Saturday, September 17, 2016

Nothing says federal pork like maintaining the nation's horde of 'wild' horses

An appeal could complicate the Bureau of Land Management's plan to pay Powerball winner Neal Wanless to house feral horses in Butte County.
Chip Kimball, South Dakota field manager for the bureau, said Friday that the appeal came in the 30-day time period following her signing of the environmental assessment for the project. [Rapid City Journal]
The cost of keeping feral horses in holding pens off wild lands costs taxpayers $49 million annually. “You don’t have wild horses anymore. You have their bodies, but they are … domesticated,” says one researcher.
The heritage of wild horse herds is tied to the romanticism and legacy of the U.S. West. Under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which declares the herds “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit,” they are entitled to federal protections from capture, branding, harassment and slaughter. Herds double in size every four years, and adoption rates have dropped by more than 73 percent since 1995, according to BLM data. Population growth swelled to an estimated 47,329 wild horses and burros nationwide last year alone, an 18 percent increase over the previous year. [Santa Fe New Mexican]
The modern horse was introduced to North America by the Spanish late in the 15th Century.
The government captures some free-roaming horses and burros when range managers determine their herds have grown well beyond what the land can support. Across 10 Western states the BLM manages for a goal of 26,000 but at last count had nearly 70,000 in the wild. Meanwhile, horse managers estimate that the population in the wild grows by up to a fifth every year. The Humane Society of the United States issued a statement supporting the agency's response but said it's time to retool the program. "The Wild Horse and Burro Program is a sinking ship," the animal-rights group said. [USA Today]
In Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and seven other states the Bureau of Land Management adopts out, seeks private pastures for, and feeds wild horses.
The 1971 Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act didn’t delineate the administration of an adaptable, fecund species that was dumped onto the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM’s adoption program for wild horses, which initially functioned as a way to reduce herds, was soon outpaced by reproduction. Over a horse’s life, the tab will run $49,000 per head. Already, BLM faces an annual bill for the wild horse program at more than $75 million. [The Cody Enterprise]
From WNAX:
Legislation has been introduced in the House to ban all horse slaughter in the United States. The Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2015 would make it illegal to sell or transport horses or part of horses in interstate or foreign commerce for human consumption. The South Dakota Stock Growers Association opposes the measure. Executive Director Silvia Christen says there needs to be a way to deal humanely with unwanted or older horses. Christen says without slaughter available the population of horses would rise and create a financial burden and a hardship for finding ways of disposing of them. The sale of horsemeat for human consumption in the U.S. is currently banned but is subject to review every year. There is no federal law that prohibits transport of horses for slaughter from the U.S .to Canada or Mexico. [WNAX]
The Oglala Lakota Nation had been pursuing an abattoir as an economic development opportunity according to Tim Huether writing in the Bennett County Booster:
Tribal council member Craig Dillon from the LaCreek District confirmed that they are indeed looking at it but said they have a long way to go, but have also come a long way on the project. The location they are considering for the plant is just under two miles north and west of the U.S. Hwy 18 and U.S. Hwy 73 junction which is 12 miles east of Martin. The tribe owns approx. 220 acres there that Dillon said would be a good location. Slaughtering horses ended in the U.S. in 2007 after Congress began prohibiting the use of federal funds to inspect horses destined to become food during 2006.
In a state where horses are exported to Mexico the New Mexico legislature euthanized the latest attempts to ban that harvested meat for human consumption. The US Department of Agriculture reports the United States has sent more than 12,000 horses across the southern border for slaughter so far this year.
The Bureau of Land Management estimates that 49,209 wild horses and burros (about 40,815 horses and 8,394 burros) are roaming on BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states, based on the latest data available, compiled as of March 1, 2014. (This compares to the 2013 estimate of 40,605 animals.) Wild horses and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, the agency must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to control herd sizes. The ecosystems of public rangelands are not able to withstand the impacts from overpopulated herds, which include soil erosion, sedimentation of streams, and damage to wildlife habitat. [BLM Quick Facts]
This isn't really a South Dakota issue as much as it is a Bureau of Land Management, tribal and habitat tragedy.

In an era when western states are scrambling to preserve habitat for the threatened Greater sage grouse how is running nurseries for introduced species like wild horses and burros either conservative or sustainable?