Monday, July 7, 2008

We Can Do Better Than This

One of my favorite blogs is Life at Star's Ranch, written by Carmon Deyo. Carmon lives with a herd of mustangs that have been taken from their natural habitat and somewhat domesticated. She lives am amazing life and her writing fascinates me. She is, of course, passionate about the fate of the wild horses who live on BLM land. In case you have not heard, The BLM is making moves to reduce the herds to levels that many feel will threaten the genetic viability of future off spring. The following was copied from Carmon's blog. I hope you will visit Life at Star's Ranch and that you will send a message to the BLM expressing the oppinion that we can do better than killing horses.

Mustang euthanasia update:

A number of non-horsepeople have asked me what they can do to help. Our friend, Nancy Kerson, in California wrote this excellent letter to the BLM filled with well thought out suggestions and ideas. With her permission, I am posting it here for others to use as inspiration. Please read through it and whatever solutions and suggestions appeal to you, email or phone the BLM with your thoughts.

For the BLM comment link click here. BLM phone, 800-710-7597. Also, please contact your own state representatives to share your feelings and thoughts on this proposal by the BLM.


The Wild Horse & Burro Act of 1971 was not, is not, and should not become, a program for treating wild horses as expendable livestock, or as a harvestable commodity. The purpose remains to preserve viable wild horse herds on America's public lands, as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that . contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people;" and to protect and find good homes for surplus animals removed from the range.

I am adamantly opposed to the killing of America's wild horses. The thought sickens me. I recognize that the problem has been allowed to become huge, seemingly ot of hand, with some 30,000 captive wild horses now being supported in holding facilities. Killing them off certainly offers the quickest and in some ways "cleanest" solution, but one that is abhorrent to me and many other Americans.

Let's think creatively. There may not be one single solution to so large a problem, but here are a number of suggestions for partial solutions, which, if enacted together, would take the pressure off the current crisis:

1. Add a checkbox to each taxpayer's 1040, next to "Do you want to contribute $3 to presidential election campaigns?" This box would ask if the taxpayer would like to contribute $1 for wild horses. This dollar could either come out of the taxpayer's tax bill, or added to it. I would venture to guess that several million dollars could be raised in this way each year - not everyone will say yes, but many will. Money collected would be used to support captive wild horses in sanctuaries as an alternative to killing them.

2. Ask every zoo or similar city or regional park to take a 3-to-12-animal wild horse exhibit. Several thousand of the older, unadoptable horses could be re-homed in this way. By providing public access to these animals via the zoo and its educational & interpretive displays, public awareness and interest in wild horses would increase, likely resulting in an increase in adoptions over the long term.

3. Provide a tax credit or similar monetary incentive for people or corporations with large land holdings to allow wild horses to be released and maintained on some of their land - similar to adoption, only these older, unadoptable animals would simply be allowed to live out their lives, not tamed and trained. As has been demonstrated in an industrial park outside Reno, the presence of a small herd of wild horses adds greatly to the ambience and pleasantness of the working environment for many people.

None of the above constitutes a complete fix, but they would greatly ameliorate the current crisis and could be implemented relatively quickly.

But what about the future? What will prevent this same crisis from happening again in a few years?

Large scale emergency gathers remain - two years after reaching AML - the main tool in use for managing wild horses. This has to change!

More attention paid to creative & effective on-the-range management, rather than relying entirely on gathers, is critical to maintaining thriving, genetically viable populations in numbers compatible with their environment, and with animals being gathered only in numbers that can be accommodated by the adoption program.

1. Birth control must be applied on a broad scale - not with the goal of zeroing out a herd, (as many will fear) but rather of preserving herd health and genetic viability, and reducing the frequency of gathers to maintain AML. If each wild mare produced a foal only every three or four years instead of annually, the mare herself would be healthier, the herd would still enjoy a normal functional herd "lifestyle," and the herd would increase in size at a much slower rate, resulting in less frequent and smaller gathers.

2. BLM and the individual states where wild horses are managed, should cooperate with other ecological and economic development agencies to address the bizarre irony of removing wild horses from some of the most marginal lands on the planet and shipping them off and paying Midwestern farmers to care for them on some of the finest grasslands in the Midwest - so that a relative handful of cattlemen can use this extremely fragile, marginal desert land to raise cattle, who are best suited to the very grasslands where the horses are being shipped. I realize that the Cowboy and his lifestyle in the Great Basin is a sacred icon in our culture, but so too are wild horses. Perhaps the promotion of Eco-tourism, focusing on wild horse viewing, could help transition cowboys into something a little more ecologically and economically viable, in which the wild horse becomes his friend instead a nuisance or threat to be eradicated.

3. Recognizing that climatic change will continue to create extended droughts in the Great Basin areas, while human development and minerals exploration will increase pressures on those same lands, it seems inevitable that we will continue to lose wild horse habitat, even without the cooperation of BLM. Given that, I would like to see the establishment of several Wild Horse Historical Parks throughout the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Management areas, managed in cooperation with another agency, such as the National Park Service. Such areas would be chosen for the special qualities of the horses living there, general historical interest and natural beauty of the area.

Exact areas are beyond the scope of this letter - and I recognize that everyone has their favorite herd area, as I do - but the point would be to guarantee that at least some of the better wild horse-producing areas in each state would be permanently exempt from pressures to zero them out or reduce them to a point of genetic non-viability. Ranching within the boundaries would not necessarily be eliminated but would be designated "demonstration" activities, for the education and viewing pleasure of visitors, and conducted on a smaller scale than currently.

Meg Getty of Reno tried to develop a "National Wild Horse Center" in the Pine Nut Mountains outside Carson City a few years ago. This would have been an interpretive center for tourists, complete with dining and souvenir sales, combined with a small adoption center and ongoing training center. To me, this is the kind of creative thinking needed to maintain & improve public attitudes toward wild horses and burros, which ultimately would result in improved adoption rates.

4. Currently the "Mustang Challenge" and "Extreme Mustang Makeover" competitions conducted by the Mustang Heritage Foundation are excellent, creative programs working to improve adoptions rates by showing the public the value and trainability of the animals. This kind of thing needs to be supported and furthered.

5. Wild horses must be re-classified as Native Species. This is consistent with modern knowledge. Laws written back when horses were thought to be invasive, non-native species must be revised to reflect the now-known reality that horses are indeed native. Horses simply had the good sense to re-establish themselves in their original territory at no cost to the taxpayer (unlike condors, various fish species, bighorn sheep, etc)

6. Since pressure from cattlemen & hunters seems to be one of the major reasons for continuing large-scale gathers, provide a tax credit, rebate, or similar monetary incentive for cattlemen and bighorn sheep hunters to allow larger numbers of wild horses to share the range. We now pay farmers not to cultivate their acreage. Why not pay cattlemen not to raise cattle (or simply to tolerate and not interfere with the presence of horses)? Assess each bighorn sheep permit with extra dollars that would go to habitat improvement to benefit wild horses as well as game species.

7. Expand the Cottage Contractor program, revive and expand the "Wild Horse Workshops" that used to be offered once a year in cooperation with BLM & volunteer mentoring groups, and expand the "Trainer Incentive" program currently operated by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, to improve the adoptability of horses who are gathered from public lands.

All of the above ideas are aimed at preventing the numbers of animals in long-term holding to ever again reach the disaster level we are seeing today.


Nancy Kerson

Active & Dedicated BLM Volunteer since 2001, working to promote adoptions through mentoring new adopters, performing compliance checks, bringing my own "ambassador" horses to adoptions, parades, fairs, and other events, halter training and finding homes for "reassignment" horses, producing events that promote adoption;

Writer and creator of Mustangs "4" Us!, non-political, educational, informative & inspiring website to promote wild horse & burro adoption and public appreciation for wild horses & burros on the range;

Adopter/purchaser of 6 BLM wild horses and 2 Burros

Here is the letter I sent to the BLM. I struggled to make it as positive as possible but I think I fell short in that regard.

I feel that there has to be a more imaginative solution to the issue of wild horses on BLM land than to kill them. Does anybody really want to do this? Do the people who make these decisions want to be the ones with blood on their hands? I sincerely hope not. We as a society have a choice as to whether or not we want to solve issues that we percieve as problems with integrity. I hope that integrity and imagination can be applied to this situation.

I know that the issue is somewhat complicated and that it is connected to ranching interests in the area. Does anybody really think that the horses grazing in the mountains keep them from having a steak or hamburger whenever they want it? Do the ranchers in the area realize that they are living a lifestyle of their own choosing and that no one is making them stay there? There are many other ways to live on this planet and not everyone has the opportunity to live the way these people do. Many would consider it an honor and a privilige to get to do so. In order to maintain an environment in which such a lifestyle can exist, doesn't it make sense to honor all parts of that enviroment? Are we only interested in species from which we can reep immediate financial gain? Do we see no value in life otherwise? Our past is full of incidents where we have taken the resources and the lives of others, human and non-human alike. Can't we do better than this now?

It is my understanding that I am writing this letter to the Bureau of Land Management as opposed to the Bureau of Ranchland Management. It is my hope that the well being of all of the inhabitants of the land will be taken into consideration.

Soundtrack for this post:


Ian Lidster said...

Interesting piece and I think the whole wild horse thing is tragic, in Canada as well as the US. A good cause.

Thank you for visiting my blog of late, and I am happy I checked up on yours, and will continue to do so.

I wrote an extensive feature piece on a craniosacral therapist in this community a couple of years ago. I found the concept quite intriguing.

seventh sister said...

I'd love to read your piece about the csr therapist. It would be wonderful to get someone to write such a piece about me. Probably help my business a lot.

Laurie said...

Well said, indeed.

Marion said...

Super post. The whole story broke my heart; we can indeed do better than this.

Life at Star's Rest said...

Thank you so much for supporting the horses and adding this information to your blog. The more voices that are added to the protest the better...Carmon

Molly said...

Very interesting post. I'll have to e-mail my horse-mad daughter in CA to come over here.....

velvet said...

Nancy Kerson makes some excellent suggestions. Hey, I'd give a dollar if there were a box on my tax form.

I hope that the BLM changes its mind, but it is a government agency and is not a conservation group. As a climber, I've seen them do a lot of hypocritical things that catered to developers and other special interest groups instead of conservation minded recreational land users. I hope that they actually listen for a change. It's criminal that they want to slaughter these horses as an easy way out.