Horses are beautiful creatures. Majestic and graceful, they run wild throughout the American west – almost a symbol of an earlier time, when “white men” didn’t dominate the Western half of our continent.
But it’s all a lie.
Horses are not native to North America. They were brought over to the “new world” by Spanish explorers as domesticated animals.
The so-called “wild horses” that Americans seem to be in love with – especially here in the American Southwest – are animal versions of feral weeds or barnyard escapees. They are not native wildlife.
But the federal government protects them – because the American people love them. We spend upwards of $80 million per year driving wild horses off of public lands. They destroy native wildlife, livestock and are a major disruption to our ecosystem.
“Grasslands are protected by “biotic crusts” that consist of loose soil held together by tiny cyanobacteria, lichens, mosses, and green algae,” Conservation biologist Daniel Rubinoff writes. “They serve as a fragile glue that keeps desert soils from being washed or blown away. But these crusts are pulverized by horses, leading to poor water absorption, reduced fertility, and long-lasting environmental damage. Grasslands are disappearing as wild horse hooves crush biotic crusts, encouraging erosion that leaves wide swaths permanently degraded, replaced with barren rock.”
But for people who love them, they are sacred creatures. In the Tonto National Forest, one group speaks of these animals in the most hallowed terms:
The Salt River wild horses are the beloved and majestic horses roaming the lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest, AZ. They are the pride of the community, a favorite subject of photographers and the icon of the wild, free spirit of the American West.
The Bureau of Land Management knows, however, that wild horses are a destructive and dangerous species. They round up horses and put them in massive pens – cages really.
For the most part, they aren’t euthanized – or killed – because the public outcry would be too great. So they sit – these wild horses – in enclosed pens and cages on the taxpayer dime. That is the tragedy.
There are more than 46,000 wild horses and burros in corrals paid for by the feds. Another 73,000 roam free on public lands that are quickly deteriorating.
Wild horses are a scourge on the American West – not a symbol of it. The romantization of these creatures is doing irreparable harm to the areas they are allowed to roam in.
As sad as it may seem – wild horses – specially in the Salt River valley and the Tonto National Forest – need to be rounded up – sterilized, euthanized, or whatever. We are destroying our ecosystem by letting a non-native species take over and destroy a part of the world that does not recover quickly or easily.
President Trump knows this. He has proposed a solution: “humane euthanasia and unrestricted sale of certain excess animals.”
That means that wild horses could be sold to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada (they’re illegal in the U.S.). People do eat horse. The French consider it a delicacy.
Adoptions of wild horses are also a possibility, but people just aren’t doing it.
So there are few options. And the best one – sadly – may be to round them up and euthanize them.