Wild Horse Education

To The Advisory Board

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Cathy Ceci on the range in NV, 2016


I am writing this report to update our readers and to continue to inform the public of our efforts, and the efforts of the private citizens that volunteer for WHE. This report includes a sample letter sent to the Advisory Board about the recommendation to kill sale eligible wild horses in holding (about 44,000) and a commentary by another volunteer. The idea that sale horses are old or sick is a fiction. If you want to understand what a “sale” horse is click this link https://wildhorseeducation.org/three-strikes-adoption-and-sale-authority/

You can send your comments to the board about the recommendation to kill sale eligible wild horses at whbadvisoryboard@blm.gov

Our founder travelled to give a presentation to an Advisory Board working group. The topic of the presentation was changed at the last minute. She had 20 minutes to give an update to the board on efforts in NV as a volunteer. Her initial report back to WHE was that a lot of her time was spent engaging basics as they were essential to any understanding of the challenges. She said she was not able to address the vast majority of what she is doing or the challenges. She was surprised listening to the board comment, not only during working group sessions,  or the break out roundtable, but to the State Director and State Lead for wild horses. She said the comments did not reflect any understanding, as if the board still did not understand basic law or how the range itself functions (or fails). She said she will write about it soon.

She does not go to these meetings often. She said that the board has no legal authority and she calls it the “circus.” She reported that the people in the room nearly tripled when it came time to give public comment, people commenting without listening. She said that some who arrived to comment were openly engaging in behavior she described as childish.

One of the recommendations from the board today to the BLM was to kill all sale authority horses in holding. That amounts to about 44,000 that fit that category. 

The board created that as a recommendation.

Maybe something like this would make more sense? “Unless there is a valid rangeland health assessment and a livestock grazing permit of less than 2 years since its evaluation, wild horses can not be held accountable, particularly in drought, for any degradation to the range. Until BLM catches up on the whopping 80% backlog of permit evals, no wild horse is removed. Livestock is a use, a privilege. Wild horses are a resource, to be preserved. We need to stop making a resource accountable to a use. Uses must be accountable to the resource. BLM must be accountable to their responsibility to regulate the landscape and stop giving a free pass to anyone to the banquet of public land.” 



You can send your comments to the board about the recommendation to kill sale eligible wild horses at whbadvisoryboard@blm.gov

Lisa LeBlanc, WHE Volunteer

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board,
Enough talk of killing these animals; enough ‘management’ through whatever practices you find most expedient and brutal. Enough espousing crises when you can’t even be sure they exist.
Enough declarations of a catastrophe in the making should these animals not be removed en masse and quickly. And certainly – enough turning deaf ears and blind eyes to that which falls outside your belief system.
And enough speaking on matters you are ill-suited to expound upon. Stop capering as if this vote were a great victory. You are not policy makers.
I have been cataloguing BLM data from “Public Land Statistics” and ‘Herd Management Statistics” going back 2 decades for the past five years. I can state with reasonable certainty that whatever numbers you’re being handed – based on those statistics – are utter nonsense. Short of canines, felines, or certain species of sea life, horses and burros are biologically incapable of breeding these numbers.
But you know this. You’ve simply chosen to ignore it. Several members of this board seem to be holding on for dear life that the Final Solution to the perceived ‘problem’ of wild horses and burros will be their legacy – that future generations will look in awe upon the 20,000 acre zoo keeping the last of the mustangs and burros.
In the past eight years, the budget for the Wild Horse and Burro Program has requested and received monies by providing an iron-clad promise/guarantee that THIS will be the year the problem is finally gotten under control. And in the past eight years, each and every budget has allocated as little as 2.5% to aspects of the program that could actually make a difference for taxpayers AND these animals: Monitoring and Surveying. Mr. Kornze stated recently that the Program has only 19 Wild Horse and Burro Specialists across the field offices that manage wild horses and burros. There are very few boots-on-the-ground BLM groups that either study or monitor these animals, either due to budget constraints or more likely – because no one important really gives a damn. So it begs the question – how accurate are those ‘estimates’? How credible is an undocumented flyover from 1,000 feet in the air with no video backup? How believable are hash marks on a piece of paper which is then translated into pretty, colored dots laid over the map of an HMA?
This year, only 1/3 of all HMAs will be surveyed, leaving the bulk to yet again be subject to the ‘estimate’. And, yet again, these animals will display an almost supernatural ability in reproducing the next generation – foals that will hit the ground, fully capable of giving birth within six months.
Even without the suggestion of killing those already being held, logic dictates that these animals already DO die. It might interest you to know – but likely not – that the numbers being held are almost exactly what has been captured and unadopted – for the past decade. Now, pause for a moment and think: How likely is it that there is a horse living somewhere in Long Term Pasture – since 2006? Given the unmonitored nature of LTP, I think it’s more likely they’re already being spirited out the back gate.
Foals die. I co-authored a report based on BLM capture data that illustrated 50% of infants will not live to see their first birthday. I presented excerpts of that report at a previous Board meeting about 2 years ago, and it was met with, unsurprisingly, no interest from the Board at all. Of course, I have a vested interest in accuracy, so if that report isn’t to your liking, read the report by Dr. John Turner, PhD, who spent 25 YEARS studying the horse populations of the Montgomery Pass. His report included a table which clearly illustrates a high infant mortality. Or any of at least a dozen reports, both old and new, that verify infant mortality. And despite the aggrandizement of horses and burros being ‘long-lived with few predators’, they do actually die out there, from old age, accidents, shootings, vandalism or predation by the few apex predators not killed in the name of stock protection.
It’s unbelievably naïve for this Board to think that wild horses and burros would be the only species on the ranges – largely desert, I might add – that would thrive in drought. Given a lack of forage and water, it doesn’t seem likely. Nearly every wildlife species out there will curtail breeding when food and water are unavailable. And we’ve seen the video and pictures of horses devastated by the drought. You might wonder at how many didn’t survive whose bodies were never found. Read a report published by Nevada Department of Wildlife in which they undertook an 8 year study to kill cougar to uptick the populations of mule deer and white tail. The study was suspended a few months before completion because even after killing over 300 cougar, those deer populations had shown no increase. The reason, the study concluded, was the drought.
Given the resources provided this Board, it’s puzzling that it seems not all that interested in acquiring a broader knowledge base.
Finally, I’d be curious to know exactly how many of YOU spend time on the ranges? How many of these marauding hordes you’ve recorded? How many family bands or herds you’ve followed and documented? Most field offices seem to prefer the path of least resistance in following these animals, in the data and documents they publish for their removal. The Bureau, under the auspices of the Interior Department, seems far less interested in all the dictates of the Program – which includes not only management of wild horses and burros but their protection as well. If the Board’s vote today is any indication, then it falls to the Interested Public to provide study and observation of it’s own. In the interest of full disclosure, most of us provide this service of our own accord, funded out of our own pockets or small donations. We are not driven to provide a study that produces a foregone conclusion. Perhaps we are biased; without our input, without peer-reviewed and corrected reports and documentation that interests neither the BLM, this Board or Interior, there is no one – no agency and certainly not this Board – that will speak for or defend these animals. As the ill-thought out vote to euthanize captives in Long Term Holding firmly attests.
Thank you for your time.
Lisa LeBlanc

Beth Quigley-Lauxen, WHE volunteer

I have been working with Laura Leigh as an intern on how to engage the system appropriately through policy and correct engagement in protocol. I recently engaged in comments for the Wyoming Checkerboard and it was an eye opening experience.

I spent time trying to create thoughtful comments for the board. Today I simply feel sick. It feels like the board simply walks in with an agenda, ignores public comment and comes up with “kill the horses in holding?”

Laura said to remember the board has no legal authority. The board recommendations were used as justification for the spaying experiment in Oregon and that was cancelled today. She said that battle is not over but the skirmish is done for today. She said that we MUST watch closely for Appropriations. That is where the battle will hit to kill our horses  in holding. I’m going to do my best to help WHE stay on top of that. I know Laura was already engaged in it today.

These were my comments to the board. I am trying not to feel foolish for even believing they would be read.

Dear Advisory Board Committee Members:

I ask the board to recommend the following:

REQUEST 1A) Reevaluate AML for wild horses, based on reliable population numbers, achieved using survey methods and recommended by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS):
FINDING: Management of free-ranging horses and burros is not based on rigorous population-monitoring procedures. (Page 3, Summary).

REQUEST 1B) Make the survey methods and results public information:
The committee also suggests that the survey data at the HMA level and procedures used to modify the survey data to generate population estimates be made readily available to the public to improve transparency and public trust in the management program. (Page 5, Summary).

REQUEST 2A) Utilize PZP to slow population growth in herds, while utilizing scientific survey methods to obtain accurate AML numbers, and while gathering data on range conditions and utilization of the range by wild horses AND cattle, and other wildlife. Roundups have been proven to increase reproduction in wild horse herds, creating a vicious cycle. “Management practices are facilitating high rates of population growth”… “Thus, population growth rate could be increased by removals through compensatory population growth from decreased competition for forage. As a result, the number of animals processed through holding facilities is probably increased by management.” 2013 NAS report pg. 5-6

REQUEST 2A continued: If PZP is used, and roundups are absent, the herds will naturally reduce population size to match available forage and water as well. If BLM took roundups off the table in the short-term, while implementing the strategies suggested by NAS, the funds that have been allotted to roundups and additional long-term holding, could then be invested instead to proper PZP application and implementation of data gathering on the range.

Per NAS Report Page 270: “In the short term, more intensive management of free-ranging horses and burros would be expensive. However, addressing the problem immediately with a long-term view is probably a more affordable option than continuing to remove horses to long-term holding facilities…. Further investment in science-based management approaches and in helping districts to apply them consistently cannot solve the problem instantly, but it could lead the Wild Horse and Burro Program to a more financially sustainable path that manages healthy horses and burros with greater public confidence.”

REQUEST 2B) BLM should using both staff and uniquely qualified volunteers such as Laura Leigh (Founder of Wild Horse Education) for darting with PZP to slow the growth of wild horse populations, and to conduct range documentation for evaluation and consultation with BLM staff. Laura Leigh is uniquely qualified to assist in this as effort, as she is trained in darting, knows the range and the herds on the HMA’S. Her participation as a volunteer for BLM would be an enormous contribution for the work at hand.

REQUEST 3A) Review the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) and make all findings and revisions available for public view.

REQUEST 3B) Continue with CAWP and finalize a policy for holding facilities to include an infectious disease protocol and make shade available to wild horses and burros in all pens.

REQUEST 4) I am strongly opposed to any experimentation or use of field sterilization. These surgical procedures cannot be accomplished in a sterile environment, and follow-up care would not be possible on the range. The techniques are NOT humane, and are contrary to the heart of the WFRHB ACT, as stated, “It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death;”… and I oppose the use of permanent sterilization on the range absolutely. These procedures are costly and labor intensive, and are unnecessary if PZP is used as recommended by the 2013 NAS report.

REQUEST 5) Prioritize the presence of wild horses and burros on the range as intended in the 1971 Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA). Many mustang advocates have lost faith that the HMAs for wild horses are being managed PRINCIPALLY for any purpose other than cattle grazing on public lands. The upcoming WY checkerboard roundup, designed to specifically zero out all wild horses, for the express purpose of Anadarko Oil and public cattle grazers is a prime example. The attitude of grazing lease holders is summed up below:

An owner of private property even flatly stated “We consider the entire Checkerboard to be private land.”

This is typical of the attitude of ranchers with grazing leases. They want the wild horses gone, zeroed out and they aren’t timid about saying so, while fully expecting BLM to bow to their wishes, and their powerful political backing. This must stop! Any reasonable interpretation of the 1971 WFRHBA (Wild Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act) would at least make wild horses and burros the FIRST consideration, NOT the last token gesture. The Act specifically states:
“It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.” The land was to be “devoted PRINCIPALLY but not exclusively to their welfare in keeping with the multiple-use management concept of public lands.” “Horses and burros are to be managed at “the minimal feasible level.” In addition, management was to “achieve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands, protect wildlife habitat, and prevent range deterioration.”

If the wild horses and burros are not given first consideration in their HMAs, the law is meaningless.

Thank you for your consideration of my concerns.
Beth Quigley Lauxen

If you have a question that you would like addressed WHE will be doing a QnA video on the board meeting and other issues. Send to WHEQnA@gmail.com


Categories: Wild Horse Education