Could Deb Haaland Be The Change Environmentalists And Animal Advocates Have Waited For?

Deb Haaland visiting farms in New Mexico in 2019

Deb Haaland visiting farms in New Mexico in 2019

Decidedly a year of firsts for women, President Biden’s appointee as Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, created another historical moment in the White House when she was sworn in by Vice President Harris on March 18, 2021.

The word first keeps inserting itself into the dialog: the first woman elected to the vice president’s office, the first woman of color, first Native American. Indeed, this is a pivotal moment in time. 

A member of the Pueblo Laguna tribe in New Mexico, Haaland brings Native Americans full circle; in 1851, Alexander H. H. Stuart, Secretary of the Interior, stated that the  American Indians “were encompassed by an unbroken chain of civilization and the only alternatives left are to civilize or exterminate them.” 

civ·i·lize (/ˈsivəˌlīz/) verb

  1. bring (a place or people) to a stage of social and cultural development considered to be more advanced.

To civilize is to make someone or something more tame or refined and less wild.

I suppose it also depends on your idea of what is socially and culturally advanced, especially if extermination of a people is considered an alternative.

170 years later, Haaland, a descendant of those indigenous peoples, has taken an oath to serve not only those who relate to her as a Native American but also to serve every one of us. 

Different circles of citizens – those who want better protections for the gray wolf, who wish to see climate change addressed, and those who would like to see America’s wild horse herds protected – have found new hope in Haaland’s appointment. And now, there may be a glimmer of hope for all of those issues as well as others.

Nearly 500 million acres of federal lands and 1.5 Billion acres of offshore waters are now under Haaland’s watch. 

On December 18, 1971, Richard Nixon signed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act into federal law.  The Act was supposed to protect both wild horses and burros from “capture, branding, harassment, and death.”  

Ironically, the same government entity signing those protections into law is the same government entity abusing those animals who are supposed to be protected. In actuality, the Bureau of Land Management  (BLM) has become the wild horse’s worst enemy, not their savior. 

Wild horses rounded up by helicopters.  Visit our story about the AWHC to learn more about this practice and the more humane alternatives being explored.  © Kimerlee Curyl Photography.

Wild horses rounded up by helicopters. Visit our story about the AWHC to learn more about this practice and the more humane alternatives being explored. © Kimerlee Curyl Photography.

Helicopters are used for roundup chasing herds for miles on public lands designated as home for these wild equines. Mares lose foals, and injuries occur, resulting in euthanization. They are then penned with their lives forever changed if they live through capture. Warehoused indefinitely in government holding facilities or rented pastures, the cost of doing so is exorbitant. 

Past controversies have included sales with the intent of slaughter, proposed horrific methods of sterilization (mares having ovaries removed, and yes, you read that right), and endless accounts of death due to inhumane roundups.  

America’s obsession with beef and the cattle industry lobbyist has significantly influenced how the White House views the issue. Those in the cattle business will claim horses and burros are damaging public lands, but data from the BLM proved otherwise, but they no longer provide public view data.  Also, native predators of cattle are at risk as well. 

According to The Revelator, in 2019, there were almost 2 million domestics of all ages grazing on public lands. The cost to ranchers?  The Trump administration lowered the price to an all-time low of $1.35 from a previous $1.42 A MONTH. Each cow or cow with calf brings the federal government $1.35 a month in revenue; the cost is the same for every five sheep or goats.  The BLM uses data supplied by the ranchers to report numbers, and so totals are often under-reported or not reported at all. 

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland

While the acres allocated to grazing beef have increased, the acres for native wild horses and burros have decreased from the 53.8 million designated in 1971 to 31.6 million; cattle acres are 238 million.  Cattle account for 70% of public land domination and overgrazing. 

 The raising of beef for consumption in our country has contributed significantly to the environmental impact jeopardizing our public lands. Whether it’s the costs of eliminating wild horses so ranchers can profit or the enormous carbon footprint of raising cattle, the taxpayer is funding the demise.  

So whether it is the gray wolf, tainted waters, environmental concerns, or wild horse welfare, many – including Team HRL – took a deep breath when Haaland became appointed.  Her past performance has indicated that there might be hope in the White House for the issues at hand, and we welcome Deb Haaland’s presence and influence.

For more information regarding wild horse issues, please visit American Wild Horse Campaign and The Cloud Foundation.

Barb currently resides in Central Florida with her three horses; when she’s not writing or riding for HRL, she loves to read and travel.