The BLM is removing almost all wild horses & burros from their range on public land across Nevada - and spending over $34 million taxpayer dollars to do it! We should spend that money developing wild horse eco-tours for foreign & American visitors. That'll bring long-lasting jobs to rural Nevada & give Las Vegas a second role as a hub of eco-travel to the Southwest. This is an untapped industry. Why? Africa, the Galapagos, Australia, etc. earn tremendous revenue from eco-tours.
To a weary rancher, his unemployed kids, a retiree short on income, or a local cowboy poet:
Imagine this as a way to earn a good living on public land leases across the West: from spring to fall, tourists and serious photographers paying $50 to $200 apiece, per day, arrive at your ranch to view wild horses. Your sons or daughters can take them by SUV or horseback to photograph young foals running circles around their weary mothers and the lead mare keeping them all in line. A spectacular band stallion tries to chase off a band of inexperienced and cheeky bachelors. He postures and rears, testosterone thickened his arched neck, puts spring in his quick step, and power in his challenge squeal. Finally he lays back his ears, stretches out his neck low to the ground and “snakes” his family away from the bachelor menace. They let him go, knowing they must grow stronger for a real fight.
The visitors enjoy a glimpse of deer or elk, but these wild ones don’t stick around to show off like the mustangs who know their power like zebra or elephants do. As your kids drive the visitors through sage and golden grass, they show the birder types what hawks circle overhead and where the ground squirrels hide. The visitors are thrilled and weary when they arrive to a hearty lunch made by your wife or a local cook. They want to know how your grandparents ever found this place and how did they make a living in blizzard and drought? You describe their love for this blue sky land, its wild ones and the breeds of cows they bred to thrive. Under the stars, your brother-in-law hosts a BBQ at his place where a cowboy poet recites some of his best verse while your family sells photos, paintings, clothing, and foods made by others in your town. When the tourists show the stuff to friends in France, Germany or Japan, they plan to visit too.
Some fellows in town renovate passages in an abandoned mine and lead tours complete with snacks and a buddy singing western songs deep in the mine. Another takes them to the graveyard where 1800’s miners lie dead of ambush wounds or cholera, knife fights and freezing. The visitors can’t get enough of this - wild horses in the morning sun and down a mine at sunset – and they will rave about it to their friends back home. This is history unlike any they ever knew.
In a couple of years, your oldest son and his family move back to help the growing business. He converts an old barn into a bunkhouse for American families wanting to see wild horse tours but on a budget. Your retired neighbor starts a Bed & Breakfast in her old house for high-end visitors who will pay to be spoiled with her antiques and good food. Soon gas stations, motels, shops and cafes get more business along the highways to wild horse viewing sites. Now you are netting more income than you did on cattle and you aren't going out alone in late snowstorms to roundup calves and their mothers. These wild horses take care of themselves. You quit worrying about the price of beef and your wife doesn’t need to work in town to tide you over. She’s so busy doing the cooking and book-keeping that your daughter helps out instead of moving to Salt Lake or Vegas for a job. Eventually, she gets engaged to the kid two ranches over who guides visitors on horseback to the wild horse herds. That means that your grandkids will grow up local so your wife won't nag you to retire and move to the city. They’ll be waiting to inherit the whole dang thing from grandpa.
Not everyone is suited to working in energy, mining or ranching so many rural kids leave for city jobs. They lose their family contact and rural communities lose their best and brightest. Why? The American West is sitting on the same BILLION dollar tourist industry that Third World Africa enjoys - if we keep our Wild Horses really Wild in the West. European, Asian and American eco-tourists want the thrill of seeing wild horses and burros exhibiting distinctly wild behaviors justas they now view African wildlife living free in wilderness parks. They won’t pay to see gelded horses in corrals. Who would? Where else in the entire World can people see wild mustangs and burros? Our colorful herds and beautiful scenery cannot be copied in Europe or Japan so foreign visitors will keep coming to our West decade after decade – an ongoing cash flow. But the BLM and Forestry roundups and their contraception of all the wild mares must stop. 1 horse per 1500 acres or no foals means no tourists. What a huge financial loss. And it is not necessary.
Let's manage wild herd reproduction with inexpensive contraception (PZP) by darting very young or very old mares in a family band while letting mature mares have foals to replace the horses that die from predators, old age, lightning strikes and injuries. Let’s keep the family and the bachelor bands intact doing all the wild horse behavior that tourists want to see from bachelor challenges to foals nursing or at play. Let’s create new jobs for our families in the West, not on Kentucky or Midwest holding farms where the BLM puts our mustangs to stand until they die. Talk to your local BLM staff and their Washington bosses. It is in your hands to save the wild herds for tourism.