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