The Act to protect wild horses and burros on public land was authored and passed in both Houses of Congress (law created) and signed by the President (law affirmed) in 1971. These are the elected officials voted into office and engaged by the public. They created some of the laws that the public expressed concern over; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), clean air and water, as well as protections for wild horses. 

One of the things the law called for was that wild horses to be treated humanely. One of the reasons the law was put into place was the documentation of pioneers like Velma Johnston (Wild Horse Annie) and Hope Ryden (journalist) showed the brutal practice of mustanging to the public. The reality of a free roaming horse on federal land needed federal protections. 

Our documentation showed they were not following that core mandate. BLM had no protocol or policy to implement the law. So we took them to court (a lot). We won (law interpreted by the judiciary). Our ability to demonstrate that, not only was the conduct we relentless documented still occurring, but that BLM had no policy to show they were even making any effort to stop preventable, inappropriate, conduct. 

After multiple court rulings in our favor, the BLM created a policy to begin the steps of compliance with the law. The new protocol allowed on-site individuals with experience and knowledge of the mechanics of roundups and the protocol of the new Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) to submit reports and engage personnel in revisions to create a safer standard. If the issue was critical, urgent, and true, court was an easy option now that the foundation was laid (courts interpreted the law). CAWP went into beta test with internal review and opportunity to send revision suggestions (based on first hand monitoring). A revised policy is expected fall of 2018. 

The protocols to utilize the multiple branches of government, as well as the protocols of process, still exist; accurate documentation, engage the policy, enforce the law (court). It is now simple to put the wild horse first. The policy needs enforcement and revisions, but the frame exists now. 

At no time were the number of social media likes, a petition or harassing phone calls part of the appropriate process to stop wild horses from being hurt. Filing litigation stopped roundups in their tracks before more horses got hurt.  The responsibility of an advocate in process is to understand process and set the example of appropriate engagement. (WHE thanks you so much for your support in our groundbreaking efforts to focus on the horse first and foremost in these matters). 

This is an extremely simplistic example but it is used here as most people understand the confusion and outrage created when wild horses are hurt. That confusion creates another layer of frustration, in an already frustrated and passionate public interest, that leads to a reactive advocacy, not an active and effective one. An organization that makes any claim to "lead" advocacy must also lead responsibly.

The laws in our country are distinct; knowing the law, the distinctions in law and engagement is critical.

Remember there are very complicated issues in public land management. Loosing your voice in process, before you even understand it, is currently underway.