Thursday, July 30, 2009

Managing for Extinction

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund is the only nongovernmental organization in the country responsible for the management of wild horses. Every other wild herd is managed by the federal government through the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), or US Fish & Wildlife Service – all of which are components of the Department of the Interior. The overwhelming majority of the horses under their care are located in the western states. According to the Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a national nonprofit dedicated to preserving what is left of America’s wild horses, flawed management practices, especially by the BLM, have resulted in more wild horses and burros now being held in government holding pens than exist in the wild. BLM has systematically favored subsidized livestock grazing on public lands over wild horses – even though the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act set aside these lands for wild horses and burros. Over 30,000 wild horses languish in steel pens. Many have died or been seriously injured, especially during helicopter roundups of “excess” horses.

Over the past 38 years, the intent of the act has been seriously eroded. Over 19 million acres that the Act granted to wild horses and burros have been taken away. Recently, BLM began asking Congress for permission to euthanize thousands of healthy horses and burros or sell to them for slaughter in Mexico and Canada.

The practice of chasing wild horses and burros with helicopters, often over exceedingly long distances, is nothing short of cruel. The photo above is from a “round-up” on US Fish & Wildlife’s Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada. The primary concern in round-up operations continues to be efficiency, to the detriment of the horses’ welfare. Instead of helicopters, officials should be required to use bait trapping, a much safer and more humane method of capture. BLM has refused to use bait trapping in such instances as the 2007 Jackson Mountain round-up, when 185 horses died at the holding facility.

A few days ago, the House of Representatives passed HR1018, the ROAM Act. ROAM stands for Restoring Our American Mustangs Act. Introduced by U.S. Representatives Rahall (West VA.) and Grijalva (Arizona), the bill amends the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act by adding important new protections and provisions, such as the banning of helicopter round-ups and the reclaiming of land. It is the first ray of hope for wild horses in the west in decades. North Carolina’s United States Congressman, Walter Jones, voted to support the bill. The Act must now pass the Senate.

For more information and how you can help, please go to

Other links: Warning: Telling but disturbing images of what happens during mass “gathers of excess horses.”

What does this all have to do with the wild horses of Corolla? Part of the range of the Corolla wild horses is the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge managed by USF&W, a bureau of the US Department of Interior. While I do not foresee our horses EVER being chased by helicopters or sold for slaughter, the policies and attitudes toward the presence of wild horses on public land are set at the top. Current policy does not allow for horses on the Currituck Wildlife Refuge and their current Comprehensive Conservation Plan defines the horses as “pest animals.”

We work cooperatively with the Refuge staff, helping to maintain an exclosure fence, and monitoring the presence of horses on the refuge. Annual aerial counts have shown that the maximum number of horses ever found on the refuge is 26 (2,500+ acres). About 73% of the herd has consistently been found on the privately owned land. It is our continued hope that as we gather more scientific data regarding the actual impact of the horses on federally owned land, that we will ultimately be permitted to increase the herd size to the recommended genetically and physically healthy range of 120 – 130. The wild horses on the Shackleford Bank portion of Cape Lookout National Seashore are managed at this level on 3,000 acres. The Corolla herd has access to a total of 7,544 but the current management plan still calls for a maximum herd size of 60.

We cannot and will not allow management for extinction here.

No comments:

Post a Comment