Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Wild Horses, Part of Romantic West, Are Causing Havoc in Northeast California

KQED.org - Full Article

by KQED Science
Jan 19 2021

In the northeast corner of California, feral horses roam in an area of the Modoc National Forest known as Devil's Garden. The high desert plateau in the northeastern corner of the state is filled with juniper trees, sage brush, and not quite enough grass for all the grazing animals that live there. A fight over how to manage the horses shifted recently when Congress funded a plan to reduce herds on federal lands. KQED's Brian Watt recently spoke with Sacramento Bee reporter Ryan Sabalow, who covered the Devil's Garden horses in his series, "Nothing Wild."

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

How did these horses come to be living in the wild?

Ryan Sabalow: Some of these horses in the West can trace their ancestry back to the Spanish settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries. The difference with the Devil's Garden herd is these horses are much more newcomers. They've been around since about the Modoc War, which was in the 1800s.

The Devil's Garden herd is unique in that it's managed by the U.S. Forest Service instead of the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM manages about 100,000 wild horses on millions of acres.

The issue is that wild horses are not a native species. The federal government is trying to figure out a way to reduce their numbers to try to benefit all these other animals that are out there, while still allowing cattle ranchers to make a living...

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