Letter to the Editor: A response to Chris Stewart’s and Mike Lee’s letter on wild horses

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — As a Utah constituent located in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, I will not – nor will I ever – consider Chris Stewart the “wild horse guy.” I would, however, consider him so deep in the pocket of the USDA, he wouldn’t even be able to tell the truth at this point in time if his life depended on it. The truth?

The truth is: The BLM does not use scientific methods to discern what damage on public lands is caused by livestock (aka they turn a blind eye).

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a federal lawsuit because, after 27 years of pledges to reform, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has yet to take even the most basic steps to stem illegal livestock grazing (aka ranchers are grazing cattle on public lands without submitting or paying the already drastically low grazing rights).

BLM excludes livestock grazing from Rapid Ecoregional Assessments conducted for six western regions, despite protests from scientists involved in the assessments. The BLM refused to consider livestock as “change agents” to be studied citing anxiety from “stakeholders,” fear of litigation and lack of available data on grazing impacts (aka corruption AND turning a blind eye at their finest).

It’s interesting that Chris Stewart would bring up the BLM’s directive to “maintain a thriving ecological balance” between wild horses, other wildlife, vegetation and livestock on federal lands. Please explain how the following numbers are balanced. Sources provided.

AUM = Animal Unit Month for cattle and sheep (cattle are counted as follows: a cow and calf = one unit and FIVE sheep = one unit). AML = Appropriate Management Level for horse (a horse = a horse, they do not count a mare and colt or filly as one unit).


Cattle and Sheep: 658,155 AUM (that means the possibility 1,316,310 cow/calf and/or 3,290,775 sheep). Horses: 1,676 AML (that means the possibility of 1,676 horses).


Cattle and Sheep: 472,000 AUM (that means the possibility 944,000 cow/calf and/or 2,360,000 sheep). Horses: 2,200 AML (that means the possibility of 2,200 horses).


Cattle and Sheep: 580,410 AUM (that means the possibility 1,160,820 cow/calf and/or 2,902,050 sheep). Horses: 812 AML (that means the possibility of 812 horses).


Cattle and Sheep: 394,957 AUM (that means the possibility 789,914 cow/calf and/or 1,974,785 sheep). Horses: 617 AML (that means the possibility of 617 horses).


Cattle and Sheep: 1.4 million AUM (that means the possibility 2.8 million cow/calf and/or 7 million sheep). Horses: 120 AML (that means the possibility of 120 horses).


Cattle and Sheep: 2 million AUM (that means the possibility 4 MILLION cow/calf and/or 10 MILLION sheep). Horses: 12,811 AML (that means the possibility of 12,811 horses).

New Mexico

Cattle and Sheep: 2,300 AUM (that means the possibility 4,600 cow/calf and/or 11,500 sheep). Horses: 83 AML (that means the possibility of 83 horses).


Cattle and Sheep: 1.1 million AUM (that means the possibility 2.2 million cow/calf and/or 5.5 million sheep). Horses: 1,390 – 2,686 AML (that means the possibility of 1,390 – 2,686 horses).


Cattle and Sheep: 1.3 million AUM (that means the possibility 2.6 million cow/calf and/or 6.5 million sheep). Horses: 1,956 AML (that means the possibility of 1,956 horses)


Cattle and Sheep: 1.9 million AUM (that means the possibility 3.8 million cow/calf and/or 9.5 million sheep). Horses: 2,490 AML (that means the possibility of 2,490 horses).

How are those numbers balanced? Cattle and sheep are in the millions while horses and burros barely make it to one thousand in some cases and a few hundred in most. If anything, this is “so far out of balance,” as Chris Stewart would say, it’s the number of sheep and cattle currently enveloping public lands.

AMLs have nothing to do with carrying capacity of the land for wild horses. Instead, these “population limits” represent the number of horses the BLM has decided (without facts) to allow to live in designated areas of public lands after allocating more than two-thirds of available forage to private livestock.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was created for a reason, to protect the horses and burros and the over 30 million acres of public lands in the American West from corruption such as what Christ Stewart is proposing and the BLM, along with the U.S. Department of the Interior, is supporting.

The political rider that was attached to an annual appropriations bill that Chris Stewart mentions in his letter was created to purposefully limit the management tools the BLM could use for a reason.

Horses by law are meant to be the principal presence in their herd management areas, according to section 4710.5 of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act: livestock are to be removed from these areas for the health of the herds. Source: 43 CFR 4710.5

  • 4710.5 Closure to livestock grazing.

(a) If necessary to provide habitat for wild horses or burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros from disease, harassment or injury, the authorized officer may close appropriate areas of the public lands to grazing use by all or a particular kind of livestock.

(b) All public lands inhabited by wild horses or burros shall be closed to grazing under permit or lease by domestic horses and burros.

(c) Closure may be temporary or permanent. After appropriate public consultation, a Notice of Closure shall be issued to affected and interested parties.

The only “nasty reality of wild horse management” is that Chris Stewart is attempting to support another revenue stream for the USDA that would include slaughtering wild horses and feeding the American public with their bodies.

Solutions proposed by the public and actual wild horse and burro advocacy groups

  • Demand an independent census of all federally managed wild horses and burros on the range and in holding areas (this would provide accurate numbers).
  • Institute an immediate moratorium on all roundups until this census is complete and policy can become science-based.
  • Repatriate horses in short and long term holding areas to their 22 million acres of legal herd areas that were taken out of inventory, a reduction of 41% from the original herd habitat. Cost to taxpayers: $0, versus the current costly “roundup and stockpile” paradigm.
  • Adjust the artificially low and and unscientific Appropriate Management Levels (AMLs) to accommodate current population levels and allow for preservation of wild horses and burros in genetically viable herds.
  • Adjust forage distribution so that wild horses are allotted more than 23% of their own herd areas, versus the 77% for livestock (and the overall statistics of 97% livestock to the 3% Wild Horses and Burros forage on public lands). A more, and truly balanced distribution.
  • Activate Section 4710.5 of the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act, which gives the BLM the authority to reduce or close areas to livestock grazing for the health of the herds. The law states that horses and burros are to be the principal presence on their herd areas, and that they are to be managed at the minimal feasible level possible.
  • Develop mechanisms to allow for voluntary retirement of grazing permits in wild horse and burro management areas and financial compensation to ranchers for grazing permit retirement, or non-use/reduced use of grazing allotments.
  • Reintroduce predators to public lands (and stop killing them to “protect” sheep and cattle) to actually establish a “thriving, natural ecological balance.”
  • Review the composition of any BLM wild horse and burro advisory board to include more actual wild horse and burro advocates and advocacy groups, and fewer individuals representing special interest groups.

The only true crisis occurring right now is that our wild horses, burros, wolves, bears, natural predators and all wildlife are at risk of extinction on public lands. If Chris Stewart gets his way, all our future generations will ever see will be sheep and cattle. There will be no “wild west,” all will be gone along with the buffalo.

The solutions proposed in this letter I am submitting are not unreasonable and equate a truly fair and balanced system. There will still be sheep and cattle grazing, but livestock will be the appropriately managed units and wildlife could be reintroduced and thrive on our public lands.

This is a message for you Chris Stewart, We the people will never give up. We know your true intentions and we are not giving our rights to experience wildlife, as intended, away. Please drop this nonsense before you lose the next election. It’s about time for a fresh perspective.

Submitted by MS. BULLOCK, West Valley City, Utah

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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