Would you be surprised to learn we still have herds of wild horses roaming the American countryside? I guess I've always known it, but it's not something I've given a whole lot of thought to until this past summer when a friend introduced me to them, up close and personal, in the desert of Mesa, Arizona.
I never realized the desert could have so many colors and so many textures and be so teeming with life. It was breathtaking. It was an absolutely brilliant day filled with experiences I will never forget. And as breathtaking as it was, since that day, what I have learned regarding the plight of these horses is enough to take anyone's breath away... and break your heart in the process.
At the turn of the last century, there were about two million wild horses in the 11 states which comprise the western-most portion of our country: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Today, only 179 free-roaming wild horse and burro herds remain, with a total population of approximately 33,000 horses and 7,000 burros... and over 50,000 being held in BLM holding facilities (more about that later).
There are many reasons for that dramatic decline, but chief among them, according to those who advocate for these glorious animals, would be the myriad, less-than-fortunate decisions (some would go so far as to say the gross mismanagement) of the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), the federal agency charged with the responsibility of protecting and overseeing the welfare of the herds.
It seems as though it always comes down to the same thing, whether we're talking about protecting the elderly from exploitation (those of you who already know me, know that's an issue near and dear to my heart), or the rights of the mentally ill vs. the power of Big Pharma or, as seen here, the welfare of one of America's most stunning natural resources, its wild horse and burro herds. In our country, it's always the very young, the very old, the mentally ill and yes, even the environment and our wildlife, who are the most vulnerable. They always make the perfect patsies, they are always the easiest targets for anyone who wants to make a buck at their expense. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? After all, if you are not among the anointed few (those with money and political clout), even in face of the most deplorable abuse, who is going to listen? And in our world, like it or not, if you have no voice, you have no power.
There are some superlative articles already written on the plight and immediate jeopardy of our wild horses and burros (and those who are at fault), located here (please note that while this article is not about wild horses, it is about public land use, public land policy, the mindset of some who live in the western states, and how the BLM behaves) and here, so I don't think it's necessary for me to re-create those wheels. What is necessary is for me invite you, maybe even go so far as to implore you, to read them and to become aware of just what's going on, and to stand up for what is right.
Our wild horses and burros (and I do mean "our") now find themselves entangled in a battle of competing interests on multiple sides of an extremely complex problem fraught with as many valid positives as there are valid negatives. There are not going to be any easy answers. One thing is clear, however: this affects all of us. Even if you are not a cattle rancher, a BLM employee, a forest ranger, a resident of one of the aforementioned states, an advocate for the horses, or anyone else who is directly involved, wild horses are still one of your country's natural resources, they are still part of your history and your identity, and your tax dollars are being spent... all excellent reasons for you to become more knowledgeable on the subject, and then maybe add your voice. Who knows? It just may turn out that you have an answer you weren't even aware of. But you won't know it until you familiarize yourself with the facts.
Over the next several weeks and months, I will be publishing a series of articles so we can all take a look at the numerous issues together. My hope is that they will spark serious discussion and respectful debate (please: no personal attacks or spewing of venom here -- use your own personal blog if that's all you're going to do!) and maybe, as a community of concerned citizens and interested parties, we can come up with some answers.
For more information regarding the horses and those who advocate for them, a good place to go is The Cloud Foundation.
Images generously provided by (and used with the permission of) wild horse advocate, Karen McLain.
Pamela S. K. Glasner is a published author and a filmmaker. Learn more about Ms. Glasner at http://www.starjackentertainment.com/ and on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/am5mjoy
Copyright by Pamela S. K. Glasner © 2014, All Rights Reserved