Things Are Moving Fast: What to Watch

2020 is drawing to a close. The last 4 years have seen a rampant destruction of our wild places, and a particularly vitriolic campaign against our wild horses, run full steam. Not only has the agenda involved the decimation of public resources, it has involved many efforts to gut public process to maintain control of the agenda in hands pushing the industrialization of public lands. Every week there are heaps of plans to respond to since January of 2017.

The end of 2020 is is seeing a rapid acceleration of the pace.

Water wars have been at the heart of many conflicts. That conflict has reached a fever pitch as 2020 draws to a close. This single factor is at the heart of many of the issues that many of you only see when a roundup is announced; after the actual “war” is over.

We urge all of you to always remember this one simple rule: roundups are the end of the fight to protect the wild, not the beginning. Everything that comes after the failure to rectify forage allotments, protection of forage and water, water improvements, fencelines, etc. is not protection, it is mitigation of limitations.  Words matter.

note: italics link to additional information

Mare and this years colt died in 2020. Photo 2019.

Yesterday, many of you saw an article in the Washington Post that brings up our battle for the Fish Creek herd. The reporter begins with the story of Sarge, without all the facts supporting that event, and builds from there.

The story she writes is as flawed as the foundation of the piece; colored by many factors. She begins with the story of Sarge.

We know you want us to respond. We will. But we are incredibly busy dealing with the avalanche of policy changes, proposed projects and finalized EAs that will rule the world of law long after any change of administration. Each one must be addressed site-by-site.

We are penning a response to the WaPost piece. Our piece includes the core factor, the water war. It also includes the superficial factors that revolve around what BLM calls “preferred partnerships.” Our piece will begin in 2015 and actually bring you into the present moment… a tragic outcome… that saw saw over a dozen wild horses die this summer of dehydration. We will also start with Sarge. 

We ask that YOU take action in the big picture. Use your frustration that has come from the article and take action. We MUST have accountable management that is open and transparent and not run by “preferred partnerships” that manipulate the lack of planning documents for their personal enrichment. TAKE ACTION HERE. 

If you want to know more about the subjects covered in the Washington Post piece we recommend you check out the piece by Christopher Ketchum, All The Pretty Horses Must Die.  Or the abridged version of the 10,000 word article HERE. 

We will get the response article out shortly.

But there are a lot of things that need a response, on deadlines fast approaching., that will have long term impact to wild horses. We are focusing on those issues and not the drama storm that the Washington Post article intends to bring with it’s lack of integrity to the facts. Drama is easy, the real work is hard.

Things that need to be on the radar of every advocate for American horses, wild and captive:

One of the political agenda items that need to be on your radar is the spaying of wild mares.

Spaying is not a scientifically justified method, it is politics. Spaying is a priority that those sitting in the Deputy Director chairs (we have had no director of BLM) have been pushing for their “preferred partners.”

The plan to spay mares at Confusion is the latest attempt. The document that carries that directive (this time from William Perry Pendley) will allow spaying to continue for the next ten years at Confusion.

Even if the BLM abandons the act of spaying this round (the roundup is set to begin November 28) the document they are operating under will allow them to capture and spay with no further opportunity to appeal the decision to utilize spaying at Confusion. That is why WHE filed a legal action.

Yes, a letter was sent from 58 members of Congress sitting in both the House and Senate. These types of letters are most often simply ignored by land management agencies, often not even penning a response. The letter does show that spaying represents an objective so outside the norm in actions implemented by the agency that the letter was penned. This makes the letter a great exhibit in the legal battle, not the one on Facebook.

We are continuing that legal challenge and have a rapidly approaching deadline we must make with full attention to detail.


The current version of the Senate Appropriations bill does not contain language that defunds horse meat inspection by the USDA. The House version does.

Defunding horse meat inspection is how the opening of horse slaughter plants in the US has been prohibited. There is not a bill that says “no horse slaughter plants,” there is a provision that no funding inspect the meat, thereby stopping export. If you can not export then you can not make money. This has been the stopgap on reopening horse slaughter plants in the US.

Because the bills do not match they need to be consolidated before another vote. You can call the switchboard and speak to your reps on any issue. However, if you are going to talk about more than one issue make more than one call. Far too often the issues of wild horses get wrapped up in a debate about the SAFE Act, and even defunding of horse meat inspections gets lost under calls about SAFE. Please make distinct calls on distinct issues.

Words matter. You can call your reps (Senate and House) and ask that they ensure that in the USDA Appropriations bill that no funding be utilized to inspect horse meat: (202) 224-3121

Roundups Begin Long Before A Chopper Flies

There are roundups on the schedule, and more being added, to be completed through February. Roundups take place after BLM approves documents that legally give them the right to exercise that authority. Over the last 4 years BLM has been directed to approve roundups under “Ten to Twenty” years plans that are distinctly different from the way they used to create those long term EAs. The new mode of operation has a built in “no new NEPA” component that creates a hurdle to further litigation; it does not make it impossible, but it sure makes it more difficult.

BLM has approved the “ten year, no new NEPA” for the Confusion HMA that includes the “spay plan.” We have already filed legal action and are engaged.

BLM has just approved the plan (today) for the Nevada Wild Horse Range (HMA). This plan attempts to remove the special status awarded this area before the 1971 Act was passed simply by changing the name of a document. We have 30 days to get a legal appeal on file.

The Ochoco, managed by USFS, has just approved a plan to gut the herd to 12-57 wild horses. USFS has a 45 day objection period.

BLM has released a draft EA to decimate one of our last large herds of wild horses at the Pancake HMA (next door to Fish Creek). This plan is in the “comment phase” that comes before BLM approves the document for active execution of the parameters. The comment phase sets up potential legal action if the agency fails to address the issues in comments.

These are just four of the direct documents governing roundups in various stages of approval. We must get responses on file to all of them.

States that contain wild horses are also under a rush of bills that limit restrictions placed on industry and, literally, “sell off public lands” pushes. You can see a list of a few of the bills just in the state of Nevada alone HERE. 

Multiple documents are also in play that will: open more grazing for livestock and expand fencing projects, oil and gas sale leases, expand and approve new mining that are increasing roads and drawing down water tables.

A new cabinet will be chosen after the transition team moves us from one administration to another. In past years wild horses always fall to the bottom if the list and undoing the damages never happens. We are creating documents that will attempt to clarify the direct damages and what needs to be done. We are reaching out to several key players that may be able to help.

The end of 2020 is a rapid fire and intense time.

We will publish a response to the Washington Post, we know you want us to. But that drama is not priority for us as we address real threats in real time.

More from us as soon as time allows.


Help us stay in the fight. Our teams must be able to travel safe, stay safe and have the resources needed to take that info into a courtroom. We have legal actions against abuse, the ripping out of the ovaries of wild mares, habitat loss and more. With your help we can continue to speak for our wild ones that can not speak for themselves. 

What you can do, now, to help our wild ones

Please take action to demand Congress defund any roundups where the BLM has failed to create open and transparent management planning.  Click HERE.

Call the Senate switchboard and ask for your rep. Demand that all actions against wild horses and burros halt until William Perry Pendley leaves the BLM. His tenure was ruled illegal and BLM is still moving an agenda forward for Pendley’s former law clients.  Switchboard (202) 224-3121

Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education