Environmental Report Confirms BLM Scapegoating Wild Horses for Range Damage Caused by Livestock

Washington, DC (September 18, 2014)....The Public Employees Environmental Responsibility (PEER) this week released an analysis that exposed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for scapegoating a relatively small number of wild horses on western public lands for range damage caused by vastly larger numbers of livestock. Specifically, the PEER analysis highlights the agency’s skewing of a 2013 report on the factors influencing the decline of the sage grouse, a ground dwelling desert bird under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The PEER report found that BLM considered all wild horses and burros as factors in sage grouse habitat destruction, while it counted livestock as factors only if the livestock grazing allotments failed the agency’s Land Health Standards for wildlife. Meanwhile, PEER found that livestock are cited as a cause of failure to achieve land health standards 30 times more often than wild horses and burros. PEER concluded that if the agency had used the same standards to evaluate livestock as it did wild horses, the “area of influence” of livestock on sage grouse habitat would be 14 times larger than reported by the BLM, and six times larger than the area of influence for wild horses.

“The BLM knows that the listing of the sage grouse as endangered will spell the end for livestock grazing on our public lands. So the agency and its rancher allies are laying blame for the bird’s demise on everything except the obvious contributing factor - the massive livestock grazing that is occurring across the fragile western sagebrush ecosystem,” said Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC). 

“The notion that 40,000 wild horses and burros confined to less than 27 million acres of BLM land are a greater threat to sage grouse than millions of cattle and sheep that graze on 155 million acres of BLM land is absurd," Roy continued. "We are grateful to PEER for, once again, exposing the BLM’s bias, fraudulent science and preferential treatment of livestock at the expense of wildlife, including wild horses and burros.”

According to AWHPC, the BLM manages 245 million acres of land in the U.S., 155 million of which are grazed by livestock. Wild horses and burros are restricted to 26.9 million acres of BLM land, which they share with livestock. In a recent email, BLM senior wild horse and burro specialist Zachary Reichold revealed that 77 percent of forage on the small amount of BLM land that is designated wild horse and burro habitat is allocated to livestock, while federally-protected wild horses and burros receive less than one-quarter of forage allocations. 

The BLM bases “Appropriate” Management Levels" for wild horses and burros on this inequitable forage allocation. The agency wants to drive the wild horse and burro population to below 27,000 -- close to the number that remained in 1971 when Congress passed the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act to protect the iconic animals because they were "fast disappearing" from the West.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. AWHPC was founded by Return to Freedom, based in Lompoc, CA.