Editorial: Will Congress allow BLM to curb horse overpopulation?

Wild horses near Bald Mountain. (Elko Daily Free Press file photo)

Wild horses near Bald Mountain. (Elko Daily Free Press file photo)

Earlier this month at a meeting in Elko the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board voted to recommend to the Bureau of Land Management that it actually follow the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 “by offering all suitable animals in long and short term holding deemed unadoptable for sale without limitation or humane euthanasia. Those animals deemed unsuitable for sale should then be destroyed in the most humane manner possible,” according to the Elko Daily Free Press account.

The recommendation was approved by all the board members except one after the board toured the range land in the area and saw first hand the destruction caused by an overpopulation of feral horses.

The newspaper quoted board member Dr. Robert Cope as saying that after the field trip “it became so obvious there’s an incredible crisis situation out there affecting the resource” and “something has got to be done.”

The current problem is that Congress has for years prohibited using federal funds to follow the law and euthanize unadoptable wild horses and burros or even allow them to be sold for processing into commercial products.

Congressman Mark Amodei, whose district includes much of Nevada’s wild horse territory, remarked, “This is one of those areas where actually Congress has created a lot of the problem with the amendment that prohibits euthanasia as something that needs to be evaluated as part of the solution to managing these folks.”

Budgets since at least 2009 has stipulated that no funds are to used “for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros …”

“Regardless of where you are at the issue,” Amodei said, “you cannot look in the mirror and look yourself in the eye and say, whatever we’ve been doing is working, because what we have is holding facilities throughout the nation that are within 10,000 animals of being full. We have an annual feeding bill in the 10s of millions, which quite frankly BLM even says is not sustainable.”

The BLM is being crushed under the financial burden of feeding wild horses, he said.

There are an estimated 70,000 wild horses and burros on the open range, 40,000 more than the range can handle, and that number can grow by 9,000 a year without intervention.

“Here’s the last piece of the puzzle that will make your eyes roll, BLM will tell you that the population doubles at the present reproduction rate about every four years,” Amodei noted. “It is an exacerbated problem as we speak and it is only going to grow geometrically.”

Congress has to do something rather than nothing, he said.

“The only reason it’s been allowed to get to this point is quite frankly it’s a Western problem that affects Western congressional districts which are represented by about 22 people,” the congressman reasoned. “If this was an innercity urban problem it would’ve been solved decades ago.”

Coincidentally, on the same day the advisory board recommended euthanizing excess horses, the BLM canceled an experimental program to test sterilization techniques, because it was being sued by some self-styled animal rights groups.

The Congressional Western Caucus responded with a press release saying, “Responsible sterilization could help stem the exploding wild horse populations on federal lands in the West. Yet the BLM dropped the project under the threat of litigation by a special interest group. BLM Director Neil Kornze has said his agency is ‘overwhelmed’ by the growing herds, and described the situation as dire. The wild horse and burro population is nearly triple what the rangelands can support. As a result, the lands are being obliterated and the horses are dying of thirst and starvation.”

Amodei, a member of the caucus, added, “It is discouraging to see the agency has such a low opinion of its own administrative procedures that it won’t even defend them in court.”

He noted that the BLM denied a number of grazing permits in Elko County because wild horses had wiped out the vegetation. If cattle had done that there would have been a hue and cry, he noted.

“The last time this wasn’t a problem was when wild horses were treated like every other animal on the range, every other animal on the range, whether it be domestic or wild. We manage for deer. We manage for jack rabbits. We manage for cows. We manage for sheep. We manage for mountain lions. We manage for bears, but we’re not going to manage for horses,” Amodei said. “That makes no sense.”

Some people want to love the horses to death — a slow, painful, agonizing death.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.


28 comments on “Editorial: Will Congress allow BLM to curb horse overpopulation?

  1. Anonymous says:

    One day “concern” for sage grouse, one day kill the horses and burros and make soylent green.

    All the tme, shilling for “our ranching and mining families”.

    Seriously though Thomas, doesn’t the subsidy given by taxpayers, to ranchers, disruptive as it is to whatever free market exists, bother you at all? And if does, how can yo keep publishing these pieces about the horses knowing that they are just barely hidden propaganda pieces from the ranching industry?

  2. Reziac says:

    ” the BLM canceled an experimental program to test sterilization techniques, because it was being sued by some self-styled animal rights groups.”

    The same ones that insist all pets must be sterilized, because pet overpopulation. Oh, the irony.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Don’t play dumb Thomas, it doesn’t suit you.

  4. Don’t spout liberal propaganda. There is no comparison between raw federal land and improved private grazing land.

  5. Anonymous says:

    So then, you deny that ranchers receive government subsidies?

  6. Steve says:

    Ranch subsidies are nothing more than any other farm subsidy.

    What do you propose we do with all that extra corn we grow, Patrick?

  7. It’s time to get the cattle off of the land…they are the primary non native species destroying the range. You want to raise cattle…buy your own damn grazing land and let Mrs. Pickens and her fellow problem solvers take care of the wild horses and burros. The advisory board and it seems Mr. Mitchell too…are in the hip pockets of the northern Nevada ranchers.

  8. Anonymous says:


    Common ground. I like that. And I agree with everything you said.

    Hard to understand the purveyors of propaganda here actually sticking up for billionaires like JR Simplot, who control the vast majority of these grazing permits.

    All so they can destroy a symbol of the American a West and a truly beautiful creature.

  9. Steve says:

    Want to eliminate subsidies for ranchers?

    Easy, end all agriculture subsidies.

  10. Steve says:

    Won’t work for Patrick. HE wants to eviscerate only his chosen demons.

  11. Rincon says:

    Not only should we eliminate all agricultural subsidies, we should eliminate 90% of all subsidies and all tax deductions.

  12. Steve says:

    There you go, Rincon!
    That is a positive statement that doesn’t conflate a deduction with a subsidy. You are listening!

  13. Rincon says:

    So in Steve’s world, it’s better for the government to allow a million dollar tax deduction than a five dollar subsidy. Got it. One difference though. The deduction is murkier, so it’s much easier to go unnoticed by voters, especially if they’re Conservatives.

  14. Steve says:

    I love how people make shit up for others, then argue that shit as though it was real shit!

    Nice one, Rincon.


  15. Anonymous says:

    “Steve says:
    September 26, 2016 at 6:47 pm
    I love how people make shit up for others, then argue that shit as though it was real shit!”

    “Steve says:
    September 25, 2016 at 6:43 pm
    Won’t work for Patrick. HE wants to eviscerate only his chosen demons.”

    What an idiot.

  16. Steve says:

    Well, Patrick, c’mon out and say it, do like I did and AGREE with Rincon!
    End all agriculture subsidies and tax deductions….

    You won’t because you have already chosen your demons.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’ll say it:

    Steve, you’re a fuking idiot.

  18. Steve says:

    See that, Rincon? Patrick call me names for agreeing with you.

    and, as usual, Patrick’s got nothin.

  19. Rincon says:

    Steve, I’m really not sure of your position. In the past, you have shown approval of large tax deductions for fossil fuel investors as an example, but condemned far smaller subsidies for clean energy investors. You have said that tax deductions are far different ethically and financially from subsidies. I wonder if you could specify how tax deductions can give different end results than subsidies when granted in the same situation to a taxpayer. Perhaps an example.

  20. Steve says:

    No I have n ever shown approval for such a thing…if I did there will be a mea culpa, but you will need to show my statements specifically.

    What I did state, over and over, is what I said in my agreement with your latest statement acknowledging subsidies and deductions are different things. (If you really think they aren’t then you wouldn’t have stated it the way you did.)

    And, if you do go back a look for any of my earlier statement, I called for all subsidies to be ended. Along with deductions…as the two are distinctly different.

    Been over this before, but here it is yet again.
    To take any deduction, you must exceed two thresholds. Earnings must be high enough and moneys must be spent out of those same earnings to qualify for any deduction.
    A subsidy is a check paid out to you, a check with strings attached, but a check nonetheless and it does not depend on how much earnings you have, you still get the check.

    Subsidies can support and grow things that don’t have much earnings, deductions can only be taken by those with enough earnings coupled with “proper” spending.

    The two are used in very different circumstances and have very different effects on each of their target beneficiaries.

    Again, it is good to see you seem to understand there is a difference now, and to clear it up, I also state all subsidies and deductions (and tax breaks,,, To confuse Patrick even more!) need to be ended.

  21. Rincon says:

    I think we mostly agree, but I think I found one of the causes of our nonagreement (sounds so much better than disagreement, doesn’t it?) While it’s true that some deductions are against only profits made, many deductions are valid even when no profit is produced. I think you are thinking primarily of the former while I tend to think of the latter.

    In this WSJ article, a doctor with a sudden extra $50,000 of income would normally pay 20,000 in state and federal taxes. If he invests in an oil and gas partnership, he gets a $44,000 deduction immediately and only pays tax on the $6,000, even if it never turns a profit. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303497804579237901292573422,
    Another article suggests that he can receive even more deductions against his regular income as a doctor. http://enex.com/word/tax-advantages-2/

    So, some deductions are not equivalent to subsidies, but others come pretty close.

    Another question to ask is why provide tax deductions only if a project earns a profit? The goal, in the case of oil and gas, is to encourage risky investments,It makes little sense to make the upside greater while not changing the downside at all. The way to encourage risky investments is to minimize losses if an investment doesn’t do so well, not to juice the rewards for the winners even more.

  22. Steve says:

    Remember, to take a deduction, one must first spend the money. No spent money = nothing to deduct.
    Same for charitable contributions. No money out = no deduction.

    That doctor had to disburse the money before he could take a deduction against it. Again no money out = no deduction.
    I note that article didn’t tell us what they eventually had to do with the real income gained in later years as the well produced oil.
    Also, the doctor really became a partner in a small business. Spending money in hopes of a future gain. All this does is defer the taxes on the original funds and any gains would need to be invested in another venture to continue to defer taxes.
    He had maxed out his 401 and IRA contributions for the year.
    I haven’t maxed this year and I hope to be able to put more into one of my IRA’s to lower my tax liability this year too. In that doctors case, it’s all about retirement savings and we (as a people) encourage people to save for retirement. (I hope you agree with that!)
    Most doctors are considered small business’s. Enough capital and you too may be able to make investments just like that, Rincon. After all, you do own a veterinary hospital, right?

    The higher the risk, the higher the reward. Oldest rule in all the books. Vegas drinks that one in every second of every hour of every day.

  23. Rincon says:

    So in one case, the government foregoes income in order to induce someone to invest in something they consider worthwhile. In the other, the government pays cash to induce someone to invest in something they consider worthwhile. Precious little difference so far as I can see.

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