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Tue, Jan. 21

Wild horse and burro board member: Approach must change

A burro is shown in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in 2015. (Photo by Tomás Del Coro,  cc-by-sa-2.0,

A burro is shown in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in 2015. (Photo by Tomás Del Coro, cc-by-sa-2.0,

KINGMAN – Susan McAlpine, who was recently appointed to the national Wild Burros and Wild Horses Advisory Board in Washington, showed up at the Mohave County Board of Supervisors meeting last Monday with her first report.

McAlpine explained that as a board member, she represents the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service as a special unpaid employee. Her role is to provide expert advice to help the agencies manage and protect “the living symbols of the West.”

“I base my vote on what I feel is best for our wild horses, burros, wildlife and environment, not the opinions of other affiliations or interests,” she said.

Pointing to the degradation of Western lands and declining ecological conditions, McAlpine said the current state of the environment makes wild horses and burros suffer. That is because the whole habitat deteriorates, including wildlife and plant cover.

She spoke about the need to invite members of the advisory board from the East to the West so they can see how bad things are and why “humane management” is necessary.

“The current BLM approach must change,” she said, referring to repeated “gather and remove” actions, which help only until the population grows again. “American taxpayers pay $40,000 for life for each horse. There are 50,000 in federal care and another 88,000 on ranches. The population increases 20% every year.”

Fortunately, McAlpine said, the BLM will get an additional $35 million for non-lethal wild horse and burro management (contraceptives, sterilizations, removals, adoptions and sales). The removal of burros from the Black Mountains should start Nov. 1.

The biggest obstacle to the BLM work is continuing litigation. McAlpine said many advocacy groups say they want to protect horses, but don’t have one wild horse in their possession. At the same time, she promised to look more carefully at the generic diversity argument against reducing herd numbers.

“If Senator Romney wants to send some people from the East here,” said Angius, addressing Supervisor Gary Watson of District 1, “we can give them a good tour, right?”

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