September Team News (Roundup, Legal, Legislative)

Sand Wash Basin by Caroline Christie

It was a very busy week at WHE that had many twists and turns. 

Fast updates below from our WHE team. In-depth articles coming soon. 


Our roundup team was in transit as the Antelope Complex operation came to an end the past week. We were heading for Owyhee that was on the schedule to begin Sept 1 and slated for another massive roundup that would decimate the population left in the 1.5 million acre target zone. Owyhee has been hit repeatedly over the last ten years under the agency’s 2012 “ten year plan.” The Owyhee Complex operation was postponed.

The other operation WHE was heading to was the conclusion of the Centennial burro “zero out,” that began earlier this year, where we intended to continue to document the operation that had no other organization in attendance during the first phase. Centennial was postponed.

Our roundup team is completing our official report on Antelope that we will send to the agency and Congress. We will also be following up with BLM National on the egregious conduct  that occurred both before our meeting and afterwards. Humane handling is the law; the issue won in court every time the agency was challenged. It is past time that the agency took this mandate as seriously as they take issuing mining or grazing permits. (we will update you soon on the subject of the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy, CAWP)

The agency (appears) to be using up any surplus funding for the program by declaring multiple “emergency” roundups to avoid any paperwork delay. Any escalating issue (water or forage issue) would have been noted in the regular course of business as the agency allotted funds for the roundup schedule; what we are seeing now is fast cash spending not drought management. Federal agencies must use available funding if they are asking for additional funding the following fiscal year. If there is surplus funding, it is unlikely an agency will receive funding above the prior year’s budget allotment. (Our legislative team report will have more on the Appropriations debate further down the page.)

During his lifetime Picasso of Sand Wash Basin became an icon. photo by WHE supporter: Caroline Christie. This herd is treasured by many WHE supporters and you can find more photos of the herd at Carolines site.


Our legal team has filed a formal Notice of Appeal (legal action) for the Sand Wash Basin HMA. Many people are already standing for this herd, including environmental organizations through letters and calls, but the roundup began last week regardless of the pleas. Our members felt that WHE might have a unique argument to add, so we found time to craft a brief and add it to the numerous voices speaking for these beautiful wild ones. 

On August 17 the agency finalized the Environmental Assessment (EA) for Sand Wash Basin that outlines agency actions (roundups/fertility control) in the HMA for the next decade. The agency has simply failed in management planning and is pushing a broad-scale removal using an “emergency” label to circumvent the appeal process. The Appeal period closes 30 days after the EA finalizes.

“The agency has broad discretion under law in management,” stated Laura Leigh, WHE founder. “However, that discretion does come with limitations and responsibility to the public and the public resource. A small area of drought does not provide an avenue to round up horses throughout an HMA and we won a similar case on this point. The agency must place the rest of the HMA on the schedule in the regular course of business and that requires allowing the full NEPA process, the Appeal process, to complete.”

Unfortunately, the Appeal period includes this long holiday weekend. We sent a letter asking operations be suspended pending the review of the court.

In other news: Briefing and conversations are transpiring on our other legal actions. Our case at Confusion in Utah (spay plan) remains active and we are awaiting a decision by the agency on how they will proceed. As the roundup season accelerates our legal team remains  active for multiple HMAs on several fronts.

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The agency (appears) to be using up any surplus funding for the program by declaring multiple “emergency” roundups to avoid any paperwork delay.

The 2021 fiscal year is coming to an end and all funding must be utilized in order for the agency to receive the additional funding promised in the 2022 budget.

As of today the budget bill provides the following for the Wild Horse and Burro program (copied and pasted from official language in bill): $162,093,000 which supports implementation of the May 2020 plan and includes $11,000,000 for administration of and research on reversible immunocontraceptive fertility control; and $504,000 to transition to a zero emission fleet…. The Bureau of Land Management is directed to use $11,000,000 of the funds appropriated for this program to enter cooperative efforts with other Federal partners to significantly progress the administration of and research on reversible immunocontraceptive fertility control. This should include public-private partnerships and simultaneous evaluation of multiple fertility control alternatives at a meaningful scale….The strategy will not include any sale or actions that result in the destruction of healthy animals, which continues to be prohibited by this bill…. specifically, the Bureau is to review its Adoption Incentive program and work with the Office of the Solicitor to strengthen contractual language and address any weakness in the program that would jeopardize the welfare of these animals…. The recommendation provides $504,000 for the transition to a zero emission fleet.

You can see from the language above that the AIP will be reviewed and additional funding will go to “partnerships” for fertility control. The agency will also get funding to buy a bunch of new vehicles. The sale program is still prohibited from knowingly selling to kill-buyers.

What we do not see is any mention of actual management planning, range improvements (water), etc.

“About 8000* wild horses and burros have been authorized for capture in 60 days’ time,” said Leigh, WHE founder. “This is an acceleration beyond sanity and, on the ground, appears to be a race to utilize funding to prioritize politics and avoid actual management. The agency can not get extra 2022 funding if they do not use all the 2021 funding. In 2021 the agency avoided all requests to do water improvements and drought monitoring co-operatives as they just push that removal machine.”

“What will next year look like? we will see this acceleration continue as BLM finds ‘preferred partners’ to pay off with new grant money (for captures and fertility control) and they will create new committees to claim they are reviewing bad practices that will simply continue during so-called committee reviews.”

“This is not management. This feels like an organized crime that continues the fleecing of taxpayers and avoids responsible management practices for wild horses and burros on the range.” 

We need real change in the budget that provides incentive for transparency and actual management planning. We do not need more money to keep doing the same things and avoiding the core issues in planning that prioritizes industrial destruction. 

Simple Action Items HERE.

Our teams are working this holiday weekend. Stay safe if you travel and remember to include your furred, feathered and scaled family in your plans.

The roundup schedule has truly accelerated to levels we have not seen in a decade. Multiple roundups in multiple states will be taking place at the same time. Many of these operations won’t have much notice and the schedule will continue to change rapidly.Help keep us in the field and in the courts.

Thank you. 


Categories: Lead