Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A New Documentary Seeks to Capture the Plight of America’s Wild Horses


There are seventy-three thousand wild horses roaming the American West. Their federally designated territory, which is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, extends across ten states, although most of it, nearly sixteen million acres, is concentrated in Nevada. No other state has such vast expanses of high, empty desert—the kind of landscape, sufficiently undeveloped and unpeopled, where wild horses can thrive. But, even there, they are threatened. For decades, cattle ranchers, ecologists, and, most significantly, the B.L.M. have noted that, because the horses reproduce easily and lack natural predators, their population overwhelms the space they occupy. There is not enough public land left, and the situation is worsening. Just last month, the Trump Administration shrunk the boundaries of two national monuments, removing protections on nearly two million acres; Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, has recommended further reductions. As Andrew Ellis, the director of a new documentary called “Saving the Wild Horses of the American West,” put it to me recently, the animals “are able to survive because of this idea of public land. But there are all these competing interests that are threatening this public land and their livelihood.” For more than forty years, the B.L.M.’s solution to the problem has been to remove the animals from the wild and put as many of them as it can up for adoption. Every few months, crews of cowboys, working with helicopters in the air and wranglers on the ground, round up hundreds of horses (or, in some areas, wild burros) and cart them off to government pens. Only a small number, about twenty-five hundred a year, are ultimately adopted. Because it is illegal to sell wild horses to so-called kill buyers, who would then sell the animals to slaughterhouses, the rest end up in a kind of equine purgatory. There are now nearly fifty thousand horses in indefinite government detention. In recent years, the B.L.M. has spent as much as fifty million dollars annually to tend to these homeless American beasts. Last July, the House Appropriations Committee authorized an amendment to the Interior Department’s 2018 budget that would allow the B.L.M. to kill many of the animals in its care. At the time, the amendment’s author, a Utah Republican named Chris Stewart, wrote that the “alternative for these horses is starving in the wild.” Four months later, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a competing proposal that would give the B.L.M. additional funding to explore “a range of humane and politically viable options,” including contraception, to “drastically reduce” horse populations. President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, meanwhile, calls for cuts to the B.L.M.’s existing program; it would allow the horses to be sold to any buyer, including those who would ship the animals to abattoirs in Mexico and Canada...more


drjohn said...

save a horse, starve a child

Anonymous said...

Contraception for wild horses? Just the job for many in congress...applying condoms to the wild studs.