What Price Is Enough?
February 1, 2016
John ("JK") Koleszar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before anyone sets out the lynch mobs, let me be perfectly clear - I really like horses. I rode them for years, found them to be beautiful and, in many cases, like family members. I also love elk, deer, javelina, antelope, desert bighorn sheep and a host of other creatures.
The problem that I have is in the prevailing attitude of those who proclaim the absolute love of only horses. I did a little digging, courtesy of the BLM Web site and looked at the financial spending that we the taxpayers of the United States have kicked in to support this program called the "Wild Horse and Burro Act".
The Costs, In The Millions
Since 2011, we, the citizens of the United States, have contributed over $426 million dollars to house, maintain and care for the wild horses and burros in the western states as well as the holding facilities in the states that have them. Roughly $75 million dollars per year is spent to house horses that have populated beyond control in the western states and are in holding pens where the hope is that someone will either buy or adopt them.
With over 40,000 animals in holding pens and adoptions and sales of less than 7,000, it is readily apparent that those horses are not going to be adopted any time soon.
While I have my own personal feelings of how to address the situation, I would like to see the "Horse Lovers Of America" - whoever you are - come forward with a plan.
They Have No Solution
I donate many hours each year to programs for wildlife and habitat conservation. The groups I belong to contribute over $2,000,000 each year to the Arizona Game & Fish Department to address habitat issues, place water-storage tanks and improve habitat conditions for all species. The problem that I have with all the social media mavens who write furious e-mails to the Arizona legislators when talks of a roundup are mentioned is that they have no solution - only the romanticized versions of peace and wild loving animals that they love to see.
Time To Get Serious
It is time to get serious and real. Since the Wild Horse and Burro Act came into being, we have spent over a billion dollars to keep these animals protected. Housing a wild animal in any of these facilities is certainly not the wild, free range that the advocates want. There is no habitat to keep feeding them - unless you want to rid the planet of any other animals.
Horses and burros are protective of water sources. For those novices who do not understand, food and water are necessary for wildlife to thrive. Each year as the populations grow, they eat more food and drink more water. Horses are really large animals. They consume vast amounts of food and water and drive smaller animals away from their water holes. The end result is that all other species suffer from the growth of the horse and burro populations.
The convenient scapegoat of the "Horse Lovers" is the cattlemen of the West. Their claim is that we need to remove ranchers from the lands so that horses and burros can thrive. Really?!
The ranchers have been the one source to step forward and be stewards of the land. They have placed water catchments in place that serve not only their cattle but other species as well. They monitor their rangeland each season; they rotate their animals in and out of fenced pastures so overgrazing does not occur. They monitor all phases of their paid-for allotments.
For the school kids, here is a little tidbit. Those quarter pounders from Micky D are from cattle! The horses do what they have done for eons: they eat and breed. The numbers don't lie and the costs are staggering. Blaming cattlemen is so socially acceptable now.
Here Is The Challenge
The truth is that we need to address the issues that horses and burros have created. The sight of starving and dying horses is not pretty. Arizona is one long drought year away from having burros from Lake Pleasant to Kingman dying off from the brutal over population that has happened under the inept and underfunded BLM staff.
Here is the challenge to the Horse Lovers! Come up with a solution - one that is sound biologically, provides for all wildlife and does not cost another billion dollars of our tax monies so that you can have a romanticized vision of the wild and free horses and burros.
Other conservation groups have plans and succeeded in balancing habitat with numbers of animals. It's your turn now.