ABSTRACT Over the past several decades, the dilemma of free-roaming horses in the U.S. has proven to be one of the most divisive issues in management of public lands. According to federal land management agencies, without population regulation, horses can increase at the rate of 15-20% a year on arid rangelands with inadequate numbers of natural, large predators. Horses compete for valuable forage and water resources alongside cattle and native wildlife in delicate riparian areas highly susceptible to the negative ecological effects of soil compaction and overgrazing. Most U.S. management policies, therefore, call for increased removal of free-roaming horses as they are categorized as “un-authorized livestock” or "non-native" species. Wild horse advocates, however, continue to petition for improvement in animal welfare and expansion of the horses’ territory. With heightened social conflict spurred by animal rights and ecological concerns, not to mention the often-stark differences over what really “belongs” on the landscape, the success of appropriate management strategies hinges on managing agencies’ preparedness and ability to respond in a timely and inclusive manner. A critical element of the management context is the public’s views toward the wild horse and the science used to manage them. Synthesizing the vast literature in the history and philosophy of wildlife management in the American West, and utilizing an ethnographic and case study approach, my research examines the range of stakeholder concerns and analyzes the factors that have led to the disconnect between public values of wild horses and public policy for the management of the federally protected free-roaming horses in Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.
- The Mustang Dilemma: Facts, Values, and Decision Making in Arizona’s Heber Wild Horse Territory
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