Horse News

Wild Horse Advocates Appeal Court Decision: Forest Service Fence Threatens Ongoing Survival of Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Herd

Source: The Cloud Foundation, Front Range Equine Rescue and Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Historical and critical range fenced off by U.S. Forest Service endangers the herd’s genetic variability

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. (April 23, 2014) On April 21, 2014, The Cloud Foundation (TCF), Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER) and noted equine photographer, Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF) filed an appeal in District of Columbia Circuit Court to US District Court’s November 2013 dismissal of a lawsuit against the Custer National Forest (FS)  and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). “We brought the FS into the suit when they issued a call for bids to build the new fence in 2010,  states Ginger Kathrens, Founder and Executive Director of TCF.  “The fence threatens the survival of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Herd by eliminating thousands of acres of vital late summer and fall grazing.”

The two mile-long, six foot high fence across a subalpine meadow blocks wild horses from historic and critical high elevation grazing in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and mars an otherwise pristine landscape. The controversy over this artificial boundary began long before the fence was built in October of 2010.  TCF contends that the fence, which is on the boundary line between US Forest Service and BLM land, only exists because the FS refuses to manage horses in an area the herd has used since long before the FS and the BLM were created.

Range expansion is crucial since the Pryor herd is small, isolated and vulnerable to genetic decline. An August, 2013 report by leading equine geneticist, E. Gus Cothran, PhD, Texas A&M University warns of declining variability in the famed herd.  Analyzing the genetics of wild horses removed from the Pryor range last year, Cothran urged the BLM to “increase population size if range conditions allow.”

“The Pryor herd is one of the oldest in the West, is a unique genetic link to the Spanish Colonial horse, and is a closed herd (i.e. no access from an adjoining herd).  Although the herd appears to be strong with remarkable longevity there have been several cases of limited vision or blindness, hernias, and cryptorchidism. These physical defects could be a reflection of narrowing genetic variability,” states Kathrens who has followed the herd for 20 years, producing three PBS Nature documentaries about Cloud, a pale Palomino stallion who lives wild in the Pryors. “Obviously with fewer horses on the range, the chances increase that individuals will be more closely related than if the herd were larger.”

In the late 1990s and early 2000s herd numbers were in the low 200s.  TCF would like to see the herd managed at numbers even higher than these, but that is difficult based on the current acreage available for their use. TCF and their partners will be working to return the Sorenson Extension in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (BCNRA). “This will be great for tourism, giving the public a greater chance to see wild horses in the Dryhead area of the range, including mares that might be in the core breeding population and have foals,” Kathrens adds. Wild horse viewing in the BCNRA has increased over the years and is an important economic driver for the nearby community of Lovell, WY.

“The BLM will be adding the Administrative Pastures at the very bottom of the mountain and we applaud them for this,” states Carol Walker. The 3,000 plus acres contained in the Administrative Pastures are not productive lands but they will allow for the herd to grow a little and they provide the best chance for wild horse bands to get out of deep snow higher on the range. “This was an area used extensively by Cloud’s father, Raven, and his band until the gates were shut a few years ago,” Walker adds.

“TCF has worked closely with the Billings BLM office over the past few years,” states Kathrens.  We are confident they have the best interests of the horses at heart and we are a willing volunteer for any efforts to benefit the horses.” TCF volunteered last year to help the BLM apply the fertility control vaccine PZP to mares to curtail population growth with the shared goal of preventing future removals.

“However, it is critical that the Forest Service take down the fence which keeps the herd from the highest quality pastures – pastures the herd had enjoyed for over 200 years,” stated Kathrens.  Unless they remove the fence, I fear that not only the genetic stability, but the ongoing survival of the Pryor Herd is at great risk which would be a tragic loss for the American public.”

“Every summer and fall until the fence was erected I observed and photographed the majority of the herd grazing in these beautiful, rich pastures,” Walker added. “Seeing the horses go down the trails their feet had made over many years and now being blocked at the fence, and gazing over it, not understanding why they could not go there anymore is heartbreaking. This fence must come down.”


 Notice of Appeal, April 21, 2014

 Judge Rules against The Cloud Foundation Lawsuit to Protect the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Herd.

 Genetic Analysis of the Pryor Mountains Wild horse Range, MT by E. Gus Cothran, August 2013

 The Cloud Foundation Legal Documents, Pryor Wild Horse Herd.


 Media Contacts:

Paula Todd King

The Cloud Foundation


Terry Fitch

Wild Horse Freedom Federation


The Cloud Foundation (TCF) is a Colorado based 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wild horses and burros on our western public lands. 

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

 Front Range Equine Rescue is a 501(c)3 non-profit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue and education. 


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22 replies »

  1. Does anyone know the reason the fence was put up in the first place? Why is it blocking off such a good sized area? Even hikers would have to find a way around or climb over it. You will notice too that these left wing judges seem to always rule against anything that might help the mustangs no matter what it is.


  2. PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)

    Survey Reveals Strong Doubts on Management Competence, Integrity and Policies
    Posted on Sep 25, 2013

    Washington, DC — U.S. Forest Service employees do not think very highly of their agency’s leadership, according to survey results released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Most Forest Service professionals lack basic respect for top managers, even doubting their honesty.
    These startling results are found in a document called “Forest Service FEVS [Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey] Analysis and Recommendations” dated March 28, 2013 but circulated recently inside the agency. Compiled by a consulting company named CI International, it summarizes agency-wide survey results, including a breakdown of survey responses from each Forest Service division.
    The survey found that overwhelming majorities of employee respondents like what they do, believe it is important and feel there is mutual respect with their immediate supervisors. Those positive perspectives are reversed, however, with respect to views expressed about Forest Service leadership:

    “Senior leaders are not well respected (only 37%). An overwhelming majority of employees do not agree with their policies and practices (only 29%)”;

    “Just over half of employees agree agency is accomplishing its mission (55%) and is a good place to work (57%)” ; and

    Leadership is unable to generate “high-levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce (only 30%) or as standards of honesty and integrity (only 45%).”

    “This is one of the most resounding workforce votes of no confidence I have ever seen,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that this latest poll is consistent with employees ranking the Forest Service 254th out of 292 federal agency components in the 2012 Best Places to Work survey. “These survey results suggest that if the Forest Service was a country it would be ripe for an Arab Spring.”


  3. Pay raises for some….
    Forest Service supervisor promotions rile up officers
    A recent decision to bump up the pay grade for seven top law-enforcement officials with the U.S. Forest Service has angered federal employees who are coping with hiring freezes, no raises and low morale.
    By Kyung M. Song
    Seattle Times Washington bureau

    Last week, the Forest Service revealed it elevated the jobs of seven of the agency’s top nine law-enforcement managers to level 15, the highest federal pay grade below the senior executive ranks. The reclassification for the managers, called special agents in charge, could boost their base pay by $20,000 or more, to as much as $155,500 a year in the Northwest.

    The pay range for Grade 14 jobs for Severson’s area is $101,933 to $132,510. The range for Grade 15 is $119,902 to $155,500. Each job grade includes 10 pay steps, and most workers top out on base salaries after 18 years.


    • Well if Cliven Bundy can ignore the thugs, why can’t other citizens?


      Find a way, although I know the USDA Forestry and BLM nincompoops/Nazis watch this site, there has to be a hand full of advocates that know the area and are smarter than these killers.

      Just be prepared to go to jail and look for cameras along the fence line.

      But cut the damn thing! (don’t forget to wear gloves and roll up the wire neatly, leave no foot/boot prints, yah-duh-yah-duh)

      Maybe anarchy is the way to go.


      • To BLM/USDA…my silly kid just got on the computer…strike the previous post. I don’t advocate breaking the law.


      • actually Denise your friend is right! However, if it wasn’t a huge group of several thousand persons, the BLM would probably be very happy to charge a few fence rippers with major Federal crimes. The BLM would love to lock-away a few of the ‘thorns in their sides’. Not recommended.


  4. GoodForThe BLM And Good Looking Out By Ginger. Who Is Fueling The FS ? the Ranchers Again Or The Frackers? Thanks For The Update…Sharing.


    • Banking, investment, fossil fuels, precious metals, and rare Earth elements are a lot more important to these vultures that animal agriculture and large vertebrates roaming the range.


  5. I remember when that stoopid fence went up. I told Ginger that we needed to learn to speak horse. Speak to ALL the horses, call a time out on stealing mares and fighting. Then go over and everyone kick at the fence. After a few minutes this non audible cue goes out and ALL the horses go back to their respective bands. Ginger laughed. I still say it’s a good idea!


  6. ” “Seeing the horses go down the trails their feet had made over many years and now being blocked at the fence, and gazing over it, not understanding why they could not go there anymore is heartbreaking” MANY freely shared,PICTURES will really help fix this issue. The written word is ignored by the BLM and the Forest service and lost in the media news pages. The writing is on the wall now, soon the BLM will clear out the rest of the ‘old ones’ and then there will be no old horse knowledge, to show them the old trail to the fence. Pictures please and a plea to all friends of the wild horses to spread them far and wide.


    • BLM is getting lots of air time and increased coverage on Internet web sites and small pears. Getting people to even understand that there is a lot more on those public lands than desert is a challenge.



    Click to access 18_runge_public.pdf

    The popular image of the two agencies, largely the result of these
    two influential 1960 studies, has been one of “conformity” and
    “capture” respectively.

    Kaufman presented the Forest Service as a
    strictly hierarchical agency, with its own elan, in which formal and
    informal practices yielded a high degree of conformity with central
    agency policy from field officers. This traditional public administration
    view led critics of the Service to argue that it is insulated from
    change, and that its timber management practices, in particular, are
    outdated and inefficient.

    The BLM has been considered a captured agency. This picture of
    the BLM supports McConnell and Lowi’s critiques of cientism-in
    which public power is transferred to narrow private interests.’ Captured
    by mining, grazing and timber groups, effective representation
    of the public interest at BLM is thwarted by their influence over the
    flow of services from public lands.


  8. I am happy to hear that this decision is being appealed, particularly since USDA APHIS and WS published a paper in 2007 WS titled “Managing Invasive Terrestrial Vertebrates” which reiterated our government’s position regarding relevance of origin in managing animal species. This report listed the horse (Equus caballus), the donkey (burro) (Equus asinus), and zebra (Equus bruchelli)—all species whose ancient DNA have been found present along with the half-ass (Equus hermionus) in Alaska. In addition to these species, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, dogs, and cats are also listed.

    The different eradication methods used on these species by APHIS and WS is more expansive than the list in the 1993 OTA Report F-565. Fencing animals away from resources such as water and forage as has been done with the Pryor Mountain herd resulting in the death of an entire band that could not get to its spring forage. There were signs that the horses rounded up from the Owyhee desert prior to the July 2010 round-up that portable metal fencing would have left. Then there is the mare standing on top of a huge rock with her leg cut up indicating that she must have been very frightened to have found a way to the top. So, why would we be surprised to find that USDA APHIS and WS may have authorized the contractor to use “frightening” devices.

    Since the original intent of the 1951 International Plant Protection Convention was intended primarily to protect plants that are agricultural crops, and the 2000 statute that is labeled the Plant Protection Statute and is part of a larger agricultural bill, it feels a bit perverse to me to include the elimination of animal agricultural within a bill titled as if its primary purpose is to to protect agriculture. The title of the 2000 bill was the Agricultural Risk Protection Act or An Amendment to Strengthen Federal Crop Insurance Act P.L. 106-224. Title IV is the Plant Protection Act.

    The timeline given above stating that the numbers of horses were stable close to 200 horses in the 1990’s and early 2000’s is consistent with the timeline when the 1997 Update of the International Plant Protection Convention went into effect October 2, 2005. As previously stated, the IPPC which opened for signatures in 1997, was introduced in Congress in March 2000. In October 2000 the Senate ratified this treaty which had been redrafted in 1996 and 1997. Again, the Finish Agricultura Ministry wrote a paper published in 2005 stating explicitly that the 1997 was re-drafted in such a way that it included synonymous language to the UN CBD Article 8 (h). In previous comments I have referred to OTA-F-565 (1993) as the document that specified that federally protected wild horses and burros are alien, exotic, feral, non-native, invasive, animal species that are pest of plants in this document.

    When we thought the fence was simply an example of incompetence, given the prevent, control, eradicate language is part of US law on alien species, it is not beyond the pale to consider the construction of this fence akin to shooting horses with high-powered rifles. The Nature Conservancy and the alleged technical and scientific expert arm of the United National’s Environmental Program worked through FWS during the 70’s and 80’s until the IUCN’s legal team decided to write this into a treaty


  9. Time to bring the fence down so the wild horses can move about and graze, water properly. This is crazy to have a fence there in the first place. What a stupid idea and so it must come down. BLM and the government take this fence down for the Pryor horses please.


  10. This fence blocks the Pryor mustangs from their rightful highland meadows typically occupied in late Spring and Summer, Custer National Forest is disobeying the WFHBA because these horses were there in 1971 and this seriously impinges on their long-term viability. The log fence is very effective, as I have observed first hand, but it is so wrong!

    Liked by 2 people

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