By: William E. Simpson II
Recently an opinion article was published in the Medford Mail Tribune titled ‘All the king’s horses can’t make wildfires go away’, by Dennis Odion, Dominick DellaSala & Dominic DiPaolo; hereinafter referred-to as ‘ODD’).
From my perspective as well as those of their many critics, they seem to prefer to let our forests burn and in doing so, kill much of the wildlife, flora and fauna and devastate watersheds and fisheries rather than re-introduce native-species wild horses into and around carefully selected wilderness forest areas where they rightfully belong and had existed for millennia. Wild horses have existing in North America for many millennia, as well as the past hundred-years or so as recorded in local newspapers and writings.
I am sorry that ODD hasn’t had the time, the money or both that are needed to accumulate the prerequisite knowledge and years of field experience with wild horses and their behavioral ecology required to fully comprehend the thesis posited by the Natural Wildfire Abatement And Forest Protection Plan, also known as the Wild Horse Fire Brigade, which has found support and endorsement by many scientists, politicians and tens of thousands of American voters.
Most readers don’t have any idea as to who I am, so a cursory introduction seems indicated. Sure, I earned couple college degrees, so what? Does a PhD or any degree for that matter come with some guarantee of unconditional trust, reliability, infallibility, or fiduciary duty? I think not.
I believe that motive and experience are just as important (maybe more?), and that book-learning, field trips and videos are no substitutes for spending years (24/7-365) in an ecosystem. Also of great import is how much a person truly cares for the well-being and livelihood of fellow Americans, including complete strangers, as evidenced by walking the talk. And caring enough that, with forethought, placing your own life on the line for others, as our military, police, fire and EMS personnel do, is evidence of such caring.
I have done that for my fellow man on several occasions by sailing-out into a tempest when all other sailors were desperately seeking a safe port, to search for complete strangers lost overboard in the angry seas (http://williamesimpson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/USCG_rescue.jpg).
I care for people, I care for our Country, and I care for our natural resources, which are finite. This is no hobby for my family and I, it is our way of life. We own and manage hundreds of acres of wilderness lands and forest with an eye for sustainability and a bright future for our children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren and our neighbors. So we have skin in the game. Our lands share the fence with Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which is dangerously overgrown and loaded with ground fuels; a tinder-box ready to burst into a firestorm. And so that potential fire problem is also our fire problem. And it’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of when.
As I read the Opinion by ODD, it seemed as if they were disconnected from the realities of catastrophic wildfires and their true causation due to excessive grasses and brush stemming from severely depleted deer populations, which had previously abated these annually grasses and brush.
ODD seems to fail to understand or even acknowledge what citizens have already endured on the west coast! Such as; wildfires that can jump across two-miles of water, as the Eagle Creek wildfire did when it jumped the Columbia River (so much for defensible space, right?); toxic smoke so dense it sends people in towns and cities miles from the fires into the hospitals with cardio-pulmonary issues. And wildfires so hot they devastate millennia-old fire-resistant genetic lines of conifers, while pasteurizing soils with abnormally high temperatures that devastate soils, and in some cases altering them permanently.
ODD seems to care little (if any?) for the millions of west coast citizens who, thanks to the previous 30-years of obtuse influence on forest and wildlife management policy by similarly-minded environmentalists, have seen their family members, friends and/or neighbors burned-alive in California’s recent wildfires, their homes incinerated by the thousands, and who are now seasonally exposed to deadly toxic wildfire smoke, as is detailed in this report: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5010409/
The published Opinion of ODD contains the following glaring disparities:
1) The authors (‘ODD’) completely avoid the debate about deadly ground fuels (grass and brush) as seen in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WepUi3U5J3o
Instead they focused on the debate related to “thinning forests” and with good reason; the logging debate is where they had past success (ca. 1990), and is much easier ground for their debating experience.
Wild Horse Fire Brigade is about abating ground fuels, wildfire prevention, and rebuilding fire-damaged soils using native species American wild horses, something they know little (nothing?) about.
Unlike ODD, we live among wild horses and have done so on our privately-owned forested lands for the past 4-years. We have studied, documented, photographed and videoed the behavioral ecology of the wild horses in the local ecosystem. Added to this, a highly experienced ODF firefighter has traveled our lands over the past years and has seen the positive effect that wild horses grazing have had on our lands and had this to say:
“I have seen the work they [wild horses] have done on your property and it looked good but spotty with the low numbers they have. Additionally I really think they have a place in the fuel reduction world. “
2) ODD falsely claimed I spoke at Senator Alan DeBoer’s town-hall in Medford, OR; I did not have that privilege. I did speak at the town hall in Ashland, OR, and I saw Mr. Dominic DellaSala sitting in the front of the church where the event was held, nodding his head in agreement to much of what I said (what was that about?). ODD whines about my opportunity to present a solution to wildfire, but failed to mention that; at the publicly-owned BLM building in Medford, OR, where the first town hall was held, ODD’s comrades from KS-Wild were there handing-out their propaganda at the front door to attendees, as they also did at the Ashland town hall.
3) ODD incorrectly termed American wild horses that are protected under the Wild Burro and Horse Protection Act, as “feral”; they are not. They are a North American native species according to Dr. Ross MacPhee of the prestigious American Museum of Natural History, and that is the best representation of the science today given his status as the ‘curator of vertebrates’, as we read here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-zNiS1uqCWZ9PimwJpaVdY7NC57hxdGKDCLXbCEYb8c/edit?pli=1#!
And here: https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2017/10/23/three-great-myths-america-wild-horses
4) The misleading by ODD continued when they incorrectly claimed that American wild horses are “livestock”; they are not. Livestock (Cattle, sheep and goats) are all invasive ‘exotic’ species in North American ecosystems, which were previous imported from overseas into America. American wild horses are a native species that evolved in North America. And the best available science shows that invasive species (‘exotics’) used in fire-grazing, exacerbates the wildfire regime in wilderness and in other areas.
Furthermore, none of these men (‘ODD’) posited any knowledge of the disturbances to the soils and riparian areas caused by cattle and sheep, a problem that is well researched and expounded upon by numerous leading scientists, and, as we read here: http://www.publiclandsranching.org/htmlres/wr_history_politics.htm
None of the ODD men seem to comprehend or detail the differences of the hoof anatomy between cattle and horses and the effect such differences in anatomy have upon ground-loading, soils disruption and erosion, as is detailed in this article titled: Evolution of wild horses and cattle and the effect on range damage; https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2017/09/25/evolution-wild-horses-cattle-effect-range-damage
5) ODD misled readers by implying that American wild horses had previously been tried as a means of pre-fire ground-fuel abatement and post-fire soils rebuilding by dredging-up an antique study from 1910 about cattle; yep they had to go that far back into ancient history to find anything!
The reality is; pre and post fire regime management has never been tried with American wild horses!
‘Livestock’ (invasive species ‘exotics’ cattle, sheep and goats) grazing has been tried, and such grazing is proven to be further damaging to post-burned areas. On the other hand, wild horses are highly beneficial to post-burned and pre-fire wilderness areas, as outlined in this article titled: ‘Fire Grazing’: Impact of Wild Horses vs. Livestock On Wildfire Regime
As of Dec. 1971, the lands in and around the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (CSNM) should have legally become a Herd Area (‘HA’) under the auspices of the Wild Burro And Horse Protection Act, since wild horses had previously and up to that date existed in and around the entire area of the Cascade-Siskiyou Monument and in many nearby areas numbering in the hundreds and reported in various editions of local publications (including Medford Mail Tribune ca. 1907… 1960’s). They has existing in the area east and south of Medford, OR and north of Yreka, CA in the mountains and alpine valleys since the days of the early settlers, and this is also a fact recorded in numerous historical journals.
Interestingly, the former chairwoman (Grace Bennett; 4th generation rancher) of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors (now in her retirement) has stated in an email to me that her father (deceased) had, like many ranchers, rounded-up a few wild horses from time to time from the herd area prior to the formation of the Monument (ca. 1950s-1970s) for use as riding horses.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act, or FLPMA required(s) that: “… wild horses and burros shall be considered comparably with other resource values in the formulations of land use plans” 43 CFR Sec. 4700.0-6
So, when the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was established in June 2000, those existing local wild horses, heritage wildlife, were a ‘natural resource’ and arguably became a resource also protected under the Antiquities Act, as has been consistent with recent interpretations of the Antiquities Act in regard to preserving bio-diversity of the associated flora and fauna, and are also therefore included.
Today, we find that the local BLM office has arguably omitted and failed in providing full and complete disclosure and reporting requirements in land planning under FLPMA, obfuscated facts and has arguably violated their fiduciary duty to the public to protect the local wild horses on the Monument, where there are also wild horse fossils reported. Of course, that is only a whispered fact; and an inconvenient truth.
Now we have these three environmentalists, ODD, who in their opinion piece seem to ostensibly align themselves with the same goal of the BLM in their campaign to demonize American wild horses so as to make their management into extinction less appalling to the public. The Freudian slips comes with their use of the label for our heritage wild horses as “feral” (the ones in the BLM corrals that we seek to repatriate back into and around selected forest wilderness areas). The term ‘feral’ is merely a construct by men to malign almost any animal as something of a ‘pest’.
The Wild Horse Fire Brigade has the support of numerous scientists, who unlike the ODD men, are smart enough to admit that; what had been thought might work has failed since 1990, and it’s time to move on.
Let’s never forget that environmentalists of ODD’s ideology said this in 1990:
Taken from a published document at the University of SantaClara: scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v4n1
“Environmentalists admit that saving the owls’ habitat could cost jobs. But, they argue, these jobs will vanish no matter what. For if cutting continues at its current rate of 125,000 acres a year, the old-growth forests will be gone within thirty years and the mills forced to close anyhow.”
The stark reality of the foregoing folly and lack of vision is now upon us like a horrible plague!
We are now burning forests at a large multiple of their 1990 predicted rate for deforestation due to logging. Environmentalists like ODD are virtually batting ‘0’, but they still want to run the show and coach everyone on how to hit a homerun. Still worse, they are happy to shutdown anyone or any idea ‘they’ don’t like. ODD suffer from the intoxication of their own outdated dogma, which is proven a failure empirically.
Contrary to ODD’s assertion that the Wild Horse Fire Brigade ‘is not a workable plan’, it is eminently workable. Wild Horses are available to counties and states at virtually no-cost simply for the asking under the existing Law (S-3068, Section 110, Humane Transfer of Excess Animals). And private entities can adopt them directly from the local BLM and USFS wild horse storage facilities.
People don’t need a PhD to know that wild horses do not engage in logging, and each native species wild horse deployed eats 30-pounds of grass and brush per day, as we see in this video of a wild horse eating some woody ground fuel: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5zON7zDatuqZG9sOWFxdVFuNWc/view
Now along with other scientists and politicians, we have a renowned ecologist and wild horse expert who has endorsed the Wild Horse Fire Brigade Plan; this article features this revelation:
Maybe ODD would be more apropos in asking citizens how would we like our forests and wildlife; extra crispy? How about a dab of fire retardant on top? And what about your wildfire smoke? Extra acrid OK?
Capt. William E. Simpson II – USMM Ret.