A couple of months ago in doing research we pointed out in "Relabeling of Acreage Created the Overpopulation Myth of Wild Horses & Burros" that BLM admitted in the 1986 entry in the Federal Register that the population of wild horses and burros in this country in 1971 was not known. And we showed you that BLM currently has a national population target based on a fictional 1971 population.
A recent find by one of our researchers is another place that BLM not only admits the population in 1971 was not known but that it was likely higher than they speculated. And that they have no legal mandate to manage public lands for the number of horses that were on our lands in any particular year. Rather, the only measurement for the determination of 'excess' horses that could initiate removals is an unhealthy range. This means the ultimate test is whether or not the range is meeting the standard of "thriving natural ecological balance."
"Defendants respond that they do not have an obligation under the law or regulations to reduce the wild horse population to 1971 levels. Defendants argue that the laws require them to remove wild horses only if actual ongoing substantial damage to the range is occurring because of an excess number of wild horses using it."
But there was one bomb shell finding in this court case too. BLM not only admits that they are not supposed to manage for a national population level but they also admit that any census from 1971 - 1977 was likely incorrect.
"Defendants also challenge the horse censuses from 1971 forward to 1977 as inadequate and inaccurate, and incorrectly reflecting the true horse population during that period. Defendants claim that the horse numbers were actually substantially larger than the BLM censuses indicated."
We knew that the current claim BLM has posted on their BLM Myths & Facts page saying there were only 25,345 wild horses & burros in 1971 was not in agreement with the first census in 1973 that stated there were approximately 60,000. And in the statement above it is clear that even the 1973 census was in doubt by then Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, who directed horses to be managed at the then 1981 population levels. The judge's opinion on the Watts mandate was that it was "simply an arbitrary decision to maintain 1981 numbers."
And the judge ultimately found the mandate set forth by Secretary Watt was not lawful:
"Perhaps Secretary Watt's 1981 decision may be defended as being a practical management decision based upon the necessity for "doing something." However, a closer look at the decision reveals that it cannot be defended. As mentioned, a decision made on such a basis is not in compliance with the regulations of the Bureau of Land Management contained in 43 C.F.R. § 4700. Nor does the decision accord with the specific directives contained in the 1978 amendments to the Wild Horse Act incorporated in 16 U.S.C. § 1333(b)..."
So BLM is once again trying to make up the laws as they go. And the problem we have in trying to defend the horses and stop these gathers that THIS YEAR (2022) will leave us with fewer horses than there were in 1971, is that everything regarding allowable population boils down to BLM interpretation of the legal goal..."Thriving Natural Ecological Balance."
"Ecological Balance means a dynamic balance of nature components, natural phenomenon, and anthropogenic factors which leads to the long lasting and sustainable survival." The meaning of anthropogenic is of, relating to, or resulting from the influence of human beings on nature. How do the words added to the beginning "Thriving" and "Natural" change this definition of ecological balance?
In determining the state of the natural ecological balance you must look at symbiosis. Symbiosis is defined as: An example of ecological interrelationships. There are many types of symbiotic relationships. For millions of years our native horses evolved here and only here on this continent. There is a theory that they went extinct but that is a matter of disagreement among scientists, despite the court in WHOA v NMLB saying that our horses are native. These wild horses have always had a mutualism when looking at the symbiotic relationship they have with other species, meaning that both species benefitted. Thus far no scientific study we are aware of can prove with qualitative or quantitative proof that the horses cause any other species harm.
What is certain is that livestock on our lands have a symbiotic relationship with other species which is referred to as parasitism. This is the case when one species benefits and the other is harmed. We know that is the case for every other species on the land as predators have been eliminated to the point of near extinction, which has thrown off the natural population control of several other species on which these predators would prey, which then affects the plants consumed, and on and on that cascade goes.
BLM in its attempt to prove excess wild horses exist in a given area will blame damage done by livestock on the horses. Again, where is the study?
BLM needs to employ scientists with no conflict of interest, to determine forage utilization by species. However, the current studies that are being done show that the livestock, and extractive industries will pay to put their friends/relatives through universities where they get their degree in rangeland management. And these people are the ones pumping out studies that seem to produce a report with a predetermined outcome that neatly fits the BLM narrative.
What we do know is that we can look to rewilding studies in other countries to see the benefit of horses for restoring the land. We know that the truth about the environmental damage being done by livestock can be found in 2 studies that came out of China (pdf files linked below), but not one here in the US. It's time for our government, our representatives, to hear our voices. We don't want public lands used for the benefit of non-native introduced animals that are part of private, for-profit business operations.
We want BLM held accountable for their lies about population, their lack of protection of our wild and native equines and their habitats. There are so many twists that have been made through BLM's misinterpretation of the original law that Congress must investigate the entire Wild Horse & Burro Program, and go back to the original law and it is clear intent to protect a "fast disappearing" species.
References: (click the boxes below to read open the pdf version of each paper)