Horse Health

Federal Agency Shifts Blame – Hiding Their Mismanagement of Wild Horse Program

Source: The Cloud Foundation

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Colorado Springs, CO– The Federal agency responsible for controlling wild horse populations is seeking to rewrite their mismanagement of this program spanning the last 30 years. The Bureau of Land Management claims wild horses in holding are busting their budget, yet failed to address economic tools that have been at their disposal for decades to keep horses out of holding and on their legal ranges in the West.

“BLM’s recent press release fails to address economical tools that have been at their disposal for decades which can control wild horse populations in a humane manner on their home ranges as the Wild Horse and Burro Act intended,” said Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of the Cloud Foundation. “BLM’s lack of on-the-range management has come at a very high price. Helicopter contractors make millions. Wild horses lose their freedom. And the American public foots the bill for large scale incarceration.” 

The National Academies of Science (NAS), in their 2013 in-depth analysis of the Wild horse and Burro Program (Using Science to Improve the Wild Horse and Burro Program) states ”. . .the committee considers the three most promising methods of fertility control to be PZP vaccines (in the forms of PZP-22 and SpayVac), GonaCon, and chemical vasectomy”.

“BLM has ignored this recommendation by the NAS. Instead they are now proposing dangerous sterilization surgeries on wild horse mares, operations considered risky even for domestic mares in a sterile environment.” Kathrens continues. “And they are proposing to change the Act, allowing wild horses to be transferred to other government agencies without limitation.”  Many fear the wild horses will end up being sold to slaughter as they would lose their protections under the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971. 

“This legislative proposal has no place in an annual funding request and bypasses key House and Senate Committees with oversight of BLM,” Kathrens stated. “If enacted, it would completely undermine the Wild Horse and Burro Act.  All Americans should voice their opposition to this radical and unnecessary change to this landmark law, and demand that the BLM use humane tools to manage wild horses on the range immediately.”


-78% of herds are not genetically viable as they contain fewer than 150 wild horses in the entire herd. Lack of genetic diversity puts herds at risk of extinction.

-Wild horses and burros have lost 41% of their habitat since passage of the Wild Horse and Burro Act even though the Act specifies that the horses are to be “managed where presently found.”

-Of the 339 herds designated after the passage of the Wild Horse and Burro Act n December of 1971, only 179 herds remain.

-On the 179 wild horse herd areas remaining, cattle are allocated 82% of the forage. The horses and burros get 18%

-An estimated 2 million wild horses roamed the West in the early 1900s.


Wild Horses and Burros on Public Rangelands Now 2.5 Times Greater than in 1971

BLM’s 2017 Wild Horse and Burro Budget:

Using Science to Improve the Wild Horse and Burro Program

22 replies »

  1. This rogue dept needs to be totally dismantled! Everyone especially at the top fired!! The Good ol’ Boy network has got to go! Tax payers monies are so misused here. They all should go to jail for all the criminal acts purpratrated onI’m sure this was note poor wild horses and burros. The Welfare Ranchers and cattlemen act like the land belongs to them. I bet Teddy Roosevelt is rolling over in his grave because I’m sure this was not what he had in mind for our open spaces in the West. We must never give up the fight for our Wild Horses and Burros! And especially sending them off to some work camps. Are they crazy???


  2. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has not established the true population numbers of wild horses and burros on their congressionally designated range lands and therefore there is no justification for any temporary or permanent sterilization of wild horses and burros. None.

    The NAS findings clearly state that the BLM has failed to provide accurate estimates of the nations’s population of wild horses and burros. Therefore, the NAS cannot conclude that a state of over-population exists and or provide a recommendation for artificial management considerations such as fertility controls to control populations for which the population dynamics are currently unknown.

    This National Academy of Science [NAS] report reviews the science that underpins the Bureau of Land Management’s oversight of free-ranging horses and burros on federal public lands in the western United States and the report goes on to say, “The Wild Horse and Burro Program has not used scientifically rigorous methods to estimate the population sizes of horses and burros, to model the effects of management actions on the animals, or to assess the availability and use of forage on rangelands.”

    The NAS report continues: “The data and methods used to inform decisions must be scientifically defensible.”
    • Management of free-ranging horses and burros is not based on rigorous population-monitoring procedures. At the time of the committee’s review, most Herd Management Areas did not use inventory methods or statistical tools common to modern wildlife management. Survey methods used to count animals were often inconsistent and poorly documented and did not quantify the uncertainty attached to counts.
    • On the basis of information provided to the committee, the statistics on the national population size cannot be considered scientifically rigorous. The links between BLM’s estimates of the national population size and its actual population surveys – the data that underlie these estimates – are obscure. The procedures used to develop population estimates for the Herd Management Areas from counts of animals are not standardized and frequently not documented.

    The NAS institute said the report lent credence to accusations that the bureau [BLM] has been ignoring science and grossly mismanaging the wild equines, and that it pursued policies that favored corporate livestock grazing interests over the interests of the wild horses and burros. That, it said, was in direct contradiction to the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

    National Academy of Science (NAS) report and recommendations.

    If any employee of the Department of Interior / Bureau of Land Management has stated otherwise, then they are in violation of Title 18 (18 U.S.C. § 1001). Making false statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001) is the common name for the United States federal crime laid out in Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which generally prohibits knowingly and willfully making false or fraudulent statements, or concealing information, in “any matter within the jurisdiction” of the federal government of the United States, even by mere denial 18 U.S. Code § 1519 – Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations Current through Pub. L. 114-38. (See Public Laws for the current Congress.) US Code Per the US Department of Justice, the purpose of Section 1001 is “to protect the authorized functions of governmental departments and agencies from the perversion which might result from” concealment of material facts and from false material representations.


  3. Americans consumers certainly don’t benefit at the market and now…they are not even allowed to know “the country of origin” .

    Consumers no longer know where meat comes from
    Country of origin label law expired at the start of 2016

    Among all the provisions crammed into last month’s massive Congressional budget bill was a repeal of the Country Of Origin Label (COOL) law, which told consumers where a cut of meat or fish came from.


  4. “This is the way we’ve always done it.” A most dangerous phrase.
    This current bait-and-switch tactic, including hiding crucial amendments and inflammatory rhetoric, is a re-hashing of the same methods of ridding the ranges of wild equines since the Act was passed.
    Less than 3% of any Program budget is earmarked for those segments of the Program that could make a difference for these animals and taxpayers – monitoring and accurate census from the ground. Money allocated for these segments equates to around $12,000 per HMA annually. But this year’s budget will only take census of 1/3 of those HMAs, leaving the remaining 2/3 subject to ‘estimates’, leading us to believe they really don’t want an accurate census.
    In 2007, there were an ‘estimated’ 28,563 wild horses and burros on the ranges, as close to the mythical AML as had ever been achieved; BLM roundups went ahead and took another 6,989 – 25% of the population – just to be safe. Then asked that more than $4M be cut from the budget. The Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board at the time cautioned BLM that these cuts would escalate issues in the coming years, but true to form, BLM kept its own council, laying the groundwork for creation of this current ‘crisis’.
    Regarding population estimates and holding facility reports bereft of verification or science, the upper echelon in the Interior Department and the Bureau are taking the numbers at face value, agreeing to grisly experiments on helpless captives so it appears that they are doing ‘something’ while doing nothing.
    Despite a wet, precipitous Winter, this is the fifth year of a severe, prolonged drought; we’ve all seen the pictures and videos of the animals this had affected and can imagine the effects it had on animals no one ever saw. It’s ridiculous to ignore this as a factor in determining an annual population estimate yet that is exactly what has occurred – and the mythos surrounding wild horses and burros as a supernatural infestation continues, unabated.
    An illustration of less than perfect bookkeeping: according to Public Land Statistics published by BLM, between 2004 and 2014, 81,563 wild horses and burros have been removed from the ranges. 42,416 were ‘adopted’, leaving 39,147 sent to holding. (Public Land Statistics for 2015 remain unpublished.)
    According to April, 2016’s holding facility reports, and despite whining because of the inability to remove and house these animals, there are reportedly 45,044 in holding – a mere 5,897 difference, and in theory, what was gathered or born in 2015-16.
    Yet, independent reports show these animals dying or disappearing at an alarming rate, with no correlating data from BLM facility reports.
    It’s difficult to believe that a wild horse or burro could live out their remaining years in a holding facility or pasture, particularly when checking their welfare is so lax and apparently not budgeted for…
    This agency conveniently forget that they are charged not only with “Management” but “Protection”. If this crisis does indeed exist, it cannot be laid on the animals, or their advocates who fight so hard to keep them free. It can only be blamed on a system of failure that continues to fail because that’s the way they’ve ALWAYS done it.

    Liked by 1 person

      • So according to that table, it takes 1,200 acres of forage a year to sustain a horse or burro…
        That’s 100 acres of forage a month, or a little over three acres A DAY.
        Those poor horses in holding surviving on only two flakes of hay a day.
        So 67,000+ would be burnin’ through 40 acres a month, and five gallons of water a day?
        But the drought didn’t kill any…


      • “Funny” how BLM changes their statements to fit their proposed actions whenever they feel like it … what happened to scientifically defensible and credible FACTS?

        Question: Based on an average production of only 50 pounds per acre per year, how many acres would be needed to feed one horse for one year?
        Answer: The average Nevada mustang needs about 1,000 pounds of forage per month x 12 months = 12,000 pounds/50 pounds forage/acre = 240 acres per horse. But the actual number of acres needed to support one horse may actually be much greater…this is because much of Nevada is too steep, or has a lot of brush and trees, or is too far from water to be used by wild horses and burros.


      • I don’t think the guys that write this stuff ? talk to the guys that write this stuff!


      • I think you will appreciate this:
        Any employee of the Department of Interior / Bureau of Land Management that has made false statements is subject to the following Title 18 violations which include fines and jail time.

        Title 18 (18 U.S.C. § 1001). Making false statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001) is the common name for the United States federal crime laid out in Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which generally prohibits knowingly and willfully making false or fraudulent statements, or concealing information, in “any matter within the jurisdiction” of the federal government of the United States, even by mere denial 18 U.S. Code § 1519 – Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations Current through Pub. L. 114-38. (See Public Laws for the current Congress.) US Code Per the US Department of Justice, the purpose of Section 1001 is “to protect the authorized functions of governmental departments and agencies from the perversion which might result from” concealment of material facts and from false material representations.


      • So if you don’t read any other statistical information or data from any source within your department, is can’t necessarily be called ‘false’ or ‘misleading’, simply ignorant.


      • At its most basic level, NEPA requires that the decision-makers, as well as the public, be fully informed, i.e. “that environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and before action is taken.” 40 C.F.R. § 1500.l(b).

        NEPA ensures that the agency “will have available, and will carefully consider, detailed information concerning significant environmental impacts; it also guarantees that the relevant information will be made available to the larger [public] audience.” Robertson v. Methow Valley Citizens Council.

        Failure to do so is a violation of the NEPA law which directs the agency to identify environmental concerns, consider alternatives including no action at all and to take a “hard look” at the issues and minimize significant environmental impact.

        The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that to ensure that environmental assessment statements reflect a careful consideration of the available science, and that areas of disagreement or uncertainty are flagged rather than being swept under the carpet.

        In other words, ignorance is no excuse….


      • GG, most wild horses I doubt weigh 1,000 lbs., especially when you factor in foals, weanlings, yearlings and even two year-olds. Figuring an adult horse at, say, 900 lbs. and 20% of their body weight needed daily, that comes to 18 lbs./day, or 540 lbs./month (about half an AUM for a 1,000 lb. cow).

        Even figuring at 25 lbs./day (to account for harsher conditions), that still comes only to 750 lbs. needed per month per horse. If the harvestable forage is only 50 lbs./acre/year, that works out to about 15 acres per horse/year required, NOT 240 acres. Of course different conditions will produce more or less forage supply, and more or less demand from the horses. But wild horses are characteristically hardy survivors who can and do get by on minimal forage.

        It’s worth recalling here, too, that AUM calculations are not fixed but variable, though most are based on a single 1,000 lb. cow, and a supposition that horses waste more feed (?) so they are sometimes calculated at 1.2 AUMs, However, the wild horses are generally small in stature so are often less than 1,000 lbs. living wild (of course they are heavier standing around in holding pens eating all day), and modern cattle are often well over 1,000 lbs., with some mother cows much closer to the 1,500 lb. mark. Also important is calves are often bigger nowadays, and selected to mature more quickly (grow faster) so a cow/calf pair in 2016 is certain to eat more than one did in the 1970s.

        AUM calculations are only as good as the information fed into them, and aren’t cast in stone but for any good range science purpose should be very site specific, taking into account the forage plants, harvest rate, and accurate animal requirements.


      • Agree. The 240 acres per horse per year was a quote from BLM and I believe I provided the link.

        In addition, as the district court explained in Dahl v. Clark, the test as to appropriate wild horse and burro population levels is whether such levels will achieve and maintain a thriving, ecological balance on the public lands. Nowhere in the law or regulations is the BLM required to maintain any specific numbers of animals or to maintain populations in the numbers of animals existing at any particular time. The only law that requires the BLM to maintain populations is the 1971 Congressional law. The law must be followed and the law states, “that wild free-roaming wild horses [and burros] are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural ecosystem of the public lands”.

        Thus, an AML established purely for BLM administrative reasons because it was the level of the wild horse and/or burro use at a particular point in time cannot be justified under statute. Where range studies or other quantifiable data have identified a need to begin monitoring studies with a specific number of wild horse [or burros] and those studies demonstrate that ONLY ONLY ONLY by reducing the number of wild horses or burros will a specific resource problem be corrected, the specified number of animals may be used.


      • PS, in my neck of the woods grass hay is trading around $200/ton (2,000 lbs.) so if a wild horse needs, say, 1,000 lbs. a month (being generous), that comes to about $100 a month worth of grass, or $1,200 annual feed costs.

        Estimates I’ve seen for costs to feed wild horses in holding are between $4-5/day, or around $150/month, which comes to $1,800. So even using bare bones FEED ONLY calculations it is still cheaper to keep wild horses wild, in the wild. Add in the millions$$$ it costs to round them up and process/ship them, and it is clearly a better option to manage them in the wild, as wild animals.


      • Absolutely … they BELONG in the wild on their designated lands … both by the laws of the United States Congress and the law of Mother Nature.

        There is NO reason for these wild horse and burro removals and destruction procedures … because there are NO excess wild horses and burros on their legally designated land. In 1971, when Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, these animals were found roaming across 53,800,000 million acres. That amount of acreage could support more than about 250,000 wild horses and burros but even after 22,200,000 acres were stolen from the American people by government agencies the remaining 31,600,000 acres could support more than 100,000 wild horses and burros today.


      • And wild equines require far less forage in Winter.
        If logic were a factor – and it rarely is – these guidelines would take into account that these animals, particularly those in snow-prone environments, spend as much time foraging during the peak of growth because once the temps drop and the environment becomes hostile, they tend to limit movement. They huddle together for warmth and protection, and reduce activity to preserve physical resources, especially pregnant mares and jennies.
        It’s also why a Winter roundup is so destructive; the original Calico back in 2009-10 was a horrifying spectacle, never to be repeated.
        These guidelines infer a static behavior, not a natural one. It’s the same as (and I hate to beat this same damn drum all the time) discounting the fact that these animals die, that they are subject to the same strengths and frailties as any wild animal.
        But that would also infer that these animals are managed by the ‘best available science’, and we know that simply isn’t true.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. We Americans need to restore the wild horse and burro herds to their rightful legal areas on BLM and USFS lands and without messing with their reproductive systems! The latter seriously undermines the essential vigor then require to survive in the long-term. They must not become doped, suppressed semi-domesticated horses and burros. This is totally contrary to the core intent of the WFHBA! For this reason I continue to stand by my guns for Reserve Design and urge you to check out my proposal on Go Fund Me called Reserve Design for Wild Horses or though my website thewildhorseconspiracy dot org.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When discussing the diminishing size of lands allotted to wild horses and burros, I’d like to see the wording written more strongly and with greater emphasis. Something like, “BLM has illegally stripped 41% of the habitat allotted to America’s wild equines by the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.” For some reason, the term ‘lost’ is often used, which doesn’t fully explain what really happened to their domains. What BLM has done in that regard is criminal, and should be discussed in the strongest terms.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting point, since the land is neither “lost” or even stripped, but was reallocated to livestock or other interests, which in the case of livestock grazing costs taxpayers even more in subsidies. It’s a sweet deal if you can get it – but those who can are only a fraction of all permit holders, and a microscopic portion of all U.S. citizens who are paying for this train wreck.

      Liked by 1 person

    “…It is likely that core provisions of public land laws with an environmental
    emphasis will survive intact because of procedural innovations
    such as citizen participation and litigation built into existing laws”

    American Federal Lands and Environmental
    Politics: Politics as Usual or a New Ball Game?

    “However, public support for environmental policy goals remains
    strong, and conceivably, the threat of more radical policy shifts will be
    precluded by procedural tactics such as a senate filibuster or a presidential
    veto. It is likely that core provisions of public land laws with an environmental
    emphasis will survive intact because of procedural innovations such as citizen participation and litigation built into existing laws


  8. Trail’s End for Horses: Slaughter

    Adoption: U.S. program is meant to save excess wild animals. Federal employees may be profiting from killing, investigation shows.
    January 05, 1997

    RENO, Nev. A multimillion-dollar federal program created to save the lives of wild horses is instead channeling them by the thousands to slaughterhouses, where they are chopped into cuts of meat.

    Among those who might be profiting from the slaughter are employees of the Bureau of Land Management, the agency that administers the program.

    These are the conclusions of an Associated Press investigation of the U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Program, which has rounded up 165,000 animals and spent $250 million since it was created by Congress 25 years ago.

    The program was intended to protect and manage wild horses on public lands, where they compete for resources with grazing cattle. The idea: Gather up excess horses and offer them to the public for adoption.


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