Just when the dust settles on one wild horse gather and we think the poor wild horses may get a break on the brutal BLM gather circuit, another needless and unprecedented proposed gather (this one in Wyoming’s Rock Springs area) leaps onto the front page. But this front page is an article by noted legal analyst and author, Andrew Cohen, in the most recent edition of The Atlantic that cuts right to the heart of the matter.
Cohen points out in the very beginning of this article that the ranchers have, for a long time, expressed their disdain for the wild horses and the Wild Horse and Burro Act that protects them, but now they have risen to a new false standard by claiming that “we have a legal right to declare we want no horses on these lands,” referring to the million acres plus that make up the checkerboard lands in that area. Adding further insult to these un-established and conflicted allegations of rights, they found an official at the Department of the Interior, working within the BLM’s wild horse and burro program that advised them on how to advance their alleged right through a lawsuit. Yes, it’s true. Someone at DOI actually advised them that by resorting to a lawsuit, one that would cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, the government might be able to assist in establishing their right to eliminate the horses. And a lawsuit was indeed filed.
In the brief of the lawsuit, the wild horse advocates focused the attention squarely where it should be; on the cheap and subsidized grazing on the federal lands that has allowed the ranchers to graze tens of thousands of cattle on these lands for decades and the resulting damage to the ecosystem caused by this grazing. Cohen provides an excerpt from the brief. “While the Rock Springs Grazing Association is complaining about a hundred extra wild horses on two million acres of land—half of which are publicly owned—RSGA is permitted to have the year-round equivalent of tens of thousands of private livestock grazing on these same lands for its own benefit at taxpayer expense…” People need to understand that as a whole, the public lands grazing industry is not the juggernaut it once was, nor is its contribution to the overall production, or demand, of beef so great that we need to sacrifice every living thing on the public lands to sustain them.
In an article written by Cohen last July, he states, “All the time and all over the West, horse advocacy groups battle the federal government over the fate of the wild horses. The story is almost always the same. The ‘horse lobby’ cannot compete politically (i.e. financially) with the cattle or ranching industries. Invariably, it’s the wild horses which lose out to the cattle of the sheep or to other business interests. And invariably, it’s the federal government, acting through its regulators who are captive to the industries they are supposed to regulate, which helps ensure that this occurs.”
And now big oil has joined the procession of those industries which would like to see the wild horses gone. Anadarko, the corporate oil and gas mega-corporation, has joined the Grazing Association’s lawsuit to remove wild horses. Andrew Cohen concludes in his current article that “the quickest way to figure out what’s going on is to follow the money.”
I sincerely hope that you will take time to read Andrew Cohen’s current article in The Atlantic, as well as the others he has written on this subject, but even more importantly, don’t let big oil, the ranching industry and others determine the fate of our remaining wild horse’s herds. Let your voice ring out, to your elected officials, friends, acquaintances, businesses, and associations. Tell them that the wild horses are as important to you as any other part of our American history, and that you will not tolerate the elimination of one of America’s last true icons.
Saving America’s Mustangs Foundation