More on the Forest Service cull of Murderers Creek wild horse herd

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Forest Service is continuing to remove wild horses from the Murderers Creek section of the Malheur National Forest but is holding off on aggressive action until a new environmental impact statement is finished.

Last year, as part of a settlement to a lawsuit brought by Grant County ranchers, the agency agreed to gradually reduce the number of wild horses in the area until it is within the range it says the area can healthily support, known as the Allowable Management Level, or AML.

The AML for the 62,000-acre range was set at 50 to 140 horses in the 2007 wild horse herd management plan for the Malheur National Forest.

The agency is working on a new planning document, Tom Hilken, the Forest Service’s range program manager for the Pacific Northwest region, said last week.

“We really want to get this new plan in place that’s going to be looking at the latest science and management tools that may allow us to be a little more aggressive to get down to our AML,” said Hilken.

“We’re continuing to cull the herd over time.”

In recent months, the agency has removed a handful of horses, focusing mainly on the five or six animals that have wandered off of federal land onto private property, he said.

“They’ve gotten outside the designated territory and are on private property. That’s where our priority is now,” he said.

The herd currently stands around 200 or 220 horses, he said. Reducing their numbers poses a challenge for land-management officials because the herd grows by about 20 percent every year.

“We do not cull during the foaling period,” Hilken said.

Most of the wild horses and burros on public lands in 10 Western states roam lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

More than half of the Murderers Creek herd, which is overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, are “timber horses” that live in mountainous areas, using Ponderosa pine and mixed conifer thickets as shelter.

According to BLM estimates, 33,780 wild horses and 6,825 burros live on public lands overseen by the agency across 10 Western states. This is almost 14,000 more than the total the agency believes the rangelands can support.

In Oregon, the BLM estimates there are 3,120 wild horses and 60 burros as of March, more than the 2,715 maximum envisioned as the state’s AML. Another 50,000 wild horses are kept in federal holding pens.

According to a 2001 genetic analysis of the Murderers Creek horses, the herd is genetically distinct from the other herds found roaming Western rangelands. Many of the horses appear to be descendants of horses lost or set free by farmers and ranchers and genetically resemble American light racing and saddle breeds.

Another 15 to 20 horses from the herd will be removed by federal officials by the end of the year, Hilken said. The environmental impact statement will likely not be ready for two years, he said.

The ranchers had sued the agency over its management of the animals, contending the horses and not the cattle that they grazed on public lands were responsible for environmental threats to endangered steelhead habitat.

If the agency never met its AML, there was no way to determine which, if any, animals posed a threat to endangered species, they argued.

Advocates Will Speak Out for Wild Horses at Press Conference during BLM National Advisory Board Meeting

“Adobe Town, Salt Wells and Great Divide Basin are home to the largest free-roaming wild horse herds left in Wyoming,” states Carol Walker, director of field documentation and board member of Wild Horse Freedom Federation. Walker has a bond with the Wyoming herds she has been photographing for the past 10 years. “To lose the wild horses in this vast landscape, known by local residents as the ‘Big Empty,’ would be to lose touch with our western history, heritage and the untamed spirit of the West.”

For immediate release:

Advocates Will Speak Out for Wild Horses at Press Conference during BLM National Advisory Board Meeting

Proposed roundups would rob American public of their rightful legacy.              

Simone Netherlands, Ginger Kathrens and R.T. Fitch speak to Utah Press Corp. at BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting in 2012~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Simone Netherlands, Ginger Kathrens and R.T. Fitch speak to Utah Press Corp. at BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting in 2012~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (August 18, 2014) – The Cloud Foundation, Respect 4 Horses and Wild Horse Freedom Federation will hold a press conference and rally at the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting, August 25 in Riverton, Wyoming. The press conference will begin at noon, in front of the Central Wyoming College Student Center Building.

The purpose of the press conference and rally are to better inform the public of the costs and risks of ongoing wild horse roundups which have already eliminated wild horses from 20 million acres designated for their use.  Of the 339 herds originally identified for protection, 179 remain on only 11% of public lands and the BLM seeks to remove most of the horses in Southern Wyoming in September. 

The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the BLM and its plan to roundup over 800 horses from Adobe Town, Salt Wells and Divide Basin Herd Management Areas (HMAs) known as the Wyoming Checkerboard. The lawsuit alleges that the BLM violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (Wild Horse Act) and the Administrative Procedure Act, by authorizing the permanent removal of hundreds of wild horses from public and private lands within these three HMA’s, without conducting any environmental analysis, engaging the public during the decision-making process or making certain statutorily required determinations under the Wild Horse Act.  In response to the lawsuit, the BLM has agreed to delay the roundup which had been scheduled to begin on August 20, to at least Sept. 1.

“Adobe Town, Salt Wells and Great Divide Basin are home to the largest free-roaming wild horse herds left in Wyoming,” states Carol Walker, director of field documentation and board member of Wild Horse Freedom Federation. Walker has a bond with the Wyoming herds she has been photographing for the past 10 years. “To lose the wild horses in this vast landscape, known by local residents as the ‘Big Empty,’ would be to lose touch with our western history, heritage and the untamed spirit of the West.”

BLM claims that wild horses need to be removed from public lands to protect rangeland health. However the vast majority of public lands are open to livestock grazing, which causes enormous damage to the land.  In most cases, even in the wild horses’ own HMA’s, livestock far outnumber wild horses.  According to the BLM’s own data, on average, 68,740 cattle and 10,741 sheep occupy the three HMA’s targeted for roundup, compared to 1,912 wild horses.

“Instead of protecting wild horses, the BLM’s roundups threaten the ongoing survival of wild horse herds in the west,” states Simone Netherlands, President of Respect4Horses added. “Eerily similar to the rainforests of the Amazon, our public lands are being exploited for the benefit of profit driven business.”

“BLM must begin to manage wild horses ‘on the range’ with the goal of balancing reproduction and mortality.  Over 70% of our wild horse herds are not large enough to be considered genetically viable, sustainable herds,” states Ginger Kathrens, Volunteer Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation “The Wild Horse and Burro Act mandates that the BLM manage wild horses at a sustainable level, which is essential if we are to preserve wild horse herds for future generations of Americans.”


BLM Delays Wyoming Wild Horse Roundup as Preliminary Injunction Motion Filed

Wild Horse Groups File Suit to Block Massive Roundup in Southwest Wyoming

Media Contact:

Paula Todd King, The Cloud Foundation, 843-592-0720,

 The Cloud Foundation (TCF) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wild horses and burros on our western public lands with a focus on Cloud’s herd in the Arrowhead Mountains of Montana.

 Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF) is a registered, Texas non-profit corporation with federal 501(c)(3) status. WHFF puts people between America’s wild equids and extinction.

Respect4Horses (R4H) is a horse welfare organization whose goals include providing information and documentation to educate the public, the media and legislators in order to promote changes in legislation in regards to current horse welfare issues such as horse slaughter and the roundups of our last remaining wild horses and burros.


Wild Horse Freedom Federation is proud that Carol Walker, our Director of Field Documentation, and her 10 years of documentation, will be vitally important in the effort to win this lawsuit and stop the BLM from removing wild horses from  Adobe Town, Salt Wells and Great Divide Basin Herd Management Areas in Wyoming.  – Debbie Coffey 

For Immediate Release:


Issue Statement Responding to Wyoming Gov. Mead’s Comments on Proposed Removal of Over 800 Wild Horses from 3 HMAs

ROCK SPRINGS, WY (August 18, 2014)…. The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl today filed an opposition to the State of Wyoming’s motion to intervene as of right in a lawsuit they brought against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its plan to roundup over 800 wild horses from the Adobe Town, Salt Wells and Great Divide Basin Herd Management Areas (HMAs).  The groups also issued the following statement in response to Wyoming Governor Matt Mead’s statement on the roundup and the state’s intervention in the matter.

It is disappointing that Governor Mead and State of Wyoming are misleading the public about the facts surrounding the BLM’s plans to round up over 800 wild horses from three federally-designated wild horse herd management areas, and our lawsuit that aims to stop this action.  We are further troubled that the Governor is taking a stand in support of the BLM’s flagrant violations of federal law and its own land use plans. In his statement, Governor Mead makes numerous misrepresentations about the situation.  The following are the actual facts:

·  The BLM intends to remove wild horses from private and public lands in the AdobeTown, Salt Wells and Great Divide Basin HMAs, not just private lands as the Governor asserts.

·  The state has no “sovereign right” to manage wild horses, because wild horses were granted federal protection under the federal Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which was passed unanimously by Congress in 1971.

·   The state owns less that 4% of the land in these three HMAs and an even smaller percentage on the checkerboard lands in question.

·  There is no overpopulation of horses in this area, and in fact, the proposed roundup will bring the populations below even BLM’s own established levels in violation of the Wild Horse Act and the BLM’s Resource Management Plans for these areas.

In his statement, the Governor makes numerous other erroneous claims regarding wild horse impacts. If the environment and wildlife species are suffering in the area, it is due to the massive number of privately owned livestock grazing on these lands, not to the relatively few wild horses that inhabit the area. In fact the BLM authorizes ten times more livestock than wild horses to graze in this area (maximum of 1,765 wild horses on 2.4 million acres of land vs. the annual equivalent of 17,609 cow/calf pairs in the same land area.)

We urge Governor Mead to remember that America’s public lands belong to all Americans, not just to a small number of ranchers who profit from taxpayer-subsidized public lands grazing. In fact, a strong majority of Americans support protecting and preserving wild horses on our public lands, while less than a third want to ensure that our public lands are available for livestock grazing.

Instead of intervening in support of the BLM’s blatantly illegal actions, the Governor should use the leadership of his office to resolve conflicts between ranchers and wild horses, such as encouraging land swaps in checkerboard areas (alternating parcels of public and private lands) to create contiguous habitat for wild horses and other protected wildlife.

In response to the lawsuit, the BLM has agreed to delay the roundup, which had been scheduled to begin on approximately August 20, to at least September 1.

Wyoming Gov Says Wild Horses Are Stealing from School Children

forward by R.T. Fitch – Pres/Co-founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Several Hundred Horses Guilty of Starving Millions of  Government Subsidized, Private Welfare Cattle

“If dumb could dumber it just occurred in the State of Wyoming as Governor Mead crawled into bed with the state’s welfare ranchers by pointing a finger (which one?) at the state’s few remaining wild horses for stealing the grass right out of private cattle’s mouths and money away from school children.  “DOINK”

The few horses that survive on millions of acres are outnumbered hundreds to one by cattle and sheep and the (allegedly) federally protected horses are at fault?!?!  NOT!

Set aside all of your sensibilities and read the official press release, below, put out by the Gov’s office; it is  frighting on so many levels that I am afraid to commit my thoughts to text.  I guess the word incredulous comes to mind accompanied by a very loud and melodramatic sigh.  Color me dumbfounded…but still, we keep the faith!” ~ R.T.

Wyoming Gov Mead's new wheels

Wyoming Gov Mead’s new wheels

(Cheyenne, Wyo.) – Wyoming is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit brought against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) by wild horse advocates who are challenging the BLM’s decision to remove wild horses from private lands in southwest Wyoming. The BLM’s decision complies with an agreement between the BLM and a group of local ranchers. The area involved is part of the checkerboard where private, federal and state lands are intermingled.

“I want to step in to protect the value of Wyoming’s land, defend our sovereign right to manage our wildlife and support ranching families,” Governor Mead said. “We are not against having wild horses on the public lands but they need to be managed appropriately. They must not damage the land or wildlife or conflict with the rights of private property owners. The BLM has a plan in place and it should be implemented.”

The State of Wyoming owns approximately 62,000 acres in the area. Wyoming’s mission for its State Trust Lands is to effectively manage natural resources and the funds generated from those state lands for current and future generations. Revenue from those lands goes to schools.

In the motion to intervene the State points out that it leases land to ranchers, but livestock are managed, are on the land for only a few months and remain only if there is adequate forage. Wild horses stay on the land year-round and increased populations of the horses inhibit the State’s ability to get the full value of the leases to benefit schools. Additionally, other wildlife can suffer, including some local sage-grouse populations.

–Gov. Matt Mead’s Office

Did BLM ineptness kill another 70 wild horses that were shipped to Scott City, Kansas?

Did BLM’s inept management of wild horses cause another 70 deaths?  The BLM’s press release states 57 horses died, but then, an additional 13 mares that had to be euthanized.  57 + 13 = 70.  Why is the contractor only being informed of the proper feed AFTER so many horses died?

These were most likely the wild horses that the BLM recently shipped from Teterville Long Term Holding in Kansas to the feedlot-like facility Scott City, Kansas.   57 horses (with another 13 in such bad shape that they needed to be euthanized, are a lot of horses to die in a short period of time.  Another BLM “investigation?”  There is very little accountability to the public.  BLM’s Press Release is below this article.  The BLM is having a one day tour for CREDENTIALED MEDIA, but apparently, nobody from any wild horse advocacy groups has been invited.  We request an immediate public tour of this temporary short term holding facility.  Tax dollars pay for this.


12LTH1_26_of_161_ (1)

Mares look at the public on a BLM tour of Long Term Holding pastures in Kansas. (photo by Carol Walker)

BLM Investigated Wild Horse Deaths

SCOTT CITY, Kan.(WIBW)– The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is investigating the cause of death for 57 wild horses that had been transferred to a corral in Scott City.

The BLM manages over 49,000 wild horses and burros on range land and 47,000 in open pastures and corrals.

In March an contractor in Kansas notified the BLM would continue a contract for care, but for fewer animals.

On August 5th, the group that had received almost 1,500 mares notified the BLM that 57 of the transferred mares had died.

BLM personnel and a USDA Veterinarian began investigating the deaths and the facility.

Preliminary results indicate the deaths were due to the age of the animals and stress related to relocation and no infections or contagious diseases were involved.



Release Date: 08/15/14
Contacts: Paul McGuire , 405-826-3036

BLM Investigates Wild Horse Deaths at Kansas Corral

Scott City, Kan.—The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has launched an investigation into the cause of death for 57 wild horses that were recently transferred to a corral in Scott City, Kan.  The BLM, which manages 49,200 wild horses and burros on the range and 47,300 in open pastures and corrals, strives to ensure that herd sizes on the range remain in a healthy balance with other public rangeland resources and uses and places a priority on the well-being of the animals in its care.After removal from the range, the BLM aims to place animals that are not adopted onto open pastures, often in the Midwest.

In March 2014, an open-pasture contractor in Kansas informed the BLM that he would renew his existing five-year contract but for a significantly reduced number of horses, requiring the BLM to remove about 1,900 animals (1,500 mares and 400 geldings) by June 1, 2014.

Due to concerns about the older age of many of the animals and the stress associated with being moved, the BLM worked to find an appropriate facility as close as possible to the open pasture.   The BLM located an in-state facility that could accommodate the animals and began moving 1,493 mares to the Scott City corral.

The transfers were completed on June 22.On Aug. 5, the contractor informed the BLM that a number of the transferred mares died between June 22 and Aug. 5; as of Aug. 15, a total of 57 transferred mares had died.

On Aug. 12, a team of BLM personnel and a veterinarian from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service arrived on site.  The team is investigating the situation; determining the causes of death; evaluating the facility, the corral feed and feeding practices; and taking actions to support the short- and long-term needs of the horses.  After arrival, the team euthanized an additional 13 mares that were determined to have little to no chance for survival due to health issues.Preliminary findings from the team’s USDA large animal veterinarian indicate that the animals died as a result of their age combined with stress from the recent relocation, the shift from pasture to corral environment and the change from pasture feed to processed hay feed.

There is no indication of infectious or contagious diseases being the cause.“Our team is working closely with the corral operator to make adjustments to the care of the animals,” said USDA veterinarian Dr. Al Kane, who is on the investigation team.  “The horses have been fed three times a day since the beginning.  In addition to increasing the amount of feed being offered during feedings, we’ve worked with the onsite veterinarian and the operator to increase the energy density of the horses’ feed by increasing the ratio of alfalfa to grass in the hay mix.  This helps support the horses’ nutritional needs during the transition from open-pasture to the corral environment,” he added.

Once the investigation is concluded, the team will complete a report that will be made publicly available.
Credentialed media are invited to attend a facility tour on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014.  Interested members of the press should contact Paul McGuire at (405) 826-3036 or for additional information and details.

Center for Food Safety backs up concerns about 2,4-D, an “approved” herbicide BLM uses on public lands

by Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation                 Copyright 2014   All Rights Reserved.

I made a public comment and posted an open letter to the BLM pointing out some possible risks of the use of the herbicide 2,4-D in the BLM’s Environmental Assessment for the “Desatoya Mountains Habitat Resiliency, Health, and Restoration Project” in Nevada (2012).  Recently, the Center for Food Safety has also voiced concerns about the possible risks of 2,4-D.

The Center for Food Safety recently wrote this:

Over a hundred million additional pounds of toxic pesticides associated with cancers and birth defects are coming to a field near you. UNLESS YOU STOP IT!

“Agent Orange” crops are genetically engineered by Dow Chemical to promote the use of 2,4-D, one of the herbicides in the toxic mixture Vietnam veteran’s know as Agent Orange.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is on the cusp of approval, even though they acknowledge the use of this toxic pesticide will skyrocket.

There is a 30-day public comment period and it MIGHT BE OUR LAST CHANCE to stop this chemical assault – Sign the petition today!

USDA’s announcement is an outrageous abdication of the agency’s responsibility to protect our health and our food supply.”

And ‘“USDA’s decision represents a huge setback for farmers and sustainable agriculture.  Independent scientists have linked 2,4-D to cancer, Parkinson’s disease and other maladies.  Introduction of 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans will dramatically increase use of this toxic herbicide, leading to more disease, environmental harm, and increasingly intractable weeds for farmers,” said Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst at Center for Food Safety.’

To read Center for Food Safety’s entire article, click HERE.

For a list of BLM’s approved herbicides, click HERE.

To read the “open letter” to the BLM regarding their Desatoya Mountains Habitat Resiliency, Health, and Restoration Project” in Nevada , click HERE.

The BLM ohorse_with_blindersnly considers their use of 2,4-D (or anything, for that matter) on one specific area, and not the cumulative use on the nearby areas, that would include not only their use of 2,4-D, but also the amount of of 2,4-D used by nearby farms.  It all adds up, and the cumulative amount could possibly add up to an unsafe level.

(This reminds me of how the BLM “blows off “your public comments by saying they are “outside the scope of” their Environmental Assessment.)

The BLM seems to function like a horse with blinders on.



In BLM’s Environmental Assessment, they stated “Within the project area, up to approximately 32,705 acres of ground disturbing treatments are proposed over a ten year period including…herbicide treatment…In fact, 2,4-D has limited residual activity (2 weeks); therefore any incidental contamination risk to non-target plants would likely be negligible.”

This was my public comment:

When considering plants, animals, water and humans, note that:

The EPA says that 2,4-D is seventh largest source of dioxin in the U.S.
Dioxin DCDD that contaminates 2,4-D herbicide is not tested, measured or monitored by the EPA, or even regulated.  A Canadian research paper states that dioxin DCDD may have large public health implications due to its prevalence in our food and environment.

DCDD is one of the hundreds of kinds of dioxin – (TCDD is the worst, but DCDD may be equi-potent):
NOTE: “2,4-D is contaminated with an unmonitored form of dioxin,
2,7-dichlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,7-DCDD)… There is very little research on this form of dioxin, but in 1986 2,7-DCDD was found to be “equipotent” to the very toxic 2,3,7,8-TCDD in a test of immunosuppression.  Given the wide use of herbicides that are contaminated with 2,7-DCDD there may be large public health implications of this contamination of our food and environment.”

I am requesting that you read the information on the link above, since this has implications for human health, and that the BLM prepare an EIS.

The BLM also stated in the Environmental Assessment:  “The herbicide proposed to be used in the Cold Springs fuel break is imazapic, and 2,4-D would be used for rabbitbrush and decadent sagebrush control.  The environmental risks of these herbicides were analyzed in the Vegetation Treatments Using Herbicides on BLM lands in 17 Western States Programmatic EIS (2007).  The application scenarios for the risk categories for terrestrial animals were direct spray, off-site drift (wind erosion), indirect contact with foliage after direct spray, ingestion of contaminated vegetation or prey, and runoff, which includes percolation to the root zone, at typical and maximum application rates.  The Proposed Action would not exceed the maximum application rates.”

Here was my public comment about that:

The BLM is only considering the “proposed action” alone, and is not considering or factoring in cumulative use in the area.  The BLM needs to do an aggregate risk assessment considering exposures to humans, animals, water, drinking water, plants from COMBINED SOURCES in the area.  BLM should do Drinking Water Level of Concern (DWLOC) testing and use the Forward Calculation Approach to include in an EIS (which I am now formally requesting, in writing, in this public comment).

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2,4D,

Exposure to 2,4-D has been reported to result in blood, liver, and kidney toxicity (1, 2, 4). Chronic oral exposure in experimental animals have resulted in adverse effects on the eye, thyroid, kidney, adrenals, and ovaries/testes (1).  Experimental animal studies have demonstrated delayed neurobehavioral development and changes in neurotransmitter concentrations in offspring exposed during pregnancy or lactation (5-9).

Low concentrations of 2,4-D have been found in groundwater in some states. Agricultural run-off containing 2,4-D may contaminate groundwater in some areas.

Experimental animal studies of chronic oral exposure have reported adverse effects on the eye, thyroid, kidney, adrenals, adrenals, and ovaries/testes (1).  In addition, some experimental animal studies have reported teratogenic effects (birth defects) at high doses, including increased fetal death, urinary tract malformation, and extra ribs (15, 16).  When adult female experimental animals were exposed to 2,4-D during their pregnancy and lactation periods, their exposed offspring exhibited neurological effects, including delayed neurobehavioral development (5) and changes in several neurotransmitter levels or binding activities (6-9, 17) and ganglioside levels (18, 19) in the brain.  Delayed neurobehavioral development was manifested as delays in acquisition of certain motor skills such as the righting reflex (5).
If the EPA reports this, how can this BLM EA, without considering cumulative uses in the area, state that risks will be “negligible?” (see below)

“The risk assessment concluded that in general, imazapic, even at high doses, does not adversely affect terrestrial animals, including invertebrates, as it is rapidly metabolized in urine and feces and does not bioaccumulate in animal tissue.  The document did state that during pregnancy mammals may be more at risk and long-term exposure had negative effects on birds. However, application of imazapic would occur in the fall/winter, which is outside of the gestation period for most animals that may use the project area; therefore these risks would likely be negligible (BLM 2007b, BLM 2007c).”

“2,4-D can present risk to some wildlife species due to direct spray, consumption of the recently sprayed vegetation, and consumption of contaminated insects.”

Please prepare an EIS.



Casey: BLM Fails to Protect Horses, Burros from Heat

by Ginger Casey

“Our good friend, Ginger Casey, forwarded an article that she had written for us to share, here, at SFTHH.  The article, likewise, appeared in the Reno Gazette.  Ginger Casey is an Emmy-award winning journalist who began her career in Reno and we thank her for sharing with us.  Keep the faith!” ~ R.T.

“The irony is that in order to adopt one of the animals, you have to prove you have shelter from the elements available for them.”

As the temperatures in the area began to climb north of 100 degrees last summer, the public began to petition the BLM to do something about the conditions at the Palomino Valley wild horse adoption facility north of Reno. Nearly two thousand horses and burros were languishing in triple-digit heat in huge, open, dirt pens with neither shade nor shelter.

The outcry, along with the temperatures, continued to climb until the facility announced it was going to start installing sprinklers for the horses. Praise, including mine, rolled in [RGJ, July 6, 2013]. Officials from Washington then flew to Reno to hold a community meeting to “brainstorm with the public” on solutions for providing the horses some relief. Horse advocates arrived from Nevada and beyond, armed with proposals. They brought offers for shade and documentation from several equine veterinarians that high heat and no shelter could be lethal to the animals. One former USDA veterinarian even warned the BLM that the conditions were calling for “emergency action” to ensure the safety of the horses and burros.

The officials arrived, made promises and flew back to Washington. Shortly afterward, advocates discovered there were only two common household sprinklers attached to a fence at Palomino Valley for the nearly 2,000 animals and that no more sprinklers would be forthcoming. No shade was forthcoming either. The horses and burros continued to be subjected to scorching heat, driving rain, wind and snow through the rest of the summer and winter. Had they been in the wild, they would have been seeking shelter under bushes and trees.

Half of the horses and burros are gone now, sent out to other facilities across the country. A shade “trial” is underway, with three temporary tarps, which cannot adequately provide protection for 900 animals. The two sprinklers that were installed are gone. Advocates who believed the promises now feel betrayed; those of us who applauded the initial news release regarding the sprinklers feel foolish.

The irony is that in order to adopt one of the animals, you have to prove you have shelter from the elements available for them. You are required to have a structure with a roof, able to block winds. Tarps are considered “unacceptable.”

Last year, the National Academy of Sciences issued a harsh report on the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. Even though the study — commissioned by the BLM — concluded the agency’s own management of the animals was a large part of the problem, the BLM is continuing to do business as usual while the number of horses and burros in holding continues to skyrocket, as does their carrying costs.

The situation has now reached crisis proportions. Some members of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, which is made up of mostly ranching, mining and hunting interests, have already suggested slaughtering the animals to control their numbers. The winds seem to be shifting against the horses and burros. And from this wind, there is no shelter.

Despite being federally protected, the management of America’s wild horses and burros is complicated and dominated by politics, priorities and special interests. But there is nothing complicated about temperatures over 100 degrees or those below freezing. This kind of weather kills. Given that half of the wild horses that are left live in Nevada, the BLM must find a way to provide these warehoused animals at least a minimum of shade and shelter. Anything less is just talk to a public grown weary of empty promises.