Proposal for Wild Horse/Burro Reserve Design Project


Craig Downer

By Craig C. Downer, Wildlife Ecologist, Author: The Wild Horse Conspiracy (2012), Member: IUCN Species Survival Commission, and president of Andean Tapir Fund, P.O. Box 456, Minden, NV 89423. T. 775-901-2094.


August 1st, 2012

Unless urgent action is taken, wild horses and burros in today’s America face a bleak future. Though the unanimously passed Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 originally should have set aside around 88-million acres for their preservation in the wild, the rights of these animals and their public supporters have been undermined and denied by the very officials charged with protecting them. Current policies toward these national heritage species are thinly disguised plans for either bringing them down to cripplingly low, non-viable population levels or for totally eliminating them from their legal areas. Even if some 30,000 wild horses and burros remain on the public lands, this figure is in no way commeasurable with the amount of ecologically appropriate habitat in which they have the legal right to live. The small number our government intends to leave when divided into around 200 remaining areas is resulting in an over fragmentation of populations that jeopardizes their long-term survival. Our government’s current goal is drastically reducing already tiny and genetically vulnerable wild herds and involves their partial sterilization through PZP injection of mares and the unnatural skewing of sex ratios to establish excess males (in this naturally harem type horse society!). Today, our nation’s last remaining wild horses and burros find themselves in a very critical situation and are actually more imperiled than they were in 1971. For their chief enemies reside within the very agencies charged with their protection!

To remedy this intolerable situation, the people of America must immediately & audaciously respond with a well-conceived plan for change. As a wildlife ecologist & fourth-generation Nevadan personally familiar with the wild horses & burros of the West, I here present a way to restore these returned native species as viable natural herds throughout the West and to obviate those cruel, disruptive roundups and reproductive manipulations that are only making a mockery of the Act and – of principal concern – causing an untold loss of freedom, suffering & death to the horses & burros themselves.

Wildlife, wilderness & conservation professionals call this strategy Reserve Design. Reserve Design combines both ecological/social/political considerations in order to achieve desirable results. Basically, wild horse/burro Reserve Design involves the setting aside of areas of wild-equid-containing, year-round habitat where human intervention is strictly controlled/buffered against & where natural processes are allowed to reestablish natural checks & balances. In this way, a significant degree of internal harmony is achieved for all diverse yet interrelated species within the ecosystem in question.

Critical Steps for Realizing Reserve Design to be Described in the Project are:

[1] Properly identify the survival requirements of the principal species to be accommodated in the reserve. These would be considered both to achieve short- and

1long-term survival. Our chief focus would be to promote a wild horse/burro-containing ecosystem, where all species are allowed to adapt naturally over the generations. [2] Conscientiously identify appropriate geographical areas suitable for the implementation of wild horse/burro-containing reserves. This would involve travel.

[3] Wisely incorporate natural equid predators, such as puma and wolf, that would both limit and tone wild horse and burro populations. [4] Wisely incorporate natural barriers that would limit the ingress and/or the egress of certain species, including the wild horses and burros. This would avoid conflicts and set up conditions for the natural self-regulation of populations.

[4] Identify where buffer zones, artificial barriers, or other means of impeding movements in and out of a reserve should be established in order to keep the species in question from coming into conflict. Buffer zones possibly involving non-injurious means of adverse conditioning could be employed. Also, “semi-permeable barriers” that do not restrict most species but do prevent equids from passing out of the reserve may be used. [5] Identify the presence and abundance of necessary food, water, shelter, mineral procurement sites, elevational gradients for seasonal migrations, etc., that will accommodate the long-term needs of viable wild equid populations & allow the natural rest-rotation of grazing and foraging between the natural subdivisions of the reserve. [6] Identify geographical regions whose human inhabitants are benignly disposed toward the creation & long-term implementation of extensive, ecologically balanced wild horse/burro-containing reserves. This would involve travel and town meetings. [7] Identify ways of and benefits from implementing Reserve Design that would result in win-win relationships centered around the presence of wild horses and burros. Ecotourism is one major possibility here. And restoring native ecosystems, including soils & native species, is another major benefit. The reduction of flammable vegetation through equid grazing & the restoration of hydrographic basins through enrichment of soils are major positive contributions. Indeed, the restoration of the “equid element” in North America is crucial to combating the life-disrupting Global Warming itself. [8] Identify how best to educate the public concerning the many ways that horses & burros have of self-limiting their own populations once their respective ecological niches are filled. This is due to their being ecological “climax” species. This knowledge is key to our realizing a truly humane relationship with wild horses and burros in America.

This does not exhaust all the considerations for soundly establishing a Reserve Design that I would include in my professionally researched proposal. If provided the requested support, I would further elaborate upon this important and timely plan.

Basic steps for a Professional Reserve Design, with associated costs & durations:

[1] Review literature on Reserve Design. Consult government, private and non-profit organizations. Research university, government & public libraries, World Wide Web. [2] Consult authorities on Reserve Design and official implementers of nature reserves. Visit government and university offices and conduct interviews, particularly the BLM and USFS. Universities to be visited: University of California-Berkeley, Stanford University, Colorado State University-Ft. Collins, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Nevada-Reno. {I received my A.B. from UCB & my M.S. from UNR & am a lifetime alumni at both.} Visit U.S. Fish & Wildlife offices, particularly national


wildlife refuges (NWR) containing or involving wild horses, especially Sheldon-Hart NWR in n. Nevada & s. Oregon and Malheur NWR in SE Oregon. My visit to the Malheur would be in combination with a visit to the Steen Mountain National Conservation Area. This is home to the famous Kiger mustang herd that spills east into the Alvord Desert. I would visit the Montgomery Pass wild horse herd on the NV-CA border near Bishop, the Cibola-Trigo and Cerbat wild horse herds in AZ, as well as Utah’s Sulphur wild horse herd. The first two herds are believed by many to be naturally self-stabilizing. National Parks offices & the parks themselves that have a history or actual presence of wild horses & burros would also be visited. These would include Grand Canyon, Death Valley & eastern CA portions of the Mojave Desert & the National Conservation Area here. Also included would be Theodore Roosevelt National Monument in ND, for its authentic old Indian pony herd. Various non-profit groups would be consulted, especially the International Society for the Preservation of Mustangs & Burros in Lantry, SD, in combination with my trip to Theodore Roosevelt N.M., & The Cloud Foundation of Colorado Springs, CO, in combination with visiting the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range & Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, WY & MT. [3] Intensive survey of maps & documents concerning BLM & US Forest lands as well as other appropriate & especially adjoining land where wild horses and burros are presently found or could reasonably be established as per Section 6 of the WFHBA. This phase will identify those regional centers of actual or potential wild horse/burro presence that would be most appropriate for Reserve Design. I would consult with those most familiar with regions being considered as appropriate for Reserve Design.

Duration for 1, 2 & 3: 2 months.

[4] Final composition of Reserve Design proposal. This would subsequently be presented to the public and to government as well as private entities. I would give presentations to legislative and executive branches of both state and national governments as well as to the BLM and US Forest Service – the two agencies charged with carrying out the mandate of the WFRHB Act. I would also address counties & cities.

Duration for 4: 1 month. Total Time Required: 3 months.

The robust aim of Reserve Design is to restore wild horses and burros where they belong throughout America and to secure their long-term future. This would, in effect, restore the true and original intent of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

Total Budget: 3 months x $3,333 per month = $9,999. To include all expenses involved with travel/lodging/communications/information retrieval/map/copying, etc.

Terms: One half of sum, or $4,999.50, due to Craig C. Downer upon initiation of project. One half of sum, or $4,999.50,due to Craig C. Downer upon completion of project. Unless otherwise indicated, full acknowledgement of supporter(s) will be in proposal.