Letter to WHE supporters, LLeigh
In my ten years of advocating solely for wild horses (prior to that my advocacy was domestics, with a focus on slaughter) I have experienced what I call the “seasons” of advocacy. Our work at Wild Horse Education (WHE) is specialized; “wild” wild horses. A wild horse under law is one that stands on federal jurisdiction under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act. In the US we have state, tribal and multiple federal jurisdictions. The “free roaming” horse (or burro) are the only animals in our country defined by the land it stands on, not what it is biologically. (This is something very important for the public, and media, to understand. Stories that mix these jurisdictions, and the use of the term “wild” instead of “free roaming” for all jurisdictions, in media, clouds any conversation that is already sitting in the middle of a storm.)
The most obvious of those seasons to the public is “roundup season.” From the first of July until the end of February the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service (FS) are cleared to roundup wild horses and burros. These roundups have been core in our quest to create am enforced humane handling policy. When we began our work there was no policy at all. WHE is the only organization in history to litigate and win against abuse (again and again). We now have a policy that needs work, but it exists. Like any policy that is supposed to create any protection for a wild horse or burro BLM often simply ignores it to placate another interest, not protect the horse. In the case of roundups it often comes down to a ridiculously childish premise; if we enforce it the contractor will take their toys and go home. The feds need to grow up.
The end of roundup season overlaps with range monitoring; the baseline for the rest of the year. In the last few years the drought and fires that have plagued the West have drawn public attention to the landscape, albeit only during fire season. That season overlaps for us with the end of roundups. Checking snowpack, herd health and residual forage left from the previous year give us a baseline as we prioritize monitoring targets for the rest of the year. This is where federal mismanagement, playing our ranges like hands in a political poker game, become painfully evident. Roundups are not prioritized for the lie of “healthy herds on healthy rangelands,” powerful political interests, and internal participation in the “Game of Thrones” that is an accurate analogy to federal land management agencies, determine actions where our herds and lands are concerned. Just look at the recent Triple B roundup where this entire game becomes so black and white a fifth grader has no trouble comprehending the situation.
The end of roundup season also bring what we call “media season.” January and February are cold and rough on the range. Most outlets want to come in April or May (when it’s not too hot or too cold). You have to explain, every year, that is when the vast majority of babies are born and BLM can not roundup horses…. and you try so hard to get them to do a story in the range, the real story. You try to explain that each and every roundup is simply the culmination of a failure of management, not the story. Each year that fact gets easier and easier to illustrate. We are in media season now.
Legislative season usually starts to heat up as media season creeps in. Usually the debate on the budget (nor newbies it happens every year) to keep horse slaughter plant inspections defunded (keeping horse slaughter out of the US) and the sale to slaughter (openly) of wild horses is a yearly battle. This last year has been like no other. The chaos of DC is off the charts and destabilizing not only public land, but everything. The budget battle from last year just ended in an overlap with the battle for the next budget. These budget battles will continue until we get changes in the law (legislation). The SAFE Act will stop horses and horse meat exports, closing our borders. We also need the Burns Act (that opened the door to slaughtering wild horses in 2004 after BLM employees were caught selling wild horses to slaughter, long ugly story) repealed.
We are engaged in “media season” and our work to bring serious investigations into the wild horse program. The program is a frame with a bunch of, mostly meaningless, words. The program has become a vehicle for federal employees to exploit for personal gain; a promotion or raise, a drinking buddy, family perks, community standing and on and on. Until provisions of ethical conduct are enforced public land is a playground.
WHE is not a million dollar machine with a paid social media staff (or any paid staff). But WHE has heart and soul. We are doing the best we can with what you, our supporters, have entrusted to us. We ask your patience as we try to keep this massive workload afloat, this website and social media active. We have not left this battle.
The road ahead does not look good. We wont lie to you. The opposition has repeatedly played advocacy and presented a package to legislators that has made advocates “overly emotional, well meaning, but uneducated.” They have done a pretty good job creating this chessboard and almost got us in “checkmate” last year. We are doing our best to change that.
We have a lot of work to do. We have been collecting critical information and passing it on to oversight and Congress. We are doing exactly that, right now. Can you help us to continue? (We will have more on Triple B, and our requests to oversight, soon)
Categories: Wild Horse Education