By The Cloud Foundation
Colorado Springs, CO (August 12, 2015) - “Mustangs inhabited the West Douglas Herd Area (WDHA) long before Colorado was even a territory, let alone a state,” stated Toni Moore, Board Member of The Cloud Foundation (TCF). In their Sept. 1, 1776 diary entry Spanish Explorer-Priests Dominguez and Escalante wrote about meeting Ute Indians riding horses in these valleys: “We set out from San Ramón toward the north, and having traveled three leagues through small valleys with abundant pasturage and thick groves of dwarf oak, we met about 80 Yutas [Utes] all on good horses, most of them being from the rancheria to which we were going.”
For decades the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has attempted to obliterate this historic herd that has been in the area since long before the arrival of settlers and ranchers, claiming “wild horses that reside in the WDHA are impacting the landscape and the ability to maintain a thriving, natural ecological balance.”
The BLM estimates a population of 291 wild horses within the WDHA and an additional 74 horses outside the WDHA boundaries. In comparison, the BLM Rangeland Administration System indicates as many as 1158 cow/calf pairs inhabit the area from November through June, dwarfing the wild horse population.
“The owners of these cattle pay the government $1.69 per cow/calf pair per month. At the most, the BLM receives $15,656,” Moore states. “The Federal Livestock Grazing Program costs American taxpayers $123 million yearly.” Removing the cattle would actually save taxpayers money. The planned helicopter removal of wild horses will cost nearly 10 times more than the revenues received from livestock grazers. “The continual damage to the land from cattle and sheep grazing and the yearly drain on taxpayers who foot the bill for welfare ranching has to stop,” Moore concludes.
BLM’s Jan. 2015 Environmental Assessment, states “that all wild horses within or adjacent to the WDHA meet the statutory definition of excess animals, and therefore, consistent with the authority provided in 16 USC § 1333 (b) (2), the BLM shall immediately remove excess animals from the range.” This would reduce wild horse herds in Colorado to four, and the number of horses to 1150, compared to the many thousands of mustangs that once roamed the state.
“We have battled the destruction of this historic herd in the courts for decades,” stated Ginger Kathrens, Volunteer Executive Director of TCF, a Colorado based non-profit which advocates for the protection and preservation of wild horses on public lands. “As recently as 2009 the courts ruled against the BLM when District Court Judge Collyer enjoined the BLM from removing any wild horses from the herd,” she states. “BLM’s historic scapegoating of wild horses is a smoke screen,” continued Kathrens. “Western rangeland damage is caused by millions of head of privately-owned livestock, not our publically owned and theoretically protected wild horses.”
“Grazing of livestock on public lands is considered a privilege, not a right, and permits can be reduced or revoked per BLM Regulations (43 CFR § 4710.5).” mentions Paula Todd King, Communications Director for TCF. “Until the BLM finds the courage to address the real culprit – an overpopulation of welfare livestock – our historic wild horse herds will continue to be managed to extinction.”