If you have read my posts on Facebook or have seen my picture in a search, the chances are very good you will see an image of me hugging a donkey. 

There are those who have accused me of some political reason for the pictures as if I was making a statement about the last election by feeding Eeyore a carrot! There is a lot of politics involved with Wild Horses and Burros, that are of a more serious kind. For me, it started as a Civic and Community project, and a way to “give back”. It ended up being a cause. 

Our alleged “dominion” over animals leads us towards arrogance, but it should serve also to remind us of our limitations. Mankind’s power over nature often serves to narrow the areas of our concerns, but it should also remind us of the richness and diversity of existence. Life in the world of humans can serve to corrupt our souls, but time spent with animals only cleanses. For nature establishes the basic truths that serve as the touchstone of our humanity. 

Among the issues facing our country at this strange time, is a quiet one that resonates most in our part of the land. The fate of the wild horses and burros that are a distinct link to our Western Heritage is not by any means certain, unless something is soon done.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 reserved between 53 million and 88 million acres for the preservation in the wild of what amounts to a national heritage species. The rights of these animals have been more often than not undermined, compromised, and denied by the Bureau of Land Management, and the bureaucrats charged with protecting them. 

The 1971 law mandates the preservation of this land for a populace of 30,000 wild horses and burros (if the estimation of the BLM) is believed, but most observers believe that this estimate is nearly twice that of the actual population (16,000) as of writing. One criticism of the agency is that it is very difficult to manage anything if you cannot or will not base policy on a real head count. Some activists assert an accurate one has not ever occurred. 

Current policies toward these equines appear to point to one of two futures, either driving the populations to cripplingly low, non-viable levels or for totally eliminating them from their legal areas. 

Even if one accepts that 30,000 wild horses and burros remain on the public lands, this populace hardly represents an ecological issue given the dictates of the 40-year-old public law, unless one believes their worst-case scenario ratio of one burro or horse per 1,766 acres represents an environmental catastrophe. Or if you support a return to America of a policy that allows horse slaughter. 

Our government’s current goal is to drastically reduce the already tiny wild herds and BLM seeks to remove 12,000 in this fiscal year, to go along with its ongoing sterilization programs. These animals that represent our regional and national heritage are being threatened by the agencies (BLM & USFS) charged with their protection, in the name of reducing an overcrowding of these species that does not remotely exist. 

This intolerable and ridiculous situation, mandates solutions that serve to preserve America’s wild horses and burros populations as viable natural herds throughout the West and to eliminate the cruel, ever escalating, and disruptive helicopter roundups and reproductive manipulations that are only making a mockery of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. 

Most animal-related charities in our country, saw the 2008 recession increase the need for their services as people are forced to relinquish and abandon animals they no longer afford, while donor bases are cannibalized by retrenchments in personal economic situations. But unlike other species, our wild horses and burros are being confronted by federal agencies dedicated to their destruction for reasons that pass all understanding.

I am proud to say, that I have come to love a lot of “jackasses”. Though these beings are (thankfully) not of the two-legged variety, I have learned more from their healing presence and wisdom than I can write in a single piece. And though words will never change the mind of a single stubborn mule, they have stolen my heart. A donkey is at heart a wise and cautious animal, but they cannot speak to issues as people do and therefore depend on our imperfect voice. 


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