Returning to the Rear

Last week was the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang. o/ One of many playful fights in my family is over my mother-in-law’s favorite Mustang that my father-in-law sold out from underneath her. She’s never quite forgiven him. Especially when he eggs her on with little Matchbox replicas.

On the Ford Mustang’s auspicious birthday, Warren Cornwall published “Wild Horse Crisis” for Slate online magazine. The fight over real wild mustangs has never been so playful.

Cornwall’s article highlights a new management strategy that while cost prohibitive, seems effective and is generally supported by the ranching community and conservationists. The horses are shot with porcine zona pellucida vaccine (PZP): birth control medication. This strikes me as being a reasonable approach that everyone can get behind if we can just minimize the cost and properly fund it.

But horses are still not the problem.

Four years ago Deanne Stillman wrote an  article in High Country News, “We’re still throwing horses overboard,” as a well-written short history of the case for and against the ‘Wild Horse’ in America. Jodi Peterson followed up her essay with “We need a solution to too many wild horses.”

Jodi’s would-be coup de grâce to the wild horse went as follows:

These feral horses are creating a burden on public lands that are already over-used and exploited: The livestock industry gets federally subsidized grazing; the mining industry extracts billions of dollars in minerals while paying a tiny fraction of its profit in royalties. The damage that some 37,000 horses do may seem minor in comparison, but it’s damage nonetheless.

My response was Cows, Wild Horses, and What’s Left Behind was…

Since livestock and mining—without at all mentioning timber—industries extract billions of dollars while paying a tiny fraction of its profit in royalties… we’re supposed to do something about those damned wild horses? Since cows have harmed public lands, let’s get the horses out of the cows’ way? That’s logical [#sarcasm]: since oil’s spilled all over the Gulf, let’s go fire up some sea turtles. That makes as much sense as charging hikers for a walk in the woods instead of the timber industry for removing the woods.

We don’t need a solution to too many wild horses, Jodi; we need a solution to too much extraction by industries with too little accountability.

The problem is the same wasteful, irresponsible, conventional extraction from our public lands.

This year we’ve been stuttering over oil spills all over the place while entertaining the thought of approving XL pipeline through the middle of the US, cattlemen hating on wildlife management of desert tortoise habitat while a rancher defies the law, and the progressive state of Oklahoma approving taxation on renewable energy while those taxed have been giving them free energy. These are not the real representatives of American values.

Cattlemen, farmers and entrepreneurs I know personally and deeply respect are resourceful, respectable, civic minded people. They stand out as antithesis to the very industrial enterprises to whom they cast their vote. Their own business practices tend to be sustainable instead of wasteful, responsible instead of excessive, and ingenious instead of conventional.

That’s real America. And if we can’t be that, then eventually no one in this country will be wild and free.

Picture yourself in that Ford Mustang, the top down, headed into the sunset…

…your grandchildren waving goodbye…

…from somewhere in that hot, smoky parking lot behind you.