American citizens, when polled, state in overwhelming numbers that they value their country’s wild horse and burro population. Advocates have fought long and hard for decades to preserve them, and will no doubt keep fighting.
At opposite ends, the U.S. federal government — charged with their oversight — loathe America’s wild horses and burros and seek to destroy them at every turn. Why? They covet the lands they roam on; they want it for Corporate America to rape and pillage. Rape and pillage they certainly do, but the focus is not on them often enough. Most of the antagonism is trained on the so-called welfare cattle ranchers.
Welfare ranchers hold cheap leases that have often been in their families for so many generations they believe they “own” the public lands they use, chiefly to graze cattle, and feel highly entitled to do so. They are not alone out there.
In high contrast to the aforesaid, you have the super rich we refer to as “Rolex Ranchers” who use vast portions of America’s public lands. They include Ted Turner, Baron Hilton, Mary Hewlett-Jaffey, the JR Simplot Company, Annheiser-Busch and Hunt Oil Company of Dallas. Read about them in “Wild horses, federal grazing and America’s billionaire welfare ranchers“. Not just yet though!
None of the above are doing the public lands any good. Quite the contrary. They are devastating thousands of acres year after year after year.
In contrast, wild horses and burros actually replenish the lands. Yet the federal government would have you believe that they are the ones having a “devastating effect on rangelands”. Cattle are having a devastating effect on public rangelands. Wild horses are “free roaming”. Cattle are not free roaming. Cattle will graze all the way down to the dirt until you move them along. Wild horses are constantly on the move.
Settling those two age old arguments
The following arguments must be settled before we can determine the status and future of wild horses in American, and wherever else they are in the world.
• Argument No. 1: Are wild horses a native species? Yes or no.
• Argument No. 2: Do wild horses damage or improve ecosystems? Yes or no.
Below we quote liberally from a tremendous writer who settles the issue in clear, concise terms. The title of the source report is “Wild Equids Versus Cattle: Two Controversial Questions”, by Janice M. Ladendorf.
Oh, before we start, exotic as used below refers to introduced species, alien species, invasive species or non-indigenous species.
Ms Ladendorf writes:
Those who want to exterminate wild horses believe they are an exotic species who has done great damage to our western ranges. Wild horse advocates maintain they are a native species, who can contribute much to our ecosystems. There are two questions here. Are horses a native species? Do free roaming horses damage or improve ecosystems?
Are horses a native species?
Equids, including zebras and donkeys, spent five million years evolving on the plains of North America, as did the pronghorn antelope. When they migrated from here to Eurasia, horses and donkeys were domesticated there. What left here was Equus Callabus and what returned with the Conquistadors was still Equus Callabus. This fact has been verified by DNA analysis. Domestication did not make any significant changes in equine physiology. This fact explains why domestication dates for horses have always been so difficult to identify.
Scientists use two criteria to define a native species. Fossil evidence has to show the species evolved in a specific location and it coevolved with this habitat. Equus Callabus meets both of them, as do bison and big horned sheep. Their ancestors migrated here from Eurasia, but adapted to their new environment by evolving into new species. Elk, moose, mule deer, and white tailed deer also migrated here, but adapted without any need to evolve into new species. Therefore they are not native to North America yet our laws still give them special protections denied to wild horses. Only non-scientists believe all the species found here by European settlers were native to this continent.
Unlike horses, cattle are exotic species who did not evolve in North America. The first ones arrived from Spain in 1498. They did fairly well in the Southwest, but the blizzard of 1888 showed they needed human help to survive our winters. English breeds came later and they had evolved in cool, wet ecologies.
Do wild horses damage or improve ecosystems?
For well over a hundred years, the number of cattle on our western ranges has been held at a level where profits have been maximized at the expense of land on which they grazed. The ecological damage done by cattle has been well documented, but there has been little or no research done here on the impact of free roaming horses, but one study did show horse grazed sites had better grass cover and species richness.
Scientists believe horses are a keystone species in the preservation and restoration of grassland ecosystems. They believe evolution gave horses the ability to modify their environment to suit their species and in doing so, they benefit numerous other plants and animals. Their digestive systems are relatively inefficient so they must eat a high quantity of food to satisfy their nutritional needs. Horses are browsers who prefer high quality grasses, but evolution gave them the ability to survive on any type of forage. Wild horses will typically graze down lower quality grasses whose growth could otherwise feed forest fires.
The end result of their high quantity diet is they produce lots of quality manure. It includes the seeds of whatever wild plants they have been eating and it enhances soil fertility because it contains a high level of nitrogen. Harem stallions typically create stud piles out of their manure, but other horses deposit manure all over their habitats and it encourages the growth of various species of vegetation. This growth encourages the return of both endangered plants and animals.
Horses also contribute in other ways. They are powerful enough to break trails through heavy brush. Unlike cattle, in the winter they will eat snow as an alternative to water and use their hard hooves to paw through snow to reach the grass underneath. Some of what they have to do to survive aids other species. In winters, they smash through the ice on waterholes to get water to drink. In summers, they dig for both water and salt. What they open up other animals can use to survive.
Cattle are an exotic species and have done much damage on our western ranges. Equus Callabus is a native species and could become the keystone species for the restoration of our grasslands.
Read more at http://www.jladendorf.com/157595908.
Environmental train wreck
Check out these characters. Look at the sign they put up.
Livestock grazing on Point Reyes is a continually unfolding environmental train wreck. Organic ranching is just ranching with all the environmental damage but no chemical additives.
For example, native bunchgrasses growing in the livestock-free elk preserve have deep, abundant root systems that sequester large amounts of soil carbon. Meanwhile, dairy and beef cattle operations have converted their fenced paddocks to non-native annual grasses that have shallow roots sequestering little carbon. Thus, in addition to the potent greenhouse-gas emissions from the cattle’s digestive tracts (methane), ranching impairs carbon sequestration in the soil.
The National Park Service bought all the ranches in Point Reyes 40 years ago, paying a pretty penny — $57.7 million in 1960s dollars (equivalent to $313 million today). Point Reyes ranchers were allowed to stay on the now-public land for up to 25 years after the sale.
It’s long past time for ranchers whose 25-year “life estates” are expired to keep their end of the bargain. Private lands where dairy and beef cattle can graze abound in the Bay Area. On the other hand, public lands like Point Reyes National Seashore are in short supply, and with an ever-growing population of outdoor-oriented people nearby, it makes no sense to commit public recreation lands to private agricultural operations.
Ranch operations should move out of homes owned by the Park Service, and move their livestock off public lands that by law must be managed to protect and preserve, for the use and enjoyment of the people.
This just in.
How horses can save the Permafrost
In a News Release dated March 17, 2020, the University of Hamburg tells us:
Permafrost soils in the Arctic are thawing. As they do, large additional quantities of greenhouse gases could be released, accelerating climate change. In Russia, experiments are now being conducted in which herds of horses, bison and reindeer are being used to combat this effect. A study from Universität Hamburg, just released in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, now shows for the first time that this method could indeed significantly slow the loss of permafrost soils.
Theoretically speaking, 80 percent of all permafrost soils around the globe could be preserved until the year 2100, as has now been demonstrated by Prof. Christian Beer from Universität Hamburg’s Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN), an expert on the permanently frozen soils found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. If no action is taken to prevent it, half of the world’s permafrost will thaw by 2100. The new study explores a somewhat unconventional countermeasure: resettling massive herds of large herbivores.
The inspiration came from Pleistocene Park in Chersky, a city in northeast Russia. Russian scientists Sergey and Nikita Zimov resettled herds of bison, wisents, reindeer and horses there more than 20 years ago, and have been observing the effects on the soil ever since.
When the snow cover is scattered and compressed thanks to the grazing animals’ stamping hooves, its insulating effect is dramatically reduced, intensifying the freezing of the permafrost. “This type of natural manipulation in ecosystems that are especially relevant for the climate system has barely been researched to date — but holds tremendous potential,” Beer says.
The long-term experiments conducted in Russia show that, when 100 animals are resettled in a 1 km2 area, they cut the mean snow cover height in half. Christian Beer and his colleagues wanted to determine what effect this could produce when applied to all Arctic permafrost soils as a whole. Could the animals’ influence, at least in theory, even be enough to mitigate intensive warming of the atmosphere and stop the thawing of the permafrost?
See News Release at Science Daily »
If you think that’s a million miles away and has little to do with us, read on:
In Bethel, Alaska, walls are splitting, houses are collapsing, and the main road looks like a kiddy rollercoaster. In the coastal town of Kongiganak, sinking cemeteries prevent Alaskans from burying their dead in the ground. The village of Shishmaref, located on an island five miles from the western Alaska mainland, has eroded so much that it is contemplating total relocation. These communities are being plagued by permafrost that is thawing.
See “Why Thawing Permafrost Matters“, Columbia University, Jan. 11, 2018.
Horses of Chernobyl
Of course you know the story about wild horses and Chernobyl, right? We can’t leave them out. What a story they have been.
The Przewalski’s horse were nearly extinct, but in an effort to save the species they were introduced into the area around Chernobyl in 1998 and to other reserves worldwide. Without humans living in the area, the horse population began increasing. Without humans . . . wink!
Mother Nature is amazing. She gives us all the answers. However, we have to be smart enough to listen to her, and heed her wisdom.
Next Up: The Wild Horses of Australia
FEATURED IMAGE: Wild Horse by Carol Walker Living Images. See http://www.livingimagescjw.com/.