On Tuesday we decided to take a drive to the west of Provo as all of our drives had been to the east up to now. I had found out about the Salt Lake Regional Wild Horse and Burro Center in Herriman so we decided to wind our way there. There has been great outcry, especially this year, after wild horses died during the annual Bureau of Land Managment helicopter round up. One of the arguments of the animal activist groups is that the BLM spends more resources on privately held livestock than it does the horses, which are federally protected. Agri-business does not want the horses using up scarce western resources including water. The BLM is an agency within the Department of the Interior and current Secretary Ken Salazar is a long time rancher. He has publicly stated that wild horses do not belong on public lands. The BLM went as far as to bar public comment on the roundups which is something that is mandated by law.
Upon visiting the Center I decided to walk in with an open mind and ask questions. The employee there was very nice and even took Bill and I on a full scale tour of the facility, showing us how the horses are brought into the Center, how they are looked over and evaluated with most getting vaccinations, hooves trimmed and general check ups. He went as far as to show us the equipment that the horses are pinned in for the examinations. He emphasized the padding that is squeezed together so the horse does not hurt itself. He even tipped it sideways and showed how the hooves are trimmed as to cause the least injury to the animal and the human. I asked him why the horses were being rounded up and he stated because the carrying capacity of the land cannot take so many as they have no natural predators. He stated that there are 30,000 wild horses left in 10 western states and that 30,000 have been rounded up. He then added that contrary to public opinion these horses are not slaughtered for any reason but are put in holding pens or sold to the public for $125 per horse. I asked why he got into this job and he said he has a degree in range managment and wildlife biology because he saw emaciated horses on the range many years ago and decided he wanted to "help".
Quite frankly, after investigating both sides of the issue I am torn. As an animal activist I want all animals to live long and health lives in their preferred habitat, which for the wild horses is the open range. I think giving precedence to ranching operations, which cost the taxpayers of this country millions of dollars a year, is absurd and needs to stop. But at the same time I do not want to see horses dying of thirst and starvation because there are too many for the land they are on to support. The Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 says that wild horses can only be allowed to roam in the areas that they were roaming when the act was put into law. So unfortunately we cannot find some space in any of the eastern states unless someone wants to start a holding facility. I do not believe, however, that using helicopters is in the animals' best interests. Surely a more humane way of conducting a roundup can be used. I am not sure why the same methods that are used with feral cats cannot be used with wild horses. Why can't we geld the males and then turn them loose again like we do with tom cats? This would surely cut down on the population while leaving the wild horse where it belongs -- on the range.
In my humble opinion it boils down to something more basic than the freedom of the wild horses. They are just the victims or the collateral damage just as the wildlife and sea life in the Gulf of Mexico are the victims and the collateral damage. My opinion is that it comes down to the basic philosophical differences between the school of thought that believes that this Earth and her natural resources are there for man to exploit and the future be damned and those of us who feel that we are just stewards of this planet and have no right to use more than our share nor cause undue damage and hardship to other creatures. Until these philosophical differences are somehow resolved there will continue to be wild horses that are chased down by helicopteres, wolf pups that are gassed in their dens, sea turtles that die covered by oil, mountaintops that are blown away for coal and the list goes on.
This is a heartbreaking problem with no easy answers. But I know that any Secretary of the Interior who was, and still is, a rancher, is not operating with the wild horses' best interests in mind. Ken Salazar needs to go. I invite you to read the information found in the links posted above and learn more about this issue so you can form an educated opinion and then act! Email, call, write letters....just do something and make a difference. Hopefully there is some sort of answer that allows these animals to live their lives in freedom while at the same time does not destroy the very ecosystem that they depend upon.
You will notice a white horse in many of the scenes.....it doesn't show up in video but he has the bluest eyes! I have never seen that on a horse.....