Wild Horse Education

The End of the Wild Horse and Burros Act is in Sight (A Response to HSUS et al)


The horse is perhaps the important animal in human history. The horse helped build our world, fight our wars and till our fields. 

The wild horses on public lands have become a pawn in dangerous political games. The end of the intention of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, to preserve them as “wild and integral to the landscape,” is in sight.

note: our founder, Laura Leigh, was set to debate Gillian Lyons of HSUS on this “alliance” on NPR. Lyons backed out with less than 24 hours notice. 

(this article is presented in response to the new HSUS, well crafted and funded to appear high in any Google search, blog by Kitty Block, new CEO of HSUS. The blog is the justification presentation for the the “alliance,” identified in releases from livestock news outlets as; Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Society for Range Management and the American Farm Bureau Federation with the Humane Society of the U.S., American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation. They left off the lobby group, American Mustang Foundation.)

The debate now swirls around a document created by this “alliance” that will be used in the Appropriations (spending) debate. Many wild horse advocates remember the “Burns Amendment” that was run through this same channel and changed the Act itself. The coming debate is designed to change the Act itself through a spending bill. It’s a run at changing the law.  How we enter this debate is critical. This “alliance” weakened the ability to stop it. 

Wild horses are all about public lands management; forage and water, loss of habitat (the precious little wild horses are given under law), the laws and processes that govern public lands.

Many at this table are the greatest threat in the “public lands power grab.” This is akin to environmental organizations allowing privatization of public land after carving out a few streams they get a contract to “manage,” claiming there was no choice but to join in, and try to sell it as a victory.

Decades of political pokers games (and recently buying social media by big public relations budgets) has led us into the most dangerous time in history; the 1971 Act to protect them is on the verge of being gutted and the entire process to hold BLM accountable to decades of lazy, inept, corruption in the wild horse program is also on the verge of being gutted (NEPA). This is not an exaggeration, misrepresentation or outright fabrication; it is the hard truth. 

Most, if not all, wild horse advocates agree that increasing the use of a temporary fertility control agent, like Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP), is warranted and long overdue. The use of PZP, only when coupled with a rigorous data collection component, can be used to fix underlying flaws that the BLM never addresses, like actually identifying critical habitat and stop giving it away to extraction.

To increase the use of PZP BLM does not need any new legal authorities, new approvals by Congress. BLM just needs to actually do the paperwork, and do it right. BLM has had this option, has this option, and will continue to have this option.

This option (increasing fertility control with PZP) is not dependent on any new concept by any outside entity, and requires no amendment to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. It is only needed if they approve something like sterilization.

The idea that is was some “either/or” situation requiring ill-informed, big corporate organizations, to use as reason to step into bed with those wanting control over public land decision making (the states rights, Grass March, Sage Brush Rebels) is utter insanity. If you are an advocate for anything that lives and breathes on public land this is pure nonsense. If you are simply after your own subsidy as a business? it makes sense under the current political climate; don’t fight it, join it. That is what this “alliance” is.

This “alliance” has weakened the ability to gain public understanding, failed to fight where it was needed and weakened our voices for wild horses on public lands in the next Appropriations debate. If things go bad? These organizations are to blame for not fighting the real threats, but joining those making them.

This is where the difference between advocates for wild horses, and those only advocating for their own interest, become evident to the public (finally).

Other aspects of the “sell-out”from HSUS, ASPCA, Return to Freedom and the American Mustang Foundation (in conjunction with the Cattlemen’s Ass’n and Farm Bureau) like helping to use the power of advocate organization to assist with adoption, fertility control and finding more suitable holding pastures through applications, all currently exist and did not require “jumping into bed.”  These organizations could have been working, HMA by HMA, and creating those options for decades. But these are being touted as new “wins” by public relations firms, not the “on the ground” advocacy that has been moving these programs in a steady march of progress, however slow it may be, that does exist today. No new authority or negotiation with “our opposition” was ever required.

Our opposition (that has corrupted the federal agency in charge of enforcing the law, not playing favorites with it)  worked a masterfully maneuvered political game, looking for the weaknesses; like greed, ego and ignorance of land management. They found that in plentiful supply in advocacy and exploited it…. to work on closing the circle of control and locking decision making on public lands into the hands of profit driven interests.

The issue is being spun (by the greedy and ignorant)  in an “either all the horses would be killed and go to slaughter OR we have to give ground.”

At no time did ground need to be “given.” It was old fashioned horse trading and dividing up the wild horse like a meal. In fact, the new head of HSUS, Kitty Block, has released a new blog that states exactly that,  if you know what you are reading. Their organization is only focused on selling PZP and domestic horse issues and used the wild horses as a card in the poker game.

In the past we do know that the SAFE Act did not make a floor vote because they agreed not to push it if legislation moved on some farm animal bills. This is the danger of any multi-species group; they trade off one animal for another. In this instance they are selling a public lands issue, wild horses, in that same game. (Kitty is the new HSUS CEO that makes an amazing salary larger than the entire budget of most horse rescues or advocate organizations. She took the helm in 2018 when Wayne Pacelle stepped down and Holly Hazzard left. But the negotiations with the public land takeover crowd began in 2015 and hit the road hard in 2016. More on this in a later article.)

As a wild horse advocate you can see how someone with those types of agendas might work? On public lands the larger picture of how wild horses are managed on range, the laws, the actual reality, is something they are in no way an expert on… because that is not their focus. It is also not the largest share of their income and you rarely see even a press release on the issues. In fact, they only get involved in litigation when the word “slaughter” can be used and tied to domestic bills. They have never litigated, or created any original action, against abuse at roundups, for instance, not once.

What exactly did this “alliance” do? it has a real potential to gut the entire Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act. For what exactly? 

“New authorities” that the BLM will ask Congress for, and note this alliance in agreement to move removals and fertility control forward,  will also allow and include, but are not limited to:

  1. Sterilize entire herds (or parts of herd) with spaying or gelding
  2. Remove 15-20,000 wild horses each year (with changes to NEPA to impede anyone trying to hold them accountable)
  3. Give lots of money to create a new “rancher subsidy” and turn wild horses on public land into a cash cow
  4. Euthanizing wild horses BLM deems unadoptable (without any limit)

BLM will also ask Congress for the authority to move fast, shirk responsibility to analyze their actions under NEPA. They want to create unjustified actions, not currently specified in the Act, under what is called a Categorical Exclusion. That means to create any of the actions listed above, they do not need to do an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). No more “EAs” to comment on or litigate.

This “Categorical Exclusion” is NOT needed to increase the use of temporary fertility control like PZP. But those in the “betrayer alliance?” Did they know this? Did they even care what else they opened the door for?

BLM needs NO new authority to create actual Herd Management Area Plans (HMAP) as outlined in their handbooks, that they have failed to do. BLM needs no new authority to roundup wild horses and use fertility control. BLM needs no new authority to create new holding contracts. BLM needs no new authority to enter into agreements with volunteers to do darting, range clean-up, monitoring. BLM needs no new authority to protect habitat from industry in HMAs. In fact, it is part of what BLM is supposed to be doing, and failed. These organizations could have been helping for decades, chose to fight those obstructing, but they failed to really even attempt it. Instead they became part of the obstruction (in 2016) and even helped the opposition destroy work of those actually trying, on the ground.

These organizations have no real ground presence. They could have used funding to create, or support, one.  They are not out designing and proposing plans HMA by HMA. They could have used funding to create, or support, one. They could have been fighting the rapid fire policy changes and industry taking habitat from HMAs. They did not.

They used funding to create an impression of a problem, pretend to advocate for a solution that makes no sense to the reality of the law, or the reality of the wild horses. It only makes sense if you are out for your own interests; money, power and cards to throw in political poker.

Should any private organization be able to make any determination of whose voice is important or who can  be involved in an action that determines management of public lands? Should federal land managers get to sweep decades of lazy and corrupt into an “ask” to Congress that makes their perpetuation of it legal? No.

The American public has made clear they will not support a candidate that votes to send wild horses, or domestic horses, to a slaughter plant. They could simply use the power of horse slaughter outrage itself to stop it (wild horses become governed by domestic horse laws after adoption or sale, the only time the SAFE Act would protect them). A bill against double decker trailer transport for domestic horses that is an extremely rare occurrence? Do not trade my wild, wild horses for that either.

They never had to throw wild, wild horses under the bus, or those that, specifically, advocate for wild horses. 

The wild horse is the only animal in our nation legally defined by where it stands, not what it is biologically.

The legal debates surrounding wild horses begin in the realm of public land language, not the words used for a domestic horse debate.

Wild horses are not dogs and cats. Wild horses are not private property, but belong to all Americans. 

We will not be silenced.

(our founder is working on a personal essay about how this alliance was created and what this alliance did to her work, personally. The lack of professional ethical behavior will knock your socks off. She wanted to speak to a law professor first to learn the “right words” to express what she describes as “The Twilight Zone of stupidity and greed.”)


Important reading:

Please take the time to read, and sign up for our fast action team, HERE

If you want to take preliminary action there is a suggested script to all your Congressman HERE

Wild Horses and National Monuments are in the same dirty hands (the hands these corporate advocates held in their meetings) HERE.




Categories: Wild Horse Education