Wild Horse Education

Roundup Schedule; fast look


Fish Creek 2015

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has created a roundup schedule that runs through the end of the fiscal year (October 15). The winter schedule will be announced as funding becomes available in the next fiscal year budget; either in pieces as we saw last year through resolutions that provided short term federal funding or as the year 2019 budget is approved through Appropriations in Congress.


Helicopter gathers are prohibited until July 1 in the BLM handbook. BLM designates a broad “foaling season” as occurring from March 1- June 30. Foaling season is not determined area by area and is considered the same in all areas. That is the reason you do not see helicopters until after July 1. In the current schedule we see the first use of capture by helicopter begin in August at Sulpher in Utah.

Some things to be aware of:

  • The “GrSG” that we have highlighted in red means “Greater Sage Grouse” habitat.
  • “T” means targeted number. “R” means the number to be removed. Sometimes these two numbers do not match and indicate that a fertility control component will be used and a number of wild horses will be returned after capture. This schedule indicates that only the Pryor Mountains will experience a release.
  • Red Desert in Wyoming is the largest operation with a target for removal at 2,670 and will run from 8/6-9/30. Those dates are the dates approved for operations and the removal may/may not continue until that date.
  • During September there will be two helicopter crews working; both in Nevada and both noting sage grouse habitat. Silver King is targeted to remove 800 and the Pine Nuts 575 (Pine Nuts include the small area of Fish Springs that has a community fertility control program).
  • Please take note that areas where there is a volunteer program for fertility control it appears on this removal schedule; Pryors, Little Book Cliffs, Onaqui, Pine Nuts. At first glance only Sand Wash Basin seems to have skirted this round. The numbers 20, 50, 75 (respectively) may not appear to be large numbers, but each of the areas where there is fertility control darting the populations and geographical areas are also relatively small; these removals will impact both the herd population dynamics and the individual humans on the ground significantly.
  • Many of these operations have already passed the NEPA process. In order to stop any of them it will take litigation, not a petition. Most BLM offices consider massive public calls after NEPA, out of process and often screamers, to be harassment and use that to claim advocates are simply “nuts.” Those that have not had NEPA done will have opportunity to engage (NEPA here).
  • On the heels of the schedule is the spay research in Oregon. The research that just took public scoping comments, has not completed an EA or EIS and carries extreme controversy.

We presented the schedule in a recent webinar. Several participants felt the information helped them understand the removal operations that have already begun (Range Creek, Goshute). The removals at the Pryor Mountains and Muddy Creek begin next week.

This schedule carries a significant “punch” to many wild horse advocates as it includes high profile areas. When you see photos noted “wild horses of the great basin” or “Utah’s wild horses” they usually mean Onaqui. Onaqui may be the most photographed horses in the West as they are easy to get to and highly acclimated to the public. Pryors are the home of the “Cloud” film series. Little Book Cliff’s is the place T.J. Holmes has worked so hard to dart. Pine Nuts have the Fish Springs horses as part of the complex and a community program and social media following. The Red Desert has had a public following for over a decade. Silver King is where our First Amendment battle (that opened observation daily) took root.

On the heels of this schedule comes the most controversial of all; spay research. Research that has not even passed a NEPA test as of the creation of the schedule.

Was this schedule created with a political intention? Many of our readers have suggested that the intention is not about removing wild horses in areas where it could actually help horses and the range but to create a political impression that fertility control via dart does not work. Some have suggested that the intention is to create a psychological platform to destabilize advocacy and create a reactionary response that carries an emotional weight to divert actions toward a less effective engagement.

We do not know if there is a well thought out process to create this schedule, we have often seen the exact opposite in practice. We do agree that politics rule prioritization of the use of funding.

If you look at last years schedule hitting the western edge of Triple B as a state of Nevada priority as Cold Creek was tanking and later added as an “emergency” was politically motivated. If you actually look at the landscape of the western states where the mall fertility control program that appear on this schedule are located, you will see exactly what we saw at Triple B; apparently politics rule the reality of the range and areas where wild horses exist that have been ignored for over a decade, remain ignored. Funding is not being used in areas where the range could use a pressure valve (even if horses are not the key source of degradation, the degradation exists).

We do know that creating a schedule as the one presented will bring media attention. What is done with that media attention is yet to be seen. How will the opposition use it, BLM use it, advocacy use it? Will the media take the time to dig for deeper truths? We do know that media attention will arrive as we head into the Appropriations (funding) battle for 2019 in earnest and a big midterm election arrives.

This fall promises to be a very “hot time” in wild horse advocacy. Please do your best to understand before reacting. “They mean well but have no idea of process or the truth of the range” is a label that has been easily shoved on a reactive public by the opposition time and again. An educated advocacy is needed more than ever.


further reading: NEPA https://wildhorseeducation.org/nepa/

June 11 Update: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2018/06/11/wildhorses-update-06-11-18/

Help us continue our work to gain accountability. WHE (our founder Laura Leigh) is the only org in history to litigate against conduct at roundups. Our litigation was key in the agency creating a humane handling policy (CAWP) that was included in roundup contracts in the fall of 2015. Our teams will cover as many operations as we can afford to observe and engage in. Thank you.



Wild horses at Onaqui


Categories: Wild Horse Education