With the upcoming retirement of Friends of a Legacy (FOAL) Executive Director Marion Morrison, leaders of the nonprofit organization knew it would be tough to replace Morrison’s dominant force in leading efforts to preserve and protect wild horses and their habitat in the McCullough Peaks. FOAL is also active in working with the BLM on a fertility-control vaccine for the herd, to ensure the wild horses’ numbers don’t overwhelm the habitat. [Filling big horse shoes]The cost of keeping feral horses in holding pens off wild lands costs taxpayers at least $49 million annually. Wyoming has the second-highest feral horse population in the country with at least 7,144 of these critters. The BLM’s target is 3,725.
Of the roughly 4,300 horses the BLM expects to capture, approximately 3,500 will not be returned to the range. The agency began operations on Oct. 7 and had gathered 285 — 138 mares, 63 foals and 84 stallions — as of Sunday. Four fatalities were recorded during that period. And while ranchers want the BLM to remove the state’s wild horses, which compete with cattle and sheep for food, wild horse advocacy groups want the agency to expand protections and allow for larger horse populations. Often, neither side ends up fully satisfied. The revisions have not yet been approved, and the American Wild Horse Campaign expects to push back if they are. [Record wild horse roundup is latest development in yearslong resource dispute]The modern horse was introduced to North America by the Spanish late in the 15th Century and then by other European colonizers. Acquiring the horse in the 1740s enabled the Lakota to win the Black Hills.
No one contemplated wild horses overgrazing their ranges. Critical provisions for balancing horse herds with delicate desert landscapes were not considered or written into law. Now, we’ve learned how aggressive feral herds can be. Motion-activated game cameras at Mesa Verde National Park have filmed stallions successfully defending water holes against bull elk. The BLM has herd management areas across western states, including in Colorado: the Piceance-East Douglas HMA southwest of Meeker; the Sand Wash Basin HMA 48 miles west of Craig; and the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range north of Grand Junction. There’s another BLM herd in Disappointment Valley formed when the market collapsed for horses no longer needed by the U.S. Army after the end of World War I. [Scourge of the West: ‘Wild’ vs. feral horses on public lands]In an era when western states are scrambling to preserve habitat for bison, wapiti, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, deer, the threatened greater sage grouse and all the other wildlife at risk to the Republican Party how is running nurseries for introduced species like feral horses and burros either conservative or sustainable?
For example, in Northwest Colorado, Greater sage-grouse numbers rose approximately 10 percent last year. In the Sand Wash Basin, where nearly 60 percent of the Sand Wash Basin herd management area is sage-grouse priority habitat, sage-grouse numbers fell by 26%. Over grazing by wild horses in Sand Wash is having a direct impact on sage-grouse and other wildlife. [BLM STATEMENT ON SAND WASH BASIN HMA WILD HORSE GATHER]Clear the second growth conifers and eastern red cedar then restore aspen habitat, prescribe burns, begin extensive Pleistocene rewilding using bison and cervids, empower tribes, lease private land for wildlife corridors, turn feral horses from BLM pastures onto other public land to control exotic grasses and buy out the welfare ranchers Tony Dean warned us about.
(2/2) The BLM is currently soliciting information from potential sources capable of providing catch-treat-hold-release fertility control services for the Wild Horse and Burro Program, as part of our efforts to increase fertility control efforts. More: https://t.co/1AKWOf3ZHH pic.twitter.com/4IOlz88wHM— BLM WHB Program (@BLMWHB) September 30, 2021