Ben Masters is a filmmaker and conservationist whose work explores some of the most important conservation challenges facing the American West today. He was the mastermind behind the award-winning documentary Unbranded, which tells the story of Ben and his three buddies who ride wild mustangs from Mexico to Canada as part of an epic five month-adventure. The film also examines the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse Program, a well-intentioned, but now controversial, government program created to protect the wild horses that roam the western U.S. For those who love the American West, Unbranded is one of the best documentaries in recent memory—it combines hardcore adventure with important conservation issues, all while accurately capturing the true beauty of the American West.
Conservation is the common theme running through all of Ben’s work, and his passion is fortified with a deep knowledge of natural history, public lands, and policy issues related to the American West. His expertise recently earned him a spot on the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, the group tasked with solving the challenging issues surrounding the program he profiled in Unbranded. His most recent film, Pronghorn Revival, is the story of Texas wildlife biologists capturing and relocating a struggling herd of pronghorns (i.e. antelopes). Not one to rest on his laurels, Ben is working hard on more conservation projects to be revealed in the coming months.
When we recorded this episode, Ben was less than a day away from leaving on a multi-week guiding trip to the area around Yellowstone National Park, so I really appreciated him making the time to chat. In just under an hour, we managed to cover a wide range of conservation-related topics: the BLM’s Wild Horse Program, invasive species in the American West, thoughts on hunting, as well as Ben’s personal background, favorite books, favorite documentaries, and a crazy horse stampede story… with plenty of other intesting subjects thrown in.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Unbranded. You’ll love it. In the meantime, enjoy my conversation with Ben Masters.
All photos courtesy of Ben Masters
- Ben Masters
- Pronghorn Revival
- BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program
- Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act
- Professor Douglas Slack
- The Wilderness Warrior – Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley
- Gifford Pinchot
- The Big Burn – Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Save America by Timothy Egan
- Invasive species
- The Emerald Mile – The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko
- The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction by David Quammen
- The Naturalist – Theodore Roosevelt, A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History by Darrin Lunde
- Almost Sunrise
- Heroes and Horses
- Phill Baribeau and Korey Kaczmarek
- Yellowstone National Park