Part II — Rewilding America’s Wild Horses

22 Jul

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  — Aldo Leopold

This secret thing that we all suppose is around somewhere or another . . . there is no secret. We are connecting the old and established, the well-researched, the obvious resolution, the climax, the ultimate instrument, the experienced occasion, the robustly gathered data, the interpretive realm of taking data and presenting it in our common English language, combined with the great science that makes headlines.

We wind this up into a ball of knowledge, and spread it out before the public at large, this thing, we call “Rewilding.”  It has got to do with years of working on conservation problems having to do with resource extraction, ungulates, and predators, and the land being connected to all, as one functioning organism.  This is Leopold at its best, but we have gone through that lands ethic, through the good times, the misunderstood times, and now the confusion over not just Leopold’s Lands Ethic, but the term conservation itself – hunters and trappers have an opinion based on no evidence at all, and attempt to change the terminology and definition of “conservation” – perhaps why the wildlife system of today remains broken and by a process that confuses conservationism with the lust of the kill, or sport of it all and the outright ignorance that goes with it.

What true conservationists realize is the fact that yes, we have made mistakes in the past, but showed us the value of what we were doing. This is a positive-and-negative Universe of ours and living within it and figuring out how to live among all this diversity of species, we experience the upside and the downside, learning from both.  This is what experience is meant to be.

Often, we were on the right track but regulated from misinformation and misunderstood how exactly evidence works within the bounds of data-interpretations, that is, until wildlife started to disappear, and disappear it did.  We can all admit reflection upon a lot of mistakes, but the overwhelming significance that developed into an awareness that every living thing plays a role and has ecological value – again, Leopold’s reasoning as well, becomes a very real circumstance.

The truth is resource management, even today, needs to shift from the focus on economics and extraction (economic ecology) to a more holistic view of a “biotic-community” or what the reality of it is, the view of maintaining and restoring all species, including large predators, the horse, the wolf…

Rewilding and Land Health

As we look at those today, in positions of responsibility attempting to take-away our Endangered Species Act, I cannot help but reflect upon its reasoning.  I experienced first hand the Spotted Owl venture, and agreed with-it, after I seen the tragedy of what Washington and Oregon State loggers were doing to our timberland’s and forestry. Where I used to drive along in comfort, up to Mt. St. Helens constantly and see heavy timber stands, suddenly become lunar-type bald hillsides and mountain tops. The mountain spirits spoke, loud and clear, when Mt. St Helens erupted, stating ENOUGH LOGGING! ENOUGH HUMAN INTERFERENCE!

At the same time research people found, for example, the value of downed trees, retention of standing dead trees, and of course the maintenance of Owl Habitats, which become an enlightening situation, but not just due to the obvious, but we become enlightened to the prominent growth of ignorance, and just how ignorant people could become over the Spotted Owl issues. This seemed to originate with a couple of very uneducated and ignorant talk-show hosts, that derived a large demographic from their ignorant and very biased views. Indeed, it showed us all the strength of stupidity, the isolated human-species, was something to pay attention to and not just shrug off as irrelevant.

Most of the variation in how the term ‘rewilding’ is used depends on the degree of human intervention in improving the functions and services provided by ecosystems that are “rewilded.” Rewilding strategies range from emulating the past by direct and intense human intervention, called “Pleistocene Rewilding” to attempting to foster the future co-existence of natural and anthropological systems with minimum human intervention, dubbed “Passive Rewilding.”

Advocates of Pleistocene rewilding propose introducing functionally equivalent extant species as substitutes for extinct taxa. Translocation rewilding shares the roots of Pleistocene Rewilding but focuses mainly on re-introducing species that occurred more recently than the Pleistocene.

At the other extreme of the human intervention gradient is Passive Rewilding, which requires little human intervention in order to allow ecological succession to reach a sustainable state within a landscape matrix of cities, infrastructure and croplands by exploiting opportunities provided by long-term socioeconomic trends, such as the release of lands for wilderness owing to rural abandonment.

Rewilding differs from simple reintroduction in that it is mostly concerned with reintroducing species that have a high potential to exert an influence across several trophic levels, under the assumption that such species will have disproportionally large and beneficial effects on communities and ecosystems. Generally speaking, the idea is to introduce a top predator (such as wolves) or a dominant herbivore (such as bison, or the wild horse, that both once roamed the Great Plains of the US or similar landscapes all across the America’s) and that these reintroduction’s will restore key ecological processes via top-down control (control of populations on a lower trophic level by activities at a higher trophic level, e.g. when predators control a prey population), return an ecosystem to a previous state or re-initiate key ecosystem functions.

“You’re only given one little spark of madness. Don’t ever lose that, no don’t. Because that’s what keeps you alive.”  – Robin Williams

The “nay-sayers” of trophic cascade science state Economic Ecology above all else and find there may not be a controlled-financial aspect within this structure. Myself and others find that it is unneeded, and always has been. But this brings up another situation, those against Ecological Habitat Empowerment, and that is the element of “Change”.  And this alone scares the hell out of many people, many administrators of wildlife, as they sit within their broken system of wildlife management, their sadly antiquated belief system with their attempts to manipulate good science by financial profit margins, which does not work at all – as the ideology of both are totally different, totally inadequate to support the other.

Trophic Cascade Science

This biodiversity tool creates change for those destroyed habitats’ where a single-species priority, such as cattle was the norm, and everything else was killed-off to better promote the graze for the cattle. What trophic cascade effect develops is an ecological habitat strength, ecosystem resilience and an established persistence over time.

Can we work wild horses within this paradigm?  Absolutely. The fact is that to maintain diversity within any ecosystem enhances their ability to recover naturally, which also means moderation in all species birth rates (E.O. Wilson explains this thoroughly and often to initiate communication between those administrating people, ironically in charge of wildlife management, and those that strive toward ecological health as a priority through better management paradigms) do develop within a natural circumstance. When all is said and done, the ability for an ecological habitat to recover naturally after a disturbance is governed by the diversity upheld within the habitat itself. This provides resources for truthful multi-use of Pubic and Federal Lands situations, and not just a statement that is meant to merely cover-up corruption, as the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior currently use these terms commercially, rather than to actually manage our Lands, our environment, within a context of a positive nature.

What has been lost is the fact we, as taxpayers, pay for the separation of our Public and Federal Lands to keep them non-commercialized, as our cities and townships commercialized enough. The situation of “Raw-Material” commercialization has over-flowed into what we, as American’s felt was our lands, our areas of remoteness to enjoy as American’s, and lands we had fought for and were proud of sustaining – separate from the drudgery of the common commercialized world – and to actually step in cow-shit while camping, was and remains unacceptable!

Make no doubt there are challenges that come with implementation of “rewilding” within the scope of predator-prey relationships and in applying the trophic cascade science to support ecosystem management. The concepts of minimal viable population (unique upon each habitat due to variable natural circumstances that exist) and ecological effectiveness paramount.

Viability refers to the likelihood of a species to persist for some period of time. Effectiveness refers to the impact of the species’ presence, abundance, and distribution in achieving ecosystem conditions. Here is where we have the problems with both the BLM and State Wildlife Management programs, and their single-species perceptions based on minimal viable population (MVP) sizes.

Their concept is not compatible with the natural necessity of progression in our wilds (quite obvious due to the wildlife kill-off percentages (very real and well documented through science and data recovery), and a mere 40% approximately, availability of our nations wildlife left on this planet) nor to the trophic cascade approach of ecological system process and management – and their concepts very different from an ecologically effective population, which does represent an ecosystem perspective.

This answers the question, also, as to why State and Federal agencies are intimidated by Wild Horses, because they really do not fit in with any of their single-species paradigms (which their paradigms indeed destroy federal and state lands, well proven with data/evidence) and the simple presence of the Wild Horses, and wolves ironically, show this quite well. Yes, some how or another “Fools” have been placed in charge of making decisions for our State and Federal Lands, that is quite obvious today, and out in the wilderness areas we see it daily.

For example, if we had fifteen pairs of breeding wolves in Oregon and within their management plans – or ESA’s (and ignored the ignorance of welfare ranchers and wolf-haters alike and who have no idea what conservation is or is not), it may be a viable population, yes, but it may not necessarily be an ecological effective number of wolves, defined as one capable of triggering a trophic cascade.

Science and Its Roll

What we can all agree upon, is the shift toward ecologically-effective population perspectives, and acknowledge top carnivores’ role in structing ecosystems. This is essential, because it incorporates our current knowledge of just how keystone predators can be essential to their environment.

For a quick example, just the presence of wolves in an area, and browsers such as deer and Elk keep moving, rather than stay within an area and deplete the vegetation, and when wolves not present only move-on when no browse left and the areas compromised – which horses do not do, as they consistently roam, but have been blamed for area depletion. Just a note here: I have found those who make these statements, obviously and when they mention the areas I have been in, I see little to no horse hoof prints, and a lot of deer, Elk, and Cattle tracks and scat (yes, I recommend all writers of ecology and the wild horses come out to the range and see much more information than a computer can give you).

This strategy can be essential, as it improves the environment. These keystone predation effects increase diversity, and this is what we are after – Ecosystem resilience because of keystone effects. In an effective ecology ideology, for example in an aspen community, an ecological effective wolf population creates a phase-shift from an intensely browsed forest understory to one characterized by sapling growth above browse height. “Ecological effective densities are relative because ecosystems are complex and vary across time and space.” Various sampling methods can be used to measure this situation, so data is essential as well, and other methods of data gather, of the diversity within a habitat, of significance.

We do not hide from the truth but use the truth effectively to enhance our wildlife and all around natural habitats for best function. Excuses are a non-viable creating function, and not used within our nature’s process – as being non-useful entirely. Similar to fine tuning a car, smoothness and synchronizing all portions of the car demanding, but doable and when running properly, is something of elegance, speed, and durability over time. If something is not running right, then an excuse made, then one can be sitting alongside the road in a remote desert area, with no phone, and . . .


The more we discuss “Rewilding” and the tools, such as Trophical Cascade Paradigms’ the more useful information we come across, to enhance our Ecological Systems, true enough; but to also enhance our Wild Horse viability, as I believe we owe it to these amazing icons of American History.

But the Wild Horses also come from prehistoric times, and Paleontology is showing us their history complete, especially in the United States. Buffoons are the only people that differ to the history of the horse to be incomplete, but then, they are also the one’s who remain destroying not only our culture but our Environment as well.

The reasoning for “Rewilding” and its necessity for the Wild Horses will continue, as this is a very important realm to explore, to save our Wild Horses from the prevalent ignorance within their management on Public and Federal Lands that exists today. Abuse and slaughter of our horses very prevalent today, as well, and history will certainly show our future generations just how bad people can get and make excuses for themselves while abusing and slaughtering such a beautiful piece of our history, and its dynamic-stature as a Horse, itself.

This is the end of Part II and Part III – will delve into the trophic cascade paradigms, as well as further our exploration into Rewilding the Wild Horses. This is a complex subject, and breaking it down for understanding is essential, in order to have any type of dialogue with our government legislators or those who want resolution for our Wild Horses and placing them back onto OUR Public and Federal Lands.


Soulé, R. Noss Rewilding and biodiversity: complementary goals for continental conservation Wild Earth, 8 (1998), pp. 19-28

F.W.M. Vera Grazing Ecology and Forest History CABI Publishing, Wallingford (2000)

P.J. Seddon, C.J. Griffiths, P.S. Soorae, D.P. Armstrong Reversing defaunation: restoring species in a changing world Science, 345 (2014), pp. 406-412

Gross How wild do you want to go? Curr. Biol., 24 (2014), pp. R1067-R1070

Donlan Re-wilding North America Nature, 436 (2005), pp. 913-914

Gillson, R.J. Laddle, M.B. Araújo Base-lines, patterns and process R.J. Whittaker, R.J. Ladle (Eds.), Conservation Biogeography, Blackwell-Willey, Oxford (2011)

L.M. Navarro, H.M. Pereira Rewilding abandoned landscapes in Europe Ecosystems, 15 (2012), pp. 900-912

J.A. Estes, J. Terborgh, J.S. Brashares, M.E. Power, J. Berger, et al.Trophic Downgrading of planet earth Science, 333 (2011), pp. 301-306

J.A. Estes, M.T. Tinker, T.M. Williams, D.F. Doak Killer whale predation on sea otters linking oceanic and nearshore ecosystems Science, 292 (1998), pp. 473-476

D.S. Gruner, J.E. Smith, E.W. Seabloom, S.A. Sandin, J.T. Ngai, H. Hillebrand, W.S. Harpole, J.J. Elser, E.E. Cleland, M.E. Bracken, et al. A cross-system synthesis of consumer and nutrient resource control on producer biomass Ecol. Lett., 11 (2008), pp. 740-755

Hillebrand, D.S. Gruner, E.T. Borer, M.E.S. Bracken, E.E. Cleland, et al. Consumer versus resource control of producer diversity depends on ecosytem type and producer community structure Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 104 (2007), pp. 10904-10909

J.B. Shurin, E.T. Borer, E.W. Seabloom, K. Anderson, C.A. Blanchette, et al.A cross-ecosystem comparison of the strength of trophic cascades Ecol. Lett., 5 (2002), pp. 785-791

O.J. Schmitz, P.A. Hambäck, A.P. Beckerman Trophic cascades in terrestrial systems: a review of the effects of carnivore removal on plants Am. Nat., 155 (2000), pp. 141-153

Caro The Pleistocene re-wilding gambit Trends. Ecol. Evol., 22 (2007), pp. 281-283

G.W. Roemer, M.E. Gompper, B. Van Valkenburgh The ecological role of the mammalian mesocarnovore Bioscience, 59 (2009), pp. 165-173

W.C. Saul, J.M. Jeshke Eco-evolutionary experience in novel species interactions Eco. Lett., 18 (2015), pp. 236-245

Perry, G.H. Rodda Brown treesnake D. Simberloff, M. Rejmánek (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Biological Invasions, University of California Press, Berkeley (2011), pp. 78-81

R.M. Pringle Nile perch D. Simberloff, M. Rejmánek (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Biological Invasions, University of California Press, Berkeley (2011), pp. 484-488

M.E. Dorcas, J.D. Willson Invasion Pythons in the United States University of Georgia Press, Athens (2011)

Lizarralde, J. Escobar, G. Deferrari Invader species in Argentina: a review about the beaver (Castor canadensis) population situation on Tierra del Fuego ecosystem Interciencia, 29 (2004), pp. 352-356

Leader-Williams Reindeer on South Georgia Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1988)

B.E. Johnson, J. Cushman “Influence of a large herbivore reintroduction on plant invasions and community composition in a California grassland.” Conserv. Biol., 21 (2007), pp. 515-526

Buchmann, K., Lis Christiansen, L.L. Thamsborg, S.M., Johansen, M.V., Olsen, A., Friese, S., and Didriksen, U. (2014). Årsskriftet Natur på Bornholm. 12, 36–40.

Choi Tierra del Fuego: the beavers must die Nature, 453 (2008), p. 968

Bertolino, P. GenovesiSpread and attempted eradication of the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in Italy, and consequences for the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in Eurasia Biol. Cons., 109 (2003), pp. 351-358

Beguería, I. López-Moreno, A. Lorente, M. Seeger, M. García-Ruiz Assessing the effect of climate oscillations and land-use changes on streamflow in the central Pyrenees Ambio., 32 (2003), pp. 283-286

Sandon, J. Donlan, J.C. Svenning, D. Hansen Rewilding D.W. MacDonald, K.J. Willis (Eds.), Key Topics in Conservation Biology 2, John Willey & Sons, Oxford (2013), pp. 430-451

H.M. Pereira, L. Navarro (Eds.), Rewilding european landscapes, Springer, New York (2015)

F.T. Maestre, J.L. Quero, N.J. Gotelli, A. Escudero, V. Ochoa, M. Delgado-Baquerizo, M. García-Gómez, M.A. Bowker, S. Soliveres, C. Escolar, et al. Plant species richness and ecosystem multifunctionality in global drylands Science, 335 (2012), pp. 214-218



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: