Happy Anniversary!

IMG_1988It is an anniversary of sorts. Two years ago today, the perimeter fence around the 560-acre Placitas Open Space was completed inĀ order to prevent further environmental degradation to this area, which had been overrun by free-roaming horses. Today, the POS is slowly recovering from the severe overgrazing and soil damage of those years.

I remember taking an out-of-town friend to the POS during the height of the horse incursion in 2012. The loss of vegetation, trampled creek banks, swaths of compacted dirt and sheet erosion, and massive piles of horse manure in Coyote Canyon and elsewhere were truly depressing. The once knee-high grasses along Las Huertas Creek were gone. It felt like we were walking in a feedlot.

In what turned out to be quite a battle, the efforts of a small group of local residents (the Let Our Land Rest group) to protect the POS eventually bore fruit and, with the help of the City of Albuquerque’s Open Space Division, the fencing was completed.

Cougar Track Las Huertas 020716

Mountain lion track in Placitas Open Space, February 7, 2016.

Two years later, it’s peaceful along the trails, with springtime flocks of Western bluebirds flitting among the junipers. Here and there, clumps of native grasses are tall enough to waft in the breeze. Mule deer tracks seen in Coyote Canyon last fall and mountain lion tracks spied in the Las Huertas Creek drainage three weeks ago tell us that large animals are moving quietly in the night through canyons and arroyos. Although recovery will take years, this beleaguered island of habitat that lies between roads, pipelines, gravel mines, and residential subdivisions is breathing again.

It’s good to take a moment to celebrate.

Getting the word out: Rangeland ecosystems at tipping point

BLM horses

“Free-roaming horses and burros will continue to increase in population by 18-20 percent annually without improved management actions.”–NHBRMC

Horse and burro populations are out of control on western rangelands, and the National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition (NHBRMC) is taking to the airwaves to educate the public about the serious problem this poses for wildlife and rangeland health. Finally, national organizations are taking a stand on this dire situation.

The Coalition, which we wrote about in an earlier post, is airing its TV commercials in Colorado. They can also be viewed at www.wildhorserange.org. See the one focusing on wildlife here.

You Can Help

Native wildlife and rangeland health are being significantly harmed by horse and burro overpopulations, in large part because the wild horse lobby — through protests and lawsuits — makes it impossible for the BLM and US Forest Service to manage herds effectively.

And because the horse lobby is loud, persistent and poorly informed, our elected officials need to hear from constituents who support wildlife and land sustainability (especially Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is currently co-sponsoring a short-sighted, poorly thought out bill, HR 1492, that would only add to the feral horse problem in New Mexico and other states).

You can send a message to NM’s congressional delegation urging immediate action to protect rangeland ecosystems by going to this link. (Just type in your email address and zip code to get started).