By William E. Simpson as published on The Pagosa Daily Post
“Only a tiny minority of Americans want to see American wild horses sent to slaughter to make room for more livestock grazing on public lands.”
Obviously, we don’t see most Americans giving up their hamburgers and steaks, so the demands for beef, lamb and pork are slowly increasing. But do we need to kill wild horses in slaughter houses?
And is this even a wise use of these publicly-owned wild horses?
The Questions of Value Arise
Are wild horses more valuable in a pet food can and/or sitting in exile, wasting away in a Bureau of Land Management off-range corral costing American taxpayers nearly $100-million per year? Is there a much higher value proposition that’s been overlooked?
What about the undeniable billion-dollar economics of using wild horses in a wildfire fuel abatement role — protecting human lives, assets, forest and timber resources, as well as other tertiary benefits?
Since the codification of the 1971 Free-Roaming Wild Burro and Horse Protection Act five decades ago, there have been many profound breakthroughs and discoveries in science. For instance, modern paleontology informs us that wild horses have successfully maintained habitats in virtually every biome on the planet ranging from sub-arctic to tropical.
We also now know that wild horses survived the Ice Age in forests, as we read here in Cosmos magazine.
Given recently discovered facts, as far as equine genetics (including epigenetics), paleontological ecology (habitats and ranges of wild equids based-on fossil records), and through the cultural archaeology of native Americans and their horses, which arguably pre-date the Columbian Period, would planners today draw the same lines on maps defining areas for wild horses under any new law for their protection?
I seriously doubt it. Comparing what we know today, to what we knew in the 1960s and in early 1971, it’s clear we knew very little about wild horses, as well as their history and ecology.
And even by today’s standards, we still have much to learn in many areas. Scant funding is provided for the study of American wild horses in comparison to studies related to livestock.
In a world where we have more people than ever wanting more resources than ever before, financial considerations must not be discounted.
What is the real value of an American wild horse?
I would respond, to those with love in their hearts; the sum is beyond quantification.
To those who render meat? An 800-pound horse is worth about $160.00 (20-cents per pound wholesale).
To those who have knowledge of recent scientific facts and vision; each wild horse is worth at least $72,000.00.
Why Each American Wild Horse Is Worth About $72,000
Each wild horse deployed into and around remote forest and wilderness areas with depleted deer populations can abate 5.5 tons of wildfire fuels (grass and brush) annually — about 30 pounds/day/horse.
As an evolved North American native species, wild horses are quite at-home in and around forests and areas that are virtually inaccessible, especially wilderness areas.
For comparison, on average, deer consume about 7 pounds of grass and brush per day, per animal. Many remote wilderness areas are poorly suited to commercial livestock grazing due to the extensive predation of calves and lambs, and logistics cost related to poor accessibility and very difficult terrain.
These and other factors significantly reduce profitability to livestock producers who use public lands grazing permits. Losing calves and lambs is not an option of livestock production.
And at least in wilderness areas, depleting all of the Apex Predators is unwise, and is what has led to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.
Apex predators have evolved with unique skills that allow them to quickly cull and sick or genetically weak animals from the populations of large and small herbivores. Their predation as it turns-out is vital in preventing deer sick with Chronic Wasting Disease from remaining among populations of healthy deer and spreading the disease. Predators quickly cull diseased deer and elk and that helps to prevent the spread of that deadly disease.
Western forests are depleted of deer due to poor wildlife management. California and Oregon are down over 2 million deer over the past five decades even as Chronic Wasting Disease is spreading, and is now in at least 27 states. These now missing deer had been abating nearly 3 million tons of grass and brush. It will take decades to correct our depleted deer populations.
A re-wilded American wild horse, which is resistant to Chronic Wasting Disease, will abate about 5.5 tons of prodigious grass and brush annually in and around forests. 5.5 tons of grass and brush equals roughly 5-7 acres of grass and brush (varies with area), which can easily be maintained by wild horses year-round at nominal levels without any human intervention or the added risk of man-caused wildfires, especially during summer…(CONTINUED)