Renowned Wildlife Ecologist Responds to Biased Audubon Anti-Wild Horse Ranting

(The News as We See It) by R.T. Fitch ~ Author/Director of HfH Advisory Council

Audubon Mag Shows It’s Feathered Behind

Often times it is best to let bad news and glaring stupidity simply slip away into the night without any notice and that was exactly what I intended to do regarding the Audubon Magazine’s recent article about wild horses.  Written by Ted Williams, no not the famous guy, the article is riddled with misinformation and tainted with a leering overtone that leaves a bitter taste in the reader’s mouth.  Poor journalism at best for such a highly regarded conservation publication.

But the outrage of the general public is not going to allow this abomination to slip quietly away.  My inbox has been loaded with outrage which has spilled over onto our blog and out into social networks urging me to say something, to respond, to fight back.  So we will do just that, today.

Good friend and fellow equine advocate Craig Downer responded to the editor of the Audubon and we would like to share his unedited candor with you today.

Thanks Craig” ~ R.T.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

January 9th, 2011

Dear Audubon Editor:

I just finished reading Ted Williams’ diatribe: Incite: Saddle Sore against wild horses in America and consider this to be full of half truths and distortions of fact.  It is funny that Williams presents little or no factual information to back up his claims, but rather relies most heavily on innuendo and hearsay.  There is little of the rational in his article.  What is most upsetting is how consistently negative he is toward the wild horses and their supporters.  This mocking tone really gives Williams away.

A more just writer would acknowledge that the wild equids have much to contribute to the American ecosystem and that in their very differences from the majority of ruminant herbivores, being post-gastric digesters, lies the explanation of much of this positive contribution.  For example, the less decomposed droppings of equids contribute humus to the soils and augments their moisture retentiveness and nutritional content to plants growing from them.  They also bolster the food chain, from tiny to large animals.  This then benefits many more species of plants and animals.  Williams ignores this and bases his attacks on twisted partial view scenarios as that which compares wild horses to certain weed species.  These comparisons simply do not hold water when held up to the higher light of holistic ecological and evolutionary (returned native) scrutiny.  Williams also fails to acknowledge the relative proportions of livestock and big game animals vis-a-vis wild horses on the public lands, which reveal just how tiny are the numbers and resource consumption of the latter and how overwhelmingly monopolistic are the former.

In his Incite column, Williams lacks insight into the value of a wild-horse-containing ecosystem and the role of the horses therein.  And he lacks the gifted imagination to conceive of a way whereby humanity could in fact learn to permit and to live in harmony with this.  This involves Reserve Design and the Rewilding proposal of professional ecologists and conservationists, and I would be happy to discuss this further with Williams and Audubon.  This way would make for a much better world, a much better relation among the living species, not man apart, than what we have realized so far.

Sincerely,

Craig C. Downer, Wildlife Ecologist
Minden, NV 89423

45 comments on “Renowned Wildlife Ecologist Responds to Biased Audubon Anti-Wild Horse Ranting

  1. I was appalled when I read that article. I am a Audubon Society member and I am seriously considering not renewing my membership. I will be writing the magazine to protest such a biased and ignorant piece.

    The Audubon Society, like many groups of animal advocates, has stood for protection and information regarding wildlife, primarily birds. I cannot believe that the majority of the members would approve of the BLM roundups or would agree with Ted Williams.

    • The Audubon Society needs to be bombarded w/ letters regarding this idiots article. I am not a member but, rest assured…..I never will be.

  2. Excellent letter, Mr. Downer. You called it like I see it. What a waste of good ink the Williams story was- and in a supposedly ‘credible’ environmental ragazine, no less.

    I’m scratching my head, and trying to figure out how in the world it is that Audobon made a mistake this big. Who is this Ted Williams guy, and what are his credentials? Did he rely on nothing more for research than one of BLM’s traditionally flawed flyers geared for their welfare ranchers, and call it a day? Or, is he possibly an intern who doesn’t yet know his way around a library- or the Internet? If it weren’t so sad, it would be almost funny how off-track this guy is. The real shame is that the volumes of information that so easily offers accurate, factual, current data on the eco-balance situation with America’s wild horses and burros are still waiting to be given just a moment of his time.

    I’d love to know if this guy’s either too young to read, or too old. It’s just got to be that- or that a horse kicked him in the head when he spooked it as a kid, and he still holds a grudge. No other answer is plausible in the least.

    Come to think of it, this guy owes a WRIITTEN apology to all Americans who care about preserving the wild populations in this country- and a spoken one to the horses. Oh- and he should be fired.

  3. Thank you RT for bringing up the topic of “Ted Williams”.

    Craig…you da’ MAN!!!!! Excellent reply. Thanks for standing up to the self-appointed birder/fish hack expert that is really nothing more than birder bully

    BTW, there is a Sierra Club “fringe” element that is of the same persuasion as Williams…think it’s the Toiyabe chapter along the CA-NV border….CREEPS!

  4. This is not Ted Williams’ first article in Audubon attacking our wild horses. Some years ago he did the same thing, and I can’t remember if Audubon responded to letters or not. He absolutely hates wild horses . Since Audubon evidently shares his views I never joined it, and I dropped my membership in the Sierra Club long ago also.
    I see where Western Watersheds Project has signed on to Madeleine’s letter to stop the Antelope Complex roundup . Jon Marvel and Katie Fite with WWP have both been supportive of wild horses . Jon made the BLM return the obnes they chased off of WWP’s preserve , and Katie has commented on and helped with comments against roundups. She also found the dead mare Cattoor shot on the cliff. WWP signed on for the moratorium too. I am a member and urge others to join. BTW WWP wins their lawsuits against BLM.

  5. When big names trash talk…………
    The ramifications are huge because of their long reach. Some people are of the mindset that if “Audubon” said so, it must be true. Sounds like someone had outside influence and the result was this assault on the Wild ones, this bird brain needs to stick with……..birds!
    Speaking of organizations with a long reach, National Geographic had a series on tv recently, where they called wild horses in north America “feral” stated as fact……….I found that disturbing as well! Again, if nat geo said it…it must be true! Who’s making HUGE donations to all of these people? Follow the money……….

    • PS: The scummit page is singing the praises of Ted….calling it “well written”….”factual”…..”logical”……”very refreshing”……..nuff said?

  6. I stopped supporting the Audubon Society years ago.

    We have a huge Audubon Complex in the next town over from where I live.

    I have gone their a couple of times and was not impressed with what I saw.

    It is now nothing more than a commerical enterprise. You are not allowed to walk your dog on the preserve, You cannot walk on the grass and it just goes on from there.

    To me the Audubon has completely strayed from their roots and have become another HSUS, show me the $$$.

    I will rally the troops today to boycott the Audubon. I will also make it appoint to stop in to their office and have a chat with the manager.

  7. I am surprised The Audubon Society doesn’t seem to understand that the low flying helicoptors ROTO WASH is in excess of 100MPH winds blasting wide paths across the lands.

    The vortex from helicoptors crushes soft snow packs, crushes shrubs…the winds can knock down adult humans and blasts rocks and sands at 100mph.

    What does the The Audubon Society think about all the BIRDS and other small wildlife blasted to death by low flying helicoptors over the public lands. Many times the blm helicoptors fly in WINTER. Is it good for birds to be blasted out of their roosts and have small shrubs like sage crushed and killed???

    • That is an EXCELLENT point, and one which I have’t heard mentioned before. When I was a member of the Santa Fe, NM Mounted Search and Rescue Team, we had to carry out anyone who’d been injured in the mountains unless their life was in imminent danger. Even broken limbs didn’t merit bringinig in a helicopter for them because the wind from the chopper blades would disturb the grass in the meadows. Imagine having to ride horseback for miles down rough mountain trails with a broken leg! We even had to pack out dead bodies for the same reason. Not fun.

      Now, immeasurable disturbance to the soil, vegetation, and small animal life is OK because that’s an easy way to chase horses and burros?? One of our biggest problems in dealing with this issue is that the rest of us try to fight back using logic, when those we fight against use none at all. It’s like trying to have an intellectual conversation with someone who’s out of his head drunk.

  8. I read this article and quite frankly found it the be on the same level of writing that one would encounter in the National Enquirer and other similar rags. I was truly surprised that Audubon would allow this low level of sewer scraping to be published in their national magazine. Seems more like something you would encounter in a small chapter newsletter. I too would have nothing to do with Audubon society. I do not want to belong to any org that allows and promotes such specisim while refusing to look beyond their prejudice to the facts.

  9. Long piece and nothing good said about the horses. Nothing. I read terms like “feral”, “blighted”, “nuking”, “out of control”, “mongrels” re the horses and “extremely vocal and highly emotional” and ” imagined horse abuse” re those who do have anything good to say about the wild ones.
    No mention was made of the over breeding of domestic stock and what responsibility those who choose to participate as such or dump horses have to do with this mess. Nor was the increased hunting of native predators that serve to keep the wild herds in check mentioned.
    I also noted that he bemoaned that horse owners ‘were not getting something back on their investment” when their horses, domestic or wild were not useful as dinner after they had lived a life of service for their respectives owner. In another words, he is advocating slaughter for your/my/wild horses. It’s not enough that horses serve us during the course of their lives but they must die in what is a documented inhumane and viscious manner to help us recoop our investment. Sheesh! This guy’s heart is made of stone! Along that same line, he observed that ” less than 1% die , many from hideous preexisting maladies”, this in regards to the helicopter roundsups. Ha!
    I get that there needs to be a balance in the habitat but he lays little responsibility re habitat destruction to cattle and I have personally seen what they can do to a watershed. Whatever the season.
    This is a complicated issue that needs more than a biased treatment and factors in humane treatment for these animals. He seems unable or unwilling to pull that off.

  10. Ted Williams is a very over rated writer who keeps Audubon on the side of hunters and
    not so much on the side of the public where they have been for decades. Williams is an embarrassment at best to an old ecological oriented and family participatory organization. Ted is hateful, scornful… narrow minded and ignorant. It is a shame to give him such a large platform where he confuses the public with his personal prejudice. mar

  11. When I read the Ted Williams(who the heck is Ted Williams) article in Audubon, i was greatly concerned that Audubon would have ever printed this un researched garbage, I also saw his hatred rearing its ugly head(no pun intended), This is an extremely complicated and delicate issue, that requires a genuine concise reporting of facts, this did not contain any !!!!!! The Wild Mustang first of all is not an Audubon issue, they should stick to what they know BIRDS , They have no knowledge obviously if they did Ted Williams article wouldnt and couldnt , shouldnt have ever been printed.. I am wondering now if anybody at Audubon even read this before they printed it. The ramifications of printing that is a giant mar on Audubons integrity……….(now we also need to fear for the Birds also) And does require an immediate retraction and a apology to all the advocates and most of all to the Wild Mustangs, How dare Ted Williams write this without genuine facts…………….

      • Thank You K A I read the article yesterday , but couldn’t find where to comment , I read the comments at first the first few were not what i would have liked to read , but the ones that followed were really good, they The Audubon mag. and ted Williams should stick to Birds …………..If you are going to condemn something first you should know all details, he clearly wrote with no insight………….. The Mustangs are so clearly being destroyed and maimed for no reason except greed !!!! We have proven that right here time and time again………………Proves that to some nothing is sacred if they can line there pockets by destroying it, well it aint going to happen With The Wild Mustangs…………….. Cause they are wanted by 70 0/0 of America, nothing Ted Williams could ever say can change that !!!!!! Not even reporting of the worst kind….

  12. Ted Williams strikes again. He is the resident provocateur at the magazine and widely regarded as such. Craig Downer’s response was very well done. Thanks!

  13. I also wrote a letter to the editor of Audubon regarding Ted Williams second article on our wild horses and I did so after being at the Adobe Town gather with him and others the entire day. Your first clue his article was already written was that he was driven to the trap site by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, hmmm?? Second, he was mainly interested in interviewing BLM officials and not the of the wild horse advocates. Ted’s interview/research time took all of an hour while we waiting for the helicopters to arrive. When the helicopters took to the air, Williams found the nearest tall sagebrush he could lean up against and feel asleep. Journalism at its best.

    • It figures he would do that , he has no real interest, just money !!!!! The Mustangs are not about money, they are about Heritage the environment, which is so easily proven……………..the Mustangs are about FREEDOM, and Beauty, and the rights of all of America to protect them…………………… 70 percent of America agrees with this so why the PROBLEM………………………..Maybe all of America should vote on this………………………………………………………….

  14. Thank you Craig. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read your call for humans to use their imagination to see a future of living with and see these animals as the wild, harmonic beings they are.

    Thank you R.T for facilitating your site for Craig Downer’s eloquent call out. Your preamble (as all your writings are) is as always succinct and right on.

  15. Ted Williams’ column is certainly appropriately titled “Incite”. Couldn’t call it “Insight”, since he seems to have little or no interest in what that term entails. His entire purpose in life: “Get ‘em riled up and KEEP ‘em riled up!”

  16. I could not find a place on Audubon online to comment about this incorrect Audubon article. They do have a blog going, there were many places to comment.

    I reported about my concerns for helicoptor roto wash 100mph wind killing all small wildlife and plants they fly low over.

    I also reported about 10 percent! of Alaska bird species now having deformed beaks and asked Audubon to address and research this before all the birds of Alaska go extinct. They don’t even know what contaminate?? is causing this.

    I get the feeling Audubon is ALL about politics and hunting now and zero for wildlife.

    • Kudos Laura , I was there yesterday but couldnt find a place to comment…….. Thanks to you i will go there and place my comment……………..

  17. ..and don’t subscribe or donate. In the northeast, Audubon/Nature Conservancy/Conservation Trust groups prohibit horses from their privately owned lands. Every year they ask me to join/subscribe/donate (land or money). One of these groups actually asked me to work on a mapping project–to link public lands with their private preserve since I knew the trail connections. No horses??= no meeting.

  18. Thanks for writing this excellent letter, Craig. It seems that just in 2008, the National Audubon Society received over $7 million dollars in government grants and had investments in publicly traded securities between $140 million and $160 million…wonder if any of Audubon Society’s investments were in the oil/gas/mining/energy companies that are rapidly taking over our public lands? If so, it would seem like a huge conflict of interest.
    As you know, the Sierra Club also supported the wild horse roundups.

  19. “Even if the BLM wanted to sell horses for slaughter, it couldn’t. In 2007 the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia ordered the last horse-slaughter plant closed”

    This is just ONE of the outright lies this man wrote. Did he conveniently forget the treks across the borders or does he even know about Canada & Mexico slaughter plants? Quite evidently he did NO research and is spouting off AGAIN about something he knows very little about. His ignorance knows no boundaries. Does he even want to know even a little bit of truth? SO glad I canceled my membership years ago after the first article full of his crap.

    • the slaughter he was talking about refers to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada. If you have access to scholarly journals and newspapers online, search with keywords “Mexico (or Canada) horse slaughterhouses”

  20. If everyone who reads here and posts would comment to the Audubon Society, I think it would make an impact. I guess a link to their site would make it easier for the not so computer literate like me.
    Thank you RT

  21. I just went to the Audubon site, and right on the first page that comes up there is a place for Comments. You do have to give your name and e-mail, but what the heck.
    I chose to put it under “policy” (they want a catagory).
    After giving my opinion on the T. Williams post, I asked the Pres. if he never noticed the flocks of birds around horses grazing and stirring up bugs and laying down manure .

  22. “A more just writer would acknowledge that the wild equids have much to contribute to the American ecosystem and that in their very differences from the majority of ruminant herbivores, being post-gastric digesters, lies the explanation of much of this positive contribution.” ~ written by my very intelligent acquaintance, wild horse activist: Craig Dow” via Annie Mond
    Please listen to reason

  23. send letters to editor@audubon.org

    I did some quick research on this guy, and he is known to be an angry guy and quite frankly strikes me as been a bully. It appears he is all about being derisive and polarizing and he strikes back quickly with venom.

    Should you write a letter, keep it on point and professional (I do PR for a living). If you use statistics, or quotes, site the source.

    FWIW.

  24. Craig,
    You speak from your heart and your knowledge and your experience and your insight … and you speak for me and many others. Thank you.

  25. Uh Huh – I’ve been thinking about the helicoopter wash all day. Where is the Environmental Impact report for after a roundup. I’m thinking of the refueling, the mess at the site of the temp pens, the scouring – how about the loss of that topsoil you see dusting into the air? Just when I thought I had reached the end of my outrage, another reason rises. BLM needs to answer to regulatory agencies, no actually their arrogant contractors do.

  26. Boycott, people. All advocates with memberships need to write to Audubon, demand a refund and tell them exactly why they are withdrawing their support. En masse. Nothing less will do.

    Every organization that sets itself against our wild horses also sets itself against every one of us and to support them is plain folly. We must not patronize those who promote the destruction of America’s Wild Horses & Burros, it’s that simple. They must receive no reward from our purses when they act like this, they really need to feel a little pain in the pocket as it is the most effective kind of pain there is. So when we find a group like this that does stand against the wild ones, we must scream loudly, tell everyone we know and make sure the organization hears all about it and feels that pain. Time to get busy!

  27. When Williams pulled this attack stunt on wild horses a few years ago, he took great relish is responding nastily to several letter writers who sent their objections. I read it last year, I’m sure it could by found by googling.

    Just a heads up that writers replying to him editorially and in online comments will need to be strong, factual in every way, to get any traction and that he’ll still probably try to rip them apart. And, disgustingly, the Audubon magazine allows him a forum for this kind of behavior.

    Oh and did I mention boycott? Audubon should get not a penny from advocates with this kind of outrageous behavior against wild life.

    • Dear Kathleen , you are so right , although i do not have a membership , if i did I would demand a refund, Hitting them for a refund will assuredly get the message across to them all, All of them have showed us that its all about the money , just see what will happens when you take it away………………………..

  28. When Mr. Downer was checking in, Sue Wallis raced to her apparent “enforcer / babysitter” – Mindy Patterson – and said something to the effect that “We have a guy checking in, Craig Downer, he’s a real pain in the @**” and Mindy went to stand behind him while he did his paperwork. Not sure what they were scared of, except maybe facts, from an educated adversary …?

  29. I’m researching this debate over feral horses for several college courses, and I recently read the Audubon article by Ted Williams as I am also an Audubon member. Can anyone point me to specific documentation about how these wild horses benefit the environment? I found a large amount opposing horses, and I want to present a balanced introduction to this issue before I take a stand. Thanks to anyone who can help!

  30. Sure hope Audubon published my reply to the anti-wild horse bigot Ted Andrews. And now a few years later he’s at it again. I sent in another rebuttal. Anyone see if they published. Believe the published my even earlier one in 2006.

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