- 1.(of a person, policy, or action) creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened: “be proactive in identifying and preventing potential problems.”
We have received a lot of questions about how we got to this situation with the wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We have also been asked why there are so many different organizations that claim to be advocates for these horses. The biggest question is always, “Why can’t all of the organizations work together to help save this herd.” Today, we received numerous emails and private messages as a result of posts on other pages. We hope that this blog post will help answer those questions.
One of the things that Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates (CHWHA) has tried to do is to be PROACTIVE in our advocacy for the wild horses that call Theodore Roosevelt National Park home. Members of our board have been advocating for these horses long before CHWHA was officially formed in 2021.
Early on we knew that the continued round ups of ALL of the young horses aged 4 months old to 3 years old would leave only older horses. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that continuing to support this practice would eventually mean that this herd would die off and cease to exist. This is something that if you read Dr. Castle McLaughin’s research paper on the history of these horses, you will see that Theodore Roosevelt National Park has been trying to get rid of the horses in the park from the moment they realized they fenced them in. (You can read her report in the library section of our website: https://chwha.org/library/)
In 2009, Colorado State University (CSU) started working with the Park experimenting on our horses with GonaCon.
No one spoke up for the horses. In fact, these other organizations that worked with the National Park Service (NPS) HELPED CSU AND throughout the experiment.
Dr. Dan Baker, head of the CSU experiment, said the following in a presentation at the Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Fertility Control Workshop in 2018: (You can view in the library section of our website): https://chwha.org/library/
“I’m concerned about one particular thing you know these horse advocates are very passionate about their horses and they care about what researchers do to them are you going to have our back if things go south and you know we cause more damage than then good.”
In 2015, the Park created partnership agreements with nonprofits solely for the purpose of getting their help to remove the horses. We received copies of those “partnership agreements” through a FOIA request (Freedom of Information Act). You can read those agreements in the library section of our website: https://chwha.org/library/.
Again, no one spoke up for the horses.
We questioned how any horses would ever be left if they kept taking all the babies and leaving only older horses.
The standard response from those nonprofits groups was always “The Park knows what they are doing. We don’t question the Park.”
In an effort to be PROACTIVE:
- Members of our organization started contacting our North Dakota federal delegates in 2018 asking for their help to save this herd.
- Members of our organization started numerous petitions and sent them to Senator Hoeven, Congressman Armstrong, and Senator Cramer’s offices as well as to Governor Burgum’s office.
- Members of our organization asked our federal delegates to help us get federal protection for these horses as early as 2018.
- Members of our organization reached out to congressman from other states asking for their help to protect our horses.
- We have ALWAYS talked to the press, trying hard to raise awareness for these horses. CHWHA has NEVER said “We have no comment.” to the press when they called. Yes, other groups have.
- Members of our organization contacted American Wild Horse Campaign and has been working with them since 2020 as we continue to fight to save this herd. We even invited the other organizations to work with us AND AWHC – that invitation was also declined.
Members of our board have been meeting with Theodore Roosevelt National Park to discuss concerns about the management of the wild horses since 2017. Those meetings with Blake McCann and Superintendent Wendy Ross included offering solutions to issues concerning the management of the horses. Those offers included anything that would help support the Park in their management of the horses including but not limited to helping to raise money for a proper management plan, to raising money and helping with responsible birth control for the horses.
When those personal meetings were not invoking change, in 2021, we hired the law firm, Eubanks and Associates. They thoroughly reviewed our claims, and this was from our initial correspondence with them in 2021:
“First, we recommend sending a letter to NPS demanding increased transparency in its management decisions, specifically calling on the agency to identify : (1) what formal decisions the agency has made regarding the management of wild horses, including how and why wild horses are classified as “livestock” under NPS regulations; (2) what level of NEPA review accompanies its gather decisions, including how its excess-horse determinations are made; and (3) how its decision to manage the herd at an arbitrary population level is consistent with its non-impairment mandate under the Organic Act. Our firm would be more than happy to assist Chasing Horses in the preparation of that letter, including sending it on our firm’s letterhead.
Second, because NPS’s lack of transparency has presented an obstacle to public understanding of its management of wild horses, and to our firm’s evaluation of potential legal solutions, we recommend filing a FOIA request to seek more information about the agency’s management regime. Our firm would be happy to help with this process as well.”
It is not out of the ordinary for advocates to ask for this information from federal agencies. The public has a right to seek answers from a federal agency that is funded by our tax dollars! CHWHA has refused to “step in line” with the Park like other nonprofit organizations have because what was being asked was working directly against the future health and sustainability of the wild horses that call Theodore Roosevelt National Park home.
In March of 2022, the Park FINALLY initiated a much-needed wild horse management plan.
Does the timeline compute? They were being asked uncomfortable questions for the first time in YEARS! The way to escape having to answer our lawyers or a judge in a lawsuit was to FINALLY DO THEIR JOBS and create a proper wild horse management plan.
We are now BEYOND petitions. They will not help. And who would you send them to? Governor Burgum? He already knows how many people want the horses to stay. Our North Dakota state legislators? They will NOT be in session again until 2025! PLUS they ALL know how much people support the horses staying in the Park. Our North Dakota federal delegates? Again, they are on our side!
Starting a petition now, in the midst of this public comment period, is ONLY creating confusion to people. They now think that signing onto this petition means that they DO NOT have to send a comment to the Park – yes, we received several messages on this now too. Again, the ONLY way that YOUR comment gets to the Park is through their website: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=167&projectID=105110&documentID=132035 and we need EVERYONE to comment!
IF contacting any of our legislators or starting a petition would help these horses, CHWHA would have made a “Call to Action” for that in a heartbeat.
There is simply no reason to bombard people who are already on our side.
The Park is engaged in a NEPA process, and that process has to play out.
Contacting your own personal federal delegates will not help because there is NO legislation for them to talk about. There is NOT even any legislation being drafted! Federal legislation takes YEARS to get passed, which is why we started asking for it in 2018! Go back to your Saturday morning civic lesson: https://youtu.be/OgVKvqTItto?si=UGJ2MvTgaWl3SrI9
Since these horses are NOT protected under the Wild Horse & Burro Act, Federal legislation is the ONLY thing that will protect the future of this herd and stop any further removal actions from the Park.
Contacting the ND legislators, who ALL support the horses, will not help because they CANNOT do anything until 2025!!
CHWHA TRIED!! Our ND legislators got called back for a special session last month. While our proposed legislation was one of the items introduced to the committee, our legislators decided to only work on the legislation they were called back to rework.
The other organizations stayed silent.
I also want to note that we have REPEATEDLY asked these organizations to work with us to help save these horses. They have CONTIUALLY SAID NO!
We even asked that if they refuse to work WITH us, please stop working against us!
Even that answer is a no, as you can see by the recent posts on their pages.
So now, after refusing to help us get state or federal protection for these horses in the past, and refusing to share any of our efforts to do that, they are all now throwing around our words like it was some NEW epiphany they just had.
MEMBERS OF OUR ORGANIZATION HAVE BEEN DOING ALL OF THESE THINGS SINCE 2017!!!!
The ONLY way you can help the horses now, is to make sure you send an educated, well crafted, SUBSTANTIVE comment to the Park by November 24, 2023 through their website: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=167&projectID=105110&documentID=132035 or by mailing it directly to the Park: Superintendent, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, P.O. Box 7, Medora, ND 58645..
It is A LOT easier than it sounds and CHWHA is helping you do that through our blog posts. There is also a wealth of information, including supporting documentation for you to use all in one place on our website: https://chwha.org/save-the-trnp-wild-horses/
Your substantive comment IS important because it becomes part of the public record, and that public record will be critical as we continue to explore our legal avenues.
We are in the beginning of a VERY LONG process. The fate of these horses will NOT be decided on November 24th. The Park will be back, probably next spring, with either their final decision in this matter OR they will state that they have to perform an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Once we know their decision, our legal team will advise us on what they suggest our next steps should be.
And yes, we have asked the other groups to be a part of our legal fight.
They all said no to that as well.