Wild Burros

Journalists are in love with cowboys, and so wild horses will die.

Source:  Vickeryeckhoff.com

Ryan Zinke, U.S. Secretary of the Interior

by Vickery Eckhoff

I’ve made a subspecialty out of writing to journalists about wild horses and, more importantly, cattle.

Below is a letter I wrote to Matthew Shaer of Smithsonian, whose May 2017 article, “How the Mustang, the Symbol of the Frontier, Became a Nuisance,”  is typical of how journalists cover wild horses. It is also typical of what senators can expect to hear today, June 21, when U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies before the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee in support of the Trump budget plan, which will lift Congress’ ban on removing protections for wild horses and burros and selling them for slaughter.

This is not journalism that speaks truth to power. My solution is to speak truth to journalism. Here’s my letter, dated May 5, 2017:

Dear Mr. Shaer,

I read your Smithsonian article, “How the Mustang, the Symbol of the Frontier, Became a Nuisance,” with interest. I have been writing about wild horse politics and roundups, as well as the livestock and slaughter industry and the related topic of subsidized public lands ranching since 2011 (for Forbes, AlterNet, Salon, Newsweek, HuffPo and my own web site, The Daily Pitchfork).

And I have to disagree completely with your article’s (and your sources’) claim of too many wild horses “eating ranchers out of house and home” and causing long-term damage to rangeland…


9 replies »

  1. There is a legal term for how the BLM operates. It is “Regulatory Capture”. Regulatory capture is a form of political corruption that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest instead advances the special interest groups’ desires that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure and it creates an opening for behavior in ways injurious to the public and in this case injurious to the wild horses and burros that belong to American citizens.

    In addition, the BLM is in clear violation of Title 18; falsifying legal documents. A few of many examples include, but are certainly not limited to, but prove this violation by the BLM’s statements of annual population increases such as the Buckhorn herd area 237% (71 total horses giving birth to 168 foals) in one year and the Black Rock herd area 418% (88 horses giving birth to 368 foals) in one year. Wild horses and burros have an ~eleven-month gestation period and give birth to only one foal. The above BLM annual population increase statements are biologically and mathematically impossible but this is the type of non-credible data being stated by the BLM and provided to Congress and to all of us. Another example of BLM’s mathematics is their statement that the Black Mt. herd area wild burro population before capture/removal was 175 animals and after they captured and removed 80 animals, the remaining population was 635! Since when does 175, minus 80, equal 635? There are many, many other examples of the false and highly deceitful data that BLM provides to the public and to Congress.


  2. A bit off topic BUT it points to the fact that the Smithsonian has a credibility problem and this isn’t the first time that this institution has been on the wrong side of history:

    Missing Architect’s Lasting Footprint (excerpts)
    By Benjamin Forgey
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    September 17, 2004;

    The Smithsonian Institution is “forever indebted to Douglas Cardinal for his work of genius.”

    So said National Museum of the American Indian Director W. Richard “Rick” West in response to a question at a news conference last summer.

    That single sentence ought to become the definitive, closing statement in the unhappy, convoluted tale of Cardinal, the Smithsonian and the design of the striking new museum on the Mall.

    Selected as the lead design architect in 1993, the prestigious Canadian architect was fired in 1998 along with GBQC, the Philadelphia firm he was working with. Another team of architects, including several of the Native American participants in the Cardinal group, took over.
    It was an extraordinary turn of events. Cardinal is an architect of extraordinary originality, perhaps the best-known Native American architect in North America. In the early 1990s his design for the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, just across the river from Canada’s Parliament Hill, opened to acclaim.

    The Washington job was to have been the crowning commission of Cardinal’s professional life. Instead, it became a bitter disappointment.
    At the time, the Smithsonian apparently didn’t understand how difficult and time-consuming it would be to construct a Cardinal building without Cardinal at the helm. The date of the opening, long scheduled for 2002, was pushed to 2004.

    Nor, initially, did the institution appear to respect the artistic integrity of Cardinal’s design. In April 1999, the Smithsonian submitted a revised design to the federal Commission of Fine Arts, and the commission rejected the more onerous changes. These included adding a pillar in the front of the museum to hold up those cantilevered bands that are a major part of the museum’s aesthetic impact today. Memorably, then-commission chairman J. Carter Brown called the pillar “ugly.”

    Cardinal today remains intransigent and inconsolable. He had to dismiss many loyal employees. He has often said he felt he had been exploited as a “Tonto.” He hasn’t gotten much credit for his work, which was crucial in every way to the building’s aesthetic success. His central role is hidden in a mountain of the museum’s opening press materials.


  3. Ok. So in reality the Cowboy as we All know it is gone. The actually term cowboy was regarding vagrants, vile, despicable people who traveled from job to job. That’s the actual definition of a cowboy. In the 80s I wanted to kinda make it a Designer thing to be a cowboy or a cowgirl. So we areas the word, it was a fashion statement to dress like a cowboy. Trends occur. And it did. The Cowboys of today are no longer what they used to be. The Cowboys of today are leisure time. The cow And may work skittle here and there tossing feed. The old honest days work for a cowboy is gone with the wind. In fact, it’s simply a fashion statement. Online cowboys and ranchers in the Old West simply dress up in layers of western clothing, sport a mustache from an olden days picture and viola they rant about hard work and reach social status. I know more harder honest working people who do everyday jobs with horses all over the US without going online to fret, condemn, and brag, who don’t wear a shred of cowboy attire but boots, blue jeans, the occasional hat and spend all their time working with their animals immersed into reality. Simply posing as a cowboy is a cute adage, but to really be good at what you fo, it requires modesty, honesty, integrity and not putting others down simply because you can. Online ranching and online cowboys put on a persona that allows them to gain strangers trust without actually earning it. Usually getting someone as angry as them because hate spread like wildfire on a dry forest with accelerant. The Cowboys of the time period that we fantasize about are quiet, brooding, nice guys. Fact is that’s not the real cowboys…and blending everyone together gives the angry agenda driven ones cover to hide behind. The Wild Horses are an agenda to those wanting the public eye right now. To be in the argument makes them feel as though the knowledge they Lack gives them power. As they recycle old stories of stock horses becoming Mustangs and Mustangs becoming feral they lost the truth. They spin tales larger than a ten gallon hat and farther than the eye can see. In reality cowboys don’t come from the Old West. They are everywhere, people who saddle up, rodeo, and ride. An internet cowboy knocks a person who doesn’t own a ranch yet I looked and over the past 4 decades the people winning the National and World titles are actually Not ranchers but talented horsemen and women from all over. Debunking the MYTHS are important. I also looked up statistically what makes competitors motivate. Is it history, fads, phases, or notoriety. In fact it’s something more important self gratification. To accomplish something for themselves to be proud of. The rest of the reasons fall in behind that. Online ranchers strive to tell the world ONLY THEY KNOW…fact is…..if only they knew something then we would Never had jobs for scientists, environmentalists, and politicians. The fact it’s Not them. Yes they live on a Ranch however most respected persons leading the horse arenas, chamoionships, technological, medical, veterinary breakthroughs don’t ranch at all. Yet without these advances ranchers would not exists. Without experts who thrive on expanding the productivity, horsemen changing usability and function of horses and cattle ranching would be obsolete.


  4. It’s the COWGIRLS that are making the news. They have come from all parts of this country (and the globe) to fight for our Wild Horses & Burros.

    Five Cowgirls Who Changed History

    Remarkable women from my visit to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.
    by Karen Braschayko

    At the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, you can learn about cowgirls who were famous and those who were not so famous. Even if you know their names, it’s a chance to discover more and see how their story fits into the chronicle of history.

    Velma Bronn Johnston, 1912-1977
    2008 honoree

    “I have given a great deal of thought to the matter in order to not appear hysterically over sympathetic and just another “do-gooder.”

    More famously known as “Wild Horse Annie,” Velma Johnston spent decades of her life fighting to protect wild horses. After enduring a childhood battle with polio that left her disfigured and permanently in pain, she experienced a moment on her way to her secretary job one morning that changed her course. A trailer of half-dead, injured wild horses were on their way to a pet food factory, and the sight of the poor creatures inspired her vow to help Mustangs. As she learned about the harsh roundups and cruel treatment, she began her legendary battle to preserve them from possible extinction.

    Johnston approached the issue with facts and realism, containing her passionate outrage so her message would be more effective. She created a sensitivity and space in the nation’s conscience for the issue.

    While society expected her to be a quiet housewife, Johnston took on Congress, fought powerful ranchers, and performed perilous vigilante missions to free wild horses. She encouraged children to write to Congress, and this campaign flooded the government with more mail than any issue besides the Vietnam War. The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act passed in 1971, largely due to her dedication and as an example of what one person can achieve in the political process. Her friend Marguerite Henry fictionalized the crusade in Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West. Johnston’s devotion made her a national hero and pioneered the movement to save American Mustangs that wages on today.


Care to make a comment?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.