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Know the West

Un-wilding wild horse lands

 

Jonathan Thompson aptly calls out Bureau of Land Management Acting Director William Perry Pendley’s big lie about the “existential threat” to public lands (“BLM chief ’s wild horse fixation,” 11/25/19).  Sadly, Thompson goes on to refer to the estimated 88,000 wild horses on public lands, stating that their “hooves trample and lay waste to big swaths of cryptobiotic soil.”  Whoa!  

The BLM relentlessly pushes the notion that wild horses and burros overpopulate and damage Western lands. Facts tell a different story. Without environmental review, the BLM has removed half of the animals’ federally designated habitat. The 88,000 horses now roam on 27 million acres — hardly the surging overpopulation claimed by Department of Interior publicists. In Europe, ecologists are re-wilding horses as a way of restoring ecosystems and reducing fire-prone vegetation. In the U.S., the BLM is un-wilding lands that are federally designated for these free-roaming animals. 

Wild horses and their advocates have enough problems with the BLM’s eradication scheme and discriminatory treatment. Having the myths repeated by other ecologists is not helpful. We share the same goals: healthy public lands, protecting wolves and other natural predators, strengthening safeguards against pollution by extractive industries, fighting the efforts to gut the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and pushing for congressional oversight of this too often roguish agency.

—Charlotte Roe