Wanted: horse sense


Some radical wild horse advocates just keep repeating the same lies over and over, hoping people start to take their lies as truth (HCN, 4/26/10). The biggest lie is that horses are native to North America. The EPA defines introduced species as "species that have become able to survive and reproduce outside the habitats where they evolved or spread naturally." The early American horse went extinct about 7000 B.C., just after the end of the last glacial period. Thus it did not evolve here or spread naturally but was spread by Spaniards and other Europeans who brought horses to the Americas in the 16th century.

The second lie is that wild horses do not destroy native ranges. In fact, one advocate has even contended that they "enrich habitat." A non-native species in large numbers is not enriching habitat. Some contend that horses do not compete with native wildlife. I didn't know the forage out there was labeled and horses left the forage assigned to the wildlife alone. I agree with what many say about ranching and too much livestock on public land. But this in no way legitimizes their agenda to have thousands of wild horses running free, destroying the range.

The third lie is that the Bureau of Land Management is lying about science and breaking the law. Wild horse advocates sue the BLM nearly every time it gathers wild horses, and they almost always lose. Because the agency knows it's going to get sued every single time it picks up a wild horse, staffers are very diligent in gathering range data in herd management areas. Horse advocates tried to stop the massive roundup in Nevada several months ago. The judge again ruled in favor of BLM, and the gather went on. If BLM's data are cooked, why is the agency winning litigation?

Wild horses are an extremely emotional issue. What we need are fewer extremes. We need logical solutions, not radical ones.


Anonymous says:
May 10, 2010 03:56 PM
They were here first. 500 years ago they came back in the bellies of ships, the week thrown overboard. They plowed our fields, fought our wars, (2million left 200 came back) moved the goods and people, fed our dogs, rodeo'd, stared in movies and more then any other animal helped build this place. In return we gave them some bad lands with little water. Their grit and social behavior made them American Mustangs and represent freedom and toughness to millions of us. Logic be damned. They earned their right to be part of this country just as mandated in the 1971 law. In fact the BLM that manages the land for the sake of the rich and powerful. Spilled oil, gas giveaways, geothermal giveaways, mountain top removal prove the BLM management of horses is another abomination.
Anonymous says:
May 10, 2010 06:59 PM
Information presented in this article regarding the native vs non-native wild horse argument is not only dated but weatherworn and, more important, irrelevant. Congress mandated management of wild horses as an "integral part of the natural system of the public lands". The Forest Service considers them a "part of North America's natural ecology. The BLM does not consider them a feral or invasive species.

Damage to rangelands is done by all species including human. Government documents speak repeatedly of the greater damage done by livestock grazing. Open pit mining is high on the radar for destructive activities. The problem is that wild horses and burros are blamed for all of it.

Competition for forage occurs with all grazing animals. Again horses take the blame. National Academy of Sciences reports a forage usage ratio of 23:1 cattle vs horses. Yet, the article pits only horses against other wildlife. This begs the question, " Is the author purposely misleading the readers?".

I believe that livestock operators have a right to public lands as do operators of mining, oil, gas and renewable energy facilities. Wildlife also shares that right along with the general public. Wild horses and burros have a right too! Wild horse advocates are fighting for that right along with responsible and equitable management policies.

Have you ever tried to sue the federal government? Talk about deep pockets! It makes perfect sense that the little guy is at a disadvantage. When advocates have won, it's been because the BLM or Forest Service have broken the law. The injunction to prevent the Nevada roundup used as an example here was only part of the lawsuit. U.S. District Court just saw presentation of the final arguments last week. The judge indicated in his preliminary judgement that he was leaning strongly toward a finding that BLM's holding facilities were indeed illegal.

I agree with the author in that we need logical solutions and fewer extremes. We also need more education on the issues involved before we start calling out "liar liar pants on fire".
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 09:34 AM
Hi Niko... I completely understand your argument and thank you for posting what you think is the other side of the argument.... regardless though of whether the horses are native to North America.... they are a huge staple of our country now and many of us don't want to see them slaughtered or murdered to make way for other grazing animals that are sponsored by huge industry.... I hope there is a happy medium... I, for one, am against large genocides of any species and the horses are really taking it hard right now.... I hope you can help find a logical solution.
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 12:16 PM
Thanks Jennifer. I also feel strongly that there is a place on our public lands for wild horses. They are an important part of our heritage whether they're introduced or not. I'm glad you see that I'm not against wild horses, I'm against extreme solutions and the rhetoric on both sides.

Every animal on our public lands are managed by humans. Whether livestock or wildlife, we manage carrying capacity. Whether you think this is right or wrong, or whether you agree or disagree with the carrying capacity set, it is consistent. Many wild horse advocates, however, are against gathering excess horses and even oppose contraception. Why should horses be the only animal not subject to some kind of appropriate management? It's it an extreme position in my opinion to advocate for no population control. What would that do to our ranges?

I believe citizens can work with the BLM to find sensible, humane solutions that keep horses on the public lands yet also protect the range resources. Here's an example from Colorado:[…]/local_group_blm_work_together . The Human Society of the United States is also doing important work in contraception. Wild horse advocates do play an important role in this issue. I just wish some of them wouldn't tout such extreme positions.
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 01:04 PM
I do not see the extreme or radical comments coming from the horse advocates as the author contends. The arguments put forth are based on work and research done by those who have been in the field and have been observing these herds for many years. There are browsers and there are grazers. There is a difference and they don't compete for the same forage.
According a 2009 census, there are more pronghorn antelope in Nevada and way more mule deer than there are wild horses. For those who are interested, go to the American Herds website and check out the wildlife population comparisons. Those numbers have probably changed since the Calico round-up, as there were not enough horses left on the range to round up.
The debate over native species could go on until the cows come home, but the bottom line is that these horses do fit beautifully into the western range ecosystem. The honey bee is not native to North America, either, but does anyone want to see it removed?
It is not the wild horse advocates who are putting out propaganda. They are only trying to save something very valuable.
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 02:14 PM
Louie: The letter (my comment) is taken out of context. It was posted on at thread of this HCN article: http://www.hcn.org/issues/42.6/eligible-mustangs. These were the comments I was reacting to (you can see the comment here about “the conflict for forage is not with wildlife.”)

In addition, I refer to the positions of various wild horse advocacy organizations in general, which are laid out on their websites. You can read there about their opposition to round-ups and contraception, as well as this misinformation I attempted to counter.
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 02:32 PM
Thank you for correcting me. I had the bit in my teeth.
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 02:19 PM
In response to your first allegation, there are many answers proving your claim untrue but most compelling for me is that in 1993 the 10,000 yr old artifact of wild horse remains was found in the Yukon and it was proven to be genetically equivalent to today’s wild horse. Evidence shows wild horses survived the Ice Age. The most compelling info on this is found within geology findings.
2nd allegation- It seems you are thinking about forage grazing by wild life as one size fits all. It is not. Certain species eat some plants and leave other plants. They are hardwired by nature to do this. Wild horses serve to enhance habitat for other species in many ways, one is by eating certain plants, and opening access to other plants is for other animals. It is a botanical fact that the wild horse’ manure re-seeds habitat and leaves edible seeds exposed for birds to eat.Water is an important need and in winter months, wild horse hoofs break the ice for smaller animals who would be unable to do so themselves.
In addition this second allegation refers to large numbers of wild horses on the range which is simply not true. BLM’s own numbers show this.
3rd allegation- the BLM clearly doesn’t know science, which is evidenced by their actions within this program. You are also incorrect and contradictory about the numbers of lawsuits and their outcomes. You state, BLM always loses and then say if they are wrong than why do they win all the time. The data collected by BLM “staffers” as you state, actually supports the wild horse advocate’s position that wild horses are not damaging the range. Important info on this BLM admission was obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.
The case you refer to in Nevada is actually still in process. The judge’s ruling ‘in favor’ of the BLM in regard to an injunction was based on the way in which the suit was brought. If it had been brought on environmental law, BLM would have lost. You also neglected to add that the judge pointedly told the BLM not to round up the horses until the case was heard and decided. A final ruling in the case is due no later than May 25th.
As far as law breaking, it is there. Long term holding of the once wild horses is in violation of the FRWH & B Act of 1971, even after the sneaky politics rider inserted by Conrad Burns. In addition BLM is not complying with the mandatory regularly conducted herd level assessments required by the same act. The list goes on but I hope this sheds some light on the fact that the only one who seems to be perpetrating lies is you.
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 03:14 PM
It's simple:The wolves were de-listed and now hundreds have been killed and the mustangs have to go...Why?Because once the protected animals are gone,the land can be raped by mining companies,cattle ranchers,building pipelines,etc.without the uproar or people trying to protect them-or so the thinking goes in the BLM.Ken Salazar is a cattle rancher himself and as we now know,also very cozy with Big Oil.
It's not about numbers,it's about greed,like usual.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 09:32 AM
You wrote, “In addition this second allegation refers to large numbers of wild horses on the range which is simply not true. BLM’s own numbers show this.”

I’m glad you’re citing BLM numbers. Let’s look at those numbers, shall we? Some wild horse advocates resort to nonsensical fear peddling when they say the BLM is “managing wild horses to extinction.” However, the numbers show there are MORE wild horses on the range now (37,000) than there were in 1971 (25,345). How in the world could that be if the agency is managing them to extinction? How am I perpetuating lies by pointing out these facts?

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we, Cloud? You are the new BLM Director. Kindly tell us what you think would be effective and appropriate management of wild horses. Maybe that way you can show us your solutions are reasonable and not extreme.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 11:24 AM
Once again your numbers are wrong- please go over BLM's own numbers over the years and do the math- proper math not BLM math. Then review the FOIA memos and you will see the number to be closer to 16,000 roughly. Logic says first thing is keep the amount of land that Congress madated for wildhorses to live on, which was 50 million acres. BLM took 20 million away from that, in violation of congressional mandate and the range for wild horses now is only 30 million. That's a start. Secondly, the grazing permits for private cattle grazing was increased by 200% at the end of last year after they decided to remove the wild horses, because BLM thought possibly, wild horses 'may' starve. First they said they were starving but we saw that was untrue so the BLM story changed. (There are some videos of youtube of BLM interviews you may want to view of the BLM interviews regarding that.)
So why remove wild horses at enormous cost to remove them & support them, yet BLM increases grazing permits that already cost taxpayers a minimum of 125 million to subsidize. And on top of that the ranching interests are considered 'hobby' and supply less than 3% of beef supply.
Lower the grazing permits or better still retire them. These two measures alone would set things pretty straight. Also as an FYI- extinction is not only a numbers game-herds or any groups of animals need to be gentically viable- meaning if the gene pool is too restrictive, nature will remedy it, self correct and the line dies out. So you see, managing the horses requires more than a helicopter and a price per head. I also notice that in the 'discussions' you seem to be the only one getting very angry and emotional.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 12:17 PM
I am curious if anyone has actually been in the field and seen the damage feral horses cause. We can all agree that public lands cattle ranching is the most destructive force in the west and it needs to go. In the very limited areas where cows have been kicked off and feral horses are left (I am thinking of Sheldon National Wildlife refuge) it is obvious the damage to riparian areas is detrimental to wildlife and feral horses.
Also, more homework or an understanding of ecology and Natural History should be part of the discussion. "Wild horses serve to enhance habitat for other species in many ways, one is by eating certain plants, and opening access to other plants is for other animals. It is a botanical fact that the wild horse’ manure re-seeds habitat and leaves edible seeds exposed for birds to eat." is a woefully general and uninformed statement. What plants may you be speaking of? Salicaceae plants (responsible for the higher structure of riparian areas) do not perform this way. Grasses are often pulled out from the roots since horses have teeth on the upper and lower mandibles. Artemisia and Purshia species are trampled. These landscapes did not evolve with these large concentrations of domestic ungulates and it is plainly obvious to the naked eye that feral horses are detrimental to them. Before you read more reports in an office, go to catnip mountain in Northern Nevada and find a riparian area with any vegetation or without a mudpit. I couldn't. These horses are quite beautiful running through these landscapes, I would rather see native wildlife though.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 01:36 PM
Since the range has varying habitats the only statements that can be made without writing a disertation must be general and in specific relation to horse habits. Importantly, you are incorrect in stating horses rip out roots. Horses are top down grazers and they leave roots and short grass or forage. What is left from top down grazing encourages spreading and more vigorous growth. Cows are the species that pull up roots since they only have bottom teeth and a thick pad on the upper gums. The only way they can graze is to pull forage by the roots. How exactly are you determining that the damage you see is being done by wild horses and not by grazing interests. I believe you cannot make the determination because you are unfamiliar with grazing habits of equines and ruminents as well as their migration patterns. Damage to riparian buffers is caused by cattle. It is cow behavior to congregate in these areas and evidence of the ususal poop and trample habits of cows is present. Wild horses are indigenous to North America and DNA evidence shows they survived the Ice Age- proven in 1993. The reason for the removal of wild horses in political plain and simple. Follow the money.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 05:42 PM
I have been a field biologist in xeric ecosystems for more than a decade. I am very familiar with the grazing habits of non-native species. As I have seen them destroy many areas. I was speaking of Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, which I mentioned did not have cows. There have not been cows on that refuge since the early 90s. Riparian damage there is from horses plain and simple. Why do exclosure studies on that refuge show such a large impact from beautiful horses? I think following the money on a lanscape that has no grazing program will not lead far as it costs so much more to "control" the horses than to do nothing (in the short-term). Mammoths were around 9000 years ago should we introduce elephants?
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 02:34 PM
These ARE “BLM’s own numbers.” The 37,000 number came directly from the BLM: http://www.blm.gov/[…]/new_factsheet.print.html. Are you saying BLM numbers are correct when they tell your side of the story, but wrong when they don’t? How convenient.

Regarding the land “taken away” from wild horses, can you show me where the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act set aside 50 million acres? Here it is: http://www.wilderness.net/[…]/92-195.pdf. I’ve read the act and I can’t find anything like that. In fact, no acres are mentioned at all. In addition, most of the land that was removed was not under BLM ownership. Are you suggesting that BLM should manage horses on private land?

I am shocked that you would actually contend that BLM grazing permits increased by 200% last year. But you don’t have to take my word that this is completely false. As you might know, livestock grazing data is available to the public through the BLM’s RAS website: http://www.blm.gov/ras/pub_land_stats_rpt.htm. I compared total authorized AUMs in billing years 2008 and 2009 on all BLM land. In 2008, there were 6,927,465 AUMs authorized and 6,972,735 in 2009. That’s a 0.6% change, an extremely far cry from 200%. Additionally, BLM permits AUMs through grazing permit renewals, which are up for renewal every 10 years. BLM couldn’t double permitted AUMs in one year even if they wanted to.

Your 200% assertion illustrates perfectly the misinformation coming out of some wild horse advocates. This is exactly the point I’m trying to make.

You’ve chosen to attack livestock grazing instead of answering my question about what you would do. I’m not biting. Read my post/letter again and you’ll see I’m no livestock grazing advocate. I am an advocate of healthy rangelands. You didn't mention horse population control at all. Do you support gathers? Do you support contraception? How would you propose we manage herds?

Hmm, I really don’t know what you mean about being angry and emotional. All my posts have been fact based, with citations provided, and I've never attacked anyone personally. Is accusing people of this the way you conduct "discussions?" Would you please try keeping ad hominem attacks out of your comments and sticking to the issue at hand?
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 05:13 PM
Niko, I tried going to the links you provided but either they were fictitious, inaccurate or pulled for some other reason because I could only open the Factsheet which has numbers and statements but little facts. All of which illustrate a point I think you were trying to make in either the article or other comments, the wild horses and burros need APPROPRIATE Management. You say that advocates are too extreme and spread propaganda but from the same Factsheet the BLM states :
"If the BLM were to try to hold down budget costs by not removing excess horses from the range, the result would be an ecological disaster for Western public rangelands: overpopulation of herds, overgrazing of forage, eventual malnutrition and starvation of horses and burros, damage to native vegetation and riparian areas, damage to wildlife habitat, increased soil erosion, and lower water quality." Where do they come up with this stuff? If we don't remove them the worlds going to end and the second dust bowl will be coming? Come on. That is the whole problem, the BLM is arbitrarily managing the Wild Horses and Burros and some may say, which also seems to be the case, they are managing not for the Animals but for Humans and Business with a monetary interest. You are trying to tell us not to listen to everything the Horse Advocates are saying but you think that everything that comes from the BLM is above reproach and should not be questioned. What good for the geese is good for the gander or in this case which Jack Asses actually need to be managed?
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 08:27 AM
Not sure why my links don’t work. I’ll try them again.

Try this link to the act: http://www.wildhorsepreservation.com/[…]/1971_act.html

Here’s the link to RAS: http://www.blm.gov/ras/

Talk of horses becoming an “ecological disaster” might be an exaggeration if you’re talking about a few more thousand horses. But some WH advocates are against any and all population control methods. WHs have a 20% or greater recruitment rate every year. With that kind of breading without any population control, the horse populations would multiply pretty quickly. Then we most definitely would see “overpopulation of herds, overgrazing of forage, eventual malnutrition and starvation of horses and burros, damage to native vegetation and riparian areas, damage to wildlife habitat, increased soil erosion, and lower water quality." The starvation of horses might be a bit more of a scare tactic than the damage to wildlife habitat and riparian areas. Those impacts we see already from areas overgrazed by horses.

As Adam Hannuksela points out, ANY animal (especially introduced) in too large of numbers is going to negatively affect the range. Horses are not exempt from the rules of basic ecology and they don’t magically graze without impacts.
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 03:17 PM
Have to personally visited any of the ranges in question? Do you know the amount of space that 20000 acres alone covers? I've lived in the Western States all my life (50yrs) and see this land regularly. There is plenty of room. When the BLM say's 20000 acres will not support more that 50 horses they are absolutely crazy. I'm not against managing the animals on the range but that's not what is really being done. They are just removing horses and burros. That's it. There is no way I can ever believe their statements such as the above about a few horses not being able to survive on thousands of acres. The other issue of contraception is another difficult one given what I perceive as the performance of the BLM. I'm not adverse to that but it is a very tricky thing to get involved with and with the BLMs track record I'd be very cautious of them managing that program. They have already discounted concerns that the rate and number of removed horses is threatening the Genetic viability of certain herds and the practice of removing the older stallions and returning the young ones have contributed to the increased population of certain herds. Check this out http://campaign.constantcon[…]WbyT9LYI7ycrvImMphNEookw%3D if you are not familiar it is a program partnered with ISPMB and Princeton University. The research shows that the BLM may be part of the problem when it comes to population control as they take off the older stallions leaving the young ones and we all know what a young male wants to do, practice indiscriminately procreation where as the Older Stallion exercise selective breeding. Once again it comes down to proper management. Just because the BLM is doing a good job with meeting their objectives, as the GAO found, it still doesn't mean that they are doing the RIGHT job.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 05:31 PM
Hey Niko here's a couple of links that you might find interesting or more propaganda but at least there are some numbers from someone involved and then the other is just a propaganda tourist site for the Hagerman Fossil site.
http://www.nps.gov/hafo/naturescience/index.htm (I know this ones a .gov so you can't be sure of everything you read there.)
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 08:55 AM
Your NPS link about fossils doesn’t say anything about this being the same horse species that the species Spanish introduced to America. Regardless, I agree with a wild horse advocate who posted that in some sense it doesn’t matter whether horses were introduced or not. There is still a place for them on our public land and we still should treat them humanely. It also means their populations must be managed like every other animal out there.

The statements from a WH advocate/ecologist in your second link could be countered by many other qualified ecologists, from agenices and academia. Agency range management specialists are not jackasses like you contend. Most of them know their range ecology quite well. They monitor WH ranges and their monitoring data usually stands up in court. Any grazer in small numbers at the right times (yes, even evil cows) can have some positive impacts on the range. Unmanaged numbers of grazers do not.

I’m glad you posted the GAO report. In the very first paragraph they dispute what some of the most radical WH advocates are contending: That the BLM is violating the H&B Act by removing excess animals. Some also contend long-term holding facilities are illegal, but this report clearly disagrees. These tweaks recommended by GAO are very benign. I agree with every one of them. These are nothing like the changes WH advocates are asking for, like doing away with gathers altogether.

I don’t support everything BLM does regarding wild horses or any other public lands issue. There’s little excuse in my book for over eighty horses dying during the Calico gather. Some horses will die even under the best practices, but BLM needs to have their contractors do a better job during gathers. But we don’t need the radical changes some WH advocates are pushing. They will result in unacceptable environmental impacts.
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 12:51 PM
Niko I'm glad you found the GAO link interesting and you are correct that the gist of it says the BLM is following the Act along with the revisions made but there is one glaring point that supports many WH advocates, there is no clear method that the BLM is using to establish the AMLs(Appropriate Management Levels) which is the basic point of contention for advocates and they are not providing any direction to the field offices on AML for the HMAs(Herd Management Areas). Anyone with an opinion could come up with a number and then manage to that number. The BLM is not releasing the facts on how they arrive at the AML for the various HMAs. And the GAO report supports this conclusion. For all we know, and it appears to be the case, the BLM obtains studies by the various experts and then pick the ones that support the predetermined number for the AML. Since there is such a discrepancy, as you stated, between the experts I don't see how the decision to use the lower numbers can not be a biased one as the more animals that they need to remove the more money the agency gets, the contractors make, the larger budget increase that is necessary and the larger portion on the land that can be used for Cattle, Gas & Oil or whatever. It appears that they are getting their cake and able to eat it too. How can it be supported that an Agency of the government can basically chose the data they want to support the money they are asking for especially when the outcome is more money for the agency. You don't see something wrong with that picture? Remember the $1000 hammers? Although I support WHs and have many myself to me the real issue is mis-management. If the business world this type of management would never be allowed unless of course the money was coming from someone elses pocket and in the case of the BLM it's coming out of my pocket and your's so I have a right to ask and demand that the money be used wisely and effectively not just at the discretion of BLM officials.
Thanks Kindly
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 01:12 PM
I can't argue with much there, MrNtsnlykrazy. I understand your issue with AML, as well as the power of user interests on public land. I’ll do some digging and let you know if I can find out some more info on how BLM sets AML.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 04:35 PM
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 05:18 PM
Thanks to all who have commented here; the free exchange of ideas and opinions is the reason HCN allows comments, and we appreciate everyone's participation. However, to foster a civil dialogue, we ask that commenters refrain from posting personal attacks and insults, profanity, and obscenity. We can all express our opinions and thoughts without violating basic standards of decency and respect. HCN will remove comments that cross that line.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 05:42 PM
Thanks Jodi, you were probably referring to a statement in my comment and I was referring to Male Burros. Just a mistake in semantics.

Also I failed to add one last comment. All of the BLM justification is based on AMLs (Appropriate Management Levels). Do you know how they come up with those numbers? (I could make a statement here but Jodi would then delete my comment). Not too many do know. In fact the GAO made a point about this in their 2008 survey of the BLM "however, BLM has not provided specific formal guidance to the field offices on how to set AML. Without clear guidance, BLM cannot ensure that the factors considered in future AML revisions will be consistent across HMAs." which the BLM has yet to fulfill or respond to the recommendations the GAO gave. Here's the link in case I took something out of context.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 05:45 PM
Forgot the link: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-77

I was worried that I might not be nice enough to comment here so I got a little rushed. Sorry but the survey is good reading.
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 01:17 PM
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 01:20 PM
Sorry about the all capital letters--forgot
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 01:37 PM
Wild horses eat the drier forage that other animals can't or won't eat, thus helping prevent wildfires on the range. It has been shown that the incidence of wildfires has increased after their removal. In a 1990 Government Accountability Office report, it was stated that wild horse removals were not linked to nor did they significantly improve range conditions.
Anonymous says:
May 16, 2010 08:08 PM
i learned more about wild horses from the letters to the editor than from the original article. I've found that both sides are prone to exageration. Both horses and cattle are overgrazing our lands. Those lands need protection. Horse lovers are correct in pointing out the problems with cattle. They must also be realistic about grazing horses.
Anonymous says:
May 18, 2010 01:04 PM
Right on, there is far too much emotion obscuring this issue and people need to look at it rationally and do the math to figure out how many cattle and horses can coexist on public land. I don't have my range management textbook handy to calculate carrying capacities and stocking rates right now, but that is the key. As for the 20,000 acres being sufficient for fifty horses, again, that has to be calculated by factoring in animal units, slope, forage yield, climate, and probably some other elements I'm not thinking of right now. I can't verify this calculation offhand, but that's how it needs to be figured out. Just remember that in terms of forage consumption, one horse equals one and a half cows!
Anonymous says:
May 23, 2010 12:47 AM
This is just one paragraph from a recent letter written by noted Nevada wildlife ecologist, Craig Downer. It was written in response to an article printed in an online newspaper in Nevada:

During all this vast period of time, a co-evolution has occurred between members of the horse family and the many symbiotic plants and animals with which horses and their kin have made the great journey of life. It has become abundantly clear to me that today’s wild horses and burros are major missing pieces in the ecological jigsaw puzzle. These are post-gastric digesters which make them natural gardeners whose droppings fertilize the soil wherever they roam and at the same time disperse the viable seeds of many native plants. The other large herbivores in North America are ruminant digesters who more thoroughly decompose the vegetation they ingest leaving little for soil micro-organisms and fungi to feed on and destroying most seeds ingested. For these and related reasons and coupled with their wider-ranging habits, horses and burros are restorers and enhancers of the North American ecosystem, even helping ruminants, as has been shown in many objective studies. They return the missing “equid element” amid the great panoply of species and give a tremendous boost to the variety of organisms that are able to survive. Think about all the tiny insects that can and do feed on the less digested equid droppings and that, in turn, are fed on by a great variety of rodents, lizards and birds. This does not happen to near the degree with ruminant digesters, especially the overly promoted cattle, sheep, and big game animals that the establishment today promotes.
Anonymous says:
May 23, 2010 01:00 PM
Let's be really blunt about this -- the horses that were here before the end of the last Ice Age extinction also co-evolved with some of the largest predators the planet has ever seen. Claiming that returning wild horse-analogues is fixing a major missing piece without recognizing that the previous ecological cap on wild horse populations is currently missing is short-sighted at best and terribly myopic. They certainly are not capable of restoring any ecosystem that ignores the limits on carrying capacity of the range.

It's also my impression that calling feral burros 'wild' is akin to calling stray dogs 'wild' -- there's no valid ecological reason to have them here and they do compete for bighorn sheep watering holes (which they pollute so the sheep won't use).

I get that feral horse and burro advocates are passionate. It's just from an ecological standpoint they have a strong tendency to become disastrous. It's not that different than what happened to mule deer on the Kaibab plateau once predators were removed early in the 1900's. They so over-browsed they range that they essentially permanently altered the vegetative structure.
Anonymous says:
May 23, 2010 12:59 AM
There are currently only any estimated 33,000 wild horses left on the 250,000,000 plus acres of public land, and that is an optimistic estimate. The danger to public lands is not coming from the horses. There are corporate energy projects, mining projects, as well as encroaching hopeful land developers, all looking at our public lands. It would be wise for all who value what is left of our open land to beware of this and not fall for the scapegoating of the few wild horses that are left.
Anonymous says:
May 24, 2010 12:45 PM
Keep in mind that when counting animal units on public land, a cow and calf are counted as 1 unit while a wild mare and foal are counted as 2 units.