Newspaper column: They shoot sage grouse don’t they

Wild horses being warehoused at Palomino Valley near Reno. (Photo by Jo Mitchell)

Wild horses being warehoused at Palomino Valley near Reno. (Photo by Jo Mitchell)

Our government masters too often seem downright schizophrenic.

Take the raging debates over what to do about two species — sage grouse and wild horses.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hell bent to list the chicken-sized bird under the Endangered Species Act because they fear the population could become extinct, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press. (There are more than 40 comments on the Elko posting.) Such a listing would hurt farmers, ranchers, miners, recreation and oil and gas exploration on public and private land. Yet, the birds are legally hunted in Nevada and other states.

One study estimates there are 535,000 sage grouse ranging across 11 Western states, yet between 2001 and 2007 hunters bagged 207,000 sage grouse — and that doesn’t count the untold numbers that were wounded, escaping the game bag but later died. About 1,000 to 3,000 sage grouse are harvested each year in Nevada alone.

Sage grouse

On the other hand, there are an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 wild horses — actually feral horses, since they are not native to the region — roaming the Western range lands, though Bureau of Land Management officials say the open range can only sustain 27,000. Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, it is illegal to harass or harm such horses and burros. Doing so is punishable by a fine of $2,000 or a year in jail.

Sometime next year the free-roaming wild horse population is expected to hit 69,000. The BLM already has 47,000 wild horses warehoused in corrals.

So, the federal government says there are too few sage grouse, but it is legal to shoot them, while there are too many wild horses, but it is illegal to shoot them.

Even though the sage grouse population is such that, even if it is declining at the rate estimated by the federal government, the birds can survive for several centuries in the wild, there is a push to list them as threatened or endangered.

In a strongly worded in-house memo written in August 2013, Joan Guilfoyle, the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro division chief, warned, “The wild horse and burro program is nearing the point of financial insolvency due to undesirable trends in every aspect of the program.”

More than 60 percent of the BLM’s $70 million annual budget for managing wild horses and burros is consumed by warehousing the animals in corrals, one of the largest of which is in Palomino Valley near Reno.

The humane thing to do with starving horses on the range is not to round them up and house them for the rest of their unnatural lives at taxpayer expense. Contraception and, yes, euthanasia have to be options.

Read the entire column at Ely or Elko.

7 comments on “Newspaper column: They shoot sage grouse don’t they

  1. A.D. Hopkins says:

    Amen, Amen, Amen!

  2. Winston Smith says:

    Once again, never expect logic or reason from any government agency.

    War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery…

  3. Rincon says:

    Make horsemeat legal first.

  4. Boyd says:

    They have. how should I put it, an amusing take on things over in the comment section of the EDFP.

  5. Steve says:

    They sure seem to have missed the message altogether. I could’a swore it was about getting government out of state business. Or was it really about horses being native to the region and ranchers need to be kicked out? If so then the Sage Grouse should be a boon to the horses!

    Penning those horses is wrong from any point of view.

  6. Boyd says:

    “They” are just one or two people who have taken over the comment sections there with long strings of multiple phony screen names and editorial comment posing as comments to make it look like there is a large body of opinion when there really isn’t. This started a couple months ago and it’s now so common it’s now longer worth making comments there. There is never any response to anything you might say and it’s so buried in the sludge it doesn’t get seen anyway. Which, of course, is the idea.

  7. Steve says:

    That figures…its a small community in Elko so something like that would be easy to accomplish.

    Its been tried at the RJ and the volume of individual commenters tends to drown out the fakes.

    I do not believe it is an action by BBM to “drum up” business. I would guess its outside interests trying to sway local opinion.

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