Wilderness, not horses, is the issue
Lynne Bama's story does a good job of explaining some of the controversy surrounding management of feral horses (HCN, 3/2/98). In regard to the Pryor Mountains, however, she did not capture the most important issue: how the horses and their management might impact wilderness designation for the range.
The Pryors are a fabulous and wild range, the botanical hot spot of Montana, home of rare, recently discovered, and probably undiscovered plants. The Pryors offer a cascade of unique ecosystems as they drop 5,000 feet and 10 inches in rainfall in 20 miles. The Pryors are sacred to the Crow Indians, and precious as de facto wilderness to many Montanans. It is their wildness, their wilderness, that is the Pryors' most outstanding characteristic, and one that reduces to irrelevance the romantic pictures of horses in some folks' minds and prominently featured in this story.
It is unclear to me how this story ran without mentioning a single time that most of the Pryor Mountain Horse Range overlies roadless areas recommended for wilderness designation by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service respectively. Wilderness is the abiding value of the Pryors, and horse management should be driven first by that consideration. For more information on the proposed Pryor Mountain Wilderness, please visit the Montana Wilderness Association's Web page at www.wildmontana.org
The writer works for the Montana Wilderness Association.