Help us stay in the fight.
Don’t Fence Them In
“Oh give them land, lots of land, and the starry skies above
Don’t fence them in
Let them roam through the wide open country that I love
Don’t fence them in”
A journal entry on the year end 2019, revisited, by Marie Milliman.
Four times this year I have prepared to depart to the lands and wilds that call out to me and unrelentingly pull me to them. Four times this year I have kissed Hallelujah, Grace and Glory goodbye and hugged them fiercely when I returned. My third year in Wild Places and Wild Horse advocacy, “Don’t Fence Them In” has evolved as a defining term.
April began with a “range run” beside Laura to document three HMA’s. As usual, there were intertwining, barbed wire fences that strangle the very land that most are of the opinion is wide open. The thud of Cattle Guards that suffocate what would be; natural migratory patterns to and from water sources and the “right” to choose preferred, disappearing seasonal native forage. Gates to the sides of the restraining cattle guards that are intentionally left closed by a permittee or an indifferent/negligent person., that should be open that time of year. “Replacement” water sources of wells with a generator NOT functioning or in disrepair and springs that have been massacred by the weighty cloven hooved European Cattle that are far from an adaptable species in an arid environment. Habitats that are smothered with Cheat Grass and devoid of the beauty of a healthy biocrust.
This is OUR Public Lands that our Wild Horses stand. This is the land of uses, not resources. It is ruled by the slight and heavy hands of greed. This is OUR land and wildlife that is heavily controlled by an outdated “generational entitlement”; Public Lands grazing. The condition of OUR lands is libelous and seldom respected by the so-called politicians, some government employees and uses that think its fitting to call themselves stewards.
Leading up to July, my apprehension to observe the young foals that would be forced to “participate” in a “gather” was disturbing.
Triple B 2019 did not “disappoint” in the stress that would be experienced by the Wilds due to the hot weather, nor distances that they were forced to travel in, and to. Laura and I with Cathy joining in later, rarely had a moment where we did not have our eyes glued to the view finders of our cameras most times with fully extended lenses to track the exhausted adults and always the lagging and some collapsing precious little ones. Laura is amazingly intuitive on what is playing out on the valley floor or up on the benches with the choppers hovering and pushing and forcing the Wilds to their captive fate: “You take the group to the right and I’ll take the group splitting off to the left. Did you see that mare and baby split off, is the baby still with her? Do you see that dark horse out there that is not moving?” The details and events that Laura predicts (or already knows) is a often uncanny, there is no one more experienced in this game of “gathers” and I am grateful to have tat steady knowing voice with me. I would be negligent to sum up this experience without stating that July is too damn early in the year to “gather” the Wild ones and these babies simply too young to be run like this.
September arrived with angst, as we would be documenting the infamous Fish Creek “gather”. Prior to the start of the operation, a leisurely day on the range was both remarkable and tragic. The thought of this herd being captured that had been painstakingly documented with the plan for a groundbreaking large HMA fertility control program and the legal battle of WHE that preceded it was to say the least filled with trepidation. The day before and observing the horses prior to capture was both gut wrenching and enraging. At this “gather” was an elevated contentious atmosphere that included the County of Eureka’s involvement ranging from “pep talks” prior to the start of the day to who is really setting the parameters of the number of horses gathered, who is chosen for release and, who is running the show? The tension was overwhelmingly palpable, and the offenses were oh so obvious. Laura reminds me to do now, feel later as this is the only way to mentally “survive” this experience.
December approached with the plan to attend the North Hills “gather”. My first gather in December and the weather could not have been more of a contrast. From plus 90° in July and September, to 5° in December. I substituted my sunscreen and baseball caps with snow pants and a new pair of boots and headed off to Utah. While Utah has 22,900,000 million acres of BLM lands and 9,155,521 acres of USFS lands, only a paltry 5,500 Wild Horses exist in this state. The AML in this 60,646 acre HMA is a trivial 12-36 Wild Horses which leads to a dangerous path of certain failure for a hint of genetic viability. But wait! They will add in horses from different HMA’s in an attempt to “avoid” the predictable deficiency if “necessary”. At this point aren’t we all asking the same question; then why are you removing them? The answer lies in the “generational entitlement” category, refer to paragraph two. European cattle were persistently observed in every area that we traveled and entered. They gazed nonchalantly at the horses being pursued by the chopper as they scrambled away to their caged fate. Another “win” for the European cattlemen that are sucking the life and taxpayer dollars at the expense of the biodiversity of our Public Lands, Wild Horses and, Wildlife.
Every state in the west consists of enemies that occupy the wide-open spaces. They dominate, influence and converge on a National level in the assault to devour every single penny that can be deposited and utilized for their personal gain. They leave in their trail the moral, ethical, honest integrity that is a requisite to maintain the true definition of stewardship. Absurdly, when consulting the dictionary, the definition of stewardship is; “the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property. “Responsible stewardship of our public lands”.” The dictionary clearly references Public Lands in their definition. Have any of the “stewards” ever consulted a dictionary? I would like to bring to their attention the word “responsible”; “being the primary cause of something and so able to be blamed or credited for it.” I not only blame the irresponsible “stewards”, but those that sweep their offenses aside. Those that only apply the word; conserve, to the continuity of their raping of OUR Public Lands and Public Horses.
My expanding education is leading me down the road of bewilderment (not in a positive sense) and yes, anger of the inequities and gluttony that have compelled us to this point in the war against OUR national treasures. I am grateful for the mentorship of Laura and WHE to have the honor to join in this battle, armed with facts and a heart for the love of our declining wide-open spaces and all that inhabit them.
“I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences
Gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can’t look at hobbles and I CAN’T STAND FENCES
Don’t fence them in”
A roundup begins long before a chopper flies. Most often it begins when a lot of money can be made by ignoring anything else but the profit line deals. Wild horses always pay a very steep price.
Help us stay in the fight.
Categories: Wild Horse Education