The Wild Horse Act act celebrates its 40th birthday, but only a shell of its protections for America's herds remain
As near as anyone today can tell, America's wild horse herds never came anwhere close to Manhattan before they were either slaughtered or confined to dusty rangelands out West. And it is hard to imagine a venue more different from those rangelands than brick-lined Vanderbilt Hall, at the New York University School of Law, where on a rainy Wednesday night a group of 50 or so wild horse enthusiasts met to discuss the past, present and future of the mustang, whom author Deanne Stillman calls "North America's gift to the world."
Yet there we were. Among others, there was Dick Loper, the soft-spoken rangeland expert from Wyoming, trying to soothe some of the anger Easterners feel about the way wild horses are treated out West. There was Ross MacPhee, from the American Musuem of Natural History, come to remind the audience that the horse is a native species. And there was Deniz Bolbol, communications director for the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, who has chronicled some of the recent abuses America's mustangs have endured.
Sponsored by NYU's Environmental Law Journal and its Environmental Studies Program, the legal forum "Managed To Extinction?" was designed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the federal measure signed into law on December 15, 1971 by President Richard Nixon. At the time, Nixon cited Henry David Thoreau -- "We need the tonic of wilderness" -- when he pledged to protect America's wild horses from the human forces arrayed against them. Those were the days.