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Federal proposals to remove 600 wild horses from a major herd management area in California because of wildfire damage have been condemned by an advocacy group.
Protest Mustangs says less than half of the vast 798,000-acre Twin Peaks herd area burned in the August wildfire, and more than 400,000 acres of unburned range remained for the horses.
The group also disputes there are 950 horses across the herd area, saying a recent independent count put the number at fewer than 400.
Fire damage is patchy and there remains some forage available for the wild horses and burros in areas affected by the blaze, the group says.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Eagle Lake office in Susanville proposes removing 600 wild horses, plus burros, to allow for range restoration due to the August wildfire. They are claiming that there are currently 950 horses on the entire HMA.
Protect Mustangs says the bureau has failed to consider alternatives such protective fencing, using wild equids to reseed the range or some relocation to the unburned areas.
The proposal signals the end of California’s last viable herd, it says.
The California-based preservation group is planning a protest in San Francisco against the roundup, with the date to be announced soon.
“Americans value California’s treasured herd of native wild horses, with cavalry remount influences, known as the Twin Peaks horses,” says Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs.
“These mustangs are survivors and play an essential role in creating biodiversity. Native horses heal the land after wildfires and from livestock over-grazing. This ultimately benefits livestock, too.”
The group says native wild horses have survived in nature for hundreds of years and do not need to be rescued after a wildfire when there is forage and water out there.
“If they need extra forage or water then the BLM can bring them forage – it’s much cheaper than rounding them up and warehousing them in the Midwest, where they risk being sold to a slaughter middle man someday.
“If the land needs healing after the fire then engage the latest science to use native wild horses to help heal the land and reverse desertification.”
The group has also released a statement from Craig Downer, a wildlife biologist and wild horse and burro expert, explaining how wild horses could help in reseeding the land.
Novak said: “It’s time the BLM used good science and cut down on invasive techniques that cause global warming. Wild horses and burros can heal the range after the wildfire so let them do it.”
Downer’s statement read: “The wild horses would be the perfect restorers of an ecosystem after an extensive fire, since they would disperse many intact seeds in their feces which would form well-fertilized bed for their germination. The feces of the wild horses more greatly feeds the ecosystem and creates the vital humus component of the soils to a greater degree than is the case with most ruminants, such as cows, sheep, and deer. Also, after passing through the post-gastric digestive tract of horses and burros, many seeds are perfectly conditioned for germination, as they have their coats made softer and more penetrable by the tender shoots. Many of these same seeds are killed after passing through a ruminant’s digestive tract. In the Twin Peaks, the wild horses and burros would be the perfect, for natural, agents for ecosystem restoration for the above reasons and also because of their great mobility. They do not camp on wet meadows and around and in water sources as do cattle, for example. Also most of the Twin Peaks HMA ecosystem did not burn and the wild horses and burros who survived the fire could subsist here then go reoccupying the recently burned areas as they are restored, all the while aiding in this process.”