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Advocates, Scientists: Solutions Needed Now for Wild Horse Management (Subscriber Content)

By Bob Conrad

wild horses in Nevada
Image: Ty O'Neil.

Scientists, policymakers, land managers, biologists, and horse advocates gathered this week to push for what they called desperately needed solutions for wild horse management. Wild horse populations keep growing while the adoption of gathered horses has not kept the same pace. The result is ecosystem damage across western states as well as threats to wildlife habitat…

wild horses in Nevada
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A conference held in Reno is addressing wild horse management issues. Image: Bob Conrad.
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Sue Wallis May 31, 2019 - 7:59 pm

Finally, groups coming together to do something. While you have useless “online” or web based groups like the so-called American Wild Horse Campaign and disgraced former H$U$ head Wayne Pacelle #googlehisname running around lying just so they can raise money and drive wild horses off a cliff. What is their plan? Let the BLM keep rounding up and warehousing horses? Ironic they point that finger at others when they are the ones doing it. Congress won’t fund doing nothing and will allow horses to be killed. That falls on those attacking the proposal mentioned in the article. People need to wake up.

stewart lands May 30, 2019 - 12:55 pm

The OMB projects horse management costs exceeding one billion dollars over the next decade or two, yet so much of this money is spent just feeding excess horses removed from the range that we cannot fund adequate population counts, etc. And so advocates fault BLM for inaccurate data, ignoring the conclusion of the National Academy of Sciences which agrees that BLM data, if anything, underestimates the actual number of horses on the range.

One billion dollars buys a lot of education, health care, wild lands restoration, etc. yet we are going to waste it instead subsidizing an exotic species demonstrated to damage our landscape and threaten native plants and animals. And the best defense offered by horse advocates appears to be that horses, at least, are better than cattle–as if we were somehow forced to choose between the two. Perhaps our best option is to reduce or eliminate both, and use these billions to good purpose rather than fund special interest’s “pet” projects–whether they be livestock or horses.

Jeannie Martinico May 30, 2019 - 12:01 pm

I hope that unlike so many other meetings regarding this issue, that the horses are fairly represented. There is no mention of what groups will be attending I certainly hope that there will be knowledgeable advocates from American Wild Horse Campaign, Wild Horse Education and the Cloud Foundation or similar groups.

Marybeth Devlin May 30, 2019 - 10:09 am

Elected officials and public-lands ranchers are understandably alarmed by the statistics BLM has been publishing on wild-horse population growth. I am too, but for a different reason. Close inspection and analysis of BLM’s reports have disclosed numerous instances of impossible herd-growth figures.

Although BLM proclaims that the herds increase at a 20% annual rate, the Agency has repeatedly been caught reporting one-year growth rates many times higher. Below is a partial list of biologically-impossible population-increases disclosed per reviews of BLM’s annual herd-data reports.

Rate State Name of the Herd

235% UT Bible Springs
237% WY Great Divide Basin
256% OR Beatys Butte
256% UT Choke Cherry
317% OR Jackies Butte
417% CA Nut Mountain
505% NV Wheeler Pass
522% WY Salt Wells Creek
525% NM Carracas Mesa
579% NV Fish Lake Valley
600% ID Saylor Creek
683% NV Montezuma

Overpopulation is a fake crisis. The real crisis is found on BLM’s falsified reports, where phony figures are used to support a bloated budget. Those are the places where culling and cutting are needed. It must also be clarified that the $1B figure cited by BLM is not an annual figure. It actually means “over a 20-year period, if BLM continued to remove wild horses from the range at the current high rate.” $1B = $50M x 20.

Wild horses prevent wildfires. Overlooked in the uproar over BLM’s exploding spreadsheets is the critical service that wild horses perform: Lowering the risk of fire. Wild horses thrive on marginal forage — that coarse dry stuff that cattle don’t like. The horses’ grazing-strategy helps reduce the fuel-load that would otherwise feed catastrophic wildfires. Wild horses are perfect for fire-prevention duty. In fact, there is a current proposal to deploy them to remote, rugged terrain, where they will graze down the overgrowth of grasses, brush, and twigs that, when seasonally dried out, can fuel a megafire. The idea is to have that dried-out forage feed wild horses rather than wildfires. The “Wild Horse Fire Brigade” already has the support of local elected officials in Oregon.

Below is the link to the description of this smoke-free, cost-free, and ecologically-safe method of reducing excess dry brush and grass on public lands. This approach should be of particular interest to communities located in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). https://www.wildhorsefirebrigade.com/

The short (8 minutes, 34 seconds) documentary titled “Fuel, Fire, and Wild Horses” provides an overview of how it would work. https://vimeo.com/327282987

Stephanie Potter May 29, 2019 - 5:19 pm

Sounds good. Is there going to be a follow up article? A link from the conference? 90 organizations is a lot!

Bob Conrad
Bob Conrad May 29, 2019 - 5:29 pm

Hi Stephanie, SRM is the chief sponsor, so I would check their site or Facebook for conference updates: https://www.facebook.com/societyforrangemanagement/. Unfortunately, I’m on to other stories tomorrow so I will not make the rest.

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