LARKSPUR, Colo., September 9, 2015 – Front Range Equine Rescue, a nonprofit
working to end the abuse and neglect of horses, announced today it has appealed the federal decision to eliminate the population of wild horses in the West Douglas Herd Area of northwest Colorado.
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to remove all wild horses from this sensitive region over the next three years, which FRER contends is a violation of federal law. FRER has begun the appeal process with the Interior Board of Land Appeals – focusing its efforts to protect wild horses on public lands on the Board and its review process.
According to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, the BLM has a mandate to protect the health and welfare of all wild horse herds on public lands. FRER says the Act protects these horses from unwarranted elimination, and that removing the entire herd from its native rangeland will also cause catastrophic loss of genetic diversity in the herd management areas surrounding the WDHA, which over time causes herd health problems.
“The BLM is intent on removing an entire herd, but both the language and spirit of the Wild Horse Act protect wild horses from elimination,” said Hilary Wood, President of FRER. “This irreversible action will permanently alter the natural diversity of the range and damage herd health in the adjacent areas that are also under the BLM’s management.”
“The WDHA has long been a battleground as horse advocates took to the courts to block individual BLM roundups, but even if successful, these lawsuits do not address the long-range issue of the BLM’s plan to wipe out the WDHA population in the next three years,” said FRER’s attorney Bruce Wagman. “Filing our appeal, before the BLM has eliminated the herds, will protect this historic herd once and for all.“
The BLM plans to begin eliminating horses in the WDHA with a roundup of
approximately 167 horses as soon as this month. This leaves approximately 200 horses in the region, which the BLM intends to remove in the upcoming years. After the BLM contractor’s low-flying helicopters round up the herds, they will be put in BLM holding facilities, and available for adoption or sale at auction.
BEND, Ore., July 9, 2015 – Efforts to protect wild horses on public lands intensified as Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), a national nonprofit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses, today appealed a federal agency decision to round up and remove wild horses from their homeland in Eastern Oregon. FRER contends that BLM is engaging in an illegal breeding operation, and that removing these horses from their native rangeland will impact critical genetic diversity and reduce herd populations to dangerously low levels, in violation of federal law.
As early as this month, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to round up wild horses from a small population in Eastern Oregon's Kiger and Riddle Mountain Herd Management Areas. After the BLM contractor's low-flying helicopters round up the herds of approximately 237 horses, the majority will be removed to BLM holding facilities. Approximately 80 will be released, resulting in diminished herds with insufficient genetic diversity which threatens the horses' survival.
In its appeal, filed with the Department of the Interior's Board of Land Appeals, FRER says the BLM's calculated breeding efforts irreparably damage the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herds, and violate the language and spirit of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which gave the BLM a mandate to protect the health and welfare of all wild horse herds on public lands.
The Kiger and Riddle Mountain regions are home to Kiger mustangs, a famous and unique strain thought to be partly descended from horses brought to the West by Spaniards. Horse aficionados value Kiger mustangs for their distinctive coloring and characteristics. Kiger mustangs are popular at BLM auctions, sales, and adoption events. The BLM typically returns some Kiger mustangs to the rangelands to continue their desirable traits in the breeding population. However, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act does not permit greater protections for Kiger mustangs than it does for other wild horses.
"The roundup and removal of horses from these herd management areas is a misguided attempt to create and control a narrow selective breeding stock of Kiger mustangs, while removing less genetically desirable non-Kiger mustangs from the herds," said Hilary Wood, President of FRER. "Returning only a small number of horses to the range is far less than what the BLM's own policies state is a healthy size for a normally reproducing herd – a move that can only harm the herds' chances of survival."
BLM management guidelines say that a healthy herd size to ensure genetic diversity is around 200 horses. Herd sizes for the Kiger and Riddle Mountain Herd Management Areas have been set at 51-82 and 33-56 respectively, far smaller than required to maintain genetic viability.
"Reducing the population to the very bottom threshold of the BLM's recommended management levels, and well below what it knows is necessary for genetic diversity, will be catastrophic for this population," said Wood. "At a time when Oregon state officials are taking action to improve genetic diversity of other wildlife, these planned BLM roundups will vastly reduce the overall wild horse population in these areas and be disastrous to herd health over time."
A copy of the appeal is available upon request.
Front Range Equine Rescue, based in Larkspur, CO, is a 501c3 nonprofit working to end abuse and neglect of wild and domestic horses through rescue and education. Since 1997, FRER has assisted thousands of horses through its rescue and educational programs. Many of FRER's rescued horses are obtained directly from livestock auctions and feed lots, and would have been shipped to slaughter without FRER's intervention. Through its legal advocacy, FRER has effectively prevented horses from being slaughtered for human food in the U.S., and is actively involved in preventing unnecessary and unlawful roundups or removal of wild horses and burros from public lands. For more information see www.frontrangeequinerescue.org.
BLM recently issued a notice that it had reached a final decision to gather and remove wild horses from the Kiger and Riddle Mountain Herd Management Areas in Oregon. These Herd Management Areas in Oregon are home to the unique Kiger Mustang, as well as other wild horses. According to BLM’s plan, there are over 150 “excess” wild horses in those areas who must be gathered by helicopter, permanently removed from the range.
When selecting the wild horses for removal, BLM plans to exclude those horses who exemplify the desirable physical and conformation characteristics of the Kiger Mustang. BLM’s intention is to remove from public lands a large number of wild horses who do not fit the Kiger Mustang profile. This action is highly problematic because it is intentionally reducing the genetic diversity of wild horses in these herd management areas and essentially creating a breeding stock of Kiger horses, who themselves may ultimately be gathered and sold at adoption auctions from which BLM benefits. Because the herds in these areas are already small, there is a concern that gathering and removing the genetically diverse horses leaves the remaining herds vulnerable to genetic diversity degradation.
When the agency issued its proposed decision and the accompanying environmental assessment determination, Front Range Equine Rescue filed comments stating that the last genetic study on these herds was completed in 2012 and that current information was necessary to determine whether BLM’s action was jeopardizing the genetic health of these populations. FRER also noted that BLM has a statutory mandate to protect all wild horses, not just the Kiger Mustang, and that BLM is required by law to manage wild horses to preserve and protect them in their natural state; selectively removing wild horses to produce a Kiger breeding stock is not minimal management, is not protection of the wild horses, and does not comply with BLM’s obligations under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. The agency received FRER’s comments but has decided to proceed with its planned roundup and removal. Because the agency’s plan does not comply with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, Front Range Equine Rescue has now appealed the agency’s final decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals.
Write to Department of Interior Secretary Jewell and President Barack Obama. Ask them to call for a moratorium on roundups and implementation of in-the-wild management, in keeping with the intent of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
See photos of our rescued mustangs
FRER Investigator's Report of a Roundup in NevadaFRER's investigator sent us photos and reported the following, from witnessing a roundup in Nevada during September - witnessed at the holding pens:
"...here you will find the frightened, traumatized horses I had just witnessed being rounded up a few hours before. They had been transported many miles from the site to Litchfield. No vet was there to care for them.
Mustang slayings in Nevada (February 2006)
On Febuary 14, a woman trapper and her son came upon a grisly scene near Gerlach, NV. They had noticed a thrashing out in the sagebrush a few hundred yards from the road. Upon investigation, they found two wild horses in extreme agony and in their death throes. A white mare had aborted her foal, then died after thrashing in the sagebrush. A stallion struggled to get to his feet, but death also overtook him. The mare had been shot several times in the head, bleeding profusely. The small creek nearby ran red with the blood from the horses. Another mare had also been shot and was located hundreds of yards north of the other two. The small band of remaining horses risked their lives by not fleeing the scene; they stood nearby watching their family members die.
For a brief time a reward was offered for information on this crime. To date it remains unsolved. In 2006 and 2007, reports of wild horses being shot and left to die in Arizona and Utah have been reported.
Evidence of the slaughter - photos of the mare that aborted her foal and the stallion - these photos are graphic and disturbing - click here to view.
Pryors Lawsuit (2009)
Front Range Equine Rescue joined plaintiffs The Cloud Foundation and Carol Walker to bring a lawsuit due to BLM's decision to roundup the Pryor Mountain herd in September of 2009. Attorneys Valerie Stanley & Bruce Wagman continue to work hard on this case, which seeks to raise the appropriate management level of the herd (now stands at 90-120 horses). The Forest Service currently denies wild horse use in the Custer National Forest and erected a 2 mile-long fence to block the horses from using that crucial grazing ground. The judge ruled against the plaintiffs in this case; careful consideration was given to filing an appeal. It was decided to utilize legal arguments and limited funds to a future lawsuit on behalf of this herd.
Pryors Lawsuit (2006)
Our lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service continues. The Court has ruled that our claims against the Forest Service are barred by the statute of limitations. The Forest Service issued its Forest Plan in 1987, limiting the geographic areas of lands under its jurisdiction in which it would legally recognize the right of horses to occupy. The Forest Service claimed that since suit was not brought within 6 years of 1987, these claims cannot be heard. Besides the fact that none of the plaintiff organizations were even in existence in 1987, much less affected by the ruling then, we also argued that the Forest Service failed to recognize additional areas of wild horse historical use at the passage of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act and that, since the agency has failed to act, the statute of limitations should not bar this suit. Our claims against the Forest Service can be reviewed on appeal, at the conclusion of the case.
What remains pending is the portion of our suit against the BLM. The government has submitted all the documents that were before the BLM when it made its decision. Included in this are charts showing exactly how each wild horse has been affected by PZP. The government and plaintiffs are submitting legal memorandum supporting their positions and referencing these documents. These will be filed by mid March.
To learn the facts about how the government is systematically destroying our wild horse and burro herds...we highly recommend the following reading: "Managing for Extinction" and/or Hope Ryden’s "America’s Last Wild Horses".
On July 7, 2006, The Cloud Foundation and Front Range Equine Rescue filed a federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service with regard to protecting America's most famous wild horse herd ("Cloud's herd") in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.
Update: The U.S. Forest Service filed to be dismissed from the complaint. A judge has yet to hear this argument. The entire complaint has been held up in the (lack of) judicial process.
In spite of protests from wild horse advocates to preserve Cloud's head - below are excerpts from a letter, dated 6/29/06, from Sandra Brooks, Field Manager, BLM:
"In order to manage for healthy horses on healthy rangelands, I have made the decision to use fertility control vaccine on all mares 11 years of age and older (24 mares in 2006) on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range (PMWHR). Seven mares 16 years of age and older have already been treated with the Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) vaccine and would continue to receive annual boosters for the remainder of their lives. Thirteen mares 12-15 years of age have also been treated and would continue to receive annual boosters throughout 2010. All mares that are 11 years of age would be added to the treatment program each year. Fertility control applications are scheduled to begin no earlier then July 10th, 2006, and may continue through September 30th, 2006."
Update: 19 horses were captured and put up for adoption through a sealed bid process. FRER was able to adopt two of the yearling colts. Five bachelor stallions, including Cloud's half brother, were unadopted. But through efforts by FRER and The Cloud Foundation, these 5 stallions have been adopted between the two groups and another individual in 2007.
Visit the Wild Horse Preservation Organization for more details.
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