Free-roaming Equids and Ecosystem Sustainability Summit
Delegates agreed to the common goal of “healthy herds on healthy rangelands.” Additionally, they shared a common frustration, the increased polarization of all interest groups that results in political and management gridlock of federally protected equids and their associated habitats. Summit delegates committed to a grassroots network to communicate to all stakeholders the urgency of addressing present and pending ecological degradation caused by unmanaged free-roaming equids on federal, state, and tribal lands in fragile, high desert ecosystems with limited water resources.
To coordinate this effort, Utah State University and the Berryman Institute have launched the Free-roaming Equid and Ecosystem Sustainability Network (FreeNet). FreeNet exists to enhance meaningful communication and provide an informal structure to support diverse stakeholder groups working together for the common goal of “healthy herds on healthy rangelands.” FreeNet seeks to integrate sound science with local knowledge, human perceptions, and values into a collaborative information sharing, planning, and implementation process. FreeNet is committed to seeking to understand and respect individual opinions while striving to develop meaningful, actionable objectives to be implemented judiciously, compassionately, and expeditiously.
Jessica Tegt, the former coordinator of the USDA Wildlife Services National Training Center, was hired thanks to Public Lands Initiative support, as the Institute’s Outreach and Engagement Specialist to coordinate national, regional, state, and private effort to better manage feral and invasive species.
Professor Terry Messmer, Department of Wildland Resources, director of the Berryman Institute, Terry.Messmer@usu.edu