Where mustangs once have been and will be again....
Veedawoo Aragon Escalante Galitzier
Sunday, December 25, 2011
CONNECT Dayton Hyde and Alan Day (IRAM and Mustang Meadows)
This is an excerpt frorm TIME MAGAZINE Jan. 1990, Melanie Stephens This article should be read BEFORE the next entry because it explains how the Alan Day Mustang Meadows became to be named as such, even though it was a Cattle operation.
Their high-pitched whinnies roll across the plains like a tumbleweed- scatteri ng wind. At dusk one of them rears and paws the air, casting a silhouette that is the very image of freedom. These are mustangs, the legendary wild horses of the American West. Two decades ago, mustangs were headed for extinction. Now, at Mustang Meadows Ranch, a 32,000-acre spread near St. Francis, S. Dak., 1,500 of them have found sanctuary and a managed independence that may help assure their survival.
Under BLM, the mustangs have recovered: 42,000 horses now run free on the range. But their numbers have greatly surpassed the ability of the land to support them. To ease the overpopulation, BLM in 1976 inaugurated a national Adopt-a-Horse program, under which 90,000 wild horses have been sold to private owners. But the mustangs taken off the range annually include many that are too old, crippled, ugly or mean to make good pets. Until two years ago, thousands of unadoptable mustangs were crowded into dusty feeding pens in Nebraska, Nevada and Texas at a cost to taxpayers of $13 million a year. I am not editing these numbers even though they should be challenged. 17 000 in 1971 might be realistic because they were running out of horses. 42 000 in 1990 would have required a census which never happened.With the adoption program inaugurated in 1976, this being 1990, 90 000 horses sold in 14 years equals average of 6500 horses a year.
Enter Dayton Hyde, an Oregon rancher with a reputation for unorthodox management and a deep interest in conservation. "In my travels I kept going by feedlots seeing these poor creatures cooped up," says Hyde, 64. "I thought, That's no way to treat a wild horse. My dream was to get these horses out of the feedlots and running free again."
In 1988 Hyde founded the nonprofit Institute for Range and the American Mustang in order to create sanctuaries -- retirement homes of sorts -- where unadoptable wild horses could once again roam freely. He convinced BLM that with foundation and public funds he could establish a self-sustaining sanctuary within three years. IRAM's first project was a 12,600-acre sanctuary in the Black Hills of South Dakota that opened last year. Tourists pay $15 to view 300 mustangs running on high plateaus of ponderosa pine. The project makes Hyde smile. "The horses are finally getting over their depression," he says. "They got so bored in the feedlots that they didn't know how to run anymore." in 2011 there are 600 horses (approx. 300 mustangs) on that acreage, the tour price has increased to 50 dollars and the tours have been elaborately refined.
Hyde's ambition went beyond his successes at the Black Hills sanctuary. He next sought to establish a larger range that could accommodate thousands of horses. But since IRAM lacked both money and land, Hyde needed the help of a private investor. He turned out to be Alan Day, an owner of cattle ranches in Arizona and Nebraska. Day, says Hyde, "knew how to manage grass and was not afraid of the immensity of my dream."
Day also knew a good business deal when he saw it. "America's gone fat and sloppy, and for someone who's willing to go out there and kick ass, there's a lot of opportunity," he says. In the case of Mustang Meadows, Day and his two partners anticipated earning a $50,000 annual profit from a huge tract they assembled by buying 22,000 acres for $1.4 million and leasing 10,000 adjoining acres from the Sioux Indians. The money would come from IRAM's contract with BLM and the state of South Dakota, which pays the sanctuary an 85 cents-per- day subsidy per horse. This sentence is not clear. Does the state pay 85 cents per horse per day in addition to the BLM bid between 1.20- and 1.70 per horse per day. And do these contracts have to be competitively re-bid each year, with the risk of having to loose and relocate 1500 horses? (There is mention of breach of contract in the article about Alan Day - next post)
The first mustangs arrived in August 1988. After being cooped up in corrals anywhere from one month to several years, they needed to readjust psychologically to the comparative freedom of the ranch's open pastures. By gradually approaching the wary mustangs in corrals, Day and his wranglers taught them to become comfortable around people. "They have had so much negative training before they get here, they think they are going to suffer if they see a man on horseback," says Day. "We want to show them that we are not the enemy." Out of the corrals, the mustangs are rotated to one of twelve pastures, then moved periodically to allow the grass to regrow. "I'm a grass specialist," Day explains. "Though some people have romantic notions of the operation, I have to look at it as cash flow. It has to make financial sense." This year potential profits evaporated in the worst drought in memory. There is also some confusion here: If the Mustang Meadows happened AFTER the IRAM, the first horses could not have arrived in 1988, since that is when the BLACK HILLS SANCTUARY started.
Some critics say that being the brother of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor may have helped Day get the BLM contract. But, scoffs Day, "Sandra doesn't even drive 56 m.p.h. She didn't even know about this until it was a done deal." A more serious complaint about Day's techniques has been lodged by environmentalists who believe that wild horses ought to be just that -- wild. "They're nothing but a big herd of domestic horses," says Donna Ewing, president of the Illinois-based Hooved Animal Humane Society and a former colleague of Hyde's. Mustang Meadows, Ewing charges, is "another ploy by BLM to eliminate the wild horse. Hyde and Day are cattlemen, and who has been the biggest enemy of horses?" According to Ewing, "The horses are harassed. There is a lack of rock to keep their hooves trimmed naturally, so they have to round them up and trim their hooves twice a year. The climate is severe, and there is no natural shelter." Later on he emphasizes that this was not about mustangs but about cattle and that the horses were more of an aside, a gesture.
Day scoffs at such criticism. Mustang-management techniques like "herd- behavior modification," he claims, are essential. "Nobody in the world," he boasts, "has ever managed wild horses on this scale."
Day has made a believer out of John Boyles, chief of the Wild Horses and Burros division of BLM. "The situation ((at Mustang Meadows)) is about as close to natural as you can get," says Boyles. "As long as Congress says we can't destroy healthy excess animals, the sanctuary gives us the least-cost alternative to keeping the horses we can't place in private homes." BLM has awarded a contract for a second sanctuary in Oklahoma. NOTE:"As long as congress says we can't destroy healthy animals, the sanctuary gives us the least-cost alternative..." Shortly thereafter Day reports the BLM directives to change to round up and shoot old and weak horses. (Then later the BURNS amendment allowed for killing of healthy animals also). The second sanctuary in Oklahoma was the Hughes ranch. Now these are not called sanctuaries anylonger but LONG TERM HOLDING FACILITIES. They are paid by taxes but on private ranches - not accountable and not accessible.
Such sanctuaries could eventually save taxpayers $2.5 million a year.
One asks where does the saving come in? Well, the Short Term Holding facilites like FEEDLOTS cost nearly 4-5 dollars a day per horse, while a Long Term Holding facility gets between 1.20 and 1.70 per horse per day.
But they will never satisfy everyone with an opinion about wild horses. Animal- rights activists and Old West buffs decry any fettering of the mustangs' ability to roam the plains. Ranchers object that free-running herds pose threats to pastures and water that cattle need. "Most people feel there should be some place in the U.S. for wild horses because they're so important in our past," says Boyles. "But we recognize the range is only going to support so many.
The two basic questions are, How many should we have? (actually the first question is: HOW MANY do we have. There has been no proper census. Put the money into technology and research that can count)
What should we do with the excess animals?"Mange the horses on the range with fertility control, predator reintroduction(or at least stop predator extermination on HMA's), restore the balance in designated WILD HORSE MANAGEMENT (HMA's) areas between cattle and horses (a thriving ecological balance cannot be achieved as long as cattle outnumber horses 1000 to 1) and return horses from horses from Holding into their designated HMA's when possible. In addition improve capture procedures to remove extreme trauma and consequently improve adoption and training perspectives. Until these questions are answered, sanctuaries can provide mustangs a haven somewhere between unbridled liberty and galloping into extinction.(That is still the question)