Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Necessary, not cruel

First things first.....Click here to read the article by NBC News. Then remember that I now call an area that is approximately 70% public lands home. Yes, there is livestock grazing. Yes, there is recreation (4 wheeling, hiking, hunting etc) Yes, there are "wild" horses. After reading this article I was extremely saddened by the misconceptions held by so many.

A few comments and thoughts from yours truly on the actual article (some are directly from the comment that I posted to NBCs site) and the comments that I took some time to read....which fueled me to make my own account on NBC News so that I could post comments....something that I never do!

"Stallions and mare, beautiful and strong, guiding their young" The wild horses are thought of as "beautiful and strong" and an icon of the American West. 

If we look at the definition of the very term....maybe the tens of thousands of horses that we have aren't really wild at all, but an invasive species.....feral horses. 
WILD = living in a state of nature, not ordinarily tame or domesticated
FERAL = having escaped from domestication and become wild [Thank you Mr. Webster]

Yes, wild horses are iconic of the American West. They were once majestic animals to be seen out on the deserts of the Western United States. However, uncontrolled and mismanaged (due to lots of reasons) they have become a breed that is no longer ideal or desirable. Extreme inbreeding has left them confirmationally unsound, crippled if you will. Ranchers and other horsemen used to desire these horses for the stamina, build and heart.....none of which can be readily found in the remaining wild horse herds. Now don't get me wrong, Americans are doing their part to introduce new breeding lines into the wild horse herds by dumping domestic horses that they no longer want or can afford to feed out on the desert. The result of overpopulated horse herds is seen day in, day out by the ranchers and recreationalists who are out there. Starving horses, crippled horses....pretty sight? Have you ever seen an animal starving to death. I live here, I have and it still brings tears to my eyes. It doesn't have to be that way....properly managed herds could survive and be healthy.

Many comments were highly critical of the "millionaire ranchers who will do anything to make a buck. They want to destroy every type of wildlife so that they may have more grass for their cows and sheep". It was even commented that "they don't care about anything but making money, they leave their livestock out on the range and only go back to check them like once a month"

Recently the Rock Springs Grazing Association and the BLM settled suit. BLM will be required to remove excess horses from the desert landscape. BLM and area ranchers had previously agreed to approximately 1500 horses. BLM had let the herds grow to nearly 4700 horses. The ranchers of the area aren't looking to wipe out horse herds, they want some horses to be available for tourists and others in the area to see and enjoy, but not at the expense of the entire range and consequently their livelihood. Horses are very destructive to riparian areas, water sources and the range. Horses are free roaming and do not have ranchers looking after them, moving them from area to area according to a grazing plan that is established by Range Conservationists with the BLM. Ranchers of both cattle and sheep are required to follow grazing plans and have strict livestock numbers and on/off dates for each allotment that they are permitted to run on, for a fee based on AUMs.

Another thing about those "greedy ranchers" who "leave their cattle and sheep out there and check on them once a month". They actually have at least 2 men out there living in a sheep camp with a band of sheep 24 hours a day, along with herd dogs, guard dogs, saddle horses and a team of horses. So actually, when your very livelihood and the wellbeing of your own human family depends on the success, health and wellbeing of your livestock....they do care and they are out there taking care of them. We suffer devastating winters in Wyoming and when everything else closes and people go home because of the bad weather....the ranchers are headed out to herd trying to keep them together, taking lambs into the floorboards of their pickups to dry them off, warm them up so that they might live through the storm.

It absolutely astonishes me how critical people can be of the farmers and ranchers who have dedicated their lives (and more hours a day than 90% of American work per day) to providing a safe, reliable and affordable food source for Americans. Instead of being so critical about an arena that you clearly know nothing about, how about finding out how things really work out here.

"With adoption rates falling, its cost has doubled in a decade to $78 million this year.  Even the government acknowledges “the current path is not sustainable for the animals, the environment or the taxpayer.” 

Its simple economics really. WE ARE BROKE. We simply cannot afford to dump 78 million dollars a year into horse herds that have evolved to undesirable horses for adoption. The sheer numbers of horses on the desert landscape is taxing to the range health, the sheer number of "wild" horses that are now held in captivity because the range heath has been threatened in taxing on our country. Coming from an area that is heavily BLM land with four horse management areas, I can tell you that its taxing on local economies as well. Ranchers can't afford to buy hay out of the very valley that they work and live in....because BLM has no choice but to buy hay....no matter the price to sustain the "wild" horses that are in holding facilities.

“They are still wild animals and accidents will happen,” she said. 

Anyone who has ever been around animals knows that accidents can and will happen. Now, I agree that if these are NOT isolated incidents then something needs to change. However, many of the images that you see in articles such as these ARE isolated accidents. Notice that there are no pictures showing what overpopulated, mismanaged horses left to fend for themselves out on a drought stricken desert range look like. 

I've had more than one rancher (remember the one who works out there sun up to sundown, day after day) tell me how heartbreaking it is to watch horses starve to death, die of thirst because they are overpopulated and mismanaged. Of course they are protected, so the most help that a rancher can offer is to call BLM and report horses that are in trouble. 

"These are MY public lands, get all those government welfare ranchers off of them"

I was shocked by the number of comments that claimed these federal lands as "ours" and we should "kick everyone else off of them".....correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the point of federal lands for the good of all Americans.....enter the term multi-use? The lawsuit that was recently won by Rock Springs Grazing Association involved a 2 million acre BLM grazing allotment. Of those acres, RSGA owns (deeded land) approximately 1 million acres and BLM (federal) acres only accounting for approximately 49% of those acres. The previous agreement with the BLM was to let a controlled number of wild horses roam both federal and deeded acres. With herds growing an average rate of 20% annually (they have very few natural predators), its easy to see how the numbers could get out of control and hinder range health. So to you original article commenters (who I'm sure are NOT reading this blog) who believe horses are only living on your federal lands, again check your facts....this may not be the case. In this case, those greedy, millionaire, government welfare ranchers are actually letting your wild horses graze their private, deeded acres too.  

After reading through all of this, I couldn't help but think about the Farm to Fork initiative. I used to think it was a bunch of hokie pokie, but I'm here to tell you..... WE NEED THIS! We need to educate the masses on what, how and why those "greedy, millionaire" hardworking, caring, scraping by ranchers  and farmers are doing out there so that we may enjoy a safe, affordable, reliable food source that we have come to expect in America.
I challenge you not to believe all that  you see in the media, but search out "the rest of the story" before making up your mind.

Do you know where I stand? 


  1. Very well said Jen. Thanks for taking the time to write up the true story. I am going to pass this along to as many people as I can.

  2. Articles like this REAAAALLLLYYYYY get my blood boiling. So much ignorance in the world of agriculture. If we didn't check on our cows but once a month, they'd be long gone and we wouldn't know where they went. We put our herd on BLM land-that we PAY to use-for about 2 months during the summer. WE maintain the fence and the wells that water the cows, as well as the road to get to the well. I wonder how many of these people complaining about the "greedy millionaire ranchers" enjoy a nice juicy steak while sitting down for dinner. Sheesh.