When most people think of wild horses they think of open range, manes flowing in the wind and thundering hooves. Many have come to see the helicopter in pursuit every time they think of wild horses. Nothing draws more attention, or controversy, than a roundup.
The year in roundups.
Just one “roundup minute” from 2019
Wild horses are captured in two ways: bait trap and helicopter capture. Bait trapping is allowed under current regulations all year. Helicopter capture is restricted to the first day of July through the last day of February. The reasoning behind the dates for helicopter capture is a broad claim that “foaling season” is March-June. Anyone that travels public lands knows that is simply not correct.
BLM has not changed those dates in decades, just as they have not changed any aspect of management since the 1970’s. It is interesting to note that the last time the federal government set a national stocking level (AML) for wild horses, The Beatles had just broken up, the Watergate scandal had scarred the country and students heading off to college carried a typewriter and not a cell phone and laptop. The stocking number for wild horses was set, by politics, at the same number Congress declared “fast disappearing” when the law passed to protect them in 1971; any other species would have had a set “recovery number” of 4, 10, 100 times a number found threatening to a species.
Buried in archaic thinking and old politics is the deeper backstory of the roundup: WHY? Each roundup marks one (or more) failure in on range management. From birth through capture wild horses are managed by each district through state offices that receive funding from the national office. From capture through adoption/sale or death the national hub is directly responsible. Even paychecks for employees come from these distinct budgets. It is almost as if the roundup marks the end of one distinct program and the beginning of the next (in practice).
Fish Creek 2019
At the end of the year we usually create a single video that attempts to give an overview of an entire year. This year we are republishing several videos taken in 2019. Above, day 2 of Fish Creek.
When a roundup begins attention turns from any debate over the justification and focuses solely on documenting, and advocating for, the safety and welfare of each individual. (note: When an action is proposed the NEPA process begins. There are strict timetables for filing legal protests and litigation. BLM cut the timetable for wild horses in 2019 claiming “advocates wait until a roundup to file.” Cases filed after a roundup begins are about handling issues. The justification for cutting wild horses out of standard practices is pure spin and, very possibly, illegal. more here.)
After being run for over an hour, separated from her band as she could not keep up with the high speed chase back and forth, she slowly walks towards observers and vanishes over the hill. Triple B, 2019
Wild Horse Education (our founder) is the only org to ever bring issues of inhumane treatment into a courtroom. Our relentless litigation won repeatedly and was the driving force behind the creation of the beginning of a humane handling policy (now referenced commonly as CAWP). As 2019 closes out a decade, and not simply a year, this reminder that what we were told was an “impossible task,” was more than simply possible. Hang onto that thought in the tough first months of 2020 as we fight pivotal battles for the survival of all of our truly wild herds.
Mare tries to hide her foal in the trees as she takes a chance and separates from her band. Her attempt was not successful. Fish Creek, 2019.
In 2019 we have continued the fight to improve the humane policy. “Foaling season” needs to be evaluated and changed. Educating personnel on the policy is lax and must improve. Oversight is abysmal. In 2019 we filed 3 complaints setting a framework to expand the basis for furthering our litigation.
In 2019 we watched foals run to collapse (more than once), over crowding of stud pens, unmarked barbed wire and other infractions. In 2018 we witnessed infractions and filed complaints.
BLM was supposed to complete a review and revision. However, just like the BLM Report to Congress on the entire program (now over 5 months late) that review has not materialized.
At the last BLM Advisory Board meeting of 2019 it appears BLM may have passed that task on to a newbie to wild horses, that trains dressage, to complete the task? (More on that soon.)
At the Desatoya roundup wild horses crash through barbed wire (unseen) and then come up the draw to run through a second time.
The fight for humane handing of our wild horses and burros is a key component of the work of Wild Horse Education. Humane handling, on and off the range, requires “tools” to utilize. A humane policy for capture and facilities is one component, the other is humane management on the range.
Many use that term to simply apply to using a temporary fertility control agent to reduce capture, but that is not all that term implies.
Humane on range management requires protection of habitat, allocations large enough to allow a population to survive in it’s natural state (not reintroduction of genetic material from other areas because a herd is managed on the brink of disaster). It requires protection water from pollution and turning natural springs into pipelines turned off when domestic cattle are removed and sent to slaughter. Humane management requires gates be left open and fences come down. On range? a lot of what we have seen inflicted on wild horses is abusive.
Everyone loves the thrill of an escape. North Hills, 2019
As the 2020 roundup season moves forward an infusion of an additional $21 million is right around the corner. Political poker played by the “betrayal alliance” of big corporate interests has led to Congress passing an unprecedented budget. The first goal of this debacle is not to fix underlying flaws, but to complete an unjustified and unsubstantiated removal to a fictional stocking level (the one set in the 70’s by politics).
There is one condition attached prior to release of the funds; a 60 day review period after BLM presents a report and plan. During this time period we will need to go into overdrive to illustrate that the core issue is not a “desperate need to complete a political fictional AML,” (that has never been met because it is so absurd). We will need to demonstrate core flaws in the program including wasting taxpayer money to perpetuate a system that is illogical, unethical and abusive to wild horses and our public lands.
Are you ready? We are.
Wild horses after capture in short term holding where they were branded within days of capture, shipped out rapidly across the country and disappear from public sight. Desatoya, 2019.
The effects on the individual wild horses of capture are often hidden during capture. For 6 years our litigation ran up and don the court system to open roundups to daily access. That access was intended to provide a reasonable ability to assess capture and handling. Over the last couple of years BLM has been in a rapid backward motion on transparency (at capture and on programmatic information.)
2020 may be the year litigation is required to afford the ability of the public to monitor and address how their tax money is used to handle a public resource, the wild horse. Too often we see many federal employees act as if wild horses are their personal property or as if they work for a private company producing a product that contains a “secret sauce” that is kept in a vault. Federal employees are public servants that work for all of us, not just the “friends and family club.”
A Danish TV crew accompanied us to a roundup that looks like it happened back in 2009; threats from law enforcement when you ever broke a law and discrimination in access based on personal relationship.
In 2020 our fight for humane management, on and off the range, moves forward.
2019 closes out the year, and a decade. A year of absolute disregard for wild things and wild places ends a decade that moved like a rollercoaster for anyone involved in a public lands issue. Wild horses are part of our public lands, a public treasure. We continue the fight to protect and preserve this amazing jewel of the western landscape.
Our “decade in review” coming soon.
Some of the roundup update pages from 2019.
All donors to our year end fundraising effort will have their donations matched (up to $2,000). You will also receive a link to our two ebooks when they publish on New Years Day. (more info)
Categories: Wild Horse Education