Wealth moves West + Equicide Epidemic
Who's killing the wild horses?
The data are in and they confirm what many already suspected: The West is getting wealthier. That is, the percentage of total households in the upper income brackets in Western states grew during the pandemic, sometimes substantially, while the percentage in the lower brackets dropped.
That’s great news, right? It shows that folks are pulling themselves out of poverty and moving on up, doesn’t it? Yes, it could show that, but it probably doesn’t.
More likely is that wealthier folks are moving into these states—they’re the only ones who can afford homes, after all—while those in the lower-income brackets are either staying put or fleeing to more affordable states, if that’s even a thing anymore. Unfortunately the Census data don’t get that detailed yet. So, we have to make do with what they do give us.
I was inspired to look into this phenomenon by a story in the Missoulian about an economist who had calculated the increase in number of high-income earners in Montana from 2019 to 2021. I figured I’d do the same for other Western states, but with a bit more context. So here we go.
The following graphs are just for Colorado, California, Arizona, but the general pattern is the same for all of the Western states: A decrease in the percentage of total households in the lower brackets and an increase in the upper-income tiers.
Here’s another way to see the same thing, although this shows how the income brackets are distributed, as well. I kept Colorado, but also included Idaho and Washington, the latter having both the largest percentage of $200k+ incomes in the West and the largest jump between 2019 and 2021.
But these graphs, alone, only say so much: If the total number of households remained constant, this would indicate that folks moved up the economic ladder in all of these states. You know, upward mobility and all. But, alas, that is not the case, I fear, as the next—and final—graph shows. It illustrates the increase in number of total households and the numerical increase in $200k+ households from 2019 to 2021.
Every Western state grew its number of households, i.e. population, during the 2020 pandemic year. (While it’s possible for the number of households to increase while the population remains steady—say a lot of folks got divorced, for example—that’s not what’s going on here). And every Western state also grew its number of $200k+ earners, sometimes by more than the increase in number of households.
From this we can reasonably conclude that the so-called Zoom Boom drew a lot of folks to Western states, many of whom were in the upper-income tiers. This makes sense given that many of the office workers who were liberated from their cubicles by the pandemic and telecommuting were in white collar jobs with higher salaries. Plus, it takes a pretty big income to enable someone to afford a house in the West.
According to the Zillow affordability calculator, you’d have to bring in at least $125,000 per year to afford a median-priced home in Arizona or Nevada, the lowest priced Western states. Rent is steep, too:
Reminder: The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and allies are holding a spiritual and protest walk tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 22, at 11 a.m., from the community of White Mesa, Utah, to the White Mesa Mill. All supporters are welcome and encouraged to join.
Someone is killing wild horses around the West. Earlier this month, a couple dozen equines were found shot on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in east-central Arizona. The Forest Service is reportedly investigating. And in San Juan County, Utah, the bodies of 16 wild horses have been found on a Bureau of Land Management grazing allotment since January (the news release linked to here is a bit vague on the timing). They had been shot with a high-powered rifle.
It turns out these kinds of incidents are disturbingly common. Last November five horses were found shot in Jakes Valley, Nevada. A $10,000 reward offered for information leading to the arrest of the shooters was recently doubled after failing to yield suspects. Nor are such equicides a new phenomenon: In the late 1980s, someone or multiple someones went on wild-horse shooting sprees in central Nevada, killing at least 451 animals.
Rarely are the culprits found.
Motive is a bit easier to discern. As much as wild horses are beloved and even idolized by their passionate advocates, they are also despised by many. Livestock operators have long sought to rid the public lands of wild horses because they compete with their cattle for precious forage on land that the ranchers pay to use (well, sort of). Meanwhile, many environmentalists aren’t too keen on the equines because, like cattle, they can overgraze and damage public lands, sometimes at the expense of endangered species. And some federal officials (faux officials) see wild horses as an existential threat to, well, just about everything (yet have no problem letting cattle destroy public lands for a measly $1.35 a month).
Let’s just say that issue of wild horses on public lands isn’t clearcut. It’s a muddy mess, actually. But shooting them in cold blood? That’s just outright wrong.
Some would prefer the term feral horses, because they were introduced by European settlers way back when, while rangeland bureaucrats might call them “unauthorized livestock.” Others don’t like either feral or wild because of the connotations the terms carry, and would rather just call them horses (as we do with bears and deer and other animals). But I’m going with wild because everyone knows what I’m talking about. Fight me!
I put BLM at the top of the blame list. There is no excuse for the mismanagement of wild horses ON & OFF the range. BLM says they need $ millions more to manage the horses to AML over the next 10 yrs but historically have dedicated less than 25% to ON range mgmnt. And, the OFF range mgmnt program IMO is just an agency “money-laundering” scheme which serves the contractors and kill buyers. BLM blames the Public land stakeholders, says it needs more $ for research when it’s obvious that managing any “stock” on the open range, cost-effectively and humanely is not rocket science - ask any rancher. So, Its basically a case of regulatory capture. Meanwhile the range continues to deteriorate at the expense of everyone and everything.
The first part of your post is kind of depressing - looking at all those well-to do individuals who are pretty much taking over many Western states while anyone who is not well off has to "go somewhere else"? Thats beyond sad. But it still begs the question - unless these "rich" people want to do their own laundry, cook their own meals, maintain their landscapes, do without restaurants or other areas of "entertainment" how will they ever manage without the "little people" to do for them . NOW, as someone who leans towards Wild (and domestic) horses - thanks for this. There is some actual research (of course, I dont have links) that as many horses did disappear those thousands of years ago - not all did. Some native tribes believe they were always here before the Spanish or whoever brought them with them. But honest, doesnt matter to me either way - they are Wild now - anyone who has adopted a mustang AND cares enough to gentle one can testify to that. I'm sure there are some domestic horses that escaped & somehow managed to survive being eaten or beaten up by wild stallions, but I'm of the opinion (MY opinion) that most horses in the bands & herds are wild animals, like the deer, bison, wolves, mountain lions etc., and they deserve their freedom BECAUSE they have survived on their own. One more thing then I'll quit - almost every single HMA & HA (herd management area & herd area) also contains grazing allotments for livestock, which means likely "predator control" & control of water - I think the Pryors and Spring Creek Basin may possibly be allotment free - maybe others, but not many. There have been far too many herds completely zeroed out - some at the same time cattle are being moved in.
I apologize if this creates any turmoil - its one more issue that tends to be very tumultuous (good word?) As you can see, this is something that sets me off.