Friday, October 9, 2009

Wild Horse Expert Claims BLM Cheated Horses Out of Half Their Habitat

BLM running down and stripping the Pryor Wild Mustang Reserve of horses

by Steven Long, editor of Horseback Magazine

HOUSTON , (Horseback) – A prominent wild horse expert says there was considerably more land set aside for wild horses in 1971 than is currently claimed by the Bureau of Land Management. Craig Downer, a wildlife ecologist, calls the agency’s claims a national outrage.

Downer frequently speaks at wild horse conferences and has written numerous papers on the North American Mustang.

“With guidance being the true tenets of the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, P.L. 92-195, the “where found” provision should be more broadly interpreted and researched according to the year-round occupied habitat of each equid herd extant in 1971,” he told Horseback Online.

Craig Downer

“I have assembled testimony from witnesses supporting a much larger legal area for the wild equid throughout the West,” Downer says. “It appears that a large portion of this was deliberately excluded by officials in order to minimize the presence of these national heritage species. I have encountered more objective assessments of the original legal herd areas far in excess of what is today officially presented.”

The horses roamed on millions more acres than the BLM currently claims, Downer says. The claim is contrary to the areas the agency set aside for the horses in 1971, and then dramatically reduced through leases for cattle grazing.

Currently, Mustang and burro advocates charge that cattle outnumber wild horses and donkeys 100 -1 on habitat set aside in the bill passed after a struggle led by the late Velma Johnson of Nevada, now known as the legendary “Wild Horse Annie.”

Wild Horses free and healthy, before being rounded up by the BLM

“This leads me to believe that originally the wild horses and burros had in excess of 80 million legal acres on BLM and US Forest Service lands, but right off the bat they were cheated out of nearly half of this,” Downer claims.

He says that his assertions are supported by eye witnesses who knew the horse’s range and saw them in 1971 and earlier. The law came to be called the “Wild Horse Annie Law.”

“Many eye witnesses to this sabotage are still alive and attest to these shenanigans in states such as Arizona.”

” Now BLM officials say the number was 53 million original acres of which now well over 20 million acres have no wild horses and burros (have been zeroed out). In spite of this great inequity, the officials’ march continues to further eliminate or marginalize the wild horses and burros in their remaining herd management areas.”

Downer, nationally recognized as one of the nation’s most prominent wild horse experts called BLM claims “a shame and a disgrace to America!”

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