Save the Wild Horses
Front Range Equine Rescue works to end the abuse and neglect of horses, both domestic and wild, through rescue and education programs. Late in 2004, former Senator Conrad Burns slipped an amendment into an appropriations bill which eroded protections to mustangs provided by the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The Burns Amendment allowed for wild horses over the age of 10 and those put up for adoption at least three times, but not placed, to be removed from the adoption program and into a sale program. This left the door wide open for wild horses to be sold for commercial purposes such as slaughter.
It was quickly discovered that wild horses were being bought and sent to slaughter.
In response, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) made an adjustment to their sale documentation where potential buyers signed to indicate they did not “intend” for the horse(s) to go to slaughter. However, horses continued heading to slaughter and it was discovered that one buyer had sent well over 1,000 mustangs to their deaths. The sale program was further changed to then allow buyers to purchase only four horses every six months unless they receive special approval from top BLM officials. Buyers also must tell the BLM where agents can find the horses for six months after the purchase.
In 2005, Front Range Equine Rescue launched its “Save the Wild Horses” campaign in direct response to the Burns Amendment and has expanded this program as wild horse and burro protections continue to be abused and eroded. This national campaign assists mustangs with direct rescue from the slaughter pipeline, educates FRER supporters and the general public on wild horse issues, advocates on behalf of increased protections for wild horses especially with regard to ending unnecessary and brutal round ups, coordinates supporters in petition drives directed at government agencies or officials on behalf of wild horses, submits responses to BLM proposed wild horse and burro actions during required public comment periods, and engages in legal actions where violations of the 1971 Act occur.
Starting in 2006, Front Range Equine Rescue was able to begin assisting wild horses and burros through legal action to help protect them from the government’s mismanagement. Both the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service have jurisdiction over wild horse and burro herds in the 10 Western states where wild ones still live. Lawsuits were based upon violations of federal law, in particular the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Thanks to donor support, FRER joined with other wild horse advocates or filed on its own to help with protections for the following:
- 2006: Pryor Mountain wild horse herd (MT/WY)
- 2009: Pryor Mountain wild horse herd (MT/WY)
- 2009: West Douglas Creek herd (CO) to stop round up to zero out the herd
- 2012-2014: state and federal level lawsuits to stop re-opening of U.S. horse slaughter plants which impacts both domestic and wild horses
- 2015: Kiger wild horses (OR)
- 2016: Warm Springs (OR) wild mares slated for roundup and dangerous sterilization procedures
- 2018: Warm Springs (OR) wild mares slated for dangerous sterilization procedures
- 2018: Devil’s Garden wild horse herd (Modoc National Forest, CA) stop sale without limitations; stop sale to slaughter
- 2022: Spring Mountain Herd (NV) lawsuit filed to protect captured wild mares from dangerous, untested sterilization methods
- 2023: Lawsuit filed to stop mass removals in Wyoming herd management areas (HMAs) for Salt Wells, Great Divide, White Mountain and Adobe Town.
Please note that legal efforts are both costly and can take years to come to a conclusion. Dedicated donor support was instrumental in allowing FRER to join lawsuits or bring them as a lead plaintiff.
In addition to filing lawsuits where appropriate, FRER has been actively involved in reviewing and calling out deficiencies in the BLM’s plans to engage in dangerous and unproductive sterilization experiments on wild horses. See, e.g., BLM, Nevada HMA Wild Horse Gather Plan, DOI-BLM-NV-S030-2020-0003-EA (June 2020); BLM, Swasey HMA Wild Horse Gather Plan, DOI-BLM-UT-W020-2020-0002-EA (Feb. 2020); BLM, Spay Feasibility and On-Range Outcomes, DOI-BLM-ORWA-B050-2019-0013-EA (June 2019); BLM, Spay Feasibility and On-Range Behavioral Outcomes Assessment and Warm Springs HMA Population Management Plan, DOI-BLM-ORWA-B050-2018-0016-0013-EA (July 2018); Mare Sterilization Research EA, DOI-BLM-OR-B000-2015-0055-EA (Jan. 2016). In 2021, Front Range Equine Rescue continued to submit public comments on behalf of herds in Utah and other western states where the BLM’s plans have included options for dangerous, untested and even deadly sterilization procedures or other violations of lawful wild horse and burro protections.
In addition, Front Range Equine Rescue consistently has supported and commented on the humane, scientifically valid and viable use of the PZP vaccine for wild horses in order to limit population growth and ensure wild horses’ ability to remain in their natural habitat. FRER is concerned that some of the BLM’s approaches to management of wild horses, such as removals of wild horses based on physical characteristics and without baseline genetic diversity assessments, castration of wild stallions, creation of small, isolated population pockets without sufficient genetic exchange, and surgical sterilization of mares are unnecessarily harmful to wild horses and medically and scientifically questionable and irresponsible. These methods are not the minimal feasible management of wild horses mandated by Congress, and they violate the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (“Wild Horses Act”) because they do not protect wild horses in the long-term as an important cultural and natural resource on public lands.
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