Livestock Data Fills Gap in Ongoing Wild Horse Debate

SOURCE:  The Daily Pitchfork


Photography: Bryce Gray

BLM and USFS-reported grazing stats reveal the extent of private livestock production on millions of acres of overgrazed western public range and forest land, challenging rancher claims that wild horses and burros are to blame.

by Vickery Eckhoff

A side-by-side analysis of 2014 grazing data shows wild horses greatly outnumbered by millions of privately owned livestock across 251 million acres of western public grass and forest land.

The data includes 2014 year-end grazing receipts of $17.1 million published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service (USFS), a figure that equates to a livestock total of 2.1 million cattle. This is 37 times greater than the 56,656 free-roaming wild horses and burros estimated by both agencies in 2014.

Other BLM and USFS reported data show private livestock allocated 97 percent of the forage across all 251 million acres of BLM and USFS-managed lands. Wild horse and burros inhabit 12 percent of that land and are allocated 3 percent of forage overall.

Read the rest of the article, and find the link to read the fully footnoted analysis by the Daily Pitchfork HERE.


Nevada Politicians Skew Figures and Falsify Facts in Public Propaganda War Against Wild Horses and Burros

“Once again Western Special Interest Politicians are grasping numbers out of their backside where their heads reside most of the time. Without science, fact or evidence they spout out numbers and figures that paint a false representation of what is really going on upon our western public lands. It is Babel speak as usual with the horses and burros catching the flack for the damage to the land that is, instead, caused by tens of thousands of privately owned cattle and sheep. According to these false prophets only the horses eat and poop while the welfare cattle and sheep simply live on air alone…it’s all so very disgusting. Time to vote into office individuals who speak the truth, listen to the public and truly care about our public lands; do such politicians exist? We can only hope.” ~ R.T.

Story By Henry Brean
Las Vegas Review-Journal

“…birth control treatments, “humane euthanasia,” roundups, adoptions and other efforts to shrink herds…”

Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation photographing members of the Cold Creek Herd, Sept. 2012 ~ photo by R.T. Fitch

Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation photographing members of the Cold Creek Herd, Sept. 2012 ~ photo by R.T. Fitch

Republicans in Congress want the Bureau of Land Management to answer for an “ineffective” strategy that has failed to halt the explosion of wild horse and burro populations both on the range and in captivity.

In a Nov. 4 letter to BLM director Neil Kornze, Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei from Nevada and 18 other lawmakers requested a detailed report on what the agency is doing now and what it plans to do in the future to bring horse populations under control.

According to the letter, current strategies “have been largely unsuccessful” across the West, leading to overcrowding in BLM herd management areas and holding facilities, poor herd health and damage to range land.

“Almost half of the 100,000 horses under the purview of the Bureau of Land Management are located in holding facilities off the range, and adoptions have fallen by almost 70 percent in the last 10 years,” the letter says.

The lawmakers are asking the BLM for details on birth control treatments, “humane euthanasia,” roundups, adoptions and other efforts to shrink herds to the agency’s own “appropriate management level” for the West, which calls for a total population of no more than 26,715 horses and burros across 10 states.

As of March 1, there were some 58,150 horses and burros living free on the range, more than half of them in Nevada, according to BLM estimates.

In addition to information on current efforts, Congressional Republicans want Kornze and company to produce four to six detailed plans, including timelines and cost estimates, to “effectively curb the overarching trend of overstocked” herd management areas.

BLM spokesman Craig Leff said the agency is still reviewing the inquiry from Congress and is “committed to improving the health of the horses and the land.”

Leff said the bureau is already working to put its horse and burro program “on a more cost-effective, sustainable track” consistent with the recommendations of a 2013 report by the National Academy of Sciences that determined wild horse and burro populations on federal land in the West were growing at a rate of 15 to 20 percent annually.

“As part of our long-term strategy, the BLM in partnership with universities and the U.S. Geological Survey is developing more effective fertility control methods,” Leff said in an email.

The agency is also “promoting public-private eco-sanctuaries or off-range pastures to hold excess wild horses removed from western public rangelands and working to boost adoptions by making more trained horses available to the public for adoption,” Leff said.

The GOP letter comes two months after the BLM removed more than 200 wild horses said to be on the verge of starvation in the Spring Mountains northwest of Las Vegas. At least 28 of those animals collected from around the tiny community of Cold Creek were later killed because they were deemed too far gone to save.

The BLM’s appropriate management level for the 102,000 acres surrounding Cold Creek is 66 adult horses. In May, the bureau counted about 470 horses in the area.

The BLM rounded up 250 horses from the same herd in 2007 and treated some of the remaining animals with birth control chemicals. One of those mares and her newborn foal were among the horses removed from the range in August.

Heller spokesman Michawn Rich said the federal government has a responsibility to address the wild horse issue, especially in Nevada, where almost 87 percent of the land is under federal control.

“Without proper and responsible management,” said Rich in an email, “these wild horses will continue to suffer and have a devastating impact on range land, sage-grouse habitat, and other agricultural and natural resources.”

A Legendary Breed of Wild Horse Returns to Russia

Story by Svetlana Arkhangelskaya, special to RBTH as published in ‘Russia Beyond the Headlines

There are only about 2,000 Przewalski horses left in the world, but in October six endangered members of this species arrived in Russia. Scientists hope to restore them in the wild, and they are also betting that the horses will contribute to the restoration of the steppe ecosystem.

Wild Outer Mongolian Takhi - photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Wild Outer Mongolian Takhi – photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Zoologists say very few wild horses remain on earth, with the Przewalski horse counting among them. Of the less than 2,000 Przewalski horses left, 300 live in the wild and about 1,500 are in captive breeding programs and zoos. Le Villaret in France is one of the largest natural reserves for these horses.

Recently, six Przewalski horses were brought by plane from France to the Russian city of Orenburg as part of a new program to return them to their original habitat.

China and Mongolia launched their own reintroduction programs in the early 1990s. Also, a few horses were released, as an experiment, into the exclusion zone near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. There, they began to actively proliferate despite the radiation. Now, according to scientists, the Przewalski horse population in the Chernobyl zone amounts to about 100.

Why they left the steppe

About 100 years ago this wild horse was still found in the Eurasian steppes — in the expanses of Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. But the Przewalski horse was driven from its original habitat by man’s development of cattle-breeding. When the horse could no longer roam freely over the expanse of the steppe, the animal perished.

Today, this steppe beauty can be seen only in zoos. Captivity, however, effects these horses adversely because in the wild they were in constant motion, covering many kilometers each day.

As in the case of European bison, when the number of horses in captivity reached a critical mass the question arose of returning the species to the wild. The horses were presented to Orenburg by the French Association for the Przewalski Horse (Association pour le cheval de Przewalski, or TAKH). At the Tour du Valat Biological Station, several generations of horses are kept in a fenced-off area, similar to their natural environment.

The steppe needs the horse

Prehistoric Takhi reintroduced into Outer Mongolia ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Prehistoric Takhi reintroduced into Outer Mongolia ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The reintroduction program was the brainchild of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Orenburg Reserve. Its steppe territory is the historic home of the Przewalski horse, and the steppe needs this horse to survive, literally.

“In steppe ecosystems these animals contribute to their recovery,” said Olga Pereladova, the head of the World Wildlife Fund’s Central Asian program. “If horses are not grazing in the steppe it deteriorates because vegetation is not trampled; overabundance of grass can cause fires.”

According to scientists, it is important not only that the horses have adapted to the new conditions of the Ural steppes, but also that they did not mix with farm-raised horses when stallions expelled competitors from the group.

In this case, the unique gene pool would be lost. That is why the animals were initially placed in the fenced-off reserve, allowing for enough time until a stable population capable of existing under natural selection could be formed. For this, it is necessary to have 1,000 horses, with half being of reproductive age.

Feel Good Sunday: You are the Light

by R.T. Fitch

R.T. Fitch at D.C. RallyI have spent a great deal of time, today, searching for good news in relation to wild horses, burros or just equines in general and let me tell you, the pickings are slim.

So I turned my eyes inward and have realized that I have been remiss in adding any input of my own and have slacked off in writing commentary when perhaps a quick poke in the ribs is due. For all of that, I apologize as the paying job has required more attention (way more attention) than I had foreseen but keep the faith, we are still alive and functioning.

With that said, I ran across a little slide show that I put together back in March of 2010 which documented the “March for Mustangs” protest held in Washington D.C. with contains a multitude of photographs that make my eyes leak, big time. “Why” you ask…because the pictures are of YOU, or at the very least those who represent YOU, normal, stick in your throat, apple pie eating, tax paying Americans who traveled from all points of the country, at their own expense, to protest what was and is still going on with the BLM’s assault against our wild horses and burros. I can’t watch the video without being overwhelmed by your commitment, vigilance, courage and tenacity.

We are going to do it,;hate to keep baiting you but things are in the works to bring this management to extinction to a close. BUT we CANNOT do it without YOU. Each and every one of you plays an important role in your own unique and special way, so please, do not discount yourself.

Check out the ole video, recognize a few of us (I was fatter then), and then let us make NEW news for the wild horses and burros.  Keep the Faith.

Love you guys.



Share Your Love for Wild Horses and Burros at Christmas this Year

…and help save them at the same time

An Open letter from Wild Horse Freedom Federation’s President, R.T. Fitch Logo-yellowbkgd

Fellow Equine Advocates;

Click on image for more information

Click on image for more information

We are greatly honored and pleased to have our own Wild Horse Freedom Federation’s Director of Field Documentation, Carol Walker, host and produce a stunning calendar for us this year. (2016)

Carol’s work is acclaimed internationally and her artistry printed in this calendar speaks volumes to her talent, love and dedication for the last of our wild horses and burros.

We don’t spend much time soliciting funds from hard working advocates because like you, we know that every penny counts. But if you want to help the wild equines, inexpensively clean up your Christmas shopping list AND share your love and commitment to our wild horses and burros with your family and friends then please, look to our calendar to do all of the above and more.

Over 60 award winning photos of the Adobe Town Herd adorn the pages of this dynamic calendar and with every passing day it will remind you of why we do what we do in an effort to save these majestic creatures.

Click on image for more information

Click on image for more information

50% (not 5, 10 or 20) of the proceeds will go directly into the war chest of Wild Horse Freedom Federation so that we can continue our outreach, education and legal battles with those who wish to brush the wild ones off from their rightful range.

Share a piece of us with your family and friends and I assure you that next year will have the potential to sincerely make a difference for those who cannot speak for themselves.

I would like to personally thank all of you for the sacrifices that you have made and for standing with us shoulder to shoulder in this most worthy fight. Together, we can change the future for our beloved wild horses and burros.

Keep the Faith my Friends.

R.T. Fitch
President and Co-founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Ochoco National Forest Revamping Wild Horse Plan

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin /

Current Big Summit herd guidelines have been in place since 1975

OchocoHorsesThe Ochoco National Forest is set to revise a 40-year-old management plan for a wild horse herd near Prineville and is looking for help from the public in the revision.

“We are basically going to redo the plan,” Tory Kurtz, rangeland management specialist for the national forest, said Tuesday.

Congress enacted the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in 1971, and four years later, in 1975, the Ochoco National Forest established a 27,300-acre management area for the Big Summit herd of wild horses. The act protects wild horses in designated areas, which include the more than 42-square-mile Big Summit management area. The management plan for the Big Summit herd, also known as the Ochoco Mustangs, has not been updated since 1975.

Revising the plan is not related to the planned roundup of wild horses east of Lakeview in south-central Oregon. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management began preparations Monday for the roundup of more than 1,000 wild horses in the Beatys Butte herd, drawing criticism from wild horse advocacy groups.

The Big Summit herd is the only wild horse herd in Oregon and Washington solely managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The BLM manages most herds in Oregon.

In the middle of the Ochoco National Forest, just west of Big Summit Prairie, the Big Summit herd management area is predominantly wooded.

Each June, the national forest teams up with volunteers to count the wild horses. The count is conducted on foot or horseback because of the terrain.

This past June, the count showed about 150 wild horses, Kurtz said. While horses in the herd have been captured or adopted in the past, she said that hasn’t occurred since 2010 in part because of the aging management plan. The revised plan probably would detail how to conduct captures and adoptions.

In October 2013, six horses from the herd were found shot, five were dead and one was so badly wounded it was euthanized , all near Big Summit Prairie. The case remains open, according to Ochoco National Forest and Forest Service law enforcement officials.

National forest officials are inviting the public to join a stakeholder group, convened by the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, to develop plan recommendations. Starting in December, the group is set to meet monthly for at least two years, according to the national forest. Overhauling the plan is expected to take up to three years.

The current plan is outdated and does not address modern issues about wild horses, said Gayle Hunt, president of the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition. She is glad the plan is set for an update.

“It’s way overdue,” she said. Established in 2002, the nonprofit aids in the management of wild horses in Central Oregon, particularly the Big Summit herd. Hunt said Ochoco National Forest officials have worked well with people advocating for wild horses.

Issues likely to be tackled in the revised plan include wild horse birth control and adoption programs, both aimed at keeping herd size in check. Kurtz said the current plan does not have a target number for the herd.

What will be in the new plan depends on the direction taken by the stakeholder group.

“We don’t really have anything set in stone,” Kurtz said.

Author Speculates On A Long History Of Human-Horse Companionship


Horses are some of humans’ greatest companions. Wendy Williams, author of ‘The Horse’,  joins NPR’s Scott Simon to talk about that partnership, and how horses interact with other horses in the wild.

Listen to the Story


Prehistoric HorseThere’s a spot on the grasses of the Serengeti in which the steps of small three-toed ancestors of horses seem to fall into the same path as the footprints of early hominids. Were they walking together, hunting together, or did two groups just encounter each other more than 50 million years ago and decide they’d walk on together? The author of a new book says it’s impossible to tell but irresistible not to speculate that these fossilized prints depict an extraordinary partnership that’s lasted for centuries. Wendy Williams’ book is “The Horse: The Epic History Of Our Noble Companion.” And Wendy Williams, the author and journalist, joins us from member station WCAI in Woods Hole, Mass. Thanks so much for being with us.

WENDY WILLIAMS: Well, I’m so delighted you liked the book.

SIMON: Why do horses have hooves, not paws or claws or fingers?

WILLIAMS: You know, that’s a question that I’ve been wondering about maybe since I was 5 years old. I don’t think many people really think about it, but horses are the only animal on earth that has a – a hoof.

SIMON: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: Other animals have hooves on – at the bottom of each leg, but the horse has managed to evolve just one hoof. And the answer to that question has to do with all kinds of changes on the earth – tectonic collisions and the rising of mountains and the explosion of volcanoes and the spread of grass and cold weather and warm weather and then cold weather again. It’s all these very, very complicated energy systems that ended up giving us the horse that we have in the modern world today.

SIMON: You learned a lot as a youngster from a horse named Whisper, didn’t you?

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes, Whisper. So in those days, I had a very small barn that I had to carry water back and forth from because there was no water down at the barn. In the summer time, of course, you can just run a hose down there. But in Vermont in the winter time, it’s minus-10 degrees, so that doesn’t work. One day, I thought I was being extremely clever by bringing the horses up to the water faucet on the side of the house and putting buckets under there for them to drink their fill. And I guess in the short run I was being somewhat clever. But in the long run, it didn’t pay off. The reason was that one day when I got up and I was a little bit grumpy because it was minus-10 degrees outside, I decided to have a second cup of coffee instead of run down immediately and water and feed the horses. And as I wrote in the book, as any barn hand knows, this will cause consternation in the stalls. So while I was having my second cup of coffee, Whisper comes leaping over the fence. I had no idea he could even jump, let alone jump like that with such elegance and just come trotting right up to the side of the house and take his hoof and pow, pow, pow on the water faucet until he managed to turn the water on. Of course, I learned my lesson because what I did not want to do was pay for a plumber to have to come and fix the water faucet. So I managed to get up from then on, on time to bring them their food and water.

SIMON: For years, scientists thought that stallions had – they even use the terminology harems of mares. You think that might’ve been the product of modern scientists having male blinders on.

WILLIAMS: I don’t want to accuse anyone here. But let me just put it this way – stallions are major-league drama queens. And when stallions have at it with each other, the mares don’t pay much attention because they’re used to it. But we pay attention, we look at it and we imagine that that kind of arguing on standing on two hooves…

SIMON: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: …And hitting the other stallion with the front hooves, we imagine that that they control things. But in fact, they have some input into a band of mares, but the mares tend to make a lot of their own decisions. And if the stallion wants to be part of that, he has to just come along because they’re going to go where they’re going to go. If they want to get water, they’re going to go get it. If they think there’s a better place to eat grass, they’ll do that. And the stallion is allowed to come along. But he’s certainly not the major decision-maker in a band of horses.

SIMON: Yeah. This substantially turns on its head the kind of folk myth that we’ve had for years, right?

WILLIAMS: Well, I grew up with that. I think I’ve probably read every horse book for kids that was ever written. And I grew up reading that the stallion protected the herd and that the stallion would fight off all the enemies. Some stallions do fight off enemies to some degree. But to be honest, the scientist I interviewed, Jason Ransom, said that he’d seen some stallions take off in the face of danger as much as he’d seen them defend the band.

SIMON: We humans like to think we’ve domesticated horses to haul things and plow fields and help us rove the earth. But you suggest there might be something more complicated going on.

WILLIAMS: I don’t to think it’s a black and white kind of thing. I don’t think a horse is either domesticated or wild. I think they’re just a lot of nuances in that relationship, and that’s not just me. Scientists who study these things in all kinds of animals are beginning to understand the nuances in a relationship. And they’re beginning to understand that many animals, horses included, may actually choose to be with us.

SIMON: Are we on the verge of what amounts to a kind of – a new understanding that suggests a new partnership between humans and horses?

WILLIAMS: I’m sure that’s happening. It’s amazing to me – I had to set up a Facebook site because my publisher wanted me to, and I am astonished by the number of people all around the world who are working in this new way. As I say, it involves a lot more compassion for the horse. It involves a lot more communication with the horse.

SIMON: Because we don’t rely on the horse for transportation and plowing, that kind of close-working partnership anymore. But yet the popularity of the horse is undiminished.

WILLIAMS: People still love horses. It’s just something about their beauty, their grace, their affinity for speed. You know, we are traveling animals and so are the horses, so we just naturally belong together.

SIMON: Wendy Williams’ book is “The Horse: The Epic History Of Our Noble Companion.” Thanks so much for being with us.

WILLIAMS: Well, thanks for asking me.


DOC WATSON: (Singing) The Tennessee stud was long and lean, the color of the sun and his eyes were green. He had the nerve and he had the blood, and there never was a horse like the Tennessee stud.

Casualties of the vanishing West: How Monied Interests are Forcefully Evicting Wild Horses and Burros

by as published in The Salon

A little-known 2004 amendment to a Nixon-era law allows formerly protected wild mares to be auctioned for slaughter

Former wild horses imprisoned by the BLM photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Former wild horses imprisoned by the BLM photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Chief, a Kiger mustang born in the remote wilderness of Utah, lives with 400 other rescued wild horses and burros in a 1,500 acre sanctuary, hundreds of miles from his original home. Years ago the stallion was captured in a round up led by the Bureau of Land Management. After a long helicopter chase, he ended up in a government-run holding facility for years before being adopted by Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, CA. Not all horses rounded up by the BLM are as lucky.

The majority of captured equines remain stuck for years, if not for the rest of their lives, in cramped holding facilities that are quickly running out of space. As of July 2015 the facilities held 47,000 wild horses, and the BLM’s holding capacity is set at 50,929. Yet the agency is planning to remove another 2,739 wild horses and burros this year at a taxpayer cost of $78 million.

An example of an emergency holding facility for excess mustangs is a cattle feedlot in Scott City, Kansas. In 2014, a BLM contractor leased the feedlot, owned by Beef Belt LLC, to hold 1,900 mares. The horses were transported from pasture to corrals designed for fattening up cattle. Within the first few weeks of their arrival, at least 75 mares died. Mortality reports acquired from the BLM through the Freedom of Information Act show that as of June 2015, 143 more horses had died. The facility is closed to the public.

BLM’s management of American wild horses and burros has several tales of mismanagement and animal neglect like the one above. Since 1971, the BLM has removed more than 270,000 wild horses and burros from public lands, in what it says is an effort to avoid overpopulation and “to protect animal and land health.” Ideally the rounded up animals should be adopted or shipped to long-term pastures, but in the past several years the number of horses being adopted have fallen dramatically. As a result, every year, more and more of these animals end up languishing in what are supposed to be temporary holding facilities.

Over the past four decades the BLM has eradicated or moved to holding facilities more than 70 percent of the country’s wild horse population. According to BLM’s current estimates, there are only about 48,000 horses remaining in the wild.

The Bureau of Land Management is mandated by law to protect the future of the wild horses and burros of America. In 1971, in response to growing public protest over the indiscriminate capture and slaughter of wild horses by ranchers and hunters, President Richard Nixon signed the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, making harassing or killing feral horses or burros on federal land a criminal offense. The law recognized the animals as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.”

In 2004 the Act was stripped of its central purpose when Republican Senator Conrad Burns of Montana prepared what is now widely known as “the Burns Amendment.” Taking advantage of his position as chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Burns slipped his bill in with complete secrecy, knowing that committee reports cannot be amended. The bill amending the 1971 Act was never introduced to Congress; it was never discussed or voted on. The amendment allows the BLM to sell older and unadoptable animals at livestock auctions. These auctions often draw ‘kill buyers’ who seek horses for slaughterhouses, as the LA Times reports.

The Burns Amendment overruled critical sections of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and overturned 33 years of national policy.

“The law was one of the few ever passed unanimously by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. To ignore the democratic will of the general public of the US in order to favor certain minority vested interests, mainly rich individuals and corporations, is a true perversion of democracy and a shameful betrayal,” says wildlife ecologist and author Craig Downer.

Before becoming an advocate for the wild horse and burro cause, Downer worked for the BLM. He conducted stream site inventory and assessment work in their Nevada chapter. During his time at the agency, he learned that wild horses and burros weren’t the animals that were causing stream and lakeside habitat degradation in regions where they roamed free.

”Overwhelmingly it was the livestock, chiefly cattle, that degrade the vital riparian habitats. They are post-gastric digesters while the other large North American grazers are almost exclusively ruminant digesters. Horses and burros also disperse their foraging over vaster areas and into more rugged terrain than cattle,” he says.

Here’s how Downer explains it further. (Excerpted from his presentation at the Wild Horse Summit in 2008):

“Being much less mobile than wild horses and burros, livestock concentrate their grazing pressures in certain areas, especially in and along species-rich stream, marsh, or lake shore habitats known as riparian (which I have experience monitoring with the BLM). Cattle and sheep have destroyed these riparian habitats on a large scale by overgrazing throughout the West — as throughout the world, especially in arid and semi-arid areas, and thus are responsible for the extinction or near extinction of literally thousands of species of plants and animals.

The wild horses, on the other hand, do not linger at watering sites or along riparian areas but disperse their grazing pressure much more broadly in the arid to semi-arid West; and as a consequence they greatly reduce dry parched vegetation. Their post-gastric digestive system is perfectly suited to taking advantage of this drier, usually coarser vegetation, as such does not entail as much metabolic energy involved with the more thorough breakdown of this food when compared with ruminant grazers: cattle, sheep, deer, elk, etc. Their digestion also favors the dispersal of the seeds of many native plant species that are not as degraded in passing through their digestive tracts. These involve species that have in many cases co-evolved for millions of years with horses and even burro-like Asses, developing many mutually beneficial symbioses in the process.”

According to the BLM, there is an overpopulation of horses on public lands. The agency states that because of federal protection and a lack of natural predators, wild horse and burro herds can double in size about every four years, which leads to habitat degradation and unhealthy herds. Yet the agency allows millions of cows to graze on the same lands where wild horses were previously removed.

Cows originate from Europe and thus are adapted to riparian meadow areas. Their grazing can be devastating for dry Western ecosystems, especially in many areas where they outnumber wild horses 50 to 1. According to Downer, well-managed wild horse populations can contribute positively to ecosystems that they have adapted to due to their evolutionary past. “Restoring the missing ‘equid element’ with its post-gastric digestive system works wonders for the plains and prairies as well as the drier regions further west,” he explains.

But it is not only cattle that are granted right-of-way on public lands. In 2010, a controversial round up held in the Calico Mountain Complex of Nevada removed 2,500 horses from their habitat. The round up caused 160 horse deaths, including those of two foals who were chased on icy terrain until their hooves had sloughed off. The eradication of a healthy horse population from such a remote location raised questions.

There were allegations that the removal was initiated to make way for a multi-billion dollar corporate project, the Ruby Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that traverses through northern Nevada on its way from Wyoming to Oregon. The BLM denied any connection, but Pipeline construction began four months after the round up, and the natural gas line now runs through the mountain complex.

BLM spokesperson Greg Fuhs says the agency does not give away rights-of-way to companies. “The BLM authorizes specific pieces of public land for certain projects and charges rent for such use,” he says. “The BLM collects forage fees for livestock grazing, conducts oil and gas lease sales, and requires payment of an annual maintenance fee (unless labor is performed or improvements are made) on mining claims.”

The BLM’s management of wild horses has long been under scrutiny. In 1994 Jim Baca, then director of the BLM, started an internal investigation into illegal practices within the agency. He found that BLM employees were selling wild horses to contractors for slaughter. The scheme involved the use of satellite ranches and so-called horse sanctuaries set up to hide the horses.

The US Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Texas wanted to bring criminal indictments against BLM officials, but the case was closed in the summer of 1997 after federal officials in Washington DC, including officials not involved in the investigation, intervened.

“I believe that my investigation was obstructed all along by persons within the BLM because they did not want to be embarrassed,” the prosecutor, Mrs. Alia Ludlum, wrote in a memo that year, a copy of which, along with thousands of other grand jury documents, was obtained by the Associated Press. “I think there is a terrible problem with the program and with government agents placing themselves above the law,” Ludlum wrote.

According to Baca during the investigation, Bruce Babbitt, then Secretary of the Interior, told him to back off. Baca left office the same year.

“The wild horse and burro program has always been answerable to only the livestock industry and their political power over Western Senators and Congressmen. All of the administrations bow to that power, ” Baca says.

According to Baca, in failing to understand the importance of western public lands, administrations continue sacrificing them for special interests. “They don’t see any gain to their political careers by rocking the boat.”

Baca believes the horse numbers should be controlled, but they should not be on a slow course to extinction. “Every horse not on the range means another cow and calf that will be. BLM has always been a step child to the whims of the oil, gas, coal, mining and livestock industries.”

Baca believes the idea of special sanctuaries on the range is promising. “The wild horses should be allowed to exist for future generations to appreciate. A wild horse crammed into a corral is nothing more than a life sentence to misery.”

The BLM’s annual wild horse and burro round up is already underway this year (see reports here and here). Wild horse and burro advocates say if the animals are not rounded up, but instead have their numbers managed via fertility control methods, maintaining them would cost virtually nothing – providing a solution for the program’s inefficiency and high cost.

About 60 to 70 percent of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program budget is spent on roundups and holding facilities, while only 6 percent is spent on fertility control and keeping horses on the range. (In 2014, holding horses in off-range facilities cost more than $43 million, which accounted for 63 percent of the Wild Horse and Burro Program’s annual budget. The total lifetime cost for caring for a captured animal that’s not adopted is nearly $50,000.) Redirecting federal funds from costly and traumatic round-ups to in-the-wild fertility management could save taxpayers millions.

Feel Good Sunday: Denver Zoo Welcomes Mongolian Horse Foal

By Noelle Phillips of the Denver Post

“This ‘Feel Good Sunday’ installment strikes a special cord in the collective hearts of Terry and myself as only 3 short years ago we trekked on horseback across Outer Mongolia seeking out and documenting the only few hundred prehistoric ‘Takhi‘ wild horses still remaining on this planet (we refrain from using the western name of Przewalski as his discovery lead to the horse’s ultimate demise and virtual extinction).  It was a touching and eye opening experience so we are pleased that one new Takhi life has been added to this planet, all be it captive.  One day our North American wild horses and burros may be in the same boat that these Asian wild horses are, hence our journey to see what a country is doing to try to put the horses BACK where they belong instead of ripping them from their rightful range.  Enjoy! (Click (HERE) to read more about our Trek)” ~ R.T.

A long-legged wild horse foal is following his mother around a Denver Zoo enclosure after being born Thursday. The Przewalski’s horse was the second of his kind to be born at the zoo since 1991, a news release said. Guests can see mother and foal from the zoo’s main pathway.

Przewalski’s (pronounced sheh-VAL-skees) horses also are known as Mongolian wild horses or Asiatic wild horses. They once roamed Europe and Asia but today are found only in the wild in Mongolia and China, the zoo said. There are an estimated 380 in the wild.

The species was extinct in the wild for 30 years before reintroduction projects began in the early 1990s.

The Denver Zoo helps support captive breeding programs that have prevented the animal from becoming extinct, the news release said.

Author Terri Farley on Wild Horse & Burro Radio, Wednesday night (10/28/15)


Wild_Horse_Burro_Radio_LogoJoin us on Wild Horse Wednesday (*SM) , Oct. 28, 2015

7:00 pm PST … 8:00 pm MST … 9:00 pm CST … 10:00 pm EST

Listen to the archived show (HERE!)

or listen to the show live on your phone by calling (917) 388-4520.

You can call in with questions during the 2nd half hour of the show by dialing (917) 388-4520, then pressing 1.

This is a 1 hour show.  It will be archived so you can listen to it anytime.


Our guest tonight is best-selling author Terri Farley, who will be talking about her first non-fiction book, “Wild at Heart: Mustangs and the Young People Fighting to Save Them.”  Mustangs have thrived for thousands of generations.  Now they are under attack, but courageous young people are trying to stop the round-ups and senseless killings by standing up to government and big business to save these American icons.  Learn about cutting edge science and the young people leading the charge to keep horses wild and free.

“Anyone who cares about wild horses should read this book.  So should anyone who cares about how science is being abused to justify flawed management policies masquerading as ‘responsible conservation’.”  –  Dr. Ross MacPhee, Curator of Mammalogy/Vertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History


Pulitzer Prize winning freelance photographer Melissa Farlow, whose photographs are featured in Wild at Heart, has had work from 25 assignments and projects published in National Geographic, including a story about wild horses.

Terri Farley is the author of the Phantom Stallion series for young readers and Seven Tears into the Sea, a contemporary Celtic fantasy nominated as a YALSA best book.

Tonight’s show is hosted by Debbie Coffey, V.P. and Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

To contact us:, or call 320-281-0585

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