Horse News

Wild Horse Wars

A series by: William E. Simpson II as published in The Sierra Nevada Ally


Wild horses in northern California – photo: Bill Simpson

The morning sun illuminated the Cascade-Siskiyou Mountains around my cabin in the wilderness. Just outside my window stood a beautiful wild mare with her new foal, and I wondered. Her mighty stallion standing watch nearby for any approaching predator, and again I wondered; will there be any of their kind left in America in 20-years?

There is literally a war being fought right here in the United States between Ranchers (livestock industry) and a handful of genuine wild horse and burro advocates who are trying to save native species American wild horses from extinction; at all costs. And yes, I could be considered an advocate for American wild horses and a plan to save them.

Some of us, including myself, are funding our efforts out of our own back pockets instead of asking others for money.

And there are a few ‘non-profit’ wild horse activists (not sanctuaries) making a very good living off the plight of American wild horses. These activists, who pay themselves handsomely from donation-income present a problem when it comes to implementing any genuine solution. These activists are faced with a conflict of interest; let me explain:

If the conflict between public land stakeholders and wild horse advocates is suddenly solved satisfactorily for a majority of stakeholders, then most of these well-paid activists would have to find new jobs. And therein is the problem.

That said, there are a few activist/advocates organized as non-profits still out there who work as advocates and activists for a pittance out of the sheer love they have for our native species wild horses, which are a National Treasure. One of the many such people that comes to mind is Mr. RT Fitch, a man whose love for wild horses and animals is sincere. He is one of the serious advocates who would be happy to work his way out of a job if it would save America’s wild horses. That, I admire.

As this series will reveal; there is corruption, death, raging wildfires, deadly toxic smoke, high adventure, and colorful characters, lots of them. Some people might say I am one of those ‘characters’ in the political and ecological rodeo swirling around America’s wild horses and their management on public lands.

But there is also hope through a unique, highly understudied, and misunderstood solution that has already been proven effective, but is being intentionally ignored by people in both the government and by a few organizations in the ranks of wild horse advocates and activists. That solution is called the ‘Wild Horse Fire Brigade‘.

You see, unlike most wild horse advocates or activists, I live among free-roaming native species American wild horses in a mountain wilderness, where I have been privileged to study them for the past seven years.

The first five years of my research have been condensed into an easy-to-understand Study, which has been published at the peer-reviewed online journal GrazeLIFE.

I have to say that living among wild horses has been an amazing and enlightening experience. But life isn’t easy in the wilderness and sacrifices have been and are continuing to be made in order to live in an area that is very remote and off-grid. Large predators, like mountain lions and bears that regularly kill adult horses, roam the area.

But lions and bears aren’t the deadliest killers; some people would agree that mankind holds that position. Nevertheless, recently evolved catastrophic wildfires are devastating the western landscape, its forests, and wild animals by the millions annually.

Losing approximately 10-million acres of forest annually in the United States, along with the tens of millions of animals annually, where 20-80 animals are killed per acre of wilderness landscape burned by catastrophic wildfire, is clearly not sustainable for very long. We may have already passed the point of no-return, assuring yet another great extinction event on the planet. Only this time, instead of a comet or meteor, it will be mankind’s fault.

During the 2020 wildfire season in California, one wildfire termed a ‘giga-fire’ consumed approximately one million acres of land! Much of the landscape incinerated contained forests and wildlife habitat. The result was that one fire, out of hundreds burning that year in California, killed millions of animals; some were endangered or threatened species.

In 2018, the toxic smoke from the 38,000 acre Klamathon Fire that raged around my wilderness cabin, claimed the life of my wife of 47-years. We stayed behind when everyone else left or was evacuated as the fast-moving wildfire approached our part of the mountains. We stayed behind because of the wild horses. We had no idea how free-roaming wild horses would deal with an oncoming fast-moving catastrophic wildfire, and we had some serious concerns from past experiences…(CONTINUED)

5 replies »

  1. Mr. Simpson, I am sorry for the loss of your wife, and even more sad to hear the circumstances, but kudos to you for your passion and efforts to find some new approaches to these gnarly and yes, fixable, problems.

    To that end, here’s a link to another sane but small step in the right direction: a letter asking our new DOI Director to address the manmade conflicts of allowing livestock grazing in the ever-shrinking (and only) areas our wild horses are legally protected and allowed to exist on our public lands. I encourage everyone to take a look at this, and sign on. The time is NOW to step it up if, like Mr. Simpson, we still expect our kids or grandkids to be able to see and share the inspiration of our America — which has always included wild horse.

    Letter to Secretary Haaland seeking livestock reductions in wild horse HMAs


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