Wild Horse Education


Wild horses being removed while cattle graze, January/February 2022, Pancake Complex (2,054 wild horses captured)

Many of you are writing to us asking “what is going on” with the roundup schedule. Traditionally, January and February are very busy months for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “roundup machine.”

There are a number of factors impacting the BLM roundup schedule as 2023 begins including: issues with contract solicitations, the late passage of the 2023 Appropriations bill, space in holding facilities that can be used as intake (after 4 consecutive years of accelerated removals), etc.

Below: Eagle complex January/February 2020 (1716 wild horses captured) January/February 2021 (1074 wild horses captured)

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BLM will add to the schedule. They are working on approving removals now. But why did things stall?  

In November of 2022 BLM had to reissue the solicitation for “Catch, Treat, Release” (just a new name for roundup contracts that softens the language and makes it sound like reform) after the earlier solicitation was protested. Some of the points in the new solicitation (essentially) leave determining the public First Amendment rights to observe in the hands of the contractor (a potentially illegal move that is likely to lead to protest if contracts are actually finalized with this language; the government cannot abdicate a Constitutional responsibility simply to placate contractors that do not want the public to observe.)

The Appropriations Bill must be signed into law to release funding. The 2023 bill was not signed into law until Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Only after the bill is signed do agencies know how much funding they will have to sustain programs for the year. Although in years past a late signing (or simple continuing resolutions) did not cramp the roundup machine, the late signing was compounded by years of record breaking removals and the additional expense of holding and costs of the Adoption Incentive Program (AIP). According to BLM reports, in 2022 over 3,700 people took advantage of the $1,000. per horse (or burro) incentive. This would push the cost of the AIP well over $4 million dollars annually when administrative costs are added.

Last year we published a fast report on how overloaded facilities are not only overtaxing the system and creating breeding grounds for disease, it also points to the fact that the ill-conceived “Path Forward” to satisfy big corporate interests has led to a sure sign of program collapse. 

Utilizing BLM report data and simple math, in 2022 BLM would hit around 67,000 wild horses in the system of holding or space for 11,352 more.  (you can see the article HERE).

BLM (apparently) felt that for the winter 2023 season they would have space for 4000 additional wild horses/burros (on a 100-acre flood plain) north of Winnemucca, NV. Although the BLM has begun transferring horses into the facility (500 at this time) the facility is under scrutiny as litigation moves forward. Filling the facility over the winter during the time of the highest probability that the facility would (literally) turn into a cesspool might not be a wise move?

Gather schedule as of 2/7/23

The last likely significant impact to the winter roundup schedule would be NEPA. 

In order for the BLM to place a roundup onto the schedule they would need to have approved NEPA (a Gather-EA) to legally generate associated documents and finalize any contract services.

Areas where the BLM has approved NEPA to base any removal on have been hit really hard over the last 4 years. Some areas have been hit multiple times under a single document like Triple B/Antelope that has been hit over 8 times and removed nearly 9,000 wild horses under the largest EA ever crafted by BLM (acreage bigger than Rhode Island and Connecticut combined). The repetitive hits have left slim pickings to find an area not already the subject of a recent removal.

The herds BLM has not gotten onto the schedule in the last couple of years do not have current NEPA. We are waiting for some of these plans to be drafted and/or approved. Once approved, we are entitled to a 30-day period to appeal any decision. From March 1- June 30th BLM cannot fly a helicopter to perform roundups… leaving no time to get any helicopter roundup scheduled before the cut-off date. BLM can do large bait trapping operations at any time of year (as the safety of foals during bait trapping has not yet been litigated; we are working on that).

Triple B, August 2022 (1,897 wild horses captured)

BLM updates the roundup schedule as NEPA is deemed adequate, funding is approved and contracts are finalized. The schedule changes throughout the year and can change fast. The current number do NOT reflect proposed removal numbers for 2023. 

At the beginning of March BLM historically releases their “Population Estimate” for the year. Last March BLM claimed there was a total of 82,384 wild horses and burros on public lands.

WHE did a report breaking down how the annual report manipulates existing data (much of the data over 10 years old) to reach these numbers. These reports are not representative of any actual count done in the year the report is dated; a common misinterpretation. (You can read an article and download our report HERE)

BLM utilizes this report to determine how funding will be distributed to each state for removals and to prepare their request to Congress for funding for the next fiscal year.

We are entering a time (again) where there will be more wild horses/burros in holding than are left in the wild.

July roundup, Swasey Utah

We expect BLM to add about 15,000 (up to 17,000) wild horses and burros to the 2023 removal schedule after they finalize some of the draft plans and fix the issues with contracts (if they can create more space in holding through adoption and sale authority). WHE estimated they have space for 11,352 using BLM data in holding at this time. 

BLM has stated multiple times that they remain committed to following the current plan (5 years of mass removal and, after achieving unsound and non-science based population numbers, transitioning to fertility control including sterilization) without any serious look at reform. There will be a few claiming some type of “victory” that the number has dropped to less than 20,000 this year… but that was always part of the plan and the number still represents a much higher number than a decade ago (4,176 in 2013).

As soon as BLM releases their statistics report for 2023 we will give you an alert and a breakdown on what to expect. 

Habitat loss and fragmentation is the driving force behind the loss of wildlife and wild horse and burro removals.

Does “green energy” impact wild horses? Learn more HERE. 

Unlike energy, livestock on public lands produces less than 3% ofd meat utilized in industry, employs an extremely limited number of individuals and is arguably an outdated use of public lands. You can learn more about how livestock impacts our herds HERE.

One year ago, the colt that snapped a leg during winter roundup and how death statistics are manipulated HERE. 

Help keep us in the fight.


Categories: Wild Horse Education