Wyo keeps seat at the table during national wild horse discussions
Washington, D.C. – Wild horses gained the attention of national leadership recently, and a Wild Horse Prize Workshop was organized to draw those with interest in wild horses together for a solution.
Dick Loper, grazing and rangeland consultant in Wyoming, was among the members invited to participate in the workshop, which aimed to determine those questions that must be answered to address wild horse challenges.
“We visited, and someone said the timing is right to try something different with respect to coming up with solutions,” said Loper.
The group worked to come up with questions to be answered by private individuals seeking a monetary prize for their efforts.
“They needed a group of people knowledgeable about wild horse issues to come up with the questions to be put out for a challenge grant,” said Loper, who described that the group accomplished its goals.
“I wasn’t completely pleased with our results, but I’m not critical of what we accomplished,” he added. “We want to continue efforts that may or may not work.”
Loper noted that one of the final questions addressed long-term permanent contraceptive methods with field-level delivery capabilities.
“Right now, all we can do is roundup horses and give them the PZP shots,” he explained. “PZP, however, is only good for one or two years and causes problems if the horses can’t be rounded up. We are looking for a longer-term, or many even permanent, contraceptive.”
While Loper and the ranchers in the group advocated for castration or spaying, the group wasn’t receptive.
“They are looking for a chemical solution and long-range delivery methods,” he added.
Loper noted that the group also wanted to increase adoptions.
“Increasing adoptions is always a good idea, but it’s virtually impossible,” said Loper.
Brenda Richards, vice president of the Public Lands Council, and Loper continue to advocate that BLM put out a challenge grant to investigate what is or is not a thriving ecological balance.
“That question did not make it as a final question from the group,” said Loper. “We think it is perfectly suited to a challenge grant proposal.”
Because of the prevalence of the issue, he said they will continue to fight for farmers and ranchers.
“We feel like the importance of farming and ranching to local communities is critical enough that the wild horse issue is related to other issues in a lot of places,” Loper said. “The horse program is so badly out of sync with reality and the carrying capacity of the range that, if communities have to suffer economic hardship as a result of the failed horse program, we feel like that issue should be front and center at BLM.”
During the group’s meeting, Loper noted that wildlife came up multiple times.
“What came across an awful lot in the discussion was the critical importance of finding a way to get the wildlife community involved in the wild horse program,” he said. “Until the wildlife community finds interest in the horse issue, the odds of getting anything done are slim.”
Loper also noted that some environmental groups sought to have wild horses considered as part of the multiple-use, wildlife community.
“I don’t think wildlife agencies would support that, and most of us can’t support that,” he said. “Additionally, I think one of the reasons BLM doesn’t want to classify horses as wildlife is because then state agencies would have legal responsibility over horses.”
“We have a window of opportunity to seriously talk about real solutions for the wild horse issues in the West,” Loper commented.
He cited several reasons for the assertion that the current climate is ideal for handling wild horse concerns.
First, he said the wild horse program isn’t working and has reached the point where no short- or long-term storage is available to accommodate horses.
“Congress is in no mood to increase the budget and accommodate additional storage,” said Loper. “BLM also said they can’t gather horses because there is no room to store them. BLM is out of options unless Congress changes their attitude.”
Additionally, House Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) home state of Nevada is seeing pressure from his constituents to address wild horses.
“Nevada, in particular, is becoming more than a crisis,” said Loper. “Harry Reid is catching an awful lot of heat from multiple segments of the industry. It sounds like his office is willing to talk about potential solutions.”
At the same time, BLM’s new director, Neil Kornze, is also from Nevada.
“The stars are lining up to talk to people who are directly affected in a way they haven’t been affected before,” Loper commented. “It has been bad, and now it is getting overwhelmingly serious.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.