Laura Leigh

Countdown; the years of review

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Fox Lake and Range stallion, just captured, now awaiting his fate in captivity. Will 2018 bring a bullet to his head, literally? (I love his old eyes. A cataract, but he can still see me)

In two weeks the year 2017 comes to a close, we step into 2018. 2017 brought the reality of the battlefield of public land, and the fight for our wild horses to gain a fair shake, to  the surface of the American consciousness. However, this war for public land and resource has been waged over decades. The last ten years have seen what many have dubbed “the third rise of the sage brush rebellion” show it’s identity in full color. A land grab by States, and deep private pockets, to usurp resources that belong to all Americans, has been mounting and is now running full steam with very little in the way to stop it; the dam has broken.

Many Americans do not understand how government works, what the history of the West is and how they are losing their voice in process with each step of this profit driven hoard; this helps this agenda to reach it’s destination. Western territories reaped massive benefits when they became part of the United States. In the West these included massive payoffs and continued subsidizes to industry. In exchange these territories ceded land they had no interest in owning to the federal government. In the West that included very large tracts of land. The federal government continued to subsidize industry, a massive expense to American taxpayers. What the federal government foots the bill for on those lands includes fighting wildfires, an extremely expensive process that States can not pay for.

Out here those interests are not the “little guy” taken advantage of by the federal government, they are the largest voices in the West that were propped up, at federal expense, to become the most powerful voices on the western landscape, and often, the “big bully.” Government agencies bend to the will of this bully time and again.

Often it is left up to advocacy organizations to shoulder the burden of the law and walk these issues into a courtroom. The opposition is even trying to take that ability away claiming that advocacy is an expensive obstruction and a “tax payer burden.” Advocates win in court. The faulty decisions are the tax payer burden and a burden to advocates that often use the limited resources they have to gain some adherence to the law; the law that is the responsibility of federal land managers to carry.

We wrote a series of articles that you, as a wild horse advocate, really should spend time reading:

In the midst of this resource grab our wild horses represent just one more cash crop taken away. The 1971 Act stopped anyone with a truck, airplane and a rope from chasing horses down and selling them to slaughter. They want that back.

If they can’t have that back they want the wild horses and burros removed so they can turn each public blade of grass into private dollar bills. Wild horses only occupy about 12% of public land and in that tiny fraction, even when “three times the number the government says it ok,” still only consume about 16% of available forge in those areas. That amounts to less than 1% of all the public blades of grass.

This is a war of resentment by profit driven interests, nothing more than that.

Our work to protect wild horses and burros from abuse, slaughter and to gather range data to give them a fair voice in process has placed us in the crosshairs. We need your help to keep fighting for them. Our resume is impressive for an organization that has lived behind a dashboard, not a desk far removed. Our litigation, investigations and field work spurred policy changes to benefit the horse; the only ones in 40 years and we were “hands on” in each and every case.

Every year we look back at the year and place it in context of the larger picture. A map of the terrain; physical, historically, psychologically and legally. 2017 has seen the tectonic plates of politics, that have been under extreme pressure, create literal earthquakes and landslides of legislative moves aimed at sweeping away the resources, the dollars, that belong to all Americans into very select pockets.

Until the end of the year we will continue to feature these “Countdown pieces.” We hope you follow along as we head into what may be the most pivotal year in land management since the Civil War.


In 2011 we made our very first “Year in Review” video. We tried a music video format and it was well received gaining nearly 4 million views. Federal court judges would even smile during hearings and say “Is it bad enough for you?” as we worked hard to gain credibility in the fight for access to our wild ones, for humane handling and to gain fair management. (We have reloaded the video on this website and are in the process of reviewing a need to remove a lot of our media due to theft.)

This video represents the beginning of our court battles to address inhumane treatment and the fight to document wild horses during capture and in holding facilities. We did not just “take pictures,” we took action.

Every year we have done a review video and write up. We will add some of those as we countdown to 2018.

The write up for 2017 promises to be a chapter in this saga worth reading.

“Politics, all sides, create the deteriorating reality of the range. The reality of the range does not control politics to create a better reality of the range. This is all exploitation of land, horses and people. Our American West is in serious trouble, that is a hard fact. But only when we discuss facts can we make real change. The era of ‘alt-truth’ is a death sentence for the air we breath, the water we drink and the wild things we claim to love.”

(video note: We attributed the early videos at the beginning and end, the professional standard for any project presented in video.  We apologize for the distracting bar at the bottom of each frame now, but it is needed. We wrote an article about the life of a single photo, HERE. )



Help us start 2018 strong!