“More than mining or drought… livestock grazing has caused the most devastation to the site.” That’s what Adam Lujan, a range management specialist with the BLM, was quoted as saying about the Buffalo Tract in an article in Saturday’s Santa Fe New Mexican. And by livestock, Lujan means free-roaming horses (although the BLM has issued grazing permits for the tract, no cattle have been on the tract for some time due to the lack of forage). You can read the entire article, which focuses on BLM’s upcoming disposition of the Buffalo Tract and related horse issues, here.
The article points out that the two pueblos interested in obtaining all or a portion of the severely grass-depleted tract have very different ideas about how it should be managed. While Santa Ana Pueblo says it would let the land rest and recover so it can better support wildlife, San Felipe Pueblo says they would put more horses on the land by turning it into a horse sanctuary.
Don’t miss this recent article in Slate magazine by conservation biologist Daniel Rubinoff and ecologist Christopher Lepczyk, who state that feral horses are a scourge of the West, not a symbol, and that romanticizing horses has seriously harmed the environment. They describe how horses destroy the fragile biotic soil crusts that hold grasslands together, compete with native wildlife for forage and water, and exacerbate the impacts of climate change and habitat fragmentation.
“The current stalemate portends an end result that will be tragic. With little controlling their populations, wild horses will increase in number and permanently degrade sensitive riparian areas, like the Salt River, across the West. These areas are unlikely to recover unless we round up invasive horses soon, because topsoil in arid ecosystems can take thousands of years to regenerate.”
A tip of the hat to Bob A. for sending the link.