This BLM photo shows an area in the BLM Herd Management Area (Pokegama) which burned during the Oregon Gulch Fire in 2014. The remaining burned trees (dry, pitch-filled wood) are now ready to re-burn even hotter than before. The grass and brush have once-again filled-in and around the dead trees and will assure a future catastrophically hot wildfire. The BLM’s so-called ‘appropriate management level (AML) of 30-50 wild horses in the area (80,885 acres) assigns each horse to approx. 2,000 acres, in an area at grave risk for catastrophic wildfire with a depleted deer (herbivore) population. - image courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management and William E. Simpson II


Most Americans today realize that in many cases money drives politics and policy. Natural resources management in America today suffers from that fact.

In regard to the government’s current arguable mismanagement of American wild horses, a native species, we know that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Department of the Interior has spent nearly $406-million dollars of our tax-dollars just in the last 10-year period.

We also know (using standard accounting and pro forma estimates) that instead of spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars on such wasteful, inhumane, and ecologically devastating management, we could instead rewild and relocate wild horses into designated wilderness areas that are beyond any conflicts with livestock or industrial planning, where wild horses would provide in the realm of $200-500-million in annual benefits via wildfire fuels reductions and the resulting decrease in both the frequency and intensity of wildfires and toxic smoke.

Even though I strongly disagree with the American Wild Horse Campaign’s (AWHC) promotion of selective breeding via the use of chemicals like PZP, which is a genetic poison, AWHC has nevertheless conducted some deep due diligence on the taxpayer money that the BLM is squandering … Here is the essence of that work:


“Bureau of Land Management’s unprecedented wild horse roundup plan will cost U.S. taxpayers millions and benefit special interests Private livestock industry makes huge profits rounding up and removing protected horses from the range, new analysis shows

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced this week that it plans to round up more wild horses than ever before. But how much will this cost U.S. taxpayers? The answer is “a lot,” a new analysis by the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) shows.

Publicly available contract documents show that BLM has spent:

$332,537,529 on long-term holding pastures for wild horses since 2004.

$87,005,461 on short-term holding corrals since 2005.

$53,199,199.065 on helicopter and bait-trapping roundups since 2006.

In fact, the AWHC’s analysis shows that, for the last 10 years, livestock operators have received 89% of contract funds ($361,089,585 out of $405,734,931) paid out through the BLM’s “Wild Horse/Burro Control Services” budget.

The documents show private livestock companies making millions via their roundup contracts with the BLM.

Examples include:

Cattoor Livestock Roundup Company of Nephi, Utah, awarded $26,196,838 from 153 contracts with the BLM and $2,410,617 from 5 contracts with the USFS, including contracts that extend through 2025. 

Sun J Livestock of Vernal, Utah, awarded $9,993,939 from 34 contracts with the BLM and $574,342 from 1 contract with the USFS since 2010, including contracts that extend through 2025.

Shayne F. Sampson of Meadow, Utah, awarded $4,927,430 from 37 contracts with the BLM and $39,529 from 1 contract with the USFS since 2012, including contracts that extend through 2025.

Private businesses that provide short-term holding corrals for wild horses removed from the range also make millions, the report shows. Examples include:

Indian Lakes Holding Facility, in Fallon, Nevada, operated by Broken Arrow Horse & Cattle Company, awarded $39,166,063 from 11 contracts with the BLM since 2010.

Axtell Off-Range Corrals in Axtell, Utah, operated by Kerry M. Despain, awarded $17,482,062 from 13 contracts with the BLM since 2012.

Simplot Livestock, Bruneau Off-Range Corrals, in Bruneau, Idaho, operated by J.R. Simplot, awarded $16,410,175 from 7 contracts with the BLM since 2015.

Sutherland Off-Range Corral in Sutherland, Utah, operated by G&R Livestock Inc., awarded $3,770,200 from 3 contracts with the BLM since 2020.

Of the 18,891 horses and burros in short-term corrals as of November 2021, 5,571 are stored in these private facilities.

Conditions at these short-term holding facilities are notoriously harsh: crowded feedlot pens that offer little to no shelter from extreme summer heat or winter winds, snow, and cold.

In addition to these short-term corrals, the BLM ships horses to 42 privately owned long-term holding corrals, including:

*Drummond Land & Cattle Co. ($33,871,726; 19 contracts);

*20 West LLC ($25,068,980; 11 contracts);

*Grand Eagle Summit, LLC ($22,983,343; 14 contracts);

*Tadpole Cattle Co Inc. ($22,175,928; 7 contracts); and

*Hughes Cattle Company ($18,221,663; 13 contracts).

*The same person—Robert S. Hughes II—owns both Tadpole Cattle Co Inc. and Hughes Cattle Company, thus collectively earning $39,964,983 from 19 contracts.

Roundups also benefit private livestock operators who graze their cattle on leased public lands where horses also roam, the AWHC says. The ranchers get access to this public land cheap, thanks to government subsidies. For example, the cost of grazing a single cow-calf pair on private land in the West is about $23 per month. But the grazing fee for a cow-calf pair on leased public land is $1.35 per month. As a result, the BLM’s grazing program loses millions of dollars each year. In fiscal year 2017, the bureau spent $79 million on the grazing program but took in only $18.3 million in grazing fees.

The livestock industry uses this big money to press the BLM for further roundups, ballooning the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program budget from $19.8 million in 2001 to $116 million in 2021, despite critical reports from the National Academy of Sciences, General Accountability Office, and the Office of Inspector General that have labeled the program as costly, inefficient and ineffective.

In addition to the wild horse program, the livestock industry benefits from a $133 million predator control program within the USDA that lethally removes mountain lions, wolves, coyotes and other animals for the benefit of cattle and sheep grazers.”

There is a superior method for managing native species American wild horses by “rewilding” and “relocating” them using a new management paradigm called the  Wild Horse Fire Brigade.

Even a cursory review of the news on “wild horses” shows a plethora of dissatisfaction with the current government management policies for wild horses.  It’s time to do things more naturally and thereby, more humanely and cost-effectively; Wild Horse Fire Brigade does both.

William E. Simpson II is an ethologist living among and studying free-roaming native species American wild horses. William is the award-winning producer of the micro-documentary film ‘Wild Horses.‘  He is the author of a new Study about the behavioral ecology of wild horses, two published books, and more than 150 published articles on subjects related to wild horses, wildlife, wildfire, and public land (forest) management. He has appeared on NBC NEWS, ABC NEWS, theDoveTV and has been a guest on numerous talk radio shows including the Lars Larson Show, the Bill Meyer Show, and on NPR Jefferson Public Radio.

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