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‘REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL’ publication on the “wild” horses in Sisq

cover credit: Michelle Gough

Could Wild Horses Help Fight Wildfires?
By: Michaela Haas

The article from Reasons to Be Cheerful explores the innovative idea of utilizing wild horses to combat wildfires. William E. Simpson, a naturalist living near Yreka, California, has observed firsthand how wild horses can play a crucial role in wildfire prevention. After moving to a remote hillside in 2014, Simpson noticed the presence of over 120 wild horses living alongside other wildlife. His interactions with these horses, particularly during the 38,000-acre Klamathon fire in 2018, led him to an “aha” moment. He observed that the horses remained calm during the fire and continued grazing, which helped to reduce the amount of grass and brush that could fuel wildfires.

Simpson proposes a large-scale solution to mitigate wildfire risks and address the issue of the roughly 60,000 horses currently kept in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) corrals. He suggests relocating these horses to the nation’s more than 110 million acres of designated wilderness and other open land. By doing so, the horses would serve as keystone herbivores, naturally keeping grasses and vegetation in check and protecting forests, wildlife, watersheds, and wilderness systems. This approach is seen as a win-win-win: it could save taxpayers money, reduce wildfire risks, and allow the horses to live freely in the wild.

The article also touches on the historical context of wild horses and burros in America, noting that they were granted federal protection in 1971 due to their significance as symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West. Despite this protection, the rapid increase in their numbers has led to controversial management practices by the BLM, including the rounding up of wild horses with helicopters and keeping them captive in corrals.

Simpson’s proposal challenges these practices and offers an alternative that leverages the natural behavior of wild horses for environmental benefit. However, he faces opposition from the BLM, which argues that using wild horses for fuel reduction could cause ecological problems and that legal authority is lacking to place wild horses in Wilderness Areas. Despite these challenges, Simpson remains committed to his vision, supported by evidence from his own experiences and studies showing that wild horses can be more beneficial for flora than livestock due to their grazing habits and ability to distribute seeds of native plants.

The article underscores a broader debate about land management, wildlife conservation, and innovative solutions to environmental challenges like wildfires. Simpson’s approach invites reconsideration of traditional practices and highlights the potential for coexistence between humans and wildlife in maintaining ecological balance and resilience.

read the full article here: Could Wild Horses Help Fight Wildfires?

One Comment

  1. Kristi Lawrence

    Sounds like a good idea to me.

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