Wild Horse Education

Reveille, Before The Roundup Update (2023)

Reveille, 14

A helicopter drive-trap operation begins in Reveille today. BLM plans to capture around 129 of the 164 wild horses they say are in the HMA. They plan to treat 27 mares with GonaCon and release 26 stallions. This will leave 86 wild horses in the HMA that comprises 105,499 acres (reported by BLM in 2023 press release, but noted as 105,494 in the EA).

You can find daily updates from our team in the field from the Reveille roundup, Click HERE

As a roundup in an area begins, we always like to do a piece to help you understand more about the “how, why and what” of the specifics in the area.

Reveille is one of those places where it is easier to demonstrate land use planning (or lack of) in a simpler fashion than in many other areas. Scroll down to see details of the 2023 roundup. Our volunteer is onsite.

Some background

Areas like Reveille are not tourist attractions. They sit beyond other HMAs that located closer to towns. and cities. In 2010, WHE added Reveille to our list of regularly visited HMAs due to the lack of advocate presence and have monitored the range, attempted to engage BLM and have been at every roundup since.

One of our attempts to gain dialogue (toward updating the Land Use Plan) involved assisting with trap-site adoptions and working with the district post Ninth Circuit to gain access to operations (most people do not know that WHE was offered red-carpet access to observe roundups back in 2009 and we refused because no other member of the public or organization could go… the First Amendment was not written for one person, but for all. Instead we fought a grueling battle to open roundups to all.)

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Today, at Reveille the access to observe has slid backwards and BLM has still not updated the Land Use Plan (LUP)*. BLM moved in a platform that they placed about 30 feet, on elevated ground, at temporary holding. Today, you are lucky if you can watch from the road, lower ground, and wait to catch the right light to see through snow fencing. BLM no longer allows you to walk to the most elevated area above the trap, but keeps you lower so you can not see around the curve of the rocks at the second trap and have a more limited view. (Reveille has been using the same 2 traps every roundup over the last decade and only introduced a 3rd during one roundup that they have no need to use due to the limited number of horses and and continued degradation of the range due to livestock.) * BLM will sometimes use the labelLand Use Plan (LUP) or use Resource Management Plan (RMP). Essentially a district will do one or the other, as they are essentially the exact same thing.

For over a decade BLM has been doing a large roundup of 80-90% of the horses every 3/4 years and removing young horses (they say are better for adoption) and releasing older mares treated with PZP-22 (the mean age at Reveille keeps rising). BLM interfered with starting darting back in 2015 (to stop helicopter roundups every 3 years) apparently for a permittee that even told BLM staff what roads on public lands they could take anyone down that was trying to plan a program. BLM is switching to GonaCon (2 doses) during the 2023 operation to promote ongoing sterility.

The stocking level for wild horses (the Appropriate Management Level, AML) at Reveille is 138. However, that number is NOT considered a ballpark number for how many can live in the HMA, it is used as a “maximum number that triggers removal” (something the law does not intend it to be). When BLM does a roundup in the area they try to push the number down to around 90.

Below: Reveille February, 2017. Reveille is a great first roundup for volunteers to run (or even run solo) through training due to the limited trap locations. (First training roundup for Marie Milliman, WHE CAWP team member, more HERE)

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The control the permittee has over the area is easy for anyone with eyes to see.

In 1987, a court Settlement (and again in 2001/2002 IBLA) with the permittee keep Reveille at the AML designated in the 23 year old LUP (noted in previous paragraph). This permittee is very active maintaining control in the area (BLM seems to be afraid of him) and he maintains a year-round (12 month) livestock permit that allows grazing of 1000-1800 cow/calf pairs, depending on the time of year, and the ability to send out 600 more.

So how can a permittee keep BLM from doing any rangeland health assessments or changes in the absurdly low level of wild horses? Because the underlying paperwork never changes or updates based on “the best available science” or new information (as the NEPA handbook states).

Isn’t BLM supposed to change how they manage uses (livestock and mining) and protect resources (grass, wild horses) based on changing data and update LUPs accordingly?

The LUP began revisions in this district in 2012 (WHE was involved from day one) but the process was abandoned (as mining fast track took over and politics raged).

Another way BLM could address an outdated LUP for wild horses is to create a Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) that would trigger an amendment in a specific HMA, instead of an entire district-wide overhaul. Much like the frequent LUP amendments we see for fast-tracking mining or “green energy,” BLM could simply do an HMAP and get an HMA out of the dark ages.

We tried that (HMAP angle) in this district as well. However, in 2017 everything was cancelled, torn, destroyed under the weight of the “Path Forward” agreement between big corporate advocacy and livestock.

Path Forward triggered exploitation of the moment by both sides of the plan. Livestock and BLM hid avenues of processes for change of stocking and resources of wild horses and burros from advocates simply seeking “fertility control.” Many of those groups were fast to take advantage of a climate that helped them push other orgs (that they see as competition, not part of a movement) out the door so they could control any move toward agreements controlling and involving both fertility control AND access to government actions (like roundups). This collision of politics stalled any effort to change actual management on range, including changing the AML. (Many of the tactics used were pretty shady to gain this political upper-hand.)

Below: Release of PZP treated mares in 2017.

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2023, the roundup

Today the choppers begin to fly at Reveille, again. BLM plans to capture around 129 of the 164 wild horses they say are in the HMA. They plan to treat 27 mares with GonaCon and release 26 stallions. This will leave 86 wild horses in the HMA.

WHE has not stopped trying hard to bring HMAPs (a required process under law that BLM ignores) back into play to update archaic politics you see at play at Reveille. All of our attempts to work through processes (for years) were wiped away by the exploitive crack brought about by Path Forward, but we keep going. 

WHE continues to fight for all of you to gain better access to government actions. The First Amendment was not written for one (or for a handpicked group that will allow BLM to control their messaging). 

Both the HMAP fight and First Amendment battles are alive in the courts today.

WHE have a team observer onsite and will bring you daily updates. We will publish a landing page for roundup updates and link it here. 

It is going to be a bumpy ride and a twisted fight, it always is.

Hold on tight. Don’t give up. 

Many of you know Reveille from the short-documentary featured in the New Yorker and at Mountainfilm about the work of our founder. The roundup in the piece is Reveille. Watch it HERE.

The permittee at Reveille is the permittee featured in Dave Philipps book “Wild Horse Country.” Dave portrays the permittee as “caught in a hard place” but fails to look at the actual permit. Maybe now you can understand why we gave the book a less than glowing review? HERE

You can find daily updates from our team in the field from the Reveille roundup, Click HERE

Thank you for keeping us in the fight!

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Categories: Wild Horse Education