In the Name of Freedom

By Sarah Haas as published in the Boulder Weekly

Managing wild horses in the once wild West

Click on Image to learn more about Carol's Book
Click on Image to learn more about Carol’s Book

Carol Walker of Longmont, CO can tell a wild horse by the look in its eyes, an expression of the untamed vastness of the once wild West. For Walker, the author of Galloping to Freedom, a photographic documentation of the plight of wild horses in Wyoming, there is a sense of sadness in that recognition. While she knows wild when she sees it, she also knows that it is tenuous and fleeting.

“In this day and age we are taking more and more of our wild places away to develop, frack and graze the land, all of which is destroying it,” Walker says. “People don’t always realize that there is an impact on human beings that is terrible because we need those wild places as a part of our souls — as a part of our lives and our wellbeing and our planet. People talk about wild horses as a symbol of the West but really they are a part of our land, a part of our planet and a part of our wildlife.”

No longer an open frontier, the West is a patchwork of private and public land that cannot support growing horse populations in tandem with cattle grazing and other industrial uses. Wild horse populations grow at 20 percent a year due to natural reproduction and the release of feral horses onto public lands. When there are too many horses, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) removes them in roundup events, using helicopters to corral herds into long-term holding facilities.

Walker’s book documents the Checkerboard Roundup of 2014 and follows the journey of a few horses that end up in a Wyoming sanctuary against all odds. Their rescue is due to the fight by a dedicated group of wild horse advocates, including Walker and her organization Cana Projects, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring the sustainable use of western land and resources through advocacy programs.

But the story of these horses really begins 64 years before the roundup, in 1945, with the passing of the Taylor Grazing Act that established the BLM as the administrator of public lands. For more than three decades, the BLM existed as a land management department, a link between corporate cattle interests and the federal inventory of land, providing below market rate grazing leases to ranchers…(CONTINUED)

Link to the rest of the story:


  1. Glad to hear Carol’s book was dedicated an article.

    As she points out they are not just part of our history, they are part of our souls and our planet. What we do to them we are doing to ourselves.

    Given how much technology and the global economy advanced since 1945, keeping the subsidies to public land grazing -all so a few riches and freaks can maintain their lifestyles and act like they were rulers of a medieval fief- is downright anti-natural and anti-economical.

    We need the wild horses wild; we need our wilderness to remain as it. What we don’t need is to fund the lifestyles of a bunch of retrogrades.


    • So true. The worst part of all this is that we the people are funding all this enialiation and torture of our wildlife.
      . Really think the idea of long term leasing land for wild horses should be looked into.. grazing permit for cattle should be for horses too as long as lease is paid. If the grazing permits and lease laws are to stay the same why can’t they be for horses.?
      If they don’t want the horses around why not let various horse organizations buy them at a very low price and lease land ?
      Evidently Davies bought them for as low as 10.00 a head.


    • So true. The worst part of all this is that we the people are funding all this enialiation and torture of our wildlife.
      . Really think the idea of long term leasing land for wild horses should be looked into. as J&B Butler said. Grazing permits for cattle should be for horses too as long as lease is paid. If the grazing permits and lease laws are to stay the same why can’t they be for horses.?
      If they don’t want the horses around why not let various horse organizations buy them at a very low price and lease land ?
      Evidently Davies bought them for as low as 10.00 a head.


  2. FWIW, The Taylor Grazing Act was not enacted until 1934, and the BLM and USFS were not assigned to protect wild horses and burros until 1971, forty-four years ago.

    Minor points but since easily checked and verified they don’t do much credit to the article author’s veracity. It is incumbent on all who intend to speak for our wild ones to do so accurately. Passion is great – but it reflects poorly on us all when even simple facts are mischaracterized. Let’s make a new year’s resolution to bring the truth to light more often and more thoughtfully.


  3. What we really want to know is with all these organizations fighting to save the wild horses from total destruction and worse…. experimentation, why haven’t we been able to stop this?.

    Surely these groups must have known this was coming. Shouldn’t there have been a plan in place for just this eventuality? The tired old idea of signing a petition, sending letters to the BLM , or to our worthless Secretary of the Interior clearly do not work. Petitions submitted by many organizations have been totally disregarded.

    Is there no other plan because this one is not working?. And, whatever plan there is to save them has to happen fast. Couldn’t all of you get together and produce something that really can succeed? Does no one know of a sympathetic judge that would work with the millions of wild horse advocates to end this terrible nightmare?

    If the cattlemen are leasing huge chunks of national forest to graze cattle, is there no reason why huge areas of our federally protected lands cannot be leased for the wild horses? That may sound odd but when you consider that allot of these areas where ranchers have been virtually given the land with ridiculously low long- term leases, there are not even cattle on the land. Big corporations are holding onto these leases like gold to sell at some future date at a profit..And, many of these so called ranchers don’t even pay what they owe to the government for the leases.

    So, why not wild horses? I am sure that supporters of so many excellent horse loving organizations would gladly contribute to leases that would reserve and protect what is left of our beautiful wild equines. Actually, the wild horses and burros are supposed to be protected by law but we all know how that has worked out.


      • Just got a reply to our comment stating that we need to have a plan that works better than simply petitions and letters that too frequently go ignored.

        The reply was that plans take money. We believe that allot more money would be forthcoming if there were a more agressive plan that showed some evidence of potential success.

        We gave donated to all of these many groups many times but still just hear the gruesome stories and suggestions to write Secretary Jewell and sign petitions.

        U can understand how frustrating this is. It is so hard to believe that we don’t have the ability to stop this misery for these amazing horses. As with all of our wildlife, the BLM, and Forest Dept seem to be insatiable in the desire to zero out the wild horse population. And, the tragic thing is that they have managed to steamroll this decimation of not only the wild horses but allot of our wildlife without any regard for the outrage of so many people.

        Yes, it takes money but doing the same thing over and over again with such bleak results is NOT a plan that has any possibility for success.


    • In regards to Jan and Carl Butlers comment about the possibility of leasing land for wild horses that’s a good point. So many of these welfare ranchers lease land for hardly anything and don’t pay their leases , plus get drought benefits, sage grouse iniative benif it’s and more. Many big corporations don’t even have cattle . So why can’t land be leased to provide habitat for horses?
      Great idea . Why not..nothing else seems to be working.
      Also Debbie mentioned it takes money. True money is power and there’s also power in numbers . So maybe we need to be more proactive aND find ways to generate more money.
      Does anyone have connections with someone who knows any celebrities ? How can we get them involved? Say Robert Redford, Willie Nelson and the Nelson family to help us generate more money ? Or if not even a few groups that arent well known but have talent. that would be willing to donate their time? Lastly if we could find an Attorney that could help buy us some time by having the Judge put a hold on the spayings .
      But she brought up some good questions.

      Because if we do nothing then nothing will be done to help save our incredible iconic horses.


  4. Is this possible? Could federal lands be leased for wild horses? If so called cattle ranchers can lease fedaerally owned land, why not horses? Especially when most of these cattle leases are ridiculously low and are frequently not paid at all. I think all of us wouldn’t mind donating to some kind of safe solution for the horses. It is costing tax payers to cover for the land leased to these “cattlemen. ”

    And, how’s this for a plan? There has to be lawyers that could find the obvious loopholes the BLM is using to force this savage trestment
    of our wild horses. Get some judge with a conscience that would at least put a temporary hold on these experiments and Roundups until we can rally the forces against these these vile programs that would destroy not only our iconic wild horses but most of our wildlife.


    • Now that’s a very interesting question. We would have to apply for a grazing permit for a set amount of AUMs and see what BLM says… The applicant would have to reside in the county where the grazing lease is located. However, they may say that since wild horses are protected under the WFHBA that they can only live in their designated habitats or something like that. Or they will just say that horses aren’t eligible for a permit or that we don’t have a “legitimate”, valid claim, understanding for such a commercial exploitation interest, since for BLM the only “legitimate” claims are those that seek commercial exploitation of the land.

      To be frank, since BLM is an industry tool spun out the Taylor Grazing Act and the local grazing boards / associations (that were in turn controlled by the cattle barons that seized control of the Western US by the 1890s) I don’t think they will ever consider the application seriously, even if it legally valid in form, as it doesn’t come from the ranching establishment. But of course these are just assumptions of mine and it may be worth a shot.

      The ranchers however might consider subleasing the land to us and let us do whatever we want on it but I suspect they will keep grazing cows covertly at our expense or try to limit wild horse movements, depriving them of water, putting up fences and so on. They will also likely put a very high price tag on the lease, at the very least similar to what they get from cattle when they sell it for slaughter once it is finished. So I don’t know if it would be economically feasible.


      • Is there no way to secure a long term lease for a large amount of land from the government”for cattle” and also have a large herd of horses?” Is that not s plan? Isn’t it worth a try? Can our government discriminate against wild horses just because they are wild?

        Thank u for your thoughts on this.


      • I don’t know, I think it’s never been tried before. If you get a grazing permit and you let horses from a HMA graze on your allotment because you want to do so I don’t think BLM can say anything. Whatever you do with the AUMs you have assigned is up to you but typically ranchers want the horses off so to remove competence and if other ranchers complain asking them to be removed that might be an issue.

        Perhaps wild horses are not eligible for grazing permits (maybe domestic ones are? Could we claim that wild horses are actually ours and let them graze?) but we might purchase a grazing permit (or rather the properly that gives right to the grazing permit) from a rancher that wants to get out of the business and just let the horses in the HMA use it. I don’t know though if BLM will proceed anyways to remove them to “manage” them to the low AML level using the land use plan as an excuse.


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