Wild Horses Saved, Slaughtered, Much-studied

University of Arizona professor Ed de Steiguer didn't need to look far for inspiration during the six years he spent researching and writing his recent book, "Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's Mustangs."

For starters, there's a century-old photograph on the fireplace mantel in the Foothills home de Steiguer shares with his wife, Pamela.

The image is of his father, Joe de Steiguer, who was about 3 or 4 and sitting on a mule in San Marcos, Texas.

De Steiguer said the photo symbolizes the cowboy-and-horse traditions of his childhood - both sides of his family.

His great-grandfather, Peter Smith, was a cavalryman during the Civil War and a Texas trail driver who moved cattle from Texas to Kansas railheads.

"These were real cowboys, not the drugstore variety," he said.

For de Steiguer, this passion for horses and the West is mixed with a keen interest in America's public land and the history and politics surrounding its usages.

De Steiguer, 65, teaches classes on public land use for the UA's School of Natural Resources and the Environment. Before moving to Tucson with his wife and two children in 1998, he worked on land management issues for 20 years with the U.S. Forest Service in North Carolina.

"One of the main issues is management of federal lands in the West," said de Steiguer, who earned his doctorate in forestry from Texas A&M University.

"Believe it or not, this wild-horse issue, over the last several years in Congress, has been ranked one of the top land-use issues in the West."

In his book, de Steiguer explores the history of America's wild horses and examines the politics today.

De Steiguer focuses on several issues, including steadily increasing horse and burro populations, sometimes cruel and even fatal horse roundups, a marginally successful adoption program, a reluctance to use fertility control, and overflowing horse holding facilities.

He worked in spurts over the years and spent breaks from the university traveling to areas where the horses live as wild animals.

Read the rest of this article published July 3 in the Arizona Daily Star at the link below.

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Ed de Steiguer
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Released date: 
Jul 5 2011