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I read Dr. Moore’s letter concerning the West Douglas herd gather with a great deal of interest and in the end, sorrow. The Fruita veterinarian, while well intentioned, ignored critical facts, blaming ranchers for this necessary removal. I won’t dispute the fact that ranchers do want the herds downsized and there are solid, environmentally sound reasons to do so. For anyone who has had first-hand glimpses of any of our Horse Management Areas and adjacent BLM permits in Colorado, the facts are clear: the range ecosystem is in critical condition compounded certainly by multiple factors. Even worse, the wild horse herds that inhabit these areas are on the verge of collapse. Without aggressive, timely intervention, what Dr. Moore wishes would not happen—their eradication—will occur by the consequence of a dispassionate, natural order—by starvation. As a veterinarian, he must know how cruel and painful such a demise can be.
The compelling issue is this: are we compassionate enough, courageous enough, and smart enough to make the right choice?
Here is the reality: Because there is little to no water on the West Douglas, no feed as a result of the Oil Spring fire and severe drought, these horses, according to BLM and compassionate observers, are approaching starvation. If they are not gathered immediately, most will likely die. If ranchers were truly as dispassionate as Moore suggests, it would be logical to assume that we should just stand back and let them die. It is not in our character in animal husbandry to allow such a terrible result. In fact, many ranchers are the primary source of water and feed for these very horses that Moore claims we want to destroy.
We recognize that the only way to save these horses, that we often curse, but also in our own way admire, is to capture them so that they may be fed, cared for, and hopefully, adopted. We also recognize that we must be more diligent in implementing control measures for the size of these herds that are effective, practical, and frugal.
No one wants to see thousands of horses in holding pens living out the rest of their lives. But no reasonable human being wants to see thousands of horses negatively impacting significant blocks of fragile ecosystems, destroying habitat and further threatening endangered species, especially in the midst of the catastrophic drought. In the end, it is about more than horses. It’s about all of us who share this land.
I appreciate Dr. Moore’s romantic notion of wild horses. We all are somehow attached to our own fanciful version of the West or we wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t care so much about this place we live. However, I respect compassion more. If compassion is our starting point in addressing stark facts, then the end result will be a sound solution for all of us.
Kathleen S. Kelley
Josephine Basin Land and Livestock
Special to The Herald Times