Wild Horse Education

Follow Owyhee Wild Horses (Part 1): Roundup

Follow the story of wild horses from the Owyhee Complex area in Nevada 2021.

A roundup begins long before a chopper flies as habitat is fragmented and lost to profit-driven interests on public lands.

The impacts to wild horses end long after the last horse is loaded and taken from the range during a roundup. It can take some time to attempt to gain all of the data. 

WHE volunteer Colette Kaluza took on the challenge of attending the long winter roundup and tracking the impacts to the captives. She has prepared a 3-part series: the roundup, crafting a comprehensive welfare report and tracking the wild ones into holding. 

Follow Owyhee Wild Horses (Part 1): Roundup

Wild horses and burros are being removed from federal public lands because their habitats are being fragmented and lost. Education holds the power to change that.

Owyhee horses were rounded up and removed Oct. 14—Nov. 9, 2021, which we documented and can be found here.

There was not always daily public access to roundups and the public was denied any opportunity to view daily operations. The public now has the right and be given access by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to observe the roundup operation thanks to our precedent-setting First Amendment case (Leigh v Salazar); the Ninth Circuit decision of February 2012, was a landmark win used today by civil rights organizations nationwide. (One example: In 2020 the press was barred from the riots in Portland; the court overturned that restriction. The Judge cited “Leigh v Salazar” in his ruling. That hallmark case has reached further than roundups.)

“An open government has been a hallmark of our democracy since our nation’s founding,” U.S. District Judge Michael Simon wrote Thursday, citing precedent from the Ninth Circuit case Leigh v. Salazar. “When wrongdoing is underway, officials have great incentive to blindfold the watchful eyes of the fourth estate. The free press is the guardian of the public’s interests and the independent judiciary is the guardian of the free press.”

Observation exposed abuse, which brought about the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy at roundups and corral facilities from our fight and win for humane treatment. In fact, one of our federal court cases against abuse was fought at Owyhee. In January of 2013 we gained the first specific language from the courts addressing handling and the lack of any policy (HERE).

BLM is more interested in hiding problems than making improvements. The BLM continues to ignore the premise of the case that is seen as a hallmark in the courts beyond roundups. History has shown exposure of failures leads to improvements.  With your support we can keep going and continue to write stories of positive changes.  Not knowing does not protect us from the consequences. Lack of transparency is pervasive in BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program.

Horses are only allowed to live in their boundary lines drawn on maps labeled “Herd Management Areas.”  They share their habitats with industry.  BLM’s roots are in industry, which collides with its (relatively) newer task to protect and preserve wild horses and burros and their habitats, as industry expands without effort to lessen its impact.

Grazing allotment fences fragment habitat. In the Owyhee Complex livestock are allocated the annual equivalent of more than 127,029 AUMs versus the 7,452 to 11,988 allocated to Wild Horses. (more on forage allocation through AUMs HERE)

Being on the ground at roundups we are able to show BLM’s plan for wild horses in real time.  It is the plan to round the animals up and remove them as opposed to preserving and protecting the animals and their habitats through management planning, the key to the survival of these animals and the other animals sharing their habitats.  The development, the existence of Herd Management Area Plans means planning for the survival of horses in the wild, demonstrably important mandated under federal regulations.  BLM pooh-poohs their importance and its responsibility and instead makes plans to remove horses using the cover it is for their own good.

Why are herd management area plans not being developed?  By the end of 2023, with all the new livestock fencing and mining expansion approved on our public lands in the horses’ areas, the horses and other animals’ habitats will shrink.  Absence of herd management area plans creates a vacuum for wheeler-dealers and “preferred partners” in industry and advocacy to work with BLM in the dark, while making the plans would mean open participation in daylight.

Our volunteer observer for 20 days showed up at morning meeting locations to repeat her request to BLM to observe the roundup.  For 10 of those days she was not allowed access to view any aspect of the roundup, the helicopter roundup or to tour temporary holding corral.  She still showed up to again try to see the horses even if it meant from a public road near temporary holding.  She was only allowed at the helicopter roundup of the horses on 11 days altogether and given fluctuating and inconsistent reasons.

Even in the ugly setting of the roundup, the horses’ splendor is clear.  Our wild ones and the land they call home are well worth fighting for against rapidly expanding private profiteers on public lands. 

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Context: Since 2012  BLM hit Owyhee with 6 removals. The ten-year Gather EA covered an area of about 1.4 million acres. In 2018, the BLM roundup removed wild horses down to less than 600 (according to BLM). The agency estimated about 1,118 wild horses were in the area as of May 2021, about 200 over AML (621-999).

From Oct. 11-Nov 8, 2021, BLM captured 934, released 362 (162 treated mares) and 27 died during the roundup.

In part 2, Colette will present a full Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) report. BLM did not have any oversight team present and our report stands as the only available report on welfare issues at Owyhee.

In part 3, she tracks the results of the roundup into holding.

We will present part 2 and 3 in the next couple of days for your “weekend reading.”

Advocacy has many steps. From research to range, legislation to courtroom, each step is needed. Advocacy for any issue involves full engagement to uncover problems, create law and policy and to hold people accountable.

Help keep us in the fight.






Categories: Wild Horse Education