|"Run For Joy"|
Virginia Range Foal
5.5 by 8.5 inches Graphite on #110 Paper
As a Child, I read about Velma Johnston and how she was riding to work one day and saw a truck load of freshly caught Virginia Range wild horses in a truck heading for a slaughter plant. The animals had been run and wrangled to within an inch of their lives. In one account she said they were so bloodied by the way they had been chased, captured and handled, that blood was literally running through the floor of the truck and pooling on the ground around it.
She was moved to compassion as she understood the horror in which these animals had suffered in capture. Velma realized that something needed to be done to prevent this from ever happening again. Yet, it took 20 years, to rally the country, speaking at hearings before congress, convincing people. She had to encourage people through out the country to speak up with their convicitons that wild horses were worth saving as a cultural and historical symbol of our freedom and sacrifice in as Americans. The law Velma Johnston helped to put in place is called the Wild Horse and Burro Act.
The Wild Horse and Burro Act was originally passed and signed in to law in 1971. Today there have been several additions made to the law, so that even though it protects wild horses to some extent on public Federal land, it does make a provision with the Burns rider passed in 1995 to allow for the sale without provision* or waiting period and even the euthanasia** of healthy wild horses if they are considered excess. Keep in mind the director of the WH&B Act also has the right to create special sanctuaries as needed for wild horses, in addition to allowing for the adoption of wild horses to private citizens.
The national bill only deals with wild horses on federal public lands. State, and local government open lands are not covered under the Wild Horse and Burro act.*** These entities manage under their own laws and ordinances. There are a few exceptions. Special laws have been passed by congress to protect two herds of Spanish Colonial Mustangs in North Carolina. For some of the other herds on the East coast and central US, the horses are managed by non-profit groups where their numbers are kept in check and the horses are maintained in good health.
Today that same range where the Wild Horse and Burro Act started with Velma Johnston has no protection under the Wild horse and Burro Act. The reasons are as complicated as developing and passing the law its self. Keep in mind also, that from 1950 until her death in 1977, Velma Johnston worked tirelessly for all the wild horses around the Reno and Carson City Nevada Areas to help protect them at the state and local levels as well..
The very first thing to remember is that when the act was passed it stipulated that only wild horses that were on the Federal land at the time would be considered for protection and Horse or Herd Management area would be set up around the range that the horses already lived in at that time the act was signed.
This is where the first complication to setting up the Wild Horse and Burro Act comes in. The land was not continuous. Of course a wild horse doesn’t know this. A wild horse goes where the food and water is, based on seasonal availability. Sometimes that would be on state land, sometimes federal, and sometimes on private property.
Tomorrow: The Lay of the Land
To Read more about Velma Johnston here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velma_Bronn_Johnston
A special thank you to Mikel Hettrick for the reference photography.
* The official policy of the BLM has been for the last 10 years that no wild horses will be sold to any private citizen or business for the purposes of slaughter. Supposedly persons who defraud the government can be prosecuted including BLM employees who knowingly approve such sales.
** In 2010 the Congress of the United States wrote a section into the budget for the BLM preventing them from using any tax payer money to euthanize any healthy wild horse. As of this writing,there has not been a new budget written.
*** protection of wild horses on state and private lands varies state to state. In Nevada it is legal to round up wild horses with a state issued permit and sell them to anyone, including a meat processor.