Wild Horse Education

2023, Prioritizing (Part 1)

Every year organizations give end-of-year updates to their followers and supporters. Reading these updates can give you real insight into the workings of individual organizations: what have they talked about, what have they actually done? It is a good time of year to see the visions you align with.

However, we feel it is important to use this time of year, when interest peaks, to speak about messaging. Messaging of advocacy as a whole is so vitally important if “saving wild horses” is actually the goal. We need to stop a program that simply helps perpetuate mass removal (and minimization of wild horses and burros on the range) for the next five years.

These end-of-year updates also come from people working to rid our western landscapes of wild horses and burros: the same people that have been driving public lands management and the removal of wild horses since the day the 1971 Act passed. Most of these meetings will have federal land management personnel in attendance; they won’t go to advocacy summits (we saw that in DC earlier this year, even via teleconference options; BLM would not come).

The latter is really useful to help determine what the line should look like in wild horse advocacy and what it should not. Will advocacy fight back in 2023 or play, once again, right into the hands of the opposition? 

We are really busy but wanted to share this with you, while BLM meets with livestock this time of year, and not wait.

Calico stallion before the roundup in 2022; a fence and cattle guard kept him from leaving the livestock grazing allotment he was born into in order to get away from the all the cows out on the range as roads widened for expanding geothermal and mineral mining.

 WHE has been attending and participating in (or watching online) multiple meetings and reading several year-end reviews from our opposition.

Common thread in BLM updates to livestock:

  • BLM cannot create Herd Management Area Plans (HMAP) until we get to “Appropriate Management Level,” (AML). Even though these plans would determine a science-based, not politically-agreed-to stocking level of wild horses inside the land designated for their use. BLM says they can’t do them until they get to AML.
  • BLM says they cannot increase fertility control, until they get to AML. 
  • BLM says they cannot increase monitoring or do range improvements for wild horses, until they get to AML. 

BLM cannot get to AML until they have more money.  (Please remember most stocking levels inside Herd Management Areas were set in initial agreement with livestock in the 70s and 80s and that number just carries over into land use plans. There is NOT a stocking level based on how many horses the land can sustain and then how does industry fit into multiple use. What we see is the opposite, how much industry can fit on the land and what pittance is left over goes to wild horses, burros and wildlife.

Calico, the allotment the stallion pictured above was stuck in as he paced a fenceline trying to leave.

At every meeting BLM nods to industry and claims that the damage done to public lands is caused by wild horses. At the same time, BLM continues to agree to expand things like “outcome based grazing” or things termed “need” based grazing (and various other terms that essentially give a livestock operator run of the range and “trespass” becomes a term no longer applicable). On one hand they claim ranges are so bad horses will drop dead. On the other hand, they promise more grazing for the most damaging use of public grazing land — domestic livestock.

It has been really hard to convey how much damage the agreements made in 2016 (by corporate orgs) would cause. Six years later it should be obvious now what “the deal” has done. The agreement gave ground (literally “the range”) to industry in exchange for a push to move toward expanding fertility control.

However, as noted by BLM these last few years, they won’t do management plans (HMAP) or anything (even really expand fertility control) until they get to AML. In other words, the status quo of political agreements set in the 70s and 80s needs to be reached before BLM will actually create science-based management plans for wild horses and burros and integrate them into “equal and balanced practice.”

Calico, 2022

If we can boil messaging down to one thing for 2023… do NOT ask for MORE funding.

Do not say “we need more funding for x,y, or z.” 

All the additional funding BLM is getting is going for one thing: removal to AML. (Please remember, BLM says they cannot do anything else until they knock national populations down to about 27,000 wild horses in the entire West.)

This agenda was reflected in the earliest draft of the agreement; heck, it was even titled “Ten years to AML.” The first time it was referenced was in BLM reports to Congress in 2018; officially adopted in the “BLM 2020 plan.”

Say “Designate existing funding” instead, please.

  • Designate existing funding to feed and care for the record number of wild horses and burros removed already.
  • Designate existing funding to craft site-specific management plans (removal is not management, it is a single tool of potential management).
  • Designate an amount of existing funding for a review of the program by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) before any increase in spending. The taxpayer should not throw more funding into any plan without a review.

We think those three examples give you an idea.

WHE suggest simply stating that there should be a “hold” at current levels in holding and no more money (for anything but feeding horses and burros in holding) until the taxpayer has a science-based review of how that money is being spent. (more here and an action item)

Facilities are near capacity and the agency is rushing to approve more and keep the doors to those facilities closed (so the public cannot see).

The amount of political haranguing far outweighs any data, planning, intelligent questions and responses. This is exactly what has driven this program for more than 50 years and why it has remained broken since inception. 

There are dozens of committees and orgs out there that all have the same membership (the anti-wild horse factions). Some show how deeply livestock controls all the seats in local western politics (even the few seats held by mining involve mines with deep ties to livestock). The opposition has always been united and well-organized; all working for absolute control of your public lands.

The video above is from last week’s meeting of the Sagebrush Ecosystem Council or SEC (the chair, J.J. Goicoechea, is on nearly every board in a power position from the Public Lands Council, State of NV Department of Ag, County Commissioner, Cattlemen’s Ass’n, etc. and is the chair of SEC). WHE representative Colette Kaluza attended; we only had 24 hours’ notice. The video might be hard to hear. (transcription page)

This resolution is much like the resolutions passed by every group wanting wild horse and burro populations to continue to be slammed down through accelerated removals. The resolutions are all the same because, often, it is the same people (belonging to the same group of organizations) drafting them.

What we are hearing in many meetings (primarily in NV) is the use of a new term: the five-year plan. We can make an assumption only, that this “plan” is an extension  (or state interpretation) of the plan already running the last three years: remove at historically high rates and do nothing else. However, WHE has requested a copy of the “five-year plan” and will share it with you when we receive it.

Watching the movements of all the players on public lands is a great tool to use.

BLM’s only reply to addressing any restriction to continue the mass remove strategy is: “We need more money.”

So, please, keep that in mind as you look toward 2023 and use that information wisely as you support the advocacy of organizations and plan your own interactions with lawmakers. 

Between now and the end of the year, WHE will publish more articles and information addressing some of what we hear at these meetings (and the comments we have given) for you to think about. We will link future articles back to this preface for reference.

Until then, stay safe and warm and enjoy time with family and friends.


We need your support to stay in the fight. Thank you.


Categories: Wild Horse Education