Wild Horse Education (WHE) is in the process of organizing past articles and revamping our website to better suit the needs of people researching aspects of our (WHE) history in advocacy and the history of public land management that contains the legal, ethical and moral obligation to protect and preserve wild horses, humanely.
This article is written as a conceptual resource, not a 4 line meme. In order to engage the system you must understand the terminology, history and political environment that create today’s reality. This article can not cover every aspect but will give a few of the “nerd notes” that currently occupy the space of the pragmatic advocate.
“C’mon man, stop looking at the ‘wild horse issue’ as a distinct failure,” WHE founder Laura Leigh in a recent conversation with a journalist, “When we are looking at wild horses on the range you are looking at a symptom of a much larger disease. You want me to focus on horses in holding. That’s a damn symptom. You want to go with me to a roundup. Just another (f-word) symptom. No one wants to have the real discussion. No one wants to sit with me and watch what is happening to the range because you don’t see it as a dramatic story (sarcastic, perhaps obscene, facial expression). You want to ‘blame the symptom’ for the disease and the patient is nearing it’s death throw. If wild horses were the big problem we would only have these problems where we have wild horses, we don’t. These issues extend far beyond wild horses. Let’s start your education with a Judge in Idaho named Winmill…”
“I have spoken to other advocates and they all gave me a quote and not one of them gave me s**t or talked about any judge.”
“You didn’t call me because you wanted a quote for an article, nobody does. I only get called when you disagree with the advocates and want to complain or when you know, deep down inside, someone needs to to stick a boot in your butt.”
“You are right. I’m working on other things. I talked to a couple environmental groups and nobody really has anyone on the ground right now, they say you are.”
“Yup. You’ll use the advocates for crazy quotes on roundups, holding and horses dying in sanctuary hoarding horror. When you write a serious piece on public land there wont even be the words ‘wild horse.’ Can you see how stupid that is?”
“But my editor…”
“Stop with the excuses. If you want to have a real conversation about the issues you know I’ll give it to you with no expectation that you cite me as source. If just want bullshit, I can tell you where to find that, it’s all over public land… and Facebook.”
The rest of the conversation was Leigh speaking of how wild horses are simply a piece that needs to be integrated into a larger picture. She spoke of how the larger picture is so fictionalized, fabricated and broken that when you slide a piece like wild horses into that puzzle there is no way it can fit.
She calls politics of public land a “poker game” where a “wild horse” card is played to satisfy the House (capital “H” house, meaning Congress). Historically, to satisfy a game on the verge of becoming too contentious, wild horse removals are a card that gets played to keep the players from “drawing pistols.” This lazy player strategy has led to a predictable time where there are very few of those cards left in the deck.
So now we see the “slaughter” card played to deflect from the real issues, the hand that everyone is afraid to play. Fix broken land management…. and stop blaming the horse.
When you present facts you are always faced with opinion on the facts, more than you face any discussion revolving around them. In an article written on fertility control we used the phrase “It’s raining” as an illustration. If people like the rain they see you in a favorable light, if they don’t like rain you are seen unfavorably just for stating it.
Public land management is broken. This is not some new revelation but extends back over a hundred years. (we state that because in this election year we know there will be people claiming one side or another is responsible, both sides hold culpability over decades).
To solve a problem in real time we do need to understand how we got here, but can not remain in debate over the past. We often see people either caught in old resentments or in lifestyles that rely on the maintenance of a fictional portrayal. These individuals exist in every aspect of engagement that leads to a perpetuation of the broken system.
If you simply peek at the past through the window of today you can simply glimpse at the layers of fractures that mass and compound until we see extreme consequence.
Here is a simple article about Mahleur (the standoff in Oregon) and long standing issues that led to the armed occupation of a bird sanctuary. You can also see how those issues get sidestepped and exploited to perpetuate multiple agendas that spin faster than at any time in history through social media. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/160104-oregon-protest-malheur-national-wildlife-refuge/
Over a century of using public lands to fund “interests” has led to practices that stem in historic uses, not uses based on science. Anyone that thinks our public lands are managed for preservation of beauty has never visited public land beyond a tourist destination. Our land is managed for use. The use is supposed to be managed to sustain use, not deplete resource and then figure out another way to use what is left.
Our livestock grazing program essentially began it’s structure to feed expansion and fund a war. The government needed money to fund the Civil War. Miners pulling that funding (gold and silver) out of the ground needed food. Troops needed food. States like Nevada had massive tracks of unclaimed land that yielded money.
Was that based on scientific sustained use? Not a chance. But it was the birthplace of those federal programs. It was the palette in hand when we began to look at the serious degradation of our western landscape. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 was essentially passed to stop free grazers and land owners from killing each other over a blade of grass, not preservation of the land.
This video illustrates the consequence in today’s world. Please watch the video below at least twice before continuing. Note not only where public land gets a failing grade, but where they have never been fully evaluated.
So if we want to take a simplistic look without the layers of political and individual drama, what do we have?
This is the canvas of public land. This is the baseline and it is severely broken.
The state of Nevada contains more wild horses than all other states combined.
If you look at the red (areas that fail) and then look at the yellow (areas never fully evaluated) when we make any claim that removing wild horses from the range is to protect a healthy environment are we making a valid statement? The answer is a “maybe,” not a definitive “yes” or “no.”
Did we just make you angry? Of course we did. But just step out of the historic need to defend wild horses in this messed up equation and keep reading. Remember we have already pissed off the ranching community because we have pointed out that the Civil War is over and the historic practice of livestock use is not validated (yes, if you are a livestock operator that is what you heard us say). If you work for the federal government you believe we said you are inept and have no idea what your job is. Remember the phrase “It’s raining.” We have already made everybody mad at us.
In 2013 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) failed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse and burro program across the board. The most disturbing aspect is that the program is “fact poor.” Essentially any census data pre-2013 is so severely flawed it is irrelevant. Yet every management frame today relies on a fictional Appropriate Management Level (AML, or the number of wild horses a range can sustain) set before 2013. In addition the vast majority of those AMLs are set on range land NEVER fully assessed. Some context on the NAS review https://wildhorseeducation.org/2016/04/06/nas-report-a-bit-of-context/
So in our poker game we continue to play wild horse cards at the same anti as an inaccurate census done in 1974 on range land never fully assessed. Oh yeah… that will end well.
So if you are looking for a quote on the Advisory Board recommendation to euthanize wild horses in holding and what Leigh thinks that means; “It means we are as stupid as we have always been.”
Tomorrow we will continue this conversation into the framework we have today and all the restrictions… and how the heck do we get out of it. We will also discuss Judge Winmill and why that is important for you to really understand.
Roundups are coming again and we need to gather data to address this broken machine. The ony way to keep wild horses integral to the landscape is to keep them on the landscape.
Help us if you can.