By Nicole Rivard as published on PagosaDailyPost.com
“…upwards of 2 million cattle graze public lands, not to mention, sheep — compared to a measly 79,568 wild horses”
I commend the Pagosa Daily Post for including a piece about the plight of America’s wild horses.
However, Friends of Animals, unlike other so-called wild horse advocates, does not believe that there are too many wild horses on federal public lands. Therefore, they should not be forcibly drugged with the fertility control pesticide PZP.
What’s missing from the overpopulated wild horse narrative is the truth — that commercialized Western public lands is the real problem, not the wild horse population.
As the media tries to showcase the different characters in this real-life drama, I always walk away feeling like the ones who should be center stage, the wild horses, are diminished. The Bureau of Land Management believes wild horses only have value if they can be adopted out, domesticated, trained and paraded around in a “Wild Spayed Filly Futurity” event, and that is a national disgrace.
As I recently read about that event’s 2019 winner being from the South Steens Herd Management Area in Oregon, my heart sank because I visited there for Friends of Animals in 2016.
I remember seeing wild horse bands interacting and flourishing in their own way, and it was magical. The horses are so present and in tune with each other and the environment — something that should be admired and respected, not destroyed to make room for more doomed cattle and sheep exploited by the meat industry.
Since the passage of the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, wild horses have lost 41 percent of their habitat (20 million acres) and now only exist on public lands in 10 states. The wild horse population is fragmented and isolated in small herds, which creates a real threat to maintaining genetic viability.
The Bureau of Land Management’s assertions that wild horse populations are increasing by some 20% or more each year are not based on sound scientific methodology. But cattle are actually counted, and their numbers are staggering.
Today, upwards of 2 million cattle graze public lands, not to mention, sheep — compared to a measly 79,568 wild horses — and now the government is increasingly authorizing thousands of oil, gas and mineral extraction projects on federally owned properties. The result truly is a crisis—these commercial activities will continue to substantially fragment and reduce the amount of habitat left for western wildlife.
The BLM has proved to be incompetent when it comes to protecting wild horses. It’s time to entirely restrict cattle and sheep from grazing in wild horse Herd Management Areas (HMAs) and to amend the WHBA to allow wild horses to be returned or relocated to Herd Areas in states where wild horses have been wiped out. It’s time to increase grazing fees and protect natural predators such as mountain lions, as well as adjust outdated appropriate management levels to accommodate more horses
The BLM should be encouraging ecotourism by promoting wildlife watching of wild horses and other species out West instead of wiping out every specie deemed a threat to ranching.
And I don’t mean promoting wildlife watching by creating more paved roads, but rather by simply putting up some signs to point people in the right direction as their feet touch the earth while hiking.
I’ll never forget that a BLM employee at the Burns District office in Oregon actually told me the best place to see wild horses in Oregon is in the Wild Horse Corral holding prison.
Let’s face it, wild horses aren’t the problem. The BLM is.
Nicole Rivard is a correspondent with Friends of Animals.