For the Unprecedented Problem: the UNPRECEDENTED SOLUTION
Any “new” plan requiring roundup as in integral part of its MO, e.g. the “HAR PLAN”, tosses itself automatically into the waste paper basket, or, had I the time to manage a filing system, I would put it into the “OBSOLETE UPON INCEPTION” category. Any “new” plan based on and derived from the same old roundup-track that has led us to the current crisis in the first place is just a badly repackaged version of the bad old plan that has never worked.
In contrast, the original, creative and innovative solution advanced by Anthony Marr known as the MARR PLAN will remove not a single horse from the range, thus rendering roundup and slaughter unsavory relics of the past. Further, take note, it will return all captive horses back to the range. And, through it all, it will bring BLM a windfall of over $60 million for more worthwhile work than to build and run even more totally pointless holding facilities.
Sounds like a colossal fantasy, at least a very tall order. So, how?
Here is the MARR PLAN in a nut shell (using BLM numbers so that it won’t be quagmire in a numbers dispute. If the real population numbers are lower, so much the betters, because then there will more home under the ceiling).
1. There are approximately 2 million head of cattle grazing on the public lands as we speak, versus fewer than 100,000 wild horses, or more than 20:1. It used to be even higher, 37:1 at some point, so 20:1 is mathematically a major reduction, and ecologically a major improvement. But who is to say that 20:1 is the right or correct or golden ratio? Why not 19:1, 18:1… 10:1? Even 5:1 is still vastly in favor of the cow over the horse. The MARR PLAN reasonably requires the 20:1 to be marginally reduced to 18:1 – nothing drastic or traumatic to the BLM. Please don’t tell us that BLM does not have that little flexibility. To be exact, the MARR PLAN requires that some 350,000 head of cattle be removed from the public lands, or a mild 17% reduction. The BLM can argue that this will cost it a million dollars or two in grazing fees lost. The MARR PLAN allows for a 17% increase in the grazing fee to offset the “loss”, which is neither severe nor unprecedented. If BLM prefers to appease the remaining ranchers, it has the option not to raise the fee. The $60 million windfall the BLM will reap from the MARR PLAN will dwarf any $1-2M loss into insignificance.
2. In terms of grazing permits and allotments, one cow equals approximately one horse on a per month basis, but if the cows graze on public land only part of the year, then on an annual basis, one horse would equal two to four cows depending on the grazing periods, in which case a reduction of ~350,000 cows will equal to an increase of ~120,000 wild horses in the AML, which, added to the extant AML of ~27,000, will raise it up to ~150,000, or a glorious 600% increase for the horse. Using BLM’s own number of 90,000 wild horses on the range in 2019, given this new AML of 150,000, not only can they all remain on the range, there is now room for 60,000 more horses. BLM’s figure for the number of horses currently in captivity is 47,000. Therefore, ALL wild horses currently in captivity can and will be returned to the wild, bringing up the population to 90,000 + 47,000 = 137,000, which is 13,000 below the new AML of 150,000. If the total population is kept below 150,000 at all times, which with the starting population of ~140,000, would be a “piece of cake”. The BLM will have no reason to remove any horse, and the roundup-helicopters will be grounded for good.
3. Adoption as a BLM wild horse population continues. Therefore, it would be sensible to retain a portion of the captive horses for adoption purposes, and they should be adoptable geldings only, enough for several years. With the holding facilities thus mostly vacated, they can all be closed down for good. This, together with terminating helicopter-roundups, will free up over $60 million of the BLM’s budget so far consumed by helicopter expenses and maintenance costs of the expensive holding facilities. BLM could thus go afield to do the on range work it is mandated and requied to do, which currently it is hardly doing due to funding constraints.
4. BLM will practice mild Maintenance-Contraception to keep the wild horse population below 150,00 at all times. Considering that most of the captive horses have already been sterilized or contracepted during captivity, their return to the wild will give maintenance contraception an excellent head start. The 13,000 vacant head-space will offer ample room for experimentation and to absorb initial errors. Once stabilized, it will be a highly stable system that will nearly run itself. It needs to be pointed out here that there is an ongoing doctrine in the wild horse advocacy community that a wild horse population not deemed overpopulated does not need contraception. The point to be understood in no uncertain terms is that the first purpose of fertility control is to PREVENT overpopulation, not to correct overpopulation after it has occurred. Whoever attacking the MARR PLAN with this doctrine is indulging in one-step-thinking at its finest.
5. There exists plenty of wildfire-prone BLM land with neither cow nor horse. Wild horses are known to be an effective wildfire deterrent by feeding on flammable vegetation. Some of the captive horses, therefore, can be released into these wildfire-prone regions, to the benefit of all. As for the cattle, once the holding pastures have been vacated by the captive wild horses, the displaced cows can be placed into them at a higher density than that on the arid public lands. For those placed into private grazing, which charges much more than what BLM charges for public land grazing, a compensatory package can be issued at BLM’s discretion.
This is an outside-the-box solution, not subjected to inside-the-box constrains. A proposal of a deeply transformative nature like the MARR PLAN won’t work within the confines and methodologies of the old (extant) system, including e.g. the structure of the federal grazing program. It is a pure concept, not a detailed algorithm, which, if adopted by the BLM, will be filled out and made workable by BLM’s own intelligence and expertise. It will involve a lot of discarding of the old and incorporating of the new. Opposition that the MARR PLAN does not “jibe” with the old system and its rules and regulations is irrelevant. Some would ask about personnel. Will there be a lot of layoffs? Not necessarily. There will be a lot of “retraining”, but not a lot of layoffs. In fact, the MARR PLAN will open up many new employment opportunities. It is an original blueprint by a new architect. It is not derived from the blueprint of the fundamentally flawed structure it is designed to replace, and not bound by its obsolete parameters.
There is no doubt that it will take an enormous effort by all involved to achieve this transformation, but once done, all current problems will disappear, and roundup and slaughter will be terminated once and for all.