Wild Horses and Burros As Wild Fire Preventers?

“Wild Horse Fire Brigade is about helping to save forests and wildlife, as well as saving native species American wild horses by rewilding them from government holding facilities, and/or relocating them away from areas of contention with livestock production. This new plan seeks to humanely place wild horses as family units into carefully selected designated wilderness areas that are economically and ecologically appropriate, where they will reduce and maintain grass and brush fuels to more natural levels.”

-William E. Simpson II

I don’t know how many of you keep up with issues surrounding wild horses and burros on US public lands. But it is an issue of importance to me. You can read about my history with wild horses in a previous post HERE.

An animal’s value is often based on what it can do for humans. A value that is frequently linked to their very survival. Unfortunately, wild horses and burros have yet to find their human value as part of US public lands.

Instead, they have often been considered a nuisance. An impediment to the running and expansion of other industries. A problem to be contained or eliminated.

But exciting research shows that wild horses and burros could have a place in actually solving the current human and environmental problem of ever-increasing wildfires in the Western US.

Could this be their ticket to survival? In contrast, current government management practices are viewed by many as a direct path to wild horse and burros extinction- practices such as rounding up the animals, warehousing the ones that aren’t adopted (which is most of them) and sterilizing the ones that are allowed to remain on the range.

The research behind this exciting idea of a “wild horse fire brigade” is promoted by a naturalist rancher in California, William E Simpson II. You may recognize his name in association with the award-winning video short by Micah Robin titled Fuel, Fire and Wild Horses.

“Wildfire continues to devastate the American West at increasing rates. According to some, the plan that could combat the danger of forest fire lies in the complicated history and present role of the wild horse. Naturalist rancher William E. Simpson II, Michael Perez, and Pulitzer Prize winning author David Philipps explore the interconnected issues of wildfire and wild horses in the American West.”

From the Pitchstone Waters Website

You can view this 8 minutes, 34 second clip online within several websites including:


Fuel, Fire, and Wild Horses

And if you want to read the book mentioned in the video, Wild Horse Country: The History, Myth and Future of the Mustang, America’s Horse by David Philipps, you can find more details about it HERE.

After watching Fuel, Fire and Wild Horses, I encourage you to read the following essay by William E. Simpson II “Understanding ‘Wild Horse Fire Brigade’ : The Supporting Science of Wildfire Grazing”. In this piece, Mr. Simpson lays out his thoughts about exactly how wild horses could help stem forest fires. The photos and graphs included display interesting information that bring home many important points.

In reading some of Mr. Simpson’s other materials, I surmised that he does not think highly of non-for-profit organizations that report on and advocate for wild horses and burros. He notes that after over 50 years of advocacy, our wild horses and burros are just as endangered by human development as ever. While I don’t completely agree with Mr. Simpson’s premise, I do see his point that new ideas are desperately needed.

Certain non-for-profits like, Wild Horse Education, regularly document conditions of horses on the range as well as the ever-more-frequent government roundups. Roundups that often involve terrorizing the animals with helicopters, sometimes resulting in gruesome injury, suffering and death. To me, the filming of wild horses on the range and during roundups is critical to trying to bring further accountability of our US government’s handling of them.

But when the government largely does not see the value in keeping wild horses and burros on the range, new ideas like that of Mr. Simpson’s Wild Horse Fire Brigade could be a faster ticket to their survival than more traditional forms of advocacy.

If wild horses and burros are important to you, I encourage you to share Mr. Simpson’s Wild Horse Fire Brigade idea far and wide. I’ve seen his research featured on the Straight From The Horse’s Heart blog as well as the Horse and Man blog (just yesterday, in fact), but this Wild Horse Fire Brigade needs more press if it is ever to become a reality.

Ask your friends to watch the video Fuel, Fire and Wild Horses. Read Mr. Simpson’s essay. Visit his website at https://www.wildhorsefirebrigade.org/. Post links to the video and the website on your social media. Help continue the conversation.

Update May 2022: Wild Horse Fire Brigade and issues surround wild horses were featured during a Denver news channel segment. I will continue to update this post as I become aware of media coverage.

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