Livestock Data Fills Gap in Ongoing Wild Horse Debate

BLM AND USFS-REPORTED GRAZING STATS REVEAL THE EXTENT OF PRIVATE LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION ON MILLIONS OF ACRES OF OVERGRAZED WESTERN PUBLIC RANGE AND FOREST LAND, CHALLENGING RANCHER CLAIMS THAT WILD HORSES AND BURROS ARE TO BLAME.

Published in The Daily Pitchfork on November 11, 2015

By Vickery Eckhoff

 Photograph by Bryce Gray

Photograph by Bryce Gray

A side-by-side analysis of 2014 grazing data shows wild horses greatly outnumbered by millions of privately owned livestock across 251 million acres of western public grass and forest land.

The data includes 2014 year-end grazing receipts of $17.1 million published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service (USFS), a figure that equates to a livestock total of 2.1 million cattle. This is 37 times greater than the 56,656 free-roaming wild horses and burros estimated by both agencies in 2014.

Other BLM and USFS reported data show private livestock allocated 97 percent of the forage across all 251 million acres of BLM and USFS-managed lands. Wild horse and burros inhabit 12 percent of that land and are allocated 3 percent of forage overall.

A key finding of the analysis is the abundance of studies on overgrazing and climate change due to livestock production, and the lack of comparable studies on wild horse impacts.

You can download the analysis (“BLM and USFS livestock grazing stats: Examining key data in the debate over wild horses on western public lands”) here.

Kayah Swanson