Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wild horses and the legal system Part one


October 19, 5:25 PMLA Equine Policy ExaminerCarrol Abel
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Taylor Grazing Districts in 1937            DOI, BLM 1988

"The current situation is a management environment driven by court decree where biological rationale is lost within a myriad of legal arguments and competing agendas."      Kris Havstad USDA

Our nation's wild horses and burros are regulated by so many laws, government bureaus, agencies, and commissions that it's impossible for John Q. Public to fully understand.  Many question whether the judicial system itself can effectively wade through the incongruence's created.  Misrepresentation of wild horse facts have been uttered so often by so many as to become accepted truths.
Court documents from a 1975 lawsuit state, " The uncontradicted evidence is that wild horse herds do not normally migrate..."  This particular stupidity has not survived the years but serves as a precursor to many myths that were to follow.
Wild horse opponents argue on the basis that wild horses are feral or estray, they are not an indigenous species and can not be considered as wildlife, they cause tremendous degradation to public rangelands, wild horse herds are starving, the herds grow at an annual rate of %20, they graze the lands void of feed needed by the cattle industry to supply America with food. Proponents disagree.
Where did the dissension begin?  Has prejudice against wild horses permeated the creation and implementation of our laws?
Wild horses and cattle have been at war since homesteaders settled the old west. Ranchers in the 1800's declared, " they are the worst nuisance imaginable."  Some rallied together with cries of, " We can shoot them and feed the starving countries of Europe."  And shoot them they did.  Nevada passed a law in 1897 allowing citizens to shoot unbranded horses on public lands.  The law was repealed after ranches complained about losing too many of their domestic horses.  Though they did not pass similar laws, other western states were of the same mind. By the early 1900's the wild horse was almost exterminated from the southwestern states.
In 1934, the Taylor Grazing Act became the law of Western rangelands.  Intended to provide a stewardship for overgrazed western ranges, the law established the Grazing Bureau within the Department of Interior.  Public lands were sectioned into grazing districts to be managed by the new Bureau.
Kris Havstad, research rangeland management specialist for USDA, made the following statements in a late 1990's report,
"The implementations of the provisions of the grazing act was intentionally oriented to the needs of the ranching community of the west... The original grazing districts were established under direction of an advisory committee comprised of cattle and sheep ranchers in each region.  The adjuration of land and water rights serving millions of acres of range lands was accomplished primarily by these users."
The Grazing Bureau born by this act merged in 1946 with the General Land Office to form the current Bureau of Land Management..... the Bureau now mandated by Congress to protect free-roaming horses and burros in these United States.
" Wild horses and the legal system" is a multi-part commentary.   Part two " The influence of livestock ranching on the law" can be accessed here

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