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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.

Tammy,  Thank you for your nicely delivered comment.  I am open to all voices and opinions because that will provide a greater depth of understanding to people who want to help the wild horse and burros.   I am posting this discussion as a new post on my blog.
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.

I just spent a few days on a ranch in Colorado with a dear friend of mine who has been raising grass fed beef on this own acreage for twenty years.  The cows are curious and mellow and the calves adorable.  I love  and enjoy being around “live” animals, including cows.  I have many fond childhood memories of visiting relatives on ranches, bottle feeding calves, helping milk cows, riding horses to move cattle between grazing areas, fixing fences, filling watering troughs, gathering and pitching hay, and I’ve even been around for castration which as a girl I did not like.  I am not a rancher but many of my relatives were and are.
Although I am a vegetarian, I am under no assumption that most people will ever choose not to eat meat.  The only premise I hold to as a nutritionist about people eating or not eating meat is that many eat much more than they need.  ( As a nutritionist with years in public health this seems like a good topic for another article.)  We as humans are omnivores and we can choose to be herbivores or carnivores.  Throughout history people have raised animals to survive.  In my two documentaries farmers and ranchers whose livelihood is based on animal husbandry and local agriculture, are highlighted in a good way.  A return to local agriculture / animal grazing cuts down on the impact to to public land resources and makes meat more expensive so people will eat less of it which is better for their health.  Raising fewer animals and giving them a good life and fearless, painless death  causes far less suffering to the livestock.
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.

Ranchers have had a long – time of welfare rights  but now  the continual impact of livestock on range land is taking too much toll.  Resources are dwindling because of our increasing population and all of nature is at risk.   I believe ranchers have the background of knowledge to figure out alternatives and better solutions for raising livestock than to dump them on public land.  In the old days, cowboys stayed with smaller herds of cattle or kept a close eye on them.  Now much of the cattle out there are “corporate cows” dumped by semi-load and not watched until the end of the season when they’re hauled out.
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.

Millions of acres of land legally allocated for wild horse and burros has been taken from them for cattle use instead.  Wild horses are fenced away from water and public grazing areas in the interest of cattle.  When you add up the acres taken from them  and the fact that ranchers killed off all the natural predators to protect their livestock,  and swallow up the water rights so to speak , it’s hard not to question the negative impact of cattle on the range to all wild life.  The BLM has had a long term pact with cattleman and that is behind the problem for the wild horses.
Now that  we’ve fenced the horses in to fewer and fewer acres of some of the most desolate lands in America, without water rights because ranchers own those rights,  what do you think is the solution to the problem?  It sounds  like you are aware that more are ‘”warehoused” than are left free roaming and that a very aggressive horse removal plan is underway.    I made a film to draw more people into the cause to come to the aid of the wild horses before it’s too late.  The horses are calling all of us to find solutions.
What do you think would solve the issues facing America’s wild horses and burros?  -

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11 Responses to “A Ranchers response to cattle grazing on the range”

  1. Jonathan Ratner

    25. Jun, 2011

    Yes, at this point the only issue for our wild horses on our public lands is public lands ranching.

    The livestock industry runs and controls the BLM. Left to their own, they will fight for the status quo, which is ever shrinking habitat and ever more fences destroying the ‘free-roaming’ nature of wild horses.

    There are things that can be done:

    1) Educate yourself on BLM management. For instance read http://wilderness.org/files/BLM-Citizen-s-Guide-full-report.pdf

    2) Download, read and implement How Not To Be Cowed available at http://www.publiclandsranching.org/htmlres/PDF/not_be_cowed.pdf

    3) Request from each BLM Field Office with wild horse herd you care about to be an “Interested Party” for the livestock grazing allotments within and adjacent to the HMA’s you are concerned about. Maps of HMA’s are located at http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/wild_horse_and_burro/wh_b_information_center/statistics_and_maps/herd_area__ha__and.html

    4) Get more information regarding the issues surrounding livestock grazing with HMA’s from an organization dealing with the issues such as Western Watersheds Project, Wild Earth Guardians, Oregon Natural Desert Association and others.

    5) Support legislation that would allow ‘buyouts’ of livestock grazing permits within HMA’s and zero-ed out HA’s that would compensate permittees for turning their livestock grazing permits back to the BLM to be used for wild horses.

    There will be only further decline in wild horses without reform in how our public lands are managed and that will never happen until you become involved and learn to be an effective advocate for your public lands. Its as simple as that.

  2. Sharon Lundy

    19. Oct, 2011

    For hundreds of years cattle and horses have grazed on the same open range. The term OPEN RANGE means NO fences. The horses ran free before cattle were here. The cattle were brought to this land from England and the horses came from Spain a long time before that. If the ranchers would stop trying to control the land, they would find out that the cattle can free roam alongside the wild horses still. I come from Nevada and it’s free roaming for cattle also. The ranchers and BLM need to back off and think about this in a logical manner. Don’t mess with our wild mustangs.

  3. gwen

    24. Oct, 2011

    I don’t feel the ranchers are qualified to make decisions on mustang use of the lands. I feel that all the work and sacrifice that these mustangs have given to settle the west needs to be remembered if not honored. Horses from the east could not take the climate. So mustangs were used in all parts of life. If ranchers are worried about the lands, then they need to control the cattle usage on lands. Ranchers have too much say when it comes to mustangs, which belong and have belonged to all of us, in the U.S.A.

  4. sharon

    26. Oct, 2011

    i think it’s awful funny that just awhile ago there used to be over 2 million free wild horses and now there only about 25,000 left in the wild and 30,000 in holding pens. i also heard that the cattle outnumber horses by 200 to 1. blm really needs to find out how many there actually are before rounding up more some even been zeroed out altogether. know i hear they want to do another roundup for cloud’s famous herd again, just can’t get over how they seem to be able to do anything they want but i know my congressman has said that there are no new laws pending agianst the blm policy for doing this so maybe someone needs to step up and put a new law on the table and get it into the house of reps. so they get get it going. i pray they pass S .1176 this year.

  5. Kerry

    15. May, 2012

    Here is the ugly truth as I see it. And it is not meant to be hateful. But all of the problems everywhere, including this issue of wild horses vs. cattlemen, can be traced to human overpopulation. We have DOUBLED the world population in 50 years from 3 billion to 6 billion. Now, there are only 310 or so million in the US. But, 150 years ago the mortality rate was much higher due to accidents and illness of both young and old. It was necessary for families to have lots of children in order for the species to survive (some families would have 10 children and only 3 survive to adulthood). With modern technology we have created safer work enviorments, and medicine has save millions of children from illeness and older people live longer, healthier lives. All of this adds up to more people on the planet using more resources – more than our intended share. I’m all for happy families, but if we truly want to be stewards of this planet, we should start by lessening our footprint by doing our part to lessen the number of people on the range.

  6. Mara LeGrand: Filmmaker

    15. May, 2012

    Yes humans are the greatest consumers of all resources and as populations increase, sustainability of habitat for humans and animals will be more challenging. I live in the South West where the ancient pueblo population was wiped out due to an imbalance of people vs. resources. And that was before the”grid”. With regard to wild horses there are currently enough resources for healthy horse populations on public land. These resources will last longer if cattle are removed from the range and even then, over-site, study and some forms of management of the herd populations will be needed. Not all ranges are equal in regard to habitat, herd reproduction or long seated politics, like who owns the water rights, so each range and herd needs continual study to understand how to keep the entire eco-system, including wild horses sustainable. An important fix that can lead to long term benefits for all wild life is to remove the beef source whose owners grow fat on public lands. This particular beef source is mostly sold to foreign markets. So, we’re growing beef on our public land for private industry to profit in other countries, and in doing so we are depleting resources for all of us, including our wild life. Like everything in life, we need to consider the implications of our personal impact on the planet as we also find fixable solutions for immediate issues.

  7. Mara LeGrand: Filmmaker

    15. May, 2012

    Ranchers have an entitlement attitude about use of public lands. Just because they used it in the past, doesn’t mean they should still be able to. BLM panders to cattleman because their agency was essentially established to manage cows and range-land. They have become a rogue agency who does what they want. Even when they get caught red-handed breaking laws, they are like adolescent boys who just go out and do what they want to again.

  8. Mara LeGrand: Filmmaker

    15. May, 2012

    One of the problems that exist is that although horses and cattle get along – the range cannot support both of them. Other habitat matters as well and the impact of 12 million plus cattle has had a damaging effect on range resources. As long as cattle and horses are on the same ranges, wild horses are scape goated for all the problems hoofed animals may cause to riparian areas and with over-grazing issues. Cattle are domestic, they camp at water holes, only graze on grasses and they are heavy of hoof and survival in the wild is not what they are wired for. They would be happier and plumper grazing on lush green pastures on private land. Wild horses are truly wild, with an ancient genetic code that helps them adapt and survive through seasons of change. They take turns at water holes and they only go for a drink a couple times a day for a drink and in hot weather may take a cool off splash. As long as people lump cattle with wild horses, the wild horses will be in peril. One is clearly private, domestic livestock and the other is a wild animal who belongs to the American public.

  9. Mara LeGrand: Filmmaker

    15. May, 2012

    Jonathan Ratner of Western Watersheds is among the few from environmental groups who has been willing to associate himself with wild horse advocates and specifically this film. Although his main objective is to work toward a sustainable range for all wild life and habitat, his studies on the range, has allowed him to observe the big difference in wild horses and cattle on the range. He spends at least 110 nights per year camping on ranges, doing field studies, gathering data and assessing damage to watersheds, nearly entirely done by cattle. There are few environmental groups on the side of the wild horse and a few that are, I worry will turn their back on the horses as soon as their personal agenda of getting cattle off the range is met. What is critical to wild horse management and acceptance is that they are acknowledged as wild animals with indigenous rights to the land. Remains of their ancestors ( Equus Cabbilous) have been found dating back further than homo – sapiens. Environmentalists groups/individuals tend to wrap around one issue – like prairie dogs or sage grouse, which in my opinion is as short sited as the cattle people. In order to have a sustainable future for habitat, water and all wild creatures we have to consider the whole system and reduce human ( private gain) as much as possible.

  10. Suzanne Gooch

    24. May, 2012

    I appreciate this concerned and informative discussion. What I’m not seeing any mention of is how brutal and terrifying the round-ups of these very sensitive animals is. And how awful the conditions are for them at many if not all of the holding areas. The BLM has banned advocates from viewing what goes on at some round-ups. This is a violation of our first amendment rights. The BLM is a rogue entity and ought to be held accountable for abusing our tax dollars for private interests and we as a nation need to speak up for the preservation of our wild horse populations and their right to public lands free of cattle grazing and free of human tyranny.

  11. Mara LeGrand: Filmmaker

    24. May, 2012

    Suzanne, Thank you for your comment. It’s hard to cover everything but as comments keep coming in the site will be able to include more information for the viewers to learn. The film wastes no time, words or footage getting into the brutality of the round up or of the consequential awful conditions they are warehoused in. Audiences respond to different things — My film lays a foundation of understanding of why the BLM got put in charge of the horses. It’s comparable to the fox guarding the chicken house.

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