If you are a wild horse and burros advocate you have been reading a lot in the media that sounds like the same stories over and over for the last decade. Recently a rift in the advocacy over temporary birth control treatments on wild horse herds made news headlines. Yet the most serious threat facing everything that walks, crawls, swims or flies in our American West is disturbingly vacant from any news headline associated with wild horses, drought.
Wild Horse Education (WHE) began monitoring issues of drought in wild horse Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in 2012. A natural part of the life cycle of the range, with three out of every ten years suffering some form of drought. Utilization of resources by wild horses and burros is insignificant in comparison to profit driven enterprises such as mining and livestock. Changes in use patterns were noted over the last three years. We had every hope that the notations we made would be useful in creation of preparedness plans for the cycle to come in the next decade as we began to pull out of drought in 2015.
Instead we find ourselves facing predictions that this drought cycle will be prolonged. Many experts agree that this cycle is likely to last ten years.
WHE has created a drought monitoring page that will remain static in our menu bar on this website. The page will provide an updated overlay map of drought and wild horse and burro HMAs. The page will also update any crisis situation that arise as we move forward. Drought increases the risk of removals of wild horse populations due to lack of forage, water or fire. In addition we will link pertinent escalating issues in specific HMAs to this page.
You can access the “HMA Drought Monitoring” page here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/hma-drought-monitor/
One of the largest impacts to rangeland during drought is domestic livestock production. Instead of curtailing production we are seeing an increase in propaganda being perpetuated by the media that wild horse populations are increasing so fast that they are jeopardizing the range as livestock producers continue to remain in denial of the damage they are doing to a fragile public resource.
Currently the US government has created assistance programs for livestock producers through the USDA. Assistance ranges from loans to outright payments. You can view the various programs here: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=usda_drought_programs.html Any county that appears “in the red” is eligible.
No such assistance programs exist to create emergency water sources for wild horses or wildlife. No such emergency assistance exists for government agencies that are tasked with doing range assessments as they continue to permit domestic livestock use on public land.
Instead of rational conversation we will likely witness the hysteria rise as discussions about surgically sterilizing wild horse herds, or outright slaughter, are pushed by those that want control of public resources.
The truth is that wild horses and burros exist on about 11% of public land and are allotted less than 18% of resources in that small segment of land they lawfully occupy. In contrast domestic livestock have over 66% of public land open to their use and are allotted 80% or more of available resource. In other words we could remove every single wild horse from the range and still be in crisis. It is not the wild horse creating the overwhelming stress on our rangeland health during drought, it’s cows as they produce less than 4% of the meat utilized in industry.
Forage and water is becoming increasingly fragile. Surviving through the drought will be a hardship for everything that lives in the west.
If an animal is lucky enough to survive the drought itself, the very real possibility exists that when we actually have snow cover again in upper elevations that an intense die off of wildlife and wild horses will occur. Lowland forage is being decimated and will not be available for wild grazers if they can not reach upland forage through deep snow.
We are in a serious crisis, a “perfect storm.” Mismanagement for more than a century of domestic livestock and an industry supported by a blind Congress have mixed with “mother nature herself” as we head into perhaps the repeat era of the “dust bowl.”
Proactive action is needed now if we are to protect our western rangelands and our symbol of freedom, the wild horse. Drought management plans have been created and livestock restrictions and prohibitions must occur. Waiting for Congress to wake up after a catastrophic die off or wildfire is simply not an option.
Contact your representatives today and tell them YOU want YOUR public land protected from domestic livestock NOW.
1. Immediate restrictions in any area of extreme drought.
2. Complete prohibitions in areas of sensitive habitat for sage grouse and wild horse and burro HMAs.
3. Increase penalties for trespass livestock on public land.
4. Emergency relief packets for livestock producers made available by every grazing permitting office in the nation.
5. Immediate financial assistance for range monitoring and handling of grazing permit suspensions given to all grazing permitting agencies.
6. No wild horses should be removed from any range that has active livestock permits in alleged “emergency” situations unless all livestock use has been suspended for a minimum of two years.
Find your representatives here: https://www.opencongress.org/people/zipcodelookup
WildHorseEducation.org is devoted to gaining protections from abuse, slaughter and extinction of our wild horses and burros.
Categories: Wild Horse Education