The Real Cost of Rounding up our Wild Horses and Burros
The Real Cost of Rounding up our Wild Horses and Burros
I don’t even know where to start with this post. The more you read, and learn about this issue, the more infuriated you become. Peeling back the layers on this, is mind boggling. The Real Cost of Rounding up our Wild Horses and Burros is in the millions. Millions of our taxpayer dollars, wasted on an antiquated and corrupt government program. I’m going to say right now, that I had help with the information in this post. Friends who care as deeply about this issue as I do, contributed time, research hours and facts. I feel strongly that all this information needs to be in one, easy to find, easy to read, easy to share place. At the end of this post you can find a PDF to download, print, and share.
These are OUR taxpayer dollars paying for this. Our tax dollars wasted on roundups, holding facilities, and so much more. It’s time the Bureau of Land Management was held accountable.
In my last post, Never Forget what Happened at Onaqui, I said that 435 horses were removed from their homes. Care to venture a guess as to how much that cost? According to USASpending.gov, Shayne Sampson owner of Sampson livestock received $105,710 to run our horses into a pen with a helicopter and haul them off the range.
And then what? Well, according to USAspending.gov G and R livestock based in Delta, Utah was awarded 1.4 million dollars to build the new holding facility in Sutherland, Utah. Many of our Onaqui horses ended up here.
And this is just the beginning. Cattour Livestock conducts most of the wild horse roundups in the west. Based on the figures above on the cost of rounding up 435 horses, it’s not hard to see how they have become millionaires on the backs of our wild horses.
This year alone, the BLM is scheduled to round up 18,000 horses. This chart from the BLM, breaks it down by state, HMA, and how many they plan to remove. The rationale for removing all these horses? The myth perpetrated by the BLM that there are too many horses. For years the BLM has used what they term AML, or Appropriate Management Level, numbers to determine how many wild horses can live in any given HMA. There’s a history of AMLs that can be found in the National Academy of Sciences report. According to that report, even by 2008, BLM had not created consistent methods for setting AMLS nor had BLM provided formal guidance to its field offices on how AMLs should be established. To say that only 200 wild horses can live on 200,000 acres is of course ridiculous. Especially when 1000’s of cattle and sheep are allowed on these very same lands.
So let’s look at some cost breakdowns, and the real cost of rounding up our wild horses and burros. These figures came from this paper published July 29, 2021 by the Congressional Research Service. You can view the full report here. According to this report, the BLM has been provided with an ever increasing amount of money per year to achieve what they determine is AML.
“Since FY2000, appropriations laws have periodically provided BLM with additional funding to achieve AML. For example, BLM received a $14.1 million (69%) increase to $34.5 million in FY2001, the largest annual percentage increase. The intent was to achieve AML over several years and by FY2010 to reduce budgetary needs below the FY2001 level. These goals were not fully achieved, although the on-range population declined and AML was nearly reached in 2007. In FY2010, BLM received a $23.4 million (58%) increase to $64.0 million, the biggest annual dollar increase. For FY2020, expenditures totaled $91.2 million.”
“For FY2021, the appropriation for BLM management of wild horses and burros was $115.7 million, a 14% increase from the FY2020 level ($101.6 million). FY2021 funding was more than five times the amount for FY2000 ($20.4 million) and an 81% increase over FY2010 ($64.0 million), in nominal dollars.”
So where does all this money go? The report is pretty detailed in the spending.
FY2020 Expenditures by Activity
“BLM uses wild horse and burro funding for a variety of activities. Expenditures can differ from appropriations in part due to carryover and transfer of funds. For FY2020, expenditures totaled $91.2 million. Off-range holding accounted for $57.0 million (62%) of expenditures, composed of $30.0 million for long-term care and $27.0 million for short-term care. The next-largest portion, $12.3 million (13%), was expended for program support and overhead. Placement into private care, through adoptions and sales, was $9.8 million (11%). Another $7.0million (8%) was used for gathering animals on the range. The remaining $5.1million (6%) was expended for varied purposes(including <1% for fertility control).”
Now I’m not a financial guru, but this all seems like an enormous waste of our taxpayer money. They are not achieving that mythical AML number, even with massive increases in spending. If I went to my boss, and said “Hey, you give me a big raise this year and I will complete that task you needed doing. Guaranteed.” And then didn’t complete that task, I don’t think I would be getting a raise the next year. In fact, I would probably get fired. So why is the BLM allowed to get away with this? I wrote a post not too long ago, The Definition of Insanity. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over, and over and expecting a different result. Sound familiar?
So what is at the heart of all this? The answer is simple, livestock grazing on our public land. Ranchers pay a pittance to graze their cattle, and sheep on our land. $1.35 per cow calf pair, or 5 head of sheep. This is significantly less than they would pay if they had to rent a pasture, or god forbid buy their own land. The ranchers feel the horses compete with their livestock for food, and water, and cause range damage. This is the second big myth perpetrated by the BLM. The opposite is in fact true. I recommend you listen to this podcast by Eric Molvar on the livestock industry’s destructive impact on our public land. In FY 2020, the BLM permitted 12.3 million animal unit months (AUMs). An AUM is the amount of forage needed to feed a cow and calf, or 5 sheep, for one month. BLM claims there are 86,189 wild horses total on range. And one other thing. When the ranchers say they are feeding America and need to graze on our public land to do that, that’s a lie too. Less than 2% of all beef sold in the US is raised on public land. If public land grazing ended tomorrow, it would have zero impact on the beef industry. The ranchers don’t own our public land, and it infuriates me that they think they do.
What happens to all these horses that are forcibly removed from their homes, and families? They are taken to a holding facility, sorted, separated from their loved ones, stallions are gelded, everyone gets a number, and then they wait, terrified and confused. BLM likes to say these horses get adopted, and it’s all just wonderful. Again, another myth. Currently there are close to 60,000 horses in holding. Some are in what is called short term holding, others in long term holding. The same congressional report, spells this cost out pretty good for us.
“The cost to place an animal into private ownership generally exceeds the revenue. Per adoption, BLM typically charges a minimum of $125 per trained animal and $25 per untrained animal, but the average cost for BLM to complete an adoption(or sale) is approximately $1,500. This cost includes activities to make the animals more marketable, such as training, advertising, and transporting. It does not include the $1,000 incentive BLM has paid individuals for each untrained animal they adopt (since March 12, 2019). In any case, the cost of adoptions is considerably less than the lifetime cost of off-range care; BLM estimated savings of $24,000 per animal.”
Short term facility cost is on average $5 per DAY. I think this number may be low, as the cost of hay has more than doubled this year. What about those long term pastures? The livestock industry has figured out if they pasture our horses, and have the BLM pay them to do it, it can be incredibly lucrative. This report from USAspending.gov shows what people have made by doing this. Millions!!! The very livestock people that want our wild horses off our public land, are at the same time profiting from keeping them.
Is this fiscally responsible? Does any of this actually make sense from a monetary standpoint? The cost of leaving the horses on the range is ZERO. Unless of course the BLM would finally decide to do the right thing and implement on range short term fertility control to reduce the amount of foals. This costs about $200 per mare, per year. A big savings if you ask me.
Asking the American government to be fiscally responsible with our tax dollars shouldn’t be that hard. To me, this seems like a program that could easily be cut, and a huge saving to the American public could be realized. 80% of Americans want wild horses to remain wild and free. And I would bet, that same 80% don’t want their tax dollars spent like this anymore. It’s time our legislators stand up against roundups. It’s time our President stops funding them. It’s time for the BLM to be held accountable. It’s time for livestock to be removed from our public land, especially the HMA’s which were set aside for wild horses. And it’s time for a real, and independent study of each HMA to determine how many wild horses can actually live there.
I have made this blog post available as a PDF Document. Then it can be printed, or shared off line. Real Cost of Roundups
BRAVO, MARY for telling us the numbers. So, unfortunately, it’s not enough to expect people to be compassionate and look at these beautiful beings as living entities that deserve to live. I think numbers, when crunched into our tax dollars are explained, just might be a key to open some of those stubborn hearts, right?
It is infuriating. So much here, it’s hard discuss it here.
This is animal cruelty pure and simple..calls emails texts no one is listening I believe we need thousands of people to PROTEST THIS ATROCITY in DC RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEIR FACES We need an organization to get us all together and get it done please anyone?!
I live in the UK and have been flwg this issue for the last few months. This info is just staggering in the amount of money being wasted. Apart from sharing this how do you get this to the right people because it seems that the BLM have no intention of changing their ways! And the contractors are making so much money!
Sadly the right people have their own agendas. We need to get information to the AMERICAN people and GLOBAL community.
How can I share this with my Utah Senators? They have responded to my emails with wrong info. I tried copy and paste but cannot get the whole article and the link isn’t working.
Call your senators and leave messages daily with some of the information contained in this cost breakdown. Send them a hard copy. Email them. Keep raising your voice and now with this as backup information. This is a powerful tool!!!
Call your senator (202) 224-3121
Just leave the horses and let nature take it’s course…quit the land leases and save us taxpayers million and millions…this is just welfare ranching…no common sense.
Great article, thank you for your research, explanations and financial data. I think other additional areas of focus that would be a great follow up article, such as the inner circle of ranchers who control the slaughter pipeline through a game of musical chairs among BLM employees, lobbyists and ranchers. Additionally the story doesn’t end at long term or short term holding, or ends in a tragic and horrible death sentence at foreign slaughter factories. I realize this article is about the money but it’s multifaceted. We want our horses and burros to live a healthy life, wild & free, together among family and protected from HARM. The hypocrisy of the BLM’s words vs their actions & their lack of accountability is paramount to this discussion as well.
I’m sure the tax payers have no idea that they are paying millions toward the wild horse & burro roundups, holding pens, etc. Basically the BLM is receiving millions of dollars to roundup our wild horses & burros just to put them in holding pens where some of them are sold for slaughter in other countries. I’m sure all the cattle ranchers are just fine with the roundups, they say their cattle can’t get along with the wild horses and they need the land, which they pay nothing for! I’ve written several letters to Iowa’s Senaters to make them aware of these horrible roundups, something has to be done to save our wild horses & burros. It seems like all my letters are falling on deaf ears since nothing has been done recently to stop the roundups. I will still keep sending letters, we must save our wild horses & burros.
An excellent article, I hope it opens some eyes.
Your article is excellent and very informative. I live in the UK and everyone I read of the roundups and see pictures of the helicopters terrifying the herds of horses it makes my blood boil. I am heart broken to hear of all of your beautiful horses that end up.in the foreign slaughter houses.
All I can say is get these facts into all of your news papers. Make the whole of the USA public know what is going on. Hound your President and his side kicks, oops sorry, Government to stop what is going on.
Powerful report exposing the greed and the incompetence perpetuating this awful business. If the wild horses have any chance of survival in America it will be because people like Mary keep at it from all angles–opening our hearts to these beautiful animals and our minds to the facts. My Senators, Wyden & Merkley, will get a copy of this.
I am glad all this is coming out. This is why we need to stop BLM FROM THEIR LIES,AND DECEPTION.AND SAVE OUR NATIONS LEGACY OF THE WILD HORSES, LET THEM GO AND GIVE THEM THE RIGHT TO USE THE LANDS SET ASIDE FOR THEM, NOT CATTLE/SHEEP THAT MOST AMERICANS DONT EVEN HAVE AVAILABLE FOR THEIR OWN FREEZERS. IT’S GOT TO STOP ONCE AND FOR ALL.
Government sanctioned animal abuse!
Thank you Mary for this proficient & intelligent explanation. It makes no sense! I appreciate your activism & continued spreading of this important message. The more that people know about this atrocity, the more positive change can be made. Keep sharing please! We are listening. 🐴♥️🐴
I sent a printed copy of this to representatives Titus, Buchanan, and Cohen They have worked hard to help our wild horses in the past.