By Philip Beck | The public forum
Scott Beckstead’s opinion piece in the October 3rd issue of the Salt Lake Tribune on the Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse management program is very disturbing. It does not consider or combine any of the legal management tasks of BLM that go beyond those of the horses. It rejects decisions and actions of professionals as gaslighting and lying. It makes misleading and false statements.
I have visited, camped, and hiked the area inhabited by the Onaqui herd. It seemed to me that a large part of the native ostrich grass vegetation in the valley floor has disappeared. The outbreak of grass and forage during the rainy seasons identified by Beckstead as an abundant source of food for the herd is primarily cheatgrass. Cheatgrass and most other annual vegetation are short lived and have little value over two or three weeks and only when the seasonal rains occur. If Beckstead has visited the area, I wonder if he examined or considered the condition of the vegetation cover, which, like the horses, is the responsibility of the BLM. And of course the two are closely related. He complains about the existence of commercial livestock farms. I hope he has read up on the legislative history and the requirements of the presence of cattle in the pasture in order to maintain the long-standing ranchers. Cattle grazing offers a variety of management options that can be used to improve the vegetative community. Such as expiry dates, pasture changes, removal in extreme weather conditions and others. Options that are usually not available when managing wild horses. Refraining from grazing cattle in order to promote the welfare of the wild horse herds is not a legal option for BLM.
Horses are not locals. They are displacing native animals such as elk, deer and antelopes. They are big, strong and destructive. They are not hunted by predators. They do not regulate population growth themselves due to environmental fluctuations. They are there around the clock. They are extremely resilient and will survive and multiply until the biotic environment is destroyed. During the winter of ’49 -’50, when hay was no longer available to feed horses, I saw them ate pastures, small trees, and eventually the stable itself.
Personally, I would much prefer the presence of native animal populations to that of horses. Regardless of my preferences or the preferences of others, horses have secured a place on public land due to legal regulations. The nature of the beast is such that its dealings with them must be careful and strict. It is critical to the preservation of the entire environment. Let’s work with professionals who don’t get in the way.
Philip Beck, Stansbury Park
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