Megafires and terrorism: Are horses the answer to an overlooked threat?

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Many miles of fences will either have to be repaired or replaced following the wildfires in Texas.
Many miles of fences will either have to be repaired or replaced following the wildfires in Texas. © Texas A&M AgriLife / Kay Ledbetter

Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires across the American landscape.

Wildfires are now burning hotter and consuming larger areas than ever before due to excessive fuels (grasses and brush) that have increased in forests over the past few decades as a result of less intensive forest management practices combined with greatly reduced numbers of large herbivores in and around many forest areas.

Wildfires have become so devastating that they are now considered by some analysts as serious threats to the national security of the United States. In fact, many wildfires are so large (100,000 acres or more) they are termed as Megafires, and have the destructive energy of nuclear weapons. So it’s no wonder that we learn that the enemies of America have been focused on using wildfires as a weapon to harm the American homeland, its people, infrastructure and economy.

Here is an excerpt from (U//FOUO): “For terrorists, setting fires has several advantages over other methods of attack, including sustainability (duration of fire and long-term effects); the potential for casualties, economic damage, and wide media coverage; and the accompanying psychological effects of fear and terror.

Fighting fire from above.
Fighting fire from above. © Cal Fire

“Montana and California are mentioned as ideal targets for wildfires; the issue cites destructive fires that occurred in these states in 2000 and 2009, respectively. In the adjacent map, taken from Inspire, the southwest is highlighted for its combustible features.”

Regardless of the ‘how and why’ of wildfires, the key counter-strategy will embody the significant reduction of hazardous fuels in our forests as is cited in the Schrader-Simpson Wildfire Disaster Funding Act. The idea is to have funding available for the implementation of cost-effective pre-fire management strategies.

The Department of the Interior (at the highest echelon) has begun an initial review of an important initiative called the Wild Horse Fire Brigade (‘WHFB’) that proposes the redisposition of wild horses from the BLM holding corrals as part of a pre-fire management tool to abate hazardous fuels (grass, brush and kindling) in and around forests, where they would create and maintain fire-breaks, fire-anchors and containment areas in and around forests. WHFB would also address wildfire prevention in fragile forest ecosystems not well-suited to mechanized pre-fire management, together with mechanized methods in and around other forest areas where terrain or accessibility pose problems for mechanized methods. Many areas in and around forests are ill-suited to commercial livestock for a host of reasons, and WHFB is well-suited for these areas.

Here’s a report on my conference call with the Department of the Interior’s senior staff.

The redisposition of the currently corralled BLM wild horses provides an exigent cost-effective solution that embodies a natural-alternative pre-fire management methodology that can be used alone or integrated with other mechanized pre-fire management methods to help save American forests and watersheds, and would; (i) alleviate the $60-million/year costs of holding the horses; and (ii) sidestep the potential political firestorm if these horses were to be killed; and (iii) help limit ‘fire-borrowing’ as is cited in the Schrader-Simpson Wildfire bill. There is zero doubt that these horses would reduce fuel-loading in and around forests at risk once deployed. They evolved here doing that job.

Authority for the Secretary’s employment of any emergency measures, which may include using WHFB to protect forests, may reside under; ‘16 U.S. Code § 551 – Protection of national forests’; and/or ‘16 U.S. Code § 594 – Protection of timber owned by United States from fire, disease, or insect ravages.’

Furthermore, the re-introduction of wild horses into carefully selected areas in and around forests also addresses two additional problems; a) Horses are immune to prion disease (Chronic Wasting Disease) that is vectored into cervids via grasses and brush; and, b) wild horses would absorb some of the depredation pressure by apex predators, thus allowing relief for declining cervid populations in the United States; this is a big plus for the $10-billion dollar/yr. hunting industry.

By effectively controlling the excessive fuels in our American forests, we can also reduce the tactical advantage of the use of wildfire by terrorists.

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William E. Simpson

William Simpson is the author of Dark Stallions – Legend of the Centaurians, proceeds from which go towards supporting wild and domestic horse rescue and sanctuary.

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