Letters to the Editor
In response to the Summer 2007 issue
I have just read “Nevada’s Mustangs: roughing up the range” by Archie Murchie, published in Summer 2007 Nevada Silver & Blue. This gives a very biased description of the wild horses from an old U.S.Forest Service employee who maintains the same, old anti-wild horse tradition that almost eliminated the mustangs. Murchie’s bias becomes plain when he describes the wild horses at the water hole. He should have mentioned how it is cattle who camp on the riparian areas and how the wild horses quickly drink their fill and redisperse away from the water sources to cover a much broader area than do livestock in their procurement of food.
Also he should have mentioned how the wild horses’ pawing at seeps serves to enlarge watering holes so that many other animals, who could not otherwise obtain access to such, can drink. Like many with his negative views, Murchie overlooks the obvious problem: humanity’s tampering with the natural balance here in the West.
This includes grossly disproportionate overgrazing of cattle and sheep, as well as overlogging on the public lands, and an overemphasis on a relatively few game animals at the expense of many other species, including natural predators, all the while scapegoating a returned North American native with greater ancestral prehistory here in North America than just about any mammalian species, genus or family: the wild horse, a species whose presence restores and enhances the North American ecosystem, by dispersing the seeds of many native plants and building the absorptive nutritious humus content of its soils through its feces, and in many other ways.
How grossly unfair and lopsided is this oral history toward the wild horse! Silver & Blue should publish another article that stresses the positive aspects of the wild horses and their cousins the burros in the wild, including their great and now very timely capacity to eliminate flammable vegetation over a very broad area and to turn this into fertile, moisture-retaining soil. Silver & Blue should give a fairer, more balanced perspective on the wild horses in the wild, rather than siding with their enemies.
Craig C. Downer, ’76M.S. (biology)
Author: Wild Horses: Living Symbols of Freedom
Your article sure brings back memories: Professor [Donald] Cooney [’47] was a fine professor. In spring 1949, I was taking a lower division botany class from him and there was only one other student in the class, a girl. One afternoon he advised me that the next day we were going on a field trip to collect thermal-loving algae south of Reno. We went on the field trip, but the girl didn’t come along. On the way home Professor Cooney reached in the back seat of his auto and under a blanket there were two beers. What a surprise!
A couple years later when taking his mycology class, during a final exam he left the room when he returned there was about two or three feet of toilet paper hanging off the back of his belt. I was the first to notice his misfortune and brought it to the attention of other students. A few snickers were heard. At the time Professor Cooney was certain that I was involved. When he gave me my test book with a total score, he had omitted 20 grade points. So I confronted him, advising him that he couldn't add. He did give me my total score of 90. I never did know if he really felt that I was innocent.
Sad to lose someone who did have some measure of influence; he’s why I took the road I choose.
Warren Sandau ’54 (botany)
Editor’s note: Donald Cooney ’47 (biology), biology professor emeritus and department chairman, died Jan. 11, 2007. See Summer 2007, Remembering Friends.
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