My Turn: Is BLM mismanaging wild horses?

OpEd by Paula King as printed in the Taos News

“The fate of New Mexico’s wild horses is at stake…”
photo by Terry Fitch

photo by Terry Fitch

How many New Mexicans realize the damage being done to our state’s wild horse herds by the Bureau of Land Management?

Of the two remaining Wild Horse Management Areas, Jarita has been managed to a point where it is no longer genetically viable. The proposed roundups at Jicarilla, New Mexico’s largest herd, will reduce that herd to a perilous level as well.

In 1971 Congress unanimously passed The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act which states: “… wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West … It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the areas where presently found (1971) as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”

Unfortunately, over the years the clout of this progressive, ecologically balanced law has been thwarted by possessive people with strong economic power; 53.8 million acres were designated for wild horse and burro use in 1971; today only 31.6 million remain.

More than 50,000 wild horses and burros languish in long term holding, while some equine authorities estimate the number of free-roaming horses is 20,000.

The fate of New Mexico’s horses is at stake. The BLM Preliminary Environmental Assessment on the Jicarilla Wild Horse Management Area (JMA) proposes the round up of 272-333 wild horses in winter 2013.

Currently the herd is estimated at about 400 horses; BLM’s “Appropriate Management Level” (AML) for this herd is 73-128 horses. The BLM claims, “Excess wild horses need to be removed before an overpopulation compounded with other escalating problems such as drought severely degrade resources, induce suffering in wild horses and wildlife, and lead to an emergency situation.”

However, the scientific data on accurate population counts is questionable.

According to E. Gus Cothran, the leading equine geneticist, the minimum number of horses needed for a herd to be genetically viable is 150-200 adult horses.

The proposed use of helicopters for round up instead of bait trapping is also an issue of concern. Helicopter roundups are inhumane, traumatizing and life threatening assaults. Horses are stampeded over long distances at high speeds, across steep and rocky terrain.

Broken legs and necks are not uncommon. Foals are often run until their hooves separate from their legs. Family units are separated causing even further trauma.

The BLM says that horses will be put up for adoption, however, its fair to say that most of the horses will end up in long-term holding facilities which the BLM admits are already full.

The BLM claims that the round ups are necessary because of rangeland degradation, and place the blame on the overpopulation of horses. Yet, on the 108,000 acre JMA the wild horses share their legal home with 259 Cattle, 201 Elk and 1862 Mule Deer, 562 oil and gas wells, and 121 miles of associated access roads on the herd area. On average each well impacts 3 acres of rangeland. Oil and gas development will most likely increase.

The BLM is charged with balancing multiple uses on Federal Lands. But of the 245 million acres BLM manages, only 11 percent is designated for wild horses and burros, and on those lands only 2 percent of the forage is allocated to wild horses.

Obviously, on land designated for wild horses and burros,  other wildlife, livestock, and oil and gas have been given higher priorities. Our nation’s wild horses have become a scapegoat, victims of greed and special interests.

The Jicarilla Herd now faces the same fate as 160 herds zeroed out by the BLM since 1971. Jarita is already close to extinction. But there is still hope. Public outcry against the roundups is loud but needs to be louder and more widespread. Your input is needed.

Who is to blame? We can blame the BLM for following out-dated, unscientific strategies for population control and rangeland management; the Secretary of Interior for promoting the BLM assault against wild horse and burros; the oil and gas companies for their greed; the ranchers who enjoy the benefit of grazing their livestock cheaply on federal land.

But the bottom line is this.  If our state’s, if our nation’s wild horse herds are managed to extinction as many predict, we have no one to blame but ourselves for not speaking out and taking action.

Click (HERE) to visit the Taos News and to join the Conversation

Reprint: Madeleine Pickens PRAISES Salazar Wild Horse Plan

HorseTalk, October 10, 2009

A Leopard CAN Change Her Spots!
Madeleine Pickens at the 2011International Equine Conference ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Madeleine Pickens at the 2011International Equine Conference ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Madeline Pickens, who has been promoting the set-up of a million-acre wildlife reserve to rehome captive wild horses, has praised the latest plan on the table to manage mustangs.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced wide-ranging proposals this week in which horses taken from the Western rangelands would be relocated to new preservation areas further east, utilising better quality grassland.

His plan includes the aggressive use of reproduction controls to manage numbers. Salazar hoped the new herd areas would provide tourism opportunities for nearby communities.

“I am delighted that the Secretary of the Interior has announced reforms for the Wild Horse and Burro Programme,” said Pickens, the wife of Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens.

“Much of what the Secretary said echoes what I have said over the past 18 months.”

“Those concerns about the existing Bureau of Land Management programme led me to seek a wild horse sanctuary/visitor centre that would be available to the American people.

“It is gratifying to know that the effort I have made in the past year and a half to offer this project for the sake of the wild horses and the American people has borne fruit in Washington.

“I respect Secretary Salazar’s forthright candour in calling attention to this serious problem, which has been ignored by the bureau for many years under previous administration.

Pickens said she would support Secretary Salazar’s efforts, and would gladly compete to offer the wild horse sanctuary that she has planned to the bureau as one of the facilities proposed by Secretary Salazar.

Pickens is behind the National Wild Horse Foundation, which has been promoting her plan to provide a permanent home for captive wild horses, which now stand at 32,000 – just 1000 fewer than the number that still roam wild across the western rangelands.

Under the so-called Pickens Plan, the foundation would buy and operate a ranch for the sole purpose of providing proper care and a perpetual home for the horses.

It would have year-long grazing capability, federal and private land for management flexibility, sufficient private land for hay production for at least 20,000 head during tough times – drought, deep snow, and rangeland fire – adequate water and sufficient size to support the horses.

The foundation would enter into a contract or co-operative agreement with the Secretary of Interior to relocate the 9000 wild horses currently held in short-term holding corrals to the ranch, and to accept future non-adopted wild horses.

The total population of horses on the ranch would be determined by its carrying capacity, but is anticipated to be 20,000 to 30,000 head. The horse population would be managed as a non reproductive herd.

The foundation would be able to take an extra 2000 to 4000 animals annually from future government wild-horse gathers.

Pickens believes her plan has the potential to save the bureau and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually.

Public Funds to Pay for Pickens Desert Equine Disneyland Study

Published by the Elko Daily Free Press

“These horses are going to kill that country…”

“This is a case where dumb meets dumber.  Maddy Pickens trying to build a petting zoo for castrated BLM geldings calling them wild horses and in so doing condemns the true wild horses on 3 HMAs while the local rubes don’t know the difference between a horse and a jack rabbit (most consider the six grade to be their Senior Year, and it shows).  Personally, I believe that they deserve each other.  It’s disgusting!!!” ~ R.T.

Pay the money and you can see non-reproducing herds of captive horses…Yippieeee

ELKO — From the onset, certain locals have opposed the idea of a wild horse eco-sanctuary as a tool for managing the range. Objections were raised recently over federal dollars paying for the project’s scoping.

The Northeast Nevada Wild Horse Eco-Sanctuary is to be located about 25 miles south of Wells on more than 500,000 acres of public land and about 14,000 acres of private land. It will be federally owned but privately run.

The eco-sanctuary is in its early stages and still at least one and a half years and many steps down the road.

Most recently, the Bureau of Land Management hired a contractor — Environmental Management and Planning Solutions Inc. — to guide the development of an environmental impact statement, which will require the company to scope the project, collect and analyze data, and draft the document.

Ralph Sacrison, chairman of the Elko County Natural Resources and Management Advisory Committee, asked Elko District BLM Associate District Manager Dave Overcast at a meeting earlier this month why taxpayers were on the hook for EIS costs. A mining company for instance, he argued, involved with a project on public land would be responsible for funding a similar study.

Sacrison suggested Save America’s Mustangs — the group that will manage the eco-sanctuary and brainchild of Madeleine Pickens — pay the contractor.

“How come, suddenly, when someone wants to study mustangs I (a taxpayer) have to foot the bill?” Sacrison said.

The difference between the two examples, project manager Terri Dobis said in an interview, is that managing wild horses is a BLM responsibility. In this case, the BLM asked for horse and burro management ideas and an eco-sanctuary was decided upon. A gold mine exploring for ore on public land would do so by approaching the agency, not the other way around. That mine then would be responsible for financing costs of environmental analysis.

Committee member and former state assemblyman John Carpenter, who facetiously asked Overcast if those conducting the study were cowboys, doubted EMPSi had any on-the-ground knowledge of wild horses gained through ranching and being around horses.

“I don’t believe any of these people know anything about managing horses. They’ve never lived with wild horses like I have,” he said. “You cannot manage them. Pretty soon they get so mean and they get so smart that you cannot manage them.”

To do so, he said, many large fences would need to be constructed and even then, a permanent concentration of horses could dramatically alter the range.

“These horses are going to kill that country,” Carpenter said.

The company provided a proposal that was reviewed before the bid was accepted, according to Dobis. The BLM took into account EMPSi’s knowledge and competence.

“EMPSi has extensive experience with BLM Nevada,” Dobis said. “They have people on staff with experience with horses. They are qualified — otherwise we wouldn’t be working with them.”

Yet to be released is the amount the BLM is paying EMPSi. At the advisory board meeting, Carpenter asked how much the contract for the environmental impact statement cost. Overcast said he didn’t have that information with him.

Dobis passed a request made by the Free Press for the contract amount on to contract specialist Susan Corbeil. Corbeil passed the same request on to the BLM State office Public Affairs Specialist Chris Rose.

Rose said he needed to get the information from the project manager and contract specialist — Dobis and Corbeil.

The target date for the record of decision is June 2014.

“Our actual scoping period has ended but we are still taking ideas and we still want public involvement,” Dobis said. “We really do want public involvement. It’s really important that we get that.”

To make a suggestion or a comment, call the BLM Elko District office at 753-0200 and ask for Terri Dobis.

Year Old BLM Wild Horse Slaughter Case Nearing Conviction

By , of the Deseret News

“At Least this is Something…”

A truck hauling horses travels the highway near Helper, Friday, Aug. 5, 2011. The horses were impounded by federal agents at the port of entry. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — More than a year after indictments were handed down by a federal grand jury, the case against a pair of Utah men accused in a horse slaughtering ring is winding down to a close.

Multiple charges were brought in September 2011 against Robert Wilford Capson, of West Jordan, and Dennis Kay Kunz for their part in fraudulently obtaining Bureau of Land Management wild horses for intended sale for slaughter in Mexico.

More than 60 horses were intercepted by federal agents and impounded at port of entry outside of Helper in Carbon County on U.S. 6 in August 2011.

The indictment said Capson purchased the horses on paper from the Wild Horse and Burro Facility in Herriman, indicating to the federal agency the animals were to be used as rodeo stock in Ibapah, Tooele County.

Wild horses deemed ineligible for adoption are routinely sold by the BLM, but such transactions require would-be buyers to affirm the animals will not be resold and, in particular, are not destined for slaughter houses in Mexico or Canada.

Capson, according to the indictment, purchased the horses and delivered them in Willard, Box Elder County, to Kunz, whose involvement was deliberately kept under the radar because of his reputation as a “kill buyer” of horses.

Agents tracked the animals to Willard, where Kunz provided the tractor, trailer and fuel with the intent to get the animals to Presidio, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Capson pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of wire fraud. He received one year probation and was ordered to pay $9,400 in restitution.

In a plea deal struck this month with U.S. prosecutors, Kunz agreed to an identical resolution in the case and will be sentenced in January by Judge Dale Kimball.

Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City, said felony convictions for both men are an appropriate conclusion for the case.

“In this case, which involved an undercover sting operation by the BLM, the horses were never in danger,” Rydalch said. “These felony convictions, however, should send a strong message to others that this is conduct that will be aggressively prosecuted.”

Simone Netherlands, managing director of the wild horse advocacy group Respect4Horses, praised the outcome of the case, but noted the Utah incident is symptomatic of a larger, widespread problem that largely goes unnoticed by the federal agency tasked with managing wild horse populations.

“At least this is something,” Netherlands said. “This should be a reason for kill buyers to be a little more cautious and a little more scared.”

The last U.S. horse slaughter plant shut down in 2007, a year after Congress effectively instituted a ban by not funding U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections of horses transported for slaughter for human consumption.

Click (HERE) to visit Deseret News and join in the Conversation

Accused Montana Horse Abuser’s Second Day in Court

Story by Brad Carl of Billings’

Graphic Images Shock the Courtroom

BILLINGS – James Leachman, who operated a ranch on the Crow Reservation, has been charged with multiple accounts of animal abuse for five horses that he owned on his property. On Wednesday, the prosecution called in witnesses to the abuse and an equine veterinarian who said the horses were indeed suffering.

Testimony from Dr. Jenifer Gold, an experienced equine veterinarian, showed that the horses had tight, zip-tie like, bands tightly attached to their legs. These identification bands are most commonly used for cows, but almost never for horses, according to Gold because horses have little in the way of muscle tissue in their lower legs and can become easily injured. In this case, many of the animals endured a slow and agonizing death because the bands rubbed their legs raw to the bone, which according to Gold took only took a few months.

“From the skin down to the bone is a very short amount of time. So if you have a band on that leg, you are more likely to cause damage because there is not muscle around that leg to try to keep it from getting constricted,” explained Gold.

The five horses involved in the case all suffered from swollen limbs, were not eating because of their injuries, and most could hardly even move around due to the pain and inability to walk.

Gold says of the five horses in question, she would have recommended euthanasia for all of them because their injuries were not recoverable and the horses were very clearly in a great deal of pain.

If convicted on all charges, Leachman could face up to 16 years in prison.

The testimony from additional witnesses will continue Thursday.

Click (HERE) to join the Conversation at Billings’ Channel 8

Native Wild Horses & Burros Misclassified to Push for Massive Removals

Press Release from Protect

Conservation group wants error fixed and wild horses used to combat desertification

BLM Removing Native Wild Horses from Nevada’s Antelope Complex ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

SAN FRANCISCO, Ca. (November 28, 2012)–Native wild horses have been erroneously classified as “feral” horses in the recent publication in the journal Environmental Management. The authors of the report call for wild horse removals from U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management rangeland–to fight climate change. The report also calls for the removal of livestock grazing on public land and reintroduction of predators to control native ungulate populations. Protect Mustangs is asking for the errors to be corrected because America’s wild horses are a native species and play an important role in reversing desertification. The horse E. caballus originated in North America. The Conquistadors reintroduced the native species to it’s native land and therefore these native ungulates must be protected.

“This report has glaring errors,” states Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs. “It avoids classifying America’s wild horses as natives to justify removing them from large areas of public land. Commercial livestock and the extractive industry is destroying the range not wild horses. We object to the proposal to remove native wild horses. We request they rectify the error calling them “feral” horses. Indigenous wild horses need to be protected not wiped out. They can help heal the land.”

Science proves wild horses are native wildlife in North America. According to a paper by esteemed PhD.s J.F. Kirkpatrick and P.M. Fazio entitled Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife:

“The key element in describing an animal as a native species is (1) where it originated; and (2) whether or not it co‐evolved with its habitat. Clearly, E. caballus did both, here in North American. There might be arguments about ‘breeds,’ but there are no scientific grounds for arguments about ‘species’.”

“The non‐native, feral, and exotic designations given by agencies are not merely reflections of their failure to understand modern science but also a reflection of their desire to preserve old ways of thinking to keep alive the conflict between a species (wild horses), with no economic value anymore (by law), and the economic value of commercial livestock.”


The newly published Environmental Management report titled Adapting to Climate Change on Western Public Lands: Addressing the Ecological Effects of Domestic, Wild and Feral Ungulates calls to protect large tracts of the range and suggests climate change will worsen impacts. The report calls to remove the miscategorized “feral” horses as well as burros from large areas of public land.

In contrast, Princeton University and the Savory Institute have stated wild herds heal the grasslands. Recently Princeton published studies mentioned in Wildlife and cows can be partners not enemies in search for food. The Savory Institute has proved that Holistic Management, which mimics wild herds such as wild horses, can heal the land so livestock can thrive.

“Removing the very last of the wild herds is a bad idea and calling native wild horses feral is bad science,” states Inez Fort, vice president of Protect Mustangs’ board of directors.

Protect Mustangs is asking the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to utilize native wild horse herds to combat climate change and help livestock grazing programs on public land. Reintroducing predators, to control population in a natural way, is deemed acceptable by the wild horse conservation group.

“Native wild horses heal the wild land–they can reverse desertification and replenish the biodiversity of the West,” explains Novak.

Links of interest:
Princeton University: Wildlife and cows can be partners, not enemies, in the search for food

Wild Mustang Robin: “Merry Christmas Mr. President”

11 year-old “Wild Mustang Robin” presents a presidential proposal to save America’s wild horses

R.T. Fitch, Wild Horse Freedom Federation, and Wild Mustang Robin at the second, annual International Equine Conference in Las Vegas, Sept. 2012 ~ photo by Terry Fitch

LAS VEGAS — (November 28, 2012) The BLM isn’t the only government organization putting wild horses in danger of slaughter. Today eight horses captured in Lyon County are in danger of being auctioned to people who can sell them to slaughter bringing the total to over 125 auctioned since July!

Thousands of people including 11 year old Robin Warren have petitioned the Governor Brian Sandoval, but the governor refers calls back to a Department of Agriculture representative.  The “livestock auction sale yard [will] not differentiate whether a person is a horse lover or a kill buyer that’s the unfortunate part of this,” department spokesperson Ed Foster said to a News 4 Reno broadcast.

Warren and her mother launched a petition on in October in response to a Pro Publica expose on Tom Davis purchasing wild horses in bulk. The petition asks the BLM to stop selling wild horses to people who can slaughter them.  Over 127,000 people have signed Warren’s petition.

Many people are unaware that states, like Nevada, where the largest population of wild horses live, have the power to circumvent the BLM adoption process.  With a simple newspaper announcement, Nevada sends horses captured by the Department of Agriculture to livestock auctioning.

Desperate to stop the sale of wild horses in her home state Robin has a great idea that will help save at least 2 horses – possible many more. In a video message Robin presents her proposal to the President to pardon two wild horses from slaughter for Christmas like he did for two turkeys on Thanksgiving.

Robin wants the roundups stopped. She doesn’t think it is fair that the BLM or the Department of Agriculture or any person or organization to have an exemption to the laws that protects wild horses.  Selling wild horses to slaughter is “very wrong and illegal in my mind – I may be young but I am still very smart,” says Warren.

A recent announcement by the BLM revealed that thousands of letters received from an animal advocacy group opposing a gather were counted as one group comment.  “Every person is an individual,” explains Robin, “and I want all of my supporters to be counted; the horses belong to all of us.”  Overwhelming public support for Robin’s mission to save the wild horses shows that Americans don’t want wild horses going to slaughter.

Wild Mustang Robin began the petition “Save Wild Horses from Slaughter” October of 2012. The petition asks for the roundups and sale of wild horses by the BLM be suspended until investigated by an independent third party. Robin has collected over 127,000 signatures.

If you would like more information on this topic, or to schedule an interview with Robin Warren, please contact Denise DeLucia at (702) 624‑5927 or

Links of Interest:

Robin’s Video Message to the President

Robin’s video message to the Governor

Link to Robin’s petition to Save Wild Horses from Slaughter (on

Nuisance horses taken out of Virginia Range (Alyx Sacks Reno NBC affiliate)

Petition to Please Help Virginia Range Horses (on

Wild Horse Advocates Bid High to Save horses (Reno news)

Announcement of auction:


AS PER N.R.S. 569.070 NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the following described animal(s) have been taken up as an Estray Animal(s) VRE Horses #1946, #1947, #1948, #1949, #1950, #1951,#1952, and #1953. The Estray Horses were captured near Stage Coach, in Lyon County.

The described animals are being held at The Nevada Prison Ranch, 5500 Synder Ave., Carson City, Nv. The Estray Stallions 1 year and older will be gelded prior to sale…

AS PER N.R.S. 569.080, if an estray animal is not claimed within 5 working days after the last publication of the advertisement, as required before sale or placement, said animal (s) will be available for sale or placement by the Division of Livestock Identification on Wednesday, November 28, 2012, at the Nevada Livestock Market, Fallon, NV.

4780 East Idaho Street
Elko, Nevada 89801

Today’s Date: November 2, 2012.
To: Mason Valley News
Please Publish in the Legal Section, (Estray Animal)
Publish on: November 7, 2012.

4780 East Idaho Street
Elko, Nevada 89801