A lot has happened in the days since the Advisory Board to the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro program dropped the nuclear option and recommended the potential euthanasia of tens of thousands of animals in holding facilities. Read our op-ed here.
There was a collective sigh of relief when the BLM said that it won’t accept its Advisory Board’s recommendation to euthanize some 49,000 horses in holding facilities.
Of course, the problem is not solved. Many, many horses still live tragic lives in those dead-end facilities.
Here are some ideas for how you can be part of the solution:
- Don’t listen to just one advocacy group. Read and listen to news and updates from the government and from multiple agencies.
- Get to know the many herds within the Wild Horse and Burro program. There is the Stone Cabin herd, famous for its grey horses (likely descendants of a grey Texas thoroughbred) There are herds in California that have rare mustang mules (the offspring of wild burros and horses). There are the famed Sulphur horses, with their striking striped legs and dun coloration.
- Get involved. Some advocacy groups support specific herds. Herds are helped by civilian documentation. Some herds are undocumented and have no group specifically following it.
- If you are really invested in being part of the solution, contact the BLM and/or advocacy groups which are in need of certified darters. You can be trained to dart at the Science and Conservation Center Training Program in Billings, Montana. Read more.
- Check out our many pages dedicated to Wild Horse & Burro issues, especially the training log, Mustang Miles & Minutes.
Here are some good reads:
BLM declines to accept Advisory Board recommendation of euthanasia. Read here.
An update on what the BLM accepted as recommendations in the Elko, Nevada newspaper. Read more.
An important op-ed of the situation in the Grand Junction, Colorado newspaper, including comments from Advisory Board member, Ginger Kathrens. Read more.
An informative op-ed on the PZP darting program in High Country News. Read more.
An interview with one of my local heroes, TJ Holmes, who helps manage the Spring Creek Basin herd. Read more.
Friday, the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, a group charged with making recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management regarding its Wild Horse and Burro program, agreed to potentially euthanize tens of thousands of equines in holding facilities.
Their recommendation undoubtedly hit horse lovers like a bomb. Social media, unsurprisingly, ballooned with immediate rancor.
It’s sad enough that it’s come to this. Read the Elko (NV) news report.
It’s also sad that only a tiny fraction of the public has invested time and thought to understanding this crisis in the American west.
Advisory Board member Ben Masters, who traveled from the Mexican to the Canadian border with three college friends and more than a dozen adopted mustangs (all the subjects of the documentary “Unbranded”), writes with compassion, patience, and reasoning about the situation and how it has come to what on the surface seems like an incredibly horrid state. Read his comments here.
But as horrid as it seems, it’s the best decision the group could make after many, many bad decisions which go back generations. Check out this information graphic to get a better idea of the problems.
Who has led us to this point?
Our forefathers, who thought it was acceptable to turn out unwanted horses to open country. Those domestic horses-turned-wild did too well in the wilderness. The numbers of offspring of former army horses, frontier horses, and ranch horses double every five years.
If they weren’t so pretty, we would call them “invasive” and we would have sought more effective and less emotion-driven, less politicized ways to manage them a long time ago. Is there a romantic term for feral cats? Do you recognize how much damage both feral cats and feral horses do to their environment? For review of mustang crisis.
Our government, which for decades has rounded up horses and burros, creating more space and available resources for the equines left behind. The BLM strategy, in fact, has had exactly the opposite effect as it intended. The wild populations grew even more. Read more.
Our government has also dragged its feet on pursuing humane population control options, like PZP darting. Instead, it invested in risky, inhumane sterilization procedures (which produced horrible results and subjected the agency to a litany of additional lawsuits) and it continued the round ups.
Activists, some of whom say feral horses and burros have more claim to the land than any other animals. Some believe the equines should live untainted and untethered lives, all other considerations be damned. They leverage romance, old West lore, and widespread ignorance to fan the flames of public outrage.
Ourselves, for failing to get educated on the crisis, for failing to support wild horse trainers, for failing to adopt a mustang or burro, for failing to work towards a research-supported consensus on how to save the equines and the wilderness.
The wild horses and burros are in a fight for their lives, be it on the wild range (where grasslands are collapsing due to their overpopulation) or in the holding pens (where their lives are squandered and they remain ignored by most Americans).
Upset at this current, catastrophic state?
Get educated and try to help. Pause for a moment if you need to cry over damage done. Then let’s work towards a solution.