In the Wild Horses and Burros Act of 1971, Congress found and declared that “wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that …It is the policy of
Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected … and … considered …as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.” They are not referred to as “feral,” but “wild and free-roaming.”
Other than using the term Eohippus as opposed to the more correct E. caballus, the first two sections on wild horses are basically correct, that is until the word feral is injected in the third paragraph. Not only were mustangs significant in changing the practical, cultural, and spiritual lives of our forebearers and indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, they have been mistakenly labeled non-native or feral. They are in fact native. Current molecular biology reveals that E. caballus DNA is genetically equivalent to the prehistoric ancestral Equus species. According to the late Jay Kirkpatrick, noted Cornell-trained reproductive veterinary physiologist, “Two key element for defining an animal as a native species are where it originated and whether or not it co-evolved with its habitat. E. caballus can lay claim to doing both in North America.”
As stated elsewhere in the NRMP, “Federal and state lands and their amenities can be considered an economic asset, contributing to economic growth by supporting renewable and non-renewable industries and creating a setting that attracts and retains people and businesses.” Yet, the language in the section on wild horses infers a lack of value of wild horses in Park County. This completely overlooks the many visitors that come to Park County specifically to view wild horses and the many tax-paying tour companies, lodging facilities, and restaurants that are supported by these visitors. It is time for the BOCC not only to acknowledge, but value this grand economic asset in our backyard that is naturally aligned with the wild and western spirit of Cody that brings visitors!