Education Is The Key
At the Public Lands Council Legislative Conference a couple of weeks ago in Washington, D.C., the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) top people in their Wild Horse Program spoke to us on what is happening and how it will affect Wyoming. We didn’t like what we heard.
Most likely, less than 25 percent of the state has wild horses grazing on it, so it’s not a statewide issue. But if you have wild horses grazing and running around in your allotment, there is a good chance they are on your private and state lease lands, as well as on the public lands – that means you have a problem. That problem is not because you have wild horses, but because these horses have no management. Remember, a herd of wild horses grows over 20 percent in numbers each year, and it doesn’t take long for a horse herd in a BLM horse management area or allotment to get out of hand. Those over-objective numbers were established to signal that it was time to reduce the numbers so as not to damage the resources of that allotment. Horses do cause damage, especially this time of the year, as they graze heavily on the riparian areas to get to the green grass that grows first along the creeks. I can’t blame them – if I was a horse that is where I would be. But a wild horse is like any other animal out there, it has to be managed.
For the past years, the state has had a Consent Decree with the BLM that dealt with the management of the wild horses, and it expires this summer because the BLM doesn’t want to sign another one. The Rock Springs Grazing Association in southwest Wyoming just won a settlement with the BLM to control wild horse numbers on checkerboard lands, and they have past court cases to back them up. Elsewhere in the state, the BLM has said they just don’t have the dollars to roundup any horses this year to reduce the over-objective numbers.
The reason they don’t have any money is due to prior management. Last year, the BLM spent over $43 million to maintain the horses they already had in holding facilities. Adoption numbers also went down as the price of hay has shot up. Nobody wants them, and horses can live over 20 years. The BLM has tried fertility control and that hasn’t worked; it just made the mares more fertile as the control wore off. Now they want to spay a number of mares to control numbers. The wild horse enthusiasts will have a field day over that issue. There just isn’t a silver bullet with this issue.
The issue of domestic horse slaughter hasn’t helped. We in Wyoming all know that congressional restrictions dictate that wild horses can’t be sent to slaughter, but the two separate issues get hung together. It will most likely come down to a legal issue with a court deciding, and somehow, we need to educate the public.
I’m wrong in using terms like “shot down” and “silver bullet” when talking about wild horses. To win, we need to get a lot smarter.