October 30th, 2008
P.O. Box 8096
Reno, NV 89507
Tina Nappe's "Too many wild horses - help!" (Toiyabe Trails, Oct.-Nov., 2008) is a very deceptive article lacking in just perspective. She engages in gross hyperbole and fails to recognize the proven fact that the horse (Equus caballus) is a returned native species in North America, its place of origin and long-standing evolution. For her to merely call the horse another domestic species displays either her woeful ignorance or, more as I suspect, her willful bias. I notice that Nappe says nothing about the relative proportions on the public lands of real livestock, mainly cattle and sheep, big game animals, such as deer and elk, and wild horses and burros. If she would bring herself to look at these figures, she would see just how ludicrous it is for her to scapegoat these wild equids for abuses that are human caused and stem from trying to force too many livestock and big game animals upon the public lands, along with too much of other forms of invasive exploitation. I recommend that she examine her own attitudes and how they have been shaped here in Nevada, where for years she was a fish and game commissioner, that she might learn what her own blind spots really are and reconsider the great evolutionary past history of horses and their kin in North America and the positive ecological role they have to play here. I would be glad to provide her with key information from peer reviewed publications.
I know that Ms. Nappe has had a hand in subverting the Wild Horse Act on many occasions, such as in the Santa Rosa Range where it was decided that a large legal wild horse herd area would be assigned a pathetically low Appropriate Management Level for its wild horse population. This type of subversion has occurred throughout Nevada and the West, and its perpetrators have earned themselves a lot of points with the big game hunter establishment and, yes, even the public lands livestock establishment - two of the traditional enemies of wild horses, natural predators, etc. - the very enemies for which laws were passed to defend against!
The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1972 (P.L. 92-195) set aside a minor portion of public USFS and BLM lands for the maintenance of thriving herds of these two equid species. But of the 53,444,499 acres originally set aside, 19,003,349 acres, or 36% have been zeroed out, their wild horse and burro populations eliminated from the wild. Out of fairness, one would expect that those remaining equid-occupied areas, called Herd Management Areas, would surely be "principally" devoted to maintaining viable herds of wild horses and burros as the law states - but not even this is the case! For even within these greatly reduced areas, livestock and big game interests are - contrary to the law - being allowed to monopolize the resources and the wild equids are being marginalized and continually persecuted, either under the guise of authority or with blatant illegality. One revealing statistic is that our so-called "public servants" in the BLM and USFS have colluded with the wild equid enemies to the extent that they are planning to leave only one wild horse or burro per 1,871 acres of original legal herd areas nationwide. In Nevada, this figure is 1,745 acres. When we consider that an acre is the near equivalent of one football field, we can appreciate the absurdity of the claim that wild horses are overpopulated. Also, wild horses do not camp on streamside riparian areas as do livestock, but broadly disperse their grazing pressure in unfenced territory. The law further stipulates that their territories shall not be over-fenced, but all the opposite is happening! Livestock and big game out-consume wild equids on the public lands by at least one hundred to one and by a substantial margin even within remaining herd management areas still populated by scant populations of persecuted wild horses and burros!
By no truly objective criteria are the wild horses and burros overpopulated as Nappe claims. They are really under-populated, most existing at genetically non-viable levels. However, her making this claim and her unfairly and un-objectively lumping the wild horses with livestock rather than treating them as returned native wildlife, certainly serves her anti-wild horse agenda very well, gaining her dirty political points with the anti-wild horse establishment, people who have targeted the wild horses for discreditation and elimination by whatever means handy.
There is an old saying: "There are none so blind as they who will not see," and such is certainly the case with Ms. Tina Nappe and her prejudice views of the wild horses.
Craig C. Downer
Wildlife Ecologist, Author: Wild Horses: Living Symbols of Freedom
P.O. Box 456
Minden, NV 89423