News of 38,000 Wild Horses Roaming the West is Thrilling! (mostly)

In 1988, my husband Jim and I quit our jobs in New York City, bought a car, and started driving across America bound for LA. We knew we were taking the Northern route through South Dakota and Wyoming, and we knew we would be dropping in on my parents in Cleveland and Jim’s mom in Park City, but we didn’t know much else. We stopped for the night where and when we wanted to. We lingered where we chose. We raised a glass with bonafide cowboys in a tiny Dakotas bar. A lightening storm over the Badlands was breathtaking. Around every corner was a vista or an experience that was larger than life and touched me to the core.
And that is how I discovered The American West. We traveled through it just like the pioneers did. We were homeless and jobless just like them, heading west in search of a better life, with our calico cat Trixie in tow. The land was magical. I fell in love.
But enough about me. This is about wild horses, and the article I read about them in today’s Wall Street Journal:
Wall Street Journal – January 3, 2012
There are 38,000 Wild Horses running free in the West today. Isn’t that magnificent? This news caused me to experience giddy elation. We haven’t screwed things up that badly with overbuilding and suburban sprawl if there are still that many horses roaming across millions of acres of federal land in Wyoming, Utah, Oregon and California. And the article said the “wild horse population is out of control” because “the herds can double in size every four years.” So these are healthy herds too! Even better. The romantic in me was thrilled.
I read that federal law “protects mustangs as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” Happy!
But wait … There are more of them than the land can support and they are trampling streams and stripping vegetation and destroying habitats of other animals. Saddish.
And the government has already rounded up 45,000 of them and is holding them in captivity trying to adopt them out to ranchers in the Midwest and South. They are referred to as “a herd of unwanted horses.” Super sad.
And the reason this article is in the newspaper in the first place is because the Bureau of Land Management has a new plan to castrate 200 of the stallions to reduce the growth of the herd, because the contraceptive vaccines they have been giving to the mares since 2004 are expensive and not effective. There are so many levels of sadness in the prior sentence, I don’t know where to begin.
There’s just nothing easy about progress, is there? Somebody’s got to make some tough decisions.
Somebody is a federal court judge hearing arguments from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and animal activist groups like The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.
I don’t know what the answer is. I’m glad we live in a place that lets divergent voices be heard in figuring out issues like this. May wisdom, vision, compassion and cooperation prevail.
Mostly I’m just happy to hear they’re still out there. Feels like hope for humanity, doesn’t it? Or at least hope for America? Both good things, by the way.

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