Monday at 3pm EST #WildHorsesNotGASLAND Tweetstorm

 

#WildHorsesNotGASLAND

 

JOIN the Tweetstorm to create awareness that America’s wild horses are being removed from their native lands by fast tracked #Fracking energy projects mostly for export. These back-room deals cut environmental corners to push through toxic drilling as mentioned briefly in Josh Fox’s film “GASLAND II” Premiering on HBO July 8th at 9:00 p.m. Have a house party with your friends and watch this awesome film!

GASLAND II exposes how wild horses are being rounded up and removed for natural gas extraction. We need to use this as a million dollar moment to expose the wild horse crisis and I’m so grateful it targets an audience who will care.

Let’s get a lot of people to watch GASLAND II. It expands the movement’s reach like nothing else has yet. If more people care about wild horses and stop believing BLM spin then more people will care about shelter, stopping roundups and returning them to the wild. The GASLAND II message is pivotal.

Josh Fox explores, with humor, industrialization causing environmental disease and what’s failed in our public process. Once we know why things aren’t working anymore, we can fix it.

Many blessings,

Anne Novak

 

#WildhorsesNotGASLAND

SImple Rules:

Retweets do not count; neither do favorites

Only one hashtag: #WildhorsesNotGASLAND

Bogus Science and Profiteering Stampeding Their Way into Wild Horse Country

Nevada mustang © Carl Mrozek

Nevada mustang © Carl Mrozek

A Review of Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward (2013) 

by Jaime Jackson, AANHCP Executive Director

I’ve reviewed the entire 300+ page National Academy of Sciences report—clearly a major undertaking by all the scientists involved and a bit of a “heavy” read—including its academic findings and recommendations (“A Way Forward”) which are, in the end, woefully predictable. Thinking about it, however, the scientists who created the report really had no choice, given the limits of the Wild, Free-roaming and Burro Act itself, if we are to accept that, but to work within its boundaries and the conundrum set upon them by that law’s specious political and land management premise and somehow respond to the task put upon them by the BLM. Clearer and more honest minds might have said, “I want no part of such a nasty, skewed project.” I also gleaned the biographies of each scientist to see what kind of understanding they would bring to the table regarding horse care based on their education and training, and if they seem like “clear minded” thinkers who could think outside the box in the best interest of any horse. On that note alone, wild horses are in trouble.

Because the “limits” put upon the NAS committee by the wild horse law are what they are, and because these are basically mainstream scientists drawn out of academia, it is entirely logical that they would recommend regulating wild horse and burro populations, in their words, “with science”. But what kind of science, one might ask? Well, the fact is, it’s the same brand of science, and scien- tific minds in today’s academia, that has failed the domesticated horse. We’re talking about scientists who serve the special interests of government and its lobbyists, the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries, and so forth, that have given us drugs and feeds and management practices that cause laminitis and other metabolic breakdowns of the horse. Indeed, it is all profitable for the very community that has created this “science based” disaster for horses. I’m not just spewing words here without foundation, horses truly suffer for it, and it is this bad science and corresponding harmful equine management practices that have given birth to and fueled the internationally burgeoning NHC movement. That is a fact—and it is a fact also that these scientists, and the special interests that fund them, refuse to acknowledge NHC because what we do and advocate for gets directly to the bottom of ethics and profiteering and inbred academic close-mindedness.

The authors of this NAS report have very skillfully woven together what is genuinely good sci- ence with the bad, while ignoring other good science altogether—all to the end of supporting the bogus proposition that their brand of “science” favors a lasting solution for wild horse management. If one reads their report carefully, however, one can sense the palpable excitement and impatience behind their drug-based recommendations. For example, they urge the BLM to step up an accurate numbers count in the HMAs (which, arguably, given that agency’s past, can never be trusted) because, they suggest, the quantities of PZP and other pharmaceutical agents needed to cleanse wild horse country will surely be vastly greater than what was used in their scientifically con- taminated control study done to the Assateague ponies of the U.S. east coast (cited in their re- port). Assateague was not good science, anymore than what has happened to those horses long before the government’s study. It catered to the drug industry and the same eugenics science that the U.S. and British governments sanctioned and used against people during the greater part of the 20th century (up to the 1960s and 70s), and that was astutely “borrowed” from by Nazi Germany for its extermination campaigns to “rid the world of undesirables”.

Just as tactfully, and just as predictably, the NAS authors stated that predation behavior was not viable, ignoring Drs. Turner and Morrow’s mountain lion predations studies referenced in my books, The Natural Horse and Paddock Paradise, and which proved the viability of natural predation on wild horse herds. Of course, the reason that natural mountain lion and wolf predation won’t work, and which the NAS report fails to explain, is because BLM management practices have provided for their extermination and/or removal under welfare ranching pressure that deflects the truth of what’s happening within their grandfathered land leases born of the Taylor Grazing Act and the BLM’s inception.

I could easily go on, and on, and on, nit picking the massive tangled NAS report, but would just be wasting my time and yours with the report’s self-serving “word salad”. The fact is, there is no genuine solution in their report that respects the natural integrity of America’s wild, free- roaming horses. And there is no debating the authors of the report either, for they are completely sold out to the very special interests who have never seen value in our wild horses. In fact, it is the science community that has recently aided and abetted the government in reclassifying wild horses legally as “pests” so that the pesticide PZP can be used on them for birth control purposes. You see, the NAS report is no surprise, as its convoluted “commandments” have been systematically orchestrated and colluded with by just about everyone in sight, including—and I am sad to say—nearly every purported “wild horse protection” group and sanctuary in the United States. Many of these groups stand to “gain” from this collusion, including the HSUS that co-owns patent rights to PZP.

Tax payers can expect to pay more, not less, as they watch their wild horse herds deteriorate genetically under the government’s Nazification of the HMAs through racism-based eugenics. This is because there is profit motive at its foundation. In fact, the report cautions that “public confidence” and trust will be an important part of the “master solution”. Inundating tax payers with scientific “word salad” that few can understand, is understood. Clearly, the public does not understand the underlying issues, except what they hear in the news. From that vantage point, this does not bode well for our wild horses.

What is needed is a new vision and a new law for genuine wild horse preservation. The current law is bankrupt and offers no real protection, let alone preservation. Science, industry and the big government have joined claws and are at war with Natural Selection, because they are losing—and they know it. And, it is for this reason, that Science is now being called upon to step up the delusion that the war on nature can and will be won. Like the war on cancer, no such victory is forthcoming. But because the war is profit driven, the war is welcome. Read the NAS report with a critical eye, and you will see this. In the end, HMAs will become zoos with GMO wild horses. Like those we see in the wild horse protectionist’s “sanctuaries”: sad, pathetic parodies of real wild horses. Is this what the public envisioned when it stood behind the original wild horse protection law? Of course not. but, here today, government and science and industry (and its camp following ersatz wild horse protectionists begging for crumbs), all hand in hand, are going to exploit wild horses and unwitting taxpayers for what they can—until, at long last, nature has proven them wrong, and the deceptive game is exposed for all to see. The Assateague model, which they will cite and hold up, is a broken one. But they are counting on an uninformed public to buy into it. Those of us in the NHC movement know better and can refute it with facts by simply looking at the hooves of those horses, if not the non-adaptative environment they are squeezed into be- cause of an historical fluke. Looking through the bios of the NAS committee members, I seriously doubt that any of them would have a clue of what I’m talking about.

The Obama Administration, as much of the voting public on both sides of the aisle have come to realize, is a compromised, “sold out to big industry” travesty that is going to stand be- hind the eugenics science and land grab scheme fully intended to bilk the taxpayer and pad the pockets of profiteers who, quite frankly, don’t give a damn about wild horses. That includes Sally Jewell, Obama’s hand-picked clone of Ken Salazar to head the Department of the Interior (BLM’s overseer), who is no friend of the wild horse or any horse. She came right out of big banking and the oil industry. Check out her bio on her DOI government website. She will go right along with “big science” because that is where the money is and because, the fact is (and it is not rocket science to figure it out), it will lead to the decimation of wild horse herds. James Kleinert’s film “Wild Horses and Renegades” draws a direct line between Jewell, “wild horse pests” and their extermination, and the land grab now going on in BLM country by big industries such as BP and backed by the Obama Administration.

Let me put it in simple terms — it’s just a matter of time before they’re shoeing wild horses in the HMAs! If you don’t want that, support the AANHCP’s vision for genuine, lasting wild horse protection and taxpayer relief. See it here: http://www.aanhcp.net/index.php? option=com_content&view=article&id=218&Itemid=85

NAS report: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php? booksearch=1&term=1&record_id=13511&Search+This+Book.x=27&Search+This+Book. y=15

NAS committee members: http://dels.nap.edu/Committee/committee-membership/DELS-BANR-10-05

Jamie Jackson’s piece in PDF: PM Jamie Jackson Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program

National Academy of Science Review to be released Wed

Project Title: A Review of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro (WH&B) Management Program
PIN: DELS-BANR-10-05
Major Unit: Division on Earth and Life Studies
Sub Unit: Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources
RSO: Laney, Kara N.
Subject/Focus Area: Agriculture; Biology and Life Sciences; Environment and Environmental Studies
Project Scope
At the request of the Bureau of Land Management, the National Research Council (NRC) will conduct an independent, technical evaluation of the science, methodology, and technical decision-making approaches of the WH&B Program. In evaluating the program, the study will build on findings of three prior reports prepared by the NRC in 1980, 1982, and 1991 and summarize additional, relevant research completed since the three earlier reports were prepared. Relying on information about the program provided by BLM and on field data collected by BLM and others, the analysis will address the following key scientific challenges and questions:1. Estimates of the WH&B populations:  Given available information and methods, how accurately can WH&B populations on BLM land designed for WH&B use be estimated? What are the best methods to estimate WH&B herd numbers and what is the margin of error in those methods? Are there better techniques than the BLM currently uses to estimate population numbers?  For example, could genetics or remote sensing using unmanned aircraft be used to estimate WH&B population size and distribution?

2. Population Modeling: Evaluate the strengths and limitations of models for predicting impacts on wild horse populations given various stochastic factors and management alternatives. What types of decisions are most appropriately supported using the WinEquus model? Are there additional models the BLM should consider for future uses?

3. Genetic diversity in WH&B herds:  What does information available on WH&B herds’ genetic diversity indicate about long-term herd health, from a biological and genetic perspective? Is there an optimal level of genetic diversity within a herd to manage for? What management actions can be undertaken to achieve an optimal level of genetic diversity if it is too low?

4. Annual rates of WH&B population growth: Evaluate estimates of the annual rates of increase in WH&B herds, including factors affecting the accuracy of and uncertainty related to the estimates. Is there compensatory reproduction as a result of population-size control (e.g., fertility control or removal from herd management areas)? Would WH&B populations self-limit if they were not controlled, and if so, what indicators (rangeland condition, animal condition, health, etc.) would be present at the point of self-limitation?

5. Predator impact on WH&B population growth:  Evaluate information relative to the abundance of predators and their impact on WH&B populations. Although predator management is the responsibility of the USFWS or State wildlife agencies and given the constraints in existing federal law, is there evidence that predators alone could effectively control WH&B population size on BLM land designed for WH&B use?

6. Population control:  What scientific factors should be considered when making population control decisions (roundups, fertility control, sterilization of either males or females, sex ratio adjustments to favor males and other population control measures) relative to the effectiveness of control approach, herd health, genetic diversity, social behavior, and animal well-being?

7. Fertility control: Evaluate information related to the effectiveness of fertility control methods to prevent pregnancies and reduce herd populations.

8. Managing a portion of a population as non-reproducing: What scientific and technical factors should the BLM consider when managing for WH&B herds with reproducing and non-reproducing animals (i.e., a portion of the population is a breeding population and the remainder is non-reproducing males or females)? When managing a herd with reproducing and non-reproducing animals, which options should be considered: geldings, vasectomized males, overectomized mares, or other interventions)? Is there credible evidence to indicate that geldings or vasectomized stallions in a herd would be effective in decreasing annual population growth rates, or are there other methods the BLM should consider for managing stallions in a herd that would be effective in tangibly suppressing population growth?

9. AML Establishment or Adjustment:  Evaluate the BLM’s approach to establishing or adjusting Appropriate Management Levels (AML) as described in the 4700-1 Wild Horses and Burros Management Handbook.  Based upon scientific and technical considerations, are there other approaches to establishing or adjusting AML the BLM should consider?   How might BLM improve its ability to validate AML?

10. Societal Considerations: What are some options available to BLM to address the widely divergent and conflicting perspectives about WH&B management and to consider stakeholder concerns while using the best available science to protect land and animal health?

11. Additional Research Needs: Identify research needs and opportunities related to the topics listed above. What research should be the highest priority for BLM to fill information and data gaps, reduce uncertainty, and improve decision-making and management?

The project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Interior.

The start date of the project is June 2, 2011. A report is expected to be issued by the end of the project in approximately 24 months.

Statement of task updated March 14, 2012.

FOr more information go to: http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/projectview.aspx?key=49392

BLM’s Advisory board meets in Oklahoma City to discuss ways to ‘control’ wild horses and burros

PM-Hotshot-5-Owyhee

PM-Hotshot-1-Owyhee

BLM Sets Meeting of National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board

for March 4-5 in Oklahoma City

The Bureau of Land Management’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board will meet in March in Oklahoma City to discuss issues relating to the management, protection, and control of wild horses and burros on Western public rangelands.  The day-and-a-half meeting will take place on Monday, March 4, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday, March 5, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., local time.

The meeting will be held at the Sheraton Oklahoma City Hotel, 1 North Broadway Avenue, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73102.  The hotel phone number for reservations is 405-235-2780.  The agenda of the meeting can be found in the February 5, 2013, Federal Register (at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-02-05/pdf/2013-02381.pdf).

The Advisory Board provides input and advice to the BLM as it carries out its responsibilities under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.  The law mandates the protection, management, and control of these free-roaming animals in a manner that ensures healthy herds at levels consistent with the land’s capacity to support them.  According to the BLM’s latest official estimate, approximately 37,300 wild horses and burros roam on BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states.

The public may address the Advisory Board on Monday, March 4, at 3:30 p.m., local time.  Individuals who want to make a statement at the Monday meeting should register in person with the BLM by 2 p.m., local time, on that same day at the meeting site.  Depending on the number of speakers, the Board may limit the length of presentations, set at three minutes for previous meetings.

Speakers should submit a written copy of their statement to the BLM at the addresses below or bring a copy to the meeting.  There may be a Webcam present during the entire meeting and individual comments may be recorded.  Those who would like to comment but are unable to attend may submit a written statement to: Bureau of Land Management, National Wild Horse and Burro Program, WO-260, Attention: Ramona DeLorme, 1340 Financial Boulevard, Reno, Nevada, 89502-7147.  Comments may also be e-mailed to the BLM at wildhorse@blm.gov

For additional information regarding the meeting, please contact Ramona DeLorme, Wild Horse and Burro Administrative Assistant, at 775-861-6583.  Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may reach Ms. DeLorme during normal business hours by calling the Federal Information Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339.

The Advisory Board meets at least once a year and the BLM Director may call additional meetings when necessary.  Members serve without salary, but are reimbursed for travel and per diem expenses according to government travel regulations.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency.  This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska.  The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation.  In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, recreational and other activities on BLM-managed land contributed more than $130 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 600,000 American jobs.  The Bureau is also one of a handful of agencies that collects more revenue than it spends.  In FY 2012, nearly $5.7 billion will be generated on lands managed by the BLM, which operates on a $1.1 billion budget.  The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.  The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.

 

–BLM–

How [Not] To Tame A Wild Mustang

By Elaine Nash

When we had a large ranch near Santa Fe, NM, the US Forest Service had apparently heard that I’m a softie for any person or animal in need, because one of their guys from a district on the NM-CO border called one cold winter night and asked if I would mind taking in a thin two-year old mustang stallion that had been pushed out of his family band by the herd stallion. Without the team effort of the herd to assist him, he was unable to paw up enough grass from under the deep snow to sustain him through that especially harsh winter.  Of course, I said yes.

The next day, after a harrowing six-hour-long, snowy drive deep into the mountain wilderness of northern NM, we arrived just before dark at the US Forest Service corrals, where we saw a pretty bedraggled and gangly bay two year old colt standing alone in the large panel enclosure he’d had been driven into earlier by USFS cowboys. As I backed our trailer up to the corral, I found myself wondering just what I was getting myself into.  Although I’d owned and trained horses all my life, I’d never had an actual wild mustang in my care before. I anticipated that just getting this wild horse loaded into our ‘cave on wheels’ might be a real test of my horsemanship skills.

As I walked past the back of the trailer and eyed the open slot beside Keebler- the ‘buddy’ horse we’d brought along, I imagined that a space just half the width of a two-horse trailer would probably look awfully small to a horse who’d only known wide open spaces in his life.  I walked to the center of the pen and was looking around- considering how best to use fence panels to create a chute for guiding the mustang toward that tiny, now-dark space in the trailer, when I heard a soft “clump, clump, clump”.  I turned around just in time to see that ‘wild’ mustang- who’d never seen a horse trailer in his life, walk right up the ramp into his spot in that trailer- where he calmly started munching on hay. That unexpected display of courage and common sense turned out to be just the first of many surprises that we were to enjoy during our adventure as owners of Poco-the ”wild” mustang.

As soon as we got home we brushed and combed- as gently as we could, years of tangles out of his long black mane and tail while he was still in the trailer, and he hardly flinched.  I chalked that up to his fatigue and probable trauma from the trailer ride. We then released him out into a roomy private pen, where he could live quietly for a few weeks while we gave him the groceries he needed to put on some weight, and where he could get acquainted with our other horses through the fence. By the time spring rolled around we’d had him gelded and he was back in fine physical form. We turned him out into our spacious pasture to ‘run free’ with the our herd of family horses.  With noble- and romantic, intentions I had decided to ‘respect his wild origins’ and leave him untamed for life- but Poco had something else in mind.

All my childhood, movie-inspired images of captive wild horses yearning to be free faded fast as Poco made it quite clear that he much preferred the barn to the pasture, human company to that of other horses, and he thought that having good hay and grain delivered right into a feeder was clearly better than going to the trouble of grazing on wild grass. Suffice it to say that Poco turned out to be more puppy dog than wild horse.  Teaching him to lead quickly became an effort to keep him out of our laps, caps, and pockets. He allowed me to ride him the first time he was saddled, he never bucked a single step with anyone, and the greatest danger that a person could be in while in his presence was having their belt loop tugged on or their hair nibbled.  Poco was like a country boy who visited the big city, liked living in the lap of luxury, and decided to stay.  He never displayed a single trait of wildness.

Now, I’m not saying that we should capture and domesticate America’s wild horses.  In fact, I think that our wild horses should, in almost every case, be left to live their wild lives on America’s public lands as the longstanding US Wild Mustang and Burro Act dictates.  But- as long as BLM and other government agencies continue on their mission to decrease the size of wild herds in deference to grazing beef cattle and the exploration for gas and oil on America’s vast public lands, mustangs will captured, and they will need homes.

I hope that anyone who considers adopting a mustang can realize that in doing so, they are not taking on a horse whose heart will always belong to the wild. Rather, they are creating an opportunity for a displaced horse with an incredible heart and spirit to form
you.

(Note: Common sense still dictates that wild horses should only be handled/trained by people who have a significant amount of experience with horses.)

Notable equine advocate and founder of Fleet of Angels, Elaine Nash, writes at The Nash Rambler.

 

Send comments against roundup and SpayVac® for Wyoming wild horses

Release Date: 07/06/12
Contacts: Sarah Beckwith
307-347-5207

BLM Releases Preliminary EA for North Lander Complex Wild Horse Gather

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lander Field Office announces that a preliminary environmental assessment (EA) analyzing a proposed wild horse gather in the North Lander Wild Horse Herd Management Area Complex is now available for review.The North Lander Complex is located east of Riverton within Fremont County, Wyo. The proposed gather is expected to take place in fall, 2012.The preliminary EA analyzes four alternatives and is available by visiting the BLM website at: www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/lfo/N-Lander-gather.html.The 30 day comment period runs from July 9 through August 7, 2012. Comments may be emailed to: BLM_WY_North_Lander_Gather@blm.gov(please include “North Lander Gather EA Comments” in the subject line). Comments may also be mailed to BLM Lander Field Office, Attn: Scott Fluer, 1335 Main Street, Lander, WY, 82520.For more information, visit: www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/lfo/N-Lander-gather.html, or contact BLM Wild Horse Specialist Scott Fluer at 307-332-8400.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, recreational and other activities on BLM-managed land contributed more than $130 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 600,000 American jobs. The Bureau is also one of a handful of agencies that collects more revenue than it spends. In FY 2012, nearly $5.7 billion will be generated on lands managed by the BLM, which operates on a $1.1 billion budget. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.
–BLM–Lander Field Office   1335 Main Street      Lander, WY 82520
Last updated: 07-06-2012

It’s only getting worse

Here is a video message about the American wild horse crisis in February 2010. The numbers are bigger now with 53K wild horses in holding and perhaps 15K left on the range.

Thank you Arlene Gawne and team for bringing this YouTube message to the public.

In 2009, 2010 and 2011 we all tried to help The President understand the need to save the mustangs. Sadly he appears to want The New Energy Frontier above and beyond anything else.

If you don’t like what’s going on then contact your representatives and senators because they are your voice in government. Congress funds the rotten Wild Horse and Burro Program under the Bureau of Land Management.

Request a Congressional investigation, forensic accounting and a moratorium on roundups as well as fertility control until the truth comes out that there are hardly any wild horses left out on America’s public land.

This year the EPA passed a fertility control pesticide for use on America’s wild horses and burros. Our indigenous horse has been formally labelled a “pest” by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. We want the erroneous classification reversed. Pests and invasive species are weeded out and disposed of . . .  Why did the EPA sell out?

(Photo © Cat Kindsfather, all rights reserved)

Stop the roundups and the extermination!

Ben Nelson Goes Cow (Fees) Tipping

by Andrew Cohen as published in The Atlantic

Federal grazing fees are not a hot issue. But the Nebraska senator’s new bill to bring them up to market rates is an astute political move.

(Photo © Anne Novak)

When outgoing Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced last month that he was pushing to reduce America’s national deficit by reducing “welfare ranching” in America’s heartland, so quiet was the political response in Washington that you could practically hear the crickets chirping along the Potomac. Undaunted, Sen. Nelson last Wednesday went one step further, announcing that he has introduced an eminently level-headed “Fair Grazing Fee” bill, designed to require the various agencies of the executive branch to charge market-level grazing fees for private ranchers who are running livestock on public land.

More crickets in Washington. But not on the ranches and farms of the nation’s vast ranch lands. And certainly not in Nebraska. There, Sen. Nelson’s new initiative is a very big deal for many different reasons. After all, it’s not every day when an elected official, in the selfless pursuit of a common good, bucks up against the power of entrenched special interests and … wait, wait, what’s that? Sen. Nelson pitched his plan not just out of pure deficit-minded selflessness but because Republican nominee Deb Fischer, running this fall for the seat he is vacating, is herself a current beneficiary of “welfare ranching?”

Here’s how the Omaha World-Herald Leader put it last month: “The family of Republican Senate nominee Deb Fischer leases 11,724 acres of federal land in north-central Nebraska for about $4,700 for seven months — by some estimates about $110,000 less than the market rate for leasing private land in Cherry County.” Combine such a sweetheart deal with a GOP candidate whose campaign so far has focused upon deficit reduction and wasteful Washington spending and, presto! The Democrats have themselves a campaign theme with some measure of traction.

Sen. Nelson puts it another way. It’s not a story about Washington picking on the ranching industry, you see; it’s about inequality within that industry itself. Sen. Nelson says he isn’t just sticking up for the hundreds of millions of Americans who would like to see their public land leased at market rates. He says he is also sticking up for the vast majority of ranchers who for one reason or another do not receive the benefit of federally subsidized ranching fees. Last week, the senator explained it this way to local journalists:

I have offered an Amendment to help pay for the Jobs Bill, an Amendment that will bring fairness to America’s ranchers and all taxpayers. My Amendment will require the US Forest Service and the Federal Bureau of Land Management to charge market value to those who graze livestock on public lands. As you probably know, an elite group of ranchers, I call them the ‘two-percenters,’ they currently receive about $140 million a year in federal subsidies to graze livestock on publicly-owned land. In these hard economic times, taxpayers shouldn’t be padding the pocketbooks of the elite two-percent who get a special deal that 98% of ranchers don’t.

And here’s more from his website:

… The State of Nebraska charges over $20 dollars a head of calf to graze on state land. Why should the federal government charge $1.35?… Let’s go through some numbers. All the grazing fees on federal lands add up to about $21 million dollars. But it costs the federal government $140-some million dollars to take care of those lands. In other words, there is a shortfall of $120 million dollars coming from two percent of ranchers. If I’m one of the 98 percent, I’m going to say ‘that’s not fair.” That’s why this is a matter of tax fairness.

In this day and age, who could be against “tax fairness”? Certainly not Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator and governor who is running (against Fischer) for Nelson’s soon-to-be-empty seat. “I believe the free market should set the prices for grazing on federal land,” Kerrey said last month in a press release after Nelson first announced his pitch. “Giving generous subsidies to a small number of ranchers isn’t fair to the vast majority of ranchers who don’t have this grazing privilege. Further, it isn’t fair to the taxpayers who are subsidizing this form of welfare.

What do Fischer and her fellow Republicans think of Sen. Nelson’s bright idea? I’ll let the Lincoln Journal Star pick up the story from here:

The Nebraska Democratic Party launched a new TV ad campaign Monday accusing Republican Senate nominee Deb Fischer of accepting millions of dollars in “taxpayer subsidies”;at the same time, she calls for reduced federal spending. “Think you know Deb Fischer?” the attack ad asks. “Well, behind her rhetoric is a lot of bull. Tell welfare rancher Deb Fischer to cut wasteful spending, not profit from it.”

Democrats clearly have decided Fischer’s participation in a federal livestock grazing rights program that benefits her own family ranch may be a chink in her conservative, cost-cutting armor they might be able to exploit. Sen. Ben Nelson and Bob Kerrey, her Democratic Senate opponent, already have questioned Fischer’s acceptance of what they describe as federal subsidies that result from charging below-market fees for cattle grazing rights on U.S. Forest Service land.

“Ranchers are required to pay for additional maintenance costs and abide by strict federal regulations in exchange for leasing the land,” Fischer campaign spokesman Daniel Keylin said. Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture, already has said it was misleading to describe the program as a subsidy, Keylin pointed out. Johanns said the lease requires substantial activity by a rancher in return for limited use of the land. Republican state Chairman Mark Fahleson branded the ads an act of desperation.

An act of desperation, perhaps. But that doesn’t make Sen. Nelson’s plan bad national policy. Indeed, regardless of its local-political overtones, and regardless of the senator’s motives in promoting it, making federal grazing fees at least match the market rate is sound and equitable policy that deserves serious consideration on Capitol Hill. The fact is, for the past 75 years, “welfare ranching” has eroded public resources for the benefit of an industry that gladly accepts the federal dole at the same time it is blasting Washington for its largesse.

Just ask the folks at the Center for Biological Diversity, a group dedicated (among other things) to the conservation of public lands. The Center’s Public Land Campaigns Director, Taylor McKinnon, quickly praised the Nelson plan. “The grazing subsidy is America’s upside-down public-lands policy,” McKinnon told me last Friday. “Each year it costs the public hundreds of millions of dollars while enabling public-lands grazing that erodes soil and destroys wildlife habitat. Reform makes perfect economic and environmental sense. It’s long overdue.”

Overdue — and clearly not a priority so far for the Obama Administration, which has stubbornly refused to expend any political capital on this issue. Here’s what McKinnon had to say about the executive branch’s contemporary approach to the problem of “welfare ranching” and its insidious subsidization:

We’ve both petitioned and sued the Obama Administration seeking a significantly fairer fee, but they resist change. So after years of their skulking and cowering, it’s refreshing to see someone with guts enough to tell the truth and demand a discussion about real reform.

“Real reform” can come from many different places and for many different reasons. Maybe Sen Nelson is, as McKinnon suggests, just being gutsy for pitching his plan now. Maybe he is, as Nebraska’s Republicans contend, just being ballsy on his way out. Either way, and whomever wins or loses the Senate race for his seat in Nebraska, fair grazing fees and the end of “welfare ranching” is a good idea whose time, finally, has come. As the senator himself put it, “$1.35 per cow is too darn low.” Darn right it is.