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.




Outrage over groups asking BLM for alleged “humane fertility control” on underpopulated wild horses and burros

PM Hazard Foter Public domain Marked Sterilize
Below is a press release from the American Wild Horse PZP Campaign (AWHPC) claiming 10 million people want “humane fertility control”.
 
Questions:
 
1.) Why aren’t these alleged 10 million people disputing the BLM’s overpopulation myth?
 
2.) Why aren’t these alleged 10 million people standing up and fighting to give American wild horses & burros back the land that was already taken away from them? Yes land that was designated for them in 1971.
 
3.) How will BLM respond to their call for “humane fertility control“?
 
4.) Will BLM continue their proposed experiments in search of “humane fertility control”?
 
5.) Why push Pesticide PZP when it wrongfully designates Americas’s native wild horses and burros as “PESTS“?
 
6.) How will these 36+ groups deal with the effect of calling native wild horses and burros “PESTS” when the feds want to wipe out “invasive species“?
 
7.) Have the alleged 10 million people read the 2012 EPA Pesticide PZP application with all those sketchy exemptions: https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/reg_actions/pending/fs_PC-176603_01-Jan-12.pdf
 
8.) How do these groups and their members justify forcing America’s last wild mares to live without their freedom to live as nature intended? Isn’t this against the 1971 Law?
 
9.) Do these groups and their so called “members” understand that it’s cruel and unnatural for wild mares to be humped by studs every month they are in heat? Mares are sterile while on Pesticide PZP yet they still come into heat so the stallions try to breed them over and over.
 
10.) Do the groups and their members understand that “humane fertility control” has been experimented on federally protected wild horses now for decades? (PZP, GonaCon, SpayVac, Sterilization Surgeries, etc.)
 
11.) Why are they ignoring all the dangers related to Pesticide PZP that they call a vaccine for population control?
 
12.) Why are they telling their “members” that the Pesticide PZP (native, 22 or whatever) is without harm? Some are even telling people the Restricted Use Pesticide is “safe to drink”.
13.) Why are they ignoring the dangers listed in the Fact Sheet: The Truth about PZP (http://protectmustangs.org/?p=8749 )
 
14.) Have these 36 + groups revealed to the public and their “members” the real amount of miscarriages/spontaneous abortions and dead foals that are occurring in wild mares that have been forcibly drugged with Pesticide PZP?
 
15.) Which of these groups have received money from donations or grants from the pharmaceutical industry, the BLM, the registrant of PZP, etc?
 
16.) Why isn’t there any evidence of alleged overpopulation? After all the National Academy of Sciences stated in 2013 that there was “no evidence” of overpopulation, period.
 
17.) Have these groups pushing the BLM for “humane fertility control” now–without any proof of overpopulation–read the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971?
 
18.) Why aren’t these groups and their 10 Million members standing up to protect America’s wild horses and burros from being the scapegoat for range damage, wrongfully rounded up and removed from their legal place on public land? What ever happened to fighting for their freedom?
 
Bigger doesn’t mean better. The Coalition for Wild Horses and Burros will respond to this outrageous push for  alleged “humane fertility control” and Pesticide PZP on America’s underpopulated herds of wild horses and burros.
 
 
PM PZP Auto-immune disease
 
Press Release from AWHPC:
36+ wild horse advocacy groups press BLM for increased use of humane fertility control as alternative to costly roundups
 
PZP vaccine is best way to stave off BLM’s pending “billion-dollar” fiscal crisis
 
Washington DC (June 1, 2016) …Today, more than three dozen wild horse advocacy, rescue and humane organizations, representing more than 10 million citizens, stand united in calling on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to make greater use of the humane fertility control vaccine PZP as a way to stave off its “billion-dollar” fiscal crisis caused by wild horse roundups in the American West.
 
The organizations contend that the PZP vaccine is a cost-effective alternative to costly roundups and removals of wild horses from the range.
 
The call for greater use of PZP comes on the heels of a recent admission by BLM Director Neil Kornze that the current system of roundups is failing. In fact, according to Kornze, the BLM’s policy of rounding up and removing, and stockpiling wild horses in holding facilities is leading up to a $1 billion crisis – the amount U.S. taxpayers will ultimately pay to warehouse thousands of wild horses for decades after the BLM has removed them from the range.
 
Already, 70 percent of the BLM’s $80 million Wild Horse and Burro Program budget is spent on roundups and removals, while less than 1 percent of that amount is spent on long available, humane and effective fertility control.
Pm PZP Darts
 
Groups supportive of the use of the PZP vaccine for humane wild horse management include the:
 
Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates
 
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
 
American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign
 
Animal Legal Defense Fund
 
Animals Voice
 
Animal Welfare Institute
 
Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
 
Center for Animal Protection and Education
 
Citizens Against Equine Slaughter
 
The Cloud Foundation
 
Corolla Wild Horse Fund
 
Friends of a Legacy
 
Front Range Equine Rescue
 
Habitat for Horses
 
Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund
 
Horses for Life Foundation
 
Humane Society of the United States
 
Jicarilla Mustang Heritage Alliance
 
Least Resistance Training Concepts
 
Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue
 
Montgomery Creek Ranch
 
National Mustang Association, Colorado Chapter
 
Oregon Wild Horse & Burro Association
 
Photographers for the Preservation of Wild Horses and Burros
 
Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates
 
Respect 4 Horses
 
Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary and Preservation
 
Salt River Wild Horse Management Group
 
Serengeti Foundation
 
Southern Sun Farm Sanctuary
 
Steadfast Steeds
 
Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association
 
Wild Equid League (Colorado)
 
Wild Horses of America Foundation
 
Wild Horse Connection
 
Wild Horse Education
 
Wild Horse Observers Association
 
Wild Horse Preservation League
 
In the last seven years alone, BLM has removed more than 40,000 wild horses from public lands. The agency now stockpiles as many wild horses in captivity as remain free on the range.
 
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommended the use of PZP in its 2013 study “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program,” stating it is “a more affordable option than continuing to remove horses to long-term holding facilities.”
 
The NAS study also noted that roundups and removals of wild horses are actually responsible for “facilitating high rates of population growth on the range.”
 
The NAS added that “removals are likely to keep the population at a size that maximizes population growth rates, which in turn maximizes the number of animals that must be removed through holding facilities.”
 
PZP is an immunocontraceptive vaccine. It works with a mare’s immune system to produce antibodies that block sperm receptor sites on the zona pellucida, a thin membrane surrounding the ovum.
 
Because it is non-hormonal, PZP does not:
 
· Affect the endocrine system or natural behavior of horses.
 
· Create negative health side effects.
 
· Enter the food chain or harm other wildlife.
 
The vaccine is reversible and is administered with a simple dart.
 
PZP has been used for more than 25 years in the wild horses on the Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. In that time, the herd has been brought to more sustainable numbers and the overall health of horses as a result has improved substantially. In 1990, few horses on Assateague lived past 15 years.Now, many are living 30 years or more. And, because PZP is not permanent, the National Park Service managers can closely control the herd’s population, allowing for increased births as appropriate.
 
Management programs with PZP also have helped curtail and even end roundups in wild horse management areas in the West, such as the Pryor Mountains on the Montana/Wyoming border, McCullough Peaks in Wyoming and Spring Creek Basin and Little Book Cliffs in Colorado.
 
In Colorado’s Spring Creek Basin, no mustangs have been removed since 2011, thanks to a BLM-facilitated public/private partnership for humane management of this herd utilizing the PZP vaccine.
 
In addition, the BLM has committed to bait trapping if, in the future, the removal of some mustangs is necessary to maintain range health. Bait trapping is a far less traumatic capture method than helicopter roundups.
 
A PZP project on the McCullough Peaks range in Wyoming, meanwhile, helped the wild horse population there achieve zero population growth within three years.
 
Increased use of PZP and a reduction in roundups and removals would also be a boon to U.S. taxpayers, helping to curtail the $1 billion crisis created by the BLM.
 
The public now spends about $49,000 for each mustang that is removed from the range and not adopted. PZP, meanwhile, costs about $27 per darted horse per year.
 
One economic model published in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine (Deseve, Boyles Griffin, 2011) demonstrated that BLM could save $8 million over 12 years by using PZP in one herd management area alone. Multiply that by 179 HMAs and the cost-savings reach the hundreds of millions.
 
Resources:
 
· Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program
 
· Q&A on PZP Fertility Control
 
· The Science and Conservation Center
 
· Myths and Facts: Native Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP)
 
· Information: Animal Fertility Control Vaccine
PZP = Slow Extinction
 

Protect Mustangs is an organization who protects and preserves native and wild horses.