, not too many horses. Unfortunately, the BLM is so corrupt at this point that they take their cues not from what is best for the environment, or what is best for the animals they are sworn to protect, or what the people want, who they supposedly work for; rather, they are in the pockets of the cattle ranchers and oil companies. Both the BLM and Protect the Harvest are colluding in an attempt to once and for all eradicate wild horses from federally protected lands in an attempt to free all AUM areas to cattle, sheep, and to oil companies for use of fracking.
Cattle Are Not Horses
The other issue that arises is how the BLM determines AUM territories, and why it has come to the conclusion that a cow/calf eats and drinks the same as a horse. In reality, a cow/calf with will drink up to 45 gallons of water a day, versus a horse’s 15 gallons. Cattle will eat 130 pounds of food per day, versus a horse’s 25 pounds. There is no realistic reason that one cow should equal one horse, but it appears the BLM is not interested in facts, but rather in continuing to make up reasons why wild horses should be eradicated. You can read more about the unequal standards for cattle versus horses in our blog post: Horses Versus Cattle: The Truth Behind Grazing Rights.
What Should Be Done
- The BLM continues to spend millions of dollars on unnecessary roundups and refuses to use PZP and other scientifically proven herd management techniques. The roundups cost millions of dollars and horses are needlessly killed in every single roundup. Instead of continuing the roundups, the BLM needs to adhere to the recommendations of the NSA and work with wild horse advocates to manage wild horse herds. This would cost almost nothing to implement, would stop horses from being moved to holding pens, and would reduce the budget to care for wild horses. Unfortunately, because the BLM cares only about the cattle ranchers and oil companies, they refuse to implement herd management techniques in anything but very small cases because their overall goal is to completely erradicate horses from federal lands to allow these private corporations free access to federal lands.
- The BLM’s advisory board is filled with pro-slaughter proponents, including Ben McMasters, whose propaganda movie that was funded by Protect the Harvest misconstrued the truth about wild horse issues. This advisory board is a joke; the current administration chooses new candidates who it deems are aligned with their current political ideologies. Instead of being appointed, people on the board should be elected in order to give the public a true voice.
- The BLM needs to identify and prevent illegal grazing on federal lands. They need to implement the GAO recommendations and show more transparency as to how they identify and deal with individuals who illegally graze their cattle on federal lands. In addition, the AUM needs to be readjusted to truly show a more realistic distribution of water and feed between horses and cows.