First of all, let me start by saying that I admire the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). They do wonderful things.
However, having said that, I feel that I need to address M. David Allen's recent letter about wild horses (see "Emotional baggage," Jan. 21, 2010).
I just don't understand, and perhaps you can help clarify a few things. I am not an expert on wild horses or elk, but with the limited knowledge I have on elk, I don't really see any direct conflict with the elk and wild horses. Why are you making this a priority to send this letter not only to the papers in Missoula, but also several others throughout the West? Does the RMEF stand to gain something from this? I hope this is not going to be another political manipulation of some sort.
I am wondering if you speak for the entire membership of the RMEF or if it is just your own personal opinion. I also wonder why? One of your statements says that wild things need wild places, but have to do with less because of the increase in humans. But I often read about RMEF working with private landowners to acquire more land for the wild animals. That seems a bit contrary to what you stated in your letter. I am hoping you are just simply misinformed and will take the time to do more research and expand your knowledge.
The Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 states that wild, free-roaming horses and burros will have approximately 52 million acres of land "which is devoted principally to their welfare." But that land has been arbitrarily reduced by approximately 36 percent, and 95 percent of the balance has been leased to cattle and sheep ranchers for livestock grazing. The horses and burros are outnumbered 150 to 1 by cattle and sheep on lands that are supposed to be "devoted principally to their welfare." Consequently, America's mustangs are in serious danger of extinction.
There are approximately 60,000 still-wild mustangs in existence, roughly the same number as in the early '70s. But 33,000 of that 60,000 have been gathered out of the wild and are in Bureau of Land Management holding facilities across the country. And those that remain in the wild are living below viable levels. Simply put, that means below the number that must be available for breeding to keep the horse from not being forced into incest for the species to attempt to survive.
How would you feel if suddenly the land that the elk live on was taken away? I understand balance, but in order to have balance it needs to be equal on all sides. Not just the side of one wild species.