Wild Horse Education

Where they stand; some “food chain” nerd notes


WHE monitors about 25 HMAs every year. That is a lot of time on the road! Wild horses in South Shoshone

This article is designed to answer questions we are receiving that reference the “Carson District request for data.” (You can read that article by clicking the text.)

When you are not familiar with the terrain of the West, or the structure of federal land management agencies, you can have a view of “where wild horses stand” that is misleading and confusing. Bear with us; as you read the article you may begin to understand why knowing this will become very important this year.

When we are addressing things like a budget that could kill tens of thousands of wild horses the public is on alert. But when we are creating the framework to fight politics with fact? it is hard to get your attention and support. It gets hard when unless the word “slaughter” is used, the public prefers foal pictures to reading. There is no break in this fight for us. The political push has not let up. 

Agencies like the BLM are broken down into sections. How those sections operate is distinct; particularly with wild horses and burros.

The first distinction you see is the “DC” offices and the “State” offices. These two distinctions may be the most critical for the lay person to make. DC sends memos, policy, etc down to state offices. They also control the budget.

The DC office is the hub of the holding system. Employees that operate in short and long term holding facilities get their “paycheck” from DC. The state office gets a lump sum from DC and then determines how that funding is allotted to each district (number of employees, approval of roundups).

When we look at wild horse management we have two very distinct programs within the program; range management operates within each state and the holding system operates from DC. Often we will use the roundup as the point a wild horse or burro leaves one program to enter into another (if that analogy helps). It’s where the “wild horse and burro specialist” leaves the picture and the “facility manager” enters (they answer to a different set of chairs for their paychecks).

When we get to each state we have a hierarchy as well. The state office oversees multiple districts, that oversee field offices. The field offices are where feet actually, finally, touch the range. The state office is where those “paychecks” are allotted and money for roundups (etc) are dispersed.

If you have ever played the game “telephone” in nursery school you can see how what is actually seen by a person in a field office, goes to the field office manager, to the district manager, to the state office and how that can modify, in tone and intention, along the way. Then the state reports to DC, in the “funds approval telephone game.” As well as all the hands that touch that information that have their web of family, friends and opinions. If the information is colored at the start by opinion? We think you get the gist.

The request for data came from a district in NV that covers two field offices. So the answer to the question, “Why isn’t such and such district in OR asking for data to create an HMAP?” Because it is a different state and district office. The directive to involve the public, most likely, came from a state or district manager. “But isn’t BLM, the BLM and following policy?” On our end we would first have to stop ourselves from laughing out loud and then would answer, “Policy is actually what they make it and it changes on a dime. Yes, public involvement is supposed to begin at the beginning. That is why we wrote that we applaud the Carson district and are awaiting others to follow suit before completing or putting out a comment period only after they decide what they are going to do.”

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) failed BLM on data, transparency and encouraged more public involvement. Involvement does not mean “giving over BLM management to states and counties,” it means involvement in decision making. It means “all stakeholders,” that include wild horse advocacy.

When we look at these districts we see areas where situations become even more bogged down for wild horses because they are managed areas that cover more than one district.


HMA map, NV


District map, NV

The maps above show HMA’s in NV and District boundaries. These districts are large. Connecticut, as an example, is 5,543 square miles. Nevada is 110,567 square miles. The state is divided into 5 districts. The area in the northwest corner of NV is actually managed by a field office, and accompanying district office, in California. (note: The geographical area WHE covers in a year is twenty times the size of Connecticut. We also gather peripheral data annually in a random pattern that covers an about ten times the size of Connecticut.)


Diamond, highlighted

When you look at an HMA like the Diamonds you have boundary lines that span three different districts. The simple idea that BLM has comprehensive trend data in an area like the Diamonds is laughable. BLM is currently making an effort to coordinate flights and utilize the same methodology for ground work. Prior to 2012 methods were very different. If a wild horse specialist actually sets foot on the ground, it could be three or four years (or longer) from the last time they did. Usually they show up only after complaints or because they are beginning to plan a roundup.


“Cold Creek”

“Cold Creek” has become very well known as photos taken in 2015 of wild horses in dire distress have been circulated as an example of “a wild horse problem west wide.”

Wheeler Pass is a BLM HMA managed by the Southern NV district. The green area is managed by the Forest Service, a different land management agency. When Forest Service (FS) says they “manage jointly with BLM” realize that FS has less funding and a different mechanism. Essentially what they really mean is “we ignore it until the horses go to BLM land and let BLM round them up.”

Issues at “Cold Creek” are still the issues at Cold Creek. Cold Creek is not an example “west wide,” it is an example of jurisdictional buck passing.

It is extremely offensive that BLM uses photos from Cold Creek in pamphlets you can pick up at any kiosk to demonstrate the “plight of the wild horse problem.” Whomever approved those pamphlets engages in the same tactics they claim many in advocacy do, sensationalism for support.

Expect these tactics to rise on all sides as the budget debate (yes, we are already engaged in the budget debate for FY19) and the midterm election draws closer. This is a fight to keep a money stream, not an attempt to create sustainable management.

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Wild horses Broken Arrow facility, 2017. These are some of the wild horses still in danger in budget debates

The budget debate for the fiscal year that began in October 2017 and runs through September 2018, has just ended. That budget was the FY18 budget. The fiscal year 19 budget debate has already begun.

Your ability to discern fact from fiction, truth tellers from the kind that spew “alt facts,” is going to be critical. What you support is what our wild horses and burros will live, or die, under the next debate.


Questions we have received.

The answer to the question, “Why don’t you have ten year data on XXXXX HMA?”  Do you know BLM does not have comprehensive ten year trend data either? Do you know their budget compared to ours? We do have comprehensive trend data, just not in that HMA where there are other advocates present. We went to districts where there was no presence. There is a lot of territory for all of advocacy to cover. It is not easy.

“There are multiple facebook pages and orgs that will say they represent an HMA, do they have trend data?” Some say they cover an HMA when in fact what they actually cover is a marginal, segmented area, of a massive whole. You have to ask them.


There are areas we are monitoring that are likely end up in the “propaganda que” of all sides. That propaganda is rich in personal and profit drive interests.

We are awaiting that debate.

If the desired results include sustainable management of public land and wild horses sensationalism will not bring the desired results, no matter what “side” you are on.


We have a lot of work to do. We have been collecting critical information and passing it on to oversight and Congress. We are doing exactly that, right now. Can you help us to continue? (We will have more on Triple B, and our requests to oversight, soon)


Categories: Wild Horse Education