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Petition Tag - native culture
FOREVER WILD AND FREE
By Craig C. Downer, Wild Horse Ecologist
P.O. Box 456
Minden, NV 89423
Speech for Wild Horse Summit, Las Vegas, NV, Oct. 12, 2008, organized by ISPMB
Wild horses and burros on public land remain on the very bottom of the totem pole of priorities of both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, the two agencies charged by law with protecting and managing them. Yet these two “national heritage species” whose rights to live free are covered by Public Law 92-195 are supported by many millions of ordinary U.S. citizens as well as people worldwide. The extent of livestock grazing and the permittees involved both in their original Herd Areas and in their reduced Herd Management Areas should be clearly spelled out to the public – but this is not being done.
......... I am very concerned for the approximate 30,000 mainly wild horses but some burros who have been over-gathered and now languish in government holding areas and for whom euthanasia has recently been proposed by BLM officials as a convenient way of solving the crisis they themselves have created. And I strongly urge that these animals be restored to their empty or nearly empty -- but still legal -- Herd Areas throughout the West. This is the only honorable course of action, and we owe it to them!
I have performed a calculation of the numbers that could be restored based on the various sizes of the legal Herd Areas. Though just the empty Herd Areas in Nevada alone, or in Wyoming alone, could accommodate the 30,000, I recommend that these equids be used to restore more viable herds throughout all the 10 Western states from which they have been unfairly depleted. However, care should be taken to restore the wild equids to their original Herd Areas wherever possible, or if not possible, to Herd Areas as close by to their natal grounds or with as similar habitat types, climates and other conditions as is again possible. Availability of water, forage, shelter and other habitat requirements, of course, should also be considered -- and our public servants must learn to stand up to the wild horses’ and burros’ enemies in securing such vital resources, including summering and wintering grounds and the corridors there between.
..... To appreciate the extent of unfairness toward America’s last wild horses and burros on the public lands where they have legal right – a long tradition that includes other scapegoats such as the buffalo and the Indian himself -- I again call your attention to Table 1 & Chart. As earlier indicated, the national reduction from the original herd area acreage is 36% and four states have eliminated wild equids from over 50% of their original herd areas: California, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. To better appreciate the inequities involved toward the wild equids, we should look at the numbers of acres per individual wild horse or burro both in relation to current existing wild populations and in relation to the planned Appropriate Management Levels (AML’s) that our public servants have unjustly established throughout their over 300 legal areas. Our no longer trusted “public servants” – and please take note! – have allowed for only one currently surviving wild horse or burro in the wild per 1,871 acres of original legal Herd Areas established by the 1971 Wild Horse Act to protect and preserve them and their freedom, and well as to manage their numbers in a minimally invasive manner! And in the greatly reduced Herd Management Areas, there are currently – and again pay close attention! – only 1,206 acres per surviving wild equid! To better imagine the gross unfairness, one entire football field is closely equal to just one acre. These figures come from published BLM data of the current year, 2008. Yet since this evaluation, BLM has been reducing the herds even further than originally planned, depriving several thousand more wild horses and burros of their natural freedom in order to establish the cripplingly low, non-viable Appropriate Management Levels that would leave 1,253 acres, or football fields, of HMA’s per individual wild horse and burro! -- This is a lot of space for the horses to play football and a mockery of the law by any estimate! Also this is like leaving one wild equid for every livestock permittee.
...As a wildlife ecologist who appreciates the wild horses and burros and their freedom, I envision self-contained wild horse/burro reserves both in and around the originally established Herd Areas, including where possible other appropriate areas on both private and public lands. Through ecologically knowledgeable reserve design that takes into account as many of the short and long term needs of the wild equids as possible, drastic roundups could be avoided, or at least greatly minimized. This can and will be accomplished by incorporating natural boundaries that limit the equids’ movements and, only where necessary, by the construction of artificial, semi-permeable equid barriers that allow other species of wildlife to pass through unharmed. Crucial to this plan is that each reserve contain appropriate habitat of sufficient size to support a long-term viable wild horse or burro population of around 1,000 interbreeding individuals. Within each such natural sanctuary, the wild equids will be respectfully treated as the “principal” presence, not relegated to mere token numbers and deprived of basic resources to accommodate a monopoly of livestock and/or big game -- currently the case!
In these equid reserves, natural checks and balances will be allowed to operate, including natural predators of equids such as the puma and the wolf. With relative rapidity, the herds will attain population stability as part of a special, harmonious give-and-take relationship with each unique occupied ecosystem. And the cruel and ecologically disruptive roundups that have tragically set back the site-specific adaptiveness of the West’s magnificent wild horse and burro populations will become a thing of the past! – Thank God!
Every truth- and justice-loving person should ask him/her self: “Is the kind of treatment wild horses and burros are currently receiving fair?! Do not our fellow Earthlings in equine form – who have done so much for us humans – deserve a much better place and consideration in this our shared world?!
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