At Wild Horse Education (WHE) one of our requirements for volunteers on the road is that they do journal entries. Writing not only what you see, but how you see it, can be a very useful tool in the long term. Journaling not only helps you recall the details of an event, but your own perspectives. As advocates for wild horses and public land we must evolve the skills to address each challenge. Journaling is an opportunity for review, reflection and refinement.
A form of public journaling through an early blog led to founding of WHE. Many of our readers are still with us, almost a decade later. WHE is not one of the large, well-funded and organized machines in advocacy. WHE has maintained our place, our link in this chain, as a voice on the range, roundup or truck-stop with a flat tire and the will to find the way back.
In one instance we were documenting a roundup and had three flats, all by somehow having a punctured tire at a motel, three days in a row. At the service station the mechanic noted that we were in need of other repairs, we could not afford them. “You are the gal watching over the wild horses?” the mechanic then said, “I’ll fix your truck and get you back out there, pay me whenever you can. Please don’t tell anyone I helped you, just get those *&#(*#.”
We did. We got the information, filed in court and won. We went back and paid the mechanic and he included a big hug with the receipt.
For those of you that have followed and supported us in this fight, we are trying hard to be what you need us to be. Times are very tense for all of our wild things.
Journal 7/27/2017, Leigh
“Did you take those?” comment from some guy in a baseball hat and dust covered clothing looking over my shoulder as I edit photos on my laptop in a roadside diner.
I start flipping through pictures of wild horses, pronghorn, elk and even a low-light image of a mountain lion taken about an hour before the dawn.
“Where did you take those?” I have gotten that kind of comment before and usually just answer with the wrong location. However with all that is happening in this all out assault against our wild places and wild things, frankly I’m really angry.
“You work for one of the mines?” He nods affirmative to my question. “You hunt?” He nods again, big smile with beautiful teeth. We talk a bit about how much he loves being on the range and how open and peaceful and in touch with himself he feels out there. “We obviously have a lot in common,” he says.
“I feel that way too. We do have a lot in common. But out there everything is dying, everything. Mines, roads, cows… the places I take these pictures are all we have left of these spaces I love, you love. I enjoy this place ‘alive.’ Why the h*ll would I tell you where these are so you can kill more of it? I tell you where he is and you’ll take him out of the picture, the place I love.”
He looks down, awkwardly. He gets an elbow in the ribs from his buddy who is now laughing, “Redheads,” he says.
He looks back up at me and smiles, asks how long I’ll be in town. I tell him as soon as I can get back out there. “Maybe next time I see you we can share a beer?”
The conversation ends with a smile, but I hurt inside.
Most of the people I meet do have some form of appreciation for our wild things and places. However most of them also have a connection to what is killing the same. Some of those connections are big ones; like being the guy that manages a mine 8 miles from another mine that is 19 miles from yet another mine, who will not discuss cumulative impacts to the big picture with me because it is irrelevant to his permitting process with the federal government. Some of them are smaller; like the man whose family runs 300 head of cows in a nice valley on a 6 month permit and they really do move their cows (I have seen it), but wont recognize the impacts of the guy that runs 1800 for 6 months, and 1000 all year, in an area you can barely find a sign of a rabbit anymore.
“Don’t tell anyone I helped you.”
I can not tell you how many times I have heard that phrase. In private conversation many out here will tell me that they hate what is being done to the wild horses, but no one gets vocal for fear of reprisal or being ostracized in some way. It makes me feel like a very lonely punching bag.
Up until a few years ago there was a growing respect for this work on the ground. That got destroyed a couple of years ago by the “hate crew” that misrepresented me in so many ways. There are places I wear a wig now when I visit. This was fueled by a resentment over things like litigation to gain a humane handling policy, being vocal about illegal use of livestock on the range and wanting data to integrate wild horses into the whole so they can remain a part of our vanishing West.
I believe this push to kill wild horses is because of the fear that exists. I believe the root cause of that fear is that everyone out here knows the West is dying, they just wont admit it. Admitting it would mean that they too need to be vocal. But if people actually begin to speak the words then they have to take responsible action. It’s easier to find a scapegoat.
Killing wild horses to delay speaking those words is not ok.
The relatively small amount of money saved, by shooting tens of thousands of wild horses instead of feeding them so all of these other interests can make massive profits off the public land, and often subsidized by way more money than the entire wild horse program costs, is just wrong.
New article 7/18: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2018/07/23/drought-propaganda-nightmare/
Additional reading: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2017/07/24/the-crooked-path-wild-horse-slaughter/
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Categories: Wild Horse Education