Wild Horse Education

Roundups; before the new schedule

This week we have been catching up on some of the questions in the inbox. There is a lot going on in the “wild horse world.” You can check out the piece on the Devils Garden roundup being proposed for fall 2019 HERE and the update on the changes to BLM policy (notification) HERE.

This piece will address some of the questions we are receiving about “the roundup schedule.” (we will update you on Triple B, litigation, Appropriations, in separate pieces as soon as we can).


A beautiful wild horse from Onaqui in Utah

We are getting many emails asking for the start date for helicopter roundups. Some people believe the Onaqui roundup in Utah will begin next week. Onaqui is not on a roundup schedule, yet. The action to remove wild horses and expand fertility control (PZP and/or GonaCon) has been approved through NEPA, it is not approved yet to hit the schedule, or how it will hit the schedule.

Helicopter roundups run from July 1- Feb 28. From March 1- June 30 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) uses a designation of a west wide foaling season and roundups by helicopter are only approved in extreme emergency and can not use a segment of an HMA in emergency to remove wild horses in the entire HMA (see Jackson Mountain litigation).  Any time of year BLM can  legally do a bait trapping operation (no helicopter).

BLM updates the schedule as operations are approved through  funding. You can find the BLM schedule HERE.

Helicopter operations are generally scheduled after states and districts compete for available funding. We don’t usually see helicopter operations added until June.

What we will see hit the schedule first (areas like Onaqui).

There are a number of areas where the Environmental Assessments (EAs) were approved but funding was not available and they were not placed on the schedule. In other instances operations occurred, but the goal for removal numbers were not met. We expect several of those to be on the upcoming schedule.

Next on the list

There are a number of areas we expect BLM to create new EAs that will include language for removals and multiple forms of “population control” that will include helicopter removal, PZP, GonaCon and surgical sterilization as flexible options (under the heading “all approved fertility control”). New EAs will have a 30 day “comment period” before being finalized and then only 14 days to protest under the new policy change (more info on the policy change HERE).


Onaqui will be one on the schedule that we will start to see take shape in June.

In December of 2018 BLM published it’s decision on Onaqui. The 30 day protest period has expired. What you are seeing now is pressure being put on BLM Utah to lower the number of wild horses removed. However no number has actually been “approved to remove.” The EA was finalized, no approval of funding that sets method of removal and number to be removed has happened yet.

The BLM Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI):

Based on my review of EA and supporting documents prepared for the Onaqui Mountain Herd Management Area Population Control project and consideration of the significance criteria in 40 CFR 1508.27, I have determined that Alternative A, with the addition of the use of GonaConEquine as analyzed in Alternative B, will not result in significant impacts on the human environment and an environmental impact statement (EIS) is not required. (quote from the BLM FONSI)

“The current population of the Onaqui HMA is estimated at 586.  The BLM has identified the appropriate management level (AML) to be between 121 and 210 wild horses.” BLM press release.

Removing 465 wild horses would bring BLM to what is referenced as “low AML.” (quotes from the FONSI)

The exact number BLM will be approved (funded) to remove has not been finalized yet. It will be dependent on the space in holding and available funding, BLM is moving wild horses out of holding at record numbers after announcing a $1,000. rebate to people that adopt one (more info HERE).

We can not tell you, yet, when the Onaqui roundup will begin, how many will be removed, and if BLM will continue to expand PZP or switch to, or include, GonaCon (both are approved in the EA). Several organizations have reached out to BLM offering assistance if they decide to lower the number removed and rely on an increase in temporary fertility control. (Help has been offered by many, including WHE). From what we understand the group, Wild Horses of America, still has the agreement to do darting on the small herd of Onaqui that the public photographs. We do not know if that extends to the larger herd in the south.

We will update you as discussions continue.


An Onaqui mare nuzzles her baby

The “less seen”

Our field teams are out gathering data . We need ongoing information on herds that will be targeted in the next round of removals and/or are being severely impacted by habitat loss through industry. Most may not have a large following of photographers because they exist in more remote areas than Onaqui, but they need our protection too.

Ongoing monitoring of a herd and habitat create the ability to propose site specific action alternatives (that is the term for what we are supposed to put in comment letters on EAs). Those actions include commenting on new EAs, proposing alternatives and/or litigating if necessary.

Data, Comments, Litigation

We are getting questions that stem from a misunderstanding of process. (This is a very brief answer and we will do another article on this subject soon.)

Our data has stopped operations before they begin. Litigation is expensive. To create meaningful litigation we must have meaningful data. That data can be used to stop roundups before they begin as well, without expensive litigation. It also creates the base to litigate if and when needed that goes deeper into specific issues on the ground.

Having a data base of a herd is different than just photographs. Advocating requires more than establishing a record of standing for courts, it requires gathering information that is gathered over time and kept current. Standing is a legal term used to establish a relationship that an be harmed by an action. Individuals have standing based on relationship with an area and organizations utilize members to meet that legal burden. Organizations don’t have standing, people do. Organizations represent the interests of the people involved in their organization.

Having a data base it what creates the ability for more depth in proposing alternatives than can be effective before the need to litigate. (It also creates standing as well).

The laws apply equally to all of our wild horses, not just those most photographed. There is a lot of work to do and a lot of ground to cover. 


Yes, there is a lot going on. The fight to stop the backdoor to slaughter, spaying, habitat loss though rapid expansion of extraction and of course, the political maneuvers aimed at keeping your voice out of process. We are working on those as well.

We will update you on the roundup schedule as soon as it begins to solidify. However, the schedule can change, even after it is published. The next schedule will be large, we expect 10-20,000 wild horses to be targeted.

We will update you on some important actions that threaten the ability to advocate, moving targets in the budget battle and , of course, give you some great wild horse photos so you can catch up with some of the “less seen” herds soon.


Help us keep our teams in the field, at the table and in the courts. A roundup begins long before a helicopter flies. Without your support our work can not continue. 


Fast info portal PublicHorses.com

Onaqui wild horses

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Categories: Wild Horse Education