Wild Horses: Ken Salazar’s Plea for Action

Photo courtesy of Colin E. Braley, http://www.wildwest-media.com/

Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, announced in 2009 that wild horses were out of control. In replying to many animal advocates who claimed that rounding up the horses was unnecessary and cruel, the Secretary said the following, quoted in the Los Angeles Times of January 14, 2010. I include the whole excerpt here because it states the problem clearly and succinctly without emotion fogging the issue, and calls for action on the part of everyone who cares about the horses.
“Though an American icon is again flourishing, the job of restoring the health of wild horse herds is far from complete. Without natural predators, wild horse populations have grown beyond the carrying capacity of the sensitive and sparse lands on which they live, causing damage to ecosystems and putting them at risk of starvation. As a result, federal managers must move thousands of wild horses each year off the range to pastures and corrals, where they are fed, cared for and put up for adoption. The current situation is unsustainable.
The American people expect the health of their lands and watersheds to be protected, and it is unacceptable to allow wild horses to be malnourished on inadequate ranges. Yet no one wants to see them gathered and moved off Western ranges. Moreover, the status quo comes with a steep price tag. The federal government spends more than $60 million a year on the wild horse and burro program, of which $35 million goes to the care and feeding of the horses. A broad range of animal rights organizations, conservationists and Western communities agree that we cannot continue down the current path. We must change course. I agree.
However, if we are to succeed in restoring the health of wild horse herds, we must choose our new path wisely. To allow wild horse herds to grow beyond the limit of the range–as some wild horse advocates and celebrities are arguing–is not realistic, humane or environmentally responsible. Instead, we need a comprehensive and balanced approach built on new partnerships, new thinking and new courage to tackle an issue that, unfortunately, has no easy solution.”
Now Secretary Salazar lays out specific suggestions to effect control of the herds.
“First, we must control the growth of wild horse herds by humanely applying fertility control to wild horses on the range. We can do so responsibly and at a reasonable cost. We must elevate the stature and care of wild horse herds that will sustainably live on Western ranges for generations to come. As Interior secretary, I am examining ways we can better showcase special herds in signature areas of the West to provide eco-tourism opportunites and provide them greater protection. We must identify and restore new habitat where wild horses could be returned. Some of the prairies and ranges outside the West–places where forage is rich and where wild horses once wandered–could become sanctuaries for the animals. I have proposed that through partnerships with the private sector, stakeholders and local communities, we establish new sanctuaries in the Midwest and the East, where healthy horse herds could return. Finally, we must recognize that the federal government alone cannot restore the health of wild horse herds. We need citizens to help. We want Americans to visit their public lands where horses roam, to help us care for these magnificent animals, to share their ideas with us and to help us find citizens and animal lovers across the country who will adopt wild horses and provide healthy, happy homes for them. …Preserving the health of our land and wildlife requires collaboration, patience, and courage. Demonizing others in the ways that some advocates have recently demonized federal land managers is neither reasonable nor productive. ..Let us find common ground and humane, environmentally sound solutions on our public lands.”
Next post: Ted Williams

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