Horse News

The Unnatural Concept of the Appropriate Management Level

SOURCE:  Habitat for Horses

by Robert C. Bauer, a wildlife biologist who has studied and written extensively on the wild horses and burros of the West

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It has been the constant assertion, by the Bureau of Land Management that it is striving, through its Wild Horse and Burro Program, to maintain a thriving “natural” ecological balance of the rangelands of the west.  It carries this out by adjusting the numbers of wild horses and burros on the public lands, based on what it calls an Appropriate Management Level of wild horses and burros for these areas.  This Appropriate Management Level, or AML, is an established number of wild horses and or burros allocated for these lands, annually.  It was also originally designated as something fair, and just reflection of what the conditions of the rangeland would tolerate, taking into account all other species of wildlife in the area, as well as the condition of the forage, the wild horses and burros being the principle species taken into account.  In addition, this number was intended to be altered to reflect changes to those systems, based upon continual studies to have been carried out in those areas.  An erroneous AML has taken precedence, however, in every herd management area, and is not being revised.  This is motivated by the cattle industry, the sheep industry and ranchers for the purposes of creating the illusion, in the eyes of the public, an over population in the wild horse and burro community, and therefore justifying subsequent massive roundups of the same.  In essence this concept of AML is based not upon what the actual ecological carrying capacity of an area is, due to its amount of forage, but rather is based upon how much forage the BLM are allowing the wild horses and burros, in comparison to how much is allocated for cattle, pronghorn antelope, and other species of grazers that inhabit a given area.  To justify this removal of wild horses and burros from their legally designated areas, the Bureau of Land Management will often site reasons of dry conditions, poor forage, not to mention damage to the rangeland itself attributed by the BLM to the wild horses and burros.  Also, the BLM will assert that the populations of wild horses and burros, in any given area, will double in number every four years, with roughly a continual 20% annual growth rate.  Sentiment often is used to appeal to the emotions of the public in order to gain support for the altering of numbers of the wild horses and burros based upon the above reasoning.  In exploring the logic of the BLM, one must confront themselves with certain glaring realities.

First, one must accept the fact that the artificial, manmade alteration of an ecosystem is opposed to the very concept of “Natural”, not to mention the notion of balance.  To propose that every year within an ecosystem there will continually be roughly a 20% growth rate and assume a doubling of wild horse and or burro populations every four years neglects the widely varying mortality rates and reproductive rates in the wild horse and burro society.  In essence, for the BLM to make such claims, it is assuming nature is going to conform to the BLM’s expectations, when in reality 1st year mortality rates within a wild horse population can vary anywhere between 14% and 50% annually, and adult mortality, over one year, can vary between 5% and 25% annually.  This is based upon a National Academy of Science study of wild horse and burro populations.  Such assertions by the BLM are foolish and unscientific.  As an example, in one such area, the Pryor Mts., between the years of 2002 and 2005, there was a 0% population growth as natural mortality compensated for reproduction.  Within that time frame, from 2004 into 2005 only one foal survived, the 1st year mortality, in this particular year, being almost 100%.  It is also ludicrous for the BLM to make such claims when reproductive rates can vary radically due to the amount of stress within an ecosystem.  In such situations there may be times when the wild horses and or burros may not reproduce at all due to the environmental, and weather related conditions.

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Additionally, the very idea of using a manmade AML assumes a system is static in nature, when in fact biological and weather related variables within that system are constantly fluctuating, even within an annual period of time, i.e. these are dynamic in nature.  Numbers of any given species of animal within that system, therefore, including the wild horses and burros, will constantly change, reflecting these continual changes in that system.  Because conditions change constantly, the carrying capacity of the land for each species of animal will also, accordingly.  What will follow is that the density of a species within that area will be affected by weather or environmental factors, a concept called “Density Independent Inhibition”.  Subsequently the density of one species will directly affect that of another, called “Density Dependent Inhibition”.  These principles are opposed to the idea of a fixed number of horses and or burros, sustainable in an ecosystem, called an Appropriate Management Level.

There is also a continual misconception as to the nature of the wild horses and burros out on the rangelands.  This misconception motivates public opinion to support actions which alter conditions out on the rangelands in order to supposedly benefit the wild horses and burros.  This sentiment, the BLM constantly plays upon to win the support of congress, the legal system, and the public in general, to perpetuate the roundups. This is a controversial issue, yet must be brought out in the open, that all can look at the saga of the wild horses and burros from a more objective viewpoint.  The suffering and death of any animal is something hard to swallow for the most, but is inexcusable when coming from human hands. Yet when considering the horses and burros out on the rangelands of the west, we have to remember that they are not domestic animals grazing in a private pasture, domestic animals that are hay and grain fed, with shelter provided and water.  The wild horses and burros are just this, “wild”, as wild as the pronghorn, and the mountain lion.  Life and death for them, out of the rangelands, due to natural conditions, whether mild or harsh, is their life, and from an ecological standpoint, how nature brings about balance through natural selection.  Generally speaking, the moment an individual seeks to artificially alter a natural system, motivated by emotion, is the moment that system ceases to be a thriving “natural system”, and subsequently begins to throw this organized entity out of balance, as these sentimental attempts to help nature, are directly opposed to natures mechanisms.

It is clear, therefore, that the concept of an “Appropriate Management Level”, of wild horses and burros for a given area, one that is so quickly regurgitated as the answer for every round up, has no basis in reference to a thriving natural ecological balance.  The AML whether it is revised annually and considered fair, or unrevised, is still unnatural and hinders balance through nature’s mechanisms.  Nature knows very well how to maintain the, “Appropriate Management Level”, of all species of the animals in the wild successfully, and has been doing so for thousands of years. It is a ludicrous assumption to spend millions of dollars every year for a manmade substitute.  In truth, to follow the philosophy of this humanly conceived AML, along with the usage of contraceptives on the wild horses and burros, and the adjustment of sex ratios, will quickly bring an end to these majestic animals, as the vital component to ecological balance that they are.

Acknowledgements: Lisa Leblanc, and Craig Downer, Wildlife Ecologist

16 replies »

  1. ” the moment an individual seeks to artificially alter a natural system, motivated by emotion,…” Is Greed an emotion?

    This is excellent and thank you. Nature balances itself. Always has and always will if humans will stop meddling for any reason – emotion or greed.

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    • You just bet Greed is a major emotion! And certainly is the main reason for these roundups. Heres a radical idea – how about setting up a panel of Mr. Bauer, Craig Downer, GG, Lisa Leblanc, Ginger Kathrens as experts FOR the wild horses & burros, wolves, coyotes, mountain lions & other creatures that are being wiped off the face of the earth by these greedy narrow-minded jerks? At least put a percentage of people who actually have a scientific basis behind their beliefs on the so-called wild horse & burro “advisory” board? That is radical, isn’t it?

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  2. Thank you Bob Bauer. My favorite line (of many): “First, one must accept the fact that the artificial, manmade alteration of an ecosystem is opposed to the very concept of “Natural”, not to mention the notion of balance.”

    This article is about Wild Horses and Burros from the viewpoint of science and not from tainted unresearched media or even far worse … out and out lies from the governmental agencies.

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  3. Brilliant, Bob. Can we nominate you to head the BLM or DOI please?

    The only thing I would add is that I don’t believe there are any places which do not already bear the traces of humankind, so it could be argued there are no truly “natural” places anymore in the sense of being pristine. Life is continuously evolving in response to circumstances, so even defining a “natural ecological balance” is a fool’s errand. With over 7 Billion people walking this earth, it’s hard to imagine how anything could create “balance.” What will happen is adaptation, and loss or gain of species who can change quickly enough, or not, to conditions.

    Wild equids do very well if left alone and unfenced. That they are in the dire straits we all understand today is a direct result of human intervention. We have limited their options and continue to do so, thereby robbing them of their right to live and to speciate. The reasons for this are deeper than favoring cattle, and do not reflect well on the human species.

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  4. Sagebrush/salt desert shrub habitat biologist here, over 35 years experience in the field (so I have some clue). In sw Idaho, nearly every range allotment is overgrazed by livestock, many critically overgrazed. However, in the West, much of the political power has been held by the livestock industry, and if you work for BLM, it’s more than your job is worth to cross them and tell it like it is. The solution has been not to collect range health data any more, to get rid of the technicians and those who are knowledgable. I hope this changes in time to save the native plants, but what I am seeing is “Oh the poor cute animals” with no understanding of ecology at all, so I think we are swinging to the other extreme. Would love to see KNOWLEDGE used to manage the ranges, not greed and not emotion.

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    • About a year and half ago, BLM Eagle Lake got a sum of money to encourage a public volunteer program. The BLM facilitator said that volunteers would be documenting WH&B damage/impact/destruction of the land. When asked how the WH&B impact would be differentiated from the livestock impact, he said that livestock impact would NOT be acknowledged and that ALL impact would be allocated to the WH&B – period. The livestock have about 80%+ of the forage usage in that area. So much for BLM’s “science”.

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    • Wouldn’t it be amazing if scientific knowledge and actual on the ground surveys were used. Apparently “our” BLM considers that unnecessary!

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    • Uncial, good on ya! Can you write up an article for us here? I’d love to learn more about your life and times in the field, and your insights on what we might do to make positive change. What actual steps do you think can we take that would matter?

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  5. Let me interject this past week the Trump Report which is focused on Agriculture on a World Wide Trade level stated, Directly they would have to Use The Weather Card if China doesnt continue to purchase grain. So lets put the magnifying glass over the tiny BLM verbage…..look it says We USE the Weather Card too! In other words All these Organizations have decided the public is too stupid to realize they are being played…So sad this article, reality exposed is so bare, heartbreaking, and surreal. Government Agencies have deployed their anti truth campaign just the same as Trent Loos and Wayne Pacelle faced off for Ag Gag bills on You Tube. Trent Loos best known for Truthkeepers was stalking Robert F Kennedy, making threats and misprinting quotes, and cattle fraud conviction of some sort or fashion, the diatribe from him was odd……about loving piglets and knowing when to donk one in the head for its own good? Peoplethey spend relentless hours and piles of money to confuse the public. This article about the mustangs proves it sadly, they keep adding more mismanagement and move forward. Its sickening.

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  6. From Mustang Meg’s facebook…

    “Please note how many have been zero’d out, and no longer managed for wild horses and burros.a”

    Herd Management Areas (HMA) and the Corresponding Mustang & Burro Numbers (AML)
    Very helpful information, by each of the 10 western states which manage our herds… This data shows herd management areas (HMA’s) along with numbers of mustangs and burros allowed per area, or “appropriate management levels” (AMLs). These are “federally protected” herd management areas designated for wild horse and burro management since the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

    Please note how many have been zero’d out, and no longer managed for wild horses and burros.
    I’ve printed it and keep it by my computer. I recommend keeping this for reference, and passing it on.

    Pages: 1 Arizona & California, 2 California (cont.) & Colorado, 3 Colorado (cont.) Idaho & Montana, 4 Nevada, 5 Nevada, 6 Nevada, 7 Nevada, 8 Nevada, 9 Nevada (cont.) & New Mexico, 10 Oregon, 11 Utah, 12 Wyoming

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    • I wish we could hand this information to Congress and explain that the liars at BLM including and others recieving a check for wild horse care need a deep pocket reduction. And FYI, they need to.make restrictions as to who recieves monies for the horses care. I read someolder documents where Blm delusionally stated the horses are perfectly healthy and safe during roundups. May I suggest instead of friendly banter that the people fighting for our side cut to the chase and simply call this rotting carcass what it is to our politicians and governing agemcies. They dont care about anything weve said so far, and they run people over and get their way on pro slaughter side. I think we need to speak out Directly with More Strength and passion. Passive behavior doesnt mean we cannot verbalize the truth without Real Passion. Why do you think Wild Horse Annie got where she did? Passively speaking is not enough, it takes fever, passion, and the Facts about livestock not just horses. What? Yes, relate on a livestock level too, because in terms of horses as livestock running a program off money designated for horsez that no longer exist and costs do not lower dramatically for their care and oversight is Federal Goverment Money Theft! Think on it, we need to be passionate that We Are Be Robbed of tax dollars intended to support a specific livestock and the livestock is deceased, wiped out, and they profited off the deaths…..thats an illegal activity at the Federal Level. This is a Dog Fight, Not a tea party folks. What they are doing is a form of extortion of tax money, we need money for horses or they will starve to death. Now let me Hit you with this one.If they continue this trend legal action Has to take place, why? The Whistleblowers on Government Waste and other such things have to set a precident to expose or lose their ability for the public to believe and listen to their reporting. We have to be Passionate, Assertive, and work harder. These nutballs are propaganding at AQHA events during the Holidays no less at a booth so we have No time off. How sad….attend a horse show and be asked to support murderjng horsez to save deer hunting….if tgey can make thst make sense to the people following it we have to work harder to straighten it out. I do not know anyone who defends a trade more than a deer hunter, but common sense escapes them when they think a horse not going to slaughter wilk stop deer hunting. Do those guys think the deer hunting will really stop?

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      • They are actually USING that argument? Are people that naïve that they would believe something like that? So if all the wild horses & burros are wiped out – then there will be more deer for “hunters” to kill? Funny, how many areas of the country have the “too many” deer problem. Yup – keep killing off the herds of animals that would make the land healthier….

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  7. I think our best bet is to educate Congress about the native status of the horse. That it originated here and that this is the Horse’s native homeland, the continent to which the horse always returned to on it’s own after climate extremes forced the horse to seek refugia until after the climate extreme had passed.

    What hurts our Horse’s is that the Clinton administration left it’s anti-horse, pro-man-made only global warming activists in positions of influence in our federal science programs. They have scientific credentials but did not, in the case of the North American native horse get their opinions published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. In fact, they had to create their own groups to become the experts of like ECOLOGY or the American Society of Ecologia to even get their non-sense published.

    It is extremely insulting that these Harvard elites believe they are innately superior to ordinary Americans that they can simply declare that a lie is true and the truth is a lie, and we will bow down to their Crimson superiority. Harvard may offer interesting course work in the philosophy of science, but no one who wants to create anything other than science fiction would by-pass.
    MIT on their way to Harvard.This is such a joke.

    These people could not pass middle school science and yet, announced b Carthage, Tennessee’s Green God for (his own greater good) Money Trees, we have allowed them unchallenged authority over what can live and die. Unless advocates can open their eyes wide enough to see President Clinton’s signature on the 1992 UNCBD, Article 8(h), hitched to the 1997 ratification of the International Plant Protection Act in full effect on 10/02/2005, effective date of treaty & Burns Amendment,Burns specifically sought out because of his ties to AQHQ, the breed most threatened by wild horse sales, to assist with a plan that would help Burns eliminate competition for QH sales and for Reed, eradicate wild Horse’s by the 10’s of thousands.

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