Each morning, dawn touches fewer wild horses on America's Western range lands. Roundups by the Bureau of Land Management clear the way for a tsunami of industrialization. Senate confirmation of Interior Secretary-designate, Rep. Ryan Zinke, advocates looser environmental regulations for extractive industries. He proposed legislation to open horse slaughter plants in the West.
Nevadans Velma "Wild Horse Annie" Johnston and Carrol Able spend their lives fighting for America's wild horses. It seemed like a good time to give them their say, again.
July 20, 2011
I sat down with Wild Horse Annie
today. We had quite the conversation. I complained of how convoluted her law
had become, how it was now a life sentence for the very animals it was intended
to protect. She listened quietly, never uttering a word. “We really need your
help.” I told her. She offered no reply.
The grass surrounding us was cool damp; refreshing, the day warm and clear. I closed my eyes and imagined a
band of wild horses grazing peacefully nearby. How fitting it would have been.
But alas! Imaginings are nothing more than imaginings. There were no wild
horses and Wild Horse Annie was not going to answer.
Beside me was a small and unassuming
grave marker. In that, it was much like the woman buried there. Beneath the
name Velma B. Johnston, Wild Horse Annie and the dates March 5, 1912 - June 27,
1977 are three mustangs, running wild and free. As I ran my fingers across the
relief and looked closer at the image, I realized there was something
unexpectedly ominous portrayed there.
The running mustang trio has reached
the edge of a dangerous precipice with no choice left but to jump. The last of
the three is rearing and looking over his shoulder as if deciding whether to
fight or flee. Tears started flowing when I put the scene in the context of the
battle we’re waging today.
I started sobbing like a crazy fool and blurted out,
“Help me! I don’t know what else to do.”
It was then that a voice came to me,
a gentle but strong whisper in my ear.
MustangMedia 101 by Terri Farley: Whose Home on the Range?
horses can't speak their own stories. Once, that didn't matter, but now wild horses suffer and die at human hands.
We take their food, water and homes. A few people want wild horses taken off public lands so corporations can earn
money from the land's minerals, oil and grazing. But most people love wildlife and wild places. They're learning to
stand up for wildlife because the Western public lands belong to all Americans! Our hearts lift at their rough power
mustangs inspires me to tell their stories as well as I can, before they're extinct.
MustangMedia 101 by Terri Farley is my attempt to explain modern challenges facing
Helicopters contractors paid to prowl Nevada's high desert and spot wild horses'
shelters from blizzards, had flushed put and captured 18 mustang stallions, 16 mares and 9 foals befor
the Bureau of Land Management declared snowstorms a hazard to pilots and aircraft.
Today BLM plans to continue its "emergency" round up.
Why is this wild horse round-up an emergency?
BLM says these wild horses come too close to the road.
No, wait, these are excess mustangs. That's the emergency.
Most members of the public only know what BLM said in its press release. It announced a race to remove
100 "excess" wild horses from public and private lands “to provide for public and animal
safety.” Either or neither could be true, because:
Self-declared Bureau of Land Management emergencies do not require environmental assessments
Emergency gathers aren't uncommon in BLM wild horse management. Just this year they've had emergencies in places like Three Fingers, Oregon and Caliente, Wood Hills, Tunnel Springs, CherrySpring and Silver King, Nevada.
Were these true emergencies? We must listen to BLM's "trust me" because the streamlined process only requires a
BLM staffer -- often a field office manager responding to a rancher-tenant who wants mustangs off "his" land -- to report an "emergency" situation to a state program
lead. The lead contacts the Washington, D,C, office. Then,
timing permits, a gather plan environmental assessment is prepared
prior to any removal of wild horses or burros in response to the
emergency. If this is not possible, a report is prepared after the
action is taken. The public is notified via at least a news release."(Jason Lutterman,Public Affairs Specialist (On Range), National Wild Horse and Burro Program and BLM handbook )
No shelter for wild horses at BLM's Broken Arrow facility, but that's no emergency. It's where mustangs go
after Christmas week Eagle /Silver King gather 2016 (BLM photo)
These days, I try to give BLM the benefit of the doubt by listening to sources inside the agency if they'll talk with me. There's a real danger America's pubic lands and wildlife will be handed over to slaughter-friendly states in 2017 and, despite its flaws, BLM is--under law -- restricted in their treatment of wild equines.
Still, I can't swallow "after the action is taken" explanations because I've been in California grazing association meetings, where a BLM field
manager coodled ranchers with wild horse worries, by promising, "Anything we can do to assist you, we will. Anything."
One element of "anything" turned out to be the 2015 round-up of 1,070 wild horses and the admitted deaths of 16. But that was another time.
Now, I urge you to sign up for Google.com/alerts for news on wild horses. Even though I've covered BLM's handling of our wild horses for 30 years, I haven't been skeptical enough.
Too often when they've said "Trust me," I should've heard "I'm lying." You can help me and the wild horses.
Happier days : 2016 BLM photo, Silver King herd management area
Thirty years ago, I visited BLM's Palomino Valley wild horse corrals for the first time and saw a palomino foal drown in the mud. Since then, I often visit after heavy rains, just to keep watch.
Over time, improvements have been made, but changes reflect human ideas of what's cost-efficient. Over generations, freedom has taught horses how to survive the harshest weather. In captivity they can't do that.
Last month, BLM-authorized helicopters rounded up nearly 2,000 Owyhee mustangs. Most of those wild horses -- staff couldn't be
more specific than 1400 -1600 horses -- are at Palomino Valley. Earlier this week I visited Palomino Valley between northern Nevada storms. These horses are so wild, so sensitive to my approach that they bolted, rammed into each other, slipped and sometimes fell in the mud.
I saw few mares with foals. Those who were together did their best to stay away from standing water.
These are the corrals with shelters
This weekend high wind warnings -- up to 100 mph on the ridges -- snow storms, and below-freezing temperatures are predicted.
Unique crescent moon and star markings
These young horses might have been pulled from general population for adoption, but no one could tell me for sure.
Friendships form under all conditions. The buckskin groomed each corral mate -- whether or not they wanted attention.
My friend Palomino is in South Dakota at a failed wild horse rescue. The horses will go to a slaughter auction if they're not rescued by December 1.
PLEASE READ TO THE END TO SEE HOW YOU CAN HELP!
".. we have saved
about 25% of the horses so far. When you look at how many are still
out there, your heart breaks. But, for the horses that have been saved, it is EVERYTHING. The situation is fast coming to a close, and I can't imagine it being a happy one. We officially have 7 days left. It is terribly
painful to get to know these horses and realize that we won't be able to
save them all.
stallions are fighting non stop as we break their hearts. Every time
we steal their families, they fight more and it is obvious they are
hurting. They run the fence line, screaming for their families.
My heart is breaking and it makes you
physically ill. Every night when your head hits the pillow, it all
comes crashing down. Knowing how many of these horses will probably be
slaughtered, the stallions especially, is too much to bear.
These horses never ever did anything to deserve this. There is too much pain here to cry away, but every morning you get back up and start over.
will keep fighting until the bitter end and bring home as many horses as we have funding for.."