Scheme to kill Nevada's wild horses built on greed: Opinion

From Charlotte Roe, Special to the RGJ
August 31, 2017

Charlotte Opinion Piece.jpg

In Southeast Nevada’s high desert Silver King Herd Management Area, wild horses coexist with elk, deer, antelope and sage grouse. They are vastly outnumbered by cattle and sheep.  Although federally protected, they are in peril. The Bureau of Land Management intends to round up nearly 1,000 to achieve its absurdly low population target of 60 adults and foals, leaving one horse per 10,000 acres. In the huge Antelope Valley and Triple A Complex, the BLM plans to remove over 7,000 mustangs. The Trump Administration wants captured horses sent to slaughter. 

In April 2017, Congress directed the BLM to economize by presenting a “a plan to achieve long-term sustainable population on the range in a humane manner.”  Instead, the BLM’s inhumane, unsustainable FY18 budget request, pushed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, proposes to eradicate up to 92,000 wild horses and burros, by selling those in holding to slaughterhouses and destroying those arbitrarily deemed “excess” on the range.

This despicable plan was conceived through propaganda, deception and what conservative columnist David Horowitz terms a takeover by the cattle lobby. Zinke claims “humane euthanasia” (e.g. killing) is the only solution to overpopulating “starving” wild equines that allegedly harm the range and wildlife. No evidence substantiates his spin. BLM estimates there are 73,000 wild equines in 32.6 million acres of public lands, an average of one horse per 456 acres.  Federally subsidized cows and sheep number in the millions. 

The BLM’s wasteful system makes millionaires of a few helicopter contractors. It distracts attention from the devastating damage done by livestock overgrazing and by commercial exploitation of federal lands. Humane management solutions for wild horses and burros have long been available. They include safe, reversible birth control vaccines; the repatriation of captive wild equines to the 21 million acres the BLM removed from their historically designated ranges; readjusting “appropriate management levels” (AMLs); and ending the agency’s counterproductive system of roundup and removal. In its 2013 report, the National Academy of Sciences stated that roundups increase reproductive rates, and that AMLs are arbitrary, inflexible and groundless. 

Secretary Zinke urges further eroding of environmental regulations and undoing federal monuments to accelerate the development of public lands by extractive industries. Wild horses and burros are an obstacle to this greedy plan.

Wild mustangs run in harmony with herds of elk in Nevada’s Antelope Valley. Free-roaming equines graze down fire-prone vegetation and underbrush. They break ice and dig water holes, helping other wildlife to survive harsh winters. They attract visitors from around the world to struggling rural communities. The vast majority of Americans want them safe and free. Please urge your senators and representative to maintain the ban on selling wild equines to slaughter and to oppose budget language that allows killing these iconic animals. 

 

Charlotte Roe, a former science attache and environmental policy officer with the State Department, advises The Cloud Foundation and is director of the Wild Horse and Burro Project for In Defense of Animals. She is guardian to three burros, two mustangs and an Andalusian.

Kayah Swanson