For the sake of the whole environment, the management of horses on public lands requires careful attention.



(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Wild horses from Onaqui’s wild horse herd frolic near Simpson Springs on Wednesday, July 14, 2021.

Scott Beckstead’s opinion piece in the October 3 edition of the Salt Lake Tribune on the Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse management program is very disturbing. It does not take into account or link any of BLM’s legislative management responsibilities beyond that of horses. It rules out the decisions and actions of professionals like gaslighting and lies. He makes statements that are misleading and incorrect.

I visited, camped and hiked the area inhabited by the Onaqui herd. It seemed to me that much of the native cluster grass vegetation in the valley floor had disappeared. The rash of grass and forage during the rainy periods characterized by Beckstead as an abundant source of food for the herd is primarily cheatgrass. Cheatgrass and most other annuals are short lived and of little value beyond two or three weeks, and only if seasonal rains occur. If Beckstead has visited the area, I wonder if he has examined or taken into account the condition of the vegetation cover which is as much a management responsibility of BLM as the horses. And of course, the two are intimately linked. He denounces the presence of commercial cattle farms. I hope he has learned about the legislative history and the requirements of having cattle on the range to preserve long-standing ranching operations. Livestock grazing lends itself to a variety of management options that can be used to improve the vegetative community. Such as harvest dates, pasture rotations, removal during times of extreme weather conditions, and the like. Options that are mostly unavailable regarding the management of wild horses. Eliminating cattle grazing to facilitate the welfare of wild horse herds is not a legally available option for BLM.

Horses are not native. They move native animals, such as elk, deer, and antelopes. They are big, strong and destructive. They are not the prey of any predator. They do not self-regulate population growth due to environmental variations. They are there 24/7. They are extremely hardy and will survive and multiply until the biotic environment is destroyed. During the winter of ’49 -’50 when hay became unavailable to feed the horses, I saw them survive by eating willows, small trees and possibly the barn itself.

Personally, I would much prefer the presence of native animal populations to that of horses. Despite my preferences or those of others, horses have been granted a place on public land by law. The nature of the beast is such that its management must be careful and rigorous. It is essential for the preservation of the entire environment. Let’s work with the professionals who do this, not by hindering them.

Philip Beck, Stansbury Park

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