1. There are millions of acres of public rangelands in the American west; lands that belong to you and are held in trust by the U.S. Government.
You don’t have to be able to afford hundreds of acres to have your own ranch; as an American taxpaying citizen, you have access to the millions of the most desired, visually stunning lands in America. It doesn’t matter if you are a local citizen with nearby access, or if you live thousands of miles away in a big city; it is important to know that these lands are available and protected for you and future generations of your family.
Public rangelands include grasslands, shrublands, savannas, and open woodlands. The majority of public lands in the United States are held in trust for the American people by the federal government and managed by agencies such as: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the United States National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, or the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the United States Forest Service.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the U.S Department of the Interior that is tasked to oversee more than 247.3 million acres of public lands in the U.S – one eighth of the entire Country’s landmass. The agency also manages nearly 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate located beneath federal, state and private lands severed from their surface rights by the Homestead Act of 1862. (1) The BLM is also tasked with the management of America’s wild horses under the “American Free Roaming Wild Horse & Burros Act of 1971” as iconic symbols of the “historic and pioneer spirit” of the West.
Most BLM public lands are in 12 Western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The mission of the BLM is “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
2. These places don’t just exist, you can visit them too!
Millions of Americans visit public lands each year for recreational enjoyment: camping, biking, camping, climbing and exploring. There are photo safaris, nature excursions and opportunities to see the last of our remaining free roaming wild horses. We all need places we can go to unwind from the stress of everyday life, reconnect with ourselves, each other and the world around us. Our public rangelands are the perfect place to visit to recharge your body, reignite your mind and rewild your spirit.
America boats picturesque National Parks, vibrant National Forests, and important BLM lands that help to support healthy and sustainable communities, millions of jobs and a thriving outdoor recreation economy for many western states. Our public rangelands also provide a home for millions of mammals, birds, amphibians, fish and insects. Wild horses, deer, elk, antelope, hawks, eagles, foxes, coyotes, wolves and rattlesnakes are all different types of animals who rely on America’s public lands as their home.
Keeping these lands public is important to ensuring that our shared American habitats and inheritance remains intact, sustainable and thriving for the future of all generations of species that call this place home. Protecting and preserving these invaluable, cherished lands today helps to create a chance for our future children to experience these places and animals the same way that we know them now.
3. Our public lands are being fought over, exploited and overburdened in the interest of private greed by large scale agribusiness and other big business interests.
American public lands are being targeted by a select few who are focused on one thing: monetary profit over long term sustainability and a future for the American species, habitats or humanity.
For decades, vast tracts of National Forest and BLM land, as well as land on Wildlife Refuges have been leased for grazing by cattle or sheep under the BLM loophole of “management for multiple use purposes.” As a result, cattle currently outnumber horses 50 to 1 on public lands, with the figure rising every year. The U.S. taxpayer is paying for this very expensive, inhumane process which runs counter to the primary mandate of the “Free Roaming Wild Horse & Burros Act of 1971” – the Congressional Act aimed at preserving these integral animals at healthy population levels in the wild and with appropriate habitats that are not over exploited by other interests.
America’s subsidized federal grazing program enables individuals to graze their livestock on public lands for cheap; allowing ranchers to have thousands of protected wild horses removed from public lands at taxpayer expense. 99% of the welfare ranching leases are owned by the wealthiest 1% of Americans. The federal grazing program that is exploited wastes as much as $1 billion a year of taxpayer money, while causing long-term damage to one of the public’s most treasured assets. (2)
Taxpayer- funded livestock grazing on public lands costs over $132 million dollars per year, losing taxpayers over $1.2 billion in the last decade. This figure doesn’t account for the peripheral costs of predator controls, infrastructure matching funds, and environmental degradation and remediation.
4. State governments are aiming to privatize, sell, develop, and auction off our public lands to the highest bidder.
The idea of privatizing and selling off our public lands is gaining momentum within state legislatures and Congress; a symbolic move that challenges the foundation of our wild places as we know them to be. An executive order signed by President Trump on April 26, 2017 states that all national monuments instated within the past 21 years are subject for review.3
Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended that Washington reviews and reduces the size of the now 1.3 million acres that is currently protected under The Bear’s Ears Monument; an area known for its sacred native sites that will be destroyed under this suggestion. Additionally, The National Park Service put out an alert of eleven more sanctuaries that are now on the chopping block because the Trump Administration and special interest lobbyists want to open them up to oil and gas exploration and fishing. These include but aren’t limited to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off Hawaii, Rose Atoll Marine National Monument off American Samoa, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary off California and the Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary off Michigan.
Recent Bills have been introduced in many of our western states that demands that “turn over” millions of acres of public lands. Trumps FY 2018 budget proposal is an additional policy layer that endangers the current and future freedoms, health, sustainability and viability of our cherished public lands and those who call them home; as the budget is clearly aimed toward sustaining the interest of big oil, fracking and agribusiness interests.
The potential heist of our American public lands is one of the most serious threats to our environmental sustainability that our generation has experienced. If these lands were transferred to state control, they would financially overwhelm their states, leaving no option but to sell off the land to private interests (who back the lawmakers seeking transfer of federal land to state hands). These interests do not answer to the people, and would – as history has shown repeatedly – exploit our lands for resources and profit, to no benefit of the people, not to mention the wildlife and the environment.
An unspoken-for voice in this debate is that of the wildlife; particularly, the thousands of wild horses living and grazing on federal land. What happens to them if the land is sold off to private interests? It hurts to imagine it. These beautiful animals are critical to the health of the land as well – grazing and fertilizing the grasses, contributing to the essential rewilding of America. Not only must we protect these horses to continue on the path of rewilding, we must work to protect the land from interests that would exploit it and destroy those animals, which truly define freedom in America.
5. You can get involved with protecting the places that you love!
We cannot allow our government to use our tax dollars to exploit our land for private purposes to benefit big business interests and foreign markets at the expense of America’s horses, wildlife, habitats, democracy and humanity. It is time for voters to take back their voice within our democracy. Let’s bring transparency to our political system and let’s end the regime of dark money that is poisoning the political atmosphere. There are politicians out there who are trying to do the what’s in the best interest of the long-term sustainability of our habitats and humanity; use sites like govtrack.us to find out who they are so that you can vote accordingly.
You can also support organizations like the CANA Foundation; a 501(c)3 that rewilds horses; who in turn help to rewild the participating humans and their shared habitats. America’s wild horses belong to the American people and, even more, to the Land. Ecological studies prove that wild horses are crucial restorers of natural ecosystem balance in vast stretches of the North American continent. These national Icons and their habitats – picturesque landscapes that embody much special beauty – have been seriously eroded, but can be recovered and restored. It is not too late! Wild horses are to be protected and preserved much like a National Monument or National Park, as they are a cherished and integral component to North America. It is important to understand why they are not to be used and exploited as an American resource for profit.
It is time to unite the voices of water enthusiasts, mountain bikers, hikers, climbers, campers, skiers, advocates, environmentalists and all people alike to conserve America’s public lands and protect our fellow inhabitants. It is the duty and right of the American public to call their legislators in Congress and adamantly demand that they will not tolerate the inhumane and nonsensical killing of wildlife on public lands, or sale to slaughter of America’s wild horses; especially with the use of taxpayer dollars. We need to urge our leadership to clarify ambiguous language that will exploit our wild habitats and act upon the language that values and protects our cherished public lands for the present and future of our American society.
In doing this, we are truly honoring the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of freedom that our country was founded upon and are actively helping to make America truly great again.
- https://www.blm.gov/public_land_statistics/ BLM Public Land Statistics
- dailypitchfork.org Article: “Sustainable Cowboys or Welfare Ranchers of the American West?”