The Definition of Insanity
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over, and over and expecting a different result. By this definition, the Bureau of Land Management, BLM, is crazy as hell. Which comes as no surprise to anyone.
Currently there are over 53,000 wild horses in holding. This is an enormous amount of horses who have lost their homes and families. The cost to tax payers for these cruel and ongoing roundups, along with the cost of housing all these horses is in the millions. And yet, BLM plans to roundup up 10,000 more! The “Path Forward” which was crafted by Return to Freedom, The Humane Society, ASPCA, and the Cattleman’s Assoc. calls for the roundups to continue for the next 10 years in order to meet that 10,000 number. At the rate they are going however, 10,000 is going to happen sooner, rather than later.
Why, why all this insanity? This is a question with several answers. Let’s start with the livestock industry. For close to 100 years now, ranchers have been allowed to get a grazing permit to place their cows or sheep on public land. I suppose at first this seemed like an OK idea. People were trying to move west, and not everyone had the money to buy land. Even though it was ridiculously cheap at the time. The problem is, this antiquated practice is still happening today. Ranchers pay a paltry sum to have their animals on our public land, when in fact the use of public land, buy who knew, the actual public, has increased. About 1% of all beef consumed comes from cows grazed on public land. If this antiquated practice stopped right now, it would have zero affect on the beef market. In the mean time, camping, hiking, and other forms of recreation brings billions of dollars to local economies. This article from The Wildlife News spells it all out perfectly. This article from The Center for Biological Diversity goes more in depth on the ecological costs, as well as the economic costs of grazing on public lands.
The second part of this answer lies with the BLM itself. In 1971 the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed and signed into law by President Nixon. This established protections for all wild horses and burros in America.
At the time, they were on the brink of extinction because anybody was allowed to catch these horses and burros, and send then to slaughter.
Somewhere along the way Appropriate Management Levels, or AML’s were established for each Horse Management Area, or HMA. Where these actual numbers came from remains a bit of a mystery. Trying to find information, is pretty futile. My view, at the time there were say 150 horses in any given HMA, and Mr. Office Person decided that was a good number, so let’s go with that. Never mind the fact that most HMA’s are 10’s of thousands of acres. Usually around 200,000 or more. So just using those arbitrary figures, that’s 1333 acres for 1 horse. That right there seems a bit crazy to me.
The problem is, these numbers have never been looked at since. I mean REALLY looked at from a scientific stand point to see how many horses can actually live in any given area. Why? That right there is the million dollar question. I suspect a lot of it goes back to the first part of the answer, and the livestock industry. Apparently it’s just fine to have thousands of sheep and cattle on these same acres, but not the wild horses.
The cattle ranchers claim all the time the horses are taking away forage that their cows need. Really!? I don’t buy it for a second. I’ve watched the horses graze and constantly move around the range. Cows on the other hand, stay in one area until they’ve eaten it to dust, then move a small distance away, and do it all over again. Horses are smart enough to be responsible grazers, and protect their own land.
It is way past time for this whole entire system to be looked at. The insanity of the constant cycle of roundups needs to end. Now. It’s a proven fact that when wildlife feels threatened, and their numbers are too low they make more babies. Coyotes certainly do this, as do the wild horses. And so, the insanity cycle begins all over.
There is a better, and proven way to manage wild horses. Since any and all predators of wild horses have been decimated, by you guessed it, the livestock people. The more humane, and less insane way to manage their numbers is through PZP birth control. Now I know that isn’t the natural way to let wildlife live, but it’s the best way to keep horses from roundups, and a forever life in holding. To me, it’s the lesser of two evils.
It allows horses to remain in their homes, and with their families. And if you have ever visited wild horses, you know that family is literally everything to them.
I don’t have all the answers, and I will never pretend that I do. I am constantly learning along with everyone else. But I have been visiting wild horses in different areas for 5 years and I see the way they live, and the value they bring to so many people.
Currently the BLM is ramping up their summer roundup schedule. Again. The horses you see in this post are targeted for July, and the vast majority of them will be gone. This is one of the most well known herds in the west, The Onaqui in Utah. If you would like information on stopping this roundup, please visit Save Onaqui.
Another big area of concern for roundups is in Wyoming. Last summer they took thousands of wild horses off the range and to holding. This year, they plan on removing more than 3000 from the southern portion of Wyoming. You can read about that here. Also, the North Lander complex is being targeted. The comment period is open at this link.
Also the forest service wants to remove the horses in the Heber, Arizona area. That can be reviewed, and commented on at this link.
All the horses, everywhere deserve to live their lives wild and free. And not caught up in the insanity cycle.
What can you do to help? With a new administration who has promised to re-evaluate things like this from a scientific stand point, I think we have a fighting chance to halt the roundups. Writing to President Biden, or the new secretary of the Dept. of the Interior, Deb Haaland, is the best way to get our voices heard. Also your own local representatives is always good too.
President Biden can be written to at
Joseph R. Biden
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
And Deb Haaland
Secretary, Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W. Washington DC 20240
Let’s make sure future generations will have the pleasure of seeing wild horses run!