Wild Horse Education

USA Today, an in depth article for discussion

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Story from USA Today and AZ Central (they covered the Conger roundup) was published today.

Post by WHE vounteer, CCeci

USA Today and AZ Central have been working on a story about wild horses for the better part of the last year. The story, in five parts and a documentary short, presents multiple positions. The film makers took a dive into the complex issues of public land. They gave it a good effort. I noticed the piece was published today and it can be found here: http://www.azcentral.com/pages/interactives/running-wild-horse-management/

NOTE FROM LEIGH: I just watched the video feature and we are very surprised that a good editor DID NOT point out this to his viewers…. the BLM populations stats. So this year we are up 15% according to BLM quoted at the very end (personally my ground surveys over the last decade show a population that has not experienced a large roundup will have a 12-16% increase each year and a population that has had a large roundup can go as high as 22%). So? When BLM says populations grow at 20% each year (quote)  then the editor goes into when populations double, then they go through the entire chart thing with cool animation on a 4 year double.  At a 15% growth rate it would take the population about 6 years to double. Just thought y’all might find that interesting. A really good editor would have caught that… I did a lot of editing in my previous life. LOL and a lot of math. Now we have had about 3 years of a deceleration in large removals it would be logical for overall growth to slow (check the National Academy of Sciences… they say the same thing)….. and I wish someone told me to wash my dirty face and comb my hair. I really like the way they end it. I know some people see this whole thing negatively, I personally, like the effort when we usually see so little. They try to give each voice a space (don’t give equal space I know) and don’t give a lot of depth (for those of us that know the wild horse program is simply a tiny fraction of a larger broken management problem) but they basically leave us with … horses deserve better from us because what they give us… is so very much.


Adoption stats from 71-06

Added so you can look at the adoption stats. These are the historic adoption/removal stats. We wish big news organization would check details.  The clip says “we used to adopt out 8-10,000 a year.” Not really. Adoption falling off a couple of thousand in the last few years has not caused any problem. We did an article about blaming adoptions as an excuse a few years ago. We are glad more attention is coming to adoptions because more people now fall in love with the wild horses that way. But adoption is not the issues, it is range management. Wild horses are a tiny fraction of range management. To do wild horses real justice they would be a segment in a range program, not the scapegoat.

There are areas we wish they would have expanded on things  quoted  (I know she talked more) and several of the quotes used by Wild Horse Education’s Laura Leigh are out of context. We will use some of the “column inches” available on our site to give you that context. WHE are focusing on our participation but urge you to click the link and see the piece.

We also wish this story surfaced a year ago. The underlying threats, not covered in this piece, have grown larger. One of the threats of mismessaging is that the deeper issues don’t get discussed. As an example these reporters though the horses of the Salt were BLM representation. The Salt horses show that “the land they stand” is not accurately represented in practice as there were horses in the Salt pre Act that should have been given status by Forest Service (FS) as a Wild Horse Territory (WHT). But the vast majority of wild horses do not face what the Salt does, they face the pitfalls of failed management. Salt faces the pitfalls of no one taking responsibility at all and the fight that ensues.  Read here for largest threats to BLM horses: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2017/03/15/why-scrub-when-you-can-geld/

The effort of the USA Today and AZ Central crew to do this issue some justice, and not the usual fast piece in less than 1000 words, and the publications devotion of the time resource and space to present the story are commended. We just wish they would have really DUG and checked a few why’s and how’s and paid attention to math and the NAS review…. we also wish BLM paid more attention to the NAS review.

“When I met the crew on the range in Utah they were confused by a lot of what they had heard,” said Leigh, “As an example they thought what they learned about Salt River applied to BLM as the advocates there had told them they were ‘solving BLM’s problems.’ I deal with a lot of that kind of stuff with journalists and did inform them that the contention was similar but not to confuse people and call it the same. I told him about issues faced in NV, where we have more wild horses than all other states combined, and that the issues at the Salt are not the same, neither is the media coverage.”

“I did not know I was going to be interviewed. But after I told him that Salt River was not BLM and we spent the day at the capture site, I guess I was a good subject; dirty and sleep deprived enough to be blunt.”

Leigh is sporadically featured in commentary throughout the piece, in writing and in the video. She told me she was rather sleep deprived as she has three hours of sleep and drove in from Nevada. I have been with her on these road trips and seeing her quotes I know extensive explanation came first and then she gave them a fast funny quip. Like this one: “Stupidity can ruin so many good things,” she snarled.

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Many of our readers remember the little paint foal orphaned at Conger and the moment her dad tried to touch her through the bars of the alley. The story of where the other baby that was orphaned went is in the large USAToday/AZCentral piece.

I know Laura likely explained to them that large scale removals increase reproduction. That almost every horse in holding is there because of a large scale removal, that compounded the problems on the ground. And at the same time we had fertility control and range issues that were never addressed.

I am sure she told them about the National Academy of Sciences Review.

She talked about how fertility control in Nevada is shut down left and right by many factions and the largest fertility control program in the nation, Fish Creek Nevada, is still on hold and the reasons are not good ones. I am sure she told him she’s been trying for years and years.

How many of the problems are not caused by the wild horses, but the wild horses get blamed for it. They are even blamed for failed range management practices that have caused the holding costs.

I am sure Laura informed them that the BLM financial estimate on doing broad fertility control, that is quoted by BLM, is a cost breakdown she has FOIA’d (Freedom of Information Act) and never received an answer on and it sounds like an inflated excuse.

In order to find the sections for our readers you essentially need to read all 5 sections. I have grabbed a few of the written quotes.

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Split second before this paint mare broke her neck click here for account

The roundup:

“They were pushing it really hard because they had another group (running) behind it,” said a visibly trembling Reno-based horse advocate, Laura Leigh. She watched that death from behind junipers at a public viewing area uphill from the trap.

Advocates like Leigh from one horse group or another watch over most every roundup across the West, and for once Leigh had supported the concept. She looked forward to some scientific results from the gelding and behavior study. (note: this is misrepresented. WHE were not talking about gelding but gps data to protect resources wild horses use during seasonal migration. WHE documented Sheldon, we know gelding is more mythos turned “alt fact” in the West and damages use patterns and does not decrease birth rate. USAToday was contacted and they agreed Leigh said she supports data that can help preserve resources the wild horses need, not gelding. It is being revised.)

Then she watched in horror as the wranglers botched it, in her view, driving the mare too hard.

“Stupidity can ruin so many good things,” she snarled.

Long Term Holding:

Long-term pasture rentals are “a symptom of the broken program” on the Western range, Nevada mustang advocate Laura Leigh said.

They are what government officials erroneously consider a “necessary evil” to manage mustangs, she said, when those officials created the problem by rounding up thousands of horses in the first place.

“Kinda like a wife beater that blames his wife when she dies,” she said.

In another section they attribute a quote to Leigh in the body but to John Turner, University of Toledo.

“The freight train is going off the track. We need to stop it.”

BLM using cost of fertility control without any real facts or justification to continue to spend millions on roundups and holding:

Laura Leigh, a Nevada advocate who photographs and also helps dart horses in her state, said cost is no excuse. Wary horses are susceptible to baiting with food and water, bringing them to within dart range, she said.

Even without bait, she said, a strong effort to recruit volunteers could change the population trajectory.“If I can hunt them down and shoot them with a camera I can shoot them with a dart,” she said.

The problem, Leigh contends, is that the government throws money at sterilization studies instead of at hiring or coordinating enough people to treat thousands of horses per year. (and gather ground data)

As a result, the BLM is darting only hundreds.

“It’s like giving one girl at the senior prom birth control,” she said.


BUT the part we all want you to pay attention to is the end, interveiw with Raul Grijalva:

I’ve always seen it as a resource issue more than anything else,” Grijalva said. He expects to introduce legislation that would give managers more funds and options.

“Its time has come because the population on the ground is driving this to (be) a bipartisan issue,” he said.

If you click THIS LINK you can view the entire piece and video. It will give you an overview as to many of the opinions and challenges. http://www.azcentral.com/pages/interactives/running-wild-horse-management/

WE HOPE someone does a story in large media as to WHY the BLM has done things the way they have. What influences and drives the broken program. NOW THAT would be an explosive article and one never done before. WILL THE MEDIA EVER DO IT?


At WHE we will continue to work with Grijalva and others as we work toward providing safe and humane alternatives that maintain protections from slaughter. Killing our wild horses that use less than 16% of 11% of public land because “we refuse to” battle entrenched outdated cronyism, is not ok. There are solutions and we need to stop making excuses.

THIS YEAR the political environment is more explosive than ever. Issues with the federal grazing program (where we have an 80% backlog in range assessments) and resentment over regulations is creating an explosive environment that endangers our wild ones more than ever.

HELP us continue to help the wild horses. We must gather the data that creates a defensive wall around our wild ones. We need it now.

Donate here: http://WildHorseEducation.org/donate

Categories: Wild Horse Education