Facts don’t support wild horse roundup
My statement concerns the Carson-City-BLM roundup of 575 out of 775 wild horses from the Pine Nut Mountain Herd Management Area, announced to start last week.
As a lifelong observer of this unique, historic and ecologically benefiting herd, I strongly protest this unfair roundup. BLM’s studies and documents purport to justify this but are heavily filtered and skewed in order to blame wild horses while overlooking the root causes of ecosystem degradation and conflict with humans. There is a cover-up concerning the major factors that are deteriorating the Pine Nut Mountain ecosystem, etc. As identified through professional assessment, these are: catastrophic wildfire, cattle and sheep grazing, off-highway-vehicle disturbance, piñon-juniper clear-cutting, littering and dumping of trash, cars, oil, etc., hunting and poaching, predator elimination, among others.
My professional report to BLM was submitted through Friends of Animals in a timely fashion, but its proven points have been obstinately ignored by officials covering for the real culprits causing the ecological degradation and human conflict. These officials have chosen to use the horses as scapegoats. Yet, they have legal right to this entire 40-mile mountain range as their original Herd Area, for they were present throughout this in 1971, as many, including myself, can testify. The unanimously passed Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act establishes their right and it is still the law of the land in 2019. So just why are they being squeezed out of their legal home range and forage, water and shelter resources? The current population represents hundreds of habitat acres per individual wild horse.
Why is BLM ignoring the many positive ecological contributions these horses make to this unique ecosystem? In related fashion, why are they ignoring the horse as a deeply rooted returned native in North America? I have given my well-rounded book: The Wild Horse Conspiracy to this BLM office, but it appears they have not given it an open-minded read. In it are proofs concerning how wild horses restore nutrient-rich and moisture-retaining humus to soils and disperse and aid germination for a wholesome variety of seeds. These benign ecological roles are played by horses to a greater degree than ruminant herbivores, such as cattle, sheep and deer, and, thus, horses help ruminants. And in a wild-horse-containing ecosystem, more balanced interspecific relations benefit the threatened Sage Grouse. I have observed this. Why are established interests ignoring these greater perspectives?
Wild horses also facilitate Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention – of life-or-death importance today due to Global Warming. They munch down the grasses, etc., that during drier seasons can become thick and widespread tinder leading to serious fires — and they can do so also in rugged, rocky and steep areas where livestock do not reach. When a wild horse population that has been for generations adapting to an ecosystem, such as the Pine Nut Mountains, is suddenly gutted, a serious imbalance is created with harmful consequences. All it takes then is one campfire spark, lightning strike, or whatever to destroy millions of plants and animals, often leaving soils sterilized to deep levels. In many areas where wild horses have been removed, very intense and extensive wildfires have occurred, leaving greatly damaged ecosystems. Many years, even centuries, of being left alone are then required for these to recover.
As my life progresses, I have learned not to take for granted many things. So it disturbs me when I see government officials/public servants ignoring the legal rights and ecological benefits of wild horses in order to accommodate backward lifestyles and overly limited values. The great majority of people living in and around the Pine Nuts greatly value the special wild horses living here. They appreciate their “being themselves” in the more balanced, species-diverse world of Nature … being “Free.” This lends a special quality to their lives here. Why are their public officials/servants not listening to them?
The Pine Nut Mountain HMA deserves a much greater appropriate management level than 118 to 179, which is not even genetically viable. And 775 horses for such a vast 40-mile range, even in the cut-in-half area, is not overpopulated, though arbitrarily termed so. The Pine Nut Mountains easily have niche space for over 1,500 wild horses, and there were this many thriving and contributing horses in the past, and the range flourished because of their presence and had a special magic. I remember these days. Detractors use words to discredit the wild horses in order to topple their right to their natural niche in the Pine Nuts. But words incorrectly applied become deliberate distortions, even lies.
The announced BLM Pine Nut roundup, or gather, should be called off, and the BLM should be required to uphold the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in this spectacular, biodiverse desert range. Ways and means exist to work out the obstacles. People can learn to share the land and freedom with such magnificent and highly evolved beings as the wild horses.
Craig C. Downer is a Minden resident and a wildlife ecologist for the Wild Horse and Burro Fund