By Suzanne Roy, One Green Planet
Beginning in early November, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) helicopters will descend on the remote Beatys Butte Herd Management Area (HMA) in southern Oregon. Their target: 1,500 federally-protected wild horses living peacefully on nearly 400,000 acres of public land in that area.
When the roundup is over, the lives of these noble mustangs will be shattered – their families torn apart, their freedom just a memory. Some will not survive the roundup, perishing from injuries sustained during the helicopter stampede or in the trap pens. Many more will perish in the months following the roundup in the holding facilities where they will be held in feedlot pens for “processing” and warehousing.
America’s wild horses and burros are protected under federal law as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that … enrich the lives of the American people.” The law is supposed to protect wild free-roaming horses and burros from “capture, branding, harassment, or death.”
So What is Going on Here?
Two words: livestock industry. The ranchers that form the Beatys Butte Grazing Association hold permits to graze cattle on the public lands designated as habitat for the Beatys Buttewild horses. These ranchers pay grazing fees that are a fraction of market rate, thanks to our tax subsidies. They view mustangs – cherished by millions of Americans – as competition for this cheap grazing, and they want them gone. They have been lobbying the BLM to removewild horses from the area. The BLM, an agency run by and for the ranchers, is only too happy to comply.
The American taxpayers, who strongly support wild horse protection, but will pay $1 million for the helicopter roundup and as much as $75 million for the lifetime warehousing of the horses in a system where an astounding 50,000 captured mustangs and burros are already stockpiled.
In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences recommended that the BLM utilize humane fertility control strategies – including the PZP birth control vaccine — as an alternative to the costly removals of animals for managing population numbers. The PZP vaccine has been used for more than two decades to successfully and humanely manage wildlife populations – including wild horses – throughout the world.
Instead of heeding the NAS’ recommendations and utilizing available technology to humanely manage wild horses on the range, the BLM continues to wring its hands and claim that the only thing it can do is remove more and more wild horses from the range. This attitude has resulted in the absurd situation we have today with as many wild horses warehoused in holding facilities as remain free on the range.
Helping Oregon’s Horses
n Oregon, as nationally, wild horses are present on less than 20 percent of BLM land grazed by livestock. Conflicts between ranchers and wild horses can be resolved – there is a will and there is a way:
- BLM must stop the brutal roundups and start humanely managing wild horses on the range utilizing the best option available today – the PZP birth control vaccine.
- BLM must start treating wild horses and burros fairly by increasing the numbers of these iconic animals that are allowed to live on our public lands and reducing livestock grazing in wild horse and burro habitat.
- BLM should offer retirement of livestock grazing permits in mustang country and create a mechanism to allow for compensation of ranchers for non-use of their grazing permits. This will be far more cost-effective than continuing to round up, remove and stockpile wild horses in holding facilities.
Sign the petition against the Mega Mustang Roundup in Oregon and join the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign’s efforts Keep Wild Horses and Burros Wild.