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Topic: Flora & Fauna     Department: Letters

Cowtowing to ranchers

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While this article was informative and generally balanced, it only hinted at the intensity of cattle grazing and how it compares to the wild horse population ("Nowhere to Run," HCN, 11/12/12). The BLM factsheet on grazing states that in 2011, BLM lands were authorized to support 8.3 million animal unit months (AUMs). The BLM estimates that the range can support 27,000 horses and burros, or about 325,000 AUMs. Clearly the BLM is making a value judgment about the relative worth of cattle versus horses that heavily favors cattle. Whether you think this is a reasonable balance probably depends on whether you value cattle or horses more.

I did find the article remarkably sympathetic, almost pandering, toward ranchers like Fallini, who object to sharing public lands with horses. Fallini's 650,000 acres of grazing permits represents almost 0.25 percent of the entire BLM inventory. It's yet another sign of the crony capitalism that dominates our economic system when someone who is already getting grazing at 20 percent of the cost of private grazing leases can sue and win over competition from wild horses. Nobody is forcing him to keep these leases. If he doesn't think they're a good deal, he's free to relinquish them.

David Strip
Llaves, New Mexico

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