BENJAMIN LIBRATY (GRADE 11)
A topic not commonly discussed in the news is surrounding an animal that has been almost completely forgotten in the eyes of the American public: the wild horse. When these animals are mentioned, people think: “What’s the controversy with wild horses? They’re wild.” Most people imagine these horses simply roaming the six hundred and forty acres of land owned by the federal government and dedicated to the public. However, these wild horses are no longer wild.
If the “wild horses” are no longer roaming their public land, then where have they gone? The answer can be seen all across the plains of the western United States; government holding pens. As of March 1, 2016 there was a recorded number of one hundred and twelve thousand wild horses in the US. However, forty-five thousand of these animals were held in government holding pens meant to have a maximum capacity of twenty-seven thousand. In charge of all forty-five thousand horses is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This is an agency under the Department of the Interior who has stated that their mission is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the multiple use and enjoyment of present and future generations”(BLM). In order to preserve these public lands, the BLM must round up wild horses and keep them in holding pens until they can find them a new home. According to activist and true cowboy Ben Masters, “The BLM gathers excess horses to prevent overgrazing and offers them up for adoption. But there aren’t enough adopters, and euthanasia or slaughtering for human or pet consumption aren’t attractive options… ”
One solution to the overpopulation crisis is to simply release the wild horses back onto public lands and let them be wild again. However, Masters states that, “Ecologists, rangeland managers, and ranchers are concerned that overpopulated wild horse herds have caused and are causing irreversible damage to delicate desert ecosystems.” Letting them roam free is not a viable option.
Keeping the horses penned up is also not a smart decision. The cost for all 45,000 of these horses is approximately $50,000 per horse over its lifetime. That means that the vast majority of the BLM’s budget goes to feeding horses in holding pens, which limits the agency’s ability to gather other horses off the range thus, leading to more degradation of the land.
These not-so-wild horses horses have nowhere left to go. Ranchers and ecologists do not believe in releasing them, while animal rights activists do not believe in keeping them caged. I believe that the only feasible solution to this dilemma is adoption.
Today, horses are still a greatly desired tool and form of transport. Ranchers will pay tens of thousands of dollars to own a basic horse while there are still tens of thousands of worthy mustangs waiting to be adopted. Even though these wild horses are characterized as untrained, unmastered horses, they at least deserve a chance. They deserve a shot to prove themselves worthy. If you want to save the wild horses of the American West, adopt a mustang.