Nevada Rancher Battles The BLM

Living in Wyoming, I enjoy the opportunities found on public lands whether it's hunting, hiking, camping or whatever. Wyoming consists of 50 percent public land, so management is obvious in many cases. Some management practices irritate me, but I understand the multiple-use concept. A recent news story straight from Nevada has me rethinking some of my appreciation for management.

Rancher Cliven Bundy is in a battle with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over grazing rights. It seems as if the BLM is limiting or eliminating his ability to graze his cattle over the management of an endangered desert tortoise. OK, so we do need to consider the tortoise and try to keep its lifestyle moving forward in southeastern Nevada. A little give and take goes a long way, but I just returned from that area on a recent mountain lion hunt.

Teamed with outfitter Cleave Dwire of Bull Creek Outfitters, we rode miles and miles of the BLM backcountry of southeastern Nevada. I was never so astonished and irritated over the mismanagement. The region was overgrazed and literally tore up from livestock. Surprisingly, it wasn't domestic livestock doing the massive amounts of damage. It was horses, so-called wild horses.

Every basin, bottom, open mountainside, burn and scattered meadow sporting grass had been torn up, shredded, and pounded by the horses. Now you can debate that there is a drought going on in this country, so grass is at a premium. And cattle had been on the ground during the summer, but consider this: In 6 days of riding the backcountry from dawn till dusk, we saw only one herd of elk and a small group of bachelor bull elk. That might not sound like a shocker, except we saw wild horses everywhere. We saw them on the drive in. We saw them riding off and on all day. We saw them on the drive back to town. Horse droppings everywhere confirmed they like to roam as well. At first I thought they were horses owned by ranchers in the area, but they were wild and literally everywhere.

So what's wrong with that? These wild horses are as invasive as the privately owned livestock the BLM is trying to kick off the range in the associated article. If you question that, consider this quick history lesson: Approximately 10 million years ago, more than a dozen species of wild horses roamed the Great Plains of North America, but they mysteriously disappeared from the continent nearly 11,000 years ago. In 1500 A.D. Spanish explorers brought them back. Some escaped and today they run with freedom across the West. Few other invasive species receive that type of welcome mat.

I own horses (and one mule) so I'm not a horse hater. What I don't understand is why the BLM give wild horses a pass, but is trying to run a ranch family out of business? Management of wild, public lands requires just that: management. If a rancher can't run livestock on a parcel of public ground, shouldn't wild horses be limited as well?

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