By LAURA LEIGH, Wild Horse Education
To The Desert Independent
March 12, 2017
The public land grab by states and profit driven interests is simply un-American.
Wild horses draw us into amazing territory that reflects so much of who we are.
We can see an amazing resilient survivor that has thrived in the harshest places in the nation. A being tied by deep social bonds that makes a living on the leftovers we allow it, yet thrives. The thunder of hoof beats crossing a valley floor, manes flying in the sun, can inspire our American souls.
Some see nothing more than a competitor for rapidly shrinking resource. A commodity to exploit and profit from to serve our own needs. Some see a symbol of interference by the federal government that limits and restricts their ability to use land and resources. They often express irrational outrage that wild horses are even allowed to eat a blade of grass (wild horses have some nasty nicknames in our American West the way many human ethnic groups are labeled).
In 1971 the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress. Just let that sink in a moment. Wild horses were declared a living symbol of our American West and integral to our land and spirit. There was not one dissenting vote, Republican or Democrat.
The Act established federal jurisdiction. Rather appropriate for setting a frame to integrate an animal that represents the history of the land itself, a representative of American identity.
What has happened to the wild horse? I see it as a representation of what has happened to our identity. America herself has had somewhat of an identity crisis. Why would that crisis not extend onto the back of the symbol of that identity?
As we as a nation struggle with who we are and what we stand for, we face some very difficult challenges. To address each challenge we first need to determine if we are still a nation of problem solvers that once led the world in curing disease, educating our children and nurtured brilliant minds that were the first to put a man on the moon.
Today we have students graduating high school that can not name the year our Constitution was signed but can tell you what celebrity just got a divorce. We have politicians that deny and inhibit great scientific advances because they might inhibit a campaign contribution. Instead of pride in the integrated melting pot of culture and color that created the American dream of equality of voice for all, we have threats of impeding and restricting integration and voices, often violently, in a mirror image of things our nation struggled through in her past. Are we going backwards?
I come from a family deeply entrenched in defending and advancing our nation.
My Grandfather (Pop) fought in both World Wars. All of his sons either served in the military or law enforcement, he was Catholic and had thirteen children. Of German decent he changed his name and went off to war as the wife and children he left behind were placed on a list to potentially be sent to internment camps. He walked me into a voting booth when I was a very young child and told me this is why he fought, because here in America we all have a voice. He was also an original Teamster and had the permanent physical reminders of the struggle for fair wages and a voice. He was a tough SOB and I loved him dearly.
My grandmother said to me once, while she prepared a holiday meal for literally the 100 guests that would arrive, her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, that if wild horses can survive in this country so could I. My grandmother was born on Long Island and had never seen a wild horse.
My motherís father was an inventor. He even sat in the think tank at NASA. It was a completely different world than my father came from. I lived a life watching attempts to integrate those differences that included economics and religion.
What is happening to our wild horses and our nation breaks my heart.
I have sat on the range, meeting after meeting and in a court room. I have had to fight for my First Amendment. I have had to fight against cruelty. I have had to fight to get a conversation based on fact and not junk science and prejudice.
Today there is so much talk about our federal government giving over the management of wild horses to states. I hear my federal government belly ache and whine and exploitative interests are catered to and wild horses continually made a scapegoat in a game of politics. The entire Wild Horse and Burro program cost our country about $80 million in 2014. In the same year the Department of Defense spent $84 million on Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs. $125 million was lost in public land grazing subsidies that same year (yes, public land ranching produces about 3% of beef utilized in industry and it costs the taxpayer a fortune).
If as a nation we want to pay for a lifestyle choice (like being a public land rancher or achieving an erection) isnít the cost of preserving our American soul a bargain in comparison?
Itís time for our government to stop whining and looking for a way to pass the buck on its responsibility.
If America is ever to become what we once were, a nation that values intelligence and morality of her citizens, our government needs to find a real spine. Step up to the plate and manage our wild horses fairly; remove prejudice, fear, greed, envy, corruption. Wild horses should be managed by our federal government, for all. Stop whining, you embarrass us.
Our public land and resources belong to all of us as a nation, not just a select few profit driven interests in each state. We need to defend her, ďThis land is OUR land.Ē
Actually protecting our wild horses and treating them with respect as a nation might be a step in saving our American soul, if we still value it.
I believe we do. I believe we can.