Wild Horse Education

“How did we get here?” (BLM 2020 Plan)

How did we get here?


Since 2017, the BLM began to amp up the roundup machine as the “Ten Years to AML” began to work (officially) through corporate lobby machines and even pushed by BLM high level management (a move that was likely a serious ethics violation).

In 2018, the lobby document was incorporated into the BLM Report to Congress. With your help, we were able to get it kicked back out and a revised report (that included actual planning) was due in 2019. The revised report was required through the Consolidated Appropriations Act process to release additional funding for “population growth suppression” and fertility control (both vague terms that may not mean what you think they mean).

The report the agency provided Congress in 2020 was almost a full year late. The report was shorter than a “gather plan,” did not even contain a table of contents; it is an embarrassment.  But Congress held a sham of a hearing anyway that included multiple members of the lobby teams involved in the creation of the plan itself, those with a direct financial connection of one sort or another, and approved the plan and the additional funding released.

Since that day the document has been referred to as the “BLM 2020 Plan.” 

For the last 3 years (a fiscal year begins in October) Congress has funded the 2020 Plan and BLM leadership continues to use that plan as reassurance to livestock and mining that removal, fencing in and making sure populations of wild horses don’t grow, as a number one line item in sweeping efforts to do things like “save the Greater Sage Grouse” (instead of limiting industrial expansion).

Efforts that had gained the first humane policy (a framework to begin) were run over. The improvements to access to facilities, records and roundups stopped. Years of work to begin on-range planning to fix politically set boundary lines, stocking levels (what BLM calls AML), forage allocations, waters, etc. evaporated.

It is important to remember the target AML of the 2020 plan: out of 177 HMAs, 146 have AML set by the BLM of less than 150. Only 1 HMA in the nation has an AML over 600. Less than 12% of public lands is managed for wild horses and burros and most of that habitat is taken over by domestic livestock and mining.

What does “here” look like?

These are just a few of the things “here” represents:

Stockpiling of facilities where issues with humane care, record keeping and staffing were never addressed. Disease, basic veterinary care and more took a hard dive. (learn more)

Instead of addressing issues in existing facilities, the agency is using the funding to fast-track opening more facilities. The majority will be off-limits to public viewing. (more)

Humane handling during roundups has taken a fast-track backwards. In 2021, the agency finally created a team to evaluate operations. The evaluations have been inconsistent and show contradiction and favoritism. BLM has not even issued a report on the national “Motorized Vehicle Hearing,” that is required by law for the purpose of addressing issues and not to simply waste time as an administrative box to check.

Fences are being constructed at a rapid rate that do not take into account the needs of wild horses and burros and cutting them off of critical water sources in drought. No management planning documents (Herd Management Area Plans) were ever created for the vast majority of these herds and the boundary lines were simply drawn on a map to decrease political contention.

As fast as roundups are accelerating, BLM is approving mines and mine expansion rapidly destroying habitat that could support far more wild horses than the politically set AMLs demonstrate. BLM, again, is failing to address the required Herd Management Area Plans (HMAP) prior to even defining the habitat wild horses need to survive.

The “gather plans” the agency is approving hand-over-fist (instead of creating management plans) have approved a mish-mash of “population growth suppression” and fertility control. These plans do not evaluate the best type of methods for a herd, far from it. These plans throw everything from temporary vaccines like PZP, gelding, burning and gluing oviducts shut, IUDS, GonaCon and, yes, spaying is still in several of these documents.

“Here” is far from thriving and natural management of a public resource (wild horses and burros). The 2020 Plan is a fast-track to suit industry and their partners,

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Just throw in two of the population growth suppression methods the agency (and the majority of the public) feel are the most benign on top of each other and you can increase aggressive behaviors outside the norm. Scientific journals show a non-hormonal fertility control vaccine (PZP) has been used successfully for nearly 40 years on herds of multiple species, including wild horses, without using any other method. But when you also skew the sex-ratio (wild populations have a higher female to male ratio) to favor males… in a population where females do not become pregnant as often and have multiple estrus cycles… you increase pressure even more. Fighting will become more frequent and “the need to breed” when there is a chance will increase and mares will be bred by multiple stallions.

None of this is being considered as the agency takes more extreme steps for many herds.


On top of rapidly shrinking habitat during a drought, BLM is piling more than one method of fertility control on wild herds.

We all saw the effects of this madness at Sheldon Wildlife Refuge run by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) where the horses had no protection. Spaying, gelding, vasectomies, were all performed at once. The lack of reproductive mares on top of the inability of many of the males to make them pregnant, created the most aggressive range our team has ever documented. If a mare actually did give birth, the competition among males (many infertile due to gelding or vasectomy) to steal that mare before her “foal heat” was more than fierce. We never documented a foal that was not limping as they were on the move from the moment they were born in the chaos. Many foals never reached their first birthday.

The Sheldon herd was eradicated in 2015. Back then there were signs that what happened at Sheldon was the plan for all of our herds. It almost seemed like part of the reason to get rid of. the last of the horses was so that the damage that was done could no longer be seen. It seemed more than a coincidence that the “Ten Years to AML” push began the following year.

If they are connect or not, the cumulative damage of lumping multiple forms of fertility control on top of each other has been clearly demonstrated. The extreme forms used at Sheldon, and those considered more benign, should not be used in a “pile it on fashion.” (Many of you remember the University of Colorado abandoning plans to be a part of a spay experiment. Instead, they took some of that extra BLM money to help get sterilization of males into the status quo.)

“Cumulative Effects” is a required analysis process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

However, the only place BLM ignores this process is in “gather plans” for wild horses and burros where they approve all sorts of actions where they prohibit your input. BLM is not considering any cumulative effects when it comes to wild horses, none. In fact, they claim even considering herd movement is not required to put up another fence.

They also continue to skirt basic management planning. Everything on public lands has it’s own management plan… mining, livestock, off-road racing, even Christmas tree cutting, etc. Wild horses and burros have removal plans, not management plans.

In less than 2 weeks the end of phase 1 of the “2020 Plan” commences. The plan began with 3 years of removals of 20K wild horses and burros and then a slight drop to 10-15K. The plan has accelerated all of the flaws of the program and has raced it toward collapse. If we look at Sheldon, the next step is opening sales without limits (slaughter) or “humanely” killing the horses in holding as the burden of caring for those once free increases.

All of this has been facilitated through the inadequate, twisted and unethical creation process of the “2020 Plan.”

We need a deep investigation into the agency.

In the meantime, we need to stop the roundups.

Reference library on corruption (2020)

Request for hearing on the “2020 Plan”

STOP the helicopters and task GAO with an investigation into captures (Action item)

Help keep us in the fight!

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Categories: Wild Horse Education