Wild horses – symbol of the West moving east?

Wild horses – symbol of the West moving east?

Barbara Clarke – printed in the San Francisco Chronicle, March 12, 2010

A rancher was quoted in a documentary about the problems involved with the reintroduction of the nearly extinct Mexican wolf as saying, “We don’t want them.” No science. No statistics. No reason or clear argument. Just “we don’t want them.”

That statement is the crux of the whole problem facing animals in the West today, and the basis for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s opinions on how to manage the dwindling herds of wild horses.

The ranching community still believes in the 19th century notion of Manifest Destiny: the right to claim the West for human endeavors.

And this is no small notion. For Salazar, a fifth-generation rancher, the belief that the West belongs to ranchers – and by extension, cattle – is deep and pervasive. For more than 150 years, the livestock industry has clawed its way across the continent in search of forage for hungry cattle and sheep. This neo-exploration was and still is backed by the federal government through subsidies and ridiculously low grazing fees.

And even though the prairies and rangelands once supported millions of grazing wildlife, including buffalo and mustangs, by the beginning of the 20th century the once-lush rangeland west of the Mississippi had been reduced to stubble, with native grasses obliterated and alarming damage done to waterways.

Anything and anyone that threatened this quest, or was seen as a competitor for forage, was soon eliminated. American Indians were pushed off ancestral lands and whole species were slaughtered in the name of protecting livestock and grazing. Wolves, coyotes, eagles, bears, ground squirrels and wild horses came in the crosshairs of powerful weapons with the full support of our nation’s leaders.

The American government wanted the West. The ranchers gave it to them. And in no small way this has made cattle and all the issues surrounding them politically untouchable.

So it is no surprise that with the appointment of a rancher to head the Department of the Interior, the president – who espouses change but is granting a $26 million increase in budget for Salazar to remove wild horses from federal lands – has opened the door to an increase in the agonies that accompany Manifest Destiny.

Wild horses, which have a clear fossil and DNA linage to our continent, are being pushed off of lands set aside for them by Congress in unprecedented numbers in the dubious name of saving them from starvation or protecting ecosystems. Yet observers at roundups continue to see healthy horses being captured, thriving rangeland and most notably, no decrease in the number of cattle allowed to graze the same supposedly sensitive areas.

This rush to sweep wild horses off the rangeland has the full support of Salazar. And why not? When he looks at the mustangs, he sees them through a 150-year lens of ranching. Wild horses are competitors for forage, inhabit areas wanted for mining and do not generate hunting fees. So Salazar wants them transplanted back East – somewhere, on pseudo-sanctuaries, at a cost of $96 million, where he believes people will pay to watch once-wild horses eat grass all day.

His plan is not surprising. It is the final chapter in the long saga of claiming the West. Soon the horses, like the buffalo and the wolf and so many other beings, will be mere shadows of the species they once were. And our president, and his appointees, can go down in history as those who stole the magnificence of the West from our children.

Barbara Clarke is director of the 2,000-acre DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary in Northeastern California, home to 225 horses and burros and supporter of the federal ROAM Act (S1579), which provides added protections for wild horses.

Advertisements

34 Responses to “Wild horses – symbol of the West moving east?”

  1. Audrey C Says:

    Serious change is needed, and I am encouraged by the increasing numbers of people in this grass roots effort taking action…….momentum continues to build exponentially. Let’s hope and pray our collective voices rise above and prevail, before it is too late.

  2. true15 Says:

    Excellent article.

  3. Kristen Walker Says:

    The more and more I understand how things work in this country and the angrier I become at the horrible fate befallen on our wild horses, I think wild horse advocates need lawyers. A lot of lawyers working on the behalf of the wild horses, just as Jon Marvel has done with the Western Watersheds. We need to fight them the only way they undersand with law suits and taking money out of their pockets, make them abide by the laws and the Wild Horse and Burro Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Lets all keep fighting!

  4. Suzanne Moore Says:

    Yes, it is an excellent article. Let’s just hope it’s not too late to change the ending!

  5. Jan Eaker Says:

    I am praying for a good outcome for the horses and all that are still wild and free. It puzzles me as to why wild things are so threatening to so many, and why there is such a need to destroy.

  6. Janet Ferguson Says:

    At that appropriations sub-committee meeting they were chewing on the idea of wind vs. nuclear. They were saying that nuclear uses much less land and provides energy reliably rather than wind which uses up huge areas of land; 50 story turbines (what on earth does that do to migrating birds, anyone?) and the energy is only intermittent. The pro-nuclear man didn’t mention the impact of uranium mining in the US in his little talk.

    I hope that Senator Landrieu will continue to make her presence felt on this issue in Washington.

    • Lisa LeBlanc Says:

      I think if they’re gonna go Turbo, they should be funding retrofits, wind and solar, for rural and suburban homes and making it standard issue in new construction. Not screwin’ up the landscape; or find a less invasive way to utilize the landscape.
      But this is just the silly ruminatings of a silly girl.
      Our boys don’t do nothing if it ain’t HUGE and UGLY and DESTRUCTIVE.

    • RJ Daum RPLS Says:

      http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6228923n&tag=contentMain;contentBody

    • Suzanne Moore Says:

      I know there is a problem with the wind turbines killing bats. Don’t know about birds.

      However, the horses could probably live with the turbines if some precautions were taken. Somewhere, I read something about that. The towers are so tall, the horses would likely not even notice the blades.

      Re nuclear – They’ve known for at least 30 years – or more – about so called “breeder reactors,” that are MUCH safer, use MUCH less fuel and have MUCH less “left overs.” But, they are more expensive to build. And, well, you know how THAT goes.

      • Lisa LeBlanc Says:

        Just more ruminating … if nuclear waste is so dangerous and powerful, why don’t they find a way to utilize THAT power? I mean besides burying it in the side of a mountain in (is there NO JUSTICE??!) Nevada.

    • sandra longley Says:

      Birds will avoid a stationary obstacle..more birds hawks eagles ect killed by trucks cars and airplanes…roadkill attracks predatory birds…Had a bald eagle almost hit by trucker while feeding on highway in frount of my ranch…trucker layed on the horn..barely missed the eagle…The birds can see those turning blades unlike propellars on moving planes they cannot avoid. In most cases desert winds come up with the sun and die off at dusk…not much turning during the night in the desert. Don’t bats feed off of low flying insects?..Personally i prefer the clean
      quiet renewable energy…after all didn’t climate change wipe out most species in the ice age.We had nucleor energy plants in my kneck of the woods..we are still cleaning up the damage…deformaties in deer ect for miles…water sources contaiminate that run to the pacific ocean..Its a hard sell for me to support nucleor energy…cancer rates anyone..

    • Linda Says:

      Here I am back to the Sage Grouse again. No wind turbines should be located near their nesting areas because they fear predators from on high. Who knows what will happen on that due to Salaczar’s recent statements.

      As for wild horses & wind turbines, don’t cows get along okay once they get used to them? I know they make noise, but animals are pretty adaptable if you give them a chance. Aren’t some of them on ranches and farms, with royalties involved?

      The wild horses on the Carson National Forest seem to peacefully coexist with pump jacks as long as the companies fence off the locations and those open pits where they dump all their TOXIC effluent. The crazy drivers who tear up and down the oilfield roads are more of a problem than the horses.

      Those damned wild horses are just too inconvenient for energy companies to tolerate.

      • sandra longley Says:

        Animals do perfectly well on the ranches I have worked on they grazed through the area while we worked and just had to be paneled off from the holes while construction was going on…its just one issue the BLM doesn’t have to deal with…it has to do with the fast tracking..one less issue..the worst part of that ..is in their plans for the ruby pipeline they are planning to revegitate with plants the horses won’t eat…specifically stated for that purpose..that is 675 miles of pipeline plus all the roads they have to put back to vegatation and the 6oo person camp they will have to remove.

      • sandra longley Says:

        Oh by the way, there are 88,000 sage grouse in Nevada and how many horses-and how many cows, on how many acres? They have specific plans to fence off water holes so the horses can’t get to them for the sage grouse…And yet they hunt them still in the other half of the state…Is this making any sense?

      • Linda Says:

        I’d like to see designs for these fences. If they’re built to keep wild horses out, won’t they also keep out deer, elk, etc? Are there any other large species in these areas HUNTERS WANT PROTECTED? Big Horns for instance?

        I’ve heard arguments that deer and elk can leap over fences to access water. Just hope they don’t land on any sage grouse. Maybe just scare them to death? This is all so terribly wrong!

        As for the Ruby Pipeline, they’ll have to keep some roads for access, monitoring, and service. I would imagine the camps will be moving along with the construction, so there will be more areas to restore.

        The soil under roads and camp areas will be super-compacted, especially by heavy equipment. This makes it harder for plants to take hold and survive, especially in high-desert areas.

        Heaven help us if they have a leak! 12 folks, including children, were killed in southern NM a few years back when a pipeline spanning an arroyo cracked and exploded. They were just having a picnic, cooling off in the water, and ended up dead!

  7. LOUIE COCROFT Says:

    I READ SOMETHING IN THE PAPER ABOUT WIND TURBINES AND CUT IT OUT:

    NEW YORK BASED CO., ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGIES, IS NOW BUILDING THE FIRST VERTICAL SHAFT WIND TURBINE IN THE WORLD. THESE TURBINES ARE ONLY 111 FEET TALL AND BECAUSE OF THEIR DESIGN, WILL NOT KILL EAGLES, FALCONS, OWLS, BIRDS OR BATS.
    THESE MUCH SMALLER VERTICAL TYPE TURBINES CAN GENERATE ABOUT TWO TIMES MORE ELECTRICITY COMPARED WITH A CONVENTIONAL 339 FOOT WIND TURBINE USING THE SAME CAPACITY GENERATOR AND UNDER THE SAME WIND CONDITIONS. THEY ALSO RUN MUCH MORE QUIETLY.

    APPARENTLY, THESE ARE NOT BEING PROMOTED BY “WALL STREET” INVESTORS AS ARE THE MORE DANGEROUS TURBINES, AND ARE NOT BEING GIVEN THE SAME AMOUNT OF MARKETING.

    • Linda Says:

      I’ve always been fascinated by the wind turbine that powers the Costeau’s “Halcyon” (sp?). I’m originally from the East Coast, and I know it takes a lot of sail to move a boat of that size.

      I’ve tried to find out how the tower was engineered without much success. I think it turns to capture the wind. Adding a mesh grille should keep the birds out.

    • Linda Says:

      Louie, is this what you’re talking about? Maybe I should investigate their stock, Wall Street be damned. They seldom support innovation.

      http://diy-renewable-energy.com/articles/new-vertical-model-turbine-wind-to-power-new-york/

      • Marilyn Wargo Says:

        This is a very interesting machine. People who are being approached to have wind turbines put near their homes, roads and farms should be more particular about the kind of turbines used. It is their choice. Many people were turning down the companies coming to central Illinois the past few years because they had the huge turbines. These would have given people something more acceptable to live near….mar

        What makes the turbine so revolutionary is that it is only about one-third the height of traditional horizontal, propeller-type windmills, but is able to produce twice the power. It is also said to be much quieter and easier to maintain since all the mechanical parts are located at ground-level, instead of 300-feet in the air.

        The ETC-LU wind turbine’s spins at only 10-15 rotations per minute, creating no motion blur, which is responsible for many windmill-related bird deaths. Although the slow rotation, it’s advanced DC and AC gearing enables the turbine to produce as much as 3-4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per annum at an average wind speed of just over 21 kilometers (14 miles) per hour.

        Ikeda said, “Given our mission to help solve the problems facing our planet as a result of global warming, we are very excited to install our internationally patented, 1.25 megawatt-class vertical-shaft wind turbine here at the college. This installation of our ETC-LU model wind turbine will be the first, we hope, of many to come.”

  8. Linda Says:

    Can’t remember where I just posted this, so I’m putting it here. Maybe the Sage Grouse can accompany the wild horses. Oops – no sagebrush. $16 MILLION MORE FOR RANCHERS??? Energy & mining rule!

    http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_14664783

  9. KA Schaaf(kasohio) Says:

    I don’t understand why if the BLM has an extra few million to squander… why don’t they buy these rich grass ‘sanctuaries’ and move THE CATTLE EAST?

  10. jan Says:

    got in email from a friend – concerning horses – nothing much is mentioned on the news

    So lack of information causes Americans to allow things in that are eroding away our standard of life, our economy and everything else.

  11. jan Says:

    we have wind turbins running around palm springs – my area would be good too – lots of open land across the desert and boy do we get winds

  12. LOUIE COCROFT Says:

    KASOHIO, AND WHILE THEY ARE AT IT, MAYBE THE PRAIRIE DOGS WOULD LIKE A CHANGE OF CLIMATE–THEY’VE PROBABLY NEVER SEEN THE OCEAN.

    • Linda Says:

      Then people in the East Coast would need coyotes to control the prairie dogs. Wait a minute, the coyotes are already there! My brother saw one kill his girlfriend’s cat in his backyard in Providence, RI. My parents have several that make regular trips through their yard in Rockport, MA, a town right on the ocean.

      The coyotes have decimated local groundhog populations, as well as protected ferrets and rodents that keep destructive grubs in check. And people are constantly “losing” cats and small dogs. No spot for prairie dogs to bask on beaches and enjoy the sun!

    • KA Schaaf(kasohio) Says:

      Near Dayton Ohio coyotes are coming in to town, too. They killed a German Shepherd just the other day. People are “up in arms”. ‘My’ coyotes don’t come close enough to the barn/house to get the groundhogs, unfortunately. SERIOUSLY though, why not have big cattle ranches where the grass is green, much healthier beef. Maybe Americans could buy this ‘good’ beef instead of exporting it!

  13. LOUIE COCROFT Says:

    LINDA, I THINK SO. ALL I HAD TO GO BY WAS ONE CLIP IN OUR LOCAL PAPER. IT CAUGHT MY ATTENTION AND I SAVED THE ARTICLE. IT WOULD BE WORTH CHECKING INTO.

  14. sandra longley Says:

    Freedom , the black stallion may have been spotted, alone, at dark next to a highway-lets hope he can find some horses left on the calico..has apparently not found any yet..I guess that makes him the cenus taker

  15. LOUIE COCROFT Says:

    KASOHIO, YOUR IDEA IS GOOD. JUST NEEDED A LITTLE LEVITY FOR A WHILE– GLAD YOU ALL KNEW I WAS KIDDING.

  16. Caroleyn Says:

    Recent DNA studies show that the so called “relationship” between modern horses and fossils found in the United states is a NO GO. The early “horse like” fossils are not related to modern equus. So…. modern day wild horses in the U.S. go actually originate and evolved from animals in Europe and Asia. The horse DID NOT evolve here and cross the land bridge to Asia. DNA studies are complete. Not much publicity though. Just as there is not any publicity on how EXCESS wild horses are having a negative effect on Sage Grouse in every state in which they are allowed to range out of control. Horse populations need to be controlled, for their benefit and for the benefit of the actual NATIVE american wildlife.

    • Suzanne Says:

      Nope. I don’t know where you got this, but it is not correct. The species that evolved here and went extinct is the same species that the Spanish reintroduced – Equus caballus. If you’ve read a study that contradicts this DNA study, please cite.

  17. jan eaker Says:

    Caroleyn, please cite these studies you are quoting from, because there is plenty of evidence out there that refute what you are saying. Please help me. someone with the links about horses as a NATIVE species.

  18. Suzanne Says:

    I have the updated Fitzpatrick doc – Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife at http://goldendays-suzanne.blogspot.com/p/wild-horses-as-native-north-american.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: