A book review of This Land.
This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West
Does the narrative of the book fulfill the promise in the title? Yes.
From Christopher Ketcham, describing his book: “My first book…the product of ten years of research and wandering on the public lands of the American West…a product of love and affection and anger.”
Let’s talk about This Land; How Cowboys, Capitalism and Corruption are Ruining the American West (for readers of Wild Horse Education, a discussion, by LLeigh)
Many of you remember my review of Wild Horse Country, by Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Philipps, I told you that the book made many tragic mistakes with wild horses and painted a superficial picture of the world our wild ones live in; your public lands (you can read HERE). Dave fails to look at the opposition to wild horses, the history of resentment of federal authority and how the system is manipulated to suit corruption. Essentially, I felt Dave lost his spine after former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar threatened to “punch him in the face” for asking, publicly, some follow up question on the nearly 1800 wild horses sold to his family friend, the kill buyer Tom Davis (HERE).
This Land? It has a backbone. It will make you cry. It will make you sick. It will make you angry.
I met Ketcham back in 2015. Brian Ertz, of WildLands Defense, introduced us as things were going from a boil to a rolling simmer at Fish Creek (after the stand-off and the online smear campaign where I received several death threats before coffee each day.)
Ketcham got out of a rented vehicle wearing a white button up shirt open almost to his navel and a puka bead necklace. My first visual impression was not particularly positive. Within 5 minutes of meeting each other he made a comment that many might find offensive. I responded with an equally offensive phrase and a threat of bodily harm. He cracked a huge, sincere, smile. We both laughed. My impression of him changed almost immediately.
During that first visit with Ketcham and Ertz we sat outside a motel after a range run. We talked until almost 4 am. The three of us sat outside and watched videos on YouTube of Jon Marvel (Ertz was mentored by Marvel when they both worked at Western Watersheds) as he scolded federal managers in the way only Jon can. It was one of the few moments in my “wild horse advocacy” when I felt I had “tribe” in the physical world. Both men were smart, a bit twisted, with a deep, deep, passion for public lands. I met a journalist, but found a friend.
His book is a reflection of the man and his journey. The voice is personal; you will get to know our public land as well as the writer. Woven in narrative that is sometimes humorous, sometimes a deep dive into historical details, yet always a brutally honest look at the devastation, and outright cruelty, taking place on America’s public land, is well worth the time to read.
For decades our environment, and those that truly fight for it, have been struggling. Over the last 4 years the environment, and those that fight for it, have been under an all out assault.
I’m an advocate, not a novelist. For me everything is constantly moving in this war to protect our living things and our wild lands. Many of you read his piece “All the Pretty Horses Must Die.” It was published in the fall of 2017, the events happening primarily in 2015. From an advocate perspective? This novel should have been finished 3 years ago. As an advocate it all just takes too damn long.
This Land; How Cowboys, Capitalism and Corruption are Ruining the American West should be on the bookshelf of everyone that calls themselves an advocate for our public lands and all that lives there.
Wild horses take their rightful place in a book on public lands. Wild horses are public lands management. Wild horses are part of the corruption that exists in an agency coopted by livestock, mining and a culture of corporate interests and bullying. The wild horse does not belong in the tomes of the saddle and bridle; it lives free with all of our wild things. I struggle every single day to try to get members of the media to see the story of the wild, wild horse is a story of public lands.
Ketcham writes for us as he visits advocates, managers, beautiful places, trampled landscapes and even a trip to Bunkerville.
As I read the book I met others “like me.” Many of you will have the same sensation as you read this book. Human beings with personal connection, difficult battles won and lost. Chapter after chapter I heard the collective voices that walk in wild places. Each voice, each story, adding to the whole; wolves, grizzly, prairie dog, wild horses… on and on. Omit one voice and the book would be incomplete.
I read of things I already knew, but through the words told to Ketcham of personal experiences on many battlegrounds, I was brought to tears by the hard-core reality conveyed. One example is the chapter on wildlife services. Read it when you have time to scream, sob and reflect on just how insanely cruel and twisted our public lands management has been, still is. Deep at the core of the exploitation of the American West lies a callous disregard for living things.
I am truly honored to be included in this book as a voice for our American public lands. In this book I see so many names I admire, respect and am eternally grateful for.
To see wild horses included in This Land as a part of the collective feels like a milestone. For many of you that have been advocating for protection of our wild horses, and to preserve the tiny fraction of our public land they can legally occupy, you will as well.
I highly recommend this book. From novice, to experienced public lands advocate, this book is worth the read.
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Why am I urging you to read This Land, now?
As a wild horse advocate we face the greatest threat since the 1971 Act was passed to protect wild horses and burros. The debate in Appropriations is set to, literally, gut the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act.
One of the core issues is a constant failure of land managers, legislators, media to recognize wild horses as part of the picture of public lands management. The laws that determine their management, the land they exist on, is the realm of public lands. However, wild horses are discussed primarily in the terms of symptoms of corrupted management that occur after they are removed from the range. These removals are based on the lies the entire framework is built upon (much of it outlined by the National Academy of Sciences since the 1980s).
In This Land Ketcham writes: “The Big Greens suck up the air in the room, dominate the discourse, and control the funding for public lands activism, while absurdly planting white flags of surrender across the commons. In an ideal world they either take up the fight armed to the teeth or disband and get out of the way.”
Wild horses are not governed by the laws in the volumes on domestic animals that live on farms or dogs and cats.
The threats to our public lands, and all of our wild things, come from the same entities, same people, same system. When the 1971 Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed and stopped mustanging, unregulated capture and profit from sale to slaughter, those regulations were added to the pile of resentment. Regaining control is what it is all about… and that control creates brutality. The cry of “kill them” has been used since the day the Act was passed. It is based on lies and has always been based on lies. It is abuse of power, to gain more power, to continue to hide wrongdoing.
Many of you are aware that our wild horses are currently caught in a sell-out in a high stakes political poker game (HSUS, ASPCA and Return to Freedom, Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen’s Ass’n,etc in the “Stewart Alliance”).
If you truly want to understand the dance partners these… players… sold your wild horses to, in exchange for millions of dollars in new subsidies and a few co-sponsors on domestic animal issues? This book is a “must read.”
This lobby alliance is rooted in the dark depths of the serious lack of ethics destroying your public lands. Wild horses are public lands. The alliance was created with the wolf killers, the bear cub killers, the tree killers, the profit seekers that destroy your public lands and run through a chain of political favors twisted by decades of corruption.
As these organizations take to the press release packets after 5 years meeting in secret and selling out, know that is all simply a box wrapped in shiny paper that contains nothing of value for the wild.
Take action here: Wild horses are public lands management, they are not dogs and cats.
Categories: Wild Horse Education