Letters To The Editor - Wild Burro, Wild Horse Populations Draw Opinions From Both Sides
April 1, 2016
To: John ("JK") Koleszar & Western Outdoor Times, Arizona Boating and Watersports
Re: "Western Wildlife" article in the February 2016 edition, "Wake Zone, What Price is Enough?"
I would like to submit a response to the heavily opinionated piece that was published in the February 2016 "Western Wildlife" section of the Western Outdoor Times by John Koleszar.
My response is that Mr. Koleszar seems to have written a biased piece without including many facts about wild horses and burros. Yes, indeed the BLM's wild horse and burro program cannot go on as business as usual. It is costing taxpayers in the millions to warehouse all the wild horses that are being captured and put into holding. However, to say they are no answers or solutions is just not true.
In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences published their report on the BLM'S wild horse and burro program. To help reduce the need for removals, it was suggested that the BLM should utilize the fertility control that is readily available. PZP is an immunocontraception vaccine that has been proven safe, effective, and humane. If the population growth rate can be slowed, then fewer removals will be required, thus reducing the long-term holding costs. Other advocacy groups have also suggested the reintroduction of natural predators in herd-management areas (HMAS).
Re: The Salt River Herd
The other comment made that seemed out of place was about the people who write the Arizona legislature when talks of roundup are mentioned. I am assuming that the writer of this article was referring to the uproar over the Salt River Herd. To be clear, the upset was because these horses are not currently protected under the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act, and they are also not under the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); they are on United States Forest Service (USFS) land.
I am not quite sure why there needs to be a solution about this particular herd of wild horses in Arizona. The Salt River herd has been documented as wild horses in this area for well over 100 years with no management and no cost to taxpayers. So why not just leave them be?
Next, I have a question. Has the writer of this article ever been around wild horses? Has he ever watched their behavior? To say that wild horses are burros are protective of their water sources is well, just incorrect! Horses will go to their water source and drink. They will drink with other wildlife around and after they drink, they will move on. The horses and burros do not spend all of their time hanging out at their water source protecting it as the writer suggests.
Now I will address the convenient scapegoats. Per the data and numbers from BLM and USFS, in 2014 there are 2.1 million cattle on the public western rangelands. The number of wild horses and burros was 56,656. Cattle far outnumber the horses and burros, 37 to 1.
Also, it was mentioned that the cattlemen do pay for grazing. Yes, they do pay. In an article by The Center for Biological Diversity, it is stated that they pay a mere $1.35 per cow and calf per month. For the school kids, your Micky D burger most likely did not come from cattle that were grazed on public lands. The cattle on public lands account for less than 3 percent of what is in our food supply. You are right Mr. Koleszar. The numbers don't lie.
Then for your article to go on and say that all the horses do is eat and breed just makes it seem that there is no value in something if it cannot make money. Although it can be argued that the wild horses and burros do generate revenue in the form of tourism. Besides that, the wild horses and burros mean so much more than money to the majority of Americans.
In The Hands Of BLM
The truth be told, yes, issues in certain areas do need to be addressed. Most responsible advocates are not suggesting that horses and burros should come first at the cost of other wildlife. The answer falls into the hands of the BLM, the agency that is supposed to be in charge of the protection of the wild horses and burros, to start off with better management practices using science based solutions.
The BLM should, in fact, utilize the fertility control vaccine PZP. Also, perhaps a re-introduction of natural predators. The horses and burros in Arizona are not anywhere near the danger of starvation as the wrap up of the original article suggests.
To be honest, I cannot imagine Arizona without its wild horses and burros. They bring life to the desert and contribute to the diversity of what is here. Now I could go on and on, but I think I have made somewhat of my point.
More interesting reading for people who may want to further their knowledge should read the R.T Fitch article "Indian horses BEFORE Columbus" as well as "Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife" by Jay F. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D. and Patricia M. Fazio, Ph.D.
A Response To 'Challenge Accepted'
The numbers do not lie - $425 million dollars over the past five years? Yes, I spend a lot of time outdoors and in the wild. I appreciate your response, and it is as biased as you say mine is.
Any idea on the cost of making sure every mare is handled? There are many photos of burros hoarding water. The Arizona Game & Fish Department (whom I rely on for some of my information) notes that the burro population is at 400 percent of carrying capacity. Denuded trees are all around Lake Pleasant; please take a tour some day.
Balance In Nature
I am for balance in nature. Name me a predator in Arizona that will take on burros and horses. Perhaps an occasional mountain lion will try, but the easier food is in deer and elk fawns.
To say that they have been here (Salt River Recreation area) is a bit misleading. That herd is exploding, some because animals that were left loose during the last economic downturn, some through the Native America tribes that have a huge issue with them and some through the birthing that takes place. Remember, a herd size doubles every four years.
Water For All Wildlife
I have issues with horse lovers who refuse to "belly up to the bar" and put their money where their mouth is. Each year, groups I belong to raise in excess of $1,00,000.00 for habitat and wildlife. I do work on projects where we put waters in so that all wildlife thrives.
I have been hunting in unit 3A, 3C along the Rim Country for over 30 years now. Prior to the Rodeo Chedeski fire, there were only four or five horses that were documented in those units. After a lot of work to improve the habitat after the fires, horses came in fairly large numbers from the White Mountain Apache Reservation.Drive through south of Heber now and all you see are horse droppings along every road. It will reach critical mass somewhere along the line and then it will be too late.
I have issues with housing over 40,000 unwanted animals across the Midwest at taxpayers' expense. You are basing your love for a single species without a natural predator. Without adequate funding from the horse lovers, the taxpayers will continue to foot the bill and that is flat out wrong. The cattlemen across Arizona have been working the land for well over 100 years and they monitor range conditions, put in dirt tanks for water and are stewards of the land.
Horse lovers nickname their perceived 1300-pound pets and ridicule anyone who challenges what is going on. At the far end of the spectrum, China imports 500,000 tons of horse meat every year for food for their country. While not on the American table fare, it is served across Europe and Canada.
At Taxpayers' Expense
I used the statistics available on the Wild Horse and Burro Web site regarding costs, so that is not imagined. I would love to see a balance out there, but your only solution comes at taxpayers' expense and says nothing about herd reductions - and that is where my angst comes from.
Just an FYI, I do love horses, I have owned them and I see them every year up north where they do whatever they want with impunity, since they are no longer afraid of humans. The cattle you speak of are culled every year; they are moved from pasture to pasture and the permitees are liable for managing the landscape. What say you?
There is no denying the beauty of horses, but there is also no denying the beauty of a bull elk during the rut, or a herd of deer in the wild.
Sorry for the length and meandering, but horse lovers need to get a grip and pay for what they love, just as sportsmen do for our wildlife - and not through taxpayers' money.