Thursday, October 08, 2009

Government plans to move, sterilize wild horses

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that the government plans to build new public preserves in the Midwest and East to house the growing herds of Western wild horses and burros, and to sterilize the transplanted herds to reduce the population -- which has risen from 25,000 in 1971 to 69,000. "We have a huge problem -- out-of-control populations of wild horses and burros on our public lands," Salazar said. "The problem has been growing and simmering over time, and it's time for us to do something about it that protects the horses, the public lands and the taxpayers."(Idaho Statesman photo by Darin Oswald)

Lindsey Layton and Juliet Eilpern of The Washington Post note that the horses have no natural predators and compete with cattle and other wildlife for food and water. The Bureau of Land Management says the Western range can support around 26,000 wild horses, but 37,000 currently live there, with another 32,000 in holding facilities.

Salazar's suggested land purchases could cost around $96 million, but the preserves would be marketed as tourist attractions, and the government could join with non-profits to fund them. The proposal, which has to be approved by Congress was applauded by several groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, and members of Congress "We have been fighting this battle for a long time now and will continue to do so until the BLM fulfills its duty under the law to protect America's free-roaming wild horses and burros," House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall, D.-W.Va., told the Post. (Read more)

Not all reaction to the announcement was positive. “It takes the wild out of wild-horse herds,” Ginger Kathrens, a documentary filmmaker who chronicled the lives of a wild-horse herd in Montana, told Jim Robbins of The New York Times. “They’re families in sophisticated societies. Creating gelding herds and preventing them from reproducing is managing them toward extinction.” (Read more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Horses were extinct on the American continents until the Spanish explorers came. Native forage evolved without equines grazing them. Horses crop grass much closer than cattle or bison, creating more potential for wind and water erosion. As a former horse breeder, I know how hard horses can be on grass. I have never thought horses belonged on any of our wild lands. They are not native and they are damaging to native forage. Cattle at least graze in a similar fashion to bison, but the federal government has to prevent overstocking by ranchers.