Horse News

BLM Honcho: “It’s not MY job- but I can sure doubletalk”

Guest OpEd by Bonnie Kohleriter

“I just work on wild horse and burro stuff”

This past week the nation got a glimpse of the leadership for the Wild Horse and Burro Program within the Department of Interior (DOI).   NBC aired a Today program, “ Wild, but not Free,” in which Joan Guilfoyle, the Chief, responded to questions presented by journalist, Lisa Myers of NBC.

In discussion Joan Guilfoyle lauded the Bureau of Land Management within the DOI for its “balanced multiple use approach” which includes recreation, livestock, mining, wildlife, and wild horses and burros.   She failed to tell the nation up to 2.9 M livestock are on BLM public lands compared to 32,000 wild horses.  She failed to tell the nation 70,000 bighorn (a species of concern), 700,000 pronghorn, 1 M elk, and 20 M deer, all wildlife, are on the BLM public lands compared to 32,000 wild horses.  Ms. Guilfoyle says the wild horses are overpopulated.  There should only be 23,000 on our public lands. You tell me, “Is this a  “balanced multiple use approach?”

Lisa Myers of NBC questioned the amount of land afforded wild horses compared to other users.  She asked Ms. Guilfoyle if she should be “advocating” the Bureau for more land for the horses. Ms. Guilfoyle responded, “That’s not my job. The decision on the land use is above me. I just work on wild horse and burro stuff.” But Ms. Guilfoyle, “Shouldn’t you be advocating for more land for the horses even though the decision is above you?”

The BLM manages 245 M acres of public land.  157M acres are allotted for livestock use.  27M acres are allotted for wild horse and burro use, but, on that acreage, up to 93 % of the forage is allotted to livestock for its use.  Originally in  1971, with the passage of the wild horse and burro law,  these icons were given  54 M acres, but today they have a mere 27M.  Originally 339 herd management areas existed, but today only 165 are left in the ten western states.  In short, the land available to the wild horses and burros is fast disappearing.

Ms. Guilfoyle says, “It’s not the land availability; it’s the water.  The water is drying up. It just isn’t there.”   It just isn’t there? Or is it there, being usurped by the cattle, the mining operations, the green-solar energy plants, the gas and oil fracking operations, the urban areas  all of which are using huge amounts of water as the government allows more and more of these operations on our public lands without adequate evaluation while Ms.Guilfoyle turns a blind eye to it?  “It’s not my job, after all, to advocate for more water for the wild horses and burros.”

Values and whose values will prevail seem to be playing a marked part in the continuation of the wild horses and burros on our public lands.  As Fred Tobar, the cattleman, in this NBC show , says, “ The horses have no value. They need to go to slaughter.”  Fred appears to view all animals as just a source of food and a  dollar in his pocket.  The idea that these horses and burros  have intangible importance, that they are a part of our history and culture and are a source of beauty in nature to behold  as symbols of our freedom, is perhaps beyond Fred’s comprehension.  It appears to be beyond so many other users of our public lands as well now who are also singularly product and profit focused.  The wild horse and burros could be promoted on the range for tourism with private entities, but that might be a distraction from Guilfoyle’s sole mind-set.

Space, land, water for these wild horses and burros aside, Ms.  Guilfoyle  maintains she wants well-cared for, healthy, happy horses.

1)    Well-cared for:  How can Ms. Guilfoyle have well-cared for horses on the range when her 2013 budget has no money allocated for on the range management and improvements. Wildlife has put in guzzlers for its animals to drink, but what has Guilfoyle  done for the horses and burros on the range at a time when there is so much competition for the resources?

2)    Healthy:  Gus Cothran, the retained geneticist by the BLM, writes and speaks repeatedly saying 100 or 150 horses or burros, the absolute minimum, are needed in a herd to maintain diversity and viability. With less than that, the herd faces a loss of fecundity, physical defects, and a lack of continued viability.  Today, with the appropriate management levels poised as they are, only 28 herds out of 165 wild horse herds in the ten western states have 150 or more horses in them. WHB personnel will tell you not to worry.  The herds intermingle, but this is anecdotal, not scientific evidence.

3)    Happy:  How can wild horses or burros  be happy when 50,000+ out of           82,000+ are incarcerated, removed from their family bands, and the life they know?  How can wild horses and burros be happy when they have to struggle to get around the cattlemen’ and extractors’ fences and when they have to struggle to get the forage and water they deserve because  the cattlemen, hunters, and extractors are usurping their space, forage and water?

The wild horses and burros  were to be managed and protected  on the range as stated in the law of 1971.  Joan Guilfoyle translates that into simply making sure she has the “the right number of animals in the right numbers.” So what has she done to accomplish that singular task of her agency for the animals that are on the range?

To get the right number (whoever says it’s the right number?), she has

1)    Authorized the removal of 50,000 horses  from the range to be put in long term pastures primarily  in Tornedo Alley’s Way in Oklahoma and Kansas, to be put in short-term facilities with no shelter, with inappropriate food, and with morbidity from geldings and disease, and to be given up to sale with no limitations.

2)    Pondered about using fertility control treatment and sex ratioing to hold down the growth on the range.  Her agency told Congress it would treat 2000 yearly but didn’t budget for it and didn’t do more than 700 a year out of 32,000 horses.  Her agency gathered with the idea to remove some and release others with fertility treatment. In the end they repeatedly gathered just enough to remove.  Her agency gave the drug at all times of the year to limited numbers, though it was told, to be effective, the drug needed to be given between December and February, and it needed to be given to 65-85% of the mares.  In the fall-winter gather of 2011-2012,  21 gathers were completed.  Of these gathers only 1 in 21 did it at the right time of the year in the right percentage.  In addition to errors in delivery the right drug was not given.  The agency recently concluded the fertility control treatment with PZP doesn’t work.

I go to the doctor. I say,” I have an ear infection.”  He says to take penicillin for 8 days. I go home. I don’t take anything or I take aspirin for 2 days.  I go back to the doctor and say, “It didn’t work.”  This is an analogy to the fertility control treatment issue.

Ms. Guilfoyle touts herself as a “good” listener with the stakeholders in our public lands. She watches the brutality involved in helicopter round ups.  She says much of that is corrected in a new policy just written, The Comprehensive Animal Welfare Handling policy. Lisa Myer suggests to Joan Guilfoyle, the advocates for this policy say it has too much ‘wiggle room’ and is ‘window dressing.’  Joan responds with “The Activists” a slam word, “ will never be happy with anything unless the BLM stops the round ups.”  The advocates, American citizens concerned for the well-being of the wild horses and burros, have said to her, in this new policy, most everything done in the helicopter round ups is ‘at the discretion of the core (wild horse and burro specialists).’  This is no different from the previous policy.  Such activities as appropriate distances to be run and appropriate temperatures in which to be gathered are not specified. The problem in giving so much discretion to the core is the core may not be well trained, have good judgment, or exercise due authority.  The wranglers are often his/her peers… friends. In addition, in this new policy, once again, there are no consequences behind inappropriate behavior…hot shot in the face…so…  Is Ms. Guilfoyle a good listener with the stakeholders, or a selective listener and perhaps, even an insulter.

Ms. Guilfoyle says the Wild Horse and Burro Program will always have well horses on the range though, their continuing reduced numbers, their health, and their available space, forage, and water are threatened.

Ms. Guilfoyle says the horses won’t go to slaughter.  Yet when asked what is to be done with the horses, removed from the range, not adopted last year (50,000 – 2700), she replies, “That’s not my job. It’s up to Congress.”

Ms. Guilfoyle is asked again about the allocation of resources primarily going to off the range rather than on the range management. Again she replies to the reallocation and readjustment of the budget money, “That’s not my job, it’s up to Congress.”

For now, surrounded by advisers, primarily Salazar appointees, whose primary interest is not in the welfare of the wild horses and burros, Ms. Guilfoyle appears contented to run an agency whose singular purpose is to count numbers and to remove  supposed excesses.  The numbers themselves have been determined  mainly by the cattlemen who have had an overwhelming influence in the decisions made in the range management plans.

But oops,  Ms. Guilfoyle has run out of places to put the “excesses.” So now she has had to come up with some new ideas.  She has a contract for bait-water trapping of the animals. The idea is to surround multiple water holes in an area so the horses have to go to some of them for survival. The cattlemen and extractors in an area have only to want an area  cleared for their water use which makes this contract ideal for them as they work with the BLM to remove the horses.   The contract uses the same wranglers that have been used in helicopter round-ups.   The contract says the American citizens can’t observe and the cores can’t possibly supervise the multiple traps  at the same time so Guilfoyle has dealt with the scrutiny problems. But then what to do with the animals that are trapped?  In the night move them off to slaughter? Who’s to know?  The Wild Horse and Burro Program has come full circle.  It’s back to Mustanging.  This was Wild Horse Annie’s greatest fear.  This is why she chose helicopter round ups over bait-water trapping though she abhorred helicopters.  At least she could observe what was happening.

Removing to slaughter doesn’t solve all of the excess, trapped horse problems. In addition to the bait-water trapping  Ms. Guifoyle is working on a contract to have a mobile unit on the range that will geld and spay the animals.  Problems of safety, sterility, morbidity, meeting the unique needs of the wild horse versus the domestic horse, and deciding on whom to geld and spay abound.

The  American Association of Equine Practitioners ( AAEP), in a study just a few years ago, cited the cruel, risky practices seen being done in gelding  stallions in the short term facilities. Given the tract record of the Wild Horse and Burro Program, what is the likelihood risky, cruel practices will be continued here?  The cattlemen and extractors may or may not be satisfied with this slow way of removing the wild horses and burros from the range, but at least, in the long run, they will be gone forever.  The advocates for the horses are not satisfied with this potential contract either, as gelding and spaying on the range is seen as just one more abuse to be done by Ms. Guilfoyle and her agency.

Ms. Guilfoyle says the wild horses and burros will always be there as she refuses to address their needs on the range and pursues her single focus quest to remove them from their legal lands or suppress their reproduction.   Really?   And, if they are no longer there, Ms. Guilfoyle  says,” It’s not my job.  It’s Congress’ problem.”

28 replies »

  1. Thank you, Ms. Kohleriter! Personally, I am one of the activists who says, “Do not remove the horses from their lands.”

    The Wild Horse and Burro Activists versus the callous and greedy Ranchers is the perfect example of Democracy versus Fascism. As is usual, the Activists have the Law and the Public on their side whereas the Ranchers and Government/BLM have Money and Authority on theirs.

    Is there any way for this to be resolved without the courts? That depends on whether corruption of Authority and Government continues. Is Secretary Jewell going to continue Secretary Salazar’s illegal and heartbreaking war against the WH&Bs?


    • Our fight is not with the ranchers; our fight is with the environmentalists. When the wild horses are gone, the ranchers will be next.

      By the way, didn’t the West get much more snow and ice this winter? Is this the result of Salazar’s decision to flood the Klamath river?

      Wild horse advocates and ranchers need to work together on this, not fight each other.


  2. Excellent commentary, Bonnie. Just excellent. You caught a guilty Joan “Pass the Buck” Guilfoyle in even more traps than she authorizes for the innocent horses and burros.

    Based on your piece alone, I’d say that Joan (the anti-Joan of Arc) and her BLM henchmen are no more than modern-day horse thieves. Badge-wearing poachers. Judases of the range, who have betrayed the pure and perfect equines into the hands of the tribunal — the ranchers, hunters, and extractors — for a few silver coins, and in so doing are committing moral suicide.

    May a gutless Guilfoyle, a pawn of the greedy, come face-to-face with the error of her ways — and do the job of equitably managing the range, as mandated under the 1971 Act, before it is too late for the wild ones.


  3. Eff Guilfoyle. She is the latest mouth organ at the head of the program who is just soooooo way out of tune. Unfortunately, we are paying her to sing. When are WE going to get tired of the same old song and dance, and demand new music and a new band?


    • Amen!!……Besides her mug is smug and it’s time go bye bye Guilfoyle…………….your a wolf in sheep’s clothing…………….


  4. Another neat little trick pulled off by the BLM is using a single number to represent both wild horses and burros. If the numbers were separated, all would realize that the burros are in critical phase out mode and will be gone even sooner than the wild horses. Although the BLM estimates that there are 3,800 wild burros on the range, numbers crunched and studied show their numbers to be closer to 1,800. Some HMA’s have one burro. These remarkable animals are given the least hospital tracts of lands and yet they survive and thrive. For the wild burros the issue is mining and alternative energy use. These uses require massive amounts of water. The other issue for the wild burro is the hunting lobby’s obsession with removing any animal they deem will compete with the forage of bighorn sheep. It is outrageous, but they have the lobbyist while we have the truth. Keep bringing the truth to the people, and pray the burros are able to hang on for another year.

    In the meantime, there are some of us who are trying to save genetics. We have a herd of wild jacks and another of wild jennies. Some are from Twin Peaks HMA and some are from Cibola/Trigo. Many are very old, but we pray the day will come when their genetics can be returned to the wild.


    • Hunters, ranchers, and American companies hoping to profit from the natural resource wealth on our federal lands need to understand that our horses are sentinels and they bring us with them. We are not out to profit except through the pleasure of viewing wild horses on the land. We pay taxes so the ranchers and other uses have that land available. If our horses are removed, I’d push for the states to buy the land back. Our federal government has no business controlling that much of our country’s natural resource wealth.


  5. Ms. Guilfoyle has “cooked her own goose!” Every time that she speaks, she digs a deeper grave for herself. She is nothing more than a glorified highly paid, animal abuser!! Perhaps she should follow the path of Ken Salazar. We will gladly “slam the door behind her.!”


  6. “That’s not my job. The decision … is above me…” Many/most of the heads of state are nothing more than puppets and the real decision makers stay hidden. Who gave Jewell that job and who gave Joan Guilfoyle that job and who is telling them what to do? The same people who have been pushing this fast-track toward WH&B extinction for many years and these people are controlled by “big bucks” – lobbyists for livestock and big game hunting and mining and fossil fuel extraction and control of water on public lands. Unfortunately the corrupt and incompetent “management” within the BLM/USFS is getting their way … we the people are on the verge of forever losing our public resources – land, water and wildlife. But we are not going to let them do this without at least putting a burr under their saddle.


    • Grandma’ Greg this is an interagency decision and it goes all the way to the top of the food chain. Our natural resource wealth or what should have been our natural resource wealth financed his last campaign, and he is not about to change a thing about it. In fact, our horses are being removed, so we won’t be there to see his buddies mining our gold, mbedium, copper, and other precious metals. These people want our wild horses off the land, so we won’t be there to bee how they are robbing us blind. This was being put into place 20 years ago.


  7. Anybody read VICE magazine (hard copy and online)?

    They also have a 30 minute program on HBO…Bill Maher is one of the producers.

    Shane Smith (?) is one of the 2 co-founders of the media enterprise. I watched more than one interview with him. Interesting human.

    Why am I relating this? Because when asked why he does what he does, he said….there is so much absurdity in the world and specific situations…..I just kept asking myself, “Where are the adults in the room?”

    DOI, USDA et al have no “adults” in the room. While the situation regarding our public lands’ policy, sales, rape and wildlife…including wild equines is TRAGIC, it is becoming so bad, that one literally realizes the absurdity of it all. It is ABSURD!

    Where are the adults?!


    • p.s. VICE is voracious about social media. I know we have many documentarians here and across the world that follow SFTHH. VICE has a superb reputation for taking “independent” investigative reporting and placement on the http://www….maybe our beautiful equines, wild and domestic need such placement. Their readership is mainly Gen Y and X’ers…but also many others. H*LL, this guy got in to North Korea to report and Kim Jil Un (sp?) showed up. Our State Department can’t even do that.


  8. “It is difficult to get a man [or woman] to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
    —Upton Sinclair


    • Good point.

      This point is dependent upon morality and as all of us know, humankind fails frequently.

      This about money, but in more philosophical ways..about evil.

      Evil knows no sex….only opportunity.


  9. Guffoyle is a lying ass monkey for the cattlemen. She is the one that they school to tell their lies repeatedly because they all know that of they say it enough people will believe it…NOT! They think we’re ask a bunch of stupid assess and hate those of us who state facts based on real scientific research and data. I guess they think that we’re all part of the dumbed down American public who knows more about dancing with the stars than our own government. Hell, i learned about what is going on when i was in junior high social studies. I guess my teacher had a crystal ball because everything she tasked about has come true…… This is the all time low for the USA and my dad would be rolling over in his grave if he was here to witness this crap. I wonder of people will ever come pooh of their holes and pay attention before it’s to late.. I wonder of there will ever be a really good person in government again.


  10. Clarification is the key and done very well here, Bonnie. Thank you!

    This is heartbreaking. Joan is nothing more than a civil servant, schooled in the art of “I only watch it.”

    The numbers are important. Those numbers have to be spread for all to contemplate. The way is steep uphill, for we are fighting an agency that caters to the less inspired, when the riches of the wild horses and sweet burros is only a means to make a buck for so many. Articles like this though, do so much good in pulling the covers back.


  11. This interview is an insult to the American public. To think an idiot like her is making a good salary, when intelligent, capable people are out of work really kills me. BLM- the M stands for MEAT!


  12. Don’t you want your taxes to help pay for things all taxpayers can benefit from?

    (Note: This post does not pertain to the small percentage of family ranchers who graze cattle on land they bought and paid for!)

    THE CIRCLE BEGINS: Since 1934, our tax money has been used to fund government subsidies that benefit huge, cattle-owning corporations (aka Welfare Ranchers)

    The corporations then pay the government $1.35 a month to graze one cow/calf pair ,
    (aka TWO cows for the price of one) on 92% of OUR public lands.

    Only 3.8% of the MILLIONS of “scrub-cattle”, (so named because they can live on scrub brush) currently grazing on public lands will end up on our dinner plates… they are NOT, “what’s for dinner”!

    Owning scrub cattle is profitable for corporations (like The HILTON hotel chain, for one) because they’re cheap to own… just $1.35 a month for 2 animals, (that need little/no supervision)

    The hides are sold for leather products and the meat for dog food.(No other significant use for scrub cattle that I can think of) Wait a minute, the circle continues on by providing huge corporate tax write-offs!

    I don’t know about you, but I’d gladly live without leather products and make my own dog food if doing so would break the BLM’s nearly 80 year old, bad-for-us, bad-for-the-environment, tax-payer RIP-OFF known as Welfare Ranching and keep more wild horses on our public lands!

    Melissa Ohlsson
    Vice President
    America’s Wild Horse Advocates/Spring Mountain Alliance
    Las Vegas, NV.


    • Barrick Gold, one of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, is also a welfare rancher. Not only are they taxpayer subsidized, but they strip mine and use cyanide in their extraction process leaving toxic waste in their wake. Their grazing leases are a means to secure water rights so they can in turn poison that water.


  13. If it’s really up to Congress, then it was already declared they are to be free “from capture, branding, harassment, and death”. I don’t believe for one minute there are 32K left in the wild. I don’t believe there are 50K in holding. Recently, Gorey claimed 37K in holding, where did the missng 13K go? Last week when I called to check on the mustangs @ Pauls Valley holding facility after the tornadoes, Gorey could not even tell me how many mustangs were at that one facility; how can they possibly know how many are incarcerated nationwide?
    It does boil down to water and EA’s. They are being fenced out of their water sources and wild horses get in the way of extractionist’s EA’s. GAO reports have documented for decades the desertification caused by livestock grazing and ironically removing the free roaming wild horses only accelerates this process.
    Eco-tourism is Africa’s #1 GNP. The wild horses are basically an untapped eco-tourism resource that could compete for those billions of worldwide tourist dollars. The DOI’s shortsighted mismanagement of Public Lands will not boost local economies long-term nor generate tax revenue (in fact, in only drains taxpayer dollars). Their plunder of our resources will only leave toxic desert that won’t support any life, not even their sacred cows.


  14. Guilfoyle deserved this… she is now the one standing in the doorway where we want to tread. The crimes against our wild ones will continue. Please point them out every chance you get! This does not have to be this way. We are not letting up the pressure.


  15. BLM, yet another violation of our rights. The gov’t constantly violates our rights.
    They violate the 1st Amendment by caging protesters and banning books like “America Deceived II”.
    They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by allowing TSA to grope you.
    They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars.
    Impeach Obama.
    Last link of “America Deceived II” before it is completely banned:


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