Wild horses and resource management: Is government looking the other way?

A BLM contractor's helicopter musters wild horses during the fall 2016 Owyhee Complex roundup in Nevada. Photo: Steve Paige.
A BLM contractor’s helicopter musters wild horses during the fall 2016 Owyhee Complex roundup in Nevada. © Steve Paige.

I would like to believe that everyone who reads this realizes that there is an awful amount of legislative work needed as soon as possible when it comes to the management of our natural resources, including wild horses.

But sadly, there are certainly at least a few legislators and people who view the status quo as being acceptable and can act as stumbling blocks; which is unacceptable given the outward results of such obtuse thinking; people are dying and other terribly tragic events have and are about to occur yet again if we don’t pursue the appropriate course of action in the proper order.

Prioritization requires that we deal with the most pressing matter first; Wildfire Season and all that it encompasses (loss of life, homes, forest, watershed and wildlife) is coming in just 7 months (and there is an immediately available cost-effective solution to the core-root of the problem; ground fuels of annual grasses and brush). Once that is handled, we then can turn to addressing the many other issues that must be addressed.

Unfortunately we are faced with a societal meme that supports less compassion and less responsibility -accountability for those things under our stewardship and charge. And this is especially important when it comes to those people we (voters) appoint over ourselves to act in our behalf in managing all things related to our counties, states and the nation. TV shows (Walking Dead, Vikings, Game of Thrones, etc.) are systematically desensitizing the masses, including some legislators and officials. Do we want leaders with hearts of stone? With little or no integrity and whose minds are distracted with greed and debauchery?  I for one do not and will not suffer those people.

Wild horses in Wyoming.
Wild horses in Wyoming. © Jana Wilson/BLM

We cannot and should never tolerate anyone who is looking the other way when there are wrongful actions, malfeasance and gross negligence.  Our natural resources (and very society) are now at risk by the inaction of some legislators and the willful wrongful actions of others. The current dilemma facing the BLM / USFS in regard to wild horse management is of their own making, and that is clear.

The BLM and USFS are displacing wild horses off the range originally assigned to them by Act of Congress, to make room for more cattle and corralling the formerly free wild horses, now totaling some 50,000 wild horses, which as the best science now proves are an American native species.

And from my layman’s understanding of the law, the foregoing (assigning cattle more and more range-land) seems to fly in the face of the Law; in particular 43 CFR, Section 4700.0-6, where we read the following:

43 CFR § 4700.0–6 Policy.

(a) Wild horses and burros shall be managed as self-sustaining populations of healthy animals in balance with other uses and the productive capacity of their habitat.

(b) Wild horses and burros shall be considered comparably with other re-source values in the formulation of land use plans.

As we now see, it seems the BLM is violating this own policy, and significantly under-weighting the value of the wild horses in land-use plans, given excessive weighting to cattle uses.

Cattle grazing in South Dakota.
Cattle grazing in South Dakota. © BLM

So now comes the BLM-Department of the Interior stating they can no longer afford to care for the wild horses that they decided to take off the public range lands … publicly owned protected wild horses they have unilaterally decided (without heeding the public’s outcry, let alone genuinely seeking input) to incarcerate.

So as the solution to the problem the BLM has created, they offer a cruel and inequitable proposal to deal with the public’s treasured wild horses: ‘euthanasia’. Kill the horses, but first lie about their status, as well as falsely demonizing them to attempt to make killing them more palatable to Americans. And then the BLM wonders why they are so mistrusted and despised by a vast number of Americans.

Dr. Ross MacPhee (curator at the American Museum of Natural History) has literally called out the BLM, in a speech moderated by Dale Jamieson, Professor of Law and Director of the NYU Environmental Studies Program, a panel discussion took place at 6pm on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at NYU School of Law. Read the approved transcript here.


I think there is a wonderful and immediate solution for the BLM’s financial issue and for the grass and brush ground fuels, which are the causation [kindling] that supports unnaturally hot wildfires (‘firestorms’).

The Solution is a simple and humane one: Redisposition of the 50,000 corralled wild horses into carefully selected areas in and around remote wilderness and forest areas, where they co-evolved with the cervids (deer and elk) grazing-down seasonal grass and brush, thus maintaining a normal fire cycle until the cervid population can recover (it will take many decades for cervids to make a comeback).

A horse in the Bureau of Land Management’s​ (BLM)​ Challis Field Office​ ​Corral. © Devin Davis / BLM

The compartmentalization of sciences and management disciplines has resulted in outdated myopic dogma influencing the policy that is used today in forest and natural resource management and it completely missed the evolving depletion of cervid populations (California deer population is down about 85%!).

We are now managing blindly due to a Critical Oversight: We have an unanticipated serious depletion of cervids (deer and elk) in and around our forests (which had been abating millions of tons of highly flammable ground fuels), and that is now clearly pointed out here.

If we fail to immediately address the wildfire issue with at least some minimal form of fire prevention via ground fuel abatement of grasses and brush, people will burn and homes will be lost (Remember Sonoma County; more than 40 people just like you burned alive; 7000 modern homes charred).

The old maxims come to mind: ‘First things first’; and ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’!

Having all the focus and money on ‘Wildfire Suppression’ (come after the fire is burning stuff) is just stupid. Prevention is the key, it is of paramount importance, and fire-suppression is the life-raft when things go wrong.

If the USFS (and Americans) really want to make forests ‘fire resilient’, then we must annually be abating the genesis fuels wildfires, the annually occurring grasses and brush. Is this just too obvious to see?

Spending all the time, money and debate on improving Wildfire Suppression is idiotic. In fact with better prevention, less suppression is needed! Ignoring prevention is like a boat captain ignoring the hole in the boat, and instead of fixing it, spends even more money on a life raft. Geez! Talk about defective logic!

Let’s get this handled … let’s help the BLM solve their money crises by not killing our treasured wild horses, and in the same simple move, abate some ground fuels as fire prevention and making forests fire-resilient.

» More reading here.

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. » Read Bill's profile

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