Mustangs used for wildfire mitigation? Nonprofit proposes possible solution to wild horse debate – CBS Denver

Mustangs used for wildfire mitigation?  Nonprofit proposes possible solution to wild horse debate - CBS Denver

(CBS4) – A feral horse ethologist from the Oregon-California border said feral horses could be spared being herded into detention facilities and instead could be used to help mitigate wildfires. He says it could even work in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where wildfires have become all too common.

“The concept behind the Wild Horse Fire Brigade is to relocate and re-wild America’s wild horses so that we don’t have to engage in all these very expensive workarounds,” said William E. Simpson II, Founder of the non-profit association. wild horse firefighters.

(credit: CBS)

Simpson, a conservationist and wild horse ethologist, says mustangs can be used to slow the spread of wildfires, by placing them in fire-prone forest areas, so they can eat the brush that helps. to fuel forest fires. He says horses are better at putting down fires than cows because horses don’t fully digest their food, so grass seeds are redistributed on the ground when horses defecate.

“When we reduce these fuels, we reduce the intensity of fire frequency and the science proves it,” Simpson said.

His nonprofit owns and manages a herd of feral horses on 50,000 acres of open range in Siskiyou County, California.

Simpson adopted several feral horses himself and put his theory to the test on forest lands in Oregon and California.

He says it worked well when one of the last wildfires tore through the area.

“When he approached the area where our herd of horses were grazing, Cal Fire was able to grab him because he gave large firebreaks and open areas where the horses had grazed on the fuels which gave some time to firefighters and police. to position yourself in front of the fire,” recalls Simpson.

Simpson thinks the solution he proposes could alleviate current concerns about how the federal government spends millions of taxpayer dollars to round up and remove horses from the wild each year and care for them in captivity. With an equine flu outbreak that recently killed more than 140 horses at a federal detention center in Colorado, due to issues of understaffing not properly vaccinating horses, advocates are calling for a pause in kidnappings.

RELATED: ‘American Taxpayer Scam’: Feds Criticized Wild Horse Removals in Favor of Cattle

Some horse advocates question the validity of Simpson’s proposal as a solution.

The American Wild Horse Campaign sent CBS4 the following written statement:

“Wild horses can be useful for extinguishing fires in areas where they are found. In many areas that have been damaged by fire or overgrazing by livestock, wild horses browse on brush like invasive cheatgrass, which is highly flammable. This provides an advantage in areas where they are currently protected and allowed to live.

However, the “Wild Horse Fire Brigade” concept is something different. He envisions the Bureau of Land Management stripping wild horses holding federal protections and turning them over to rural counties, which would then use law enforcement power to release them into national forests. There is no long-term plan for how the horses would be handled once out in a forest, nor what protections they would have against herding and slaughter once the brush was grazed. In addition, the plan violates many federal laws and faces stiff opposition from environmental organizations, particularly regarding the precedent it would set for the expansion of cattle grazing and sheep under cover of firefighting.

The plan is a non-starter from a legal, environmental and wild horse protection standpoint.

(credit: CBS)

The Bureau of Land Management — which manages wild horses across the United States — also opposes Simpson’s plan, writing to CBS4: “The Bureau of Land Management manages and protects wild horses and burros like l ‘authorizes the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The law prohibits the placement of wild horses and donkeys on public lands where they were not found in 1971 and does not provide for the use of wild horses and donkeys for target grazing. Additionally, the concentrated grazing of feral horses can have detrimental effects on an area’s natural resources in addition to the removal of fuels.

Simpson offered this rebuttal to these remarks.

AWHC is pushing for more birth control methods to be used on the beach where wild horses currently roam. It is a measure that Colorado Governor Jared Polis also supports.

His office sent CBS4 the following statement on Friday:

“The Bureau of Land Management has conducted the largest roundups of wild horses ever in recent years, and the reality is that the scale of horses now entering these types of training facilities simply exceeds the capacity of the Bureau. of Land Management to keep horses healthy. . That’s why the governor recently urged the BLM to maximize the use of birth control as a tool for managing roundups and postpone a future roundup, which would add even more horsepower to this overwhelmed system. In the management of these horses, the BLM has a responsibility to ensure their continued care, not just on the course or during a roundup, but throughout their lives. Unfortunately, this foresight has not been shown here. These roundups also cost taxpayers a lot of money, as does horse boarding, and it would save tens of millions of dollars by using birth control for herd management instead.

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