Terror Tactics, Wild Horses

Article designed to be R-E-A-D. Before we begin this editorial please read the following short excerpts on the use of “terror” as a tactic.  A terror tactic can be employed by an army, a corporation, a political movement, a boy/girlfriend, a parent. The tactics slowly erode normal psychological responses in a victim to achieve the goal of the perpetrator; surrender or the unthinkable will happen. Even if there was never an intention to perpetrate the “unthinkable” the response from the victim is the same. A simple example would be something like “stay with me or I’ll kill myself ( I’ll lock myself in my room and break things),” and a compassionate person stays.

We do have a “war on public land” and multiple tactics have been used to achieve political and personal agendas. The psychology of war is always the same regardless of the terrain. 

Oxford Dictionary: The deliberate use of terror as a means of achieving especially political ends.

From WiseGeek:  Psychological terrorism is a form of attack which may leave no physical marks or impact upon a person or group of people, but ultimately leaves psychological injuries or traumas that have a lasting impact. This term can be applied to a number of different things, from psychological warfare, to torture, and even fear-focused news broadcasting. Psychological warfare can be a form of terrorism since it can leave residual fear or panic impulses in a target. If someone is bombarded with relentless music at high volume for extensive periods of time, that music could later trigger a fear response in that person.

Psychology Today: The terror referred to in terror management theory (TMT) is that which is brought on by the awareness of the inevitable death of the self. According to TMT, the anxiety caused by mortality is a major motivator behind many human behaviors and cognitions, including self-esteem, ethno/religio-centrism, and even love.

If you want the psychology of “terror” in a scholarly article you can read it here:  http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1570&context=mhlp_facpub

Terror Tactics, Wild Horses (or simply morning ramblings with my coffee as I contemplate going back to school and getting a degree in basket weaving? Have I finally had enough?)

Editorial, Laura Leigh

Most of our readers have followed my work for wild horses even before Wild Horse Education (WHE) was born. We have picked up many new readers since then. The most popular articles I write have a mix of personal experience and technical knowledge. So I am going to write this piece in that format, a letter of sorts to our readers. (The narrative is what people read, not my technical papers. I have written everything in this narrative before, even stories about my childhood. But perhaps this piece will reach the ears at the time it needs to?)

I once lived an American dream. As a child I was an advanced placement student in a nice neighborhood, we lived on the poorer side of town and my father was a law enforcement officer. We had a modest pool in the yard and we had horses. I loved school and I loved horses.

But like all dreams they come to an end. My teen years were spent in a completely different environment that brought with it the “in your face” world of gang violence. As an adult I travelled, perhaps searching again for that dream. I have worked in places like the Caribbean, traveling into Haiti and impoverished communities where even an education, a job and a meal were a dream. I have seen the “psychology of terror” up close and personal more times than I can recount. When you live in those environments for any extended period of time you pay a price. How many of you have had to simply step back from some of the things you see in the news?

In the modern world the tactics come at you not only in physical space, but through the reality built on the internet. The tactic of fear has reached a whole new dimension; someone thousands of miles away can create an environment of fear that can ensnare millions of people, even if they are a nobody in bunny slippers on antipsychotic meds, simply because they have access to a keyboard. The same individual met in person, would not illicit the same response; the crazy guy who smells like urine on the street corner you wouldn’t even make eye contact with now looks just like everyone else in a profile picture that may not even be his/her own face.

Some brief examples of how terror tactics are employed in public land issues:

  1. The obvious ones are when a “militia” shows up over a grazing dispute or a contract dispute. There are multiple examples but I always like to point to the “lesser known.” Remember the Sugar Pine Mine in Oregon? one of the “other standoffs” of 2015.
  2. Constant chaos fundraising by non-profit orgs even when the issues faced are not at the volume of the claim in the “click here now.” There are egregious events dealing with animal welfare issues, public land issues and management practices. But they are not always happening at “mach 5” and there are moments where “the donate button” needs to take a backseat to education and rational engagement.
  3. Opposing forces making blatantly false claims to “harness the hate.” An example of this phenom comes when claims are made that someone trying to stop helicopters from hitting horses, or foals being run until their feet fall off, is a “militant vegan trying to take your right to own a purebred dog away,” and militant type strategy is required to “stop them now!” That’s simply insane.

What all of this does is “turn up the volume.” When you have a “new tool” like the internet there is no escape. “Turning up the volume” in itself, literally loud music or sound, is a “terror tactic” used as a  torture technique long before the advent of the internet and causes a psychological breakdown. In physical situations, as an example, a crowd that gathers day after day in an alley can cause the farmers in the square to simply feel the terror of a “machete in the face” and run away having all of their goods stolen without a drop of blood spilled.

I have sat at ground zero with our wild ones year after year and day after day. I have experienced the tactics used at roundups, range and on the internet. Year after year I watch those that claim “authority” do nothing to turn down the volume, only capitulate or enable. That statement is all encompassing. I have watched responsible, legal, action drown. I have watched any semblance of an honest conversation lost under the sound created by the “terror tactic” employed from those simply trying to hang onto a job, hang onto a place where they can claim a “leadership” role of various positions (government, proslaughter, advocacy). I have watched this employed in the big picture, decades of the government saying “we will kill horses” if you don’t agree to whatever the current agenda is. I have watched it employed in the little picture where rumor and threats are used to attack those on the ground and an almost “if I’m not nice to the person creating the attack, they will attack me.”

Under that kind of volume what are the options? I have tried to simply do a job quietly, like litigating over and over and winning a humane handling policy in the end, but that work was lost under the volume. I tried writing about process and protocol, lost under the volume. I tried working in the system and that seems to be where the volume actually reaches the highest decibel levels; political agenda becomes a weapon in the personal lives of those that are supposed to simply uphold the law, not threaten each other with petty personal jealousy or personal opinion.

Why am I writing this now? I have actually written about this over and over again. I have tried to stop the volume but my words get lost. I have tried so hard to have an “honest conversation” that has gotten lost in attacks, threats and absolute insanely stupid personal vendetta and petty little things like “I’ll tell people you talked to her and you’ll be sorry.” All because I became a target of an attack machine based on lies and personal grudge. I never broke policy, protocol or the law when I engaged, or even “made up on the spot” assertions of protocol. But under this kind of volume no one pays attention to what I actually did or said, it is lost.

This entire article was spurred on this time by a statement made by Congressional (House) representative Mark Amodei (R-NV) in an RGJ piece:

“I don’t have the luxury of allowing one species to basically go unchecked on the resource of the Great Basin ecosystem,” he said, adding that far more wild horses and burros are being born each year than are being adopted out and dying naturally.

If this continues, “then guess what?” he said. “The resource is going to continue to be overrun. [The vote] is a way for me to send a message to those [horse advocacy] folks that if you take fertility away from us, then what have you left us?”

He mentioned a case where some wild horse advocates used the courts to shut down fertility tests being done in Oregon.

“If we really don’t want to kill ’em – which by the way, I agree with – then we need to get seriously behind this whole birth control thing,” Rep. Amodei said, “so we can reduce those reproduction rates so they are in line with something the ecosystem can support.”

Actually what Mark is referencing here is one of the “terror tactics” of wild horse management, “if you do not go along with whatever illegal horror we have planned that forwards the agenda of my buddies, we will kill the horse.” A tactic used since I entered advocacy. That’s terror. That’s blackmail.

Mark is not talking about “fertility control,” he’s talking about one thing here, spaying wild mares. This is an agenda that was introduced by Dr Boyd Spratling about a decade ago when he sat both on the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board (co-chairman) AND as the State veterinarian for the Nevada Department of Agriculture (the same position now occupied by the son of NV Legislator Pete Goicochea, “JJ”) to forward his “spay mobile” design that would travel around under government contract and spay wild mares in field.

I have been trying to get an appointment to talk to Mark about the facts for 3 years now. I was finally responded to a few weeks ago. However each email I received had a very off request to schedule an appointment, “where are you?” I honestly don’t think that is relevant when I repeatedly said “Schedule and I’ll be there.” However the “time he was available” coincided with the closed door meeting in Utah.

Maybe they were just trying to see if I was going to Utah? I’m not that stupid that I would incite any rally, protest or photo that could be misrepresented. Why go to Utah? Why do you need to know “where I am?” I am watching the bills, the debates and the spin in the big picture; I have never broken a law and things are being set to frame the “soccer moms” as terrorists. (The first roundup I attended had “members of the public” escorted by a plethora of law enforcement when the most overt action they were likely capable of was tears, not terror. There are bills, motions and movements right now that are targeting law enforcement powers, changing definitions, with some directly targeting environmentalists and journalists.)

Maybe I was ignored three years ago because he was afraid those attacking me wouldn’t contribute to a campaign fund or there was pressure? An odd thing about this seems to be that many others that were also targets, like federal workers, seem to be minimizing what happened. Maybe it’s akin to Stockholm syndrome or a condition attached to a federal benefits package?

Mark is not talking about broad scale use of inexpensive fertility control like darting of PZP. Mark “knows about” a massive “hate machine” that stopped the largest fertility control program in the nation at Fish Creek, a program that would have shown there are large populations that can be treated without a helicopter roundup.

Fish Creek became a casualty of personal vendetta, a corrupt federal agency and an uneducated public because they could not hear the facts under the volume of the insanity that runs public land. Fish Creek was designed to engage management through fact; fertility control and a strong data collection component left open to utilize multiple management tools as that data created a legally defensible position.

Isn’t that what the National Academy of Sciences recommended in 2013? Why was that position not fervently defended by every entity that claims they want an “honest conversation?” Because political and personal agenda, from the petty to the massive, took hold.

Fish Creek was not shut down by advocates, it was shut down by the livestock community and not by winning in court. The two others were shut down by activists (not advocates) through a legal process; one where BLM made stupid mistakes in paperwork. Those “activists” are also not the majority, they are the fringe with an interesting overlap with those on the fringe of the opposite side. (It is like extremism makes a full circle. Maybe what draws extremists is not an issue but simply the act of extremism or “hate harnessed?” That’s for the professionals to figure out.)

The spay experiment was shut down by advocates, and it was the “right thing to do.”

Our western ranges are not managed, they are manipulated; land, people and wild horses.

Spaying is not appropriate, nor is it legal, at this time on the range. BLM has no data that it can supply that demonstrates it manages wild horses according to the law (NAS). We still have manipulation of assertions of data. We still have a number of uneducated wild horse specialists that do not even comprehend the basics of the tools available, legal precedent and even what the handbook actually says. Instead we have parroting of half truth and whatever the daily memo reads that will keep your paycheck coming or whatever “blows sunshine” up your butt. (Please note that wild horses are the only animal where any habitat critical to their survival has no trend data nor identification. If you use the words “critical habitat” peoples heads explode. A population number set at the same total of members at the time an act of Congress labelled the interest “fast disappearing” could happen to no other animal in the West; there would have been a “recovery” target set that was at least twice the original estimate.* The game of AML deserves it’s own article and is linked here. )

I will write an article about “spaying” separately, it has as many twists and turns as a rubix cube to sort through.  It is simply not an appropriate tool for wild horses managed under the 1971 Act. Older mares, that have reproduced, the only appropriate target for a procedure that can impact genetic viability. Older mares would not be an appropriate candidate for this dangerous procedure because of age, even when performed on an older domestic mare.

We, in truth, have no real genetic map of any herd managed as an HMA exists except at Fish Creek. The legal definition of “managed wild” includes the phrase “to replicate itself.” If you can not identify the unique aspect of “self,” you can not legally assert you replicate it. Wild horses are legally identified by “where they stand,” not what they are, the unique aspects tie directly to the law; the living symbol of our history. (Can you tell I absolutely love law? When your dad was a cop, and you adored your dad, it is hard not to love what he loved.)

There are ways that are not archaic and barbaric to stop a female from reproducing. PZP used in younger mares until they are documented as having produced an offspring that has survived to reproductive age can then be treated with another fertility control drug in a manner that humanely sends her into an early menopause, a natural process in a wild animal. However under law that is only warranted when critical habitat is identified and protected, a complete genetic map and preservation strategy is completed and the entire system of allocating forage in the bigger picture is based on the facts of the range, not historic practices. “Overgrazed by horses” is an absurdity when more than half of our rangelands have never been fully assessed.

This claim that we have “areas too large to treat” is also a lazy excuse. Our western rangelands are not this vast open space, they are primarily a series of fenced grazing allotments for domestic livestock. In Nevada we have one area that has wild horses that is not fenced like that, the largest livestock allotment in the country. However the waters are highly controlled and the herd follows that controlled pattern.

Turning away those capable of achieving the tasks and proving they can be done because of a nonstop assault of the terror created by personal stupidity harnessed to forward political agenda or personal vendetta or an invitation to a social club? I think the top of my head exploded last fall under the assault of “stupid.” Stupid is the most dangerous thing on this planet. I have watched “stupid things” actually cause the death of human beings in my lifetime.

Will the terror tactics stop? Not likely. What I see is an increase in volume on all sides. I have sat rather quiet these last few months. I have gotten death threats for my work since 2012. I have been assaulted online. I have been assaulted in person. I have been assaulted primarily by those that believe some fiction about me created in private vitriolic accusations, many of which I have no idea of the substance.

What comes next? Likely more of the same. Another decade of political agenda (all sides) leading to more closed door meetings (like the one in Utah) that push archaic practices that compound problems for profit (all sides). Can I handle that? Can the wild horse? At this moment I don’t know.

Last winter at the roundup at Owyhee I fell to my knees and wept. I said to Alan Shepherd (BLM state WHB lead) “Why didn’t you just give me a thousand doses of PZP and let me go two years ago? I’d have everything catalogued and you wouldn’t have to deal with me here.” He replied, “No one has any doubt you could get it done Laura. We all know you could do it. But what happens when you die?”

Then the district manager in that area said (after I had been treated really poorly for months, a complete disregard for professionalism, and was then held with no access for a week), “We have to treat you like this because ranchers don’t feel we listen to them.” My head imploded… what does harassing me have to do with listening to their concerns? Have we completely lost any grip on sanity and the law? When I got upset by that answer the color of my hair was brought up. What does having red hair have to do with reaching a limit, after almost a decade, on the amount of lazy, idiotic, archaic, selfish, petty,  I can digest?

There had been a constant joke used by BLM personnel, from public relations to management, over the course of the last three years as tension rose in Nevada it went kinda like this; “So what is the plan if those protesting your actions show up?” (BLM has had a lot of “lockdowns” the last three years under threat of violence) “Just throw me out front and while they dismember me, you make your get away?” ANSWER, always the same in context, “Yes, I think it is actually written into the SOPs now,” (Standard Operating Procedures). Please remember 99.9% of the time I’m the only advocate out here. After what I have seen over the last year? I am not sure that was just a joke.

One of the things that makes me really sad is that I worked for years to demonstrate that I would engage process, the law and I did my best to navigate the labyrinth of twists and turns that lead to absurdity in federal protocol. Over the years I had gained respect in the room due to a willingness to participate as a stakeholder in the “multiple use” mess and try to figure out how to create a balanced approach for all. A few cowboys would even tip their hats for me. Years were spent, years.

In the summer of 2015 it was like a bomb of hate exploded in land management leaving in it’s wake radioactive corruption. My entire identity was turned around in a social media hate campaign into a complete fiction. A fictional representation of the truth of my work became repeated as often as any of the myths of public land. Even the fact that I was battling breast cancer since 2013 was turned into “she’s faking it for attention.” I’m waiting to see the “wanted posters” again but don’t even know which side will put them up, both extreme sides did it before. Today I fear it will be a federal government captured by the fear of the tactics.

So there it is. Basket weaving sounds really good. Maybe I could weave baskets with horses on them? It might be time to hear the sound of the ocean again.

I will probably get misquoted and attacked just for writing this article… yup, basket weaving. Is this really where we sit? Is this really where everyone claiming they want an “honest conversation” that spun, lied and manipulated for what in the end, is really simply a selfish purpose?

We have always known that there is a “game of favorites,” not any “fair, equitable, multiple use.” I naively thought that was simply a slow evolutionary process. It’s not. It’s a fragile dance where “they don’t feel we listen to them,” said by the favorite child of public land, can turn the whole thing into the dust. This entire proposal to kill our wild horses instead of getting to the real task; addressing an archaic grazing program that produces 3% of beef at a direct loss of more than $125 million a year and is the greatest threat to a healthy eco-system is likely because they didn’t feel “listened to.” It’s insane.

Is this what we, as Americans, really are? I’ve written all of this before…

I bet I could weave some nice baskets…. maybe by the ocean?


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To join a webinar scheduled for next week on the legislative issues click here:  https://wildhorseeducation.org/2017/08/25/wild-horses-countdown-to-vote/

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I love our American treasures… this family simply beautiful pearls. A pearl is made in an irritating situation through a natural process that turns it into beauty. Pearls on public land are getting harder to find.

Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education