A National Injustice: The Federal Government’s Systematic Removal and Eradication of an American Icon

article by Bruce Wagman & Lisa McCurdy an excerpt from Ecology Law Currents

America Destroys Itself from Within

Brutal captures and deaths of American wild horses are occurring on the range. This is not a fictional western gone bad but federal policy. The government tries to justify this cruelty with junk science and is sheltered in its actions by procedural barriers and judicial deference. For nearly four decades, federal contractors have been capturing wild horses and burros across the western United States under the guise of “management” pursuant to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.[1] The horses are often chased down by helicopters, sometimes for miles through rough terrain in the heat of summer, lassoed, and forced to the ground and then into trailers.

Wild horses live and move in very tight-knit families consisting of mothers, father and young. Captures disrupt natural social structures, with individuals sent off to an unknown fate based on the justification that the land on which they live cannot sustain their presence. In a battle for the limited resources found on America’s public lands, wild horses are losing out to more “lucrative” uses of the range, such as long-term livestock grazing and oil and gas leases. While the government would have the public believe that a “humane” solution has been found to balance competing interests, and that displaced animals are merely relocated to a new home, the treatment of the wild horses is an abdication of the government’s fiduciary responsibility to an American icon and fosters animal cruelty as part of an ongoing agency program.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the primary federal agency in charge of wild horse management.[2] A complex and tortuous federal statutory and regulatory scheme insulates and protects the majority of agency decisions in the area.[3] A large body of case law exists regarding the removal of wild horses from public lands. Individuals and organizations interested in viewing, admiring and preserving the natural state of the horses bring claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Wild Horses Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Information Quality Act. The challengers allege that the agencies are violating federal law by making eradication decisions based on incomplete and inaccurate data and without adequate consideration of wild horses as a vital part of public lands. In addition to courtroom challenges to agency actions, an equally active set of advocates is working to try and motivate legislative action to force changes in the statutory template upon which BLM operates its program.

It would take a thick book to even attempt to completely discuss and describe the internecine set of laws, regulations, policies, and guidelines that govern the wild horse issue. This Article briefly sets out the legal framework governing wild horse management, the key elements behind the government’s decisions, and the challenges facing those who oppose the roundups.

Although not directly addressed in the challenges brought, the subtext of these lawsuits is two-fold. First, advocates believe that wild horse homelands are being systematically converted to other purposes without sufficient analysis as required by the statutory framework. Second, as a visceral and somewhat emotional matter, it is the cruelty inherent in the roundups and the dissolution of thousands of horse families that drives much of the opposition. (continued)

PLEASE click (HERE) to read this article in it’s entirety!

Editor’s Note: “Mr. Wagman is the legal team lead for HfH Advisory Council‘s legal battles against the BLM’s ongoing attempts to “zero-out” significant and irreplaceable wild horse herds across the western United States.  The small excerpt, above, represents only a portion of an important statement that can be read by clicking the link as indicated.  We highly recommend that you visit the linked site to view the photographs, videos and comment on not only this fine example of timely information but on the topic of our national  heritage under siege by President Obama’s corrupt wild horse extinction agency, the BLM.” ~ R.T.

23 comments on “A National Injustice: The Federal Government’s Systematic Removal and Eradication of an American Icon

  1. Let me add briefly that the program is directly anti-democratic as well regarding the first amendment right to humane observation, even though federal court has directed BLM to uphold these rights. Currently Laura Leigh is being kept 1.5 miles from the Antelope trap site where she is trying to observe.

    Now, imagine being chosen to be an observer for the first democratic elections in Egypt in 30 years. A great moment. You get to the village with your polling station, and the police keep you a mile and a half away. Is it democratic? Is it free? IT’S NOT DEMOCRATIC IN OUR COUNTRY EITHER FOLKS. A MILE AND A HALF IS NOT OBSERVATION. IT IS NOT FREE.



    • But it goes beyond just blocking 1st amendment rights to view round ups and holding. It goes to hiding the wild horses in the wild from the vast majority of Americans. They should be heralding the beauty of these herds on public lands, yet they don’t. Why? Because they disagree with the intent of the law they are to uphold. They disagree with the mandate of the American people that they have intrinsic value and are integral to our lands.


  2. Rob, you are so correct, this is NOT democracy in action, these are bullies backed by the US government. How do we stop them, how do we get them to change these inhumane practices? What is happening to these horses and burros is horrifying and no one with the power to actually stop this is doing so. So what do we do/can we do?, as ordinary taxpaying citizens, to get the message across to the government, that we demand change? that we don’t want our tax dollars going to this agency, to the contractors they use? to pay these bullies who quite joyfully abuse out horses and burros?


  3. This article is a brilliant piece…These are the people who should represent wild horse advocates, …….it’s about the facts, science and law.


  4. Willful negligence and dereliction of duties. For 30 years. The BLM has run a shameful, purposefully misleading propaganda campaign against the wild horses. When is the last time you saw or heard the BLM share with the American people about the necessity of preserving wild horses in the wild? Or posting photos of beautiful, free herds in the wild on their website? Never. They do everything in their power to hide the beauty and majesty of wild horses in the wild. There goal is to make sure the vast majority of Americans don’t even know they exist in the wild. Until they are all gone. Then they can wipe their hands of their brutal “rein” of terror.


  5. This was a beautifully written piece. Why can’t this be put in all major newspapers with an e-mail address and telephone line in Washington to present to the Congress, with protests scheduled in front of Congress and the White House, as well as, BLM headquarters. We need an enormous amount of people that can afford to go the the ends of the earth to prepresent our ICONS in front of those that are letting this happen. In the meantime, I am sure, we are losing many of our beautiful horses to nighttime gatherings at holding corrals with many heading to Canada or Mexico. THis HAS TO STOP. But HOW! It seems it only gets worse, and worse, for our horses and burros. Isn’t there anyone in Congress with a civil head, sympathic to the taxpayer’s wishes. We must find some – our days, months, years are limited. They will be gone and we can’t bring these beautiful animals back.


  6. This is an excellent, well organized article well worth reading by anyone that wants to gain a deeper understanding the problems involved. It paints a good overview of the difficulties and extended time involved in attempting to follow the twisted, time eating and expensive path of challenging through the court system which can be painfully slow and inconclusive. Meanwhile the decimation of the remaining wild herds continues on a daily schedule. The deeply flawed policies and practices of the BLM combined with various legislative attempts to clarify the laws governing the preservation of our wild equine herds has only served to create an extremely complex can of worms that shields this out-of-control bureaucracy as it effectively erradicates what were once healthy and vibrant inhabitants of the lands of their inheritance. These lands that were specified by laws that intended for them to live on in their natural patterns with very minimal interference by man are being usurped by other interests that are unconcerned about the balance of nature in their pursuit of the almighty profit margin.
    The first imperative now is to convince Congress of the need to mandate an immediate halt to all roundups and an independent (of the BLM) review of methods being utilized to determine AML and HML capacities and true current herd populations. That must include a reassessment of the unquestionably cruel and inhumane treatment of the horses that begins the moment the helicopter lifts off in pursuit of them. The ensuing stampede of the panicked animals into the contractor’s traps, and subsequent handling by contractor personnel as they move the horses to holding facilites, show they are clearly ignorant and uncaring of the nature of these living beings and it is simply inexcusable.


  7. Another very important point that must not be missed is that our public officials, supposedly our public servants, are depriving the general public of the life-saving experience of viewing wild horses and burros in the wild, life-saving in the sense that it is uplifting to our spirits, awakening to our souls, to so partake of the natural freedom of these magnificent animals.


    • And by not educating them about their existence in the wild. Only a small fraction of Americans know we have wild horses. The BLM has never shared them with anyone. They don’t put up glorious photos on their website of beautiful, free roaming horses. They put up videos of segreted, gelded horses on rancher’s pastures in the Oklahoma and Kansas. It is a national tragedy to have people who view an animal as an overpopulated pest to be in charge of their survival.


  8. Let’s talk about money–taxpayers’ money linked directly to supporting animal abuse. How can the federal govt. support this abuse? In order to continue funding the lethal work of BLM, the govt. must change the wording of all their documents to “federally killed wild/feral horses”. I am not making light of the situation. They (any of them) do not know what they are doing! Furthermore, I am now linked to this animal abuse because I am a good American citizen and pay my taxes and have no say in where my money goes. I’m going back to re-read the article–it is very well done– I agree with Lynne–it should be sent to Washington. Yes– America
    destroys itself from within– with the lives of the very animal that helped explore it from east to west. Then there are these advocates–who will stand up–who will document and present the truth…….


  9. We also must remind everyone that it is OUR tax money that pays for this insanity as well as the salaries of those orchestrating it and hiring the helicopters and building the pens! If you are any place within driving distance of Phoenix, Arizona, please make an effort to be there March 10-11! I would suggest sending a copy of this article to The Arizona Republic (biggest newspaper in Phoenix) and to Channels 3, 5, 10, and 12 (local stations) immediately! The goal is to make the national news on March 10-11 as citizens of the US show how they feel about these horses (who belong to all of us along with the land they are being hauled away from!) and how serious we all are about stopping this carnage and getting those horses back on the land they belong on … and the cattle OFF of it! Blessed Be!


  10. The article is well done. Information will be helpful to Congressional staffers and elected officials as well as the general public.

    I agree with Louie. I’d like to see some indictments. Might does not make right; right makes right.

    I further agree that tax payees should not be asked to fund federally funded animal cruelty, and there is absolutely, positively no doubt in my mind that this is what happens in the great majority of roundups. I have been on the other side of the range, and these poor adopted, but rejected, wild horses arer nothing short of pitiful. The cruelty does not end in short term holding. Some of these horses are psychologically and physically damaged for years.

    Unadoptable horses? The BLM’s practices traumatize these precious creatures so much that they have a very difficult time recovering if they can recover. My experience, limited I admit, is that these horses much prefer females and gentle males. Let a man with a cowboy hat approach one of them and they tense right up. They can hear the heels and spurs on a pair of boots way beyond the barn doors.

    I stongly resent my taxes being used to fund these roundups. It is even worse that we have to spend taxes to pay their salaries, and I certainlyndo not want one penny of my tax dollars to go into the retirement funds of these evil doers. That is unless they are behind bars for a good long while.

    There is no justice if Michael Vick had to go to prison for two years for his role in a dog fighting ring. Some of these BLMers are just as, if not far more guilty than he, particularly those at the top who have some influence. The ability of this group to prevaricate and their total lack of hesitation to break this law is disgusting. Younwould think that one of these judges would find out that the BLM changed a roundup time, so they could get started before the court hands chance to tell them to stop. There is so much plotting and subterfuge.

    Personally, I am pretty tired of watching these children playing king of the mountain and doing so much harm. I am ready for some grown-ups to step up who realize that we have a country to run.

    Shut the BLM down. Defund the whole worthless agency. Anyone can put on a uniform and gun, and then sit in an office or drive a truck around all day. They can take a two hour lunch with Brutus and Roughy at the diner where they can brag aboutnhow they are going to get rid of the “problem” They don’t keep systematic records, they take one picture and say it represents millions of acres of the range. Who are these jokers? They don’t do anything that constitutes an honest day’s work for an honest day’s dollar.

    Sorry to rant, but this is so far beyond the pale of what American citizens expect of their government, I simply can not understand why Ken Salazar, Bob Abbey, et al, are not facing charges on felony animal cruelty. They should be sitting in the big


    • Christie – your “rant” echoes what the rest of us here are feeling; beyond frantic concern and frustration over the entire bogus deal BLM is pulling, and why the “powers that be” are so ___________ (fill in the blank) as to allow this in the first place, let alone allow it to continue. What they are doing is evil, horrendous and completely sickening! We all agree here, that it is wrong in EVERY way.
      So, we MUST step up the pace and get it stopped! We can’t consider, even for a moment, any other option.


  11. WOW!!!! What a collection of smart cookies! The information is not only prepared and organized with superb legal precision…it’s well documented/referenced, etc.

    These folks seem to be a most highly valuable asset in the advocates bank of resources to stop the insanity and extermination of our wild ones.

    Thanks to everyone that made this happen and especially to RT for giving us a glimpse at the legal front….good stuff.


  12. I just sent this to my Congressman. Anyone wishing to use it as an example is welcome to do so. WO

    Congressman XXXXXXXX, Subject: Wild Horse and Burro Preservation.

    Please review this recent article from the Ecology Law Quarterly and view the short included videos of BLM contractor operations or have a staff member go through it and provide a briefing to you on its contents.
    It is written by Bruce Wagman, Partner in San Francisco office of Schiff Hardin LLP, specializing in animal law litigation, in concert with Lisa McCurdy, Los Angeles office of Greenberg LLP, focusing on animal protection laws. The article is extremely well written and documented to provide an overview from a legal perspective of BLM and Congressional actions.
    It is nearly too late to preserve any genetically viable herds from the decades long systematic destruction being carried out by the BLM. The only hope left for the wild horse herds is for firm Congressional action to completely stop their equine operations now and initiate an independent investigation and assessment of the entire program.
    My main point as I have expressed to your previously is that it is imperative to stop the roundups now.




  13. Please correct me if I’m wrong, congress and its affiliates are voted into their respective positions by the people, therefore to be the voice of the people, is it not….I for one do not witness that taking place, especially within the agency commonly referred to as the BLM…


    • Ironhorse, it is correct that members of Congress are elected by the voters. However, the heads of bureacracies are political appointments not directly subject to the voters. Over the past decades Congress has effectively abbrogated their legislative authority to these agencies by allowing them to write regulations that have the same power as law when implemented. That way Congress can skate free of their responsibility for bad and intrusive inroads into our freedoms. Congress and the Senate have been an abject failure in serving as the “voice of the people” because most of them come to regard themselves as an elite class that no longer has to respond to the wishes of their constituents because, after all, they know what is best for us. The personnel making up the body and tail of these bureaucracies is comprised of federal employees that are working their way up through the system by going along to get along and not make waves. For the most part those jobs are protected by civil service regulations and a federal employees’ union that currently make it almost impossible to fire them, even in cases of gross incompetence. Consequently we ‘little people’ find ourselves victims sinking into a vast bureaurcratic morass of regulations and excessive taxation while our protests against the loss of our freedoms are mostly ignored or paid sufficient lip service to fool enough people for the member to get elected to another term. All of them should be limited to two terms, one in congress and second one in prison for the tremendous rip off they participate in on the American taxpayer! Many in the agency hierarchies should also be in prison and those in the BLM are a prime example.


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