Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Moving Mustangs East

The government wants to deal with the booming number of wild horses crowding the western range by sending the animals east.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today unveiled his plan to control the rising environmental and monetary costs associated with wild horses and burros by moving tens of thousands of them onto new preserves in the Midwest and East.

"We must consider siting these preserves in areas outside of Western States because water and forage are extremely limited in the West, and drought and wildfire threaten both rangeland and animal health," Salazar said in a letter today to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The government estimates there are 37,000 wild horses roaming the range in ten western states including Oregon, and the Bureau of Land Management keeps another 32,000 of the animals in enclosed pastures or small corrals.

The agency tries to adopt these horses out, but it said the recession has slowed adoptions, and holding and caring for those horses now costs the agency nearly $30 million a year.

In a conference call with reporters today, Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey said they think the BLM should own and operate two new wild horse preserves created by Congress.

Those would cost about $92 million to buy and build, Salazar said, but they would reduce the cost to taxpayers from wild horses in the long term.

"It also will be better for the horses," Salazar said.

The secretary said he also hoped to partner with private organizations to form five more preserves. In all, the seven preserves would hold about 25,000 horses.

The other part of the secretary's plan is to limit the reproduction rates of western herds.

"This will require the aggressive use of fertility control, active management of sex ratios on the range, and possibly the introduction of non-reproducing herds in some existing herd-management areas," Salazar wrote.

The agency has been under pressure from Congress and other quarters to control the escalating costs of managing the West's population of wild horses and burros.

Some lawmakers have proposed reversing a decades-old ban on selling the wild horses for slaughter, but Salazar said today Interior's plan did not include the slaughter of any horses or burros.

"The fact is that the American public has shown that it does not want to have slaughtering of these animals," he said.

The department's attention to wild horses has already won praise from some in Congress, including House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) of the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands .

"Years of attempts by BLM to shoehorn these magnificent animals into ever-shrinking territory has manufactured an overcrowding problem. Restoring horses and burros to the acreage from which they have been needlessly removed is critical," Rahall said in a statement. "However, if the agency wants to work with the Congress to find the acreage and the funding needed to relocate these animals to land east of the Mississippi River, I will work with my colleagues to explore these options."


OnTheBit said...

of course the BLM would want to own the land...and how is creating less genetric diversity going to help wild mustangs? And while I would LOVE to have mustangs closer to home, going from a desert to an ultra rich environment sounds like a bad idea.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Wonder what the real underlying plan is. Not to say I don't trust the BLM but I can't see as how anything they do is for the benefit of the horses. I guess we'll all have to wait and see what they're really up to.

These horses have lived where they are for many years and I am of the opinion that they were doing just fine until 'agencies' got involved. So far all they've done is disrupt the natural order of things. And reducing the herd by sterilizations is not the natural order of things.

Anonymous said...

Sounds about like what the government did to the Native Americans, and that didn't turn out well - you can bet that they're acting on behalf of interests that want the horses moved because they're "in the way".

Drillrider said...

I agree that moving them to an unfamiliar, different climate, with increased vegetation may cause issues with the horses unless they introduce them gradually.

I don't agree that sterilization affects the natural order of things other than make them unable to reproduce? How else can you control their numbers?

I went to one BLM auction in Canby, OR and so many of the baby horses did not get a single bid (the minimum bid was $125). They had about 5 or 6 adult stallions and not ONE of those received a single bid and some of them were really nice looking with good conformation. Anything that was plain colored (chestnuts mostly) did not get a single bid.

The only high bids were on a black colt and a Palomino filly. Whatever else that did sell sold for $125 and that was not many.

This was a time when the economy was good, I can only imagine what those auctions are like now. I'm sure sales are far and few between.

Add to this the fact that a limited number of people are knowledgeable enough to take on a mustang and train it from the ground up and you begin to realize that this problem has been building for quite some time.

Jean said...

Well, what do you expect? There has always been a lack of understanding of the wild horse on the part of our government agencies. Don't know what the answer is, but somehow this one leaves me with a lot of questions.

Tracey said...

What? Did y'all not get the email sent out by Ms. Pickens applauding Mr. Salazaar's plan? She's mobilized everyone and this was the result.

But as to natural order...the horses are not natural to the western landscape, yet they do destroy the vegetation for those animals who are. There's simply no easy button on this one, because no matter what the BLM does, someones going to be mad. Not that they've made stellar choices in the past, but there just isn't a simple solution.

Drillrider, I don't know when you attended the adoption in Canby, but Oregon gelds all the stallions before hauling them to adoptions.