In another gross demonstration of federal government overreach, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is planning to round up thousands of wild horses in Oregon and surgically sterilize hundreds of mares. The plan is a horribly cruel act to what should be a protected herd as The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, unanimously passed by Congress and signed by President Nixon, once guaranteed.
Nixon and a bi-partisan congress rallied to save the wild horse and burro population that was on the verge of extinction.
The former president began his remarks at the signing of the bill referencing Henry David Thoreau’s Life in the Woods, “We need the tonic of the wilderness.” And continued by painting an image of horses and freedoms being synonymous:
“Wild horses and burros merit man’s protection historically–for they are a living link with the days of the conquistadors, through the heroic times of the Western Indians and the pioneers, to our own day when the tonic of wildness seems all too scarce. More than that, they merit it as a matter of ecological right–as anyone knows who has ever stood awed at the indomitable spirit and sheer energy of a mustang running free.”
Perhaps, when we consider the federal government’s actions of late, the program needs to be under the management of others.
As W.C. Fields once said, “Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.” And more specifically, bureaucrats who reside in the Swamp.
The Real Skinny
In 2017, The House Appropriations Committee voted to allow horses and burros to be rounded up for slaughter to cull a burgeoning herd said to be starving in the wild.
But that is simply a myth to be debunked. There are only 72,000 wild horses and burros on 32 million acres of public land. The BLM insists that wild horse and burro populations must stay at “less than 27,000” for the herds to survive and stay healthy. In comparison, there are millions of cows on 155 million acres of public land. And with zero evidence to suggest the horses are starving, the fact that nature masterfully culls the old and sickly from the herds, the only humane management they need is from the government—which they are not receiving.
A scathing report from the National Academies of Science in 2013, rebuking the mismanagement of the program, has all but been shelved without consideration by the federal government:
“How Appropriate Management Levels (AMLS) are established, monitored, and adjusted is not transparent to stakeholders, supported by scientific information, or amenable to adaptation with new information and environmental and social change. Continuation of ‘business as usual’ practices will be expensive and unproductive for BLM and the public it serves.”
In less scientific speak, the BLM is still screwing up — royally. And that’s why they are in a panicky cover-their-rump mode with their latest ill-fated idea.
Science? We Don’t Need no Stinkin’ Science…or Math
After serious backlash from equine groups that offer adoption and sanctuary, the bureaucrats who can’t distinguish the front end of the horse from the back, have decided to return to the west and force sterilization on as many mares as they can round up, using helicopters that swoop in just above the horses’ heads, terrifying the animals to converge into holding pens.
Which is when the real cruelty begins in earnest. Mares, whether already in foal, will be forced to undergo surgery—a risky, invasive procedure when done in a sterile, monitored environment. The American Wild Horse Campaign notes, “These experiments will subject mares to high risk of death from hemorrhage, infection, and evisceration intestines protruding through surgical incisions.”
Why would anyone think this is a good idea when there are injectable medications that control fertility without removing the ‘wild’ from the animal?
If one is heartless to the prospect of unintended consequences from surgeries on the range, perhaps the cost savings will spark even the most animal loathing curmudgeon to perk up and take notice. The yearly cost for the sterilization injection is $30 per horse or burro, and the animals could be released immediately.
Conversely, detaining hundreds of horses, is quite costly. Here is the breakdown at one BLM facility in Oregon, where they are considering surgical sterilization:
Holding horses at Oregon’s Wild Horse Corral Facility costs approximately $5 per day per horse. This includes the costs of hay, BLM staff, and equipment to operate the facility. During FY 2015 there was an average of 700 horses being held at this facility. This cost per day per horse calculates to $3,500 per day to run the facility or approximately $108,500 per month.
Long-term holding costs average about $1.80 per day per horse.
Helicopter-drive gather operations are currently costing around $600 per horse gathered.
Bait, water and horseback-drive trap gathers are currently averaging $1,170 per horse trapped.
Even common core curricula mathletes can tally those numbers.
What Have we Become?
If Americans will take the time to remember a fledgling country of 300 years ago, the battle for freedom, westward expansion, travel and toil alike, was accomplished by man’s caretaking of the horse. Perhaps it is time for the BLM to heed the advice of scientists and those who understand the nature and the majesty of our American equine, and step aside for those who wish to protect and preserve the wildlife in this country. The BLM has done nothing but a disservice to the noblest of beast.
America must step up to protect the wild horses and burros. As John Moore said, “Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization we will find the hoof print of the horse beside it.” We owe them peace and protection.