Joining Forces to Spur Action

sage grouse

Sage grouse populations in the West are threatened by habitat destruction from free-roaming horses.

Frustrated by the continuing overpopulation of free-roaming horses and degradation of public lands throughout the West, 13 organizations banded together a couple years ago to form the National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition.

Among the Coalition’s members are the Wildlife Society and other conservation organizations, sportsmen organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and National Rifle Association, and natural resources professional societies such as the Society for Range Management.

According to the Coalition, “The overpopulation of horses and burros on public lands poses a severe threat to the native fish, wildlife and plants that characterize a healthy rangeland ecosystem.”

Western States Fed Up With Poor Horse Management

Placitas is not the only place with horse issues. Throughout the Western states, free-roaming horse populations have burgeoned, causing problems for rangelands, forest lands, public parks, private land, and local communities.

A reader brought to our attention that the State of Wyoming has recently sued the federal government, alleging the BLM isn’t doing enough to control the growing wild horse population in the state, which is now seven times higher than the intended population size.

BLM horses

Governors of other western states are also fed up. The Western Governors Association has issued a resolution calling for better federal management of horse populations in order to limit land degradation. (You can learn more about the critical horse management problems faced by BLM in this article in the journal Science).

The problem isn’t only on federal lands designated for management of “wild” horse herds. We wrote awhile back about the severe environmental damage caused by free-roaming horses in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California and Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada.

Lyon-County-logoMany Nevada communities have serious horse problems, too. In Lyon County, Nevada, during one 10-day period in 2014, horse-vehicle collisions on public roads resulted in the death of one person, injuries to two others, and the death of seven horses.

Remind you of anything? In Placitas, we had several horse-vehicle collisions a year and a half ago in which some horses tragically died and drivers narrowly escaped injury or worse. Open space areas and parks in Lyon County (which, ironically, sports an image of a galloping horse on its logo), have had to be fenced to keep out horses, just as they have in Placitas.

All this is just the tip of the iceberg. When you learn how severe the free-roaming horse and related environmental problems are throughout the western US, Australia, Canada and other countries, you realize that Placitas is a microcosm of a much larger problem.