Wild Horse Education

Hearing on use of Motorized Vehicles; Wild Horses and Burros


Humbolt roundup, Pershing county NV

BLM to Hold Public Hearing on use of Motorized Vehicles and Aircraft to Manage Wild Horses and Burros

BLM press release, commentary below.

CARSON CITY, Nev. – The Bureau of Land Management will conduct a public hearing to discuss the use of motorized vehicles and aircraft in the monitoring and management of wild horses or burros on public lands in Nevada. The hearing is scheduled Tuesday, July 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., at the BLM Carson City District Office, 5665 Morgan Mill Road, in Carson City, Nev.

The purpose of the hearing is to receive information and public comment on the use of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to inventory wild horse or burro populations and the use of helicopters to gather and remove excess animals. The hearing will also consider the use of motorized vehicles to transport gathered wild horses or burros as well as to conduct field monitoring activities.

An annual public hearing is required to comply with Section 404 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.  The BLM proposes to use a helicopter, fixed wing aircraft and other motorized vehicles to conduct population surveys on herd management areas (HMAs) and obtain seasonal distribution information for wild horse and burro herds throughout Nevada.

Also proposed is using a helicopter to assist in gathering excess wild horses and burros on HMAs and complexes throughout the state during the coming year.  The actual number of areas where gathers or population surveys will be conducted will depend on a number of factors including funding. The hearing will also consider the use of motorized vehicles to transport gathered wild horses or burros as well as to conduct field monitoring activities.

For more information, contact John Axtell at (775) 885-6000. If you cannot attend the hearing, written comments must be mailed to the BLM Carson City District Office, attention: John Axtell, 5665 Morgan Mill Road, Carson City, NV 89701 and must be received by close of business onJuly 3, 2018 to be considered.


A state by state administrative process. These hearings are required each year. These hearings often create a buzz because a helicopter roundup carries a lot of controversy. 

BLM has only given 7 days public notice. 

Many of you that follow our work know we like to inform you of history and process. An educated advocacy is more important than ever. A bit of history can go a long way before you craft a comment. 


In 1959 the “Wild Horse Annie Act” was passed. It basically said you can’t run wild horses down with any motorized vehicle or poison water holes. It was a nice simple law and you can read it here https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/47

There was essentially NO enforcement of the 1959 law.

In 1971 the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed. This Act was passed to BEGIN the larger conversation to how we manage wild horses and burros, began federal jurisdiction and stopped “mustanging.” It has been amended multiple times and in our opinion, still fails miserably as a solid legal document.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, PL 94-579, provides for the use of helicopters in the gathering of wild horses and burros after public hearings and under humane procedures prescribed by the Secretaries.

A Congressional hearing was held. At that time there was a huge push to resume mustanging (the wholesale harvest of wild horses where they were sent to slaughter for things like fertilizer and chicken feed). This push came after the “claiming period,” essentially a period where mustanging continued by many essentially unregulated. (Authority for BLM law enforcement to actually address violations of illegal capture of wild horses also began at that time).


Now the issue that most people are concerned with is “inhumane treatment.” The Act, and underlying provisions, require BLM to manage wild horses and burros humanely.

These hearings are also not about creating a humane handling policy. The hearing can be used to discuss enforcement, or a lack thereof.

2018_TripleB - 1 (2) copy 2

A policy is now in place as of November 2015 (IM-151-15), or the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy or “CAWP.” (We see some very uniformed orgs calling it “CAWPS”). This comes with a specific protocol that is also not susceptible to petitions or screaming to change it.

Prior to CAWP (November 2015) you could simply say that BLM had an “arbitrary” practice, no policy, on what is humane and that they failed the legal parameter. Roundups were really done based on the opinion of whomever was doing the operation in what is called “discretionary practice.” That is no longer the case. 

The hearings can be used to bring up specific issues with existing policy by presenting first hand information that applies to the policy. 


In 2011 Wild Horse Education (WHE) began to take the agency to court on issues documented at roundups. We are the only org in history to do this. We won the first orders in history and continued to win. We did not create petitions to enlarge our mailing list or misrepresent the victories to the public. We told you that each victory did not represent an end, but a step, in getting a policy.

Our first action at Triple B in 2011 won. It also began an internal review by the BLM. (In 2011 we created our recommendations and presented them in multiple forms including a FAX campaign that went out in 2012. Or our comments in 2014 to a helicopter hearing. Both of these documents are no longer valid comments at a helicopter hearing).

Take the time to read the background for the reason for the review (the judge), in the charter for the review .

“In late August, Laura Leigh filed a lawsuit in Reno District Court alleging animal abuse and inhumane animal treatment among other things. On August 31, 2011 Judge McKibben issued a temporary restraining order to prohibit the use of the helicopter as demonstrated on August 11, 2011 (Laura Leigh video), that appears to strike a horse with the skid or flying the helicopter unreasonably close to a horse during the Triple B Complex gather.”

This began the serious conversation of creating CAWP.

WHE won multiple other victories. You can read about them here.

This is what CAWP looks like now: IM2015-151_att1


WHE still has multiple issues with certain parameters of CAWP because the recommendations are based on conjecture and incomplete information. Remember WHE has the largest library of first hand documentation of wild horse capture in the world, larger than the federal government. Our concerns are based on those observations and are not conjecture from watching a video or reading someones theory. One of the greatest objections we have are concepts of foaling season and temperature, i.e.  “ambient temperature is outside the range of 10°F to 95°F for horses or 10°F to 100°F for burros.” Our documentation notes that accidents are much more likely, almost guaranteed, once temperatures reach 86 degrees F. We are working with BLM to look much closer at the “human” element and address issues of human error during higher temperature and making that a factor in CAWP.

This is the “Assessment Tool” being used by BLM to determine the effectiveness of CAWP and will be reviewed.    http://www.blm.gov/style/medialib/blm/wo/Information_Resources_Management/policy/im_attachments/2015.Par.93418.File.dat/IM2015-151_att2.pdf

A little history on an issue can go a long way before you create your comments. We will be crafting ours, including the seven day notice.




Categories: Wild Horse Education