The BLM has contracted with former cattle ranchers to operate long-term holding facilities in Kansas and Oklahoma. Wild horses removed from the Western range are transported by the thousands to these facilities; operators receive $1.25 a day per horse. The transfer of these horses is costing millions of tax dollars a year.
Competition with private cattle for public land forage is often the cause of these relocations. AWHPC believes the BLM could contract with public land ranchers as it currently does with holding-facility operators, eliminating the stress and expense of round-ups and shipping cross-country: the horses would be left where they are and public land ranchers whose allotments include wild horses could be granted a tax-credit or paid a per-horse fee (presumably lower than the fee paid to holding-facility operators), eliminating the need for long-term holding facilities. Ranchers would be expected to allow the horses to enjoy range improvements (for which they receive government range improvement funds) such as water pumps in drought areas, to the same extent as their cattle (with fair compensation for any increase in their utility bills).
However, without independent oversight and incentives to ensure ranchers will provide long-term care for the horses, initiatives such as BLM’s partnership with the Public Lands Council to simply sell captured horses to ranchers for a nominal fee are not acceptable solutions. See also our proposal regarding incentives to public lands ranchers.
Cattle fencing on public lands is often the cause of high wild horse mortality during drought episodes, as recently reported in Nevada (see AWHPC Investigation). In such instances, cooperation from public land ranchers is also necessary to avoid wild horses being kept from water sources by cattle fencing.
It is our belief that change can only come about if the ranchers as well as the horses are taken into account. Historically however, the horses have been on the losing end of this equation.