We are getting a slow start today and I happen to have enough cell service to catch up on what's happening in the world and I am reading A TON of controversy over the recent Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting and their 8-1 vote to recommend euthanasia of 45,000 horses in holding facilities. What a quagmire. I want to say a few things based on what I've seen during my current long ride.
As many of you know, Nevada is home to more wild horses than any other state. Riding 1,100 miles around the state at 3mph is a great way to really see what's happening on the range. I have definitely ridden through places that were dominated by cattle where springs (and good campsites) were cowed out. And I have also ridden through areas that were dominated by wild horses. In fact, one of the things mentioned in a lot of articles about the WH&B meeting is their visit to the Antelope HMA - an area that I just rode through and camped in. Some of the board members have said in interviews how overpopulated the area is with horses - and I can tell you based on what I saw just the other week, it is. I was absolutely shocked at the number of horses I saw in the valley and in the ranges surrounding it. I've never seen anything like it. They have completely dominated the landscape in that area - you can physically see it in the grasses (or lack there of), the sheer number of horse trails, and the area around the limited water sources. Even I - an ardent wild horse lover - was forced to admit that it was too many horses. In fact, when I was finished with my ride I was planning to ask the BLM what the heck was going on out there.
One thing that seems to happen though is that Nevada gets painted with a broad brush - people think what's happening in one area is happening in all areas. Each basin and range in Nevada is unique. Some places are cowed out and some are horsed out. It's just the reality. It's very easy to read an article and criticize but until you have been out on the range and seen the evidence for yourself then you just can't know what's actually happening. So, yes - in some places there are too many horses. In others, there may not be. It's not as simple as cows vs. horses, and it's not as simple as overpopulation or "on the verge of extinction" as some advocates like to say.
Now, onto this euthanization business. First of all, the board's vote is merely a recommendation to the BLM. It does not mean the BLM will go out and kill all the horses in holding facilities. But it is shocking to think about. It should be. And I think it was meant to be. But, as I have said over and over again and tried to emphasize with my rides - there are too many horses in holding facilities being cared for at taxpayers expense. Essentially you and I pay millions of dollars to warehouse horses for the rest of their life. It is costly, it is growing, and it is not sustainable. Those horses WILL NEVER be returned to the range. So what can be done? Everyone is up in arms about this vote, but how many of those people are actually going out and adopting from a facility? That is literally the only alternative to warehousing them forever or euthanizing them. Get those numbers down (in population and cost) and then the BLM can work on better management on the ranges, like the one I mentioned earlier. Those horses will be rounded up eventually and then they'll just end up in holding facilities too.
I was so excited that adoption numbers were up last year, but they weren't up by a staggering amount. They certainly weren't anything close to the historic highs. Go adopt a mustang. Stop breeding your backyard ponies. And reserve your anger not for a board made up of volunteers, but for the beaurocracy that has allowed this situation to develop over time.
The latest updates from Samantha on the Nevada Discovery Ride.