Wild Horse Education

A Few Words As Roundups Begin, Again

Wild horses and burros are being removed to suit other interests, not for management of wild horses and burros.

As helicopters take to the air from today until the last day of February obliterating the last few large herds left in the U.S., know that each assertion that this is a part of management goals for wild horses is false. The management goals are all written for industrial priorities, not the welfare of wild herds or the health of the land.

Many believe the statement above is rhetoric, a crafted soundbite for media and the public; it’s not. The statement above is achieved through a factual analysis of historical documents and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) active NEPA planning. BLM is not creating management plans for wild horses, they are creating “Gather plans” that comply with management documents approved for industry, recreation and a small number of plans for sage grouse that assert they protect the bird (but were also crafted to suit industry).

(You can read and download our paper regarding on-range management history and consequences HERE)

The lack of foundational management planning for wild horses and burros, as outlined in the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR), has led not only to boundary lines denoting acreage based on convenience, but also to stocking levels of wild horses and burros (that BLM calls Appropriate Management Levels, AML) that reflect levels found prior to the passage of the ’71 law.

Herd Management Area Plans (HMAP) are the only planning document specifically noted in the regulations.

Many herds have been entirely zeroed out without ever having any Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP), the foundational management plan. Regulations were not finalized until the late 80s. The HMAP was not defined in the handbook until 2010. The ones that pre-date the handbook were created with no guidance, are sporadic, inconsistent, in actuality simply “gather” plans because of pressure to remove wild horses from an area.

When you see a few horses trying to get water from one failing source, it may be the only year-round source not cut off by a fence for livestock or the only one with water left it in after a mine expansion drew down the water table. We don’t remove the fence, or stop the mine expansion, or create another water source to help distribute the existing population throughout the available range; we remove the horses.

If you try to stop a new fence that will cut wild horses off from critical seasonal habitat (or stop a mine being approved right in the middle of the most critical habitat) there are no planning documents for wild horses to help mitigate damage. The livestock permittee has his planning documents so he can push back against the mine and make a deal for a new water pipeline, you don’t.

Even BLM still references the HMAP as: “Every major management activity that occurs on HMAs starts with the NEPA process. Herd Management Area Plans (HMAPs) summarize the management goals for an HMA and the anticipated actions required to achieve those goals.”

That quote is from a report to Congress in 2020. But BLM used that report to continue to ram the agenda agreed to by industry lobby groups as a “Path Forward” through funding as they continue to ignore foundational planning to actually manage wild horses and burros.

An HMAP is literally where BLM would determine when and how stocking levels (AML) of wild horses is determined and reviewed, how forage is allocated, where critical habitat lies in an HMA, what kind of fertility control (if any) is needed to suit the needs of a specific herd, genetic traits and composition preservation, fire fuel reduction, range improvements like water, etc. etc. etc.

How can BLM claim that they are doing roundups to reach management goals for the herd, if management goals for the herd were never finalized in a management plan for the herd? Oh… the goals are stated in the gather plans as tiering to management for other interests!

The current budget debate continues to see a yearly massage of the language of the Path Backwards 2020 Plan to try to make it palatable, sellable, to the American public. There is no reform of a decades long, tragically unsound, Wild Horse and Burro Program in that bill. There has been no reform since the 2020 Plan began… just a repackaged status quo driven by the same politics that created this mess.

Broken Arrow, aka Indian Lakes. This off-limits to the public facility in NV has been approved to warehouse over 7,500 wild horses and burros.

Yesterday, we published a fast article to address many of the rumors swirling around social media regarding the status and meaning of the language in the FY 2023 spending bill. We included a simple word change to make the assertions that “zeroed out” areas could be repatriated real instead of the current language being used that actually creates “bad,” not “good.”

We have to do those fast pieces to address “reality by social media” that spreads faster than wildfire in a field of dry cheatgrass. Our team lead has had time to sit with the bill a full day and has created a new action.

Our action item is a “strike one word and add three” change that can create real reform of the program. A simple word change might be possible as this bill goes to the full floor of the House before heading to the Senate.

You can find more about the action item and ways you can reach your reps, HERE. 

Or simply click here to send a letter directly to your reps. 

Please remember, a roundup starts long before a chopper flies.

Our teams are onsite today and will continue our work against abuses during capture. To date, we are the only ones in history to bring abuse of wild horses into a courtroom. Our work was the driving force behind the creation of the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) and the internal reviews you can now access yourself online. This battle is over a decade long and still has far to go to put an end to abuse. 

More soon.

Help keep us in the fight. 

Categories: Wild Horse Education