Consumerism vs. Wild Horses

A Management Conundrum with A Silver Lining


Every morning, as I share breath with wild horses that visit my cabin in the wilderness, I am in awe of their spirits and intelligence, and it pains me to think of their kin being decimated by the obtuse meddling of humans. 

As a result of money, ego, and competition for resources, the issues and heated debates swirling around wild horses have grown so complex over the past decades, that a simple, cost-effective and natural solution has been hidden in plain sight. 

William E. Simpson II (left) and Micah Robin, the producer-director of the award winning film, “Fuel, Fire and Wild Horses,” at the Sante Fe Film Festival – – image courtesy of William E. Simpson II

This article examines the hard realities that are confronting decision makers and wild horse advocates, as well as offering a genuine solution for wild horses that is humane, cost-effective, and ecologically appropriate.

Our society, in general, has unfortunately and sadly migrated into a new meme that is totally disconnected from Nature.

And as a part of the new societal meme, which controls the behavior of most (not all) humans, consumerism is growing at an insane pace.

Candyman – image: William E Simpson II

Americans have developed an insatiable appetite for all kinds of goods and services. These days, it seems that too much is not enough. And with the advent of the Internet, product flow to consumers has grown exponentially over the past decade.

Many of the raw materials needed to supply this burgeoning demand for goods and services are coming from our public lands, creating powerful competition for public land-uses from a conglomerate of large multi-national corporations, as well as the livestock industry.

A quick survey of the news amply demonstrates just how far some people are willing to go to get what they want, and the lack of civility between humans; such as people trampling each other to get ten dollars off on a pair of tennis shoes on Black Friday, etc.

Here is just one of a hundred examples I could make of how American consumerism is dominating public land-uses.

I see truck-loads of Tesla cars on the highway heading to cities across American by the thousands!  People demanding these battery-powered cars seem oblivious (some don’t care), as they fail to realize that their dollars going to Tesla will ensure that the mining for the copper, cobalt, and lithium used in these cars will continue with even greater haste, with some of these and other minerals coming from extraction on American public lands.

And when these cars wear out, in America, they are some of the worst forms of toxic refuse!

Candyman keeping an eye open – image: William E. Simpson II

The extraction industry (coal, oil, gas, minerals) along with the livestock industry are merely providing what the vast supermajority of Americans want.  

The insatiable consumerism of the American people is what is currently killing wild horses, and other wildlife.

Money and ego are now the forces dictating how America runs. 

Big Pharma makes about $4.5 Trillion Dollars in annual revenue, and they too use petroleum distillates and minerals in the drugs they make and sell to Americans, some of which are extracted from public lands in America.

To put Big-Pharma’s annual revenue into perspective: The entire U.S. Military budget ($725 Billion Dollars) is a small fraction of just Big Pharma’s annual revenue!

The Agriculture Industry has an annual revenue of about $2.5 Trillion Dollars!  

People who actually believe that elected officials, the President of the United States, the Department of Interior (DOI), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are actually running anything, are misinformed.

Most Americans fail to understand that Goliath corporations with combined annual revenues that dwarf the entire budget for the U.S. Government are calling all the shots. Many Americans are in denial and don’t like the notion that they no longer have any genuine say in how America is run.

So, the DOI, USDA, BLM, and USFS are simply managing public lands on behalf of the massive corporations who arguably own many politicians, right up to the President.

Deb Haaland, so-called supporter of wild horses (according to Holly Gann of the American Wild Horse Campaign ‘AWHC’) is an example of how elected officials yield to corporate demands once they step into any government office.

Haaland was recently appointed Director of the Department of Interior (DOI). She is currently condoning the largest and most brutal roundup of American wild horses since the passing of the 1971 Act to protect them.

When it comes to public land management, it’s about money. Goliath corporations don’t care about the law, because they are virtually above the law. They make and modify laws to suit their needs via the politicians and lobbyists they own.

The evidence of that is all around us. The DOI, USDA, BLM, and USFS break laws daily, and there is rarely any recourse taken against them. 

Understanding Money and Value

Deer, elk, sage grouse, moose, pronghorn, etc. all have value, but the reality of that value is according to money, and not because they are beautiful sentient beings or native species that belong on the landscape.

And what I mean by that is, they have value because the hunting industry says they have value as “game animals,” supporting yet, another huge industry for guns, archery, ammo, clothing, gear, etc.

The problem American wild horses are facing is simple

In this ego-driven, money-grabbing society that is thriving on consumerism, in the eyes of the majority of Goliath corporations who run it all, wild horses have little or no value in dollars other than as slaughtered meat – a tragic and sad truth, but nonetheless their general perspective.

Americans can change the value perception of wild horses by revealing their value ($72,000/horse) as wildfire fuel reducers, through a wild horse management plan called: Wild Horse Fire Brigade.

Wild horses feasting – image: William E. Simpson II

We cannot however change the corporate control over the land-use demands by the Goliath corporations. They will prevail over any efforts wild horse advocates could possibly mount. 

Wild horse supporters cannot win a war against a conglomerate of Goliath corporations who are wielding nearly $10 Trillion Dollars in annual revenues.

One grain of sand off that beach of money buys more than enough politicians and lobbyists to maintain their absolute iron-grip control over public land use, and they have both short-term and long-term plans.

The wild horse non-profit activists have failed, and the reason why is simple

Those who run, American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), Return To Freedom (RTF), and Wild Horse Education (WHE), don’t have any genuine for-profit executive corporate business experience.  

They are great at showing dramatic images of the current horrors of wild horse management and then offering a ‘Donate Button,’ or suing the BLM and then having a media parade, maybe even having a temporary win, and then offering a ‘Donate Button’, only to later be overturned in the courts or having the BLM doing what they wanted to do anyway.

Wild horse advocates have all witnessed these events time and time again, ad nauseam. 

The net result of 40-years of activism and nearly $100-million in total donations to non-profit activist organizations is the largest roundup of wild horses since the 1971 Act that was passed to protect them.

Problems with the gold-plated donation-funded non-profit wild horse organizations

  1. They don’t have the requisite business experience to field a workable plan that sustainably and naturally saves wild horses; and,
  2. They don’t have any first-hand empirical experience with the behavioral ecology of free-roaming wild horses in the wilderness; and,
  3. A genuine, sustainable, natural solution that finally saves wild horses puts them out of business and collapses their donation gravy train. So, they offer a dangerous band-aid by promoting and using chemicals (PZP / GonaCon) on wild horse mares, to unnaturally render wild horse mares infertile. 

Read more about the chemicals being used on American wild horses by the BLM and the donation-funded non-profit activists here.

In order to offer any solution, you must first fully understand the problem

In any debate or deal-making process, the key is to understand what the other side thinks, and why they think what they do.

To save American wild horses, we have to make a deal and have buy-in from the powers behind the DOI, USDA, BLM, and USFS. Corporate juggernauts are carefully watching the situation from afar, and these government agencies are arguably the henchmen, not the decision-makers.

Sure, Americans are allowed to make comments on BLM and USFS proposed plans, etc., but that is a mere illusion that checks the box on the law that says they have to listen to Americans. 

So, they have their scoping and comment periods, and then do what their corporate masters tell them to do. It’s really that simple.

Make no mistake: The BLM and the USFS will zero-out the majority of HMAs via the Machiavellian plan in operation today. Their plan is simple and effective:

  1. Roundup most of the wild horses from all areas (including HMAs) that are targeted for corporate development plans, and then put a few horses back and make a big-deal parade in the media about returning some wild horses to HMAs. But shockingly, the returned horses are comprised of castrated stallions and infertile mares filled with chemicals like PZP and GonaCon. The result is a Herd of the Walking Dead, genetically speaking. 
  2. Get so-called wild horse advocates (AWHC, RTF, HSUS, etc.) to cooperate with them via supporting the use of firearms to shoot mares with genetic poisons (PZP, GonaCon) under the pretenses that is the only way to stop roundups.. What a load of dung. More about that here. 
  1. Incentivize the gold-plated donation-funded non-profit activists to push their chemical contraception propaganda to other wild horse advocates via major media releases of misinformation. And arguably their incentive is the money (grants) they will get to continue shooting mares with chemicals.

Well-intentioned wild horse advocates are largely misled by this well-coordinated effort.

Spiritual and moral efforts (working for a greater good, etc.) are nice concepts, but on this economic battlefield, the only thing that can save the remaining wild horses is moving them out of harm’s way, away from areas that will be zeroed out before they are wiped out. 

Wild horse advocates must come to grips with reality and the ugly truth 

These giant for-profit corporations are never going to allow the BLM to raise the allowable populations (AML) of wild horses in various herd areas; what is called the ‘appropriate management levels’ (‘AMLs)  

And they are never going to release sustainable populations of hundreds of wild horses back onto herd areas from where they were rounded up at a great cost to taxpayers.

It’s just wishful thinking for anyone to believe that advocates can somehow force them to do just that.

The other important fact is this 

Keeping wild horses commingled with livestock in areas where the co-evolved predators of wild horses are absent creates two serious problems:

  1. It does wild horses a huge genetic disservice by disintermediating the critical evolutionary process of Natural Selection, which maintains the genetic vigor of wild horses. 
  2. The shortage of the co-evolved predators of wild horses in herd areas is what creates the overpopulation problem; so this is a problem created by humans, not the horses. Prey-predator interactions are crucial for the health and vigor of each species and keep prey populations (in this case wild horses) in equilibrium with the ecosystem.

In many (not all) HMAs, predators (bears, wolves, lions, coyotes) have been destroyed with great prejudice and at great cost to American taxpayers over the past 300-years to enhance livestock production and profitability. The DOI and USDA are never going to reverse course on that long-term plan. 

The results are Herd Management Areas (HMAs) with collapsed trophic cascades. These areas would require many decades of intense work to begin to restore the natural balance of prey and predators, even with the blessings and money from corporations and the livestock industry, which is highly unlikely!  

The only range design that corporations and the livestock industry would support is the removal of horses, burros, and predators from the public lands they intend to use for extraction and livestock industries, along with the development of better access into these areas. 

And as it’s said in the halls of the Goliath corporate offices and Washington D.C.

Black – image: William E. Simpson II

He who has the gold makes the rules

 The establishment of Herd Management Areas (HMAs) under the 1971 Free Roaming Wild Burro and Horse Protection Act was based upon the imperfect science developed during the 1950s-1960s. Looking back from today’s more informed and modern scientific perspective, the science that was used then was not fully-informed and therefore is now obsolete. 

For instance, recent scientific discoveries show that wild horses did not go entirely extinct in North America 12-17 thousand years ago as posited by the BLM and others. We know this because new scientific data shows wild horses were present on the North American landscape 5,000 years ago! Here is the science. 

Using a modern 21st-century scientific perspective, a reevaluation of all HMAs seems warranted, based upon modern paleo-ecological criteria, and thereby determining the validity of existing HMAs in terms of evidence of past habitation of various HMAs by the equids of past millennia. And based upon such evaluations, validate HMAs that are proven habitats used by equids over time, and decommission HMAs showing no evidence of past habitation by equids.

In HMAs where predators remain resident (trophic cascades intact), and where there is paleontological evidence of past habitation by wild horses in the fossil record or via evidence in cultural archaeology, wild hoses should be maintained in ecologically appropriate numbers. However, some HMAs may not meet these criteria, and therefore, based-on an ecological perspective, wild horses (and burros) should be relocated to ecologically and economically appropriate designated wilderness areas, where they serve to protect those ecosystems.

The Goliath corporations will get the land-use they want because of the power of American consumerism, and that is a fact we must understand if we want to save America’s remaining wild horses.

In order to field an effective solution, one must fully understand and appreciate the root cause of the problem.

The Solution

It’s really simple, let’s untie the kids from the railroad tracks that have the oncoming BLM freight train!

There are existing laws that allow cities, counties, states, and any/all the government agencies therein, such as the Oregon Dept. of Forestry, CAL-FIRE, or Curry County, Oregon to request wild horses under existing law. 

And by negotiating a memorandum of understanding (‘MOU’) with an appropriate public land manager for the deployment of wild horses into ecologically and economically appropriate designated wilderness area(s), horses could be thereby be deployed into wildfire fuels reduction roles.

A simplified example of how this works could be this

Curry County, Oregon requests 500 wild horses from the BLM or the USFS. 

Concurrently, Curry County cooperatively engages in an MOU with the Oregon Dept. Forestry (or USFS) to deploy what would be “county-owned” horses obtained under the law into the designated wilderness for wild fuels reduction, as work animals

And, removing wildfire fuels is work that is currently costing taxpayers millions of dollars annually in areas where such work is even possible. 

In designated wilderness areas, such as the Kalmiopsis Wilderness area of Curry County Oregon, that area, like many others, is far too rugged and remote for traditional fuels reduction work. 

And the lunacy of trying to manage catastrophic wildfires that are burning these areas as default prescribed burns is devastating the few remaining ancient champion conifers, killing wildlife, pasteurizing soils, stripping ground cover, and unleashing catastrophic erosion, which subsequently silts in the spawning beds for salmon and trout, destroying annual fish runs.

As such, free-roaming ‘work horses’ deployed into such designated wilderness areas, are protected under the law that granted them, and can safely and naturally reduce wildfire fuels, thereby providing $72,000.00 per horse deployed in monetary value to taxpayers.

This is a plan that business people who make financial decisions can understand and support.

Suddenly, wild horses have a monetary value that greatly exceeds their value at slaughter. 

Using 20-million acres of the 110-million acres of designated wilderness in America, and deploying wild horses into such ecologically and economically appropriate areas, we could theoretically rewild about one-hundred-thousand (100,000) wild horses at the rate of one (1) horse per 200-acres of land. 

Regarding the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (HUMANE TRANSFER OF EXCESS ANIMALS SEC. 116) to transfer excess wild horses and burros currently in holding to other federal, state, and local government agencies for use as work animals, take a look at H. R. 133—Page 358-359  SEC. 419:

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of the Interior, with respect to land administered by the Bureau of Land Management, or the Secretary of Agriculture, with respect to land administered by the Forest Service (referred to in this section as the ‘‘Secretary concerned’’), may transfer excess wild horses and burros that have been removed from land administered by the Secretary concerned to other Federal, State, and local government agencies for use as work animals. 

(b) The Secretary concerned may make a transfer under subsection (a) immediately on the request of a Federal, State, or local government agency. 

(c) An excess wild horse or burro transferred under subsection (a) shall lose status as a wild free-roaming horse or burro (as defined in section 2 of Public Law 92–195 (commonly known as the ‘‘Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act’’) (16 U.S.C. 1332)). 

(d) A Federal, State, or local government agency receiving an excess wild horse or burro pursuant to subsection (a) shall not— (1) destroy the horse or burro in a manner that results in the destruction of the horse or burro into a commercial product; (2) sell or otherwise transfer the horse or burro in a manner that results in the destruction of the horse or burro for processing into a commercial product; or (3) euthanize the horse or burro, except on the recommendation of a licensed veterinarian in a case of severe injury, illness, or advanced age. 

(e) Amounts appropriated by this Act shall not be available for— (1) the destruction of any healthy, unadopted, and wild horse or burro under the jurisdiction of the Secretary concerned (including a contractor); or (2) the sale of a wild horse or burro that results in the destruction of the wild horse or burro for processing into a commercial product.

Gorgeous wild mare at Wild Horse Ranch displays her genetic vigor – photo: William E. Simpson II

The plan known as Wild Horse Fire Brigade makes ecological and economic sense. It’s cost-effective, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually while simultaneously reducing wildfires and protecting forests, wildlife, watersheds, and fisheries. 

Nothing could be more natural than putting wild horses back into the wilderness, where they had lived for millions of years. There’s nothing in the North American landscape that’s new to wild horses; E. Caballus evolved in North America 1.7-million years ago. Wild horses have seen and survived prior periods of Climate Change and wildfires. They evolved facing all of the environmental conditions that Nature has ordained. They’ve thrived, and continue to thrive.

Wild Horses belong in the appropriate wilderness areas, where they can once again live in harmony with Nature, wild and free, and beyond the meddling of ill-informed money-motivated activists. Let’s make that happen!

William E. Simpson II is a naturalist living among and studying free-roaming native species American wild horses. William is the award-winning producer of the micro-documentary film ‘Wild Horses.  He is the author of a new Study about the behavioral ecology of wild horses, two published books, and more than 150 published articles on subjects related to wild horses, wildlife, wildfire, and public land (forest) management. He has appeared on NBC NEWS, ABC NEWS, theDoveTV and has been a guest on numerous talk radio shows including the Lars Larson Show, the Bill Meyer Show, and on NPR Jefferson Public Radio.

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