Wild Horse Education

Roundup Season (clock ticking)


Born day after mom captured, July 22

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) roundup schedule runs on a fiscal year. Helicopters can fly from July 1 until the last day of February, bait trapping can occur all year (under current BLM policy). BLM references the name of the schedule as “Tentative Wild Horse and Burro Gather and Fertility Control Schedule.” You can check this page to see when they update HERE. They update without notice.

NOTE: The day after we published this article, BLM published the new roundup schedule. You can find it HERE. We are working on a breakdown.

Many of you are asking us about the roundups schedule. There are steps that BLM takes to get a roundup schedule together. The schedules can change on a dime (adding/subtracting) based on factors such as funding, space in holding, contractor availability, approval of underlying paperwork, etc.

We are following the national “roundup clock” and there are oddities you should be aware of: there are delays in processes that would provide you the information you need to address the schedule, the budget and  lawmakers. We are working on filing more legal actions and, at the bottom of this article, you can add your name to a letter we will send to policy makers and utilize in upcoming filings. 

Below: July, 2022

Images and video in this piece are all taken since the 2022 motorized vehicle hearing.

Usually, by mid-April BLM has already taken multiple steps that we have not seen yet this year:

  • BLM must hold an annual motorized vehicle (the public often calls the “helicopter hearing”) to comply with the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). Usually we see one scheduled already and are waiting for BLM to hold one. Last year BLM deviated from the “state-by-state” model they used historically and ran one via Zoom over the internet on April 26, 2022. BLM never released a report or review of the use of motorized vehicles and claims that simply running a Zoom that says “we never do anything wrong, no improvements are needed and your comments don’t matter” is all they need to do to comply with existing law. (More info on the last hearing)
  • BLM usually releases their “population statistics report” where they mix a few lines of new data with old data to create an assertion of an existing population on the range. This report is part of the process that is used to push Congress for (more) funding and to divide up available funding for each state office, then divvy out to districts to run roundups/population growth suppression.  We have not seen the new report. We have only seen the “statistics” (we use that word in quotations because the word is extremely misleading in the context used by the agency) from last year. (You can read our review of last years report here)
  • Usually, by this time, BLM has updated the roundup schedule to include helicopter capture. As of the writing of this piece BLM has not updated the population growth suppression schedule; it only includes darting programs and a few bait trapping operations.  We surmise this could be because if there is a date set for a new gather-EA, then it could be part of an appeal to “stay” (stop) the roundup; no date, no legal requirement for a stay. We do not have conformation on the reason for the delay.

August 2022, helicopter crash (more info HERE)

Just two of the issues we see as BLM sets a roundup schedule:

  • Ranges in the West were hit hard this winter. BLM “planning” created removal numbers based on census flights done a year ago (or longer). Until BLM performs a census flight for any HMA they place on the schedule, the numbers to remove will not be an accurate representation of the numbers on the ground that survived. (BLM NV and Wyoming have both noted massive hardships and die-off threats.)
  • BLM approves new Gather-EAs that include the motorized vehicle hearing as one point of compliance with existing law that gives them the authority to approve a roundup. The “ten-year” remove and remove again plans BLM has been approving never update the validity of the authorities they used when they approved the plan (ie. if there was a state hearing in year one, that same state hearing is noted in subsequent years and never updated… along with precip data or available forage, range, waters, etc.).

Just these two points illustrate the absurdity of one document (the ten-year gather-ea) asserting any actual “assessment” value for an entire decade. 

July, 2022. Yes, BLM does roundups at the height of actual foaling season and simply denies they do… relying on anecdotal data from the 1970s.

Important facts about each herd are not analyzed in a “gather-ea,” even though they directly impact any assertion of “safety.” BLM says “foaling season” does not require a site-by-site analysis in a gather-ea; foaling season would be determined in a Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) that BLM says they do not have to do (even though it is required in the Code of Federal Regulations and the Handbook).

This contradiction is easily seen by comparing two active lawsuits: the one for Pancake (Ely district) and the decision BLM issued to feed livestock on public land in Ely. BLM denies the CFR and Handbook are mandatory authorities for wild horses but relies on them to benefit livestock.

The BLM wild horse and burro program is obscenely data poor and filled with contradiction when compared to how BLM treats profit driven use. 

Below: Motorized vehicle hearing is supposed to cover trailer use as well. BLM routinely allows downed wild horses to be transported, takes little care with choosing roads that are not a rough ride, ignores height requirements for loading and more. Yet, the motorized vehicle hearing never even provide the public a report and have never made a single change.

Wild Horse Education has repeatedly offered to provide our assistance to BLM to make substantive and meaningful changes to the handling policy. BLM has repeatedly failed to even respond. We completed a 3-part review and recommendations last fall. You can find the review and use it in your outreach HERE. 

We have repeatedly offered assistance in data collection to be utilized to craft actual management plans (HMAP) that could protect the herd and critical habitat for their survival. HMAPs should even provide information to determine a safe time of year and method if capture is actually justified (i.e. foaling season). BLM has repeatedly refused.

However, BLM continues to work with partners pushing various forms of population growth suppression that will overlook (give away) range protections. We see evidence of BLMs choosing partners based on predetermined agenda; never making an attempt to fully comply with the law. We see it every year as BLM throws more taxpayer funding at experiment after experiment. That evidence is even apparent in two new gather plans approved for Roberts Mountain and Stone Cabin (more on that soon… we are busy crafting our appeals). 

One way you can help us is to join us in demanding that BLM stop shortchanging wild horses and burros by continuing to insist a 10-year gather plan is responsible management.

A roundup is a single that event should be based on herd health and environmental conditions that exist when the event takes place… not an assertion that specific conditions exist predicted as far as a decade earlier.

Management plans (HMAPs) must be created to outline all management actives, habitat preservation and methods, location and triggers. Only then can any roundup be truly justified and the NEPA process meaningful for the public and public resource (wild horses and burros) in this instance. Could that be why the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and the handbook note that these are essential plans?

If BLM continues to include a request for funding for management planning, BLM needs to create actual management plans.

Add your name below and we will include your name to our letter to Tracy Stone-Manning and state directors that we will be sending next month. We will also add this list to our upcoming litigation. 

As the roundup clock continues to tick our teams will keep you updated as we continue the fight to gain fair on range planning and protections from abuse. 

Help keep us in the fight. 


Categories: Wild Horse Education