Response to Ben Masters’ justification of drastic measures toward America’s last wild horses and burros

PM Craig Downer by Rona Aguilar

CRAIG DOWNER·SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2016

I have just read Ben Masters’ justification for the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board’s recommendation to either adopt out, place, sell to killer buyers, or have BLM itself kill the 44,000 wild horses being held at public expense. His justification rests on the premise that the wild horses are destroying the habitats, not only in the Antelope Valley HMA’s eastern side around the Dolly Varden spring, but in many other similar areas throughout the West. I was also on this field trip and heard what the BLM officials had to say. It should be noted that on the west side there were much better habitat conditions and there were bands of wild horses here as well, though not as many. I also attended the Thursday meeting of the board and heard BLM’s presentations by Alan Shepherd, Nevada BLM wild horse and burro lead, and also by John Ruhs, Nevada BLM State Director, among others. I heard all the testimonies given, and was able to give testimony myself.

I think a lot is being overlooked and that there is a rushing to judgment concerning the wild horses and their effect on the ecosystem. Especially being overlooked is how the wild horses often find themselves being set up, placed into difficult situations, not allowed to adequately spread out. Much of this is due to not securing adequate water for them and to fencing. I am particularly concerned about the over-pumping of subterranean aquifers by ranchers and mining companies that lowers the water tables and causes many of the areas where wildlife still have a place to survive to be parched and declining ecologically speaking. This was particularly noticable in many parched mountain ranges above ranchers and also around large open-pit mining operations, where water tables have subsided at an alarming rate.

I have seen and photographed the graphic evidence of this during flights I have realized thanks to LightHawk pilots. One of the areas I overflew was eastern Nevada including in the Ely BLM district and also portions of the southern Elko BLM district where the Antelope Valley hma is located. I have been in this area several times before, hiked around,and spend considerable time there during two recent summers doing field investigation concerning the ecosystem, its condition, and the wild horses and other animals, including livestock and deer, sage grouse etc. What I noted was that the ranchers and miners are being given priority consideration and access to the most productive and intact portions of the Antelope Valley Complex as well as to the Triple B Complex of wild horse herd management areas just to the south in the Ely BLM District (White Pine County), and that the wild horses are being relegated to what’s left. This runs contrary to the provision of the Wild Horse and Burro Act that states that the legal 1971 lands where the wild horses and burros lived in 1971 be “devoted principally” (Section 2 c) though not exclusively to the welfare and benefit of the wild horses. What I see as happening is that the other interests are being given priority treatment and the wild horses left to defend for themselves. This is why they find themselves on the least productive lands.

And though Alan Shepherd repeatedly stated that no livestock had grazed the declining land around the Dolly Varden Spring for ca. 7 years, sorely lacking was a revelation of the historical use by livestock in past years. An area that has been severely impacted by decades of livestock grazing can take centuries to recover, and I have reason to believe that the area around the Dolly Varden spring is just such an area. During all these 45 years since the Wild Horse and Burro program has been in effect, there has been ample opportunity for our BLM and USFS to secure much more adequate and well-spaced watering and foraging areas that would have obviated the present crisis we witnessed around Dolly Varden.

I also noted how all of the wild horses both on the east and the west sides of Antelope Valley HMA as well as its south side coming along Hwy 93 were very flighty and took off immediately when our cars stopped to view them. On the northwest side of the Antelope Valley HMA at the end of the day (near Deer Spring), I stayed longer and tried to get closer to a few bands far off to the south. Though I drove a few miles, these bands and particularly their lead stallions would never let me get within a mile of them. From a lifetime of experience as an observer of the wild horses mainly in my home state of Nevada, I know this to be a sure sign that the wild horses are being persecuted, particularly shot at with long-range rifles. So now perhaps we know the reason why the wild horses from the east side are not coming over to the west side of the hma where the grass is lusher! The horses on the west side were considerably more frightened than those on the east side, though these too were quite afraid of people and their cars, clearly alarmed when our tour caravan came into view.

During my brief presentation I indicated how it is the human population and its impacts upon natural ecosystems both here in Nevada, in the U.S.A. and around the world, that are presently reaching crisis levels. How convenient it is then to shift the focus of attention upon such a noble and highly evolved animal as the horse, returning to living in its natural state, and to claim that it is the one who is overpopulating, all the while ignoring all of its many positive contributions to the ecosystem. I have written a book on this subject and in chapter II, I point out how the post gastric, caecal digestive system of the horses and burros provides a much needed balance to the monopolization of our public lands by ruminant digesting grazers such as cattle, sheep and deer. The horses and burros contribute much more humus to build the soils and many more intact seeds capable of germinating than do the ruminant grazers that much more thoroughly digest and break down what they eat. I go on to elaborate on this and to explain many of the positive benefits that accrue from this basic biological observation in my book. It is available through Amazon and is entitled The Wild Horse Conspiracy. You can read it as an ebook and considerable portions of it in the preview. www.amazon.com/dp/1461068983

I would also like for you to note that although Ben Masters alludes to similar extremely degraded conditions being caused by the wild horses throughout the West, again each area has its own special history, and the vying of special interests especially livestock ranchers, mining companies, oil and gas companies, Off Road Vehicle operators, and Hunters for the available resources often works very much against the wild horse and burro interests. In other words, they end up getting the short end of the stick, being placed on the bottom of the totem pole by profit-oriented individuals and corporations as well as the government officials who largely serve the latter rather than the General Public’s major interest in this Quality of Life issue. I have found this to be almost invariably the case in visiting and investigating many of the wild horse and burro herd areas/herd management areas on BLM lands and wild horse and burro territories on USFS lands in several states, as I discuss in some detail in my book.

I would also like to address Masters’ advocating for the intensive and widespread use of PZP to inhibit the reproduction of mares. The effects of PZP upon individual wild horses and their social units, be these bands or herds, have been studied by professional behavioral zoologists, such as Dr. Cassandra Nunez, and there are some serious detrimental effects that have been noted. These have been the subject of peer reviewed articles and used in court cases that have recognized their serious effects on the wild horses. In short, we should not overly compromise the future well-being of the wild horses in the wild, take away their natural vitality, in order to obtain a “quick drug fix” instead of doing right and providing adequate resources, space, habitat, etc. for long-term viable and thriving wild horses able to realize their ecological niche in their legal areas. We must not replace natural selection by artificial selection by people, as this will only thwart the natural, ecological adaptation of the horses and burros to each particular ecosystem. Remember that Section 3 a of the Act clearly states that the wild horses and burros must be allowed and managed “to achieve and maintain a “thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands” and “at the minimum feasible level” of management, or interference. The Act’s preamble also clearly states that they are to be considered “as an integral part of the natural system of public lands”. To me this clearly signifies being allowed to naturally adapt to the ecosystem where they have their legal rights. Why is this being denied them in spite of the law?!

As a Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, I have presented a Reserve Design proposal to the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board as well s to the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program itself. I had done so repeatedly and outlined a way forth that does not involve all these cruel and unnatural manipulations and restrictions upon the wild ones. I have presented this proposal as a way to achieve long-term genetically viable, ecologically well-adapted, and naturally self-stabilizing populations that would live in harmony with and contribute positively to all the other plants and animals in the legal herd management areas and territories. These wild horse/burro-containing ecosystems would be enhanced ecosystems, not degraded ones, if we people would only give them adequate habitat. Key to the success of Reserve Design is the provision of viably sized habitat of good enough quality for the horse/burro populations to realize the above. Such provision is what has been so sorely lacking in the past, and this is what must change today. Please check out my Reserve Design proposal at www.gofundme.com/mstngreservedesign and let me know what you think. I believe it is in the true spirit of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and that we Americans both can and should restore the true and noble intent of this unanimously passed act. It is one that has to do with the Quality of Life we all experience and is a General Public issue.

I appreciate your listening to what I have to say. The horses are depending upon us. What is happening in Antelope Valley, the West, North America, or on Planet Earth today is not their fault. They are restorers of North American wildlife and ecosystems in many places, and they are of ancient and long-standing ancestry here. They are awesome presences and quickly revert to living in harmony with nature, reviving their age-old instincts. We should give them adequate areas where they can be themselves and prove their healing work in our world.

Submitted by Craig C. Downer, Wildlife Ecologist. A.B. UCB; M.S. UNR; Ph.D. Cand. U. Durham UK. Link to his article The Horse and Burro as Positively Contributed Returned Natives in North America is http://www.sciencepublishinggroup.com/journal/paperinfo.aspx?journalid=118&doi=10.11648/j.ajls.20140201.12 or just Google it by title and author. Website to check out is www.thewildhorseconspiracy.org in which the links to the article and how to order his book are present.

Listen to Craig Downer starting at 55 min mark on Big Blend Radio: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/big-blend-radio/2016/09/12/nature-connection-pipelines-and-wild-horses

Also please consider signing this important petition to stop this massacre of the wild horses and burros from happening: The link to this petition is: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/907/592/301/demand-nokill-45000-wild-horses-burros-in-holding/

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Protect Mustangs is a 501c3 nonprofit organization who protects and preserves native and wild horses.




4 thoughts on “Response to Ben Masters’ justification of drastic measures toward America’s last wild horses and burros

  1. Demand an Urgent Congressional Investigation and Head Count of all Wild Horses and Burros in Captivity and in Freedom! On September 9, 2016, the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board voted to kill the alleged 45,000 wild horses in tax-payer funded holding facilities and pastures. Do they want to cover-up the fraud that has been going on for years by killing the evidence? Read more about the new petition here: http://protectmustangs.org/?p=9790

  2. Thank you for your educated and informative article. It’s people like you that still give me hope for these animals. I’m not an expert at any of the scientific or ecological impacts regarding wild horse and burro habitat..however..it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the current BLM’s (mis)management of the horse and burro’s lawfully given land is inherently corrupt and has failed miserably. They should all be replaced with people with some modicum of intelligence and expertise in their field, and who possess an honest desire to help these wild creatures to survive (or not,) naturally, dwelling in their own habitat. And in a habitat that hasn’t already been destroyed by livestock that have previously and illegally been given free range, prior to their presence! Keep fighting, and let’s find some answers for the current 45,000 animals that they so kindly captured and brought in for the American people, and are now being threatened with annihilation. Let’s put and end to these barbaric round-ups, the misuse and inept management, and the flat-out torture being done them, by the current BLM and their advisors! And thanks again for all you do and for bringing the wild horse and burro problem into clearer view for us!.

  3. Mr.Downers’ report brought me to tears about the plight of the horses and burros on their own lands. The Government ‘s selfish methods of “giving them the short end of the stick” has been acknowledged for years by us. The BLM needs to get off it’s butt and stop kowtalling to the Cattlemen and others and treat the horses with the respect and care they deserve. We all know that the BLM pads their numbers in counts, doesn’t tell the truth about land danage done be cattle and other businesses there. Also they don’t stop or prosecute people who kill or use horses forctarfet practice, the horses can’t talk, but their actions of flee prove what’s going on. Enough is enough. Stop the roundups, holdind pens ,priority land and water grazings, let them go!

  4. In response to the comment, “they should all be replaced with some modicum of intelligence and expertise in the field…”, that may or may not be true, but it is not a realistic proposal. What all members of society should be doing is educating themselves from reliable sources, practicing open-mindedness, and most of all, engaging in thoughtful and critical dialogue. This is where society is truly failing today. We are so polarized and unwilling to even contemplate something that doesn’t go along with our personal beliefs, that there is absolutely no way we will find compromises and solutions. I am blessed to have three mustangs in my life, and believe in them wholeheartedly. To place blame on one organization or another for their plight (as in the BLM, or ranchers), and to offer unrealistic solutions as above, or to “let them go”, will not help the mustangs one bit. “Letting them go” is also unrealistic, human overpopulation of this planet has seen to that. We created a world where live and let live is no longer an option for many species because we have encroached on nearly every ecological niche on this planet.

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