Ben Masters – Conservation Through Innovative Filmmaking

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.Unbranded - film

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.

Unbranded - cliffWhen 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

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Episode Notes

Topics Covered

3:05 – How Ben describes his work
3:35 – Ben’s upcoming adventures
5:40 – Overview of Unbranded documentary
7:45 – Genesis for the idea for Unbranded
9:45 – Overview of the BLM Wild Horse Program
10:15 – Natural history of horses in North America
14:20 – Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act
17:16 – Ben’s thoughts solving the wild horse challenge
21:10 – Political challenges surrounding wild horses
23:45 – More North American natural history
24:55 – What “conservation” means to Ben
26:00 – Ben’s personal connection to conservation
27:40 – Resources for understanding the history of conservation
29:00 – Conservation challenges facing the West in the next 20 years
32:10 – Ben’s thoughts on hunting and conservation
33:45 – Cautionary tale of Texas Screwworms
36:30 – Overview of Pronghorn Revival
38:35 – Favorite books
40:20 – Favorite documentary
41:30 – Ben’s work with veterans
42:23 – Hobbies that Ben enjoys
43:48 – How Ben learned the art of filmmaking
45:00 – Craziest outdoor experience
47:50 – Ben’s favorite place in the West
48:40 – Ben’s request of the listeners
51:30 – Connect with Ben online

Information Referenced

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