Rob Pliskin

I first met Rob Pliskin at the Society for Range Management Conference in Reno a few months back.

Rob Pliskin with Duster and Mel (photo Tracy Gantz)

The conference is supposedly a dialogue toward solutions to issues surrounding the management of public range land. The conference provides continuing education credits for Bureau of Land Management employees. If you have the extra money order a copy of the event, it is pretty interesting. It has little gems on it that include Bud Cribley (last minute substitute for Bob Abbey) of the BLM admitting that the Salazar plan was created because of fear of ROAM. Repeatedly they express a lack of confidence in any Congressional legislation… often to laughter from the audience. A priceless statement to the credibility of the event, Sue Wallis was the Ethics speaker at the conference (OK, stop choking). But I’m getting off track.

I was told to look for Rob that he might have some questions. He sat next to me for the entire second day. (Three day conference). I watched Rob become increasingly vocal and passionate.

Rob Pliskin is a volunteer for the BLM. You may differ in opinion on some of his positions, you may not. In truth we all have subtle differences that in the big picture wont amount to anything if current protocol does not stop now.

I asked Rob if he would send me a copy of his speech from DC and a photo.

These are Rob’s words….

Rob Pliskin (photo by Mom and Tom)

(First, let me say, don’t ever introduce yourself as “just a volunteer.”  Like “hi, I’m Rob Pliskin, I’m just a volunteer for….”  You people who volunteered to come here are the most important horse people in the world today.)

(Now, look behind me.  What do you see?  I see the powerful flanks of the horse that General Lafayette rode in on, helping to bring a positive change to a new America that needed some help.  Remember that, because in a few minutes I am going to ask you a question about the horse we Americans rode in on.)

Since 1998  I have had the privilege of my life. To be a volunteer for the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Program, gentling wild horses and burros at BLM corrals, in adoption events around the west, and in workshops that teach the public about gentling them. Here is my BLM Volunteer I.D. badge right here.  I am wearing it throughout our events.   I say this is the privilege of my life, because on one level or another, every one of these horses let me meet them where they live, and some of them despite their superior size, strength, speed, agility, and brains, even trust me enough to put their heart in my hands.

Ironically to some people, this privilege came to me from President Richard Nixon in 1971 when he signed the Wild Horse Annie act into law, protecting our American wild horses and burros.  It’s he, and all the good BLMers I know, because there are some, who I can thank for this badge.  It’s hard for me to tell you this right now, I used to wear this badge proudly, but today I just can’t.  I can no longer look at this badge, without seeing that it is terribly tarnished.

Today, while I still wear it, and these horses still courageously give me their hearts, the BLM lets men and women with steel and dollar signs in their eyes and blood in their throats remove wild horses from their own federally protected lands.  And we pay the BLM to do it with our tax dollars.   Some of these same men and women will tell you, you know, out on our western lands, we have a real horse problem.  Right there is where I stop listening.  Because in my experience, a lot of what you learn in horsemanship from the horses, you can apply to the rest of life.  And you know what?  People don’t have horse problems. Oh no.  Horses have people problems.  And our wild horses have people problems too, with the govt. that is supposed to protect them.

We can ask important data based questions about this.  Like, why did the BLM take away over 19 million acres of wild horse areas and let even more cows and sheep back on some of them, but no horses?   Or, why did our BLM management team have to kill 79 wild horses and cause 39 mares to abort their foals in the recent Calico Complex roundup, and pay a contractor over 697 thousand dollars to help them do it?  If you had a nice big ranch and 118 of your horses were killed by your own crew in just a few weeks of work, would your manager still be working for you?  Would you have paid them 697 thousand dollars and just gone on business as usual?  Or would you be saying hold everything, we need to take a serious look at how we do things around here, and nothing moves until we do.

Make no mistake, Federally protected lands in the Great Basin are YOUR ranch, the wild horses that live there are YOUR horses, and YOU pay the BLM with YOUR dollars to do what they do with YOUR horses every day.

There are too many questions like these whose answers the BLM offers just make this badge dirtier and dirtier.  They betray the horses they are supposed to protect and they betray the American people.  Doesn’t a horse just want a leader who is honest, kind, and effective?  BLM, if you want to lead, then you need to start telling the truth.

Let me close now with that one question I told you to remember I was going to ask.  In the words of Deanne Stillman, author of Mustang, why are we, a cowboy nation, destroying the horse we rode in on?   President Obama, I ask you why?  Secretary Salazar, BLM Director Abbey, Wild Horse and Burro Program Director Glenn, why are we killing our horses and removing them from their own ranges when we are supposed to be protecting them?   And what’s the name of the agency charged with this duty to protect?  The U.S. Bureau of Land Management.  And what does U. S. spell?  It spells US.  It is up to us, all of us, to protect our horses.  It always has been up to us.

Richard Nixon described wild horses as America’s living legacy, which deserved protection “historically.”  Instead, the history our president, our Congress, and the BLM write today takes wild horses away to the tune of millions of our dollars every year.  So I ask you, in closing, please, pray for the wisdom we need to write a different history.  I ask you as a citizen or a leader to act with that wisdom, and protect our horses.  If in your native language,  you have a horse song, I ask you to sing it for the horses.  So that they may be protected.  So that we may all act rightly.  So that one day, this badge – this badge – will be redeemed.  If you believe in Change for America, then believe in Change for America’s Wild Horses.  Thank you very much.

P.S. Rob just sent me this:

Tonight is Erev Pesach, the Eve of Passover — an old festival celebrating freedom from captivity.  Tonight, let’s remember the wild horses and burros.  We can’t celebrate freedom with them yet.  So we continue to work towards their modern day exodus, repairing the world in their name, until we can. They can’t say Let My People Go, so we will say it for them.
Here is the March 29 reading from Joyce Sequichie Hifler’s A Cherokee Feast of Days. Imagine that it was written for the horses and burros and us as their voice this night. (Stanzas mine)
Nothing ever quite remains the same —
But a time comes when we have to
Follow new guidelines and think new thoughts
And do new things.
It does not take a superhuman,
But it does take a believer —
A worker with ears to hear and eyes to see —
Not just the physical but the spiritual.
We cannot take for granted that any other human
Can have accurate perception and spell things out
For us.
The miracles are not all in other heads, other hands,
Other methods.
There must be a burst of inner fire that sparks a miracle,
That opens a door to a greater life,
A greater calm.
We are never so blind as when we close ourselves off
By our critical views, our hardened hearts, our failure
To perceive the greatness of gentle things.
O friend, look away from lack and need and pain.
Alter your vision and it will alter life.
O, great blue sky; see me roaming here.  I trust in you,
protect me!
As if they could talk, and all of us could listen,
Rob Pliskin


25 thoughts on “Rob Pliskin

  1. Rob Pliskin says:

    Thanks so much for getting the message out Laura. The photo is by Tracy Gantz, for an article she wrote about mustangs in the October 2006 John Lyons’ Perfect Horse Magazine.

  2. Thank you so much, Rob Pliskin. You have said this from within a viewpoint few of us will ever have. You love and respect the wild horses and this makes you their man. It is a wonder that you went to DC and said this but your integrity tells me you had to. I respect your work and your stance and am proud a man of the horses has come forward and put his word on the line. You are the best of all volunteers. You reveal your heart. mar

  3. Linda H says:

    This speech put a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes last Thursday, and it’s doing it again today. Thank you Laura for putting it up, and thank you Rob for your heartfelt message and your challenge to us all. I feel privileged to have met you last week and have shared that experience.

  4. Lisa LeBlanc says:

    Rob Pliskin for Secretary of the Interior!!!

    Thank you, Mr. Pliskin, for reminding me that the Bureau is a bureau but contains living, feeling humans within. Hopefully more of them than we hear about. And hopefully, more we will hear from in the future.

  5. Barb S says:

    Add another advocate that got tears in her eyes last Thursday hearing Mr.Pliskin delivering this powerful speech. Thanks so much for publishing the speech here so I can read it and pass it on.

    • Laura Leigh says:

      After meeting Rob last fall and watching his voice develop I thought it was important to share it with those that couldn’t attend.
      There were many wonderful familiar voices… Ginger, Hope, RT, John Holland, Deniz Bolbol… I could go on and on.
      But so many people asked me who Rob was.
      Now they know.
      : )

  6. sandra longley says:

    Thank you Rob, your input is very important to the discussion..No input is more valuable than “boots on the ground”-would like to hear more of your impressions and ideas. Being a westerner, I have traveled most of the country where the wild horses live and lived among them on ranches back before all the big roundups cleaned house- before the first bill was passed in 1971-I saw horses mangled from the airplane roundups..more cruel than what we see today..with the possible exception of the calico roundup..So I agree entirely with the cause and effect of the ROAM bill, except that this began under the last administration in 2002..I think there is a panic to get it done now-so that nothing stands in the way of the massive energy leases and projects being planned and implemented..I point to the Ruby Pipline as a prime example..It is due to start early April, there was a need to get all those horses rounded up before they were seperated by a 40 ft deep trough 600 miles long that runs tru many HMAs..This is a result of “fastracking” decisions from above. A very bad decision in my opinion.

    • Sandra, The pipe is laid about 10 to 12 feet deep. This comes from an experienced pipeline worker. Pipe itself varies in size for many reasons. Right of way also varies in distance. mar

      • Anna says:

        hello are you discussing the ruby pipe line?

        true; gas pipe lines may be thin and not too intrusive

        but don’t forget this;

        the Gas mine itself runs 24/7 and produces flames and fire burning gas 24/7 . . .

        just watch the video “Dissapointment Valley to see pix of what a gas mining is ! very dangerous !

        for example; a natural pipe line in Conn. “exploded this spring and 6 conn. workers lost their lives…

        then couple that with the Virginia mine disaster (27 perished)

        and compound that with the Oil leak in Louisiana;
        (11 perished…that’a bout 40+ men who perished due to gas or oil mining explorations…

        “not good…”; these co.’s “destroy wildlife and places!

  7. sandra longley says:

    Laura, I would love to have a link to go to so I could purchase the results of this conference..thanks

    • Laura Leigh says:
      This is the pdf of their “findings.”
      It is inaccurate to the actual discussion

      Big example is that wild horse “disposal” for tribal lands is becoming an issue now that their are no slaughter facilities. I gave the facts that slaughter still exists and has not diminished.
      Arlin with the Yakama in WA was belly aching that he wasn’t allowed to open a slaughter plant and even blamed wild horses for decreased salmon populations.
      If you get it keep all sharp objects out of reach and keep a pillow handy to scream into.

      This is their headquarters.

      I did not order a copy because it was $80.00
      It was 3 days long. I believe they have about 14 hours of footage.

      But I was present and rather vocal.

  8. Rob Pliskin says:

    I’d like to thank everyone for their kind words and for what each of us does for our horses and burros. It is a sweet surprise to read your comments. Keep doing what moves you. Thank you Laura for providing a “place” we can all come together and share thoughts, words, and ideas for moving forward.

    A note about the Reno conference Laura mentioned. It was scary and real. If you need more motivation to get energized, find out as much as you can about it. She was Daniella in the Lions’ Den. Too bad she had to be, but it’s true. If you get the cd, just spread the word.

    There really are bloodthirsty people out there who see the horses as nothing more than excess product, pestilence, or profit. You can sit in the same room with them and share microphones. You can eat at the same lunch table with them. In fact, it might do everyone some good if you did.

    One of the things that particularly bothered me about that conference was the constant reiteration that it was “inclusive of all voices,” when there was not one public advocate on the speaker’s list, or anywhere on the agenda. And we have so many clear, intelligent, trained, and experienced voices.

    So, the next chance you have, I’d say you might want to get to one of these, and consider standing up. It’s been too long that the the horses and burros haven’t had a voice. Let’s all make it, “not any more!”

    Thanks again for the kind words, Rob

    • Laura Leigh says:

      I want to thank you for your kind words and taking a stand in public the way you have. It takes integrity…

      Yes, the conference was troublesome with the continued reiteration of a “unified” opinion when it did not exist in that room.

      I was actually approached by several ranchers after the conference that were very interested in the concepts I tried to address, like Reserve Design. Many of them are open minded to problem solving but the entities that “control the room” never allow for real discussion.

      Hopefully that venue is in the future… before it’s too late.

      • Laura and Rob, When are more of these conferences scheduled??? Then we can be sure to have people attend and speak up. We also need a list of references for Reserve Design; books, articles and history. Our researchers need to have this and I for one want a place to read and come to grips with this so I can explain it to someone else accurately.
        If some one can find a schedule for conferences, lease post it… mar

  9. Tom Gorey says:

    I never attended this SRM conference, much less spoke at it.

    • Laura Leigh says:

      Hi Tom.
      I changed it in the article to Bud Cribley. Bob Abbey was supposed to attend and at the last minute they passed the buck down the food chain.
      I made an error.
      We were all expecting Bob Abbey and his name was printed on the agenda. When the buck gets passed like that.. I’m sorry… but sometimes it feels from out here like the “who” or even the “what” that is delivered to the public has no consistency.
      As long as you are here can I please extend an invitation to you to continue to post on my blog?
      If you see anything in error, or have anything to add to the discussion, I will not edit nor delete anything you want to address.
      It would be nice to have regular input from the same source to just “regular” people.
      Thank-you for posting.
      It has been a long week and trying to get the correct information out to the public about the current outbreak of Pigeon Fever at the Broken Arrow has been my focus of attention. If you have anything to add in reference to the scheduled adoption event and the issue of Pigeon Fever please post.
      Again I thank-you.

  10. Rob Pliskin says:

    Hey Laura, I didn’t know you talked with ranchers at the SRM Conference about Reserve Design. That gives me a new perspective. I am glad you posted that. Even if the Big Mouths want you to think the line sounds uniform, this is a reminder that there are reasonable voices and minds everywhere. You just stay on point and keep looking for them.

    • Laura Leigh says:

      One in particular stands out… he stopped me in the hallway, shook my hand and said “We are all going to have to just live with whatever they hand us… but you sure kept it interesting.” He asked what was that “Reserve thing” I was talking about and did I think it could work. We talked for a minute and he said “Get back in there and give ’em hell.” Then he left because he said he had enough of the suits.
      : )

      The biggest issues I believe are two.
      One is language. Sometimes it feels like being a translator for people speaking in different tongues, but they all speak English.

      The other is the “historical mindset.” There is an analogy that my mom used and I thought it was interesting.
      She said that what we are up against is like “racism.” It would be like the law giving women the right to vote. And then jurisdictions setting up segregated voting booths and counting each vote for half and saying “but we are following the law.”

      It’s an interesting analogy that hits the “old boy” nail on the head.

      I do believe there are “open” minds everywhere… it’s just finding the right vocabulary.

  11. Linda H says:

    I recently interviewed two ranchers, one in WY and one in MT who both have not much positive to say about the BLM. And judging from their comments, they are not alone. I broached the subject carefully, not knowing that their responses would be. But they would rather pay $21/cow-calf to lease private land than even mess with the BLM offices. They have lots more to say on the subject. One is a young family rancher and the other one is a 3rd-generation family rancher and both sympathize with our cause and our frustration. So yes, there are open minds out there–just finding them and the right vocabulary is the challenge.

  12. From reading comments by ranchers I think they want us to have sound management offerings and not leave them out. They keep challenging us to come up with effective new management and they will support it. There have always been those who want the horses to stay as they are seen as the local heritage. What you say, Linda is what I have had experience with. Those who live in wild horse country should be sought out and brought into the process.
    The image of ranchers who want to destroy horses is not a majority, I think.

    • Laura Leigh says:

      There are REAL alternatives to current protocol that would NOT require new legislation. But the basic information… like overlay maps to “make it real” do not exist.

      I have asked for them so many times….
      You are given a geo-cities link. You would have to create the overlay yourself. It would be a full time job for a year.

      It is amazing that they claim to “manage” the land without one.

  13. BLM always had maps when I was close to people working for them in New Mexico in the 80s. They had their own maps and books that were updated yearly; artifacts and ancient dwellings and petroglyphs, etc, Cattle leases and all manner of things. We need FOIA for up to date maps. I would think they must have to give anyone in a lawsuit the exact info they have as that is required by the court… mar

    • Laura Leigh says:

      They give you an answer… and it is to go build one on geocities. They do things that create the need to rescale each lease or permit and then overlay it onto the original HA.
      Or you could drive to each field office….

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