Guest article by Arlene Gawne
Why is the US Government Not Considering Options?
Ah, the BLM, as usual busy destroying horses‘ lives and human jobs. On October 15th 2010, a BLM contractor helicopter drove a frightened young, wild foal so relentlessly that the foal broke a leg, wranglers shot him and hauled his mother away for adoption or a lifetime holding pen. Local people lose another opportunity to prosper with their wild horses. The road not taken. Let’s go down that road…
If the BLM had only encouraged it, in 2010 tourists would have paid these same wranglers to lead horseback tours to this family band so they could photograph the wild colt playing and the mares keeping him in line. The tourists would have thrilled friends back home in Germany or Japan with photos of the rambunctious colt and his sister. They’d describe the gorgeous blue dome of sky over the vast desert that seemed without limit. No tight horizons like their homeland. Coyotes sung down the sunset over that vast space as they drove back to the little town for “some real country food”. Plates loaded with flavors they never had at home. They listened to a cowboy spin yarns while they laughed and sampled beers. This wasn’t Provence. It was better. It was huge sky country, with a history unlike any they had ever known complete with mountain lions, wild horses and coyote song. They were enchanted.
Some of their friends would have come out a year later in 2011 to see more of the foal and his family, and spent their yen or euros on local cafes, gas stations, a museum and old hotels, one of which dated back to the town’s early mining days. Several of the wranglers’ kids would have summer jobs in those places staying in town to save for college or a SUV so they could take the older tourists out in comfort.
In 2012, on their SUV tours, they would serve their moms’ picnic lunches on a scenic bluff overlooking the wild horse bands. As they drove slowly down to the horses through sage and golden grass, they would show the birder types which hawks circled overhead and where the ground squirrels hid in safety. The older tourists wanted to know how their grandparents moved out to these wide spaces. Why did they come? How did they make a living and hang on from year to year? The young guides didn’t know so they quizzed their parents at night to find more about their own roots. That was fun.
One youngster was shocked to learn his great-granddad had come from the same little German town as that visitor he guided yesterday! Wow, maybe he would take the old couple up on their offer to stay at their home in Germany if he ever traveled overseas. Hey, maybe he would travel. His younger sister could take up the guiding while he spent a month overseas. Um, maybe he would see the motorcycle race on the Isle of Man – now he was dreaming big time.
The third year, in 2013, one of those wrangler’s wives would have hired two wranglers to renovate an old building on the main street. By spring she would open “The Mustang Cafe” complete with a section selling local crafts, ore samples from the old mine, and her brother’s cowboy poetry books. Her kids would work it with her, able to make enough of a living to stay in their beloved home town.
Years passed, and local businesses expanded to accommodate the visitors, a B&B in a neighbor’s home, a “Bunk house” for American families traveling cheap through the west but keen to see the wild horse bands that had been featured in an Alaskan airlines’ and a Time magazine article. Two wranglers renovated passageways of an abandoned mine and led afternoon tours complete with snacks and a buddy singing old western songs and strumming his guitar down deep in the mine. People couldn’t get enough of this underground experience. Wild horses in the morning sun and down in a mine at sunset. Where else could you have this experience the visitors said to their friends back home?
By the time all these jobs evolved in 2015, the colt would have been a handsome bachelor stallion to delight the growing number of visitors. They would watch amazed as he found himself a bachelor herd, and postured and reared to establish his dominance in the hierarchy. Testosterone had thickened his arched neck, put spring in his quick step, and power in his challenge squeal. The visitors were in awe of this gorgeous creature and his sparring partners.
By the time in 2018 that the colt was a mature band stallion with two mares and two foals of his own, tours were coming out daily to watch his band and the others – those bands of paints, palominos, roans, blacks and sorrels. Wranglers’ families were busy guiding, feeding, cleaning, and entertaining the visitors from across North America, Asia and Europe. And the wrangler’s wife was happily feeding her first grandchild at the Mustang Café – the first offspring of her oldest daughter who had met and married a wild horse tourist who first lunched at the café. “Um”, she smiled, “Those mustangs back of town had sure changed their lives – for the better!”
This is the new road I challenge our US government to take – ecotourism with America’s wild horses and burros. If third world Africa can do it and make millions, why can’t Americans? Bureaucrats controlling wild horse management can change but they must be redirected. For that, our politicians must grow spine. That could be the hardest change of all.