Editorial Opinion: Win or lose, it's now up to the advocates|
January 9, 2010
There is a patent disparity between the pro-horse and anti-horse groups in the current battle to restructure national wild horse and burro management policy. Horse advocates are emotion (concern) driven. Anti-horse interests are financially (profit) driven. As a result the anti-horse side comes out of the gate with the distinctive advantage of sticking to strategies that preserve profits.
Conversely, the focus of horse advocates' concerns regarding protecting horses also often take into consideration concerns regarding the protection of range ecosystems, other wildlife, the disposition of horses after removal and a host of other related issues. Therefore it is easy for critics to characterize the wild horse camp as disorganized or unfocused as compared to the "focused on business" approach taken by commercial interests.
Adding to the wild horse advocates' dilemma are the fringe elements within the advocacy camp who concoct and present bizarre accusations and conspiracy theories. Their conduct that suggests that they are more concerned about preserving drama than preserving horses, and their beyond belief claims are often used to discredit mainstream advocates who are working towards realistic and sustainable solutions.
Unfortunately some in the media are starting to lose confidence in the advocates' "platform" and are taking the opportunity to present some of the claims of the "outer fringe" as being representative of the wild horse advocates in general.
Pretty soon it will be up to advocates as to whether they are going to be conveniently dismissed as "out of touch nut case tree huggers" or preserve their standing as a coalition of knowledgeable people who have done actual research and can present rational alternatives to BLM's present course.
The press and politicians are starting to ask, "Where's the beef?" (Pun intended.) The advocates need to effectively articulate, "On the range, where horses should be."
Now that public attention has been raised, advocates must start to replace complaints with constructive ideas, present appropriately researched alternative management strategies, and reestablish credibility. In a battle where the facts seem to support many of the advocates' position, it's time to hunker down focus on these facts and present them in a way where the public and politicians can understand them.
It's an unfair fight, but it is how the world of politics and corporate interests work.
Some of the alternative strategies that could work and that we need to intelligently present include,
- Equine based range ecology
Management strategies that utilize the horses as an ecological component.
- Reserve design
A species level and landscape level approach to ecological management.
- Regional restocking
Relocating some horses from high pressure areas to lower pressure areas.
- Reopening closed HMAs
Placing non reproductive populations in HMAs that were closed due to unsafe gather conditions.
- Managed rotational grazing
Rotating grazing opportunities as needed to facilitate range and habitat improvements (
- New priorities for the Range Development Fund
Expend funds to benefit a thriving ecological environment rather than benefit commercial interests.
- Resource Development
Develop resources that would better disburse grazing pressure on fragile ranges and ecosystems.
- Revision of water laws
Allow Federal agencies to use water on/under Federal lands.
- Honest attribution of range impacts
Stop blaming horses for range degradation caused by livestock.
- Revise lease and permit fees
Collect funds sufficient to maintain a thriving ecological balance.
The range is a diverse environment so any given strategy would not likely be appropriate for every herd environment, however there clearly are opportunities available that could eventually reduce the numbers of horses that have to come off the range and at the same time help corral BLM's ever expanding long term costs.
Advocates are not likely achieve such opportunities until they ease up with their complaints and step up with their solutions.
Note: This commentary reflects the views of the writer who is solely responsible for its content.