For some people, wild horses don’t come to mind when someone says “endangered species”. Perhaps all those people should see James Anaquad-Kleinert’s documentary Wild Horses and Renegades, an expose that begins by telling the story of when Jameswas invited by horse advocate David Glynn to visit an area in the southwest corner of Colorado called Disappointment Valley.
During his first visit, James observed a magnificent and rarely paternal band stallion called Traveler. Disappointment Valley is Bureau of Land Management (BLM) territory and the National Mustang Association asked the BLM, in advance of their next “roundup” to make sure Traveler was NOT removed, and they said no problem.
The BLM is a federal agency that oversees public lands in the American West. They own approximately 280 million acres in this area, including Colorado. A roundup is when helicopters fly close overhead, scaring the band of horses, essentially leading them to a trap. They happen throughout remote parts of the US, and are mostly unmonitored. These roundups are often executed roughly, leaving the horses scarred, injured, and sometimes dead. From these roundups, the horses are taken to holding facilities, where they’re also met with substandard conditions, and many horses are then sent to slaughterhouses, although the government likes to use the more friendly term “euthanized”, where they are killed for meat. Sadly, only a few of these rounded up wild horses are adopted out of this inhumane situation.
During this roundup, James and some photographer friends witnessed Traveler and his “wife” separated from their babies, and put in a pen with other young, aggressive stallions. It became violent between the stallions and he was removed and sent to the Canon City Wild Horse & Burro processing facility. Upon inquiring about reneging on their promise, the BLM claimed no one was there to identify him. Canon City is appropriately coined the “prison capital of Colorado” since Traveler and the other wild horses are imprisoned just a short distance from the home of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski as well as Terry Nichols from the Oklahoma City bombings, and former inmate John Gotti. The horse holding facilities are overcrowded, disease prone, and sometimes the hay provided is moldy.
Interestingly enough, 8 months after roundup, the area in which those horses roamed was staked with 100 uranium mining claims. Under the 1872 Mining law, anyone can start staking claims and hording up federal lands on the prospect that there might be valuable minerals there. This isn’t the first time this has happened, however. Uravan, Colorado was once a preserve occupied by wild horses but has since become overrun with massive uranium radioactive waste tailing mounds. Wild Horses and Renegades goes on to reveal how millions of taxpayer dollars are being used to fund a “New Energy Frontier”, at the expense of wildlife and public lands, happening right in our backyard.
After the Telluride screening of Wild Horses and Renegades, Director James Anaquad-Kleinert, David Glynn, and horse advocates The Cloud Foundation (based in CO Springs) filed suit against the BLM. The suit, filed by Telluride attorney Diane Wolfson, asks the Court to declare the roundup illegal because the BLM has failed to comply with basic requirements, including giving proper public notice and providing adequate scientific evidence and justification for removal of wild horses from federally protected lands. The suit also accuses BLM helicopter roundups of being abusive, challenging the inhumanity with which BLM removes wild horses from the range and treats the captured wild animals afterwards.The group filing the suit is also requesting the following:
- Issuance by President Obama of a moratorium of roundups in all but verifiable emergency situations while the entire BLM wild horse program undergoes objective and scientific review
- An increase in the range of wild horses back to the areas they roamed in 1971
- Higher Appropriate Management Levels (AML) for wild horses on rangelands designated for them
- Implementation of in-the-wild management, which would keep wild horses on the range and save taxpayers millions annually by avoiding the mass removal and stockpiling of wild horses in government holding facilities
Wild Horses and Renegades includes guest commentary by celebs, including Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Daryl Hannah, Wendie Malick, and Viggo Mortensen, as well as politicians, historians, and activists. They are pleading for the public to take notice of this injustice and help to do something about it. (Click here to take action.) The doc is shocking, disturbing, and enlightening. It is inspiring to see others, both famous and unknown, speaking out to protect a species that cannot defend itself. On wild horses’ importance and the motivation for people to try and protect them:
“The linkages between cultures, between history, and the development of this nation –that’s the symbol. And it’s also the symbol of the spirit of this country: independent, kind of gutted out on your own to survive. I think it also speaks to the spirit of the American people. I think that’s why the public, overwhelmingly feels that these herds need to be protected, not eliminated.” –Congressman Raul Grijalva (D) Arizona, Chairman, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands
Wild horses, a timeless symbol of freedom and a cherished part of American history are indeed endangered. In fact, there are more American wild horses held in captivity than are free. I highly recommend you watch this and help if you are able.
Wild Horses and Renegades is one of the first films confirmed to be screening at the 34th Annual Starz Denver Film Festival, taking place November 2-13, 2011.
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*Thanks to www.theamericanwildhorse.com for information on the pending lawsuit.