Wild Horse Education

CAWP; What, Why, When and How (part two)


Temporary Holding; Stallion asserts dominance in the “stallion pen” during sorting before shipment to a “short term” holding facility.

As roundup season begins again Wild Horse Education has been offered a match to contributions made to our fight fund, to gather information and continue to litigate, to hold BLM accountable the law. WHE is the only organization in history to take BLM to court to stop abusive practices. Can you help us?



Question and Answer on the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP)

CAWP stands for “Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy.” CAWP is a protocol that was added into roundup contracts and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) into all Environmental Assessments (EAs) that outline a proposed, and then actualized, action.

This move came in 2015 after a long series of legal battles and over 300,000 miles of ground work, almost daily. Part one outlines some of the history and links to the text of our requests and the final version the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) implemented. CAWP still needs refinement.

Part one of the first person CAWP discussion can be found HERE.

At the end of the “part one” there was a form to submit questions. The form has been removed and the sheer number, and variety, of questions has prompted the writing of “part two” before moving on to other articles.


Before I being to tackle some of the questions we were sent I want to repeat the format of the first paragraph, with additional language added;

CAWP stands for “Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy.” CAWP is a protocol that was added into roundup contracts, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and into all Environmental Assessments (EAs) that outline a proposed, and then actualized, action. The action analyzed in the EA is a roundup of wild horses.

Questions and Answers (Some of the questions are paraphrased or represent duplicates. You may not see the actual language of your specific question, but you will find the answer.)

Question: Why are they allowed time and time again to break the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act?

Answer: The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (amended) is pretty broad. We have repeatedly urged readers to read the actual text of the Act. (You can find it HERE) Many people have an impression of what the Act is, not the “fact of the act.” In my opinion the Act needs reform to tighten and clarify many provisions of the law. Advocacy does have litigation options to create some of those clarifications, but reform would be in order.

The question was asked in a format referencing CAWP, so I will answer with that in mind. But this question could reference any aspect of “wild horses.”

In the instance of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRH&B Act) and our fight to create a policy, that would decrease abusive practices and injuries, the Act was utilized as an essential part of our litigation.

The WFRH&B Act requires wild horses to be managed humanely. If you read the text of the Act you will see that many areas have what is called “broad discretion” to determine management actions. However “humane” is a “must” under the law (the Act is the law), not a “if you feel like it” part of discretion.

There were a number of other measurements of law that had to be met in order to bring those cases into court. We met those burdens, under intense scrutiny, and won each case.

Winning the cases showed BLM procedure was inadequate under the law. The CAWP policies were created to make an attempt by the agency to adequately follow the law (WFRH&B Act) in practice.

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Question: I was told by an expert that inhumane treatment can not be litigated anymore because BLM has a policy. Is that true?

Answer: No, it’s not true.

If there is an instance where there is an inhumane action it can be litigated. A policy is a guidance document created to outline a protocol to help those that carry out an action to adhere to a law. The law is the WFRH&B Act now further supported by a policy included in the EA and contracts. WHE built a framework that would make litigation easier than when we began because there was no precedent. Now there is precedent and even more justification built into the hurdles that must be met to justify a valid legal action.

If parameters of the policy are violated, it is not only a “violation of policy” it is an action that the courts would, likely, deem unlawful in and of itself. As an example if a helicopter hit a wild horse (a case we won in the past) that could be brought into court and win immediately on a violation of policy (now referenced in the EA that governs the roundup and in the contracts) and a violation of the WFRH&B Act.

If a parameter of the policy is inadequate, and an avoidable action that causes suffering occurs, then the policy is proven inadequate to comply with the law. As an example if wild horses are pushed in temperatures that are too low (the air in the West is extremely dry) and horses come in with bloody noses and/or nosebleeds after runs that are too long and hard. Bleeding from the airways in the lungs, which is called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, can happen to horses subject to extremely intense runs. This type of injury might be acceptable to many in the racing industry, but it is in no way acceptable in a family band of young, old and pregnant horses. This would be an example of litigable action. If this occurs the policy is inadequate, or being violated, and the operation does not comply with the WFRH&B Act.

Observers with relevant information can also, now, participate in proposing CAWP revisions.

Someone saying this is “not able to go to court” is not correct. These cases are hard, you have to be able to present clear evidence, understand distinctions and move fast.

We were told they were impossible to bring under law by some very expensive attorneys. They were wrong. It is actually more “possible” today because of the framework WHE built.

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Question: I read on social media that someone who is an expert made comments on a roundup and legally protests the roundup. Why is the roundup still happening? (This question was also not about CAWP, what we asked you to submit in part one. However we received many questions similar to this and felt it important to answer.)

Answer: This question actually has more layers than you realize.

“An expert made comments on a roundup” that you heard about on social media. Personally, I am really disappointed that social media does not create more people researching what they read and simply taking the three lines associated with a meme as “all they need to know.” It has been creating a lot of problems. However, “comments on a roundup” can mean many things.

Comments are part of the framework under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that requires input from “stakeholders” and public comment when a federal agency proposes an action or creates a management planning document like a Land Use Plan (LUP) that outlines what a district sees as management objectives. An Environmental Assessment (EA) for a roundup is exactly that, an assessment of impacts from the roundup, not a management plan. You can propose alternatives not “considered” in the EA to the “action of a roundup” (however most often if the alternative is not one outlined in another document like a Land Use Plan it would be rejected for any further discussion).  If an EA also broaches a management objective action, like fertility control, then comments that surround the proposed action are appropriate particularly if they address something not in the LUP.  (Management objectives for districts are outlined in Resource Management Plans, RMPs or LUPs.)

I do not mean to make it sound complicated. It is actually not complicated if you learn the acronyms. Most of this is like getting a building permit or a drivers license; it seems daunting until you read and understand the language.

I do not know what the comments were and where in the process they were made. As an example if they were comments about something like forage ratio between “cows and horses” were they made on the EA or the LUP? Those types of comments would be appropriate in an LUP (or LUP revision based on new information), but not on an EA where the “action proposed” is a roundup.

Many times we see “action items” that are not appropriate to that part of the management framework. You will often see something like “BLM said my comment is irrelevant!” What that means is that it is not a comment relevant to that document, but may be relevant to another. This creates a lot of frustration for the public; BLM does not do a good job explaining and many do not research to find the answer.

“Legally protesting” is another term that needs to be clarified before I can give you a valid answer. What kind of legal protest? If they commented on the LUP, had a scientific and provable claim that went unaddressed, are they litigating the LUP? Or are they simply “exercising a legal right” in America to stand up and say “I protest” ? I can not answer unless I know what you really mean by the question.

In the past WHE has done webinars that focus on the NEPA process. The number of questions we received like this one clearly demonstrate that I need to find time to do another one. You can learn more about NEPA HERE.


Stallion leaves the range to become one of nearly 50,000 captive American Wild Horses

Time constraints limit the number of questions I can get answered today. However, I felt it was important to start answering you. Many of the responses reflect a deep frustration with the “wheel of advocacy.” Progress is made one step at a time. There is no instant gratification, no magic wands. Advocacy is hard work and is a lifetime commitment. There will be highs and lows. Hang in there…. you are the only voices our wild horses have. 

Advocacy for the wild, wild horse is about engaging public lands management.

The wild horse is the only animal in our nation defined by the land it stands on, not what it is biologically. This is the single most important factor you need to know. It is one of the mainline items that leave wild horses extremely vulnerable to public lands politics. Wild horses are legally confined to often arbitrary acreage. Impacts to those areas can not be replaced and legally the wild horse can not simply “move out” like an elk or deer can.

An educated advocacy is needed more than ever.


A roundup begins long before a helicopter flies. Help us build a strong frontline to protect and preserve our wild horses and the land they stand on. 


Categories: Wild Horse Education