I am writing in response to last week's cover story on the low market value for horses in this area ("Ends Meet," June 5). Because they can no longer be sold for slaughter, there is an excess of animals, many of which are aged or can no longer work for other reasons. This situation strains the meager resources of those who try to rescue and care for these animals, as well as reduces the value of local horses in general.

I predict that this situation will not be solved simply by the number of local horse breeders being reduced by market forces. As long as wild mustangs that have been collected from the open range by the BLM are available for adoption in this area, there will be an endless supply.

The BLM, which controls 85 percent of the land in Nevada, finds itself rather unwillingly in the horse-and-burro management business. The state of Nevada, where the majority of the mustangs are collected, is an arid region with a fragile ecosystem due to very low precipitation. Recovery from damage is very slow, if at all, and only occurs if the cause of the damage is removed. A century and half ago, it was felt that all land had to be put to some use, so this country was deemed suitable for cattle grazing. This industry has destroyed the natural ecology of virtually every stream in the state. The cattle industry in Nevada pretty much controls the BLM, rather than the reverse.

The wild horses have been caught in this situation. Those greedy mustangs are consuming forage that the cattle have the right to. The BLM is not in a position to choose between the cattle industry, with its money and power, and the horses, who have folks who speak for them, but no real power.

So the cattle remain on the range, year after year at the same stock rate, while the horses must be culled to preserve what little forage is available and to keep the tendency of the horses to overbreed (and starve) under control. Thus BLM-supplied horses will be available for the indefinite future.

Kathryn Corbett, Eureka

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