Letter to the Editor: It’s time to hold the BLM to account

Wild horses kick up dust as they run at a watering hole outside Salt Lake City, July 18, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

OPINION — Elected officials and ranchers are being misled by BLM. Representative Chris Stewart, Senator Mike Lee and Utah’s public-lands ranchers are understandably alarmed by the statistics BLM publishes on wild horse population growth.  I am too, but for an entirely different reason.

Read more: Letter to the Editor from Rep. Chris Stewart, Sen. Mike Lee: It’s time to take back the reins

Close inspection and analysis of BLM’s reports have disclosed numerous instances of impossible herd-growth figures. What is a normal population-growth rate?

Using BLM’s own herd-demographics data, independent studies have determined that the average birth rate across wild-horse herds is, at most, 20%. However, also on average, 40% or more of foals perish before their first birthday. Thus, the birth rate is just a temporary blip in the data.

Annual adult-mortality runs at least 10%. Consequently, the normal year-to-year population-growth rate is approximately 2%. The birth rate cannot be used as the growth rate because it fails to factor in the mortality rates. Yet, that is exactly what BLM does – it uses the birth rate (20%) as the population-growth rate.

Impossible growth-figures

In practice, things are actually worse. BLM has repeatedly been caught reporting one-year growth rates many times higher than even the 20% birth rate.  Among scores of examples, below are some that pertain to Utah. BLM officially reported the following biologically-impossible one-year population-growth rates for the following Utahn herds:

161% — Chloride Canyon
164% — Mt. Elinor
235% — Bible Spring
256% — Choke Cherry

Overpopulation is a concocted crisis. It is wrongful to take wild horses from the range and inject them with chemical sterilants because the rationale for doing so – overpopulation – is fake.

The real crisis is found on BLM’s falsified reports, where phony figures are used to support a bloated budget. Those are the places where culling and cutting are needed.

Wild horses prevent wildfires 

Meanwhile, overlooked in the uproar over BLM’s exploding spreadsheets is the critical service that wild horses perform: Lowering the risk of fire.

Wild horses thrive on marginal forage – that coarse dry stuff that cattle don’t like. The horses’ grazing strategy helps reduce the fuel load that would otherwise feed catastrophic wildfires. Wild horses are perfect for fire-prevention duty.

In fact, there is a current proposal to deploy them to remote, rugged terrain where they will graze down the overgrowth of grasses, brush and twigs that, when seasonally dried out, can fuel a megafire. The idea is to have that dried-out forage feed wild horses rather than wildfires. The “Wild Horse Fire Brigade” already has the support of local elected officials in Oregon.

The short documentary titled “Fuel, Fire, and Wild Horses” provides an overview of how it would work.

Submitted by MARYBETH DEVLIN, Miami, Florida

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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