On a recent journey to New Mexico, Mary and I went on a side trip to locate the wild horses of the Bordo Atravesado Herd Management Area. It took us two tries, a trip to the BLM office and about 70 miles of gravel road, but we finally succeeded in locating them.
Unfortunately, it was overcast and near sunset by the time we spotted the horses. The photography was challenging, but the thrill of seeing these animals was undiminished by the lack of light.
Before we ever found the horses Mary and I were struck by the appalling condition of the range.
As you can see from the above image there is nothing for the horses (or anything else) to eat. These images were made in early September. I can’t imagine how the land will look after the winter.
Even the juniper trees were mostly dead. All the hills were bare. Lots of dirt, no grass and some cholla made up the majority of the range. Did you notice something else in the image of the dead juniper? That dark spot just in front of the tree trunk? A fresh cow pattie. A bit further down the road we found the makers of the cow patties. There was some grass here as it was in a wash which collects more moisture. However, the area along the wash was the only place with grass.
What are cows doing on a wild horse Herd Management Area? From a BLM website: “Under the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), BLM is required to manage public lands under the principles of multiple use and sustained yield. Managing use by cattle and sheep, together with wildlife and wild horses and burros, and a host of other uses is a key part of BLM’s multiple use management mission under FLPMA.” With millions of acres of BLM land in the West being grazed, do we really need to graze the land down to dirt? This is a perfect example of what Edward Abbey called “cow burned” land. This is public land, it belongs to all of us. Do we want it ravaged down to dirt so we can collect a few dollars?