Manifest Destiny and Ken Salazar

I recently stumbled across Barbara Clarke’s blog, she operates Dreamcatcher, a wild horse sanctuary. Her excellent post speaks about Ken Salazar and his attitude toward wolves, wild horses and other wildlife. I thought it was worthy to repost her take on why the Secretary of the Interior, who is charged with the care of our wild lands and the animals who inhabit them, is practicing the opposite of good stewardship.

It was Ken Salazar, a fifth generation rancher, appointed by the Obama administration, that delisted the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies, which caused the death of hundreds of wolves in state sponsored wolf hunts. Over five hundred wolves died in the Northern Rockies in 2009 and more brutal hunts are planned if Judge Molloy doesn’t relist them.

It’s Ken Salazar who is directing BLM to round-up our mustangs, chasing them with helicopters in the blazing heat, literally frightening some of them to death, than squeezing them into holding pens (horse jail). Why is this being done?  Barbara Clarke answers that question.

by Barbara Clarke
February 8, 2010

“In a recent documentary about the problems involved with the reintroduction of the nearly extinct Mexican wolf, a rancher was quoted as saying “we don’t want them”. No science. No statistics. No reason or clear argument. Just “we don’t want them”.

That statement is the crux of the whole problem facing animals in the west today and the basis for Ken Salazar’s opinions as to how to manage the dwindling herds of wild horses. The ranching community still believes in the notion of manifest destiny: the right to claim the west for human endeavors.

And this is no small notion. For Salazar, a product of five generations of ranching, the belief that the west belongs to ranchers and by extension cattle, is deep and pervasive. For over one hundred fifty years the livestock industry, by sweat and blood, has clawed its way across the continent in search of the ever needed forage for hungry cattle and sheep. This neo-exploration was and still is backed by the government through subsidies and ridiculously low grazing fees.

And even though the prairies and rangelands had once supported millions of grazing wildlife including buffalo and mustangs, by the beginning of the twentieth century the once lush rangeland west of the Mississippi had been reduced to stubble, with native grasses obliterated and alarming damage done to waterways.

Anything and anyone that threatened this quest for manifest destiny or was seen as competitors for forage, was soon eliminated. Native Americans were pushed off of ancestral lands and whole species were slaughtered in the name of protecting livestock and grazing. Wolves, coyotes, eagles, bears, ground squirrels and wild horses all found themselves in the cross-hairs of powerful weapons with the full support of our nation’s leaders.

The American government wanted the west. The ranchers gave it to them. And in no small way this has made cattle and all the issues surrounding them, politically untouchable.

So it is no surprise that with the appointment of a fifth generation rancher to head the Department of the Interior, the president, who espouses change – but is granting a $26 million dollar increase in budget for Salazar to remove horses – has opened the door to an increase in the agonies that accompany manifest destiny. Wolves, coyotes, ground squirrels and wild horses are fighting for their very lives.

Wild horses, which have a clear fossil and DNA linage to our continent, are being pushed off of lands set aside for them by congress in unprecedented numbers in the dubious name of saving them from starvation or protecting eco-systems. Yet observers at roundups continue to see healthy horses being captured, thriving rangeland and most notably, no decrease in the number of cattle allowed to graze the same supposedly sensitive areas.

This rush to sweep the wild horses off the rangeland has the full support of Salazar. And why not? When he looks at the mustang, he sees them through a hundred and fifty year lens of ranching. Wild horses are competitors for forage, inhabit areas wanted for mining, the powerfully backed Ruby Pipeline and California Heliostat projects, and do not generate hunting fees. So Salazar wants them removed. But not only removed, he wants them transplanted back east……somewhere, on pseudo-sanctuaries, at a cost of $96 million dollars, where he believes people will actually pay to watch once wild horses eat grass all day.

His plan, therefore, to move them to areas in the east, is not surprising, nor is his revisionist view of wild horse history. It is the final chapter in the long saga of claiming the west. Soon the horses, like the buffalo and the wolf and so many other beings, will be mere shadows of the species they once were. And our president, and his appointees, can go down in history as those who stole the magnificence of the west from our children.”

Photo: Manifest Destiny Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Wolf Wars, biodiversity

Tags: Ken Salazar, gray wolves, wild horses, Manifest Destiny

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The goverment either, federal or state, haven’t changed.They say one thing and mean another.Any thing to keep in office,Look at their benifets.They kiss the babies during their re-election only to take their suckers away after.They don’t keep their promises and if they do, at what cost to the people that live in that state or in our country. What was sacrificed in order to optain it?There could be a strong probability alot of backroom deals being made,that we will never know.The BLM has been corrupted for years and Salazar was to fix it.Don’t see that happening any time soon.I am just mad about what is happening to all the wild life and thank you for putting up with my rant.


  2. Great post!


    • Thank you kt, I think Barbara said it all.



  3. My God
    What kind of people think this way? (we don’t want them)
    I am so sure people who own this planet. Or they think they do. Who give them the authority to choose what they want or no i am asking WHO?
    I dont care. If they want a planet to own let them live from this one because us we dont want THEM. All this people who screaming and acting like spoiled little children’s come on grow up you dont have any power we give you the opportunity to do something for the greater good for us not for your own profit…


  4. Why can’t we get Salazar out of office? He actually was a Bush appointee and was kept on by the obama administration for reasons that are puzzling. He has been in office way too long with devastating consequences for our wildlife.

    Our family has lost faith in so many organizations that claim t be protectors and supporters of or wildlife because they seem to do nothing more than take our money only to send us more tragic stories and more requests for money. They send us horrible
    pictures, petitions, and “stuff” we don’t want.

    We want to know why there is not a greater push to get some of this covered on network television or in prominent periodicals. Otherwise, it seems that they are just “preaching to the choir” and that is simply not accomplishing much of anything.


    • Hi Carl and Janice,
      You are so right about Salazar, he needs to go. Wildearth Guardians has a petition calling for his removal.

      The state game agencies are not going to automatically give up the way they do things. They are happy the way things are. They work to please hunters and hunters pay licensing fees which flow into state coffers. The only way things will change is if wolf advocates press for change. Not just by typing on the Internet but getting out there in the real world, meeting each other and forming Wolf Warrior chapters that will work to change the way business as usual is conducted.

      These are the goals of Howling for Justice and Wolf Warriors. I know it’s ambitious but change is never easy. Yesterday Wolf Warriors had a table at the Jackson Browne concert in Bozeman Montana, giving out information, introducing ourselves and taking our internet campaign into the real world.

      So stick with us, we hear you. As wolf advocates we can work together to change the way wolves are treated and “managed”. It will take time, change doesn’t happen overnight but we’re in this for the long haul. The first positive step will be Judge Molloy relisting the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies, then we can move forward to push for the Center for Biological Diversity’s national wolf recovery plan.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


  5. While there are fossil remains of ancestral horses to be found on this continents the wild mustangs bear only the most tenuous relationship to them. Equids in the Americas died out completely some 10 to 15 thousand years ago. Wild mustangs are not, in anyway, native to this continent and are actually descended from Iberian breeding stock. This stock is genetically separated from the ancestral population by some 2.6 million or so years. This branch of equus evolved, in the old world, to the modern horse we know today. It is this european horse that was reintroduced to the new world at least ten thousand years after the last native horse species died out. As an introduced species with less than 400 years in the ecology it’s tough to argue that these are natural inhabitants of these ecosystem. I’m not saying they should be rounded up and disposed of – they are an integral part of the American experience. However, any argument for their protection should be based on facts and not poorly thought out supposition. If you really want to make an impact look at revising the more ambiguous aspects of the 2009 ROAM act.


    • Our wild horses, brought to this continent by the Spanish, hundreds of years ago, have a rich history in the Americas. The great horse culture of the Plains Indians, sprung from their arrival. Horses helped to build this country, they went to battle with us, pulled our plows and helped found America. I really don’t care how tenuous the connection is between the horses that died out 10 to 15,000 years ago is. I’m sure your ancestors haven’t been in this country as long as the our wild horses have and if they have should we discount you as an American because you came from somewhere else?

      Our wild horses are a treasure to be preserved and were afforded protection and land in 1971 by Congress. Now the greedy cattle industry and big oil companies want to run the horses off THEIR land because they’re in the way. I say get the cattle off the horse’s land and let them live in peace. There are over 110 million non-native cattle that graze our public and private lands, destroying watersheds, mowing down native grasses. I think you should concern yourself with that threat to western lands, not the tiny number of mustangs left in the wild. This is an outrage and a promise broken by Congress to protect these horses. I’m also well aware of the ROAM act so I don’t need to be schooled on that either.



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