-- E.R. Jackman and R.A. Long, The Oregon Desert
In the classic Pacific Northwest book The Oregon Desert, E.R. Jackman and Reub Long observe the central role of horses on the Oregon range. Historically, horses provided transportation, companionship, and a source of income, and were essential to any operation. In his book, Jackman notes that 300,000 horses were counted in the Oregon census in 1915, but estimates that number was short by 100,000. Ranchers often lost count of their horses as they roamed free and formed their own herds on the open range.
Today, bands of horses still thrive on the public lands in Eastern Oregon. The animals are protected by federal law as naturalized wildlife and are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Eastern Oregon is even home to an endemic horse breed, the Kiger mustang. Enthusiasts celebrate wild horses for their beauty, personality, and history, but they also present a management challenge. The number of wild horses in Oregon increase by 25% each year, and the BLM must both protect the horses as a national symbol and prevent the overgrazing of sensitive desert lands.