Heal Our Planet Earth

The Mad Cowboy and the Wild Horseman

Fellow activists:

The American wild horses are in dire straights, and we need a savior for them, or two. In our movement, we have the Mad Cowboy (Howard Lyman). Now I introduce to you the Wild Horseman (I just coined it). I believe that the two of them should work together, because both have a stake in the matter, on both sides of the fence, as it were.

When I was on my 4th Compassion for Animals Road Expedition last year (CARE-4 - Jul-Dec 2006, covering 32 states), I came across a remarkable gentleman in New Mexico by the name of Carlos LoPopolo, a bear of a man in his 60s, a very good match for Lyman at least physically, who has devoted his life to saving the wild horses of New Mexico. The cattle barons are forcing their way on to more and more BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, displacing the wild horses with their cattle - as they do everywhere else, including the Amazon Rainforest. It is a matter of the cash-cow versus the free-horse. In this money worshipping society of ours, there is no contest, at least not thus far.

While I was there, Carlos’ project associate, wildlife biologist Dr. Paul Polechla of the University of New Mexico, gave me a walking tour of the two wild horse preserves they were, still are, fighting to protect. Somewhat to my dismay, we did not glimpse any horses (though there were fresh horse roof-prints aplenty), but we did encounter a number of cows.

Of course the cattle barons are destined to eventually be defeated by AR, AW and VV (vegetarianism and veganism), but their doomsday won’t come for decades yet. By then, there will be no wild horses left, unless we do something specific for them NOW.

The following article, by Carlos, is hot off the oven, and between the lines and numbers, you can sense his frustrations, disgust, and, for the sake of the horses, desperation. Whatever help you can extend in his direction will be greatly appreciated. Drop him a line of encouragement at least. Thank you.

Anthony Marr, founder Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)

In Conclusion
by Carlos LoPopolo

From most of the information I have gathered, it seems as if the BLM and the National Forest Service have different standards for productive animals (those which produce an income) and non-productive (those that do not produce an income).

The best example is the forage consumption rate of a productive animal compared to that of a non-productive animal. Beef cattle which weigh an average of 1,000 pounds per head consume an average of 26 pounds of dry forage a day. This means that one steer or cow consumes 780 pounds of dry forage a month and 9,360 pounds of dry forage a year.

For the BLM controlled land in central New Mexico, this means the land which maintains 8 animal units or 8 head per section (a section being 640 acres) produces 205 pounds of dry forage per day per section, or 6,240 pounds per month and 74,880 pounds a year. If we now take that same land and apply the formula these agencies use for the consumptive rate of a non-productive animal like the wild horse, we cannot place as many animals on the land. Amazingly, the same land that can maintain eight animal units of 1,000 pound beef cattle can only maintain 5.7 head of non-productive, wild horses, even though these horses are 200 pounds lighter than the beef cattle, on average. How does the government validate this claim? First, one must know that all figures can be manipulated to give the required results, if the factors used to validate those results are also controlled. Here, the factor that must be manipulated is the consumptive rate of the non-productive, wild horse. This is done by making the claim that the wild horse, even though it is smaller than most beef cattle, eats more than the average beef cow/steer. The factor used is that the metabolism of the wild horse is higher than that of a cow or steer. When this factor is applied to the formula, the government claims that the 800 pound wild horse consumes a monthly rate of 1,080 pounds of dry forage, as opposed to the 780 pounds of dry forage that is consumed by the cow or steer. As one can see by these figures, the wild horse would consume almost one and a third times the dry forage of a cow/steer.

With this information in mind, we can now start to see how the Government is able to eliminate the non-productive, wild animals of the land they are supposed to be maintaining for the public. Let us take a close look at New Mexico and what has happened here over the last 36 years with the protection and maintenance of the wild horse territories. We can start with the knowledge that New Mexico, at one time, had at least four (but it is believed as high as seven) wild horse areas administered by the BLM. We definitely know that there were four and we know that today there are only two remaining.

The acreage of the original four wild horse areas totaled 88,653 acres, but now has been reduced to 24,505 acres, a reduction of 64,148 acres over the last 36 years (The wild horse territories were established in 1971, 36 years ago.) This shows an average reduction of 1,781.8 acres a year for the last 36 years. Now, if we use the government's formula and convert that into dry forage, we come up with approximately 504,812.5 pounds of dry forage lost to the wild horse per year. Another way of putting it is that the BLM has eliminated enough land and forage to maintain 1,402.25 wild horses in the last 36 years, or 38.9 wild horses a year. If this rate keeps up, and it seems to be maintaining its momentum, the wild horse should be eradicated from New Mexico soil, controlled by BLM, within the next five years.

That is the story on the BLM; surprisingly, the tale is not that different when dealing with the National Forest Service. Again, the manipulation of the figures plays an important role in the eradication of a non-productive animal, such as the wild horse. Even though the Forest service is not as open with information as is the BLM, it is still obvious that the land in the forested areas of New Mexico is much more productive, forage-wise, than the land located in the desert areas like most of the land that is administered by the BLM. We will use, for lack of information, the same figures we used for the land, knowing these figure will represent the minimal amount of forage available on forest land.

The National Forest Service, like the BLM, leases the wild horse territories to cattle growing groups. The total amount of beef cattle allowed to graze on the wild horse territories controlled by the United States Forest Service here in New Mexico is 16,961 head or mother units (a mother unit is a cow and calf). Recognizing that the average beef cow needs 26 pounds of dry forage a day to sustain itself, this means the wild horse territories must produce at least 440,986 pounds of dry forage a day for the cows to survive.

The Forest Service claims that the proper amount of wild horses on these territories should be no higher than 148. Therefore, if we now take the consumptive rate of the wild horse, which is 205 pounds of dry forage a day per head, we can add 30,340 pounds of dry forage a day that the land must produce. This makes a total of 471,326 pounds of dry forage per day that the wild horse territories must produce to maintain the levels of wild horses and cattle permitted by the National Forest Service. The best way to see if that is even viable is to again use the government figures and calculate the land needed to maintain this many animals. We need 1,356,880 acres to maintain 16,961 beef cows and another 166,175 acres to maintain the wild horses. What the Forest Service claims is that the forestland produces on 151,648 acres of land (that is the total land located within the Forest Service wild horse territories) the equivalent to 1,523,055 acres of BLM desert land or lowlands. This is a ratio of almost ten to 1. The only problem we have is that, as we have mentioned, most of the BLM land is located in the desert. One of the two remaining BLM wild horse territories is located next to a national forest, and on that territory the BLM claims they can only maintain 23 horses on approximately 24,505 acres. Yet across the fence, the Forest Service is saying that it can maintain ten times that many animals on that much land. This reasoning makes us in the wild horse preservation field believe the government is systematically trying to eradicate the wild horse and, in fact, doing a very good job of it.

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