The Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971(WH & B Act) was spurred on by emotion and written using magical thinking to solve imaginary problems. There were 27,000 head of horses and burros under the WH & B Act in 1971. Today there are over 112,000 horses and burros in the Wild Horse & Burro Program (WH & B Program). The horses and burros did not need saved, they needed a management plan to replace the one being thrown out by the WH & B Act. The wild horses on public lands had been managed for over a century by capable horse runners who had the population of horses on the range under control in 1971.

Some horse runners were undoubtedly cruel to the horses they ran.  Most were not.  When Wild Horse Annie (Velma Johnston) saw blood dripping from a truck hauling free-roaming horses in 1950 she became fired up and decided to take action.  Instead of getting a law passed for more humane treatment of horses, and all animals, she chose to protect and save the free-roaming horses.  They did not need protected or saved, they needed managed.

The issues driving Wild Horse Annie were emotionally charged from the start and myths were created to support the emotionally charged issues.  There are four myths in the first paragraph of the Act:

1.       Wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.

2.       They contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.

3.        They are fast disappearing from the American scene. 

4.       They are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.

The fourth myth is especially damaging, Legislation does not change nature, horses are not a natural part of the public lands.  They evolved in grasslands, spread quickly across Texas after the Pueblo Uprising of 1680, but there were no free-roaming horses in the Great Basin until settlers began raising them in the late 1800s.

Myth three was an imaginary problem, with number one and two just being general feel good myths. 

When managing free-roaming horses on public lands the myths need sorted out and our management decisions should be based on reality.


Copyright © 2016-2019 Gerald Miller. All Rights Reserved.

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