Spreading the Message by Elyse Gardner, event organizer and long time colleague and friend of WHE
(Santa Rosa, CA) Wild Horse Education is on the road, coming to speak at my alma mater . The vast majority of Founder Laura Leigh’s time is spent on the range, implementing a ground-breaking data collection program tracking the habit/natural pattern of wild free-roaming horses in the wild, using game cameras and other modern technology. Sometimes she operates in partnership with the BLM, sometimes doggedly pursuing BLM roundups day upon day.
Thus, the on-the-range work then evolves into tracking the captured horses in holding facilities, attending meetings with BLM and/or state and federal officials, attending Resource Advisory Council meetings (RAC) all across the face of Nevada, the “ground floor” where land use plans are devised. All of this work then morphs into the tedious but critically important prepping of documentation for reports to Congress and potential use in the courtroom.
Since the BLM is not always willing to do the right thing for the wild horses, it is good to have a “big stick” at one’s disposal, and Laura’s litigation record is precisely that. In the five years since the inception of Wild Horse Education, she has prevailed and/or set precedents in law over a dozen times. winning landmark rulings in the Ninth Circuit Court, and winning the first court orders against inappropriate handling of wild horses. Laura has won multiple rulings against inappropriate conduct and stopped, or limited the scope of, roundups.
So prepping documentation for possible courtroom use is always a part of her work.
The work is all-consuming, and WHE’s President spends virtually every waking hour engrossed in one aspect or another in order to help bring a change to the unsustainable way the American wild horses and burros have been managed to this point.
Of the vast amount of material Laura covered in the 3.5 hour presentation, what stands out in my mind are two critical points:
1) The sensible, do-able, tangible policy and practice changes Laura is proposing will take the Wild Horse and Burro Program from crisis management to pro-active management which eliminates (or minimizes) the need for future roundups in a manner consistent with the “minimal feasible” management practices which the 1971 Act mandates, and,
2) Self-policing. Since many/most ranchers are law abiding and not all are abusing the range by trespass grazing ( which means grazing their privately owned cattle beyond the dates and at greater numbers than their grazing permits allow) why aren’t the “good” guys dealing with the law breaking minority who are nevertheless causing a great deal of destruction on the range and posing the greatest threat to the wild horses? And wild horse advocates ought to self police, as well. Indeed, it is a societal principal which a civilized society should be practicing.
This year WHE has been given an opportunity to address the “next generation” of advocates and many looking for careers in public land management in several venues.
Laura was energized by this opportunity to interact with appreciative people hungry for the information: “It is such an enriching experience for me to see this complex issue suddenly reach a simplistic level of clarity as I speak to the room.” said Leigh, “The complexities do not lie in the reality of the law or the range itself, but within the human condition of perpetuating things like historic prejudice and profit margins. There are solutions, you just have to cut through the bull.”
The talk spanned 3.5 hours and continued in “overtime.”
Some of the responses I heard following her talk:
“I thought she was a lawyer. And listening to her speak, I was thinking I have never heard a lawyer speak so clearly.”
“If she is successful, she will change everything. I could follow every step and appreciated the basic logic and consideration for all the laws and the land.”
“Not once did she look at notes. I have never seen anyone in the government speak as she did. It was all simply from a real place of understanding. I was impressed.”
Laura is excited and told me, “Wild Horse Education has spoken to all age groups this year from grade school to college level. In the classroom and on the range. We have had the privilege of addressing a solution-based conversation with the ‘next generation.'”
An educated advocacy is more important than ever.
Several special people attended the event. Thank you to Steve Paige, an observer at the last roundup of Sheldon Mustangs, for stopping in to say “hi.” And to Michele Blackwell, creator of Strong Women, Wild Horses, for her continued dedication to see her film finished.
For those seeking a bit more depth to specific questions, we have a “Q&A” page: https://wildhorseeducation.org/wild-horse-news-wednesday-weekly/
Below is a video created a few ago “for beginners.” A great place to start. Skip to timecode “1:25” to skip intro.
Page for beginners https://wildhorseeducation.org/hold-your-wild-horses-video/
~~~~ Help keep us in the fight.
Categories: Wild Horse Education