Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wild Horses Are Terrible for the West

By and

North America’s wild horses are the feral descendants of animals brought by Europeans in the past few hundred years. Biologically speaking, this is the blink of an eye, far too short a time for horses to be considered native. More importantly, that’s much too short for native North American plants and animals to adapt to the pressures of coexistence.

Grasslands are protected by “biotic crusts” that consist of loose soil held together by tiny cyanobacteria, lichens, mosses, and green algae. They serve as a fragile glue that keeps desert soils from being washed or blown away. But these crusts are pulverized by horses, leading to poor water absorption, reduced fertility, and long-lasting environmental damage. Grasslands are disappearing as wild horse hooves crush biotic crusts, encouraging erosion that leaves wide swaths permanently degraded, replaced with barren rock.

Furthermore, wild horses compete with native grazers (as well as cattle) for limited forage and water. As wild horse populations surge past the 47,000 now thundering across 31.6 million acres of public land, they threaten the survival of native species, exacerbating the impacts of climate change and habitat fragmentation.

Because our culture values them, wild horses have benefited from protection and reprieves from culling that would have been employed for virtually any other destructive animal, native or introduced. Because the U.S. Forest Service’s proposal to capture some of the Salt River herd was met with public outcry, plans were scrapped—even though the herd is degrading a fragile and rare desert oasis. The protesters, unsatisfied visiting the 9.2 million domestic horses across the United States, insisted that retaining this wild herd at full strength in a wildlife refuge was ethically and aesthetically justified, simply based on their love of horses, despite the environmental costs.

In just the past four years, wild horse and burro management has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $291 million, including $49 million annually to care for 46,000 captured feral horses in off-range corals. This annual budget is almost 10 times bigger than budgets allotted to save many endangered species; managing wild horses is sapping agency resources, directly and indirectly driving native species to extinction.

1 comment:

drjohn said...

The government is now the largest mismanagers of livestock in America. With over 100,000 horses under their control, I should say out of control, this program is rapidly, if it hasn't already, cost more tax payer money than will ever be recovered
This article accurately states the problem, however the horse kissers do not want to read about what is happening to the land. Each horse consumes 10% of its weight in forage on a daily basis and drinks a correspondingly amount of water. It also excretes several pounds of manure which is a habitat for parasites which continually plague the animals. Also the horse kissers think the sanctuarys and the open range is some sort of a nirvana for these animals. It isn't . Every horse there will die mostly from cumulative effects and in many cases the death will take several days of being down and floundering, unable to get up. Figure this, if as stated there were 40 million bison in this country as a result of uncontrolled reproduction the horses could be doing the same thing. To many horses. As has been stated a child dies every five seconds from malnutrition and sickness, which go hand in hand, Each 1000 pound horse could supply 3200 cans of safe and highly nutritious food to these dying children. My answer to the problem is a can of Mustang Stew.