Horse News

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.

18 replies »

  1. You and I have paid $449,523 ( of our hard earned tax dollars to Horse Trappers LLC (the Oregon wild horse trapping contractor) to capture our wild horses on their legal Murderer’s Creek HMA land since September of 2012 when the BLM/USFS capture EA was announced … but the EA was never signed and therefore the capture of least least 257 of our wild horses (and the death of at least 29) was NOT legally authorized. This is a good example, of what is going on behind our backs.


    • How do they manage to get away with this Crap, Im sick of it, Why are they not accountable ?? are they crazy and hide behind that Rouse?????/ aCTUALLY THEY ARE BEYOND CRAZY , THEY ARE TOTALLY OUT OF CONTROL, Murdering maniacs !!!!! Why are they not arrested on the Spot????


  2. Why are there no consequences to these evidently illegal actions? If there are no repercussions these will continue unabated until every last wild horse and burro is purged from the public lands.

    The rest of us are obliged to follow the law or face the penalties, including fines and jail time. Why are the BLM and USFS employees not similarly liable? Do we need to seek a change in the law to make our government employees accountable and liable for the disappearances and mysterious deaths of animals who are public propertey?


  3. Your question and a question many of us ask ourselves every single day: “Why are there no consequences to these evidently illegal actions?”
    My answer: “MONEY”.
    Who is patting whose butt and who is padding whose pocket?


    • GG, I understand that but if as this article implies, the laws were and are being broken, then those are crimes which are punishable by law. If there are some loopholes being used they are not mentioned here, so those violations seem to be actionable. Who and how should that action be taken?


      • Icy-
        Another good question and without lawsuits and lobbyists how CAN we fight these illegal activities by our government agencies?

        I sometimes think about old Barney Fife and the Andy Griffith of Mayberry TV show when they said, “CITIZENS ARREST, CITIZENS ARREST”. Oh, how I would love to do that to BLM and oh, how they deserve it!

        On a more serious note, I can give a little background …
        There is a lot of history (private livestock vs wild horses on public land) in this BLM/USFS Murderer’s Creek area. This area was under heavy scrutiny in the federal court – Stout vs USFS & USFWS. After a court injunction was granted in 2008, cattle were taken off of grazing allotments on the Malheur (Murderer’s Creek). The Stouts were told they could no longer graze cattle on their 62,000-acre public land allotment along Murderer’s Creek and nearby Deer Creek. The Stouts once again filed a lawsuit … and then a BLM/USFS wild horse capture EA was written (but not signed!) and it appears from the wild horse removal actions of the BLM/USFS that regardless of their illegal captures … “somebody got to somebody” and hundreds of our wild horses were trapped and removed without any legal authorization.

        It is my understanding that in addition to contracting the sheriff’s department to patrol the BLM and Forestry area — Merkely (running in November election) and Wyden (running 2 years from now or may retire) simply don’t give a $#% about the horses, but want the subsidies, as they are both invested, as well as congressmen in Oregon. Two years ago, they were part of the contingent to not allow public scrutiny of ownership of cattle ranches using Public Lands, as well as closing the Grazing Permit participants being made available to the Public.

        The above is my limited understanding in a nutshell – but there is a lot more to the story.
        More information:


      • Can we form a citizen’s bureau… something like the Better Business Bureau or the agencies which police malpractice in physicians, for example? We could call it the Better BLM Bureau. (I am not joking here – we need tools and action more than handwringing).


      • I agree all Agencies formed from here would be an anwesome benefit to the Mustangs and Burros, Lets do it !!!!! Nothing else has helped them !!!so far …….


  4. Another thing to be aware of regarding our public lands is that a few weeks ago the Oregon BLM decided to contract the local county Sheriff to enforce the law on our federal public lands – Murderer’s Creek HMA included.

    This extra law-enforcement is not being done for an emergency or backup situation but as standard operating procedure. It is the BLM itself that is conducting illegal activities on our public lands by trapping at least 257 wild horses (per FOIA data) without any legal authority – THEY are the ones that need to be behind bars – not the wild horses.

    “The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Oregon State Office intends to award … a contract for law enforcement services on the public land to the County of Malheur … on the public lands, waters, roads and trails, to include those administered by the BLM.”
    Solicitation Number:


  5. Why do they keep getting away with the cullig of the beautiful mustangs its all in the name of greed the ranchers have the BLM and the rest of the government in their pockets. Mustangs are a big part of our history as the burros.


  6. Methane gas is Not Produced by a couple of horses. Cattle use all forage via intestinal journey dont replinish and cattle sheer weight per hoof grinding each root system virtually unusable. However one slim…starved as proslaughter describes….virtually tiny horse per hundreds of acres is to blame still. Heres a picture I see……really its cattlemen munching the grass….possibly grinding with their boots heels….letting gasey farts while smokin up the forage…because thats the only reality in which this makes any sense.


    • I can see the picture too! Perhaps that’s the image we need to project – any cartoonists out there?????? Wouldn’t we all love to pin that picture up on a billboard!


  7. This is what a group of dedicated people are doing in British Columbia.
    This summer, Glacier Resorts has announced plans for construction in both the Jumbo and Farnham Valleys. Every year, they have plans for summer activities or construction, but so far, nothing has happened. This year, their rumoured plans include foundations for day lodges in both valleys, plus water reservoirs and ski lifts.

    To start construction, Glacier Resorts must satisfy the 195 legally-binding commitments (read them here) attached to their Environmental Certifiate. If construction begins and these conditions have not been satisfied, the Environmental Assessment Office has the power to halt construction.

    These extensive conditions cannot possibly have been satisfied with the little minimal work done thus far. Our letter here to the Environmental Assessment Office outlines the conditions that haven’t been met. Two weeks ago, we met with members of the Compliance and Enforcement team from the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO). They were on-site, touring the Jumbo Valley and meeting with key stakeholders as part of their review process. We will continue to work with the EAO to make sure that construction doesn’t proceed before these legally-binding conditions are satisfied.

    There are two ways that you can help: by taking day trips up the Jumbo and Farnham forest service roads to document any work or by spending some time in the monitoring camp.

    This month, a group of citizens will be establishing an informal camp in the Jumbo Valley to provide 24/7 monitoring.

    Monitoring: Can you help?

    If you want to help with day trip monitoring, your first shift will be with one of our veteran monitors who will show you the ropes, share the history, and let you know what to watch for. If you want to join the camp, you’ll be joining other citizens commited to keeping Jumbo Wild. To join the monitoring crew, please connect with the monitoring schedulers:

    Last week, the Eco Society moved one step closer to their day in court. They filed an amended petition, requesting for a judicial review into the creation of the Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality, a town with no people, an appointed mayor and council, and a budget made up of BC taxpayer dollars


    To date, 75 Wild Horses (Mares) have died at the Scott City feedlot in Kansas.

    U.S. Will Pay $2 Million So Prison Inmates Can Teach Wild Horses to be ‘Gentle’

    The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management will pay $2 million in taxpayer funds over five years so that prison inmates in Kansas can teach wild horses and burros to be “gentle.”

    The grant, which is yet to be awarded, is for a minimum of $125,000 and is not to exceed $2 million over the next five years. The money is designed to continue a program already in place with the Kansas Department of Corrections.
    There are similar programs in Canyon City, Colo., Riverton, Wyo., Carson City, Nev., and Gunnison, Utah, according to BLM spokesperson SALLY SPENCER.


  9. If any course of action is to be taken then it should be legal in all rights. In other words avoid the illegal actions and the like, there’s no reason for them. In addition, the horses were very likely on the land in question even before most humans, this includes ranchers. I don’t see any logical reason why land management couldn’t be put into place providing finical means would allow for it. Now, if these animals were to be removed then they’d likely be sent to slaughter, which is not a fate which they deserve. Really, in closing even if some people want these horses removed there are other options. Horses did so much for us a race, they enriched our culture, they helped us, they taught us. To remove them from their home or to send them to slaughter would truly be a loss. Please think about what they have done for us as a whole and what fate likely awaits them if we turn a blind eye to these magnificent creatures.


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