Horse Rich & Dirt Poor: The Wildlife and Habitat Narrative (hosted by TWS)

TWS Panel Discussion

Nearly 500 years ago, European explorers introduced the modern horse to North America. In 1971, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed by Congress, protecting horses and burros on over 30 million acres of public land in the western United States. Without any effective natural predators, non-native horse populations can increase 20% annually, doubling every 4 years. Currently, wild horse and burro populations are 300% above target levels established by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM; primary agency authorized to managed horses and burros on federal public lands) based on forage and water availability over 30 years ago. Lawsuits and budget-limiting congressional riders prevent BLM from properly managing excess horses and burros. There are approximately 50,000 in holding facilities waiting for adoption costing taxpayers nearly $50 million each year, yet only 2,000 – 3,000 horses are adopted annually. The 2019 horse and burro population from last year’s foal crop is estimated to be 100,000 on western public lands with the majority in Nevada, the driest of all 50 states.

The current narrative portrayed by horse advocates is singularly focused on the humane treatment of and keeping all horses alive. This focus is without consideration for the limited carrying capacity of western rangelands and the scarce and sensitive riparian areas, and without the same consideration given to native wildlife populations that struggle to survive. Passionate and talented environmental film producers and biologists deeply concerned for the future of our imperiled western public lands, native wildlife, and the well-being of horses and burros came together to produce a visual storybook. This storybook provides a factual alternative narrative of how excess horse and burro populations impact native wildlife species and their critical habitats on western public rangelands. The film focuses on 2 species that are at risk range-wide for their existence: a bird and a fish, Greater sage-grouse and Lahontan cutthroat trout. Watch the film through the eyes of the main character, Charles Post, a field ecologist who earned his Master’s degree from U.C. Berkeley. A lover of all wildlife and wild places including horses and burros, Charles is on a fact-seeking journey through Nevada with conversations with wildlife and habitat biologists and a rangeland scientist to learn and see first-hand the challenges that native wildlife have to survive where horses and burros compete for and impact critical riparian meadows and streams. As this journey unfolds, Charles sadly realizes from all that he has experienced, the fate of our wildlife and wild places if the current narrative continues.

Organizers: Mike Cox, Cynthia Perrine
Supported by: Nevada Chapter of The Wildlife Society; Western Section of The Wildlife Society; Fin & Fur Films

TWS Panel Discussion
Location: Reno-Sparks CC Date: September 30, 2019 Time: 1:10 pm - 2:50 pm