Friday, October 21, 2016

Die Horses, Die!

This is a tough one to write. The government gets to be clinical about “the problem.” So let’s start there. Here are the cold facts as explained by the Bureau of Land Management (Updated September 16th): “The Bureau of Land Management manages, protects, and controls wild horses and burros under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (as amended by Congress in 1976, 1978, 1996, and 2004). This law authorizes the BLM to remove excess wild horses and burros from the range to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands. The BLM also manages the nation’s public lands for multiple uses, in accordance with the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act. The Bureau manages wild horses and burros as part of this multiple-use mandate…
“To promote healthy conditions on the range, the BLM determines what it calls the Appropriate Management Level (AML), which is the number of wild horses and burros that can thrive in balance with other public land resources and uses. Wild horses and burros that exceed AML (which is 26,715) are to be removed from the range, in accordance with the 1971 law, as amended. The current estimated on-range wild horse and burro population (as of March 1, 2016) is 67,027, a 15 percent increase over the 2015 estimate of 58,150. That means the current West-wide on-range population exceeds AML by more than 40,000. (This year's 15 percent increase compares to an 18 percent increase from 2014 to 2015, which is consistent with the BLM's finding that wild horse and burro herds double in size about every four years.) As noted in a table further below, the population of off-range (unadopted or unsold) wild horses and burros maintained in holding facilities is more than 45,000 as of August 2016.
Drill down on the numbers… and they get worse. “To reduce the devastation to grasslands and to cut down on storage costs, the Bureau of Land Management voted to euthanize some of the 77,000 wild horses in 10 Western states. The vote inspired outrage from animal rights activists and the bureau reversed its decision. The mounting costs continue to be a strain and the agency is running out of options.” New York Times, October 14th.
To people like Andrea Alococo, director of Wyoming's Fund For Animals, ranchers and the government should do everything possible to allow these graceful animals to run free and wild. To ranchers like Leonard Hay, president of Wyoming's Rock Springs Grazing Association, the horses nibble the grasses that are vital to livestock, and need to be controlled… ‘We like wild horses and it's wrong to be shooting them,’ says Hay. ‘But if these horses aren't kept in low enough numbers, soon there won't be anything left but wild horses on this land.’
“Both Alococo's group and Hay's association have offered up thousands of dollars to fund a $30,000 reward for the shooters responsible for the killings. Such an alliance between the two groups is rare, but the groups are also unwittingly allied in one more way — both think current government management of wild horse populations does not work… ‘The program has produced one problem after another,’ says Alococo about the Bureau of Land Management's wild horse management program.” ABC News, January 31st.
Do the lands become parched from overgrazing, leading to a slow death from starvation, as government officials? It’s complicated and cruel, any way you look at it. But is it any different from raising livestock for slaughter, ask some? “Hay, of the grazing association, agrees that sometimes slaughter is the most practical solution. ‘Our cattle and sheep go to slaughter,’ says Hay. ‘Why not those horses that aren't adopted?’
“Private Solutions?... Instead, unadopted horses are sent to horse sanctuaries in Oklahoma and Kansas at a government cost of $1.60 per horse per day. The BLM hopes to increase its yearly adoptions from about 7,000 to 10,000, and is implementing some programs to improve adoption success, including mentoring and training demonstrations at horse auctions.
“But some believe the government alone can't manage the horses… ‘When it comes to marketing, federal agencies are not effective,’ says Dick Loper, a federal lands consultant based in Wyoming. ‘I'd like to see a federal-private partnership get together and figure out new ways to manage the horses.’
“In the meantime, one solution that all sides say they oppose is simply going out and shooting the animals. Apple reports the bureau is keeping mum about the ongoing investigation to find the shooters. Hay suspects the $30,000 reward will reveal the perpetrators soon enough. ‘They'll have a couple beers and will pop off to someone about what they did,’ he says. ‘And that reward is big enough for someone to tattle.’” ABC News.
Some critics say [BLM] management must become broader and include other options, like fertility control drugs for horses in the wild. Others say policies that eliminated predators like wolves, which once helped keep the horse population in check, need to be reconsidered. Still others say it is time to kill horses to free up resources. Animal-rights groups, meanwhile, oppose any killing of horses.” NY Times.
In the end, it’s really about us… the ones with the power over the environment and the critters that live there. We’re the ones with the guns, the traps, the helicopters, poisons and the notion that was are the masters over nature and not the reverse. We’re the ones with the smokestacks, the coal mines, cars and trucks. We are the deciders. Horses are cute and furry. We’ve all seen movies with horses and little girls grooming them. Are they really different from the little lives from less attractive animals? How do you feel about these issues?
I’m Peter Dekom, and it is fairly obvious that most of us think that mankind is pretty much alone on this planet… until we confront an ugly example of how we really are not.

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