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Utilization data: domestic livestock vs wild horses & burros

Utilization data:  domestic livestock vs wild horses & burros

“Too many wild horses overgrazing and damaging western public rangelands”… “pushing cattle off the land”… “needing to be removed”… Most media coverage of wild horses shares this storyline, citing rising population estimates from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which, together with the US Forest Service (USFS), oversees 251 million acres of public lands for grazing (mostly cattle) and other “multiple uses.” But 2014 BLM and USFS livestock grazing receipts ($17.1 million) tell a different story: the equivalent of 2.1 million cattle outnumbering 56,656 federally protected wild horses and burros (WHB) by 37:1. These privately owned livestock are allocated 97 percent of western forage on all 251 million acres. This is compared to 3 percent allocated to 56,656 wild horses and burros occupying just 29.4 million acres. Studies also show cattle, not horses, as the focus of considerable research on domestic overgrazing and a major cause of global climate change. This analysis will present select 2014 grazing data from the BLM and USFS web sites, published reports and correspondence. Also included is a small sample of recent studies on livestock grazing’s impact on public lands missing from the present debate. It’s critical to understand how many cattle vs. WHB exist on public lands; how many millions of acres they each graze; how much forage they’re each allotted. It’s equally important to acknowledge the abundance of research on cattle’s impact on biodiversity and wildlife and the corresponding scarcity of research regarding wild horses. This information is foundational to an understanding of the issue. But it’s a starting point, not just for correcting false coverage, but for establishing common facts from which to go forward and address larger, interconnected and pressing public policy issues — not simply debate various narratives and opinions

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