Wild Horse Education

2023 Population Statistics “Report”(snark report and real analysis)

Wyoming, where record numbers of wildlife have died this winter but BLM insists wild horses simply increased (as usual) by 23%.

BLM has released what they call a “population statistics report” as part of their annual drive for funding from Congress to fuel the roundup and stockpile machine. 

BLM population statistics “report” 2023

Our analysis document 

NOTE: This article may have more than a fair share of snark from our founder due to the fact that wild horses and burros (and those that advocate for them) never get a fair share of range resources or time and energy from policy makers and BLM personnel. 

Last week we reported to you about the upcoming roundup season schedule and noted BLM was late on the statistics report. BLM calls this a “report,” but it is a report in label only. This annual document is part of the numbers game BLM plays every year to get increased funding to fuel the same old habits, kind of like an addict that just won’t seek help and they have more than enough enablers to help them hide their destruction.

Path Forward (Ten Years to AML) called for 3 years of record climbing removals (climb to 20K) followed by high number removals (10-15K per year) for an additional 2-3 years and a climb toward fertility control as BLM hit AML. Over the last 5 years BLM has removed more wild horses in a combined 5-year period than at any time in history. This plan has not deviated; they knew after a few years they would overload the already fragile system of holding. Yes, they knew it (I heard the conversations in meetings back then before I got kicked out because I would not stop pushing for habitat protection and fictional AMLs to be fixed).

As I sat down to do an analysis of the “report” for you to use in your advocacy (and to hand out to every journalist that simply quotes BLM numbers without first saying “BLM asserts”) I could see that a majority of the so-called “data-sets” were the exact ones BLM used last year with computer modeling padding. Some of the baseline data was twenty years old and never, ever, accounted for changes in reproduction/deaths based on big weather events or mass removals that increase populations growth.

Once again BLM is acting like wild horses live in a bubble unattached to public lands where we are receiving reports of record die-off of wildlife. Heck, in Ely NV, BLM had to feed all those poor starving  cows, hunters are afraid the deer, elk and pronghorn tag numbers will drop, but somehow wild horse populations increased by 23%? Yes, we know the wild horse “specialist” out there has to plan the annual rodeo again with his buddies in the ranching community… but you are being paid a nice salary and benefits package to supposedly protect wild horses.

Ely Wild Horse and Burro Specialist organized and participated in the local rodeo DURING the Triple B roundup in 2022 where he was serving as the lead in charge of the operation. This is the person overseeing “humane handling.” gathering “data,” and writing roundup plans. Conflict of interest?

Since 2018 (and the “Path Forward” big cash-out gave BLM a nice bow to tie onto going back to the old status quo) BLM has received a steady increase in funding. Many people today are unaware of the years of struggle and fight that began to lead to policy changes in the early 2010s: we began to gain transparency, got the first humane policy, and had site-specific management planning starting. By 2013, we hit the lowest numbers of wild horses and burros removed from the range since the Act passed. But it was all run over by those that chose livestock as their partners and much of that progress lost. (I’m angrier than a nest full of hornets it with a stick and will never forgive or forget.)

This move was lauded as “reform” that was then funded (and increased every year) and latched onto by the next admin and their partners and lauded again as reform. All this did was give up the actual fight for everything (humane care, transparency, on range planning) to get an increase in fertility control. It ran over every org fighting back in different layers because they were smaller and could not compete with funding. Please remember this package had big cash on both sides (big ag and big advocacy) and seamlessly went from one administration to the next…. and wild horses and burros suffer.

In 2018 BLM basically said they have the same number on range as they claim they have today. No, not kidding you.. the computer model says so (gag). In 2022? nearly the same number claimed. 2023? same thing. Is this reform or insanity? Oh, what… they can just find some way to blame it on the horse or burro and never take responsibility.

5 years ago we called this the path to collapse as it contained no reform at all. But, what did we know… we could not buy social media to convince you that each year an increase in funding was NOT a victory and “fertility control” did not mean a dart gun and it did not mean “humane on range management” just population growth suppression. It meant record removals to get to low AML, most treatments done via helicopter roundup and mass experimentation to bring back a form of PZP called “SpayVac” (trials are getting underway to create a longer lasting single dose of dart/injectable hormonal fertility control that most of you know by a trade name of GonaCon and a dart/injectable form of long lasting SpayVac).

After 5 years of record funding, removals, modest increase fertility control, BLM is in a worse position than they were 5 years ago. Holding is flooded (with horses and more disease than we have seen in the last decade), habitat is being fragmented faster than ever before inhibiting viable herds, no site-specific management planning (just removal plans) and the price of the program is at a record high.

Is it time to stop mass removal now? Has 5 years of increased mass removal shown it increases reproduction (as the NAS confirmed) or does it show that the system of numbers is simply consistently inflated? BLM keeps no data set to determine any site-specific foaling season, how foaling season is changed after fertility control (whatever method), how it rises after large removals, etc., nothing. Mass removal was never reform… it was a wish list item for livestock buddies.

Heck, BLM has not even revised the humane policy. I guess “reform” just means create one more expensive layer of bureaucracy to create more paperwork to make it look like they are doing something?

Antelope 2021: A repeat of the brutal summer squeeze of wild horses (that made it through winter and are trying to foal on cow bashed ranges, where BLM will feed cows hay in winter) is on tap.

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Have we had enough? I sure have. I am tired of watching the herds I love pay the price for this political and profit driven scheme. 

For 5 years the big lobby/cash orgs have run the program. Has it worked? Absolutely $%)!@^%$$!! not. It is time to stop this madness. 

Please join us in asking that funding be frozen, BLM required to use that funding to feed horses and burros already in holding and an independent review done of the antiquated and wasteful program. 

BLM has had 5 years of consistent funding increases. What BLM has shown is that they can get record levels of funding and run the program to collapse.

  • Before BLM gets one more funding increase there must be an independent review. It has been a decade since the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has reviewed the program. Since 2008 the NAS has failed the program on data-based decision making. After 5 years of record breaking funding, the public deserves and independent review by the NAS.
  • Congress should demand an update on HMA Plans and not base funding levels on a “report” that regurgitates the same old flawed data set. Planning is a key to any successful reform. Even though reform was used in press releases to justify the high price tag, BLM has not even begun to create reform of the program.

Even if you disagree with our stance on wild horses and burros, you should agree with fiscal responsibility.

BLM has shown they have failed to reform the program, has received record funding increases and sits in a worse position than we were in 2018 before the funding increases began. We have no actual site-specific management plans, the holding system is near collapsing (and disease ridden), critical habitat is being rapidly fragmented and the data-poor system is still driving funding increases.

Stop… just stop the increases in funding until there is (at least minimal) oversight and review. PLEASE stop asking for more money for the BLM wild horse and burro program. Every year you ask for it, you get it. It is not reform… it is marketing, backdoor deals and it is making everything worse. 

You can find supporting documents HERE.

4-step action to take in the budget debate

Help keep us in the fight.

Categories: Wild Horse Education