At Wild Horse Education (WHE) we advocate for the wild, wild horses. The legal definition of a wild horse is from range through adoption or sale. After that “free roaming horses,” under federal jurisdiction (those protected by the 1971 Act) lose their legal status as “wild.” (This article will have a companion piece that will link here after publish to bring your attention to additional legislation YOU need to be aware of, not just the budget bills.)
For years we have struggled trying to get the public, media and even those tasked under oath (federal employees) to comprehend the words “integrated management.” The laws are clear, ignoring that clarity serves a purpose in the bigger picture. (We have written hundreds of articles on this subject).
“Politics rule the reality of the range to generate greater profit lines. The reality of the range does not rule the political conversation to create a better reality for the land.”
This article is long and intended for those tired of the “same old same old.” This is for those that recognize the word R-E-A-D has 4 letters, but is not a dirty word.
Recent political shifts, where agendas now have no road blocks to running “out in the open,” have generated a larger recognition of the landscape. Attacks on the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), restriction to big oil, gas and mining being lifted, all give rise to a “social bubble” that now sees that threat because it has risen clearly off the “ground.”
Wild horses are part of it. They are actually the key to the lock. This article is one more attempt to get the larger audience of “keep it public” to understand wild horses are the political weak link. Decades of “wild horses” being the placation tool of federal land managers has led us here.
“I can not tell you how many times I have been at meetings where the first thing a federal manager will do is crack some joke about wild horses to get everyone in the room in agreement. There could be 30 people in the room and myself (representing horses) and each person will laugh and nod from hunting, ‘conservation,’ mining, livestock. That bonding moment actually solidifies the doorway to push a larger agenda through. The ‘red-headed stepchild’ moment.”
Since 2009 the public land takeover machine began to utilize new tools, just as all business did, to promote and advertise an interest. In 2012 the push gained knowledge of weakness. In 2014/15 they had gained enough insight to do a full run of the new tool. It was extremely successful at harnessing the new phenom generated by social media.
A lack of restraint in individual action was an offshoot of “life behind an avatar.” Not only could people create a fictional representation of themselves and delete it “after the game is over,” people could literally create alternate identities that were rarely challenged by any facts of identity in the real world. You don’t need to show a drivers license to create a social media profile. Fictions and attacks could be spread in private chats, things that if said in public would bring serious ramifications through criminal and civil law.
Now it’s time to understand the playing field that tool was introduced into.
Watch this simple video by “Keep It Public” before you continue to read. This simply gives you background on the birth of the land base for the rest of this conversation. (We tell our volunteers and readers you need to understand the history, psychology and the law.)
The video above shows a timeline of the forming of the land base and how it formed. Through those dates you can see that much of the formalization of our western landscape came during the civil war. The roots of the “resentment movement” go back to the early 1900’s as the federal government began to create the “paper trail” of jurisdiction over the land.
It is crucial for people to understand that prior to the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 (a result of a cloud of dust settling on DC due to the devastating effects of overgrazing, “The Dust Bowl”) our western landscape had “homestead ranching” and “free-grazers,” those that did not own land. (In this editorial penned in 2015 we give you a bit of history of the violence associated with that time. Please understand we are not “anti multiple use,” we are “anti lie” to forward inequity.)
It is interesting to note that at the time of the Taylor Grazing Act it was estimated that we had 50,000-150,000 wild horses (not yet legally defined) on the western landscape.
The Taylor Grazing Act solidified the political hold that “homestead,” or those that owned a small parcel of land and ran livestock on public land, held over the West. This control was not just local law, but the representatives sent to DC to forward the agenda of the state they represented. Often these individuals had family running a livestock operation on public land or did themselves.
The big push to create a comprehensive management plan, that included regulating growth to preserve our environment, does not really begin until the 1970’s. Air quality levels where people could not venture outdoors, water that was poisoning our children and wild species driven into extinction, became a real concern and rightly so.
The “short list” to give you an idea of how the concern manifested into law. Remember laws are created through debate in both houses of Congress and must undergo the same procedural rules many of you are becoming aware of as you watch the FY18 budget debate. These issues were of concern for the vast majority of Americans.
December 2, 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is founded.
December 18, 1971 The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRH&BA) was signed into law.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) becomes effective in October 1976.
December 28, 1978 The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is signed into law.
Each set of laws created a wave of resentment from those that profited from the lack of regulations that were hurting our land, turning our water to poison and making our air unbreathable. It feels appropriate to plant a seed for thought at this juncture; why does it appear so many people have forgotten why we needed these laws in the first place?
In 1978 High Country News published an article called “Environmentalists, backlash, and the ‘New Right,’ that is worth the read. The article will give you a perspective to understanding in how the political landscape began to evolve into the mechanism of today. We have heard readers say, so often, that the political parties of today are not what they used to be, usually in context of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinkes odd remarks about idolizing Teddy Roosevelt, yet behaving in ways that would make Teddy roll over in his grave.
High Country News has a collection of articles for you to dig through, “Forty Years of the Sage Brush Rebellion.” Digging through the articles at leisure will give you some food for thought as a wild horse advocate. Creating a distinct set of articles from multiple sources is on our “to do list” as a more comprehensive take can be achieved. To save time we are linking to HCN pieces. For the purpose of this article we are going to give some examples that are Nevada centric, the home of more wild horses than exist in all other states combined, the heart of wild horse country.
Nevada’s Ugly Tug-of-War, excerpt 1995.
Elko County’s economy really runs on tourism and gambling, mining, services, retail stores and government offices, not on ranching. But Elko, the county seat, still fancies itself the last cowtown in America: A tourism brochure promises you’ll find “the Old West as it was meant to be.” And listening to elected officials, one might think the county was ready to form a militia to protect its cowboys.
“This is a war we’re in,” said Gene Gustin, chairman of the Elko County public-land-use advisory commission, at a “Win Back the West” rally earlier this year….
…. State Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, running against an even more radical opponent, took up the battle cry of Kelley Spring and helped rally 500 people to build a fence around the spring. On the new fence, they hung signs: “The land inside this enclosure, and the water, belong to the people of the great state of Nevada.” The Elko Daily Free Press dubbed it the “Ruby Valley Tea Party.”
In court, the case was open-and-shut since Duval had never filed for a water right with the state. He eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of damaging federal property, paid a $200 fine and dismantled the pipe.
But by then, the fight was out of his hands. The next day, 40 people put the pipe back. When Forest Service investigators questioned Carpenter about the incident, he told them that if the agency “continued to push, there probably would be bloodshed,” according to the Elko Daily Free Press. …
Showdown on the Nevada Range, excerpt 2001.
…”This is not a state, it’s a territory,” said Janine Hansen, one of the leaders of the Nevada Committee for Full Statehood, which organized the picket. “We’re not sovereign citizens. We’re serfs under King BLM and King Forest Service. And it’s no better under Bush than it was under Clinton.”
Back near the stock pens, a cowboy named Danny Berg took notes while Gary Snow, the owner of the auction yard, sorted cattle. “These are Ben Colvin’s cattle, not the government’s,” Berg said. Ranchers don’t need a permit to graze cattle, he said. “They own the grass….
One Sagebrush rebellion flickers out… or does it?, excerpt 2012.
… “The court case is over,” says Karen Budd-Falen, a prominent Wyoming property-rights attorney. “But the conversation will go on. What (the Hage case) did was make people in the West, and in the federal land agencies, think about what kinds of rights they have and what kinds of responsibilities.”…
The taxpayer money that fuels federal land transfer demands, excerpt 2015.
...Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory and Nevada County Commissioner Demar Dahl founded the ALC in 2012, the same year Ivory launched H.B. 28 — the bill that created Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act, which seeks a transfer of 20 million acres of federal public land to the state. The mission of the ALC (American Lands Council), according to its website, is to “secure local control of western public lands by transferring federal public lands…by giving leaders the knowledge and courage to battle…”…
These excerpts are intended to give you a feel for the politics and the underlying reality of the “land they stand on.”
We are creating a more comprehensive reading list. We use the above list for “ease” for the public to navigate.
However crucial information is not easy to identify in the HCN list. Like this: “On Halloween 1993 a bomb was tossed onto the roof of the state headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Land Management in Reno. Both the bureau and the Forest Service have been involved in issues that are central to the “Sagebrush Rebellion,” protests against Federal regulation of public lands, including increased fees for grazing livestock, mining on Federal land and public access to lands under their control.”
The list we are creating will include personal experience with the intimidation tactics on public land.
Over the course of the last decade we have seen headlines for wild horses that might hint at an understanding of the volatility but inflame it. The inflammation leads to solidification of the weak link, not fortification. There are too many examples to add to this piece from the Ruby Pipeline creating it’s route under the influence of NV State Legislator Dean Rhodes that profited immensely when the route when through his private property, not a “BLM conspiracy to wipe out horses,” but just a disposable in the tug-of-war between state and feds. That same year the NV State Legislature, where Rhodes sat, tried one more time to claim the federal government had no right to allow wild horses to drink water in the state under a “wildlife” water right. However we need to remember wild horses are the only animal actually managed under federal jurisdiction, the only real “wild” legally defined under law (not opinion), managed entirely by the federal government.
“Disband the BLM” chants in wild horse circles was a doorway into using advocacy to undo the life’s work of Velma Johnston, “Wild Horse Annie.” Velma saw clearly that state and local control (or lack of it) was causing wild horses to be brutalized. Fast cash could be made by chasing the horses, any way you wanted, and sending them to be ground up for chicken feed and fertilizer (mustanging). Poison a water source and a “pesky herd” that ate grass that could be turned into cash, perished. She saw that wild horses needed the exact federal regulations for protection that our air, water and endangered species were gaining. In 1971 the act (intention) to protect wild horses was the culmination of her life in advocacy. You chant “disband the BLM” and you might as well go stand with those working to resume mustanging and remove federal jurisdiction.
That jurisdiction created the same resentments as any other mechanism of federal regulation and the push to undo it began immediately by the opposition. Advocates sadly missed the boat in creating a sustainable legal framework. (read “Apology to Velma.”) Instead of “wild horses” riding the wave created by all of the laws passed in the 70’s it became a placation tool quickly eroded through amendment after amendment that weakened it. A card to play in the “big picture.”
The BLM is corrupt. It is supposed to have one job, enforce the laws. It doesn’t. It is a social club coopted by industry. The mechanisms toward accountability are rarely, if ever, enforced. But the corruption occurs under influence of the intention of law. BLM employees are forbidden by law to create situations, influence situations, prioritize situations, family, friends and the organizations that they themselves actually belong to as private citizens, that lead to policy change. The “disband the BLM chant” needs to change to “hold individuals accountable to the law.”
“I can not tell you how many federal employees I have spoken to that do not know, have never read, all of the laws and legal requirements of their office. The number is unfathomable.”
In 2012 hate groups were rampant online being “profiled” through the new tool created through social media. Not only were decades old credible news outlets forced to join the “click bait” movement to stay in business, the creation of an “alt reality” was in full swing as extremists (all sides) began to create front groups (organizations masquerading as non profit public protection when if fact were funded by big industry) and alternative news outlets that were springing up everywhere and shared through social media more often than the established sources with long track records… because the headlines were better “click bait.”
Often these “alt truths” were spread through the creation of public relations farms paid to influence the impression of reality… to forward that political agenda to remove regulations to the exploitation that, in the 70’s, we recognized would literally kill us.
The consequence has been tragic.
“At what point do you simply need to sit back, wait for the dust to settle, see what is left, and see if you can salvage anything? My heart broke last year when I saw that there was nothing I could do to stop what was coming full steam at our wild horses as they carried every bit of a corrupt, selfish, often petty, agenda on their backs.”
Further reading “All the Pretty Horses Must Die,” Christopher Ketcham, 2017.
Categories: Wild Horse Education