Horse News

One Lone Voice Testified for Wild Horses & Burros

by Dianne L Stallings, Ruidoso News

“America’s federal lands belong to us all, genetically viable wild horses and burros deserve a permanent and a fairly allocated piece of that land, a lasting home on the range.”

Ginger filming Cloud and Family, May 2014 ~ photo by R.T. Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Ginger filming Cloud and Family, May 2014 ~ photo by R.T. Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Ginger Kathrens, founder and volunteer executive director of the wild horse advocacy organization The Cloud Foundation, testified Wednesday at a House Subcommittee on Federal Lands oversight that instead of embracing realistic management strategies, the Bureau of Land management and some western politicians have attempted to derail the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act aimed at protecting wild horses on public lands.

Katherns, whose documentation of Cloud the Wild Stallion represents the only continuing chronicle of a wild animal from birth in the hemisphere, appeared by invitation from U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona.

On May  11, officials with the BLM issued a press release contending wild horse and burro populations on public rangelands had increase by 2.5 percent from 1971 when the protection law was passed, Kathrens said, but she laid the blame for mismanagement on the agency. Kathrens said 22 years ago she was asked to create a film about mustangs for Marty Stouffer’s “Wild America.” She began filming the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range in southern Montana, and almost immediately realized that she was documenting a complex species living in a tightly knit social bands.

“It is this family band structure which is emblematic and essential to the survival of wild horses,” she said. “Nonetheless, the BLM regularly overlooks this important point when development management practices.”

The National Academy of Science in a BLM commissioned two-year study of the wild horse and burro program stressed the importance of maintaining natural behaviors, she said. She also disputed BLM reference to the horses as feral or alien, pointing out that wild herds genetically are linked to North America. The NAS study also found that BLM removal of animals from the range causes populations to grow at high rates, because their numbers are held below levels affected by food limitation and density dependence.

Overpopulation of wild horses and burros on public lands has been alleged by the BLM for years, Kathrens said. “However the BLM manages the population of most herd management areas at levels far below the population required for genetic viability, from 150 to 200 animals,” she said in her testimony. “BLM has so marginalized wild horses that the majority of herds are too small to meet even minimal standards to ensure their genetic viability. It is obvious that one solution to warehousing wild horses and burros in costly short-term holding is a reexamination of appropriate management levels and a fairer allocation of available forage between wild horses and livestock.”.

Cost effective humane alternatives to removal from the range include fertility control, using a two-year vaccine resulting in a $40,000 savings to taxpayers for each treatment or retreatment of mares, she said.

Thousands of caring, well-informed and well-trained volunteer field experts are available to assist federal agencies and organizations in implementing healthy and cost-effective alternative management approaches in the wild, Kathrens said.

“America’s federal lands belong to us all, genetically viable wild horses and burros deserve a permanent and a fairly allocated piece of that land, a lasting home on the range.”

Accurate monitoring of herds is needed along with more emphasis on grazing buyouts, a financial incentive to holders of permits to swap some portion of their allowed livestock Animal Unit Month for use by wild horses and burros in exchange for at least fair market value payment, as well as the opportunity to profit from wild horse and burro tourism, Kathrens said. Repatriation, returning short-term holding horses, has long been discussed as a way to quickly relieve a significant drain on the BLM budget.

The Humane Advocate on BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, Kathrens contends the BLM alternatives are not humane and do not consider the welfare of a species protected by a unanimously passed act of Congress. They include deadly sterilization experiments on wild mares.

“In 1990 the Government Accountability Office reported: ‘BLM’S decisions on how many wild horses to remove from federal rangelands have not been based on direct evidence that existing wild populations exceed what the range can support. While wild horses are routinely removed. Livestock grazing frequently remains unchanged or increased after the removal of wild horses, increasing the degradation of public lands,’” she said.

Overgrazing, overpopulation and unsustainability are over-generalized and non-scientific claims by the BLM to justify removals of horses and burros from public lands, Kathrens said. Castration, sterilization, and long-term confinement in holding facilities are unnecessary, cruel, unhealthy, and fiscally irresponsible methods of controlling horse and burro populations, ultimately leading to the potential extermination of rare and native wild horse herds, she contended.

“We know from successful PZP programs and alternative management approaches that the government does not need to remove wild horses and burros from federal lands to effectively manage them, she told subcommittee members. “There are reasonable, cost effective and humane alternatives to current and/or proposed BLM wild horse and burro management policies/approaches; namely those including proper PZP application. Maintaining wild horse and burro herds in the wild can be financially and culturally beneficial to local communities as well as fulfill an iconic image of western heritage. Revenue from wild horse viewing and photography is the main economic driver in the small towns of Maybell, Colo. and Lovell, Wyo. due to the presences of wild horse herds.”

She claimed that rangeland degradation by wild horses has been grossly overstated by the BLM to cover up years of livestock overgrazing.

26 replies »

  1. I wonder who they will blame when the horses are all gone… Ginger is in a snake pit…too many vipers there… F-ing cattlemen and women. And only one is all that they allowed in their precious board so that they still hold all the cards.. Just look Dammit .they didn’t want an environmentalist… They wanted a woman so that they could bully her into submission. I wish ginger the best but I fear that she is outnumbered there. You gotta be a thug to deal with their crap and ginger is a lady. How many times were cattle video taped being driven into ranges that had recently been cleared of horses?. What about the fencing off of water sources from the horses? Why did she not bring that up? That vet sure did talk up the dehydrated dying horses. Too nice to fight those thugs..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have suffered grief for years because of the atrocities visited on the horses and burros by what in my opinion is a vile and ignorant government agency, the Bureau of Land Management. For YEARS we have deplored their cruel and mindless treatment of these helpless horses, and it seems that is primarily all they do to earn what tax payers provide for the salaries of these people. They have auctioned these horses off to abusive people who starved and mistreated them, and even sold them to slaughter. They have run them to death with helicopters and have killed foals, mares and wonderful stallions. They pen them in blazing sun or freezing weather with no protection.

    This is a blight on our country, a cruelty beyond imagining toward these magnificent horses who deserve much more, and it is a violation of all that is decent and it is a crime. I applaud anybody who stands up to Congress and who speaks for these horses! But does it do any good when we are depending on cowardly and uncaring Congressmen who allow lobbyists to persuade them to disregard that the land belongs to the horses, and when cattlemen let their cattle graze on and invade land that belongs to the horses? Horses settled this country in every way imaginable when without them travel, farms, pony express, winning wars, nothing could have been done without horses. We had a pact with them. This is the thanks they get. Tortured, subjected to treachery and abuse, and slaughtered.


  3. I do believe there was another voice speaking for the horses. You many not agree with the methods of Friends of Animals but to disappear their voices and claim that only one voice was heard is wrong. The Dems were breaking the rules of order over in the House. Edita Birnkrant broke the rules of order at this “hearing” but her voice was heard as she loudly stood up for our horses calling out the welfare ranchers in attendance. Instead we have testimony that we should pzp under populated horses. The other side of that testimony is that we are now agreeing with BLM that the horses are over populated????????

    Liked by 1 person

    • Edita was another voice, but I’m talking about testifying before the committee. There should have been 3 additional advocates for balance.


    • Morgan, comparing elected representatives staging a sit in to try to bring a bill to the floor to a private citizen disrupting a hearing by yelling at committee members is a false equivalent. Although I don’t agree with some of FoA’s positions and tactics, I wish someone from their organization had been given the opportunity to testify.


      • I can’t separate the difference. Both parties found that the only way to be heard was to break the “rules of order” out of frustration. I too wish that FoA, and others, had been allowed to speak. Seems the outcome of this hearing was rigged before it even began. I do object to the title of this post being that there was one loan voice. There wasn’t, and to insinuate there was is a type of censorship.


    • Agreed, Morgan. As a whole, Wild Horse Freedom Federation does not support the use of PZP, fertility control or sex ratio skewing because the BLM has set most AML numbers for non-viable herds. Unfortunately, only one wild horse & burro advocacy group was invited to send a representative to speak, again skewing the testimony.


    • It’s funny how politicians can get away with things that get taxpaying citizens in trouble. I am in NO WAY defending the lady that started shouting during the hearing, but there shouldn’t be a double-standard. If she got kicked out, politicians should get kicked out too when they get out of line, regardless of their political affiliations or what they’re protesting.


  4. So many of us are forever grateful to Ginger for testifying, she covered a lot, included actual facts versus the hype the BLM and ranchers want believed. She is awesome. I do feel that if more Americans raised their voices, their outrage over what is happening to wild horses and burros, by calling, emailing, again and again, their members in the Senate and the House it could make a difference. Mid-term elections are not that far off, the GOP is at risk for many seats, esp in the Senate, now is the time for advocates for our wild ones to make a big noise.


  5. Thank you to Ginger Kathrens for her educated testimony and to all those who showed up to register disapproval of BLM’s mis-management of wild horse populations. I admit to being confused about horse population numbers, I had heard they were grossly over-estimated. Her testimony may be directed towards a compromise in advocating for PZP programs as alternative to invasive and cruel experimentation on horse reproduction. Frankly it is time to vote out all anti-wild horse and burro advocates. I’m sick to death of them running the show as we inch closer to eradicating wild horses and burros permanently.


  6. I sure do hope that Ginger can keep her integrity, the Cloud Foundation is one of 35 advacacy groups that has already caved to PZP. I have seen to many times were once a person gets with the in crowd —well—- we shall wait and see.


    • But this is Ginger’s testimony–she has caved to pzp and even stood in front of BLM and apologized to them. It would be a cold day in hell when I stood in front of BLM and apologized for holding their feet to the fire. ““We know from successful PZP programs and alternative management approaches that the government does not need to remove wild horses and burros from federal lands to effectively manage them, she told subcommittee members. “There are reasonable, cost effective and humane alternatives to current and/or proposed BLM wild horse and burro management policies/approaches; namely those including proper PZP application.”


  7. She is correct on everything she brought up concerning the BLM.they also appear to be doing what is suggested by .AMERICA’S BILLIONAIRE WELFARE RANCHERS, GETTING RID OF AMERICA’S WILD HORSES, BURROS AND MUSTANGS. A century ago America had approximately 2 million wild horses, now we only have about 48,000 left.david and charles koch of montana don’t want any horses left on the free public land. They want the land sold off or mining interests to have it.with 245,000,000 acres.set aside for wildlife and the wild horses, if no cattle, bison or sheep were allowed on it the wild horses could florist again.


  8. Thanks for this excellent summary by Dianne Stallings. It took great courage to do what Ginger did. She put strong pro-WHB arguments and solid data out there in the face of contemptuous treatment by the pro-slaughter Repubs. We advocates need to stop the sparring over PZP and get to work. As Carole Menninger said, this is an election year. There are many ways to go up the mountain, and each group needs to do what it can do best — and reach out to thousands for help & greater awareness.


  9. Saving America’s Wild Horses

    With drumming hooves, they come running.
    With tails flagged high, they come running,
    With flowing manes, they come running.
    With flared nostrils, they come running.

    Oh, what a glorious sight!

    Clouds of prairie dust mark their passing.
    The scent of crushed sage comes drifting.
    Glistening hides in sunlight, reflecting.
    Separated mares and exhausted foals nickering.

    Oh, what a careening flight!

    What would cause this reckless running?
    Over rocky hills, unshod hooves come crashing.
    Older horses lose their footing
    Lathered sweat whitely spraying.

    Oh, what a panicked flight!

    Exhausted, on splayed legs, with sides heaving
    Too spent to nicker at their mothers’ leaving
    Foals collapse, roiling dust enshrouding
    From the chopper blades’ wild whirling.

    Oh, what a tragic flight!

    The strong ones lead, the rest conforming
    As they heed the fences’ hazing
    Into the catch pens’ terminating
    Rails forcing a bewildered milling.

    Oh, what an end to their flight!

    Looking for lost foals, mares pacing
    Bloated bags with warm milk dripping
    A mute and painful weeping
    O’er the Truth so horrifying.

    Innocence, a victim of their flight.

    Stallions answer Nature’s calling
    Rearing, striking, biting, screaming
    Close-quarter conflicts inciting
    Instinctive challenges contesting

    The bloody purpose of their flight.

    Growing herds expanded grazing
    Might harm the desert tortoise feeding
    Politicians paid for by Big Oil, Big Mining
    Approved detailed plans for exterminating.

    Greed, the “No Exit” signage of their flight.

    Some spend months in metal pens confining
    Forgotten, rains ease their frantic thirsting
    Thousand rib and hip bones testifying
    Slow starvation caused their dying.

    Human error the Reaper’s demise of their flight.

    Too few selected for public adopting
    Wild Horse Protection Act ignoring
    Auctioned prices climbing, ever rising
    The “Killer Man” nods and ends the bidding.

    One final sorting changes the nature of their flight.

    Steel trailers travel south to border crossings
    Squeezed into plywood crates, foreboding
    Bewildered captives endure hours of flying
    No hay or water to ease their silent suffering.

    Japan’s slaughter houses, the destination of their flight.

    Electric prods keep dazed mustangs moving
    On slimy steel, hooves slipping, horses falling
    They’re lined up, wild eyed with nostrils snorting
    At the stench of filth and hot blood flowing.

    The Kill Box, the vile termination of their flight.

    Spinal cords severed by Ice-pick stabbings
    Strong legs collapse to the sounds of groaning
    Hind legs wrapped in chains are lifting
    Through cut throats, life’s blood is draining

    Can glazed eyes see their souls take flight?

    Wild burros, horses, mules trapped for Federal culling
    Race horses, ponies, trotters too old for sports or breeding
    Loyalty, trust unnoticed in the equine steaks now steaming
    As patrons of foreign dining enjoy their gourmet gorging.

    Ignorant of the bloody, heinous outcome of their flight.

    Horses carried men in battle, no beribboned medal dying,
    Pulled prairie schooners across the plains unending
    Built railroads, carried mail, plowed fields for planting
    In Arlington, proudly paraded veterans to their final resting.

    We must preserve, forever, the freedom of their flight.

    With drumming hooves, they come running.
    With tails flagged high, they come running,
    With flowing manes, they come running.
    With flared nostrils, they come running.

    Oh, what a thundering, glorious sight!
    © June 2, 2016 by Janice E. Mitich
    Picture Rock, AZ

    I give permission to wild horse and burro advocates to copy my poem and send it to your Congressmen/women. Please include copyright information. People have to know what a horrible ending awaits these beautiful animals that are suppose to be protected by Federal law.


  10. Amodei hopeful lands bill will get a hearing in September

    ELKO U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei said Tuesday that he expects a hearing this year on his Nevada lands bill, HR 1484, which would transfer federal land to the state.
    The Nevada Lands Council hosted a meeting in Elko to discuss the bill with ranchers, city and county officials, recreationists and other interested parties.
    Amodei said he wants a hearing on HR 1484 — Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864 Act – this September.


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