The current Fiscal Year 2021 Omnibus (spending bill) contains a prohibition to prevent the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from the following:
Destroying healthy wild horses and burros
Selling them for slaughter
Does not allow federal funding for U.S. horse meat inspections which stops horse slaughter plants from opening and operating;
Includes strong language making it clear that the BLM must “include a robust expansion of fertility control utilizing methods that are proven, safe, effective and humane” in its Wild Horse and Burro program.
However, the final bill does not include a House-passed amendment to require the BLM to spend at a minimum $11 million to use PZP fertility control as a humane alternative to BLM’s expensive and cruel roundups.
Additionally, the bill contains an additional $14 million designated for the BLM to implement its wild horse and burro management plan. Because Congress did not specify a minimum amount for PZP fertility control, the BLM could spend most of the funds on roundups.
By including the strong language telling the BLM to “include a robust expansion of fertility control utilizing methods that are proven, safe and humane,” Congress did make its intent clear.
Fortunately there is a chance for some real progress in 2021 to increase protections for wild horses and burros. With wild horse champions like Rep. Deb Haaland slated to be Secretary of the Interior Department and Rep. Raul Grijalva continuing to lead the House Natural Resources Committee (which has oversight of the BLM), progress might be made at last.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is poised to gut wild horse herds that live in an area on the Nevada-California border called the “Surprise Complex”. The BLM will roundup and remove over 1,000 mustangs in this area, and because the BLM “doesn’t manage” wild burros living here, all burros are also slated for capture and removal.
The BLM’s goal of leaving 283 mustangs left in the complex, one horse for every 1,400 acres, opens up more land to thousands of sheep and cattle allowed to graze on public lands in the area. Currently, the BLM allows 7,483 cows to graze within the complex.
Wild horse advocates are outraged by this plan and are encouraging the public to submit comments advocating for use of the PZP birth control vaccine and revising the plan that favors commercial livestock over federally-protected wild horses and burros.
The brutal roundup and removal of wild horses from the Eagle Complex outside of Panaca, Nevada continues in the midst of too often frigid winter weather. The BLM has prevented daily viewing of the temporary holding pens, making it difficult to assess the condition of just-captured horses. Any public observer(s) has been kept distanced, making it hard to document what’s happening to the horses as they are chased into traps. It should be noted that this roundup has an unusually high number of deaths.
This roundup is the third time in just 4 years that the BLM is capturing wild horses from the Eagle Complex. By early February, this roundup captured 872 horses with 22 horses dying as a result.
Once the Eagle roundup ends, the BLM’s helicopter contractors will move to the Silver King herd management area (HMA) on or about February 5. This HMA consists of almost 575,000 acres of public land. It is home to just over 340 wild horses, including last year’s foals. The BLM claims that this close to 900-square-mile habitat can only support 60-128 horses. Their intention is to permanently remove up to 258 of the horses.
Part of the death toll (late January–early February) includes:
12-year-old stallion euthanized by BLM for a “pre-existing condition” note indicates a physical defect or deformity
9-year-old mare euthanized by BLM for a “pre-existing condition” note indicates a physical defect or deformity
1-year-old stallion euthanized by BLM for a “pre-existing condition” note indicates a physical defect or deformity
14-year-old stallion euthanized by BLM because of a clubbed foot
3-year-old mare euthanized for a “pre-existing condition” note indicates “soft tissue”
The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) is again using an arbitrary “Appropriate Management Level” (AML) as an excuse to roundup and remove approximately 3,500 wild horses living in northern Nevada’s “Pancake Complex”.
The BLM’s goal is to keep only 361-638 mustangs remaining which means opening up even more land to thousands of sheep and cows allowed to graze within this Complex.
Now is the time to speak up for these innocent wild horses! Cruel and inhumane helicopter roundups along with barbaric sterilization procedures must be replaced with humane and proven fertility control methods.
You can speak up for the Pancake Complex wild horses today by submitting a public comment to the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Specialist. Comments can include advocating for the PZP vaccine as a safe, proven population control method, and firmly requesting a revision to the BLM’s current plan which favors commercial livestock over federally protected wild horses on taxpayer funded public lands such as this Complex in northern Nevada.
For nearly two weeks, heartbreaking scenes have unfolded as Wyoming’s iconic Red Desert wild mustangs endure being brutally chased down. Full of terror, they are undergoing the largest wild horse helicopter roundup in history. At least 613 have been captured, with 1,800 more innocent mustangs targeted before this cruel, unnecessary roundup ends.
The BLM seeks to deprive 2,400 wild horses in the Red Desert Complex of their freedom by capturing them using dangerous helicopter stampedes. What results are injuries, sheer exhaustion and even death, which included tiny foals.
The massive roundup comes after five months of brutally hot and too often smokey conditions making innocent horses suffer even more cruelly than ever. With no end in sight for the targeted horses, the BLM already is planning to extend these roundups into 2021.
These are just a few of the tragic results:
On one day, 121 wild horses lost their freedom. Meanwhile these same public lands permit over20,000 sheep to graze each year, and just under 10,000 cattle.
On another day, the BLM captured 126 wild horses with one reported death. Note that more deaths often occur post roundup.
Just over a week ago, 84 horses lost their freedom after a terror filled chase. One horse who managed to escape the chute was seen alone in the hills, head hanging low from extreme exhaustion and despair as the rest of the family band were gone.
Additional roundup reporting included:
263 wild horses were captured a few days ago at what is called the Lost Creek HMA. One mare died in the temporary holding pen after being kicked in the head by another horse. Below freezing temperatures ranged between 15 to 28 degrees. A foal was seen struggling to keep up with the group as they ran for their lives.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to use a dangerous and unnecessary surgical sterilization procedure on wild mares in Utah.
This barbaric procedure removes the ovaries by crushing and pulling them out with a looped-chain instrument (escraseur). The BLM intends to use this surgery, known as ovariectomy via colpotomy, on mares to be captured in November from the Confusion Herd Management Area (HMA) in Utah.
The procedure has dangerous to deadly effects including infection, hemorrhaging, colic, aborting foal (if pregnant) and evisceration where part of the intestines could protrude through the incision. These mares will already have been extremely stressed and traumatized from a brutal roundup.
Ovariectomy via colpotomy is a rare procedure with a high rate of postoperative complications, some of which can be life-threatening.
There is NO reason for the BLM to use this untested, dangerous procedure as proven and safe fertility control methods are available.
Forms of proven, safe and humane reproductive growth suppression include PZP and PZP-22.
The BLM plan proposes to capture 560 wild horses with 500 slated for permanent removal from the range. Other horses from the remaining 60 will be sterilized and survivors released at some point.
The Confusion herd management area (HMA) covers over 293,000 acres of public and other lands. The BLM setting on an AML (appropriate management level) of 70-115 results in as few as one horse for every 4,195 acres.
In comparison, 11 livestock operators currently grazing animals on five areas which overlap the Confusion HMA are allowed to use just over 25,300 AUMs (animal unit months) of forage per year. What this translates to is one AUM is the forage amount needed to sustain one cow, five sheep or five goats each month.
Currently an estimated 661 wild horses live on the Confusion HMA.
Ovariectomy via colpotomy is a rare procedure with a high rate of postoperative complications, some of which can be life-threatening.
While less dangerous, gelding stallions is also problematic. Gelding a colt too young can stunt its growth, while gelding older stallions has risks of increased bleeding and needs more recovery time. Furthermore, it would require gelding all the stallions in a herd because even a small number of intact stallions can impregnate all the herd mares. Surgical sterilization also changes the behavior of wild, free-roaming stallions causing disruption to how horses interact and maintain family bands.
There are few studies which have evaluated the long-term health of ovariectomized mares. One, by the Center for Equine Health of UC Davis, revealed that in a herd of 20 older ovariectomized mares 18 of them showed advanced musculoskeletal deterioration. Veterinarians involved in the study noted this issue possibly due to removing estrogen from the system, which an ovariectomy does.
Tell elected officials “NO” to untested, dangerous surgical sterilization procedures on America’s wild horses.
Safe and effective population control methods exist and the BLM has used them with success on several wild horse herds. Locate Senators through www.senate.gov and House reps through www.house.gov.
The Bureau of Land Management’s roundup of the “Red Desert Complex” in Wyoming is an annihilation of five wild horse herds.
The amazing wild horses (and burros) who have lived freely on over 705,000 acres of taxpayer funded public lands in the Red Desert area in southern Wyoming are now running in fear, fighting for their very lives.
Five herds made up of more than 2,400 wild horses are being brutally chased down, separated, traumatized during a round up during the largest wild horse helicopter roundup in the program’s history.
The BLM’s goal is to remove approximately 2,400 wild horses from the Antelope Hills, Crooks Mountain, Green Mountain, Lost Creek, and Stewart Creek Herd Management Areas (HMAs). It is clear the BLM is in lockstep with the livestock industry as the decimation of these herds is in opposition to the will of the American people.
Further proof of the BLM’s “manage to extinction” policy is evident as they are permitting 20,995 privately-owned sheep and 9,753 cows to graze in this same public lands habitat while gutting the wild horse population which has lived for centuries in this area.
The BLM plan is to reduce the wild horse population to an “Appropriate” Management Level” of just 480-724 within the complex. This basically amounts to having just 1 horse per every 1,500+ acres. Three of the HMAs will have just 65 or fewer horses remaining when the roundup is over leaving herds with little to no genetic viability.
Now more than ever, we must demand an immediate moratorium on roundups along with a Congressional investigation into the BLM’s blatant and widespread animal welfare violations plus their failure to comply with Congressional directives to use fertility control as a humane alternative to brutal roundups.
Contact your elected officials in Congress through www.senate.gov and www.house.gov to reinstate full protections for wild horse and burro herds as designated in the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burros Act.
Elected representatives in D.C. have pushed forward with full funding for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) wild horse plan which calls for massive roundups, and an agenda to kill off wild horses via dangerous and controversial surgical sterilization methods.
Right now, America’s wild horses are being chased down by helicopters for miles in summer’s scorching heat. Frantic mares have been cruelly separated from their terrified foals as they are roughly captured, then held for hours without food.
On July 10, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Fiscal Year 2021 budget of $122.6 million for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, even though the agency did not have a “well-defined action plan.” This is more than a 25% budget increase over FY20’s budget. The bill does include a prohibition on killing healthy horses, but there is no guarantee that the horses will not continue ending up at low-end slaughter auctions.
The House did take a stand to ensure that the BLM will no longer proceed spending zero percent of its budget on humane fertility control, while spending two-thirds on cruel roundups and removal of wild horses from taxpayer funded public lands only to warehouse tens of thousands of them for life at taxpayer expense.
Meanwhile the U.S. Senate must now review the BLM’s Fiscal Year 2021 Wild Horse and Burro Program budget. It is critical for the Senate to include provisions to ensure any additional funding requested is used for humane on-the-range management.
The Senate must be convinced to protect wild horses and ensure that extra money allocated to the BLM’s wild horse and burro budget is dedicated to humane on-the-range management.
Reach your Senators through www.senate.gov to speak up for America’s endangered wild horses and burros.
Wild horse and burro roundups are brutal and unnecessary in the best of conditions, let alone with summertime heat and dust filled terrain.
Recently, a 5-year-old wild mustang mare broke her neck after crashing into the panels of a too small trap pen at a Utah helicopter roundup. Observers warned the BLM that the trap’s design would result in horse injuries or breaking their necks trying to escape. The BLM ignored these concerns. More horses crashed into the panels after the young mare died and had been dragged off by BLM workers.
The helicopter contractors (Sampson Livestock) stampeded and captured close to 800 wild horses to leave a gutted population of about 60 horses. After capture, the horses were forced onto semi-truck trailers and driven to a privately-operated and closed to the public facility as well as to the BLM’s Delta Wild Horse facility. The facility will be closed to the public until August 1 when the horses become available through the BLM’s adoption and sale program.
In addition to gutting the herd through this unnecessary roundup, the BLM is considering using surgical sterilization — to include the dangerous and highly disputed ovariectomy via colpotomy procedure — as a management tool in this HMA.
Further cruelties were documented at this roundup funded by taxpayer dollars:
A 5-year old mare crashed into a pen panel trying to escape; she fell and began thrashing her legs around as her neck had been broken.
The contractors quickly retrieved a white sheet which two young girls held up the sheet to block observers’ view. Even though the horse was still alive, no euthanasia was provided. Onlookers were told the mare died instantly (see comment in bold below).*
An ATV drove up and chains were attached to the horse’s legs, then the ATV dragged the mare behind it.
Viewers watched as the mare was dragged off as no sled to carry her had been available for such an occurrence.
A foal, either separated from his mother or orphaned due to the helicopter chase, eventually entered the trap. Two wranglers then wrestled him to the ground while waiting for a lasso.
*While we were told that the mare died instantly, photos taken clearly show that the horse is still moving her head/has her head up before the sheet is put over her, which was confirmed by the advocate’s field rep. Photos and videos raise questions about whether the mare was actually deceased at the time of the dragging.
Recently, The U.S. House of Representatives took a stand to ensure that the BLM will no longer be allowed to spend zero percent of its budget on humane fertility control, while two-thirds is used to conduct brutal roundups and warehouse them for life at taxpayer expense.
More brutal wild horse and burro roundups are slated to begin shortly where Bureau of Land Management (BLM) helicopters will chase and terrify herds living on taxpayer funded public lands in Utah, Colorado, and Nevada.
The largest of these summer roundups is scheduled for Nevada’s Shawave Mountains Herd Management Area (HMA) located about 50 miles northeast of Reno. This HMA is part of a one million acre complex (a grouping of several herds). In this complex, the BLM allows only 333-553 horses and 50-90 burros. Meanwhile, they authorize 1,200 privately owned cattle and 2,700 sheep to graze year-round!
Currently, the BLM is working to gut wild horse and burro herds by as many as 15,000-20,000 each year over several years if Congress makes the decision to fund the BLM’s massive roundup plan.
Summer roundups are grossly inhumane because of brutally hot temperatures, and due to the presence of tiny, very young foals, who have literally run to death from helicopter stampedes across rough terrain and for prolonged distances.
Another concern this year is that cruel and unnecessary roundups could take place out of public view, as the BLM has indicated that it may use COVID-19 restrictions to block the public from witnessing and documenting these events.
The entire situation must be closely monitored to protect the wild horses and burros. Calling and writing to elected officials is one way the public can help. Locate your U.S. Senators via www.senate.gov; House of Representatives through www.house.gov.
A tentative roundup schedule for May through October was released by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It shows that 6,660 wild horses and burros would be captured and removed from their home ranges with only 205 treated with fertility control. This plan clearly indicates there is no real commitment by the BLM to implement humane fertility control immediately in spite of demands from both Congress and the public.
For decades, the BLM has failed to increase the use of existing safe, proven and humane fertility control. Delaying the use of humane population control methods only continues the inhumane and expensive capture and removal practices. Due to increasing taxpayer costs and rising wild horse and burro numbers in government holding facilities, the current administration and Congress have moved closer to allowing the BLM to sell wild horses without restriction (translated as to slaughter) or to “euthanize” them.
It is critical that wild horse advocates and supporters continue to present viable non-lethal solutions to manage federally protected wild horse and burro herds on taxpayer-funded public lands in the West.
For FY2020, Congress did approve $21M for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro program with funds designated to use for non-lethal population control, including funds specific to fertility control. Lawmakers would not release the additional funds until the BLM provided a wild horse management report (which was submitted May 8).
On the range, fertility control is vital to help stop unnecessary and cruel roundups.
Contact your Senators (www.senate.gov) to urge them to hold the BLM accountable for spending funds to keep wild horses and burros protected on the range and humanely managed with existing, safe, humane and proven population control methods (not invasive ones like surgeries or castrations or capture and sell-off without limitations).
Congress recently released the Fiscal Year 2020 spending package that includes $21 million allocated for a wild horse management strategy which includes the use of proven, safe and humane fertility control.
Congressional funding would be allocated specifically for the use of long-proven fertility control vaccines such as PZP, to slow down wild horse and burro population growth.
While Congress has made a clear intention as to the use of the additional allocation funding, unfortunately, the BLM is still able to conduct research protocols that could include surgical sterilization.
Wild horse advocates and members of the public must stand firmly against any dangerous plans for untested, cruel surgical procedures on wild horses, both mares and stallions.
Language in the bill also continues a prohibition against the BLM euthanizing healthy wild horses or selling them without restriction (to slaughter). Thanks to pressure on elected officials, the bill includes the same prohibitions against the U.S. Forest Service.
The bill’s language also mandates that:
removals must be conducted in strict compliance with BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program (CAWP) which is a set of humane handling standards;
horses are relocated from high-cost corrals to lower-cost, off-range pastures;
and that BLM work with stakeholders to increase adoptions;
It should be noted that the additional funding will not be available to the Bureau of Land Management until 60 days after the agency submits a “comprehensive and detailed plan for an aggressive, non-lethal population control strategy” to Congress.
While this information may be a small step in a better management strategy for wild horses and burros, there are many issues far from settled to protect them on the public lands.
The Bureau of Land Management is moving fast with devastating fall roundups. Just recently, they finished a roundup in the Challis Herd Management Area (HMA) located in central Idaho. The herd size consisted of only 429 horses.
The roundup of 295 wild horses occurred during November 5-11. Next, the BLM is expected to complete a census flight to determine how many wild horses will be returned to the 169,000-acre area. As of now, two horses died as a result of this forcible removal.
The BLM also announced their intention to move forward with a plan to cut the size of the wild horse and burro population in the Twin Peaks HMA located in northeast California by 80% over the next 10 years.
The vast majority of wild horses removed from taxpayer-funded public lands will never be returned to the wild. Many will be confined to living in the BLM’s holding facilities for life. Even more troubling the horses face being killed or sold for slaughter if Congress refuses to provide funding for their long-term care.
Roundups will greatly increase if the Senate approves a $5 billion plan, pushed by the livestock industry and BLM’s Acting Director, to reduce wild horse populations in the West dangerously close to extinction levels.
The BLM has released a management plan for the wild horses and burros of California’s Twin Peaks Herd Management Area (HMA) which includes future helicopter roundups and fertility control over the next ten years.
The Sierra Sun Times reported that the BLM’s plan “calls for several approaches, including using helicopter drive trapping, bait-and-water trapping, and fertility control to reduce the herd … over ten years.”
While the use of safe, proven and humane fertility control keeps more horses living free, a majority of wild horse advocates do not support the drastic reduction of herd sizes for wild horses and burros in this HMA (or others).
Close to 90% of the current wild burro population is slated for removal over ten years, leaving only 72 burros on the range which completely destroys the genetic health of this herd.
The plan’s goal for the Twin Peaks wild horses aims to gut the herd by 80% and release castrated stallions (geldings) onto the range. Not only does this negatively impact the herd’s genetic viability and survival, but the wild horses’ natural behaviors will be destroyed. There is a chance legal action currently in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals might delay/stop the proposed permanent sterilization of the stallions.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently announced their decision to round up and permanently remove ALL wild horses from Nevada’s Caliente Herd Area (HA) complex.
Continuing to use horses as scapegoats for land issues, the BLM did not bother to consider any reduction to domestic livestock in the same area. The intention to destroy this group of mustangs is shameful but not a surprise since the BLM’s Acting Director repeatedly sides with private livestock owners over the legal rights of America’s wild horses.
This decision is not about a single roundup. It is intended to eradicate mustangs in eight of the nine Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in the Caliente Complex.
There are numerous reasons this is absolutely wrong, including the fact that more than 500% of BLM land is authorized for livestock than for wild horses and burros in the West. Many private livestock owners benefit from as much as half a billion dollars annually via taxpayer subsidies. Claims of wild horse “overpopulation” by the BLM and others are lies, further evidenced by the factual reality that wild horses are not found on 88% of BLM lands.
Stand strong on behalf of wild horses and burros by contacting your elected officials to ensure their protections on taxpayer-funded public lands remain. Reach Senators through www.senate.gov and House Representatives via www.house.gov.
Just after the July 4 (Independence Day) holiday, helicopters took to the skies to stampede terrified wild horse herds across public lands in the brutal summer heat. Foals were cruelly separated from their mothers, many dropping to the ground from sheer exhaustion. The overcrowded capture pens teamed with masses of wild horses, trapped with no means to return to freedom.
Results from Nevada’s Triple B wild horse roundup which ended last week showed 802 wild horses captured with fourteen horses dead.
Behind unnecessary annual roundups lurks greed and cruelty where private ranchers and profit-driven corporate special interests dictate what happens to America’s wild horses left on taxpayer-funded public lands.
The BLM’s 10-year plan for the Triple B and Antelope complexes includes the removal of thousands of wild horses from their lawful home on our public lands with castration of 50% of the stallions still in the wild, thereby destroying their natural behaviors. In other words, a 10-year plan of mass destruction.
Until roundups end, these wild horses and thousands more across the West await an uncertain and inhumane future.
Contact your elected officials to protest unnecessary roundups and dangerous surgical procedures causing permanent sterilization. Locate your two Senators at www.senate.gov; your House Rep at www.house.gov.
At the end of June, the U.S. House of Representatives approved language for the FY2020 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations budget bill regarding wild horse and burro management.
The House decision appropriates $6 million to implement a plan to remove large numbers of wild horses over several years. This plan has been promoted by special interest lobbying groups and been met with opposition by many wild horse advocates.
Pressure is expected to be put on the U.S. Senate to maintain wild horse protections in their version of the budget bill regarding wild horses and to not allow the proposed plan to move ahead.
Due to the imminent threat of slaughter for wild horses rounded up last year from the Modoc National Forest in California, the House did include appropriations language to stop the U.S. Forest Service from selling wild horses and burros for slaughter. There is also existing law which disallows the BLM from selling wild horses and burros for slaughter.
Chairman of the House Natural Resources, Raul Grijalva, and Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus championed the important provision to stop the Forest Service from selling wild horses for slaughter.
It is believed that the Senate will take up its version of FY2020 spending legislation late summer or early fall. Constituents are urged to contact their U.S. representatives to ensure America’s wild horses and burros receive full protection under the 1971 law.
You can locate and contact your elected officials thru www.house.gov and www.senate.gov to let them know that humane on-the-range management options should be a priority along with safe, proven population control methods such as PZP. They should not vote for plans which promote dangerous, permanent sterilization procedures.
On May 13, the BLM announced that it intends to move ahead with cruel and unnecessary sterilization experiments on captive wild mares in Oregon. In both 2016 and 2018, the BLM tried this but after multiple lawsuits, federal injunctions and overwhelming public opposition surfaced, they backed down. This is the third time that the agency is trying to implement a controversial and dangerous surgical procedure that is being heavily promoted by a livestock industry lobbying group financed by Lucas Oil.
The BLM plans to carry out an experimental surgery called “ovariectomy via colpotomy,” in which a veterinarian cuts into a mare’s vaginal wall, places a hand and arm through the vagina in the abdominal cavity, manually (and blindly) locates the ovaries and then severs and removes them with a rod-like chain tool called an ecraseur.
Barbaric sterilization surgeries on America’s wild horses ignores both science and public opinion. The BLM is acting irresponsibly and wasting taxpayer dollars trying to pursue objectionable experiments while scientifically recommended and cost-effective PZP vaccines are easily available for humane on-the-range population management.
Other issues with the surgery include procedures done in a non-sterile environment, infection, hemorrhaging, and colic, any of which could lead to suffering horrific pain and potential death. Many of the wild mares slated for surgeries in 2016 and 2018 were pregnant with a high risk of aborting their foals.
According to the BLM’s environmental assessment, the procedure will be done on 100 mares rounded up last October and currently held in the BLM’s wild horse corrals in Hines, Oregon. Of those mares, only 28-34 would return to the range as part of the experiment, and only for the proposed three-year study duration. The others would be put up for adoption after the surgery, planned for August.
To review the plan in order to make comments, click here. Use the map to locate Burns District, Oregon to read about this project.
Comments are due by May 27. Email them to [email protected] to the attention of Spay Project Lead, Burns District BLM.
Our May 9th hearing in federal court took a positive turn in our ongoing fight to stop horses from the Devil’s Garden wild horse herd in California’s Modoc National Forest from being shipped to slaughter, and to stop the U.S. Forest Service from taking the unprecedented step of selling captured wild horses without limitations.
A federal judge ordered the two litigating groups of advocates to try reaching a settlement with the Forest Service over their plan to sell without limitations wild horses captured in a roundup last fall from the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory.
In the interim, a stipulated prohibition remains in place which prevents the Forest Service from selling the remaining wild horses without restrictions.
U.S. District Judge James Donato ordered the parties to report back to him in 30 days after what he called a “breakthrough moment” during the hearing after the Forest Service’s attorney (R. Turner) said more than once that “the Forest Service will never intentionally sell its horses for slaughter for human consumption.”
Bruce Wagman, attorney for Front Range Equine Rescue et. al., stated that, “The Forest Service’s agreement at the hearing that it will not sell wild horses to slaughter validates both the legal claims we are making and the public’s rejection of any suggestion that wild horses will be sold without limitations. If the Forest Service is good to its word, we will have prevailed in this litigation. If it is not, we will keep up the fight.”
Plan for Wild Horses and Burros Launched by Large Animal Welfare Groups with Cattle Association Causes Controversy Among Wild Horse and Burro Advocates.
On April 22, a new plan for the management of wild horses and burros was announced by the following organizations:
The ASPCA stated:
“Experts from all corners have put aside their differences to unite under one effective, humane, and proactive plan to protect wild horses and burros and ensure their survival in the American West.” You can read their post here.
The HSUS also issued a statement that:
“The ASPCA®(The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, in concert with rangeland management stakeholders, today announced their support for a proposal on the care of wild horses and burros on U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public rangelands. The proposal offers a humane, non-lethal path forward to sustainably manage wild horses and burros in the American West.” Click here for their statement.
Return to Freedom announced that:
“This is a proposal – a first step – intended to confront the inevitable: Bureau of Land Management roundups will continue for the foreseeable future, under the law and with the support of Congress. Unwilling to let this costly stalemate continue, members from both sides of the aisle have asked RTF and others for solutions to the increasing on- and off-range population of wild horses. Maintaining the status quo will likely result in the mass killing or slaughter of wild horses.” Read more of their statement here.
However, other wild horse and burro advocacy groups expressed strong concerns and oppositionto this plan citing some pros and cons in their statements, a few of which are listed below:
From American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC):
“As the nation’s largest wild horse preservation organization, we unequivocally oppose a plan by the cattlemen’s industry and two large humane organizations for the mass roundup and removal of America’s iconic wild horses and burros from our Western public lands. This plan is an irresponsible sell out of America’s wild horses and the 80 percent of Americans who want them protected in the wild.” Read more here.
From Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF):
“Read it and weep, unproven fertility control, increased “gathers”, etc.. Circumventing ALL other Wild Horse & Burro advocacy groups these masters of donations have decided to team up with the welfare ranchers and BLM to wipe out the last of the wild ones on their rightful land. These groups are driven by money and donations, EXCLUSIVELY, and have no regard for the future of our wild herds. They have shown their true colors and it is sickening. The propaganda is posted, below!” Read the blog post here.
From Animal Wellness Action (a group lobbying on behalf of animals):
We recognize that there must be active management to address the social concerns of ranchers and other users of our public lands. Fertility control achieves the key objectives of major players with a stake in the future of wild horses and burros; it reduces reproduction and stabilizes growth and it achieves active management through humane means.
With all of that as a sad historical backdrop for this government’s ham-handed approach to handling wild horses and burros, there now comes an unnerving, naïve, and a historical proposal from two large national animal protection organizations that have made an alliance on this matter with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Their joint proposal advocates for mass removals of tens of thousands of America’s wild mustangs and burros from federal lands on the open range, while conducting aggressive contraception for the horses and burros who would remain on our federal lands.” Read more of their position here.
The Bureau of Land Management recently reversed its 2018 wild horse and burro sales policy change which allowed a single buyer to purchase up to 24 captured wild horses (or burros) per day — no questions asked and no waiting period. That policy had left the door wide open for kill buyers and their associates to buy up horses en masse for slaughter.
The new reversal of that policy means that BLM field offices will immediately revert to the policy set in 2014 which limits buyers to purchasing no more than four wild horses or burros every six months, unless they receive special permission.
The 2005 Burns amendment had given the BLM authority to sell captured horses over the age of 10 (and those offered for adoption 3 times but never placed) which was a serious blow to efforts to protect America’s wild horse and burros. When the sales policy changed in 2018, the BLM gave a green light for federally protected animals to be sent in large numbers for slaughter in plants across our borders.
It is hoped that ongoing advocacy efforts and the number of humane alternatives the BLM could choose to manage wild horses and burros will eventually lead to ending the sale program altogether.
Protecting American Horses From Slaughter and Consumption
On January 30th, U.S. House Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) reintroduced the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act to end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption. The legislation would prohibit the sale and transport of equines for slaughter which would prevent horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. and also ending the export of U.S. horses across our borders to Mexico and Canada for this purpose.
Over 100,000 innocent horses are exported for slaughter each year with intense suffering occurring even before they reach the kill box. Kill buyers cram horses into semi trucks usually obtaining them from low-end auctions or owners looking to re-home or sell their horse for free or cheaply. Very often they (or their workers) pretend to be a safe home or even a rescue.
The horses who are not immediately shipped to slaughter often spend time at “kill lots” where they are in filthy conditions with many becoming dangerously ill from contagious diseases. Those in transport often go for over 24 hours without food, water, or rest. Depending upon point of origin, they can be transporting within the U.S. long before reaching the border into Canada or Mexico.
At the slaughter plant, the horror intensifies as the exhausted, sick, injured and terrified horses endure multiple blows to the head in attempts to render them unconscious via the captive bolt method. Gunshot methods for killing regularly involve numerous shots as the panicked horse moves frantically around in the kill box.
Years worth of public polls show a strong percentage (at least 80%) of Americans wanting to ban horse slaughter.
“Horses have a special place in our nation’s history, and these majestic creatures were not raised as food for humans,” U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky said. “The SAFE Act would prohibit any horse slaughter plant from opening; and also end the sale or transport of horses and horse parts in the U.S. and abroad for the purpose of human consumption. I am proud to reintroduce this bill and work with Congressman Buchanan to put an end to this practice.”
“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is a barbaric practice that has no place in America,” U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan said. “I will continue to lead the effort with Congresswoman Schakowsky to ban domestic horse slaughter and end the export of horses abroad for slaughter.”
Horses are not raised as a food animal in the U.S., and they receive a number of medications and other drugs during their lives that make them unfit for human consumption. Front Range Equine Rescue’s legal actions at the state and federal level during 2012-2013 were based upon these facts.
The SAFE Act would prevent millions of taxpayer dollars from being wasted to allow plants to operate in the U.S. where numerous violations were documented when these facilities were open in the past. Regulations and methods for killing at a U.S. plant would not have any significant difference. Horses cannot be slaughtered humanely. Opening U.S. plants does not stop horses from crossing the border as kill buyers have contracts with various slaughter operators. Just like in the past, they would work to fill quotas for each facility whether it’s in the U.S. or in Mexico and Canada.
A similar bill in the Senate is expected to be introduced.
Updates on U.S. Forest Service’s Plans for Wild Horses
The latest update to our lawsuit filed over the Forest Service’s plans to sell Devil’s Garden wild horses without limitations (which would result in wild horses going to slaughter) is that the Forest Service has now announced that it will not begin those sales until at least February 18.
As of December 10th, 190 wild horses (ages 10 and older) captured during the month-long helicopter roundup remain in danger of being sold for slaughter. Our Federal district court case filed to stop the sale of the older horses is ongoing with an expedited briefing schedule.
In total, 932 wild horses were removed from the Modoc National Forest during the roundup. About 260 of them (ages 10 and up) have been put up for adoption or sale with a restriction against slaughter at the Forest Service’s Double Devil Corrals located at Modoc National Forest near Alturas, CA. Currently, about 70 of the horses have found homes.
The remaining captured horses (ages 9 and under as well as mares with foals) were moved to the BLM’s Litchfield corrals located near Susanville, CA. Weather conditions have slowed efforts to prepare these horses to be available for adoption. The adoptions are likely to begin sometime this month, at the earliest, according to information from the BLM.
The horses at the highest risk of going to slaughter are those to be offered for sale “without limitations” at a price of $1 each. It is hoped that lawsuits filed in Federal court will stop this from occurring as it violates state and federal laws. There are other humane alternatives the Forest Service can consider.
Updates On U.S. Forest Service’s Plan for California’s Wild Horses
The Forest Service’s roundup of the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory has ended with the permanent removal of over 900 horses from their federally-designated habitat on our public lands in California’s Modoc National Forest. We’ve learned that at least 13 horses have died, including a foal. Three mares aborted foals likely due to the trauma of the roundup.
The Forest Service reported euthanizing 7 horses who showed symptoms of pigeon fever, a contagious but usually non-fatal bacterial infection. In spite of the outbreak, the Forest Service held an adoption/sales event this past weekend knowing that pigeon fever is communicable to other livestock.
At this time, the Forest Service intends to sell older horses by the truckload for $1 a piece without limitation on slaughter beginning January 15 or after.
California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra has spoken out about this clear breach of state law noting that it is a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison. However, the Forest Service is exploiting a legal loophole that puts hundreds of horses in grave danger.
Our lawsuit to stop the “sale without limitation” of the remaining horses is on an expedited briefing schedule with filings due at Thanksgiving and on Christmas Eve day. It is our goal to ensure none of the horses end up in the slaughter pipeline.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has recently submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary and Chief of the U.S. Forest Service urging them to reverse their decision to sell California wild horses without restriction. The U.S. Forest initially rounded up 1,000 protected wild horses in October from the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory to reduce the horse populations within the Modoc National Forest. The Forest service will prioritize the adoption of wild horses by members of the public until January 10th, 2019.
After January 10th, 2019, any horses that remain from the October roundup will be for sale without restriction. This Forest Service policy change not only risks violating state law but also contradicting federal law in the Department of the Interior. Attorney General Becerra explains, “To slaughter for commercial consumption mustangs that have roamed California for over a century is not only atrocious, but unlawful. These majestic animals captivate the imagination and symbolize the rugged independence of the American West. We urge the federal government to treat the Modoc National Forest and its wildlife with the respect that it is due by protecting these beautiful wild horses from the commercial slaughterhouse.”
Advocates Continue Working to Protect Wild Horses in Devil’s Garden
Front Range Equine Rescue has partnered with other advocates to protect captured wild horses from the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory (Modoc National Forest, CA) from being sold by the truckload for $1 each by the U.S. Forest Service.
The lawsuit states, in part, that the U.S. Forest Service has “abruptly and inexplicably reversed the long-standing policy of two different federal agencies concerning the disposal of wild horses removed from federal public lands, all but guaranteeing that federally protected wild horses will now be slaughtered for human consumption in violation of the California Penal Code and multiple federal laws, as well as the expressed will of Congress and the American people.”
Furthermore, “…after a short period when the wild horses could be adopted, the Forest Service has announced that any older horses or horses not successfully adopted will be offered for sale “without limitation.” Sales of wild horses to commercial slaughter are anticipated to begin as early as January 2019.”
The lawsuit charges violations of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (Wild Horse Act) and the National Forest Management Act.
Plaintiffs in the case are Front Range Equine Rescue, The Humane Society of the United States, Marin Humane, Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills, Return to Freedom, humane law enforcement officers Cindy Machado and Rosemary Frieborn.
Advocacy organizations are working hard to find safe, qualified adoptive homes for horses up for adoption as well as humane options for those facing the danger of sale to slaughter. The Forest Service needs to cooperate and do the right thing for the 1,000 horses it removed by adhering to laws protecting wild horses.
Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have put the U.S. Forest Service on notice regarding the sale without limitation of horses rounded up from California’s Modoc National Forest.
FRER and HSUS sent a strongly worded letter to the Forest Service (under the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) which reads in part that they:
…are writing to put you on notice with respect to violations of federal and state law in connection with the Forest Service’s plan to sell wild horses “without limitation” after it captures them from the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory, found in the Modoc National Forest in northeastern California. It is commonly understood, and can certainly be proven, that the sale of wild horses without limitation (especially at the announced $1/per horse price) will result in their sale to purchasers who will ship them to Canada or Mexico, where they will be slaughtered for human consumption.
The Forest Service’s plans to sell wild horses without limitation are in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq. (NEPA), the Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations, 40 C.F.R. parts 1500-1508, the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 551, et seq. (APA), California Penal Code section 598c, the spirit of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (“Wild Horse Act”), 16 U.S.C. § 1331 et seq., Congressional sentiment, and the desire of the majority of the American people. We hope that after review of this letter, the Forest Service will withdraw its decision to sell any wild horses “without limitation” in connection with this gather. If the Forest Service is not willing to change its decision, we will consider all other legal remedies available to our clients and their supporters, to stop the Forest Service’s actions.
FRER and HSUS have given the Forest Service until October 23 to provide a response.
Continued Advocacy Efforts Are Reaching the Public Eye
Since Front Range Equine Rescue filed a federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), their continued advocacy efforts have not gone unnoticed. “This Horse Rescue Group Is Fighting Back Against the BLM’s Cruel Wild Horse Sterilization Experiment” by Estelle Rayburn writes on the recent events and proposed plans of the BLM. While the public has voiced outrage in regard to BLM’s plans to surgically sterilize the wild mares in Oregon, the BLM expects to move forward with their plans.
However, despite the continued pursuit of the surgery, horse defenders such as Front Range Equine Rescue have continued to advocate for the wild mares, filing a lawsuit against the BLM, ” contending that the harm and suffering the animals involved in the cruel experiment would surely endure would be in violation of federal law.” Continuing to pursue these surgeries in a non-sterile environment is dangerous and “violates the BLM’s congressional mandate to care for wild horses at a minimal feasible level.”
Lawsuits Against the BLM Have Caught CNN’s Attention
“Nonprofits sue to stop ‘inhumane’ government project to sterilize 100 wild horses” by Ellie Kaufman features Front Range Equine Rescue as one of the nonprofits leading the lawsuit against the Interior Department Bureau of Land Management. Front Range Equine Rescue has filed a federal lawsuit in Washington D.C., while other nonprofits,such as the American Wild Horse Campaign and the Cloud Foundation have filed a lawsuit in Oregon.
The filed lawsuits are against the proposed surgery called ovariectomy via colpotomy, that the BLM plans to use on 100 horses from the Warm Springs Herd Management Area. The risk y surgery requires a veterinarian to make an incision and to use their hands to feel for the ovaries before using a tool to extract them. Both Front Range Equine Rescue and the American Wild Horse Campaign are advocating for safer ways to manage the population, including the birth control vaccine for horses called Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP). Despite the previous failed attempts to use this surgery on wild mares, the BLM plans to begin rounding up horses for this surgery in October.
Nonprofit Horse Rescue Group Challenges Inhumane Experimental Surgery
WASHINGTON, DC, September 25, 2018 – Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), a national nonprofit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue, advocacy, and education, has filed suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to stop the BLM’s experimental and invasive sterilization of wild mares. The lawsuit was filed yesterday in federal court in Washington D.C.
FRER’s suit contends the BLM’s intention to conduct surgical “experimentation” on wild mares in the Warm Springs Herd Management Area in Eastern Oregon, and then return them to the range without proper oversight, causes harm and suffering in violation of federal law. FRER’s lawsuit also says the plan represents a conflict of interest and is not in the best interests of wild horses, but rather in the BLM’s own best interest by reducing their management load without considering their mandate to properly manage the horses.
The sterilizations on wild mares proposed by the BLM was originally to be carried out in collaboration with Colorado State University, which has now withdrawn its involvement. Despite this vote of nonsupport, BLM has stated its intention to move forward, with unidentified veterinarians, to perform a dangerous procedure. BLM will be removing hundreds of horses from the Warm Springs Herd Management Area and identifying selected mares for their experiment. Veterinarians will then slice open the mare’s vagina while she is sedated, but awake and standing, and pulling her ovaries out — a risky and controversial surgical procedure even for tame mares under the best of conditions, let alone captive wild horses in a holding facility. Some of the mares will be in various stages of pregnancy. After a short recovery period, some of the sterilized mares will be returned to the range for monitoring.
“Performing unproven surgeries in a non-sterile environment violates the BLM’s congressional mandate to care for wild horses at a minimal feasible level, especially when responsible alternatives like the PZP contraceptive vaccine already exist to maintain population levels and ensure herd viability,” said Hilary Wood, President of FRER.
Earlier this year, FRER filed formal comments opposing the “research” that will be done on these conscious, wild mares. These comments – and comments submitted by more than 20,000 members of the public – were disregarded, prompting FRER to file its suit.
“These sterilization procedures are overly invasive, and they are unlikely to have applicability for mares on public lands,” said Laureen Bartfield, DVM, who volunteers with the BLM for the administration of noninvasive birth control.
“The unvisualized removal of the ovaries, while documented in the literature, is disfavored by reputable veterinarians. The BLM’s plan is not just clinically ill-advised, it constitutes animal cruelty on a large scale.”
The plans for eventual widespread sterilization of horses on the range will also run up an estimated cost to the taxpayers in the millions.
BLM’s Plans to Conduct Experimental Sterilization Surgeries on Wild Horses Have Been Disrupted
Late last week Colorado State University (CSU) issued a statement withdrawing from partnering with the BLM to conduct unnecessary and dangerous sterilization research on 100 wild mares in Oregon. Part of their announcement reads:
After careful consideration of multiple factors during the 30-day public comment period for the Warm Springs, Oregon, mare spay project, Colorado State University is withdrawing our partnership on the surgical spaying of mares. The project is led by the Bureau of Land Management and USGS. The decision to withdraw was made with the support of our involved researchers.
Front Range Equine Rescue had submitted comments to the BLM in opposition to the proposed plan. Dozens of other organizations and thousands of equine advocates did the same.
As of this writing, it is unclear whether the BLM will cancel their plans or seek a new partner elsewhere.
Following is some of FRER’s media coverage raising awareness of this issue prior to CSU backing out.
Nonprofit Plans Lawsuit to Stop Inhumane, Unsafe Surgery for “Research”
Front Range Equine Rescue, a national nonprofit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue, advocacy, and education, announced today it has filed comments to stop the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management from performing dangerous experimental sterilizations on wild horses.
The BLM plans to award a research grant to Colorado State University in Fort Collins to perform experimental sterilization surgeries on pregnant and non-pregnant mares. After capturing the approximately 800 horses living in the Warm Springs herd in southeastern Oregon, 100 mares would be selected for sterilization. After a short post-operative observation period, some mares would be returned to the herd.
FRER has filed formal comments objecting to ovariectomy via colpotomy* – a potentially life-threatening surgery with a high risk of complications including prolonged bleeding, hemorrhaging, infections and sepsis, tissue myopathy, neuropathy, and pain, in addition to premature birth and abortion in pregnant mares. FRER maintains that the harm and suffering caused by these medically irresponsible surgeries violate federal law.
If FRER’s comments are disregarded, the organization plans to file suit against the BLM in federal court.
“Reputable equine veterinarians with wild horse experience object to this cruel and dangerous procedure, performed unvisualized while mares are fully conscious, because of the many serious risks during surgery or after due to complications,” said Hilary Wood, President of FRER. “There are added dangers if sterilized mares have complications after they are back in the wild. We urge the BLM to use the many available humane alternatives instead of this radical method of population control.”
The BLM has proposed permanently sterilizing wild horses several times, most recently in 2016, when it dropped its plans following a lawsuit filed by FRER and comments from more than 20,000 members of the public. In 2011, a federal court halted plans to castrate wild horses on the grounds it would be “extreme and irreversible.” In 2012, the BLM was again forced to defend similar plans in federal court, and abandoned its efforts to castrate some of Nevada’s wild horses.
* Ovariectomy via colpotomy is described by the BLM as “making an incision, approximately 1-3 centimeters long, in the anterior-dorsallateral vagina…The incision would be enlarged with blunt dissection to perforate the peritoneum and allow the surgeon’s hand to enter the abdomen.” The surgeon inserts a snare-like tool, and attempts to remove the ovaries without visualization aids, such as laparoscopy, to avoid damaging other organs or blood vessels. The procedure would be done under local anesthesia, so the mare remains awake and standing. This method of permanent sterilization, already problematic on domesticated horses in sanitary conditions such as an appropriately equipped veterinary hospital, would be performed in the field at BLM’s wild horse warehousing facilities.
In 2016, the BLM attempted cruel and dangerous sterilization experiments on wild mares with Oregon State University.
Public outcry and lawsuits filed by wild horse advocacy groups like FRER helped to stop this horrific plan…but now, the BLM is at it again. With a few changes, their current proposal is similar to the gruesome plan of two years ago, but this time CO State University applied for the research grant money to participate.
Most of the wild mares will be in various stages of pregnancy. They will use a surgical procedure known as ovariectomy by colpotomy which has known high risks of pain, bleeding, infection, abortion of foals and evisceration where the intestines protrude through the surgical incision. Even the National Academy of Sciences has concluded this procedure is “inadvisable for field application”.
The surgery itself is described graphically by BLM as follows:
The surgical procedure would involve making an incision, approximately 1–3 centimeters long, in the anterior-dorsallateral vagina. Both ovaries are accessed through this one incision. The incision would be enlarged with blunt dissection to perforate the peritoneum and allow the surgeon’s hand to enter the abdomen. . . . The ovary and associated mesovarium are isolated by direct manual palpation and local anesthesia (5 ml 5% bupivacaine and 5 ml 2% lidocaine) is injected into each ovarian pedicle. . . . The ovarian pedicle would be transected with a chain ecraseur.
Given the serious risks to the mares subjected to this experiment, the BLM has not sufficiently justified the need for the research when (in their own assessment) all the experiment “may” do is provide “more details” about a surgical procedure. This amounts to first-line experimentation on the very horses that BLM is required to protect from harm and suffering which goes against the agency’s obligations under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to protect wild horses from harm and suffering.
The BLM has numerous alternatives for population management of wild horses including PZP (a safe form of birth control which BLM has not widely used).
Comments on the Environmental Assessment are due July 30th. You can submit them directly to the BLM at [email protected]
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Has A New Sale Policy, Take Action Now!
BLM has revised their sale policy to allow agency officials to increase the number of wild horses and burros sold to individuals and organizations from a limit of 4 now to 25.
The prior policy from 2012 limited individuals and organizations to purchase just four horses in a six-month period. This policy emerged after investigations showed that the BLM was selling horses to a known kill buyer who then sent them to slaughter.
This has left the door wide-open for kill buyers to come and fill their trucks with no regard for the lives of America’s wild horses and burros.
The Department of the Interior must act on behalf of the horses immediately when humane options for wild horses and burros exist.
Responsible management means focusing on finding more humane homes for captured horses with more gentling programs to improve adoption rates. Large-scale fertility control on the range using already developed humane, safe methods (PZP) need to be more widely used. The BLM should make better use of the numerous public-private relationship offers to better manage the horses.
No government agency should be allowed to kill them off to manage their budget or correct a poorly run wild horse and burro program.
Contact your elected officials in Congress to stand up to the BLM and Interior Department which oversees the BLM. Tell Congress to ensure wild horse and burro protections remain in place and slaughter is not an option. Locate your Congresspeople via 202-224-3121.
Your calls, emails and other contact with Senators helped save wild horses and burros!
On June 15, we learned that the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to keep protections to stop plans for mass killing and slaughter of wild horses and burros in the Fiscal Year 2019 Interior Department budget bill.
And just as importantly, they said “NO” to allowing dangerous sterilization procedures.
A reconciliation committee will need to iron out differences between the Senate and House versions of this budget bill before the entire U.S. House and Senate vote on the overall federal budget bill for FY19.
Remember, the House of Representatives committee did not spare wild horses and burros from cruel sterilization plans.
It will be critical for wild horse and burro advocates to contact their elected officials before the final vote on the overall budget bill. It is anticipated this could happen late summer/early fall.
In the meantime, we are deeply grateful to everyone who called, emailed or met with their member(s) of Congress on this critical issue.
Will massive sterilization plans eliminate wild horses and burros from public lands as allocated to them by law?
The U.S. House Appropriations Committee has approved the Stewart Amendment in the Interior Department’s budget bill for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19). This amendment supports sterilization for wild horses and burros using invasive, unsafe and inhumane methods (i.e., colpotomy and ovariectomy).
Any form of “spaying” a wild horse or burro is cruel, dangerous and even deadly. These animals will be highly traumatized and their health (even lives) endangered if permanent sterilization methods are allowed for their “management” by the BLM.
In 2016, advocates fought off the BLM’s attempt to use these barbaric procedures when proposed experiments were announced for wild mares in Oregon.
The only positive aspect of the current House vote is that the amendment did not call for any killing of wild horses, which is a change from last year’s approach.
The BLM has many humane management options including:
strategies to manage the herds through expanded use of PZP, a fertility control vaccine already in use.
improving adoptions through gentling programs.
public-private partnerships and sanctuary.
These alternatives are safe, effective and can be further expanded upon especially with the House committee having agreed to a $15 million increase for the BLM to manage wild horses and burros.
The Senate Appropriations Committee holds the future of wild horses and burros in their hands.
Please call your Senators and politely urge them to support the humane management of wild horses and burros which does not include permanent sterilization methods for population control.
The names of your Senators and their office phone numbers are available via www.senate.gov and it is critical the final federal budget bill for FY19 does not provide for measures to have non-reproducing herds.
Establishing Language that Protects America’s Wild Horses and Burros
The U.S. House Appropriations Committee is considering the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) budget bill for the Interior Department. This bill includes funding for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program.
A current draft of the bill protects wild horses and burros from mass killing and slaughter. However, it is expected that Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah will introduce an amendment to remove these protections.
If the House fails to keep protective language within the FY19 Interior Department budget bill, it will be critical that the Senate version provides these protections. And, that the Senate version prevails during a reconciliation of differences between the two bills.
Contact your U.S. House Rep and two Senators through the Capitol operator at 202-224-3121 to keep language which protects America’s wild horses and burros in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget bill.
There is no need for unnecessary roundups to stockpile more horses in holding facilities or seek out untested, dangerous, and even deadly “sterilization” techniques.
The BLM has humane options available, which include:
managing horses on the rangelands allocated to them by law.
keeping populations in check through the use of PZP (a proven birth control method).
improving adoption rates.
forming public-private partnerships to monitor the herds.
The Bureau of Land Management just released another disastrous plan to manage America’s treasured wild horses and burros.
Just this week the BLM released their latest agenda to destroy America’s wild horse and burro herds by decimating their populations on our Western taxpayer funded public lands. The agency failed to include the many humane and politically viable management choices requested by Congress. Instead they produced an outrageous plan which ignores massive public support for the horses, recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report which BLM itself had commissioned as well as a Unified Statement with humane and common sense recommendations supported by over 100 equine welfare and advocacy organizations.
The plan would cut wild horse and burro populations to an AML of 27,000, the number that existed in 1971 when Congress unanimously passed protections for wild horses and burros because they were “fast disappearing.” The unscientific AMLs listed are pathetically low in most Western states. For example in New Mexico, the BLM wants an AML of just 83 horses when the state has more than 14 million acres of BLM-managed public land.
The NAS report even stated the BLM’s AML levels are “not transparent to stakeholders, supported by scientific information, or amenable to adaptation with new information and environmental and social change.”
To achieve their manage-to-extinction goal, the BLM has proposed a variety of cruel, unscientific and completely unacceptable methods including:
Removing more than 50,000 wild horses and burros from the range;
The mass killing or sale for slaughter of up to 100,000 mustangs and burros, including those currently in holding facilities and those to be removed from the public lands;
Mass sterilization of wild horses and burros left on the range — an option previously rejected by the NAS due to suggested dangerous sterilization methods.
BLM’s decades long mismanagement of the Wild Horse and Burro program led to their budget problems in the first place. Yet they continue proposing more abusive plans, including mass roundups and slaughter to hide years of incompetence while catering to powerful and wealthy special interests which are against the wild horses and burros.
Legislation-wise nothing new should happen until October 2018 when the FY2019 federal budget could be voted on. In the meantime, the BLM continues to promote their “overpopulation” and “dire situation” propaganda to lawmakers. Lawmakers need to be educated now that cries of overpopulation are wrong when speaking about wild horses and burros. Livestock dominate and destroy our public lands outnumbering horses at times by 50:1. Many wild horse herds are not large enough to be considered genetically viable.
Estimates of up to 75,000 wild horses and burros on public lands are nothing compared to the millions of head of private (and corporate) livestock damaging and overgrazing our public lands.
It should be noted that wild horses and burros in holding cost about $50 million annually while livestock grazing on public lands costs taxpayers $144 million with a net loss of at least $123 million per year according to the Government Accountability Office.
To avoid a government shutdown, Congress is poised to vote on the FY2018 budget bill by midnight Friday.
The good news is that the current Omnibus spending bill uses the Senate’s version of the Agriculture Department and Interior Department budget bills which (1) prevent funding for horse meat inspections, and (2) keeps language to protect wild horses and burros from unlimited sale, mass killing or slaughter.
But it is not a done deal until the final vote by Congress!
Call now to urge Congressional leaders to keep America’s horses safe by ensuring the final Omnibus budget bill does not allow for funding of horse meat inspectors and keeps protections for wild horses and burros against any unlimited sale or slaughter.
Contact your own elected officials to ensure they will not vote for any budget bill allowing funding for horse slaughter or the mass killing, unlimited sale and slaughter of wild horses and burros. Find your Reps and Senators via Capital switchboard 202-224-3121.
America’s horses are NOT raised as a food animal. They are not regulated as a food animal. There are many humane alternatives in place for both domestic and wild horses. We stand by our horses!
Keep Dirty Politics Out of Wild Horse and Burro Lives!
In 2017, the BLM’s war against wild horses and burros escalated further with the current administration proposed “cut and kill” policy to manage wild horses and burros of the West.
With overcrowded government holding facilities and plans to decrease the BLM’s budget, opponents of wild horses increased political pressure to allow unlimited sale, mass killing and slaughter of at least 44,000 wild horses.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved this measure in its version of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed budget bill. The U.S. Senate did not include approval in its version of the same budget bill. Both bills must be reconciled before a new FY2018 federal budget can pass.
At this time, the FY18 budget bill has been delayed numerous times for a final vote. But the current administration’s suggested budget bill for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) would allow the destruction of wild horses.
The BLM claims its holding facilities are beyond capacity and its largest expense is to feed captive horses. Ironically it continues to remove horses (and burros) to the tune of millions of dollars in taxpayer money keeping its cycle of budget crisis going.
Winter roundups to date have resulted in dozens of injured horses with at least 13 deaths by early February. Witnesses to brutal winter roundups have documented horses in very good body condition which contradicts the BLM’s ongoing excuse of “starving on the range” as a reason for roundups.
It is up to the American public to stand up for wild horse and burro protections allocated to the horses by law. Congress needs to hear from voters that they oppose any legislation which allows unlimited sale, mass killing or slaughter of these national treasures, our icons of the West.
The BLM’s budget should focus on appropriate management on the range strategies, increased public-private partnerships, expanded safe/effective population control (PZP use) and gentling programs to help increase adoption rates and success for captured horses.
We are at a crossroads for saving America’s wild horses and burros.
The American people must decide whether lethal management destroys tens of thousands of wild horses or humane solutions are properly funded and implemented.
For decades the BLM has chosen a “manage to extinction” policy for its Wild Horse and Burro Program. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on annual roundups and warehousing of the mustangs (and burros). Powerful and wealthy special interests (livestock, oil & gas, mining) have relentlessly pursued the elimination of the American mustang.
Terror, injuries, and death have resulted from roundups as well as the destruction of tightly bonded family bands. Too many herds have fallen below genetic diversity threatening their viable existence.
Can it all be turned around?
But not without tremendous public pressure and support.
Humane solutions are readily available. Many have already been proven safe and successful, but remain ignored or underutilized.
They include but are not limited to, PZP darting for population control, eco-sanctuaries, management on the range, public-private partnerships and more gentling/training programs to increase adoption rates.
Where do we stand now?
The 2018 fiscal year (FY18) budget is being marked up now. The House of Representatives and the Senate each have versions of budget bills submitted by government agencies for 2018.
The Department of Interior’s budget funds the BLM and its wild horse program. Currently, the House version of this bill has no language to protect wild horses and burros from unlimited sale, mass killing or slaughter.
A majority of the BLM’s wild horse and burro advisory board recently recommended “lethal options” to kill off tens of thousands of wild horses and burros including a proposal to send thousands of them to Russia as prey for tigers.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is poised to vote on their version of this bill which needs language to protect the horses.
We cannot let the BLM kill their way out of a self-inflicted budget crisis.
At least 80% of the public stands by wild horses and their protection. Too many are still unaware of this critical issue.
Don’t let time run out for America’s living symbols of our freedom.
Contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and urge them to vote on behalf of protecting wild horses and burros from unlimited sale, mass killing or slaughter when they review the FY2018 Interior Department budget bill. Tell them you do not want your taxpayer dollars spent to kill innocent horses when humane and financially responsible options exist.
Last week’s meeting of the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board resulted in the following recommendations:
phase out all wild horses and burros in long-term holding facilities within 3 years;
achieve an on-the-range population goal of 26,715 wild horses and burros within 3 years (meaning tens of thousands would have to be killed);
allow international adoptions and sales (which have never been allowed). Several board members repeatedly referenced a proposal to ship 20,000+ wild horses to Russia to serve as prey for big cats. U.S. taxpayers would fund the cost to ship the horses to Russia.
If Congress allows the BLM to follow through on the board’s recommendations, the government could be killing off at least 90,000 healthy animals.
This isn’t the first time a majority of the BLM’s advisory board has made irresponsible and inhumane recommendations. We must ensure it is the last!
It is not too late to send your own written comments pertaining to the October 18-19, 2017 Advisory Board meeting.
Our tax dollars should never support the mass killing (or any inhumane killing) of America’s wild horses and burros!
The BLM needs to manage budget cuts with practical, humane solutions which include alternatives such as:
Management on the range utilizing the millions of acres of public lands allocated to them by law;
Reintroducing captured horses to previously zeroed out areas;
Moratorium on further roundups and allocate funds to humane, safe population control (PZP which has a proven success rate and has been under-utilized by the BLM);
Allocate more funds to gentling/training programs to increase adoption rates;
Increase the number of public-private partnerships based on successful models already working.
Mail comments to the National Wild Horse and Burro Program,WO-260, Attention: Ramona DeLorme, 1340 Financial Boulevard, Reno, NV 89502-7147.
You can also email to: [email protected]
Please include “Advisory Board Comment” in the subject line of the email.
Continue to speak up for wild horses and burros to Congress.
Contact the Senate Appropriations Committee members to oppose any language in the FY2018 Interior Department’s budget bill which would allow unlimited sale, killing or slaughter of wild horses and burros.
The markup on this bill is coming anytime now (it has been postponed several times already).
Senate Appropriations Committee Takes Up Interior Department Budget Bill
Wild Horse and Burro Lives Are On the Line!
The federal government’s fiscal year runs October 1 to September 30. Each year an omnibus budget bill is developed, reviewed, edited, and voted on to fund the government. A new approved budget is often delayed meaning the prior year’s bill often carries over into a new fiscal year.
Government agencies submit their appropriations budget bills to make up the omnibus package.
The 2018 Fiscal Year (FY18) budget is currently in the reconciliation phase with final voting expected in early December.
Horses and the Budget:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture appropriations bill determines whether funding for horsemeat inspections (i.e., horse slaughter) is allowed or not.
The Interior Department’s budget bill is where funding is allocated for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to manage programs like the Wild Horse and Burro Program.
The House of Representatives Appropriations failed America’s horses not once, but twice, when (1) failing to vote “NO” on funding for horsemeat inspections by USDA and (2) by not including an amendment to stop the killing and sale to slaughter of America’s wild horses and burros.
Note: The House Rules committee also refused to allow the introduction of amendments to the House Appropriations bills which would protect wild horses and burros from killing and slaughter (Titus-King-Polis amendment) and to prevent funding for horsemeat inspections (Buchanan-Roybal/Allard amendment).
Fortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee had already voted “YES” on the Udall-Graham amendment to prevent tax dollars from being used for horsemeat inspections (no horse slaughter).
At this time it is critical that the Senate Appropriations Committee allows an amendment to include language in the budget bill to protect wild horses and burros from unlimited sale, killing and slaughter because the House version has stripped away these protections.
It is also critical that the Senate’s version of the Agriculture Appropriations bill which includes language not to allow funds for horsemeat inspections remains in the final budget bill.
The reconciliation process involves keeping the House and Senate versions of budget bills which are in agreement, but it must reconcile the differences. Right now, the fate of America’s horses depends on the U.S. Senate as the budget heads into its final version.
What You Need To Do To Save Horses Now:
Call, write and/or email your U.S. Senators. If your elected official is on the Senate Appropriations Committee, he or she needs to hear from you asap.
With all of the crises in this country and desperate need to use taxpayer dollars wisely, the idea of butchering America’s horses is not only cruel and appalling but clearly a fraudulent waste of tax money.
This article from The Hill states that the special interests lobbyists, many of whom are millionaire cattle ranchers, are pushing to slaughter America’s wild horses. The goal of the horse slaughter lobby is to clear public lands of wild horses and replace them with cattle.
“Thanks to the greed of tiny but powerful industry lobby, congressional Republicans are about to legalize the slaughter of America’s wild horses – and commit political suicide in the process. Polls show that 80 percent of men, 90 percent of women and 86 percent of Trump supporters oppose horse slaughter. With nine Republican House seats up for grabs according to the Cook Report, opposition should be a no brainer. But this hasn’t stopped Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke from leading the charge, while House Republicans have already passed legislation that would legalize an inhumane practice that has been outlawed for fifty years.
The push to slaughter wild horses is coming from a narrow – but powerful – special interest lobby in the D.C. swamp made up of millionaire and billionaire cattle ranchers on America’s federal lands. Public-lands ranchers make up just 2 percent of U.S. cattle operators, represent just 0.06 percent of total employment in 11 western states and produce only 3 percent of American beef.”
On September 5 and 6, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Rules Committee rejected bi-partisan amendments which would have stopped the use of tax dollars to (1) fund horsemeat inspectors and (2) protect wild horses and burros from being killed or sent to slaughter.
It was clear the votes were there on the House floor to have passed these amendments if the Rules Committee had allowed the introduction of these amendments to the FY2018 appropriations budget bill.
While this is a shameful act displaying “dirty politics” at its worst, it is not the end of the issue.
The Senate version of the appropriations budget bill contains language to prevent any funding for horsemeat inspections. However, the Senate has not yet taken up the issue for wild horses.
Our tax dollars should be used to help disaster victims (hurricanes, wildfires), veterans, health care, infrastructure, the opioid crisis and more — NOT to brutally kill America’s wild and domestic horses to please a profit-driven livestock/agriculture industry or oil/gas interests wanting to take over our public lands!
Tens of thousands of horses’ lives depend on us to speak for them today.
Contact your two Senators and House Rep through the U.S. Capitol operator, 202-224-3121. Tell them politely, but firmly, that you oppose the use of tax dollars to slaughter America’s domestic or wild horses. Tell them to support language in the FY2018 appropriations budget which prevents funding for horsemeat inspections and language which does not allow the mass killing or sale to slaughter of wild horses.
There are numerous humane and successful alternatives for domestic and wild horses other than slaughter.
America’s horses are not raised or regulated as a food animal. They are unfit for human consumption. That includes captured wild horses which have received medications or other treatments which contain substances banned for use in food animals (wormer, vaccines, oral or topical medications).
We commend Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF) for their multi-year investigation into the BLM’s short- and long-term holding facilities.
The link below reveals details of wild horse (and burro) records which tell a chilling truth for those in captivity. In short, the numbers claimed to be in holding do not match up with those viewed and recorded, at times less than half for some locations.
And be sure to download the Exhibit section where Exhibits 9 and 10 reveal the disturbing details of mortality at two facilities, including deaths due to broken necks, gelding complications, respiratory issues, strangles, and more.
America’s wild horses and burros do not belong in captivity. They can be successfully managed on the range where millions of acres have been allocated for their use by law (1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act).
The current government intends to destroy what’s left of wild horse (and burro) herds in captivity and on the range through a horrific proposal in the Interior Department FY2018 budget bill. The plan is to allow unlimited sale (to slaughter) and killing of the animals as a way to balance the BLM’s budget.
Congress needs to hear from everyone now to stop this reckless and inhumane plan.
Tell your elected officials (2 U.S. Senators and 1 U.S. House Rep) to vote “no” on the Interior Department’s appropriations bill for 2018 if it contains language to allow unlimited sale, slaughter and/or killing of wild horses and burros.
Reach them via the U.S. Capitol operator at 202-224-3121.
The 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act allocated 242 million acres for use by wild horse (and burro) herds. Over the years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has reduced their land use to 27 million acres. The BLM has catered to special interests like the livestock industry which has depleted and overgrazed public lands with a million cattle and tens of thousands of sheep. For decades they’ve lied and used wild horses as scapegoats for issues of range degradation and over grazing.
In a nutshell, the current administration intends to allow the mass killing of wild horses so that the BLM can balance its budget. There are numerous humane solutions to managing the Wild Horse and Burro Program and bringing fiscal responsibility to the budget. To date, “cut and kill” remains their primary solution.
Taxpayers should be outraged at this horrific use of tax dollars. We stand by America’s flag and don’t burn it. We stand by our wild horses and burros — living symbols of our history — we don’t murder them!
The current administration’s budget for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro program proposes a “cut and kill” agenda.
The federal budget looks to cut $10M from the BLM’s budget. Other decreases in spending would occur from reducing roundups and population control measures, but also from gutting wild horse numbers by allowing their sale for slaughter.
Act now before it’s too late to stop this inhumane and reckless attempt at budget management. Practical solutions already exist to responsibly protect and care for wild horses such as management on the range, use of PZP for population control, gentling/training programs to improve adoption rates, eco-tourism and sanctuaries.
Contact your Congressional representatives today to voice opposition to the cruel and irresponsible treatment of America’s wild horses. America’s mustangs are not numbers on paper, but are living symbols of our history! www.house.gov and www.senate.gov
Voice your opposition to Ryan Zinke, head of the Interior Department which oversees the BLM: [email protected]
Wild horses, often called “Icons of the West”, deserve to be treasured as a vital part of American history!
However, wild horses are now part of a “cut and kill” budget plan in a feeble attempt to solve decades of mismanagement by a government program set up to protect them. The budget proposes “humane euthanasia and unrestricted sale of certain excess animals” to help control rising costs of long-term holding corrals and other expenses.
The proposed budget will save $10 million annually but at the cost of thousands of innocent horses’ lives.
Have your members of Congress signed on as co-sponsors for ending horse slaughter?
Check this link below to give your member a thank you or urge them to sign on to end this brutal industry!
H.R. 113 – Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2017 is an attempt by members of the House of Representatives to “…amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to deem equine (horses and other members of the Equidae family) parts to be an unsafe food additive or animal drug. The bill prohibits the knowing sale or transport of equines or equine parts for human consumption.”
If this passes it will mean great things for horse advocates in the United States!
2017 does not bode well for America’s horses, domestic or wild.
Their friends in Congress will be less than ever. We expect a full on assault for the return of horse slaughter and also the final decimation of wild horses and burros on public lands and in government holding facilities.
We know that those who truly care about the welfare of horses in this country come from all political views. It will be imperative for everyone to put strong pressure on elected officials to keep in place the defunding of horse slaughter inspections while pushing for federal legislation to ban horse slaughter, and to change the current, ineffective management of wild horses and burros to a plan which truly protects them on our taxpayer funded public lands and provides humane solutions for those in captivity.
With your help, we will escalate the fight for America’s horses!
You can help save abused horses like Sammie (pictured) with a tax deductible contribution to Front Range Equine Rescue by clicking here.
U.S. Government’s Horrific Treatment of America’s Wild Horses Isn’t Just Inhumane—It’s Against the Law
Earlier this month, the federal Bureau of Land Management decided to withdraw its plan to perform sterilization experiments on 225 wild mares, rather than face multiple lawsuits. On the heels of this victory came a shocking announcement: The BLM Advisory Board recommended killing approximately 45,000 wild horses now held captive in government corrals.
Public outrage and the outpouring of opposition were immediate and overwhelming. After just a few days, a BLM spokesperson stated the agency would continue its current practices and not euthanize the horses as recommended. (Being all too familiar with BLM’s double-talk, we must add the caveat “for now” to that statement.) Click here to read more from Hilary’s article on AlterNet.
We are well aware of BLM “double-speak” and like all advocates are remaining vigilant and prepared!
Sept 14 (Reuters) – The U.S. government said on Wednesday it has no plans to euthanize a large share of the more than 45,000 wild horses and burros removed from lands mostly in the U.S. West, after an advisory panel’s proposal to kill some of the animals sparked outrage.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials said they struggle to find people to adopt the growing number of wild horses and burros, which costs the agency millions annually to maintain in corrals and pasturelands.
The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board on Friday recommended the bureau consider euthanizing the animals that cannot be adopted, or selling them to companies that might slaughter them.
On Friday we learned that the BLM decided to withdraw its decision to partner with Oregon State University to perform unsafe sterilization experiments on 225 wild mares in Oregon. [Read More at the Denver Post]
On the heels of this victory came another announcement. The BLM Advisory Board voted on a proposal to “euthanize” wild horses in holding facilities. This means the mass murder of approximately 44,000 innocent horses!
Front Range Equine Rescue is wholly committed to doing its part to save these horses. I know you will join with us to escalate our fight like never before!
Nonprofit Horse Rescue Group Challenged Inhumane Experimental Surgery
HINES, Ore., September 9, 2016 – Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), a national nonprofit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue, advocacy and education, announced today, just six weeks after a lawsuit filed by FRER, that U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn its program to perform experimental sterilization of wild mares in Oregon. The BLM’s decision was formally vacated by the Interior Board of Land Appeals this morning.
FRER’s suit contended that the BLM’s intention to conduct surgical experiments on 225 wild horses, many in various stages of pregnancy, and potentially thousands of more horses over time, causes harm and suffering in violation of federal law.
The sterilizations on wild mares proposed by the BLM, to be carried out in collaboration with Oregon State University, included three untested, dangerous, and potentially fatal procedures.
“We are relieved that the BLM has withdrawn its decision, both for the targeted 225 horses and for the future of wild horse management, said Hilary Wood, President of FRER. “FRER remains committed to ensuring the BLM uses humane and reasonable efforts to protect the herds while considering all interests in the process.”
On July 25, Front Range Equine Rescue filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) proposed sterilization experiments on 225 wild mares in Oregon (many in various stages of pregnancy). The BLM admits these experiments are dangerous and potentially fatal. Expected outcomes include infection, hemorrhaging, aborted foals, colic signs, and death.
Soon after the filing, FRER was informed by the BLM that the start date for the experiments has been postponed until mid-November.
We thank all of our supporters for contributing to this critical legal effort on behalf of these innocent wild mares. We also thank the AWHPC for its tireless work on this issue and their support of FRER’s effort:
BREAKING GOOD NEWS:
The BLM has agreed to delay the mare sterilization experiments in response to a lawsuit filed by Front Range Equine Rescue. The agency has pushed back the start date from October 1 to November 16 to allow time for a court hearing on the case. Everyone send good luck and energy to Front Range for success in shutting down these cruel BLM experiments! – AWHPC
Near the end of July, we filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plan to conduct barbaric sterilization experiments on 225 wild mares in partnership with Oregon State University (OSU).
Our case challenges the shocking decision by the agency (BLM) responsible for caring for America’s wild horses, to perform dangerous and untested surgical sterilization procedures on captive wild mare, many of them in varying stages of pregnancy. This radical departure from the bounds of science and humane treatment is unauthorized, uncalled for, and illegal.
Despite strong opposition, the Bureau of Land Management, (BLM), intends to move forward with gruesome and dangerous sterilization experiments on wild mares.
The proposed research procedures are risky-to-deadly and to move forward is irresponsible, unethical and inhumane.
Thanks to caring and compassionate donors like you, Front Range Equine Rescue is able to initiate legal action against the BLM’s plan.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Front Range Equine Rescue Files Suit to Stop Surgical Sterilization ‘Research’ on Oregon’s Wild Horses
Nonprofit Horse Rescue Group Challenges Inhumane Experimental Surgery
HINES, Ore., July 26, 2016 – Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), a national nonprofit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue, advocacy and education, announced today it is suing the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to stop the BLM’s experimental sterilization of wild mares in Oregon. The lawsuit was filed late yesterday in federal court in Washington D.C.
FRER’s suit contends the BLM’s intention to conduct surgical experiments on 225 wild horses, many in various stages of pregnancy, and potentially thousands more horses over time, causes harm and suffering in violation of federal law.
The sterilizations on wild mares proposed by the BLM, to be carried out in collaboration with Oregon State University, include three untested, dangerous procedures:
Slicing open the mare’s vagina while sedated, but awake and standing, and blindly pulling out her ovaries – a risky and controversial surgical procedure even for tame mares under the best of conditions, let alone captive wild horses in a holding facility
Burning and then cutting the sedated, but conscious horses’ fallopian tubes, a procedure that is surgically untested on horses
Using a laser, inserted through the vagina, to scar and seal the ovaries – another surgery that has never been studied in horses
“It is unjustifiable for the BLM to conduct such barbaric sterilization experiments with a host of known risks, including death, on captive wild horses,” said Hilary Wood, President of FRER. “Performing unproven surgeries in a holding pen, let alone on the open range, is contrary to the BLM’s congressional mandate to care for wild horses, especially when responsible alternatives like the PZP contraceptive vaccine already exist to maintain population levels and ensure herd viability.”
Earlier this year, FRER filed formal comments opposing the “research” that will be done on conscious animals in long-term holding. These comments – and comments submitted by more than 20,000 members of the public – were disregarded, prompting FRER to file its suit.
“These sterilization procedures are not documented, practiced, or analyzed in non-surgical settings; they are overly invasive, and they are unlikely to have applicability for mares on public lands,” said Laureen Bartfield, DVM, an expert in population control of wild horses and the social structure of herds. “Two of the three procedures have virtually never been performed on horses, and the unvisualized removal of the ovaries, while documented in the literature, is disfavored by reputable veterinarians. The BLM’s plan is not just clinically ill-advised, it constitutes animal cruelty on a large scale.”
The plans for eventual widespread sterilization of horses on the range will also run up an estimated cost to the taxpayers in the millions – and the first of the funds could be handed to OSU in the form of a BLM grant. This first group of mares to go under the knife are in BLM custody in the Hines Corral in Eastern Oregon.
FRER’s lawsuit says the experimental sterilizations represent a conflict of interest, and are not in the best interests of wild horses, but rather in the BLM’s own best interest by reducing their management load without considering their mandate to properly manage the horses.
This is not the first time the BLM has pursued surgical sterilization for wild horses. In 2011, a federal court found the bureau’s plans to castrate wild horses captured in Wyoming was of an “extreme and irreversible nature.” In 2012, the BLM was again forced to defend similar plans in federal court, and abandoned its efforts to castrate Nevada’s wild horses.
The grim reality facing these innocent wild mares includes
Invasive surgery performed in a non-sterile environment
No known studies on domestic mares for the tubal ligation procedure
No known studies on domestic or wild mares for the Hysteroscopically-guided laser ablation procedure
Procedures to be performed on wild mares in varying stages of pregnancy
Infection, hemorrhaging, colic signs, aborted foals, potential for abnormalities in foals born, and death “If any gestational group in any procedure meets a major complication rate greater than 20 percent” then the procedure will be stopped
Major complications leading to death or the need for euthanasia are “expected” to be less than 2 percent (225 mares are slated for the research; 25 in a control group; 200 divided up for the three procedures)
Wild mares will be frightened as they are separated from their herd mates They will be even more terrified when driven into a confined chute to be sedated and restrained for the surgery
Ovarian function plays a significant role in the endocrine (hormonal) system. To destroy this biological function will damage behavior and health of surviving mares
I thank everyone who was able to contribute to allow us to initiate this lawsuit. Legal action is expensive and can be lengthy. We need funds for the next phases of our lawsuit against the BLM.
Please give to help the fight to spare the wild mares!
I need your help NOW to move ahead with the next phase of our legal effort to stop this waste of taxpayer funded research and blatant cruelty to innocent wild mares.
The time to act is NOW. I can only do this with your help.
“I cannot thank everyone enough for donating to launch this lawsuit. Now we need to raise $7,500 to cover the next steps to help these wild horses. We truly value your loyal support of our work. Working together we have changed many horses’ lives for the better!”
The BLM recently released its decision to conduct sterilization experiments on 200 wild mares in partnership with Oregon State University (OSU).
These experiments are cruel, dangerous and even deadly. Yet again, the BLM refused to heed public comments against moving forward and to consider safe alternatives. OSU also ignored public protests.
Actual Wording From the Decision Record:
Pregnant mares will be used in portions of this proposed action…
While the surgical field may not be entirely sterile…
Mares will be categorized in 4 gestational stages (less than 4 months, 4-8 months, over 8 months and open/not pregnant)… approximately 25 horses from each stage of pregnancy will be used for ovariectomy and 10-15 for each stage for tubal ligation.
Abortions, complications, and behavioral changes will be noted.
Successful births will be recorded and any fetal abnormalities will be noted.
Major complications that lead to the death or necessary euthanasia of a mare are anticipated to be less than 2 percent…
During implementation, if any gestational stage group in any procedure meets a major complication rate greater than 20 percent, then the procedure will be stopped.
Tubal ligation: There are no known studies using this technique to permanently sterilize domestic mares, therefore the duration of the surgical procedure is not entirely known.
Hysteroscopically-guided Laser Ablation Study: There are no known studies using this technique to permanently sterilize wild or domestic mares.
Safe and alternative methods for management on the range and PZP darting for population control show positive results but remain under-funded and under-utilized.
Abortions, complications, fetal abnormalities, lack of sterile environment, procedures leading to death, potential 2% death rate, never before used techniques – this is beyond appalling, beyond outrageous.
And we won’t stand for it!
I need your help NOW to move forward with decisive action to stop this waste of taxpayer funded research and blatant cruelty to innocent wild mares.
The time to act is NOW. I can only do this with your help. We need to raise $5,000 to initiate the next step to help these wild horses. Click here to make a donation.
Please send your most generous gift to give these poor mares a last chance.
Yesterday, U.S. House Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) took the floor and spoke out to defend America’s wild horses from the BLM’s dangerous mass sterilization plans:
“These kind of procedures destroy the wild nature of wild horses. They are a waste of taxpayer money and are inhumane.”
Over 100 years ago it was estimated that two million wild horses roamed freely. Tens of thousands ended up slaughtered for dog and cat food, captured and treated most cruelly. A wild horse advocacy movement began and gained massive public support. By 1971 the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (of 1971) was unanimously passed in Congress.
However, opponents have relentlessly poisoned politicians to amend the Act in favor of special interests such as livestock grazing, oil and gas
exploration, and even big game hunting. Lands designated by law for wild horse and burro use have been drastically reduced. The mustangs and burros have been kept from water sources by livestock grazers who fence off areas for cattle grazing. Wild horses and burros have been shot and killed or left to die. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has rounded up wild horses until most herds are well below genetic viability. More mustangs are crammed into government holding facilities than remain in the wild. Wild horses and burros are injured and even die due to yearly removals.
And our taxpayer dollars fund all of this to the tune of millions of dollars!
I need you to help us continue to fight against the BLM’s mismanagement of the Wild Horse and Burro Program and the powerful, wealthy special interests whose lobbyists spread lies about over population, over-grazing, and promote a “management to extinction” policy.
Just last week, dirty politics were in full force at a hearing by the House Natural Resources Committee’s Public Lands Subcommittee. Here are a few of the comments made by wild horse opponents:
A Nevada rancher and livestock vet (J.J. Goicoechea) put forth his ‘solutions’ for managing wild horses and burros (1) round up 100% of the herds; (2) remove 40,000 animals to get down to the low Appropriate Management Level; (3) use mass euthanasia and/or sale for slaughter to dispose of the 40,000 horses and burros captured, and for the 44,000 already in government holding; and (4) surgically sterilize all horses and burros who remain on the range.
Rep. Cynthia Loomis (R-WY) promoted “lovely and peaceful euthanasia” of wild horses “whose wild lives are over.”
Committee Chairman Tom McClintock claimed that animal rights groups are responsible for “mass starvation” of wild horses on the range. He went on to state that wild horses should be managed like livestock and “harvested” when their numbers increase.
Democrats were not present as they were holding a sit-in regarding gun control. One lone advocate, Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation, stood steadfast for the wild horses and was treated with disdain and extreme rudeness.
Save the Mares
Now at least 200 wild mares held captive in Oregon are facing cruel, unnecessary and barbaric experiments in attempts to “just see” if sterilization procedures might work. It is well known that some of these procedures are not even performed on domestic mares… and certainly none have been done on wild ones.
The BLM has ignored the thousands of public comments opposing these appalling procedures which you can read about more here (click here for BLM’s decision record on the dangerous to deadly sterilization experiments).
The BLM’s document clearly points out the lack of a sterile environment for the procedures where attempts will be made to ‘make the best of it’. It indicates that major complications leading to death or necessary euthanasia of a mare are anticipated to be less than two percent. They note that if any gestational group in any of the three procedures meets a major complication rate of greater than twenty percent, then the procedure will be stopped.
The mares are to be monitored for post-operative complications which can include pain (such as colic, anorexia) as well as bleeding, infection or signs of abortion.
Pregnant mares and fillies as young as 8 months of age are slated to be part of this appalling research. Not long after the surgeries, surviving mares will be exposed to stallions.
What We Know:
There are more humane and cost effective alternatives for wild horse and burro population control that are being under-funded and under-utilized. The fertility vaccine (PZP) is a primary example of population control available for over 20 years which keeps horses managed on the range. Sterilized herds will ensure wild horses are forever removed from our taxpayer funded lands – public lands allocated to them by law.
Wild horses value freedom and family just as we do. Their beauty, independence and strong family bonds are qualities we admire. Escalation of removals, macabre sterilization experiments and slaughter are NOT viable options.
Will you help us demand an end to the BLM catering to special interests?
Will you speak up for America’s dwindling wild horse herds before it’s too late?
Contact the BLM to voice your opposition to their cruel sterilization research, [email protected]
Contact your Congressional representatives and inform them of these unnecessary experiments and the need for humane, common sense alternatives to be implemented. Locate your reps at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov.
Front Range Equine Rescue continues to fight and advocate for America’s fast disappearing wild horse herds. We’ve rescued mustangs from auctions and kill buyers and waged legal battles on their behalf. Please join us in continuing to spare them from more cruelty at the hands of powerful special interests and uncaring politicians.
The sterilization procedures proposed on wild mares are nothing short of barbaric, cruel and simply put – outrageous. These procedures are rarely performed on domestic horses because of the complications under the best of circumstances. The fact that the procedures will be carried out in the field versus under sterile surgical conditions alone will result in complete failure and the death of many if not all of the mares. The fact that the procedures are proposed to be done on wild mares is negligent and unethical – it is impossible to monitor these mares and provide needed antibiotics and pain control. The risks far outweigh the benefits. I would urge the BLM to continue to expand on the use of range management of wild horse populations through the use of PZP – a safe and effective fertility vaccine. This system has been proven to work without jeopardizing the lives of the horses that are part of our heritage. – – Laureen Bartfield, DVM cVSMT Director, SNAP-NC
It’s not too late to continue to fight for these innocent horses.
This research is cruel, unnecessary, barbaric and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Alternatives for population control exist and have been under-utilized.
Dirty politics continue to play a key role in eliminating America’s few remaining wild horse herds.
Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee’s Public Lands Subcommittee hearing made this blatantly clear when Rep. Cynthia Loomis (R-WY) called for the “lovely and peaceful euthanasia” (i.e., killing) of all the wild horses and burros in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) holding pens because their “wild lives are over.” A Nevada rancher, J.J. Goicoechea, called for mass roundups and sterilization.
Other wild horse and burro haters demanded lifting the prohibition on sending them to slaughter, actually suggesting 40,000 in holding pens be shipped for slaughter.
Democrats for this subcommittee were not present as they were at the sit-in on gun control. Wild horses and burros had only one friend to testify truthfully on their behalf, Ginger Kathrens of the Cloud Foundation, who was treated with rudeness and contempt by these public servants.
Contact BLM to voice your concerns against their cruel sterilization research: [email protected]
Inform your Congressional representatives of these unnecessary experiments. The 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was not intended to allow for brutal experimentation on these national icons.
Horses have played important roles in human history.
Where human footprints are found, so too are hoof prints.
Equines were our primary mode of transportation helping to settle ancient lands as well as sending Americans westward.
The Pony Express delivered the mail as other horses and mules worked on ranches and farm lands. Paddy wagons and fire trucks were pulled by horses. Thousands of horses were injured or died as they carried brave soldiers into battle.
From the right, from the left, and from the front, shot and shell poured in upon us. Many a brave man went down, many a horse fell, flinging his rider to the earth; many a horse without a rider ran wildly out of the ranks: then terrified of being alone with no hand to guide him, came pressing in amongst his old companions, to gallop with them to the charge. Fearful as it was, no one stopped, no one turned back.
-‘Captain, An Old War Horse’ from Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Today, horses are used for pleasure, sport/competition, ranching, and as companion animals. Their therapeutic benefits have aided countless special needs children and adults including great advances with autistic youth. Programs using horses with wounded warriors are producing extremely positive results.
We honor those who serve our country.
My father, a retired Army captain, used to drive past the stables at Fort Myer in Virginia so his horse crazy daughter (me) might catch a glimpse of the horses kept there. It was a bittersweet day decades later as we walked behind the horse drawn caisson to bury my dad at Arlington National Cemetery.
In Loving Memory
Front Range Equine Rescue’s work is both heart-warming and heart breaking. We want to thank all of our loyal donors for allowing us to save the lives of horses in need, particularly those in danger of slaughter both domestic and wild.
To the “forgotten ones” where the suffering and abuse have gone on too long or to an extreme where humane euthanasia is the only option…
To the track horses who are over-drugged, raced too young, breakdown, die or end up at slaughter…
To stopping the war on America’s mustangs with cruel roundups taking away their freedom and destroying family bands forever…
To those rescued, rehabilitated and with a happy ending…
And we honor our brave horses whose lives we seek to change for the better. We salute the brave men and women of our military this Memorial Day weekend.
In 2015, Front Range Equine Rescue filed appeals with the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) on behalf of the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herds (OR) and the West Douglas Creek herd (CO). IBLA has denied the appeals claiming that we do not have legal “standing”.
In response, our attorney filed in federal court against IBLA’s decision on the Oregon case.
A conference hearing with a judge has been set. Additional filings will be required to keep this critical case before the court.
Meanwhile, our legal team must prepare a similar reply against IBLA on behalf of the West Douglas herd in Colorado. Federal judges must rule that Front Range indeed does have legal standing.
It is critical we have this opportunity so that the actual cases for each herd can be brought before the respective courts.
As you know, legal efforts are very costly and time consuming. We have very strong cases on behalf of these wild horse herds.
Just as we fought to stop the expansion of horse slaughter in the United States and succeeded where no one had gone before, we hope to make new inroads against the ongoing destruction of America’s wild horses.
Will you help our wild horses by supporting our strong legal efforts?
Our legal fund is being drained with multiple efforts and your tax deductible contribution will truly make a difference for giving the wild ones their day in court.
No donation is too small to keep this effort moving forward!
Please pledge now to help the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herds and Colorado’s West Douglas Creek herd.
Earlier this year, the BLM announced their plan to work with Oregon State University (OSU) to experiment on 225 wild mares at the BLM’s short-term holding facility in Hines, OR.
Wild mares will be subjected to brutal and invasive sterilization experiments where the procedures cause infection, hemorrhaging, and even death, not to mention sheer terror and pain to the horses. Most of the wild mares are pregnant. Fillies as young as 8 months are included in the experiments. BLM’s environmental assessment noted that many pregnant mares may abort and more than a few will die during the “research” process.
The BLM wants three sterilization methods tested — ovariectomy via colpotomy, tubal ligation and hysteroscopically-guided laser ablation. The last two procedures the BLM describes as “minimally invasive” but they have never been done on wild mares (and rarely on any horses). The ovariectomy via colpotomy is not commonly done with domestic mares. When it is, it’s done in a sterile environment, usually done with an assisted laparoscopic camera, and the mares are not pregnant. They are also not wild. There is nothing sterile about a holding facility. The pre-operative and post-operative procedures do not comply with acceptable veterinary standards of care.
Barbaric Research Terrifies Mares
The wild mares will be completely terrified being confined in a chute and having an incision made in their vaginas so a veterinarian’s arm can reach in and tear out their ovaries. The possibility of the mares panicking in spite of sedation is high. They could break their necks in the chute, die from sedation, or their hearts can stop from sheer terror.
This barbaric research does not help to address the current issue of wild horse population management. However, it does further delay the use of PZP which is a reversible birth control vaccine. PZP does not alter herd structure or the hormonal balance of wild horses and was recommended by the National Academies of Science as a well-proven methodology, unlike surgical sterilization.
OSU’s Animal Care and Use Committee is expected to make a decision this week about moving
ahead with the proposed research.
The BLM is planning barbaric, archaic and dangerous sterilization experiments on captured wild mares at its Wild Horse Corral Facility in Hines, Oregon.
These experiments have never before been performed on wild horses or, in the case of two of the three proposed procedures, in horses anywhere at all.
The agency is accepting public comments on an Environmental Assessment (EA) through February 10.
Warning (graphic description): At least 100 mares — 75 of whom will be pregnant — will be subjected to “ovariectomy via colpotomy,” a dangerous procedure in which a veterinarian makes an incision in the mare’s vagina, inserts his arm into the vaginal cavity, manually locates the ovaries and rips them out using an “ecraseur,” a rod-like device with a chain on the end. The painful procedure will subject mares to the risk of infection, hemorrhage and evisceration (intestines coming through the incision) and cause mares in the early to mid-stages of pregnancy to abort their fetuses.
In domestic mares, this procedure is not common, but when performed, requires a post-surgical 4-7 days stall confinement, during which the first 48 hours are spent in crossties to prevent the mare from lying down. No such restraint is possible in wild mares, and the BLM intends to turn them out to corrals after the surgery with open incisions and no restrictions on movement. This fact led the National Research Council (NRC) to conclude that the fatality rate for the BLM’s proposed experiment would be “higher than the one percent reported in the published literature,” which is based on surgery performed in domestic mares. The NRC stated that less invasive techniques would be preferable to this procedure in wild mares.
Less Invasive Procedures
Two less invasive experimental procedures also proposed would use endoscopes to achieve sterilization without removal of the ovaries. These procedures have never been done in horses, domestic or wild.
Front Range Equine Rescue has submitted comments to BLM in opposition to this heinous research plan as have other advocacy groups and thousands of individuals.
By the end of 2015, FRER had filed appeals with the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) on behalf of the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herds (OR) and West Douglas Creek herd (CO).
The BLM filed to have our appeals dismissed; our attorneys filed replies to the BLM’s opposition.
Just recently, the IBLA failed to follow long standing precedent with regard to “standing” and ruled that Front Range could not pursue its claim against the BLM with regard to the Oregon herds.
On January 27, FRER sued the BLM and the IBLA in federal court. We are pursuing our case because the BLM is in violation of the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act with respect to the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herds.
The BLM is artificially manipulating the genetic make-up of these herds to produce a “specialty” breed of horses it can sell for a profit. Our argument states the BLM is in direct violation of the Congressional mandate to let wild horses remain in their natural state, and to never create a zoo-like atmosphere on the range.
PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – A federal breeding program for wild horses whose ancestors “helped settle the West” will reduce herds’ genetic health and create a “zoo-like atmosphere,” horse-lovers claim in Federal Court.
Front Range Equine Rescue sued the Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Board of Land Appeals on Wednesday, in Federal Court, in a new twist in long-running legal battles over the management of the West’s wild horses.
In May 2014 the BLM sought to “artificially” create a mustang breeding pool in the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herd management areas, about 50 miles south of Burns, Ore., Front Range says in the complaint.
The Kiger herd area spans 62,992 acres in eastern Oregon, and its herd typically ranges from 51 to 82 wild horses. The Riddle Mountain herd has 33 to 56 wild horses.
In July and August 2015, Front Range says, the BLM rounded up all the wild and free-roaming horses in the areas.
Appealing the Federal Decision to Eliminate Wild Horses
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.
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.
About Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER)
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.
View the “Summary Report, America’s Mustangs & Burros: What’s Left, The High Cost of Miscalculating and Will They Survive?” by C.R. MacDonald, October 2009.
Special report by Peabody award winner George Knapp – A hard-hitting and eye-opening investigation into the wild horse issue and BLM’s management practices. Watch the 5-part series – click each link to view:
FRER’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 had 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.
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.