We’ve been pleasantly surprised at LOLR to see that the posts in our “Science Stuff” category are some of the most popular posts on the blog.
It’s terrific that so many of our Placitas and other visitors want to learn about the impact of feral horses on land and wildlife sustainability from the biologists and rangeland scientists who study this stuff day in and day out. To this, we say “huzzah!” and raise high our glasses of local, sustainably-produced microbrew!
If you want to dig deep into what’s happening on Western lands from the combined stresses of climate change and grazing–whether by cattle, feral ungulates (that’s feral horses and burros; ungulate refers to an animal with hooves) or native ungulates (deer and elk)– this review paper is an informative read. Published in Environmental Management by eight researchers from different institutions, it gives some context to the ecosystem problems we face here in Placitas. The full paper is not for the faint-of-heart, but a summary that goes down easier can be found here.
In a nutshell, the cause of habitat destruction is not the either/or proposition that Placitas pro-horse advocates make it out to be (“All the damage to the land is from the drought; none is from the horses.”). As thoughtful people might surmise, drought/climate change stresses the land and overgrazing stresses the land. Combine the two and you have a crisis of land sustainability.
For a stark example of what has been happening in Placitas, see the photo in our August 14 post, which shows the difference between land impacted by drought and land impacted by drought-plus-horses. You can draw your own conclusions.