It is time for Americans to stand up for the relatively few remaining Wild Horses.
While some environmentalist are busily trying to get insects onto the endangered species list, they seem to be missing the atrocities that are being committed right under their noses in Colorado, Utah and elsewhere, where man’s other ‘best friend’ is being tortured, mutilated and slaughtered for the sake of money, possibly to the point where the genetic lines of this very special species will be weakened and less diverse. I am speaking of the Wild Horses of the American range lands.
Way back when I was into ranching, we were Cowboys, we had cattle and we didn’t use quads, trucks or helicopters to herd cattle … we used our horses. For all intents and purposes, our horses were our ‘partners & best friends’ when it came to ranching; they were even more valuable than a good dog. My horse was an awesome partner (his name was Prince). I could shoot my rifle off his back when I hunted; he would stretch barb-wire with a tag-line off the saddle-horn when I was building or fixing fences, and Prince was my transportation over to see my friends at their ranches or into town for supplies. Our horses were literally part of the team on the ranch.
I have to say that I am really disappointed in some of the ranchers I encounter today … who are little more than greedy businessmen wearing cowboy hats with a flare for maximizing the use of anabolic steroids and feed to produce cheap hamburgers for the masses who may not realize the totality of what’s being sacrificed in the process. It seems that some ranchers have forgotten many of the old ways and values, and much of what made ‘being a rancher’ in the past ‘special’ has been lost and replaced by mere echos of a once noble profession.
When I read about the battles for grazing rights on Federal Lands, I am amazed at the level of greed that his found its way into the hearts of some ranchers. In fact, they really aren’t ranchers in my book; too many ranchers today are merely meat producers, just the same as chicken and pig farmers … no difference.
Even though I love and respect horses … I am very pragmatic. If you take away the trucks and quads from some ranchers today, they would be in a real pickle because they have lost most of their horse-skills, and those were the skills that made cowboys and ranchers unique in my opinion. When people forget their past heritage, they are a doomed people. Too many people today don’t have a clue about how things use to be done … and those skills may someday in the future be the skills needed to survive.
Recently I watched a video about BLM’s Wild Horse roundups in Utah and I was shocked at what I saw. A former BLM official in that area inferred (on camera) that the whole thing is about money, and that the wild horses are being short-changed where the round-ups have nothing to do with ‘too many horses being on the range’.
The BLM manages over 150-million areas of public range land. They claim on their webpage that there about 50 thousand Wild Horses (rounding numbers) that roam on about 50 million acres of the total area that they manage (one horse on every 1,000 acres). How is one horse per 1,000 acres a population that’s too much?
The BLM also has about 58,000 wild horses being held in captivity (costing tax payers $75-million/yr). It has been reported and shown on documentaries that these very social animals have strong family bonds,
and these families are being broken-up during the round-ups, resulting in the young foals screaming for their mothers. In one filmed instance, a foal that was being chased by a helicopter was chased so hard and long that it ran it’s tiny hooves off and was left in bloody agony. Many of the horses are sold like disposable products from China, with many beautiful horses allegedly going to slaughter for cheap meat.
What is also interesting is that the large-scale commercial ranchers have organized behind various cattle and beef organizations, which have powerful government lobbyists, who make it a point to see that the ranchers get what they want; more grazing rights.
Quite frankly, the deer, elk and antelope populations, which as an aggregate number in the millions, consume thousands of times more of the forage on the open range than the relatively tiny population of Wild Horses. The big difference, and the reason the management pressure is on the Wild Horses is that, unlike the game animals I have cited, Wild Horses have no commercially funded lobbyists. Hunting licenses are a major source of income for States, as are the taxes on hunting related products. And of course we have the gun and ammo manufacturers who also support the hunting industry. Without this huge financial support and lobby, I fear that some of these commercialized ranches might even look to reducing the numbers of any herbivores that compete with their cattle for the grass on public lands. Bottom line, the Wild Horses are an easy target.
OK, by now some readers might be thinking that I am an anti-rancher partisan when it comes to this issue, but that would be very far from the truth! In fact, I wrote an article several months ago where I stood firmly behind rancher Cliven Bundy’s position to uphold his Constitutional rights and his historical grazing rights. Nonetheless, this is whole different situation.
And during my research for this article, I found information that suggests that corruption and greed has found its way into the industry and even within the BLM. But of course, when the little guy (in this case, the Wild Horses) is getting the shaft, it’s usually by moneyed people with political power that is used to support unreasonable positions in order to further enrich the greedy.
Here’s an excerpt from one article on grazing rights by Thomas L. Fleischner, Ph.D.
Were the Forest Service to announce that every single acre of forest was suitable for logging, the public would probably shriek. But the BLM has made an analogous decision for range-lands–grazing is still authorized on the vast majority of the BLM’s 177 million acres in the lower forty-eight states–and the public has responded with indifference. How has the ranching industry kept such a muscular grip on public policy and resisted new views of land use so successfully? The answers to this question include social, historical, literary, and–above all–political perspectives. Formidable cultural forces have worked to maintain the status quo of livestock grazing on public lands.”
The BLM smartly, and for good reason doesn’t want to tell the public exactly how many cattle are grazing on the public lands they manage, so they came up with a ‘permit system’ and a ‘metric’ called ‘AUMs’ that provides ‘cover’ and conceals the total number of cattle on the open public range, which is in the ‘millions’.
So here we come to learn that some of these commercial ranchers are whining about one horse grazing per 1,000 acres, when they are grazing millions of cattle on a much larger public range of more than 150-million acres. And we also learn from the BLM website that giving grazing permits to commercial ranchers is a really big ($$$) business for the BLM! So it makes sense they would look to serve the commercial ranchers over the Wild Horses, which are BTW supposed to be protected under the ‘Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act’; here is the preamble to that Act:
“Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”
The bottom line is that some of the large scale ‘meat producers’ want all the open range available exclusively for their millions of cattle, and couldn’t care less if the Wild Horses are pushed into extinction (or into a meat-grinder). That is a most unreasonable position, and one that is driven by sheer unabated greed.
America was built off the backs of horses and they deserve our respect and admiration, and they are so worthy of at least that much. To my eyes there are few things in life as beautiful as a stallion running free over the range.
Making money is great; I am all for it! But there are limits that are dictated by morals, at least for those who have them. Adding to which, the animals that are being rounded-up are being treated in a manner that is grossly inhumane, and is nothing short of atrocity! No real cowboy would ever treat a horse (or any other animal) the way these people (on the documentaries) are treating the Wild Horses, and it’s undeniable… it’s on film!… it’s barbaric!.
The people seen abusing these beautiful publicly owned horses should be criminally prosecuted to the extent of the law! Why is that not being done? They have the evidence on film! Are the legislators who are aware if this situation so cold themselves that they don’t have a care?
Here’s the video (below) if you have the curiosity and the spine to actually watch. And if you are interested in justice and fair-play, there are 4-segments; and the one about the burros at the end showcases just how evil and cruel some people are, and why we all need to jump into this fight for these beautiful animals and their families.
So when some people expect me and others to appreciate ‘their grazing rights’ on public taxpayer-owned lands … I have to say that these people need to understand that when they act like this, they should not expect any support for their position, they should however expect to be indicted and prosecuted … And legitimate ranchers need to differentiate themselves from the people in the video ASAP by standing up for the relatively few remaining Wild Horses. Just the humble opinion from a former Cowboy.
Note: Anyone who is interested in high-resolution photographs of the wild horses, please contact us at [email protected] We are using proceeds to improve the habitat on our land for the horses.
You can read more about the Wildhorse Ranch and the conservation work Capt. Bill and his wife Laura are doing here.
All photos courtesy of Laura Simpson – copyright 2014