A clearer view on the dilemma of wild horses and the BLM
Today, we have a guest writer – Robert Bauer. Mr. Bauer is a well-known wildlife biologist and long time advocate of the wild horses and burros in the West . He takes apart the justifications the BLM uses for the wild horse round ups. ~ HfH
From: Habitat for Horses
By: Robert Bauer
The dilemma of the wild horses and burros continues out west, along with the propaganda of the Bureau of Land Management through its wild horse and burro program. Many issues have been addressed, in reference to this, including the unscientific manner in which the BLM has approached the wild horse and burro populations, out on the range. This is important in that the wild horses and burros should be allowed to remain out in the wild, in numbers that nature and its mechanisms dictate. This is the only way to maintain a true thriving natural ecological balance and not one according to the unscientific methods, and data of the BLM. Accurate numbers of the wild ones out on the range are another problem. This remains a significant issue in that the BLM claims populations of approximately 33,000. Using the BLM’s own numbers and simple mathematics, however, reveals an entirely different picture. Factoring in mortality percentages established by a National Academy of Sciences study, along with common sense details which include sex ratios, use of contraceptives and subtracting numbers of horses and burros that the BLM have already rounded up, one comes up with numbers in the very low teens if that. The unscientific concept of the appropriate management level, or AML, still exists. This is based, not upon what forage the wild horse and burros will consume, but how much forage that the BLM are allocating to the wild horses and burros, in comparison to cattle and other species of wildlife. That amount of forage that is allocated is a very, very, small percentage of the overall forage. This is significant in that these HMA’s, in which the wild horses and burros exist, are legally established as areas where the wild horses and burros are the principle species. The small amount of forage allocated to these wild ones translates to a very low appropriate management level, or number of wild horses that the BLM will allow in an area. This is the basis upon which the BLM are constantly crying “overpopulation”, as opposed to nature, that would allow numbers that are far greater. The horrors of the roundups, witnessed by myself, stab the hearts of many. These roundups are downplayed by the BLM as if it were a spectator sport to those who have witnessed them. The question has been posed, as it was during the Wassuk roundup, if those watching were enjoying the “gather” as though it were a baseball game, or a Broadway show. The conditions through which they are rounded up are many times horrendous, however, not to mention the manner in which they are rounded up. Lack of transparency on the part of the BLM, as to what the viewer actually sees also exists. It has been found that many mistakes are made by the BLM, not to mention that a very clear attempt is being made to hide much of what is actually going on. All of this is brought up in overview, as it were, to bring about a couple of important points to challenge the reader.
The question must be raised as to what the underlying foundation is, in the mind of the BLM to justify the roundups. The battle cry of the BLM is, “overpopulation”. This false concept is perpetuated in the minds of the public and governmental figures by the unscientific concept of the “Appropriate Management Level”, from which only a small number of wild horses or burros are allowed in each area. Anything above this is overpopulation in its mind. Exaggerating the numbers of the wild horses and burros, and just plain lying about their numbers, is added to this. This, the BLM continues to reflect in its statistics, not factoring in accurate mortality, sex ratios, and the use of contraceptives. In addition the ages of females, as to when they are able to drop a foal, and the genders of the foals are conveniently left out of the picture. It is true that the atrocities of the roundups must be continually addressed, but the foundation of the roundups is one that we as advocates must keep blasting away at. Proving this will stop the roundups once and for all and as farfetched as it may seem, will prove to be instrumental in the restoration of these wild ones back to the wild, from holding. Their lives are to be carried out in the wild. This is what they are, and what they deserve!
Another challenge must be presented to the reader. This issue is an ethical one. Each one of us who have committed ourselves in this fight for the wild ones must examine our hearts, as to the motives by which we are approaching it. The salvation of the wild horses and burros, out in the wild, in numbers that nature dictates, should be an issue that burns in the heart purely for the well being of these beautiful wild ones. Based upon differing motives, the advocates of the wild ones have been divided, as have their resources, financial or otherwise, making the fight for these wild ones, an unreachable plateau many times. This is opposed to the seemingly unlimited resources of the BLM, the primary one being financial in nature. Yet one thing should stand true with us all, that being a deep desire for these magnificent creatures to be running free and untouched.
Each one of us, who love the wild horses and burros and have experienced them in the wild, could tell you his, or her, own story, as to how they have touched their heart. Like many who stand for these magnificent wild ones, I have looked into the eyes of the wild horses after being captured, or while they stand motionless in holding facilities, and see a drama having played out in their hearts. In holding facilities they are dead inside, their former life and families still in loving memory, now all lost. In the wild, they are alive, not just physically but even more so in hearts. Great band stallions come to mind for me, as is the case for many; The famous Cloud and Conquistador of the Pryor Mt area, Lightning, from the Calico Mt range , El Magnifico, from the Leadville canyon and our beloved, Freedom, from Black Rock East, who courageously escaped the hands of the BLM clearing a 6 ft. panel and bulldozed his way through a barbed wire fence to make it back to the wild. The band stallions are kings of their domain. Some miraculously are still there, in the wild. Most are gone along with their families, and along with the balance that once existed. These and their beloved bands are, as it were, images played over and over in our hearts. We remember, yet they do too! With these thoughts in mind, it is by necessity that we approach the fight for these wild ones with one heart, putting aside self, and joining together resources, both financial and otherwise to win the battle against what seems to be an unstoppable foe, the BLM.
I am aware that there are many facets to this battle, but differences must be laid aside, once and for all, along with the possible desire for fame or fortune, to win. Our hearts must be solely on the lives and freedom of these wild ones. It must burn in us so much that their well being is our only motive, nothing more. Each of us must examine our hearts in this respect. The wild horses and burros are just this, wild, and the conditions in which they thrive in, no matter how mild or harsh is part of the beauty of their existence. This is true of any form of wildlife. Taking them out of this environment is not only destructive to their lives but also to the ecosystem of which they are a vital part.
Together with one mind and one heart this onslaught against the wild horses and burros can be stopped, and their freedom secured, wild, free, and untouched, in the numbers that only nature and its mechanisms dictate. This must be our only focus! I would ask all of us who are in this fight to take these thoughts to heart. Again, the beauty of the wild horses and burros lives in the fact that they are free, carrying out their lives in the wild, untouched by man, no matter how harsh that the conditions may be. This is what they are and why we love them so much! Nature knows very well how to manage the wild horses and burros, in the wild, along with all other interacting forms of wild life. Untouched, left to nature alone, is how they must remain.
~ Robert Bauer