Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Analyzing horses as cultural resources

William Lipe
describes four ways in which cultural resources are valued in his essay Value and Meaning in Cultural Resources.  He details that some cultural resources have associative/symbolic value that provides a superior understanding of the past that written or oral history cannot match.  Through these resources, such olden days can become tangible.  They are symbols of a time passed we can only imagine.  They also have informational value.  Inferences about the past can be obtained, studied, and appreciated - though mostly by researchers.  The aesthetic value of cultural resources depends on the observer.  It is influenced by their culture as they view the resource.  One person may see the value of an old farmhouse, while another may not.  Lastly, many cultural resources have an economic value.  This is a difficult one because for many resources it is near impossible to place a dollar sign.  This value often clashes with the symbolic, aesthetic, and informational values.  But, how much people are willing to spend on a resource is indicative of its economic value.

Of these four value areas, symbolic value is best matched with my resource management interests dealing with rangelands and wild horses.  Free-roaming horses are viewed by many as a symbol of freedom and the American West.  They are stated as a “living legend” in the 1971 Wild Free-roaming Horses and Buros Act.  As untamed and unbridled creatures on western ranges of the Great Basin, wild horses are a cultural resource with aesthetic importance for their strength and beauty.  They are also a cultural resource with symbolic value through a tangible link to a western, pioneering past from which they have survived.  They are a physical representation of a piece of American history. 

The Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros Act protects the existence of all unbranded horses on federally owned lands by putting their management into the hands of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).. With horses being such an important resource to many people, the BLM must preserve them in their historic landscape while also permitting other uses of the land.   With conflicting interests in cattle grazing and mining leases, collaboration must occur on some level between the agency and interested stakeholders.

The potential area for collaboration with preserving these symbols can occur within all of these values.  From the agency’s management of this cultural resource, preservation of the horse’s symbolic value can be maintained through the economic values of the land.  Money obtained from cattle leases are used to repair degraded ranges, control invasive weeds, and re-vegetate.  This provides for a healthier ecosystem where the horses live and can thrive.  The symbolic value of horses is also maintained through aesthetic values.  The agency works to manage and preserve the landscape for recreation purposes.  Therefore, the horses can be viewed in the context of an authentic past, where informational value can also come into play.  The BLM is in charge of the Wild Horse and Burro program, which enhances the history of wild horses associated with western settlement.  The wild horse as symbol of the American West is promoted through the informational value they carry with them.  When horses are removed from the range to maintain populations, they can be adopted by citizens.  These owners then own a “living legend” and a piece of history.

Though it would seem the symbolic value of these horses can be well maintained by collaboration between the BLM and stakeholders, it is unfortunate that conflict is more likely to occur.  Advocates fear that this symbol of the American West is being managed to extinction through periodic removals meant to maintain populations.  Where mining and economic uses of rangelands for cattle grazing clash with wild horses, it is clear that more collaboration is required on both sides to preserve wild horses in a landscape also needed for economic means.

Monday, April 11, 2011

SOURCE Presentation 2011

All right.  So I convinced myself to sign myself up to present my thesis research proposal at the The Symposium on University Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE).  I am going to present a poster presentation this year.  Next year, I hope to give a talk about my research and the data I aim to collect this summer.  But, I am keeping it simple this year.  

The first time I did this was in 2008.  My poster and work earned me an outstanding poster award.  (You have to scroll down a bit under Outstanding Posters).  In creating that poster, I studied two aerial photographs from two different times (2000 and 2005 I believe) looking at the Kiger HMA.  I learned from the Range Specialist at the Burns district which areas were strictly horse-use only.  From this, I determined that horse impacts could be seen from aerial photographs and monitored.

My 2008 abstract
"In 1971, the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro act was passed into law, requiring these
animals to be protected (from harassment, branding, capture, or death), managed, and
controlled on public lands. Further, as declared by Congress, the act viewed them as living
symbols of the historic and pioneering spirit of the West. It placed their care into the hands of
federal agencies, like the Bureau of Land Management. However, though there had been a
decline in wild horse numbers previous to the passage of the act, their protection saw a rapid
rise in their population on the rangelands of the United States. This has implications for the
health of the wild horse herds, as well as the health of the rangeland that they share with other
wild and domestic ungulates. This project is an examination of how aerial photography and its
interpretation might be used to identify horse grazing impacts on the landscape."

This year, the poster will exhibit some background on my research subjects and what my proposed research this summer will entail.
2011 Abstract
Grass height and certain shrubs, especially sage-brush, are important to maintaining viable populations of greater sage-grouse.  Grazing is hypothesized to impact sage-grouse by reducing the height of herbaceous cover. This would have an impact on important sage-grouse breeding sites and the success of concealing nests from predators.  This research will test this hypothesis.  Free-roaming horses, which are herbivores minimally managed on federal lands, may have significant impact to perennial grasses as the graze.  Using exclosures, vegetation canopy surveys and utilization measurements this study will determine the amount of perennial grass height removed by free-roaming horses on sage-grouse leks in southeastern Oregon on the Riddle Mountain Herd Management Area.  The impact of free-roaming horses on sage-grouse habitat will be determined.

I look forward to being a part of this university gathering and sharing of knowledge from across campus.  As always, I hope to inform people about my topic.  

After earning an award last time, I feel as though the pressure is on to do even better this year...

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Short 'n Sweet Research Proposal

This is the short and sweet version of my research proposal.  I cannot believe that my first trip down there to locate study areas will be next month!  I still have so much to do...  take the truck in to a mechanic, buy a canopy (to sleep under in the back of my truck), install the CB, pick up a spare tire, check the brakes....yikes!

If you have any interest in the full document, let me know and I can email it to you.  Would love to have as many eyes on this as possible.  The same people have been editing it for three months now and I think they've gotten tired of reading it!  (So don't be afraid to point out mistakes, or anything that doesn't make sense, etc).

Effects of feral horse grazing on greater sage-grouse nesting habitat in southeastern, Oregon

Grass height and shrubs, especially sage-brush, are important to the greater sage-grouse habitat.  Grazing is hypothesized to impact sage-grouse populations by reducing the height of herbaceous cover. This would have an impact on important sage-grouse breeding sites and the successfulness of their nests.  This proposed research will test this hypothesis.  Using exclosures and vegetation canopy surveys, this study will determine the amount of herbivory by horses on sage-grouse leks in southeastern, Oregon on the Riddle Mountain Herd Management Area.  It will be concluded how much impact horse grazing has on sage-grouse nesting habitat.