Wild Horse Education

The Roundup Window (part 2: reality and record do not match )

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.

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One of the first roundups on the summer target list was Range Creek.  The AML for the area is 75-125; 148 wild horses were removed from the 55,000 acre HMA.

Foaling season for all wild horses in the West is defined by the same dates for all HMAs, no matter where they exist. BLM states that March 1- July 1 is foaling season. The assertion is not based on site specific data, even though site specific data can show wide variances in foaling season depending on altitude and climate of an HMA. BLM  simply states helicopter roundups run from July 1- Feb 28 because that is a “safe” time to run babies and pregnant mares.

One of the amendments to the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) that WHE is working for: “Foaling Season” must be determined HMA by HMA based on statistics.

WHE had new volunteers head out to cover the roundup and then head out for training to learn what darting is, and is not. These new volunteers have been supporters and visitors for years. In 2020, in the middle of a pandemic year, these wonderful young adults formally joined WHE.

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As the pandemic reeked havoc on the nation, the rapid destruction of public lands found cover. Communication with federal land managers is not easy in a normal year, but the health crisis created a great excuse to delay answering emails, Freedom of Information Act Requests, and to push through policy change.

A tiny piece of the politics from spring and summer, 2020:

WHE, and our volunteers, stepped up to help with appeals against oil and gas and WHE joined a coalition working to hold mining accountable. Both efforts proved to hold value and were successful in holding off a bit of destruction.

The BLM Report to Congress that was delayed and delayed, arriving over 6 months late, was finally released. The report asked for an additional $21 million to accelerate the path back in time, with absolutely no planning involved or open accountability. The budget just passed. The 2021 budget gives the agency an additional $15 million to continue the agenda (Ten Years to AML).

A crucial step in management of anything, anywhere, is a management plan. Every activity that takes place on public lands is broken down into a site specific planning document with open public participation. Only the wild horse and burro program skips actual management planning.

We used some of the so-called emergency roundups to illustrate the importance of this planning step and the consequence of avoidance. 

If you leave 2020 with one thing, we hope you recognize that the HMAP is the battle ground for preservation we have been denied. In 2021 we have a chance to actually begin the fight for management and stop some of the corruptibility of range management.

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The Swasey HMA comprises 120,113 acres and BLM has set the stocking level (AML) for wild horses at 60-100. One of the reasons they use for a number that could never represent a genetically viable population is that wild horses move through the region (complex) and interact with populations in Conger and Confusion. 

Yet, when BLM created the “spay plan” for Confusion they did not take into account that Conger is already under an experimental procedure involving IUDs and gelding, Swasey is an area they use temporary fertility control in the form of GonaCon. Now they want to experiment with the brutality of spaying, in the populations they say mix? (WHE filed legal action against the plan on October 28 and the case is still active. The plan is flawed on so many levels and, in fact, represents no planning at all. This is political agenda.)

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At Swasey cattle monopolize water sources. During the helicopter roundup BLM set bait trapping panels around water sources further stressing the population that included nursing mares with small foals.

With your help, we eased some of that suffering and got the panels open so horses could drink.

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At Swasey there were broken necks, limbs and even an ATV used to chase a wild horse. The fight against abuses will most likely end up back in a courtroom. It is not easy and it is expensive, but it looks like it needs to be a priority in 2021.

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The Diamond and Shawave roundups are examples of what BLM calls a “temporary fertility control” operation.

The Diamond Complex comprises 258,278 acres and BLM set the AML at 210. After the operation, that killed 26, BLM planned to release 30 mares treated with PZP-22. BLM applies PZP primarily as part of a helicopter roundup. This years roundup at Diamond is an example of the “Ten Years to AML” sell-out in action. 

The BLM roundup they labelled the “Shawave HMA” roundup was actually a roundup that covered the entire Blue Wing Complex. Shawave is one HMA (177,204 acres) in the complex that spans 2,283,300 acres. It is not unusual for BLM to change a name of an operational area that has, at one time, gotten large media coverage. However, this is confusing for the public and media giving an impression of massive numbers of wild horses in one relatively smaller HMA. BLM removed 1,873 wild horses, not from a single HMA, from a massive complex of HMAs. BLM planned to release 50 mares treated with the temporary fertility control substance GonaCon.

There is a big distinction between a substance and a method. Temporary fertility control does not mean a dart gun as the only method of application of a substance. There is a difference. Be careful what you ask for.

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The range at Shawave, and the holding facility where wild horses were sent from both Diamond and Shawave, we filled with smoke from fires on the CA/NV border and beyond. Health warnings, telling people to stay indoors and not exercise their horses, were being sent out.

The roundup continued and wild horses were shipped in extremely hazardous conditions. BLM continued the roundup. Onsite the phrase “but the pilot can see” was given to our observers as a reason for BLM COR onsite to override the health warnings.

It is clear that the lack of caring, and basic common sense, in BLM personnel has led to a juncture where smoke guidelines must be included in the next revision of CAWP as BLM ignores the CDC and EPA.

Up Next, part 3: Focus 2020 Fish Creek (Deranged War, Disturbing Disaster)

You can read part 1 of the year in review here. 

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