Ground Zero

A Roundup begins in paperwork, planning and advocate action long before a chopper flies. Help us give the reality of the wild horse a fighting chance!


Ground Zero (a fast update from the road)

As the yearly battle rages for Appropriations (government spending for next year) you are going to be bombarded with messages that confuse, confound and frustrate.

This part of the wheel of advocacy repeats every year, try to remember you have been here before. Since the Burns Amendment created the option of sales without limits (slaughter) language has been inserted into the budget bill to defund the provision (making it illegal). That is why you see the “yearly fight.”

It is an extremely tragic circumstance that decades of lazy, uniformed and greedy, has driven the wild horse “conversation” for so long. Every year the actual wild, wild horse gets buried under another year of “copy and paste.” We can not seem to get attention to range management, only all that happens after we fail to manage them on the range. This keeps the core broken and the funding going to creating more options to throw money on the consequences. 

As Appropriations messaging gets the lions share of media attention in the wild horse world federal agencies have been moving fast approving massive encroachments into wild horse habitat; mineral mining, livestock grazing, oil and gas, etc. These projects move through without much attention in the wild horse world. (It needs more attention.)

We have been addressing Congress on multiple fronts; Appropriations (maintain prohibition against slaughter), funding into range data (including monitoring domestic livestock permits, range health and trespass) and the need for serious investigations and oversight into abuses of power, tax payer funding wasted, etc in the federal wild horse and burro program. 

At yesterdays subcommittee hearing in the House on the Interior budget Brian Steed, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Land Management (there has been no Director of BLM under the current administration), gave testimony.

Steed stated nothing surprising (we are not debating validity, just listing):

  • BLM has planned a very “robust” gather schedule for the upcoming year
  • Looking for non-lethal solutions
  • How to empty holding facilities
  • Made claims that wild horses are in areas there have been no cows and are eating the ground to bare dirt (after saying we are going to have heavy grass loads and fire concerns are high as he discussed budget for wildfire preparedness) and failing to tell you the cows created the bare dirt before the permit was denied. Ok, so we debated just a little bit. 

However, Steed noted that BLM is preparing the report requested by Congress to finalize options (those options include euthanasia, spaying, 10-20K removed each year). The report is expected around the end of July, beginning of August (you can read more HERE). 

BLM has already begun to implement items “on their list” to empty holding pens. The $1,000 rebate has created a new slaughter subsidy. In late 2019, and into 2020, expect BLM mustangs to start showing up at kill pens in record numbers. (more HERE)

Wild horses are the only animal in our nation defined legally by the land it stands on, not what it is biologically. We need to begin a discussion on actually preserving the habitat from rapid fire encroachment from industry. Without the land it stands on, there is no wild horse. 

The “land they stand” exists in 10 western states. BLM currently “manages” 180 distinct Herd Management Areas (HMAs). Many of them have what BLM calls “appropriate” management levels listed at under 100 wild horses.

Arizona: 9 HMAs. California: 22 HMAs (7 exist entirely in NV, managed by CA). Colorado: 4 HMAs. Idaho: 6 HMAs. Montana: 1 HMA. Nevada: 83 HMAs (7 of the HMAs managed by CA exist entirely inside NV and 3 are partly inside the state. NV has 93 HMAs inside it’s borders). New Mexico: 2 HMAs. Oregon: 17 HMAs. Utah: 19 HMAs. Wyoming: 16 HMAs.

We have been addressing extraction (including oil and gas) in small and large scale engagement. Several parcels that would exist in wild horse areas have been removed.

We are able to do that using the years of data we have obtained that demonstrate migrational and essential year round habitat.

Advocacy Begins on the Range

Most Bureau of Land Management (BLM) districts barely have anything that resembles actual, factual, data. When you look at the fragments of information (including what  the entire program is based on obtained from the earliest survey work), you can see the blatant disregard for the letter of the law, wild horses and the public interest that represents wild horses.

  • HMA boundary lines did not include “the land they stand” when created, but what was the most convenient for politics or friends and family. This has never been corrected.
  • Actual ground data is not gathered every year. When data is sporadically obtained it is often done by an intern out of an agriculture school that knows nothing about wild horses.
  • From EA to EA info is copied and pasted from old documents, some even identical to information that is over three decades old.
  • Mining or livestock permits are assessed using nothing but a boundary line of an HMA and an assertion of “over population” based on the faulty range capacity created decades ago (many believe BLM has stacks of information on each herd, they simply do not).

Old barbed wire liters HMAs and cuts off wild horses from water and the ability to roam. Some of this old barbed wire is from fire rehab fences that, in the BLM paperwork, has supposedly been removed but still stands rusting and twisted. Current livestock fencing creates gates that are often closed when they should not be, cutting horses off from water and forage. All fencing creates artificial areas of “overuse” because horses must travel miles to pass through one 10 ft gate to get to water.

Many that travel with us see what is happening to our wild horses and use the word “cruel” to describe the hardships BLM creates for wild horses on the range.

What Isn’t Being Discussed

BLM needs a mandate to review the entire corrupt Wild Horse program. Original data for HMA/HAs must be posted online. If BLM has no actual yearly range data that identifies critical habitat, migratory routes and a structured plan to preserve the public resource (wild horses) they must admit it openly and stop using wild horses to satisfy the “ol boy club.”

Emergency funding must be made available to obtain data (at least as much as WHE has on herds), appropriate and qualified staffing, and actual preservation/management plans created before trying to fund killing or sterilizing one single horse. (The proposed budget decreases personnel agency wide.)

What to expect

We expect BLM to present a cost comparison document, not a range report, to send to Congress. This will be used to determine how many they can capture, sterilize, release or send to holding. The report to Congress will create the baseline for the real debate for funding in fiscal year 2020 (that begins in October). That report, and the real debate, will arrive at the end of summer.

We expect there to be no increase in funding for monitoring, range improvements, barbed wire removal, etc.

There will be an extremely minor increase in the use of temporary fertility control. There will be massive removals (we expect 15-20,000 on the 2020 gather schedule). There will be gelding and spaying.

WHE, right now

The data we are gathering, to add to the base we have, is what we use to comment (or litigate) against habitat destruction, for preservation plans. We can also use that data to debunk the report BLM will use to try to spay (or kill) your wild horses in the next report to Congress.

Our field teams are out… 

  • Forage assessment (before and after livestock turnout)
  • Increasing our migratory route data base
  • Monitoring new births and those that did not make it to their first birthday
  • Herd health
  • Water (spring flow, trough function, catchments)

This information gives us the ability to create site specific action (comments, planning, litigation).  This is the foundation. A foundation that in many cases contains more actual field work than BLM.

Our team is also working on a round of briefs in active litigation, providing input on a large oil and gas corridor interface, commenting on multiple EAs and EISs, etc.

This fast note from the field will be updated soon. Unpredictable weather is creating unpredictable internet. As soon as the technical issues resolve we have a bunch of new births to report, a few have passed on and we have seen many old favorites. Our team has covered 5 HMAs this week and we have 19 more to complete this month to get our spring baseline completed. It is a lot of miles to cover. 

A Roundup begins in paperwork, planning and advocate action long before a chopper flies. Help us give the reality of the wild horse a fighting chance!


We will be launching a new “take action” interface in the next couple of weeks. More from the range, meeting room, action team, soon! 


Spring is much more than “baby time,” it’s the beginning of the growing season for many of the grasses our wild ones need to survive. But babies sure are cute!





Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education