Wild horse summit: Seeking common ground

Published: May. 29, 2019 at 6:30 PM PDT
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Just the sight of wild horses roaming free stirs something deep in many people.

Others scoff at that sentiment and, taking a harder view, see competition for limited resources and damage to the environment.

It's hard to reconcile those points of view or even get those holding them in the same room, but that's what's happening this week at the Peppermill.

It's billed as the first ever Equid Summit and its aim is to bring together all sides of this debate, find common ground and propose solutions they can agree on.

"I think that we have a lot more common ground than we thought we did," said Celeste Carlisle of Return to Freedom. "And so, I'm a proponent of starting there."

State Veterinarian and Eureka County rancher J.J. Goicoechea is also optimistic.

"I think if we can move forward on 80% we can agree on and leave the other 20%, we're ahead."

Those attending will agree on just a few points going in. First, that the biggest obstacle to that search is emotion.

"It's easy to get stuck in the emotional side of things, but again inevitably it's the horses that are going to suffer," says Goicoechea.

"Any issue that people get involved with, we have these same hangups that a lot of our success depends on putting some of that aside," adds Carlisle

And there's an apparent growing consensus that these conversations are overdue. As Goicoechea notes, time for solutions may be short.

"We are probably within about 4 or 5 years of an ecological disaster and starvation of our horses on the range."

Goicoehea says they are looking at a whole menu of possible solutions, but breaking them down, two things need to happen.

"We need to focus on where we have to take some horses off the range for sage grouse, for wildlife, for water quality, for public safety and we need to lower that birth rate. But if we do one or the other, we will fail."

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