Boulder City resident Barbara Pennelle writes, “I consider myself a social conservative as well as an animal lover. I am concerned that perhaps some day the only place you might see an American mustang is in a zoo. That would be a real tragedy.”
Pahrump Realtor Paula Callahan scores big points with clients when she escorts them from Las Vegas through the Red Rock National Conservation Area and over the hill to her favorite small town. The burros she sometimes sees are great, but the wild horses have been removed.
“For 15 years I have lived and hiked all over this area, and only once did I see any wild horses ...” she says. “Bet it would be hard to find very many taxpayers who would agree to spend this money on the roundups. In fact, I seldom meet anyone who is for the roundups.”
Outside the ranching and horse slaughter community, that is. Nevada ranchers have long advocated for the horses’ removal from their federally leased cattle and sheep grazing land. The desert grasses and water sources are sparse, the ranchers argue, and the wild horses are competition, but aren’t native to the area. (Frankly, the cattle, sheep and ranchers aren’t native, either.)
As for the horse slaughter advocates, hey, they just want to kill them and eat them, turn them into dog food and boil the carcasses for soap and profit. Horses on the hoof are greenbacks in the wallet to them.
Not a sentimental bunch, the horse slaughter folks.
But these days the ranchers and equine “euthanasiasts” are having trouble selling their side of the story. Between BLM bungling and a recession economy, it just doesn’t make good sense to keep spending taxpayer dollars on federal horse roundups.
In the latest absurdity, the BLM after one day halted its expensive gathering of wild horses from the 1.3 million-acre Antelope Complex about an hour south of Wells. The roundup collected 1,368 horses, according to The Associated Press, but fell well short of the agency’s 2,000-animal goal.
Federal experts have determined the sprawling area can only handle from 427 to 788 horses. Meanwhile, the area contains many thousands of cows and sheep.
High winds grounded the helicopter the BLM uses to herd the horses.
So far, there’s still little appetite on the part of federal officials to embrace the detailed proposal forwarded by wild horse advocate Madeleine Pickens, who is busy developing a Nevada ranch that’s not for cattle or sheep, but set aside for the mustangs. It’s not a final answer to the dilemma of what to do with wild horses in a West that no longer seems to have room for them. (About half of the country’s estimated 36,000 mustangs roam Nevada’s great outback.)
Not that the animals’ advocates trust the government’s equine census takers. They have long contended the BLM has overestimated the number of horses in Nevada, and in doing so has overstated the problem for ranchers in an attempt to quiet the political turmoil surrounding the animals’ removal.
To animal activists, protecting the wild horses means stepping up, arguing for their safety and minimizing the roundups.
For the BLM, protecting those same beasts means substantially thinning the herds. But no one scores points with taxpayers by appearing to waste money on head-scratching programs, and federal officials and ranching community have a fight on their hands.
Asks reader Callahan, “How can we get the BLM, (Senate Majority Leader) Reid, and elected officials to take note of what the taxpayer wants?” Callahan asks.
We just might be doing that right now.
It’s time for a little wild horse sense from Washington, don’t you think?
John L. Smith writes a weekly column on rural Nevada. He also writes a daily column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702-383-0295 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.