|Wild Horses Taken from Anza Borrego Desert State Park!
This is a terribly important and urgent situation...
On Tuesday, March 18th, 2003, with complete disregard for the required CEQA review, and without an opportunity for public comment, San Diego's only herd of wild horses were rounded up and removed from the Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
Read the letter from Senator Bill Morrow (click here)
Read the complaint/petition (click here)
Backcountry Horsemen of California and
California State Horsemen?s Association, Plaintiffs/Petitioners
[are asking State Parks to]
A. Halt any and all efforts to castrate the stallions of the wild horse herd or take any other action that might affect the physical condition of the horses, both male and female; and
B. Immediately return the entire wild horse herd to ABDSP so that the members of the herd may continue their natural behaviors in their chosen environment.
Donations for David Hubbard's attorney fees can be made out to "Wild Horse Fund" and sent to Lynn Joiner (BCHC State Treasurer), 16347 Stephanie Road, Bakersfield, CA 93312-9669.
Please help if you are able.
The Anza Borrego Desert State Park has rounded up our wild horses, broken up their family groups, and will be sending them to far-off, unfamiliar places to live out their days. The stallions will be gelded. The herd will be lost forever.
They have already been captured, but they have not been gelded yet. Time is of the essence. We want the horses returned to their home range, unharmed.
A hardworking group of very committed people, representing tens of thousands of concerned California equestrians and horse lovers, have shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, working many long days and nights, trying to stop State Parks from removing the herd. Their requests went unheeded, and they are now working to get the horses returned - before it is too late.
This is not only about a herd of horses - it is an issue of our State government circumventing established, legal processes, and environmental rules, and doing whatever it pleases. They must not be allowed to get away with this.
Click here to read their letter requesting that any further actions with these horses be delayed until the legal issues can be resolved.
A Brief Background...
There has been a small herd of wild horses in our local desert for almost 100 years. They are (were) the only wild horses in San Diego County. When the land they lived on was transferred from BLM to State Parks, the duty to protect the horses went with it.
The number of horses in the herd has remained stable over the years - usually a sign that the eco-system is well-balanced. State Parks took it to mean the horses were struggling.
Several years ago, a State Parks employee observed a herd of endangered Bighorn Sheep standing back from a water hole while the horses drank. After the horses were finished, the sheep came in and drank. This is normal inter-species behavior at watering holes. State Parks took it as evidence that the horses are competing for resources, and harming the sheep.
In recent years, the formerly-hunted Mountain Lions have been protected. They are coming back successfully in the mountain and desert areas, and have even taken a few foals from the wild herd (as confirmed by examination of their scat). Where common sense might point to the increased numbers of large predators being a danger to the Bighorn Sheep, especially the lambs, State Parks has determined that horses are responsible for the sheep's struggles.
While there are established experts in the field of wild horse management, most notably with the BLM, and local people with decades of personal experience observing the herd, State Parks failed to seek out those sources, and chose instead to rely on the advice of a doctoral candidate who observed the herd for less than one year.
In an environment where the soil is poor, and lack of vegetation a threat to grazing and browsing animals, State Parks has determined that the manure of 30 wild horses is a threat to the environment.
During our recent drought, the worst ever on record here, the horses got a bit thin, and the herd lost a few members. No doubt everything living in the wild had a hard time during the drought. State Parks took it as proof the horses could not survive on their own.
The desert is an area with almost no rainfall, hence very few mosquitoes, yet State Parks claims they are concerned the herd may fall victim to West Nile Virus (transmitted by mosquitoes). California has had no cases of equine WNV to date, but WNV is widespread in South Dakota, where mares, yearlings and colts are being held now - at the midst of mosquito season.
The contractor hired to capture the horses was quoted in the UT article as saying "People say they should leave them out there, but they never tried living out there." By that reasoning, we should also round up the Bighorn Sheep as well, and keep them somewhere more comfortable, with better footing, and ample food.
Now the drought is over, and the abundant Spring vegetation is more than sufficient to support the herd, as it has been for many decades. When the time came to round them up, the horses were fat and healthy. State Parks took this to mean it would be the perfect time to ship them away.
A helicopter was used to chase the horses into the catch pen, in spite of the fact that machines are not permitted in wilderness areas. (This is so strictly enforced that when we do trail maintenance in wilderness areas, we have to pack supplies in on mules, and use only hand tools - no power tools are allowed.)
Park Superintendent Mark Jorgensen called the removal of the wild horses a "noble cause".
We call it the illegal taking of an irreplaceable piece of San Diego's history.
We call on State Parks to recognize this grave error, and restore our herd of wild horses, intact, to their home range.
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