Mandate to Manage Humanely (it is not just about a roundup)

MMDay7 - 1 (42)

A wild horse during the Swasey roundup where bait trap pens were set near temporary holding. The wild horses did not have free access to water due to the commotion. With your help panels were opened to allow open access during the helicopter capture. The bait trap portion of Swasey begins later this week. (click for Swasey reports)

Republish from 2020. The news is filled with stories once more that focus on population growth suppression. Any form of population growth suppression (roundup, PZP-22, PZP native darting, etc.) is not management, those are tools that could be used in management once deemed appropriate through the NEPA process. The first step in NEPA for wild horses and burros should be the Herd Management Area Plan, HMAP. The HMAP is skipped. We jump right to population growth suppression to avoid controversy, satisfy industry and keep the political “pay-to-play” of public lands management running over your public lands.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 established the mandate that wild horses and burros were to be managed, humanely, and preserved for future generations.

When we talk about “humane management practices” most people, understandably, jump to the roundup. Wild Horse Education is the only organization to take BLM to court over abuse at roundups; we obviously find the practices during capture important enough to make gaining the first policy in history to stop abuse our initial priority. In other words, we agree with your assessment and there is still a long way to go and “in the moment” abuse at roundups remains unacceptable. 

Humane management on range goes much deeper, is more complicated, than simply utilizing one form of temporary fertility control substance to slow population growth (many people do not know there is more than one substance), a tact many seeking a “market share” are  pushing. 

If the current amendment to the spending bill ($11 million designated to the substance PZP) gets through, only one thing would change at any of the roundups you see now; PZP would be used instead of GonaCon on the wild horses released. PZP is a substance, not a method. The public has been confused that PZP means darting, it does not.  (This is just one piece of that “Ten Years to AML,” later titled “Path Forward” agreement with livestock.)

note: since the initial publishing of this piece in 2020, 2021 has demonstrated exactly what we illustrated above at many roundups as BLM does “AML maintenance and increases immunocontraception” at Surprise, Owyhee, Fox and Lake and so on.

The Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) is where any accountability to how, when and where any fertility control could be used. It is also the area all the other issues, like water, are debated.

Every year WHE documents ongoing issues on multiple ranges and has compiled a data base to utilize for HMAP creation (remember, everything should begin on-range with that HMAP; this should be the first step in NEPA for wild horse management). BLM has avoided both the creation of on-range management plans and denied us the ability as stakeholders to participate.

Our teams are gathering our ongoing documentation and scouting areas already on the schedule. What we are finding is a broad failure in “humane management,” that goes far beyond the sound of the helicopter, in most areas that sit on that schedule and those set to be added to it.

Our teams are reporting back (dated June 2020):

  • Gates closed that should be open.
  • Waters in disrepair, those that should have been replaced/repaired inoperable.
  • Trespass livestock.
  • Massive changes in roads for fast-tracked mining, mining exploration we were not notified about, incoming equipment for rapidly approved mines and more fences. 

Update: Our “2022” teams are out checking cameras to set a baseline.

080820A1 - 1 (1)

Often wild horses may have a designated HMA that is hundreds of thousands of acres. Yet they are fenced off of a great deal of the area and have access to only one water source. In the summer, when small runoff catchments dry, it is not unusual to see a hundred wild horses lined up to try to drink out of a trickling pipe and a mud hole.

In those same areas our teams have been reporting in throughout the summer. A few water hauls and “emergency” removals have happened. Is it an emergency when it repeats every year and you knew it was coming? Yet, not one underlying cause has been addressed.

All of the issues reported in June continue. Our teams now add “dead horses” to the observation list. This happens every single year. The suffering of wild horses (and other species like pronghorn) struggling to find water, on ranges filled with miles and miles of barbed wire, is an every year occurrence. It gets worse each year. 

BLM does absolutely nothing year after year to rectify any of the issues, blame the wild horse (or the advocate that points out the problem) and the cycle repeats another year.

“I have documented more days of roundups than any living person for more than a decade. I am still the only person to ever take BLM to court over abuse at roundups.” said Laura Leigh, WHE founder.

“I’ve witnessed a lot of abuse. But the abuse at roundups is nothing compared to the abuse I witness on range; agonizing year after year after year. Watching mares with nursing foals standing in line to try to drink out of a 6 inch mud hole, watching stallions desperately trying to push against barbed wire so their families can drink. Yet, behind a closed gate on public lands inside the designated HMA, cows lounge at a water source during the hottest months of the year because BLM does not consider the needs of wild horses when they approve the livestock permit. A water trough, where wild horses are supposed to drink will be bone dry, and BLM wont turn it on, yet they have a water right to it.

“This is not one area, one manager, one district. This is a systemic problem.

“Nothing turns my stomach more than the callous way you are brushed off by BLM staff, who get a nice paycheck and benefits off the taxpayer to care for our range and our wild horses, because you are trying to get the issues that cause intense suffering fixed. Then they just remove the horses, never fix the problem and cry about how much work they have on their desks. If you offer to help? you are ignored or they find a social club to claim some kind of stakeholder representing wild horses. Then you see the same thing the next year.

Nothing disgusts me more. It is like BLM uses a roundup the same way a bad teenager just sweeps the mess under the rug, out of sight.”


This is not a scene in just one HMA, this scene is occurring right now in almost every single HMA. For decades this repeats every single year. A PZP shot wont fix this. This is an abhorrent failure of management.

We really need your help. 

BLM has failed the public trust and the public resource.

Herd Management Area Plans (HMAP) are the first step in the “legal paperwork” process of management. We have 177 Herd Management Areas (HMA) in the US, only 7 have any form of updated HMAP or any HMAP at all.

The HMAP is all about  that “humane on range management” that never actually happens. An HMAP would include what types of fertility control, removals, range improvements, etc. are appropriate. The roundup assessment (EA) would simply cover any removal operation. That is how the framework is set.

But like most things BLM says in the paperwork about wild horses, it’s not what they do.


Your reps need you to educate them. A massive deficit in knowledge exists due to million dollar lobbyists pedaling one product; not demonstrating core problems and how to address them, just a perpetuation of the problems with a bigger bill to the tax payer. 

Not only will the issues be perpetuated, but public process (NEPA) is set to be gutted.

For wild horses and burros? if they just followed the actual handbook both on range management and the NEPA process would run a lot smoother. The slow death, the agonizing abuses on the range, could be avoided. 



A personal plea, take action for all of our wild horses dying of thirst

A real world example of why we need the HMAP, now

In an area that has “emergency removals” every couple of years, wild horses dying this year, a large mine expansion that would draw that water table down was just put on hold


If you are shopping online you can help Wild Horse Education by choosing us as your charity of choice on IGive or Amazonsmile.com 

Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education