Public Lands, Public Horses

Root and Stem; Engagement



As well funded and organized interests push for control of public resources the core issues involved in managing wild populations on the range compound. Those core issues do not have a root in adoption or sanctuary, those are symptoms. The core issues involve habitat.

How advocates engage at the root measures how effective we will be in the stem; perception and accuracy of our voice is critical. 

Within the roots of engagement all of the politics, policies and habits of land management are planted. The stem grows into the reality.


From the root the stem of management practices grow. The stem of management of wild horses is truly twisted.. This sad truth has created practices that have barely changed in 50 years (under the Act to protect and preserve them).

Protection and preservation of wild horses is minimized, ignored or simply used in the layers of cronyism built into the root.

This article gives you a condensed version of the "root and stem," and a fast example of the consequences. 

REMEMBER you can not change the actions of your opposition but you can change YOUR actions to effect the outcome of an engagement. This series is presented with that intention. We must take a hard look at how we plant the seeds at the root that become the challenges we face in the stem. Only then can we create the needed changes, root and stem. 




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Sitting at the root of wild horses is public land management. In order to effectively engage public land issues you need to first understand the law; how it is built, engaged and enforced.

Profit driven interests understand this process very well. Advocacy for wild horses? not so much.

Profit driven interests are well organized and well funded. They present a united front that utilizes the best representatives on each branch of this path. From lobbying Congress for changes in law to engaging at the field level, profit driven interests have their voices present. The chain of information sharing, utilization of information and support is impressive.

Wild horse advocacy represents  thousands of registered nonprofits, millions of people and millions of dollars available in the collective. We should be an effective force for the wild horse, but we are, sadly, not. This has been systemic in the movement since it began in the 1950's. (see biography of Velma Johnston and read it in her words.  _____)

If you were having a complex discussion about politics and the law would you invite someone that thinks falling on the ground pretending to be a dead horse is appropriate engagement? No, you would not, even if that individual represents a million dollar enterprise.

Simply screaming "Stop the roundups," or "No horse removed," without appropriately presenting relevant information, appropriate in each step in process, wont create change and has not, for nearly 50 years.

These types of actions repeatedly lead to a lack of adequate representation on wild horses, long before a roundup, where it matters most. We are either intentionally left out of a discussion as a whole (the actions of one effect the entire movement) and often the movement is even unaware we have been "left out" until a roundup happens. 

Roundups bring an intensity to advocacy like no other action taken in managing wild horses. 

We tried to take an issue that was simple, attaining a humane handling policy, to demonstrate how the public can create a change when the system is engaged appropriately.  For a few thousand dollars WHE learned process, gathered documentation and litigated from the moving dashboard of a beat up SUV. Each case won.

The root begins with engaging policy in law.

Change in policy on humane handling was created to implement the law. When policy fails to implement the law, cheap and easy litigation can be brought to stop that conduct in it's tracks. We know, we built the frame to do it.

We hope you understand that example of how appropriate actions can create changes in policy, the changes coming from the growth of inappropriate actions (all sides) threatens to destroy the wild, wild horse as we know it. 

This section is important to understand as we address the consequences of how the root grows into the stem. 

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The stem of management grows out of the root. How the root is tended creates the stem.

The stem of land management skews towards industry and local buddy systems. These systems can be as intricate as a mining lobby with multiple contributors west wide or as simple as a drinking (or hunting) buddy that strokes an ego. 

All of the challenges we face as an advocacy for wild horses compound, twist and become more difficult to address at this level. From simplistic demonstrations that "enlarging populations of wild horses" are due in part to changes in inventory methods, not actual population explosions, to rapidly expanding extractive industries destroying critical habitat for our herds at a rate that takes our breath away.

When we reach this juncture we are in a race to get ahead of the growth of a system with a rotten root. A roundup happens after we, as an advocacy, have failed. Issues with adoption and sale (threats to slaughter) are a symptom of the disease in the root and stem. 

Appropriate engagement in law making (Congress), implementation (land use planning, NEPA) and enforcement (courts) is critical. The further into the process before appropriate actions are taken the more costly, and less likely, effective action is created.

When advocacy as a whole is seen as disruptive, ill informed and ineffectually reactive it becomes extremely easy to omit us from important process; meetings, policy discussion and land use planning. 

Even more tragic is the very real consequence that the way in which we are perceived carries over to he way our interest, wild horses, is considered. "Get it out of the room, we do not need this headache."

All of this makes it extremely easy to hide actions, and impending actions, from an advocacy that cares passionately, but does not know how to effectively fight back. 

Click below to go to press release on an action, hidden from the public, that threatens the integrity of an entire herd.