Rescuing history

Our view: Wild horses should be managed more humanely

November 24, 2008

Wild horses, small, hardy, sure-footed creatures that have come to symbolize the romance and pioneer spirit of the West, enjoy unique protection from "capture, branding, harassment or death" under a 1971 law. But there are too many for the available federal lands, and every year thousands are killed.

It shouldn't happen. Captured mustangs should be sterilized and returned to the wild. More federal land should be set aside as range, and land owners should receive tax credits for letting the horses graze.

This year, that help won't be necessary. Madeleine Pickens, wife of the Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, came to the rescue and bought 30,000 horses that were waiting in holding pens to die. Mrs. Pickens is planning to sterilize the horses she owns and keep them on a retirement ranch that she plans to purchase. As the government rounds up new horses, she hopes to absorb them as the horses on the ranch die of natural causes.

Regardless of Mrs. Pickens' good intentions, it's time for Congress to find ways for the nation to protect future generations of this symbol of freedom.

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