Range Damage from Cattle Far Exceeds Wild Horse Impacts

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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Chandra Rosenthal [PEER] (303) 898-0798,


Range Damage from Cattle Far Exceeds Wild Horse Impacts

No Livestock Reductions Despite Severe Damage As Wild Horse Roundups Persist


Washington, DC — America’s public rangelands suffer far more damage from overgrazing by commercial livestock than from wild horses and burros, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) data analyzed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The damage estimates are based on BLM’s own Land Health Standards, which measure the minimum water quality, vegetation, and soil conditions needed to support wildlife.

PEER’s analysis of range conditions through the end of 2023 reveals that 44 million acres of rangelands are failing BLM’s minimum standards, with livestock being the primary cause, either in whole or in part. Consider –

  • More than two-thirds of BLM acreage not meeting its own minimum Land Health Standards are due solely to livestock overgrazing, while less than 1% of those failing acres are due solely to wild horses;
  • In the ten Western states under BLM’s grazing program, only one (Nevada) has more than 1% of those failing acres where wild horses are even a factor; and
  • Nationally, only 77 allotments (out of about 21,0000 allotments) are failing due in whole or part to wild horses.

“When it comes to protecting America’s rangelands, BLM suffers from a severe bureaucratic cow blindness,” stated Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal. She noted that an estimated 1.5 million cattle forage BLM lands compared to fewer than 75,000 wild horses. “BLM engages in controversial wild horse roundups, but reductions in cattle herds are rare, regardless of how bad conditions are on the ground.”

The BLM figures also indicate some 6.9 million acres (approximately the size of Maryland) are also failing Land Health Standards, but the causes have not yet been identified. This is on top of another 36.5 million acres (an area bigger than Iowa) where BLM has yet to complete its land health determinations. Then, there are also another 1.2 million acres where the agency does not have complete data. By contrast, BLM has identified less than one million acres as failing solely due to wild horse impacts.

“Year by year, BLM is falling further behind in its inventory of unassessed rangelands,” added Rosenthal. “Absent a firm grasp of actual land conditions, BLM range management decisions appear to be rooted in politics, and in BLM’s political calculus cows fare far better than horses.”


Look at the latest BLM range health numbers

View state-by-state wild horse statistics

View wild horse Herd Management Area maps

See the heavy toll on rangelands from livestock overgrazing

Examine how BLM skews wild horse impacts

Read about the experience of a BLM range conservationist

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