Wild Horses Are Valuable But Unused Fire-Prevention Resources
Letter to the Editor
April 3, 2019
This Letter to the Editor is in response to a news-article in the April 3rd edition of The Roundup titled "Farm Bureau Members Attend Advisory Meetings, Meet With Congressional Offices In D.C."
Wild horses stand ready to reduce the incidence of wildfire. If released in remote areas where dry old grass and twigs abound, they would graze down those "one-hour fuels" that could otherwise feed fires. The "Wild Horse Fire Brigade" would provide a safe, smoke-free, cost-free method of reducing the fuel-load.
In fact, immediate and ongoing savings would be realized by deploying the captive wild horses for fire-prevention duty. In 2017 (the latest complete year for which records are available), the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior together spent more than $2.7 billion fighting fires. It was the most expensive wildfire season on record. Moreover, the trend has been for fires to burn longer and hotter each year. The destruction has been enormous. Streams and roads that used to serve as firebreaks are no match for today's megafires. Standard fire-prevention techniques are expensive. Prescribed burns sometimes get out of control, and they always produce noxious smoke. Herbicides introduce toxic pollution into the environment that gets into ground-and-surface water.
While we can't control hot temperatures and high winds, the fuel-load is something that can be reduced in an ecologically-safe way. Wild horses are perfect for the job because they ...
Are able to move through rugged terrain,
Love to graze dry old forage (think: hay), and
Work for free.
However, there aren't half the number of wild horses that BLM claims, off or on the range. A five-year investigation compared BLM's payment-records against an actual count of wild horses being cared for in off-range pastures. The investigation disclosed that more than 50% of the horses that BLM paid contractors to board did not exist. Readers also need to know that the billion-dollar figure that BLM cites is not an annual cost. Instead, it is a 20-year figure, contingent on BLM continuing to conduct culls at the same high rate.
The "overpopulation" on the range is a concocted crisis. Excess horses are found only on BLM's electronic spreadsheets. Wild horses and burros are few and far between. Independent studies have determined that the normal birth rate across herds is about 20%. However, 40% of foals perish. Adult-mortality runs about 10%. Therefore, the average herd-growth rate is 2%. BLM conflates the birth rate (20%) with the population-growth rate (2%). But those are different measures. Making matters worse, BLM has repeatedly been caught reporting one-year growth rates higher than 200% — a hundred times the norm. Such growth is impossible, and BLM surely knows that.
Conclusion: Wild horses are ready to report for fire-prevention duty. They are neither overpopulated nor homeless. They have a home where they belong: On the range.