Monday, August 19, 2013

Nevada's wild horses in the national news

Two recent stories have highlighted the plight of Nevada's huge wild horse population as well as the controversy over how best to respond to that plight.

This one today on NPR is "Wild Horses Run Free as Adoption Centers Fill Up."  Will Stone's story begins with a description of the Palomino Valley National Adoption Center, 20 miles north of Reno, the first stop for many horses the Bureau of Land Management rounds up on the range.  Right now, the BLM spends 60% of its budget on these captured horses, which a BLM official says leaves inadequate resources to "do proper management on the range." Indeed, more horses and burros--50K--are in the federally funded facilities than are left the wild (40K).  Stone reports:
The [wild horse] population has rebounded dramatically since the 1970s. A recent study attributes this to the BLM's rounding up so many horses. The agency has reduced competition for food and water on the range, and now horses are reproducing at unnatural rates. Advocates hope the study may bring about substantive policy changes — namely an end to roundups. The bureau's cut back on roundups, [BLM official] Shepherd says, but can't halt them altogether.
"On State of Wild Horses, Stars and Indians Spar" was published last week in the New York Times.  The lede for the latter follows:
It seemed at first like a logical alliance for boldface names in the interconnected worlds of Hollywood and politics. Bill Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico, and the actor Robert Redford, a staunch conservationist, joined animal rights groups in a federal lawsuit to block the revival of horse slaughter in the United States, proclaiming that they were “standing with Native American leaders,” to whom horse slaughter “constitutes a violation of tribal cultural values." 
Soon, though, the two men, who recently started a foundation to protect New Mexico’s wildlife, found themselves on a collision course with the Navajo Nation, the country’s largest federally recognized tribe, whose president released a letter to Congress on Aug. 2 asserting his support for horse slaughtering. 
Free-roaming horses cost the Navajos $200,000 a year in damage to property and range, said Ben Shelly, the Navajo president. There is a gap between reality and romance when, he said, “outsiders” like Mr. Redford — who counts gunslinger, sheriff’s deputy and horse whisperer among his movie roles — interpret the struggles of American Indians.
This NYT report (including video) earlier this summer provides excellent background on the controversy. 

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