Wild Horse Education

Turbulence and Dust, 2 (BLM Policy Changes and the Political Poker Game)

In the “wild hose world” things can get caught in a bit of turbulence and seemingly left in the dust as headlines, politics and social media race from one campaign to another. Many of the emails we are receiving have specifics from one instance confused with another.

These questions seem to primarily focus on new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policy changes, Devils Garden (USFS) happenings, Triple B (BLM) wild horses, fertility control, the pending spending battle (Appropriations) and the larger political befuddlement creating a thick cloud.

Each one of these subjects is not something that can be addressed in a single paragraph without creating more confusion. In order to address the questions we are breaking each subject into a short article.

In the first piece we addressed Devils Garden (HERE)

(for fast overview information remember to check out the new web portal at PublicHorses.com)


Many of you have heard “Win the battle, but lose the war.” Let us not let that happen. Now, more than ever, it is big picture time. We need your support.

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Orphans after the Owyhee Roundup

BLM Policy Changes and the Political Poker Game

Recently there have been three changes to policy in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program (WHBP).

These three changes are not distinct and separated action, they are part of options presented to Congress and already adopted by BLM without public discussion. These actions support the options not yet approved through Appropriations (spaying, gelding, doubled removals, additional funding for those that take wild horses in “sanctuary”).

Remember using rapid fire small change, stirring confusion, hitting high profile herds, competition, exploiting weakness (attention or money), have all been wielded well by the opposition.

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The actual moment of capture can tell me almost all I need to know about the run. The manner of the horse, if observed closely, can speak volumes about the run, and even the range itself. The ability to watch personnel during capture and loading? Gives you the ability to evaluate, over days, what issues may exist that need to be changed and suggest how to create that change.

The most asked question today on policy change; change in notification

The change in notification on the start date of a roundup is NOT about observation of a roundup. This change is to increase the rate BLM can remove horses in the next 3 years.

The change is to be able to pound out Decision Records (DR’s) as soon as funding is approved. We expects these DR’s to come fast attached to Environmental Assessments (EA) already approved where funding was not approved at the time the EAs were created. They will also be attached  to EAs where roundups have already happened but the target removal (AML) was not met.

You will have 14 days notice to buy a plane ticket, or pack and drive out, but the observation policy is still in place.

On roundups where the EA is already approved? You wont have much notice to get there. But the schedule can turn on a dime anyway. As an example WHE did 112,000 miles in just one year covering roundups (2011), 85,000 another year (2012), etc. Many of those miles include driving in a pattern like: leaving a roundup in Utah, getting into Oregon for a roundup, only to find that cancelled and one slid forward in eastern Nevada beginning the following morning and driving all night to get there (been there, done that).

This policy is more about new planning documents for a roundup (EA), that will have a 30 day comment period before the approval of a roundup, but will only have 14 days to protest through the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA), instead of 30. (It’s not about “observation”).

The justification BLM is using is that advocates do not protest through IBLA, they litigate direct in federal court. They make a claim that litigation is only filed when the roundup actually starts anyway, in federal court. (A federal district court, or Appeals court, carries more weight than IBLA and why it is often not used. IBLA has the nickname of “cow court” because it is most often used by livestock permittees to address anything they have issue with.)

BLM is not giving you a legal reason to change standard policy and this is (actually) an actionable policy change. The very first litigation under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA) established wild horses were to be managed using standard NEPA practices. This is not standard. You should have the standard 30 right to protest, even if you don’t use it much. (Remember the increase in use of federal court by environmental organizations is not shortening the protest period for livestock or mining.)

There are advocates that use IBLA, WHE is one of those organizations. We use IBLA when dealing with range management (like the current legal action we have against mining).

We jump direct to federal court when actions at a roundup prohibit access or hurt wild horses.

Our founder, and WHE, are the only people to take access to roundups and inhumane treatment into court, non-stop. Those actions are only actionable after they happen, case-by-case, and can not be filed prior to the start of a roundup. This is NOT a change to the access policy our litigation built.

This is not about access to observe roundups. The access policy is still in effect. 

This is about creating a chaotic environment that runs roundups fast, moves them around and inhibits your ability (our ability) to protest management decisions. However, our ability to file against mining, livestock and oil and gas in the IBLA is not effected by this change. Our ability to have full access to protest newly created removal, sterilization, fertility control, is.

(We wrote about the rebate HERE. The sales policy that upped the number to 24 sold without a special exemption was no longer needed. That change in policy? It is window dressing and being used by those playing the poker game to crow “victory.” Out of context? it sure looks like one.)

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Move ’em in, move ’em out… that is what all of those changes are about.


Big Picture

As advocates we really need to focus on how all these changes interact. In many ways each change creates another layer that the greed machines can hide in. The greed machines are the biggest threats to wild horses.

These changes, in and of themselves, are actually actionable (litigation). As an example did BLM fully evaluate the rebate program, involve stakeholders? There was no litigation that said “BLM you need to offer a rebate” to force the change. No violation of law that forced that change. But litigation is very expensive, time consuming. Today there are so many things happening that it may be a strategy to bombard, and exhaust, advocacy resources? Or do they count on those that bought into the larger picture, ones with the most money, not to litigate? Were they the “stakeholders” engaged? (I digress, apology.)

All of these policy changes are designed to increase the rate of roundups and the exit of wild horses out the back doors of holding facilities, to increase roundups. These are not distinct actions. Each one came out of the DC office of BLM.

The DC office of BLM for wild horses is essentially “green lighted” by two people right now; Alan Shepherd, current DC BLM WHBP lead (former BLM WHBP lead in Nevada) and Brian Steed, Deputy Director of BLM (former Chief of Staff for Chris Stewart, R-UT). BLM has no Director, has had no Director, under this administration (and any action or policy change may be illegal in and of itself by skirting chain of command and oversight responsibilities of a Director, of which there is none).

If you have not read about how the “Zinke schedule” FOIA exposure shows wild horses in the exact same influence pool as National Monuments, you should. (Click HERE)

You will see many public resources in the scandal headlines, but not wild horses. That has to do with media trying to dumb down, simplify, and just republish a soundbite crafted by a well paid public relations firm. Wild horses? barely taken seriously unless it is for clickbait with the word “slaughter” or another tired look at the inmate training program (the training programs are great, but that is not the world of the mustang).

It really is a shame… it may be the most corrupted of all of BLM programs.


BLM was tasked with creating a report for Congress. You really should familiarize yourself with the report. WHE protested. BLM is now tasked with creating a new report.

The new report is expected to be a document that is not range data rich to support proposed options, but simply more in depth cost comparison. As with any document created by BLM the “preferred option” is already chosen, the others presented because by law, they have to.

The options moving forward will become part of the funding debate that will move to create sterilized herds (with an target of 80%), large scale roundups (10-20K) each year, and more cash incentive to “empty the pens.” No option gives a large enough budget to fix the broken range program, because that would generate the least amount of ongoing funding to hide fraud.

Read the proposed options from BLM to Congress, taken right from the pro horse slaughter “Summit of the Wild Horse. (HERE) Read Option 4. It has already begun.

Part of what our opposition needs to get this through is chaos, distraction and a lack of understanding in advocacy. It is vital to their objective.

Our next article will go into depth on how these options are very likely to be fully funded.

The small policy changes are symptoms of the sickness. 

We will take you into the next round of Appropriations (where YOU can use all of this information to help, in the next article).





Categories: Wild Horse Education