Monday, January 31, 2011

The Yakima Nation comments on feral horses

Free-roaming horses have been a part of the landscape in Idaho and central and eastern Oregon and Washington since the Spanish brought the species to what is now the United States. However, because the rangeland areas where these animals now roam are home to almost no apex predators and no viable market exists for selling them, the horse population has skyrocketed. Feral horses—and unwanted domestic horses being dumped in the country due to the economic meltdown—are now destroying rangeland forage needed to feed livestock and wildlife and to retain soil in place. They are also eating special plants of spiritual and nutritional significance to the local tribes. Runoff is dumping topsoil into streams, leading to degradation of the aquatic habitat for salmon and steelhead. Forage consumption by feral horses is also threatening the survival of our other traditional foods, such as deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and sage grouse. Something must be done to reduce the number of wild horses grazing in the Northwest, and fast. The resident adult horse population in the three-State area is above 20,000 animals, and the annual foal crop raises that number by 20 percent every year. The recent closure of horse-processing facilities in Texas and Illinois has had a far-reaching effect on the horse industry throughout the country. Without the slaughter option, the horse market has been flooded, the prices for all horses have dropped dramatically, and the livelihood of horse ranchers—tribal and otherwise—has been severely jeopardized. A collateral economic effect of the glut of horses is the devastating impact their populations are making on the environment. Forage depredation is only part of the picture. Plants important in tribal spiritual practices and medicine are being destroyed. Vegetation needed for big and small game has disappeared. Streams important to sport and Indian subsistence fisheries are degraded by silty topsoil rolling off denuded slopes...more

HT: Range Magazine on Facebook

No comments: