In the United States there is federal law protecting the wild horses. Called the 1971 Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act, it provides federal laws giving these horses protection in all states. It provides for substantial penalties for those that care to break the law and specifically outlines how the horses must be caught, treated and in most cases adopted out.
Also in various states, including Montana and Wyoming, there is further state laws, that offer their horses protection. In most cases the “wild horses” are defined as free roaming unbranded horses. These states protect the horses because they consider them to be a viable resource and because they are a part of the true western heritage of the American people. There is also a multitude of other groups that offer their help and stand up to protect the American wild horses.
In Canada and Alberta there is little done along these lines and very few people even realize that there are still wild horses in Canada and/or Alberta and British Columbia. Nor are the horses recognized for what they are and the value they represent to us and the future generations to follow.
At present the future of these last free roaming wild horses looks bleak. Current legislation is inadequate and the attitudes of those that should care are unacceptable. Others that have gone before us in their fight have ran up against this wall of apathy and indifference.
These horses have a right to live and be free. They should before afforded the rights and protection of other species of wildlife and not considered a nuisance or a pest. As with the grizzly bear, moose, deer, elk or mountain sheep they are an important part of the overall ecological make-up of this unique area of Alberta.
In my last letter to Mike Cardinal, Minister in charge of the Department of Renewable Resources, he too referred to the horses as being “feral”. This truly indicates the governments lack of understanding of the history and heritage of the horse and its part in his and our heritage.
Unless something is done now, we will loose forever an important part of our western heritage. Still to this date we continue to hear stories of a horse shot and left to rot. As I write this, January 20, 2003, I heard, from an oil company employee of finding a foal colt shot and left beside a well site on the James River last week.
This senseless slaughter and indifference of the government must be stopped. If not there is no future for the wild horses of Alberta. We must do something soon to preserve them if our children and their children are to be able to enjoy the wonderful beauty of these “wild horses of Alberta”, in their natural environment. Their future is truly in our hands.