What is the value of a wild horse?
Only a tiny minority of Americans want to see wild horses sent to slaughter to make room for more livestock grazing on public lands.
Obviously, we don’t see most Americans giving up their hamburgers and steaks, so the demands for beef, lamb and pork are slowly increasing.
But do we need to kill wild horses in slaughter houses?
And is this even a wise use of these publicly owned wild horses?
Are wild horses more valuable in a pet food can and/or sitting in exile, wasting away in a Bureau of Land Management off-range corral costing American taxpayers nearly $100 million per year?
Is there a much higher value proposition that’s been overlooked?
What about the billion-dollar economics of using wild horses in a wildfire fuel abatement role, protecting human lives, assets, forest and timber resources, as well as other tertiary benefits?
Since the codification of the 1971 Free-Roaming Wild Burro and Horse Protection Act five decades ago, there have been many profound breakthroughs and discoveries in science. For instance, modern paleontology informs us that wild horses have successfully maintained habitats in virtually every biome on the planet ranging from subarctic to tropical.
We also now know that wild horses survived the Ice Age in forests (see https://cosmosmagazine.com/biology/into-the-woods-horses-survived-mass-extinction-by-adapting-to-forests)
Given recently discovered facts, as far as equine genetics (including epigenetics), paleontological ecology (habitats and ranges of wild equids based-on fossil records), and through the cultural archaeology of Native Americans and their horses, which arguably predate the Columbian Period, would planners today draw the same lines on maps defining areas for wild horses under any new law for their protection?
I seriously doubt it. Comparing what we know today to what we knew in the 1960s and in early 1971, it’s clear we knew very little about wild horses, as well as their history and ecology.
And even by today’s standards, we still have much to learn in many areas. Scant funding is provided for the study of American wild horses in comparison to studies related to livestock.
In a world where we have more people than ever wanting more resources than ever before, financial considerations must not be discounted.
What is the real value of a wild horse? I would say to those with love in their hearts that the sum is beyond quantification.
To those who render meat, an 800-pound horse is worth about $160 (20 cents per pound wholesale).
In the next installment of this two-part series, I will examine exactly why taxpayers benefit from rewilding American wild horses and detail the economics of why each rewilded horse is worth about $72,000.
Learn more about naturalist-rancher William E. Simpson II and his research at www.WHFB.us.