Today is “Leap Day.” Leap day was added to the calendar because it does not take 365 days for the earth to circle the sun. It takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, or 365.24219 days, to circle the sun. If we did not add a day to the calendar every year we would move slightly off and in about 135 years we would celebrate Christmas in the middle of summer.
Yet we all simply say “365 days a year,” because to say 365.24219 takes too long or makes you sound like a nitpicker. But it does not change the facts.
In advocacy for wild horses and burros the same thing is done. Policy, protocol, actions, everything gets abbreviated and condensed to communicate faster. In modern times we abbreviate things to accommodate the social media mindset of “40 character or less.”
Yet the same is true about public land issues as is true about the calendar we use, the devil is always in the details. Just as the calendar (if Leap Year was not added to course correct) would be off kilter, so can any effort to advocate for any issue.
“If you had a sick child would you scream at the doctor that the disease did not exist? No, you would learn everything you could about the disease and potential treatment. Then you would do your very best to address the appropriate course. Wild horses and burros? The issues exist and must be addressed before things are so off course that any semblance of appropriate treatment options vanishes and the ‘patient’ turns incurable. We are getting close to that moment.” ~Leigh
Drama is the disease of advocacy. It is a tool used by federal agencies as they wring their hands and whine about problems they themselves created. It is a tool used by private profit interest like massive campaigns that scream like a persecuted people from livestock as they have historically reaped prioritized treatment from federal agencies. It is a tool used by activists to throw you into a tailspin to draw attention to an issue (this has become an unfortunate reality in modern media, but sometimes needed when all else fails) and to draw attention to organizations that spend more time “organization building” than on the ground advocacy.
We could add one of those “add your name to the urgent list” things here. But we are not. Self policing is an essential component to being an effective advocate and in short supply. We ask that you go to a mirror and make that pledge to yourself. Look yourself in the eye and ask “Am I adding my voice to something productive or something destructive and reactive?” If you need to look at the eyes of the wild horses and ask them, do it. Then act with your heart, mind and soul.
When wild horses are being removed without hard data (supported by NAS findings) in huge numbers (like nearly 2000 in one shot at Calico or Antelope or Triple B… but that has not happened in three years) and babies are hotshot or hit with helicopters it is very easy to engage and “screaming” is appropriate. When one kill buyer is sold over 1700 wild horses, is a family friend of former Secretary of the interior Ken Salazar, admittedly ships the horses to slaughter and the federal government does nothing, screaming is appropriate.
When plans are put in place to use temporary fertility control (ZonaStat, known as PZP), hard data collection plans are created and mechanisms built to utilize that data in management moving forward, screaming is an insanity that obstructs real world solutions. That kind of screaming will push “easier and faster” plans to satisfy the other interests that are screaming they “want every blade of grass.” Round ’em up, ship ’em off or spay ’em makes the need to listen to all the screamers (all sides) much briefer. We ask you to think about that.
WHE is certainly not the most popular advocacy organization. WHE is the only org to take issues of humane care to court and win. WHE is the only org to fight and win for public transparency. Those two actions make us unpopular with the side of the fence that wants to keep moving them out with as much secrecy as possible. But we are also not popular with those that turn things into drama on the other side of the fence. Creating screaming “sign our comment letter” actions when the action on the letter is not accurately portrayed (because there is nothing to really scream about) is not something we will participate in and are often vocally opposed.
There are real threats to the ability of wild herds to exist into the future on healthy landscapes. But drama is the most destructive force to creating changes. That fact is particularly true when there are more “devils in the details” than can be explained in 40 character or less. We are in a time when the details are “not sexy” and involve multiple layers of federal regulation and policy, multiple layers of battered and bruised landscape and very little time left before the consequence of a century of catering to bullies is going to have disastrous consequence.
Tools must be built in the real world. Just as a humane handling policy now exists, so can the tools to manage viable herds on healthy rangeland. But it takes work in the real world, armed with factual data to address every single specific challenge.
WHE has no “magic wand” because none exists. But we know from experience that to create change we must roll up our sleeves and work smart and hard. We know that decades of screaming about horses being hit with choppers, hot shot in the face, run through barbed wire did nothing. Only through hard work was a tool created to address that issue.
We ask that you leap from drama. Drama is the trap of advocacy. Free yourself, before it is too late.
Categories: Wild Horse Education