Below is a response from someone who obviously cares about
the plight of America’s wild horses and burros.
She is from a ranching family and takes issue with the article I wrote about
public land cattle grazing.
Here’s our dialogue. Please feel free to send in your non – hateful comments. I truly believe that everyone’s thoughtful concerns will help find solutions.
Q. – Why does the era of grazing livestock on public lands need to end?
A – The reason I took this stand is because there are 12 million cattle on the range compared to less than 40,000 wild horses. This is not comparing cattle to all the other wildlife that also need to survive by grazing. Public land grazing is a Government subsidized program where many large ranchers and corporations have acquired major wealth. The cattleman’s association is a strong lobby group who has pushed this public land grazing to drive the cost of beef down and the reason beef is so cheap in America. Because grazing cattle on private lands cost between $12-$18.00 per head compared to a drastically under priced animal unit per cow and calf of $1.35 on the range. Although cattle are seasonal on the range, that is when they consume the majority of the resources. The rest of wild life grazers have to survive though the winter on what remains, which often falls very short of what they need.
Q- You do realize that many, many ranchers rely on that acreage for their cattle, and without it, they would be out of business? Or is that important to you?
A – People’s survival is important to me. Many lines of work change over time and businesses who can’t afford to be in business w/out relying on public assistance, might need to change the way they make a living or the way they do it.
Q- They can not always graze them at home, as most of those fields/pastures are the hay fields they obtain their hay for the winter from.
A – I am friends with many people who alternate their cattle between summer paddocks while growing winter hay on other sections of their land.
Q – Where I live, there are no wild horses, but the ranchers do graze their cattle up in the mountains.
A – Mountain terrain is very fragile because of the rain and creeks. They trample and destroy the delicate meadows and turn them into mud holes which takes years to recover. I think the forest service is now requiring ‘rest years for some of the land, but for decades the cattle have been destructive to the land. Delicate mountain terrain would also not be a good place for large bands of wild horses because they also have large hooves and after a rain, in early spring, can cause damage to delicate spring forage.
Q No one else uses the land that is grazed, Possibly a camper once in awhile, but that is rare.
A. I think we need wilderness that is for wildlife, not private livestock grazing. Why do ranchers believe they are entitled to cheap grazing rights on public land? Public land livestock grazing is a billion dollar “entitlement” program. Many of these ranchers loudly oppose the American Government funding social welfare programs for the poor, sick and disenfranchised yet they expect the Government to help them stay in business through “welfare ranching” prices and subsidies.
Q – Do you want to eliminate ranches?
A – No I do not want to eliminate the ranching life. Ranches are part of the American heritage and I often feel a salt of the earth wisdom noticeable in about what they know about weather, land, water and the cycles of life.
Q – Please remember, you are not the only one residing on this great earth, and we are still allowed to make a choice of what we want to do for a living in this nation. Do you really think you are right, and all of the ranchers are wrong?
A – This is not a case of a line being drawn in the sand about right and wrong. It is about finding a balance for an eco-system taxed by too much impact. Balance means “truths” can be found somewhere in the middle, by entering into dialogue and truly finding solutions for all sides.
While I agree wild horse management desperately needs to change, I don’t believe that ranchers should be eliminated just to save the horses. Some of us actually enjoy a good steak or hamburger.
Many ranchers are good to mustangs. I know many who love horses generally and go out of their way to train mustangs. A life-long rancher is featured in Wild Horses In Winds of Change, as a dedicated horse trainer and salt of the earth wise person. Lanny Leach eats beef at least two times a day and besides being a true american cowboy is a top- notch human being. They ranched in Nebraska – not on public land, but I know a couple ranchers around here, that do graze on public land. Two are featured in “Heart & Soil” because of their movement toward local agriculture. All are great people – who I like and respect.
Q-I don’t know where you think there is an “over-consumption” of beef. If restaurants choose to serve a huge meal, then that is their choice.
A- Like I said this is the subject of another article. There is lots of data about America’s over- consumption of meat – and yes junk food as well. I’ll take this challenge and put some numbers together.
Q - And it is not always ‘beef.’ It could be chicken, pasta, vegan, etc.
A – Yes Americans are the fattest people in the world – because they over consume and don’t work it off. Ranchers and farmers are hard working people with admirable work ethics who burn lots of calories.
A – Before you say that we have to ‘bring the cows home,’ please look at the entire picture, not just your narrow point of view.
A – I have to tell you that I did not take this position w.out a lot of research, interviews and thought. Horses and cows have co-existed for hundreds of years and I want the cows to have a good life also. This topic is not about who I like and who I don’t or as you say “my narrow point of view.” Because I made a film about saving America’s wild horses and burros I had to look for possible solutions. In large part the reason the wild horses are continually rounded up is because of pressure and politics from the cattleman and beef growers associations. I was told by many experts, including BLM authorities themselves that the only way to slow down the round ups is to over-turn the Taylor grazing act and change laws that make ranchers King of the range, so to speak. As they say “there are many ways to skin a cat” , and I believe there are answers and solutions to what all people and animals need, if we are dedicated to the eco-system as a whole, not just special interest groups.