“Rants from the Hill” are Michael Branch’s monthly musings on life in the high country of western Nevada’s Great Basin Desert.
Although it is the product of my imagination, the following “conversation” was inspired by actual comments posted in response to several online news stories about the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) recent, controversial roundups of wild horses and burros on public lands in Nevada. Some folks feel passionately that these BLM horse “gathers” are inhumane, while other wild horse advocates go further, arguing that the roundups are unnecessary because horses are a natural part of the western landscape and should thus be left undisturbed. On the other side of the argument are people who see wild horses and burros as introduced, invasive species that damage the range, putting native plants and animals at risk, and risking their own destruction through starvation or dehydration. While palatable solutions are difficult to come by, this “conversation” gives some sense of the quality of current public discourse on a topic that is especially important to those of us who live in the rural Great Basin Desert.
sweetpea: “I think what they’re doing is terrible!!! How can Man be so cruel when these beautiful animals are supposed to run wild and free in Nature?”
ridinandropin: “Wild horses look pretty, but they tear up the range. Their overgrazing is a huge problem, and because they don’t have natural predators their population doubles every four or five years. Roundups are the only way to protect the range and keep herds from massive starvation.”
sweetpea: “ridinandropin, did it ever occur to you that Nature got along fine without us for thousands of years? Those wonderful horses don’t need our ‘help’ at all. This is just another way of interfering with Nature. How would you feel if somebody chased YOU with a helicopter? We should be ashamed!!!”
whatthehellanyway: “Are you serious, sweetpeabrain? Are you saying that people haven’t been living in North America for the last few millennia? And do you know that horses have NOT been around for thousands of years? They were introduced fairly recently (in the 16th c.) by the Spanish. Every one of your My Little Ponies is descended from horses owned by guys named Pedro. Try getting your science from a book other than National Velvet.”
buds420: “Dude, that Pedro crack is totally racist. Besides, horses HAVE been around for tens of thousands of years. They went extinct here about 11,000 years ago, so really the Europeans were just reintroducing a native species to their home. Those horses belong here.”
whatthehellanyway: “Hey, buds, why don’t you take sweetpeabrain to the prom? You geniuses deserve each other. Please tell me you aren’t saying that an animal that has been absent from an ecosystem for more than ten thousand years is NATIVE when you stick it back in there? Horses are an INVASIVE species and should be EXTERMINATED. That’s the only way to restore what is natural.”