Wild horses, federal grazing and America’s billionaire welfare ranchers

Cow and calf next to Mustang Herd Management Area sign. Image by Kimerlee Curyl.

Some years ago, Ellen Cathryn Nash wrote an insightful report for our website called:

Rolex Ranchers and the Living Legends
10% of BLM Land Lease Subsidy Recipients are Billionaires and Control 65% of all BLM Lands

Nash subsequently issued this information as a Press Release in March 2005 which we posted on Tuesday’s Horse.

Some of the names Nash listed as “Rolex Ranchers” are:

Ted Turner
Baron Hilton
Mary Hewlett-Jaffey
JR Simplot
Annheiser-Busch
Hunt Oil Company of Dallas

Nash’s reports also states:

    “The Public Lands Ranching Organization reports that the federal grazing program operates at a loss, costing taxpayers at least $500,000,000 annually. This figure includes direct program costs and millions of dollars spent on emergency feed, drought and flood relief, and predator control to support or mitigate damage from public lands grazing.”

Vickery Eckhoff recently completed an excellent in depth series on the same topic:

Exposing America’s Billionaire Welfare Ranchers
America’s .01 percent like the Kochs and the Hiltons are collecting massive subsidies from the federal government.

It is riveting reading. In her email announcement regarding the work Eckhoff states:

    “Nearly a year ago, following Forbes response to my writing about Cliven Bundy and the federal grazing program, I was approached by AlterNet with a proposition.

    “There had been some speculation that my Forbes departure had been spurred by Steve Forbes having grazing leases or that people with influence at Forbes did and that my exposing the federal grazing program was not to their liking. Would I be interested in writing a piece on rich welfare ranchers?

    “The idea of exploring that topic was attractive, even though I knew it would be challenging, so I agreed.

    “Today, almost a year later, I’m proud to publish “Forbes Billionaires Top US Welfare Ranchers List” on AlterNet and also the Daily Pitchfork.”

Look at some of the super rich on Eckery’s list. You may not recognize all of them but you certainly will some of them.

Ted Turner. Image: Fresh Magazine.
Ted Turner. Image: Fresh Magazine.

David and Charles Koch (Koch Industries)
J.R. Simplot Corp.
Bruce McCaw (McCaw Cellular)
Barrick Gold
Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA)
W. Barron Hilton (Hilton Hotels)
Mary Hewlett-Jaffe (Hewlett-Packard)
James Barta (Sav-Rx.com)
T. Wright Dickinson
Stan Kroenke (Kroenke Group) & Ann Walton Kroenke (Walmart)
Family of Robert Earl Holding (Sinclair Oil and Hotels)
Ted Turner

Eckhoff sums it up with this statement:

    “The .01 percenters are the nation’s biggest welfare ranchers, according to numerous environmental and policy groups; and it’s time they brought some attention to themselves and the federal grazing program they’re exploiting to the tune of an annual estimated one billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies while causing long-term damage to one of the public’s most treasured assets.”

It doesn’t end for the taxpayer there. The federal government wastes millions of taxpayer dollars year after year on needless, herd-destroying wild horse round ups to serve the land up to welfare ranchers such as these. Then they spend more millions stockpiling the wild horses they do not manage to sell to the meat man. And they do it while complaining ludicrously about the expense – as if it’s the horses’ fault.

Nash points out in her report:

    “In reality, the wild horses and burros are not the problem, rather it is the privately owned livestock grazing on public lands subsidized by American taxpayers at great expense. It is important to note that cattle are ‘static’ animals in that they do not move much and they destroy the ground. It takes ten years to reclaim land destroyed by cattle, and longer in arid areas such as Nevada.”

Of course now it is not just welfare ranchers pursuing U.S. public lands set aside for the protection of the country’s wild horses and burros. But that is a whole other story.

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