Wild Horse Education

Revisiting Shawave (BLM did not tell the truth)

This summer the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did a massive roundup of 1,653 wild horses and 220 wild burros. The removal resulted in 12 deaths immediately at trap. It is unknown how many died after transport due to injury or respiratory illness from dust and smoke inhalation.

The BLM press release stated: “Winnemucca District, Humboldt River Field Office will begin a wild horse gather on or about August 3, 2020, on the Shawave Mountains Herd Management Area…” and “In addition, gather operations will take place in areas outside the HMA where wild horses have moved in search of food and water. The action is needed due to lack of water and declining health of the wild horses – the Shawave Mountains HMA has a history of water issues during dry spring and summer months.”

The press release was wrong. Our team review found some very disturbing issues as we compile our “after action review.” After every operation our team in the field compiles a thorough review. At Shawave volunteer Elyse Gardner Walsh and Laura Leigh are completing their review today. We thought you would want to know this important fact, now. 

BLM rounded up wild horses in 3 HMAs: Shawave, Kamma and Lava Beds. BLM did not do what was stated in the press release. 

When BLM proposes any action they create an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In the case of wild horses and burros, those EAs stand as an underlying document in the NEPA process. BLM is also supposed to do what is referenced as a Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) and not these massive EAs; the EA is supposed to analyze the actual roundup, not throw in the kitchen sink and masquerade as a management document that the public did not have real opportunity to engage (i.e., scoping).

Prior to any action under an existing EA, BLM is supposed to issue a document that either determines conditions have changed and a new EA needs to be issued, or a document that states the action planned is “NEPA adequate” to underlying final documents. That is how BLM establishes the authority to carry out the action. (fast run down on NEPA and a cheat sheet for new advocates HERE)

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At Shawave BLM confirmed (in an email today) they did not do any additional document stating the operation was “NEPA” adequate. An example of one type of document we asked for is the “Decision of NEPA Adequacy,” or DNA.

One well known DNA was the Pine Nut DNA of 2015 that tiered to a 2010 EA. There is no new EA to comment on, but the DNA must be completed for transparency and adequate open analysis. The DNA at the Pine Nut, as an example, was insufficient and litigated successfully.

BLM did not simply fly “inside and outside Shawave” as the press release stated. They  flew in 3 HMAs inside the Blue Wing Complex.  BLM  misled the public on the scope of the operation. A DNA may, or may not, have shown compliance with the EA. The fact is, BLM confirmed with us this morning, they did not do any additional decision document.

BLM continued the operation under extremely hazardous air quality conditions that represented an action violating the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) standards.

Our teams have been very busy this year trying to undo the damage done by massive, multi-million dollar, corporate lobby groups that helped push through the “Ten Years to AML” deal. 

The fight on range against massive destruction of wild horse habitat has also been intense; we are in the fight in many areas.

The fight against abuse has also been weakened by “million dollar orgs.” 

We have handed off our after action to our legal team. We will be reviewing every proposed roundup and are ready to fight back against BLM skirting essential steps of notification and analysis; like what happened at Shawave.

We are reviewing policy changes made under William Perry Pendley since the court ruling that found his tenure as acting BLM chief illegal. Gutting NEPA to push forward roundups to satisfy those on his recusal list is under the microscope.

Our field team is compiling a report that covers 6 HMAs. What we found will break your heart. BLM has fast tracked destruction of wild horse territory and plans even more. All of this is being done without any Herd Management Area Plans (HMAP) that would give us the ground to fight specifically for the habitat our wild ones need to survive; it will give us a stronger case when we need to fight mining and livestock.

A Continuing Resolution has been signed on the budget bill. 

Our outreach team has been making headway in getting key legislators to understand where the framework is broken that sets up our wild horses and burros for failure and the system for exploitation. We need your help to keep the momentum going! The next deadline on the budget debate for 2021 is now December 11.

Please take action and help get a management plan where you actually have a voice in management! HERE. 


We will feature some of our field team findings in WHE Wild Words digital magazine, sent free to all of our supporters. The October issue was delayed due to the court ruling against the tenure of BLM Chief Pendley. We wanted to add a “what that means” section and an update on our legislative work. We expect the digital edit to be complete this week! Thank you for your support and your patience during this busy time! 

Help us stay in the fight. 

Categories: Wild Horse Education