In January 1994, over 1,000 wild horses were removed from Canadian Forces Base Suffield on the unsupported charge that they were damaging biodiversity in the National Wildlife Area. These were the last wild horses in the Canadian prairies.
Now there are none.
In her book Caught in the Spin: The Wild Horses of CFB Suffield, Dawn Dickinson tells the story of the public consultation process (actually closed to the public) that unfolded over the year and a half prior to their removal from the base. While the preface notes that some things have changed, Caught in the Spin tells a story every engaged citizen needs to hear, in particular, anyone interested in transparency, public participation and science-based decision-making.
It also offers fascinating insights on grasslands and a welcome touch of humor (perhaps the only way to approach the story).
It is a very sad and disturbing story. For the horses, for democratic governance and for biodiversity conservation. I too often wanted it to go away somehow. But I still couldn’t stop reading it.
Caught in the Spin is available from the Federation of Alberta Naturalists.
These photos of the “wild bunch” that once roamed Suffield are by Dennis Baresco.