One Person’s Opinion: It is vital horse gather takes place

Jennifer Hill

Jennifer Hill
Jennifer Hill
RBC I As the date for the Bureau of Land Management’s planned round-up of up to 167 wild horses in West Douglas herd area quickly approaches, so does the likelihood that one of the various wild horse advocacy groups will file suit to prevent the gather.

If history is repeated, it will be several weeks until one of the advocacy groups, likely The Cloud Foundation, files a stop-action suit. Typically, these organizations like to wait until the day before a gather is expected to file in order to create as much chaos and as much expense for the BLM as possible.
Their ultimate goal? To see all livestock grazing removed from Western lands and replaced with only wild horses.
If these groups are successful in postponing or stopping the gather, the results will be disastrous. A BLM memorandum released in January compared the results of rangeland monitoring data collected in 2002 and 2012 from sites within the West Douglas herd area.
They found a downward trend in desired plants “presumably because of incompatible stocking levels or duration of growing season use (including use of allocated AUM’s for livestock) by wild horses.”
They concluded that the range damage was primarily from wild horses, as ranchers in the area had already voluntarily decreased area livestock grazing. Evidence clearly shows that range health is degrading and wild horses are the cause.
Despite what the wild horse advocates like to tell people in order to evoke their emotions, and, thus, their pocketbooks, the BLM has no plans to eliminate the entire herd.
According to a BLM Scoping review released in January, there are approximately 365 wild horses in the West Douglas area alone. Even if they were able to gather all 167 horses from this area (which is highly unlikely) that would still leave a sizable herd.
Another claim that wild horse advocates such as The Cloud Foundation like to make is that the horses have a “historic right” to the area. The Piceance Creek and West Douglas herds were historically one herd. However when Highway 139 was fenced in the 1970s, the herds were broken up, leaving the West Douglas herd without the ability to migrate or access summer grazing grounds. Because of this, West Douglas was never determined to be an appropriate place to manage wild horses.
The horses are also assuredly not “wild mustangs” from Spanish stock. A 2010 study by E. Gus Cothran from Texas A&M University looked at the genetic history of the West Douglas herd and concluded that the horses’ “ancestry appears to be primarily North American breeds, probably representing ranch stock.”
If the gather is halted and the horses are allowed to continue destroying the range, it will not only impact local ranchers, but hunters as well.
Bill deVergie, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager out of Meeker, is hopeful that this devastating scenario will not play out.
He said the large wild horse herd is impacting big game populations in the area. If the hunting reputation of Rio Blanco County dwindles, what will the impact be to our local economy?
As the roundup date approaches, emotions around the issue are sure to run high.
However, it will be vital that locals remember to look at the facts and follow the logic instead of falling into the trap laid before us by narrow-sighted advocacy groups.