A personal note from the dashboard, LLeigh.
Year after year I have documented wild horses on federal lands; wild on the range, roundups, holding facilities. Documentation involves the research and written word, but it also involves photographs.
Photography is a vital tool that we have used to build a record that is used to illustrate actual reality to media, Congress, the courts and to those of you at home.
Today many of these photographs have become simply something that passes though a scroll in a social media feed in the “pay-to-play” land of Facebook. The reality created by the scroll is truly lousy. Misinformation, omission to avoid scrutiny, is perpetuated as “likes and shares” are a goal and not because the content is factual or critical, but because a picture is good.
The “picture” is not good.
Each image I take has a visceral history behind it; a reality of smell, taste, touch that carries a knowledge of the actual fight to save that range, that herd, that horse from being hit by a helicopter.
The picture is getting worse.
Our wild horses live predominately on ranges in extremely arid states where rapid fire policy changes, backdoor deals and buddy clubs run everything. The industrialization of our public lands has hit critical mass.
We had two teams doing data runs, I became the third. I ran ranges where there was already severe neglect in actual data gathering by BLM and we had worked for years to address the issues; we had begun to make progress in addressing it.
Under the weight of politics, and the sell-out to get a big PZP order and money for new holding contracts (Ten Years to AML), the doors slammed shut to anyone actually fighting for a fair voice in on range management. It did not only happen to me and WHE, it happened to many smaller orgs actually focused on the ground. The actual wild horse was sold out. The words typed can never express the absolute depths these corporate shills have sunk to in their betrayal of the wild horse and many human beings actually fighting for them.
The picture is not good.
Over the last 4 years I watch ranges deteriorate as industry runs rampant. I watch social media pull us further from the actual fight and into chaotic reaction.
The visceral reality of watching horses you know struggle day after day as a “pretty picture” paints a reality far from truth; a fertility control shot wont fix this, it has gone too far.
How do I explain to the public, in the detail you need to understand, how bad things have gotten?
Do you need to see the images of the ones that drop dead? How can I help you understand just how unliveable mining and livestock are making our public lands? I can barely even look at those images without falling into despair, let alone edit them, the history of each image a tome of struggle buried under a decade of betrayal.
We had a film maker out on the range explaining this herd would not exist in 3 years. 3 years later, the range we had them on is gone and the footage unseen because “big corporate” gave them an easy wrap for the piece; a dart gun. A dart gun would not have saved that valley and the wild ones that once called it home.
Less than a decade ago there was momentum to get the changes started and begin to save a few of our last large herds. I can not begin to describe the picture a camera can never capture, the internal reality of sadness and rage.
The image above does not show you that the mule deer, pronghorn, sage grouse, wild horses are all gone. It does not show you how the fences are closed, the roads widened and nothing but powder now pounded by mining traffic.
The picture does not make your eyes burn from the alkaline dust and your mouth dry out. It does not show you the other mines, the years of livestock trespass, the tank filled with water gated off to keep any wild thing from a drink.
The picture above does not show you the neighboring HMA that is also under assault from mining, oil and gas, backdoor deals that cut off more water without legal process. It does not show you the wild things struggling to get to that next range, navigating illegally closed gates, only to find the same destruction valley after valley.
The image does show you a piece of “why.” Why, very soon, BLM will announce a roundup, propose to zero out another herd and show you pictures of wild ones in distress.
They will be in distress because BLM did absolutely nothing to protect them and then blames the horse for the problem.
It is going to get messy as the “pass the buck” on approvals has already begun and so many are involved in deal making they do not want to ever see the light of day. We will see big bucks for “partners” to do some darting. We wont see any money go into actually reforming the program and nothing going into range improvement for wild horses. Range improvements will all be for the cows, again. But heck, all those that played “Ten Years to AML” will get the payoff and more PZP.
Many of the policy changes directly effect wild horses. One of those changes involves skipping critical steps in NEPA as demonstrated at the recent Shawave roundup and the backdoor deals that are turning off waters in HMAs. It may also send the Adoption Incentive Program, that has created a massive vulnerability to slaughter, under scrutiny. Another policy shift has been ignoring all Freedom of Information Act requests that contain damaging information.
We are working in many channels that overlap and can not be explained in a picture. I am fighting back. WHE is fighting back.
There is also hope as our work with environmental organizations expands. We will continue to challenge livestock and mining on a case by case basis that is devastating HMA by HMA.
Our legal challenge against spaying in Utah will be on file soon.
But the change we need in the baseline, to keep wild horses wild, are actual management plans where we can fight for the food and water they need to simply survive, then we can fight about all the rest and who can get the next subsidy.
We are making progress educating one Senate office after another. We are now doing outreach in the House. The budget debate has gone into a resolution to simply keep offices running until the beginning of December. An election, in a few short weeks, will create changes in both House and Senate. This gives us opportunity.
The work all of us are doing now, you included, is vital to creating the deep management changes our wild ones need if we are going to keep them part of the wild.
As a human being it hurts. It really is a struggle to find the right words, the right picture, to gain the understanding needed to push the actual fight forward.
Every single image carries a long history of experience. The picture illustrates, the experience carries the fight. That experience carries memory that also burdens the soul of anyone that actually has one. With all I have seen I truly wonder how many people can even sleep at night.
We wont give up. When you have seen, done, felt all our wild ones experience you simply can not give up. It just becomes a struggle to articulate the picture.
The picture is not pretty.
(a journal entry)
Our field team is out creating a short documentary on the reality of wild horses. Our outreach team is going into high gear in Congress. Our legal team is working on deadline. Our roundup rep is hitting the ground in Wyoming.
Help us stay in the fight.