Could Endangered Species Protection Save Wild Horses?
Equine advocates are taking a new approach to get wild horses much-needed protection by petitioning the Department of the Interior to have horses who roam on federal public lands listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The petition was filed by Friends of Animals and the Cloud Foundation over concerns that if the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) doesn’t change the course its on soon, the agency will mismanage these American icons into extinction.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
In 1971, Congress recognized the value of wild horses as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” who “contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.” It enacted the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, which was intended to protect wild horses from “capture, branding, harassment or death.”
Sadly, the BLM has failed—and continues to fail—to uphold its duties and continues to remove and warehouse thousands upon thousands of wild horses. According to Friends of Animals, more than 200,000 horses have been driven off of public land since the Act was passed, while thousands more still face the threat of removal.
Wild horses have already disappeared from Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and things are getting ugly in other states, including Utah and Nevada. Now there are believed to be fewer than 33,000 horses on 26 million acres of BLM lands, while almost twice as many are in BLM holding facilities as the government continues to pointlessly spend millions of dollars every year on more gathers and holding costs.
Yet the agency still wants to reduce their numbers by another 30 percent and will continue to subject them to terrifying, incredibly inhumane and indiscriminate roundups where the young, old and pregnant are forced to run for their lives as they’re chased by helicopters.
Friends of Animals and the Cloud Foundation cite these excessive roundups and removals as a major threats to their populations, thanks mainly to private livestock grazing, in addition to habitat loss (they’ve already lost 22 million acres) and inadequate regulation.
Now concerns continue to be raised about how these threats will continue to hurt them and whether the small herds that are left in the wild will be able to survive, while further fears have been raised that the government will open the door to legally allow horses in holding to be sold for slaughter.
“The tragedy of horse roundups exists because the BLM appears devoted to turning arid western public lands into feedlots for cows and sheep to appease cattle producers,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “Friends of Animals finds this morally and ecologically reprehensible, as wild horses are driven off lands to leave the bulk of water, forage and space for two domestic animals owned by ranchers.”
Even though they’re legally protected, the BLM treats wild horses like an invasive species who have no right to the land, but scientific research based on fossil records and DNA evidence has proven that they did originate here. The belief that they’re a native species was also upheld last month by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals during a lawsuit that argued the BLM was breaking the law by rounding up too many horses.
“Misclassification of wild horses as a non-native species is politically, not scientifically driven,” said Ginger Kathrens, executive director of the Cloud Foundation. “Wild horses are severely endangered but without recognition of current scientific evidence of their native status, they could become extinct.”
While these organizations fight for more legal protection, the American Wild Horse Preservation's campaign is urging people to speak out for wild horses by opposing helicopter roundups in Utah and Nevada by midnight June 18. Comments can be emailed to: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Gudrun Heise
Just as scientists are scoring successes in coronavirus research, new problems are on their way. Fall is with us and winter is around the corner, so the season for colds and flu has begun — joining COVID-19.
Influenza Vaccination<p>A flu vaccination may thus be able to narrow down the diagnostic options when flu-like symptoms occur, but whether such a vaccination also has an influence on the behavior of the dangerous new virus is — like so much else — not clear. "It is conceivable that there is an indirect effect. But it is, I believe, a matter of speculation whether it has an immunological effect in the narrower sense," says Krause.</p><p>Every winter, doctors' waiting rooms are full of people who are coughing and sniffing but who mostly turn out to have only a severe respiratory infection. According to current knowledge, the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is also likely to be subject to seasonal fluctuations. </p><p>In winter, cold viruses, at least, flourish because cold and dry air offers ideal conditions for their spread. In addition, it becomes more difficult to air rooms regularly and intensively — an important further measure to counteract the coronavirus and contain to some extent the danger posed by aerosols.</p><p>According to the <a href="https://www.rki.de/DE/Home/homepage_node.html" target="_blank">Robert Koch Institute, Germany's public health agency</a>, between 5% and 20% of people in Germany become infected with flu viruses every year. These viruses are also dangerous and can be fatal. The flu vaccination must be adapted to the influenza viruses every year, because they mutate. But at least there is a vaccination.</p><p>Most experts agree that there is unlikely to be a vaccine against the coronavirus by the time the next wave of influenza comes around. And even if a vaccine were to be approved, many unknowns remain.</p>
COVID-19 and Flu Simultaneously<p>For example, there is a lack of practical experience in dealing simultaneously with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza. It is possible to speculate that having influenza could facilitate the entry of the coronavirus into the human body. "The general weakening of the immune system during an influenza infection could increase the susceptibility of a patient to a SARS-CoV-2 infection," Krause says.</p><p>However, it is uncertain how dangerous this double infection could ultimately be and what can be done about it. Krause is of the opinion that we must arm ourselves against all three diseases — colds, flu and COVID-19. If we have a cold, bed rest, hot tea and cough medicine usually help. We can get vaccinated against flu. But how do we deal with COVID-19?</p><p><span></span>Probably people can only hope that if they get the illness, they will have a mild form with as few after-effects as possible. Here, it will certainly help to stick to suggested rules on hygiene to reduce or prevent our exposure to the virus. In an interview with DW, Bonn-based virology professor Hendrik Streeck made it clear that COVID-19 usually takes a more severe course when there is a high viral load at infection.</p>
Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene<p>The same hygiene measures with which we are trying to get at least some kind of grip on COVID-19 also apply to influenza. The less we come into contact with viruses, the greater the chance that we will be spared an infection or that it will be mild.</p><p>These measures include general hygiene precautions such as frequent hand washing and the wearing of protective face masks. "The various hygienic measures against COVID-19 will also reduce the spread of influenza," says Krause. "Possibly, further connections of a more immunological nature will be discovered."</p><p>Let us hope that is the case, because the flu season hasn't even started.</p>
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Back in March, when the pandemic had just planted its roots in the U.S., President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something devastating: The agency was to indefinitely and cruelly suspend environmental rule enforcement. The EPA complied, and for just under half a year, it provided over 3,000 waivers that granted facilities clemency from state-level environmental rule compliance.