Wild Horse Education

The Roundup Window (part 1)

Good-bye 2020 (release, Red Desert)

Roundups bring attention to the world of wild horses and burros. However, a roundup is not a solitary event. Roundups begin long before a chopper flies and have ramifications that involve the slaughter pipeline for individuals after capture. 

We use one year of the roundup schedule to illustrate the entire program in this 4-part series. Run with us for the year 2020 and learn all bout the challenges of todays advocacy.  Italicized words throughout the piece represent a link to  an article for those of you that want more information.

Make no mistake, there is a fight ahead. Each roundup in this review will discuss a particular issue(s) that will be addressed in the action items we will list in the final article in the series.

Part one is below

Part two: Into the summer of 2020; Range Creek, Diamond, Swasey, Shawave, BLM Report, policy and law.

Part three: Fish Creek and the Deranged War

Part four: Confusion (the fight against spaying), Red Desert (amazing escape) and Corruption.

The year 2020 began at the Eagle roundup. In the biting cold BLM captured 1716 wild horses, 24 died onsite. BLM has not released the numbers that died later from illness or injury in holding. Winter roundups have historically had a higher death toll in holding.

This is not the first roundup in the Eagle Complex at the hardest time of the year for a wild horse. In January of 2011 we watched wild horses driven through heavy snow and taken to an off limits facility where we were denied entry. Week after week dozens of wild horses died post capture from broken limbs, spines and respiratory illness.

BLM will be hitting the Eagle Complex again as 2021 begins. This time they target 1231 in another hard winter roundup. Our team is ready.

How many die after the roundup? BLM wont say anymore. BLM needs to resume posting facility reports and vet reports,  as part of their “gather update” pages. Facility reports, that cover the time of the operation and at least 30 days post capture, provide critical information necessary for the public to provide input and oversight to the program.

In 2021 We need a hard push for transparency in the agency.

Mare in colic after capture and first shot of GonaCon at Eagle 2020. As we took the photo the contractor told us we were not allowed to public the images. BLM stood by and said nothing. The mare died.

After years of litigation to gain a humane handling policy, and the promise to expand and review that policy annually, we had begun to make progress. That progress was sold down the river by all of those (openly and not so openly) in the “Ten Years to AML,” (later called Path Forward”)  deal, and their big money, to get an order of PZP-22 and a few darting contracts, they sold off the actual fight for everything else.

After years of attacking wild horses as  the “greatest threat to the West” for his former law clients, William Perry Pendley releases a publicity stunt claiming a commitment to humane handling. 

Over the last 3 years WHE have laid a foundation to take litigation against abuse to a whole new level. Will new leadership listen or will we be back in court against abuse in 2021?

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As the Eagle roundup raged on BLM hit Reveille again. The permittee holds a year round gazing permit that varies from 1000-2000 cattle. Regardless of what you might read in an article by a news outlet, many permittees graze year round.

AML for wild horses (“appropriate” stocking level in the old land use plan) is 138. But, at Revielle BLM does not remove to AML, they will remove down to about 90-95 left on range after the release of fertility control. BLM has been “managing” wild horses this way at Reveille for a long time. The population of wild horses at Reveille is aging as primarily younger horses are removed every 2-3 years.

The range at Reveille continues to decline. Perhaps BLM needs to redo the Land Use Plan, that is over 30 yeas old, and start cutting something besides wild horses off that range?

Over the last year BLM prioritized changing rules to give livestock permittees even more control over the range; ranges they have allowed to be bashed to dust for over a century. Those rules are now under protests by environmental groups and coalitions and WHE.

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As the Eagle and Reveille roundups were underway, a health crisis emerged. The crisis swiftly engulfed the entire planet. We are all connected and the Covid-19 crisis showed us all how our lives can be rapidly effected by the actions of others.

Roundups did not end, we moved into bait trap season. Helicopter roundups run from July 1- Feb 28 each year. Bait trapping can occur all year.

Ignoring the damage done by rapidly expanding industry, land managers always look for something to blame. Year after year they neglect addressing their dereliction of duty and just “blame the horse.”

In NV alone there were 4 “emergency” operations. The only emergency these operations represented was a deep failure to protect and preserve public lands. The summer roundups were all status quo; give the resources to livestock and mining and blame the horse.

This annual tradition, the “emergency removal” is part of the personal political poker game of land managers. We need actual management, not more deals. These roundups illustrate the fallacy of management. 

This year, once again, we went up against the Goliath of the West, the mining industry. In one of the areas there is a “wild horse water emergency” every single year, BLM was planning on approving a massive mining expansion that would draw that water table down even further.

The unlikely coalition won and the approval halted. 

There water sources turned off by BLM managers to satisfy the livestock industry, many of these wild horses died in 2020.

Public participation for the vast majority of our herds is limited to making a comment on a roundup plan. You can say anything you you want about forage, water, genetics, etc., you will be told your comment is “not appropriate,” and then you will be ignored.

Everything else on your public lands (mining, livestock, ATV trail, etc.) requires an actual management plan be submitted where that interest is given an opportunity to provide significant input. That planning process for wild horses, although required by law, is ignored by the BLM and they skip to removal plans. No matter how involved you are with a herd, BLM goes to great lengths to avoid management planning.

You can learn more about the Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) here. This is the document where your voice in management planning would be heard. BLM just skips this step.

Trespass livestock in Fish Creek. This is one of the water sources BLM simply shut off claiming it was to stop wild horses from destroying sage brush.

No where is this demonstrated more than in the Fish Creek HMA.

BLM will be hitting the area with another roundup starting today.

Backdoor deals with permittees (some of them selling water rights to mining) and those in the “Ten Years to AML PZP scheme,” will leave 105 wild horses on a quarter of a million acres.

The saga of Fish Creek will be visited in our 2020 review, in an article all its own. As the roundup moves forward this week, while the state is experiencing a literal covid crisis, we will break down the issues, and the betrayals, at Fish Creek.

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Up Next: What can we learn from Range Creek, Swasey, Shawave, 2000 mile range data run in 2020 and an investigation into BLM policy?


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WHE Holiday Traditions:

WHE volunteers:  the year 2020 in pictures

Countdown to 2021: The Publics Top Ten on WHE

Great Escapes of 2020

If you have kids visiting over the holiday or just stuck at home? WHE has our free activity book from WHE Kids! 


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