Feds must dismiss unhinged advice on wild horses

By on September 13, 2016 with 15 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Our nation’s management of wild horses has been a long-running debacle of poor execution layered over questionable intentions and flagging resolve. Those problems have been compounded by violence toward horses by ranchers and other private resource users. The latest incident involves an attack on a number of wild horses living on a ranch overseen by the philanthropist and wild horse advocate Madeleine Pickens.

Since 1971, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has had the task of managing wild horses, who are now classed, for administrative purposes, into 179 Herd Management Areas in 10 western states. The bureau’s primary strategy over the past 20 years has largely consisted of rounding up and removing the animals from our public lands, ostensibly in an effort to protect the range from overgrazing. The original plan was to adopt out horses to private parties – which has been fraught with its own set of problems – but the removals have happened at a volume that not even a spirited adoption program can offset. This has resulted in approximately 45,000 wild horses and burros being maintained in government-financed holding facilities throughout the United States.

Because the captive horse management has cannibalized so much of the funding, the BLM has scarce funds for protecting horses remaining on the range, including fertility control programs that offer the only real hope of humane population management.

Last week, in an attempt to solve this financial crisis — a self-inflicted wound created by serial round-ups — a volunteer body called the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board (the majority of whose members’ main focus is not, and has never been, the humane treatment of wild horses) made a recommendation that the BLM consider euthanizing all unadopted horses in holding facilities. That’s a prescription for mass slaughter on an almost unimaginable scale and it would perhaps make the United States the biggest horse killing enterprise in the world. While the Advisory Board has no legal authority to mandate action on the agency’s part, the agency will consider this recommendation, a sort of “Final Solution” cooked up by public-lands ranchers and their allies.


2015, the Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General released a long-awaited investigative report, which found that the BLM had sold thousands of wild horses to a livestock hauler named Tom Davis who subsequently sold these horses to kill buyers. Though they are not being sold directly by the agency, wild horses are still going to slaughter by a variety of circuitous pathways. Sources at the Sugarcreek, Ohio, livestock auction last week documented BLM freeze-branded horses, in very poor condition, being sold to kill buyers.

Our nation’s wild horses deserve better than this sort of mismanagement and abuse, and an attitude that they are throwaway objects. A sensible program must be grounded on controlling the population on the range through fertility control, obviating the need for dangerous round-ups that betray the national interest in protecting horses, and ending wasteful spending that ultimately solves no problems and just builds a massive captive wild horse program.

This headlong and heedless advisory committee recommendation should be summarily rejected. But it’s so outrageous and overreaching that it may be just the kick in the pants that Congress and the agency need to overhaul the entire broken and battered program.

Act now to save America’s wild horses »

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. US Gov’t Votes to Kill 45,000 Wild Horses, Advocates Want Them Saved | WGRC | September 14, 2016
  1. David Bernazani says:

    When I first saw this story posted online yesterday I dismissed it as another urban myth that couldn’t possibly be true. It just sounded too outrageous to be something that our government could be actually considering.
    I’m sorry to see I was wrong.

    • Mary Kostanski says:

      Do you want to know something even more outrageous? The BLM has been plotting mass killing of wild horses for years. Look up “Alternative Management Plan” if you need another dose of the surreal. Meeting minutes expose such things as the need to budget for psychological counseling for BLM employees having to witness horse killing en masse. Our government. Some of the macabre crap I’ve read about this agency is chilling–the horribly abusive helicopter roundups mid-winter, running pregnant mares so hard they abort, sales to slaughter…it’s all there. Not there: the media. So read up! Because we are ready to expose these criminals.

      • Kyle says:

        Maybe instead of reading propaganda, you should take a trip out west and visit the jands where the management is occuring on the ground. Then form your own opinion instead of relying on the opiniobs of others

      • Imelda Kenny says:

        Thank you Mary for your input. This is something I’m not very familiar with. However, with all the other atrocities that the Government is getting away with it and/or turning a blind eye to, nothing surprises me anymore what they are capable of doing. It’s saddening and very disheartening. I hope that petitions get signed and we the people become the voice of the animal.

  2. debbie catalina says:

    The elephant in the room: bison, like wild horses, are “culled” because they overpopulate. Yet bison – like wild horses – are native north American species (carbon dating of remains from Alaska and Nevada has shown, in the last 5 years, that remnants of native horses survived the last ice age and roamed still when it got warmer).
    Really disappointed to see HSUS allowing ranching interests to control the universe of discourse with same old skewed rhetoric.
    The fact is horses and bison “overpopulate” as a direct result of removal of native predators…do you find it interesting that the only animals not overpopulating are those not hunted by men? Our western ranges are a broken clockwork that remains broken at the insistence of greedy ranchers like hornets by children stung any time they lose a cow out of a thousand.
    Domestic livestock are the problem, the tale that wags this dog, this – despite that the TGA itself (sec 3) – despite that lessees can be removed in the interest of the protection of the public domain.

    • Terry Smith says:

      Debbie. There 8 million cattle and sheep grazing on public land. So the elephant in the room is that the BLM favors the cattle and sheep over protecting the wild horses and burros. Wild horse populations are less then they should be and they only encompass 17% of the grasslands. Cattlle and sheep decimate the grasslands to the point that it can take years for them to grow back. Wild horses are not the problem, cattle and sheep are.

  3. Pam Moorman says:

    This is horrible! Why would you euthanize all of these beautiful animals! Please do not let it happen! Thank you

  4. Craig Downer says:

    Thanks for condemning this recommendation that is basically for killing practically all of the wild horses and burros that have been so unfairly removed from their legal areas on the public lands. However, I do not agree with you that fertility control is the answer. Reserve Design is the correct and respectful way to go into the future for these wonderful animals, the wild horses and wild burros. I recommend you consider my recent FaceBook Note: Response to Ben Masters’s Justification to learn the fuller ramifications concerning what is happening here. I was on the field trip conducted by the BLM for the national wh & b advisory board last Wednesday as well as at their meeting on Thursday where I both heard all the testimony as well as gave testimony. Link to my FB Note is https//www.facebook.com/notes/craig-downer/response-to-ben-masters

  5. Barbara Clarke says:

    Ranching and other things aside, let’s just look at the premise of “overpopulation”. Last year the BLM said there were 36,000 horses on herd management areas ( HMA ). Then it suddenly grew to 45,000, then 65,000 and at the Advisory Board meeting the number reported was 75,000. Now, does this math make any sense to anyone? After all horses do not have litters, foal survival rate is low, old, sick or injured die and at least 40 percent out there are stallions. In a few HMAs the reproduction rate was more than 700 percent. So, is this math anything, and I mean anything one can hang your hat on? Overpopulation is a myth and in fact no definitive and scientific population count has ever been done across all HMAs. Ever! If we are going to argue let’s stick to the things that are provable, science based and can effect policy. And this includes the HSUS contention that PZP is a miracle cure. How can anyone suggest solutions to problems that may or may not exist? If, and its a big if, a herd that does not compete for forage with cattle should out grow its resources then apply appropriate tools that are humane and make sense such as PZP. But right now the narrative surrounding this tool is not making sense and is not gaining steam precisely because no one can prove that the problem is or is not real. PZP is a good tool with a bad narrative that is only about placating a myth about population.

  6. Barbara Griffith says:

    The idea that these horses are over- populated is something that the welfare ranchers and sheep ranchers have peddled to the public for years. There is no over-population of horses or burro populations. There was a White Paper that came out in the 90’s investigated by Peer called Horses to Slaughter, the Anatomy of a Coverup within the Wild Horse & Burro Program of the Bureau of Land Management. That went into detail as to just what the BLM was doing at that time it was the very same as the buyer that was sold thousands of horses from holding that as in turn sold to kill buyers. They have not changed tactics at all they just have more backers.
    This study by(GAO) in 2005 it is a breakdown of just what the government spends each year managing private livestock grazing on public lands, but collects only 21 million in grazing fee’s for a net loss of at least 123 million tax payer dollars per year and that was in 2005 I can just imagine how much it is now. Considering the additional direct costs not included in the GAO report , economists have estimated that the federal public lands grazing on only BLM and Forest Service lands may cost as much as $ 500 million to $ 1 billion annually. Keep in mind this was 5 years ago so the cost has grown considerably since then. The BLM has been peddling the lie that it’s the horses that are causing “ALL” of the damage to public lands which is another lie according to the enviromental organizations that have been fighting to keep cattle and sheep off of public lands.
    I saw clear photos of a creek that had been fenced across the middle of it showing the damage the cattle had done to it. Looking over the fence without cows it was perfectly clean not a muddy mess.
    And another thing that no one mentions is the fact horses and cows/sheep graze differently simply because horses have both upper and lower teeth while cows and sheep only have back teeth for chewing. Cows/sheep wrap their tongue around grass and pull the grass up by the roots while the horse cuts the grass off like a lawn mower would do this why where ever cows/ sheep are grazed the land is denuded of softer grasses because they can’t eat the tougher grasses and plants that horses can.

  7. Sarah says:

    Is there anything we can do to stop this? A legitimate petition or protest? I want to help save these wild horses. If I was a millionaire I’d buy them all, and some land and let them roam free, safe, and happy. My heart aches for animals, especially because they are so innocent.

    • Maggie Frazier says:

      Of course there’s something to do to stop this! Talk about it to everyone you know – tell people exactly what is being done to one of our greatest natural resources. If they are doubtful – tell them to google it! The information is out there – if only you LOOK! Look up the info on Tom Davis & the 1700 wild horses he “bought” for $10.00 & the BLM delivered to him – at a cost of thousands of dollars to the taxpayers. For instance, go online & read the GAO reports or the million dollar NAS (?) report that found the BLM – in continuously rounding up WH – was responsible for much of the increased reproduction – which is what happens with any wild species when they lose large numbers. This same BLM has been talking about euthanizing large numbers of horses for years – look up the FOIA!
      LOTS can be done – but people have to care enough to do it!

  8. Shane Downing says:

    I have ways to combat this growing problem. Only if I could get the blm to listen to what I have to say. It would save millions of dollars as well as take care of the horse and burro’s .

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