Letter to the Editor: Comments on wild horse gathering

Dear Editor:
On the front page of the Feb. 5 Herald Times, I read a press release by the local BLM requesting comments on local wild horse gathers. Comments were to be submitted prior to Feb. 14 and cannot be kept private by the BLM. My comments will not make the short deadline and I do not choose to keep them private, so I thought I would share them with Herald Times readers.

To quote the BLM press release, the “West Douglas herd currently has 365 wild horses and is not intended to be managed for wild horse populations.” I guess I will read between the lines here and assume this represents a 100 percent overpopulation of horses in this “management” area.
The Piceance-East Douglas herd has a current population of 377 horses. According to the BLM, its “appropriate” management level is “between 135 and 235 horses.”
Now, if I have a BLM cattle allotment for 135 cows and I stock it with 235 cows I am immediately in deep do-do with the BLM and numerous federal acts. I could lose my “privilege” to continue to use BLM lands for grazing.
But what the heck. I will use their figures and a bit of cowboy math to average the horse population acceptable level at 185 horses in the Piceance area. Using the same cowboy math and BLM figures, I come up with 742 horses on land to be managed for about 185 horses. The BLM is “considering” gathering a total of 167 horses in both of these areas and wants my input. Even though I am tardy, I will give them my input.
So, my first comment to the BLM is who in the heck is doing the math at the BLM. If we have 557 horses above their acceptable management levels, why aren’t we gathering 557 horses instead of 167?
The American taxpayers paid the BLM $77,245,000 to manage (I use the term loosely) all the wild horses and burros in the 10 Western states for fiscal year 2014. That’s about $5 a horse per day on animals held in “holding areas” and about $2 a day on horses held on larger private land pastures owned or leased by the BLM. We are talking about 48,000 horses currently being held in these facilities by the BLM’s own 2014 figures.
The BLM folks say they have room to hold 50,303 horses and burros. So they have room to capture and hold about 1,300 horses with current facilities?
Using BLM figures, the current “appropriate” maximum management level of horses and burros in the 10 Western states is approximately 26,684. They say the current level of free roaming horses and burros is 49,209.
By my math, that’s “about” 22,525 too many horses and burros for the current available habitat. They have room to capture and take care of about 1,300? What are they going to do about the 21,225 horses that are overpopulating the BLM paradise and increasing at 20 percent a year that they have no room for.
The BLM wild horse and burro adoption program just ain’t working folks – for a lot of very good reasons. The agency adopted out 2,173 horses in 2014 and they have at least 22,500 horses and burros above acceptable levels. They are out of storage space, out of pasture – public and private – and wild horse and burro populations continue to grow. (They have very little population loss by predators).
Folks at the BLM, wild horse advocates, PETA and the Humane Society need to wake up and smell the roses (or horse manure). By their own counts and figures, the BLM has way too many horses and burros and they are out of room to expand facilities for captive animals.
It is my understanding that some of the ranchers in Kansas and Nebraska who have leased large acreages of private land to the BLM for captive horses and burros are not going to renew these leases.
I have to wonder if they are finding out that too many horses and burros are hard on their private range. I also have to wonder if they are just running out of patience in working with the BLM.
The United States Department of Interior (BLM) is out of room for horses, is out of pasture and water, and probably short of hay, and the taxpayers (those who actually know what a wild horse or burro is) are out of patience!
The BLM has a great opportunity here. It can be one small arm of an oversized, wasteful and mismanaged government that actually solves a big problem. It should put horse advocates and bleeding hearts at arm’s length and get these horse numbers down to their own prescribed management levels in every horse management area in each of the 10 Western states where they roam.
I wish the BLM luck, and I pledge my personal but limited support. Let’s stiff-arm the naysayers, do-gooders, environmental obstructionists, recognize the problem and address it head-on.
Why can’t it start right here in Meeker at our district office?
I grew up on a ranch on Piceance Creek, where we raised cattle and horses. I’m familiar with the area. I love horses. I firmly believe in proper care and husbandry of all animals—wild and domestic.
I don’t claim to be an expert on wild horses nor do I claim to be an expert in range science, but I do think that I have enough common sense to see the obvious. These numbers just flat won’t work.
So far, there are three big losers in this shell game: the taxpayers, our federal lands, and, most of all, the mismanaged wild horses themselves.
Wiley Berthelson
Rancher
Meeker

P.S.: The following directive is from the BLM website as are all of the figures quoted in the above letter:
“The ecosystems of public rangelands are not able to withstand the impacts from overpopulated herds, which include soil erosion, sedimentation of streams and damage to wildlife habitat. As for the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act, as amended, Section 1333 of that law mandates that once the Interior Secretary determines … on the basis of all information currently available, that an overpopulation exists in a given area of the public lands and that action is necessary to remove excess animals, he shall immediately remove excess animals from the range so as to achieve appropriate management levels.”