Roundups (2023, Overview)

Our roundup team has been busy since the start of the first helicopter operation of 2023, Reveille, on July 1.

Wild Horse Education (WHE) and our members have been a frontline reporting organization providing public oversight for 15 years. WHE is the only organization to ever walk BLM into a courtroom (repeatedly) over abuse. Our early litigation drove the creation of the first internal welfare standards BLM calls the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program or CAWP.

Scroll down for a rundown on roundups in 2023

CAWP is supposed to address things like barbed wire, speed and distance of the helicopter from horses and burros. It is also supposed to address unsafe conditions that arise during temperature extremes, stocking of corrals and all loading and handling procedures, even keeping the floor of the trailers clean and surfaces free of rough edges and protrusions that can cause injury. CAWP also has a section that references documentation. That section states that vet reports, including photos and descriptions, be done to create a record of justified euthanasia practices that is simply not being done.

In 2023, we saw clearly that no matter how “patient” the public is while BLM “figures out” how to implement their welfare program it has proven year-after-ear to be inadequate. Not only do we see repeat infractions that place wild horses and burros at risk, flagrant omissions of any lparameter in the policy BLM has deemed “minor,” we also see an inconsistent and severely lacking knowledge of the policy in personnel present at operations. The vague and misleading wording of the policy is a problem. The broad discretion in the policy is a problem when the person executing any adherence deems it “too much work.” 

In 2023, our patience has run out. We have filed litigation to drive transformation current internal standards (that have proven inadequate and unenforced) into review, open public comments and into enforceable rules; the formal rule-making BLM is supposed to use for policy. This litigation is in active briefing now in federal court. 

BLM is not supposed to chase wild horses during foaling season. At roundups like Antelope that happen in July, we see blistering heat during actual breeding and foaling season on many ranges. So far for 2024, BLM has not scheduled any helicopter drive trapping in July. Maybe public pressure and litigation are working hand-in-hand to gain a bit of change? 

Litigation update (November, 2023)

Giving Tuesday week end-of-year funding is critical to all nonprofits including WHE. Help us continue keep the team and litigation running. We have a 10K match and a generous supporter doubled our match! You can TRIPLE your contribution through Giving Tuesday.

Rundown on roundups for the calendar year 2023 

BLM essentially announced the intention of the season when they called switching Reveille from PZP to GonaCon as “expanding fertility control.”

All of the current “studies” BLM is using (a few they have funded themselves through grants) to justify this sledgehammer of an approach all have emphasis on “less work and saving money” and not on how this approach impacts herd short and long term.

Our team has been on the road since day 1 of the season (Reveille report HERE). 

During the 2023 calendar year we have seen area-after-area slammed with mass removal and a heavy hormone hit with GonaCon on older mares released back to the range. The lifespan of most wild horses is between 18-22 years. The GonaCon that stops ovulation won’t wear off during the lifespan of the vast majority of wild horses treated in 2023. This is how the agency carried out the directive to “expand reversible fertility control” in 2023.

At Clan Alpine, happening now, BLM is engaged in exactly the same thing: large scale removal and a hard hit. In addition, BLM knows there is a transitory population from the neighboring Herd Management Area (HMA) that lies in a neighboring district. They have know this fact for decades. They have known that throughout the history of the program that there have been many times these horses have been counted toward the allowed number (Appropriate Management Level or AML) in each HMA. Instead of fixing this issue and addressing this with data and recalculation that includes this seasonal movement, BLM simply approved the Gather-EA for Clan Alpine instead of a joint plan that includes the neighboring district this year and raced it onto the schedule.

We saw the same “use one approved plan to hit another HMA” they either did not get the number of wild horses at an earlier roundup or do not have an active NEPA document (gather-ea) at Moriah (roundup reports HERE).

At Moriah, BLM used the last day to go up near Tippet and get Antelope wild horses that they had not gotten during the roundup earlier this year. To get Moriah horses off HMA to the East would have brought a NV crew into Utah… and it looks like NV was not going to use the funds to satisfy Utah permittees and focused on powerful ones in NV (that’s our assessment from the ground).

Many of you remember the Antelope Complex roundup because of a stallion named “Sunshine Man” that tragically lost his life when his leg snapped on the first day of a heat index rise where we had begged BLM to suspend for a few days.

BLM should not be doing roundups like the brutal one we all saw this last July at Antelope. The combo punch of climate change, the tension during breeding season and the fragility of new foals make for a deadly combination time and again.

A lot of media attention descended on Antelope as we filed litigation during Antelope, that is moving through the court system now, to gain an enforceable welfare standard. BLM references CAWP as rules and a policy. If it is? it should be open rule making and enforceable. 

So far, the 2024 schedule does NOT have any roundups on tap in July. Maybe BLM is getting the message that the public is fed up with roundups during actual foaling season and we want a data-based foaling season set in HMAs and enforceable welfare standards? The case is moving forward.

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At Robert’s Mountain we watched BLM stampede wild horses through the same valleys where they approved mining damage mitigation through the spraying of weed-killer from a plane (essentially airborne Roundup). Then they allowed the mine to unload heavy equipment almost on top of the trap, during the roundup. BLM stopped the operation 248 shy of the goal on November 5. Our Appeal remains active.

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The year in video:

WHE team reports from helicopter roundups in 2023:


Antelope Complex north and Antelope Complex south 

Black Mountain, Hardtrigger, Sands Basin

Devils Garden (USFS)





Robert’s Mountain

Clan Alpine (ongoing)

Giving Tuesday week end-of-year funding is critical to all nonprofits including WHE. Help us continue keep the team and litigation running. We have a 10K match and a generous supporter doubled our match! You can TRIPLE your contribution through Giving Tuesday.

Thank you for keeping WHE running for our wild ones!

There are many ways to support the work of WHE from direct contribution, stock donations and even while you shop. More HERE.

Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education

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