Mustangs in Crisis
Perryman says that managing the rangeland has become more complicated with wild horses.
“Now that the BLM has stopped conducting enough roundups, they’ve allowed wild horses and burros in some areas to become three, five, even 10 times over the appropriate management level [AML]. Their resources are still limited and exponential growth can’t go on forever. This creates a massive problem for the rangeland because they’re putting unmanaged pressure on forage all day, every day, for the entire year. Eventually, that landscape reaches a threshold where native high-forage-value plants lose the ability to compete with unpalatable, undesirable or nonnative species.”
Perryman says he believes that the situation for wild horses will only get worse, even if more land is designated for them.
“We have dysfunctionality in the box,” he says. “We can make the box bigger by taking away more land and forage from wildlife and livestock, but then we would just have more dysfunctionality in an even bigger box. This would buy us time, but eventually natural regulation will take place and horses could die by the thousands.
“When the public sees the horses starving to death, there will be an outcry for the BLM to gather them to save their lives. The horses will then be warehoused for the rest of their lives and saved. But what about the rangeland and everything that depends on it? How is it fair to the reptiles, songbirds, small mammals, pronghorn, ranchers, and future generations of people to inherit a degraded rangeland that we knew was being damaged and could’ve been prevented?”
Many wild horse advocacy groups have argued that wild horses are better off left alone. Through the years, large numbers of lawsuits against the BLM have halted various roundups, prevented research for spaying mares, and blocked the use of fertility control and the use of GPS collars to study wild horse movement.
The situation with wild horses has been a contentious issue for decades, with fingers pointed at the BLM, advocacy groups, politicians and ranchers. Nearly everyone agrees that the plight of these horses is not improving. Few aware of the situation advise staying the course. So what are the management options that could be used to bring the wild horse and burro program back on a sustainable track?