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The National Park Service plans to cull wild horses from its lands, with an approach that is all but guaranteed to exterminate them.
This is a tragedy in the making. These free-spirited steeds are grand animals who deserve to live free and unfettered. I’m familiar with their beauty because of an expedition my daughter Allison, a hairstylist in St. Paul, took to Theodore Roosevelt National Park at Medora, N.D., to experience the horses up-close and personal with the Wild at Heart Images Wildlife and Nature Photography (www.wildlandswildhorses.com).
Of immediate concern is the proposal to reduce the number of horses in the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Herd Management Area near Cody, Wyo. The plan would reduce the McCullough Peaks herd from 179 to 70 or less. Unfortunately, such a reduction would render the herd genetically unsustainable, according to appropriate management level standards.
The culling plan could result in some of the horses being killed.
The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comment on the issue until Feb. 7 at eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2022012/570/8003386/comment.
Following is a reflection Allison wrote about her experience.
On privileged occasions, we are lucky enough to see something so beautiful that it stops us in our tracks, leaving us without words as we disconnect from everything else surrounding us.
I was lucky enough to experience this after seeing a photo of what I now know was a horse in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. A gentle voice brought me back to reality. “Have you ever been?” she said. I turned with wide eyes and replied, “Where is this magical place?”
Imagine my surprise, as a Minnesotan, to learn that this beautiful image came from our neighboring state of North Dakota. As a lifelong horse lover, how did I not know this place existed? In that moment I knew I must go.
Six months later, I was celebrating my birthday at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park during an expedition with Wild Lands Wild Horses.
A breathtaking sight greeted me as I entered the park — Nichols and his band stood right in front of my tear-filled eyes just as a storm was rolling in. Dark clouds filled the sky, and I couldn’t tell if the deep rumble I was hearing was thunder or my own heart beating. Manes swirled and foals rose from slumber as the storm was upon us. Even though the winds were whipping and ice pelted my face, I could have stood there for an eternity.
Over the next two days, I was able to see every horse in the park, minus the elusive Circus. The experience was surreal. I felt as though the initial photo that had transported me there, like some sort of magical dream. To this day, it still brings tears to my eyes every time I remember that it was real.
As a hairstylist in the Twin Cities, I spent the next several months sharing with my clients every morsel of information I had learned about the horses, their bands and the beyond-words beauty I was honored to witness. I shared photos, in hopes that they could have a glimpse of the beauty of the magnificent animals.
Of the several hundred people I spoke with, almost none had any idea that wild horses roamed at Theodore Roosevelt. Several have since traveled there to experience their beauty firsthand.
Seeing such stunning animals in the wild was an incredible gift. It makes me sad that something so magical and accessible seems to be hidden from so many.
Words that can give justice to a truly life-changing experience elude me, just as Circus thwarted my hopes of seeing him. What I do have are images I will never forget. Nichols, majestically standing guard during the storm. A standoff between stallions after someone got too close to a sleeping foal. An aging bachelor, living out whatever time he has left in his rightful home. A band grazing peacefully, as the sky lit up with shades of orange, pink and purple as the sun set on another day in paradise.
I can say for certain that I would have never made the trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park if it weren’t for the horses. My world is a better place with them in it. I will carry these images in my mind and heart until the day I die. And when that day comes, I hope the other side is as beautiful.
Please help save the horses by registering your objection with the Bureau of Land Management.
Allison Tighe lives in St. Paul. Mike Tighe lives in Shoreview.