This is from Richard Beal’s blog, who incidently, did a super nice review of my book: The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot on one of his February blogs. Feb. 9 blog had an interesting viewpoint about the “war” between ranchers who want grazing rights on Federal land, and the wild horses which are being taken off in one way or another.


Retire Grazing Permits And End Range War

Posted: 09 Feb 2010 01:00 AM PST

Another view on the wild horse issue

By John Horning

Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe

Momentum is building for the Department of the Interior to address one of the longest-standing conflicts on the open range of the American West: the one between free-roaming horse and burro advocates and Western ranchers and their sheep and cattle. We’d like to see this conflict resolved in a way that also advances protection of the West’s endangered wildlife like sage-grouse, native cutthroat trout and songbirds.

In your (Santa Fe New Mexican) Jan. 25 editorial, “New attention to wild horses,” you commented on efforts by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to begin to resolve this conflict, asserting that “there’s nothing quite like the sight of a rumbling herd of mustangs to stir an environmentalist’s passion for the beauty of the West.”

Not true. In fact, knowledgeable scientists and conservationists wince at the sight of horses and burros trampling and degrading Western ecosystems, just as we do at meandering herds of cattle and sheep, gangs of unruly off-road vehicle users, and hordes of avaricious energy developers tapping into our public domain.

Although beautiful animals, free-roaming horses and burros damage fragile streams and upland habitat, and steal forage from native wildlife, much like domestic cattle, sheep and goats. The only difference — and it’s a big one — is that millions of livestock are permitted to graze on public lands, compared to 37,000 free-roaming horses and burros.

Resolving conflicts between horses and burros and domestic livestock, while allowing native wildlife to flourish, will require removing either one or the other of these introduced animals from the landscape. The public has vociferously stated its preference for horses and burros on public lands. Why not offer to compensate ranchers to remove their domestic livestock instead?

Voluntary grazing-permit retirement is an increasingly popular way to resolve conflicts between domestic livestock and other values on public lands. Congress enacted legislation as recently as last year allowing ranchers to permanently retire their grazing permits on select public lands in Oregon and Idaho in exchange for compensation. Importantly, a recent survey of public land ranchers in Nevada — the state with the most free-roaming horses and burros — indicates that as many as half are interested in retiring their grazing permits for compensation.

Secretary Salazar is to be commended for confronting the management quagmire that is free-roaming horses and burros. The current program administered by the Bureau of Land Management has put more than 30,000 horses and burros in captivity, allowed for overgrazing on public lands, and costs $60 million per year. However, the solutions the secretary has considered to date would only perpetuate horse and burro conflicts on public lands — both between ranchers and the needs of native fish and wildlife. Voluntary grazing-permit retirement is an ecologically imperative, economically rational, and politically pragmatic way to solve this problem.