Horse News

Wild Horses and Burros: FINDING COMMON GROUND

OpEd by Marjorie Farabee ~ Director of Wild Burro Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation
published on Facebook

“BLM employees on the ground are intimidated by ranchers and other powerful interest groups…”

photo by Marjorie Farabee

photo by Marjorie Farabee

In our own lives, we want to approach solutions to problems we encounter by utilizing logic, observation, consultation, and research and it is not unreasonable to believe this approach should be utilized when trying to shape public policy. Thus, it makes it extremely frustrating to find common ground on an issue when the other side has unlimited funds, to promote a hokus pokus program of glass and mirrors. It is impossible to come to a solutions based approach to improving our public lands because the nefarious interests of powerful politicians push science and logic aside in favor of profit. Through choice of language, and doctored data intended to deceive the public, special interests have influenced the destructive management choices being made on our public lands. Presenting undeniable data, and proof of the environmentally sound practice of leaving nature alone vs current management practices that science, data and observation prove has been disastrous for our public lands, cannot alone enact positive change. The profiteers do not want solutions, they want unfettered access to our public lands to satisfy their greed. To this end, they spend enormous amounts of money supporting politicians who can be bribed or have a vested interest in ignoring science and the public’s will. BLM (Bureau of Land Management) employees are promoted who tow the line making the agency itself corrupt from top to bottom. In other words, our wild horses and burros are being managed by hungry wolves.

BLM employees on the ground are intimidated by ranchers and other powerful interest groups, when they try to uphold their mandate to maintain a natural balance on our public lands. The ranchers ignore their lease agreement to remove cattle when they are supposed to and to not overstock. Instead, they call in their congressman and complain about the annoying BLM employee trying to protect the environment. There are guidelines the welfare ranchers are supposed to follow to protect our public lands from degradation. It is in their lease, yet BLM employees who try to uphold the contract do not last long. They must make a choice to throw their integrity in the trash and do as they are told, or quit. Only the corrupt survive.

This is what saving our public land’s health, and the wildlife that lives there, has come down to. This is what we are up against. We have dirty politicians who use their position to profit from our public lands, we have extremely wealthy ranchers and other special interests, intimidating BLM employees and buying off politicians. And we have BLM administrators who are compromised by this system and their own personal interests, who squeeze BLM employees from the top. None of them will listen to logic, facts or public opinion. The decision makers are quite happy to manipulate data, to the point where it is systemically accepted by employees all the way into the field. They comply and produce numbers meant to trigger a roundup. They could use a GO-Pro on their aerial counts to backup their numbers, but they don’t. They cannot produce proof of the numbers they turn in, but they could. Their field notes show a huge discrepancy between what they photograph and write down and the actual number they turn in. FOIA records showed that the Black Mountain aerial flight produced written and photographic documentation for a little over 200 burros, yet they stated they counted 1378. This number was turned into 2000 by Senator John McCain demonstrating how unreliable the BLM estimates of wild burros and horses really is. It is shameful and a crime against all of us. This pattern of inflating our wild horse and burro herds is pervasive across all of our HMA’s (Herd Management Areas).

The rules about maintaining a healthy NATURAL balance are completely ignored as 97% of forage is “allocated” to livestock and 3% is (allocated) to burros and horses on the small percentage of public lands that are supposed to be for the “principal” use of our wild horses and burros. The BLM is supposed to set up monitoring areas to check range health. If they find it degraded, livestock is supposed to be removed first off the HMA’s until conditions improve. To further add to the difficulties to survive imposed on our wild herds, the Department of Interior has sold off portions of HA’s (Herd Areas) to private owners too. Often this is critical habitat for all wildlife such as river fronts and lake properties. They add to this offense by not making it provisionally necessary that the new owner must allow access in his development plans for wildlife to get to water.

Bullhead City is still technically part of the Black Mountain HA. This did not stop the BLM from selling a twenty-five by five mile stretch along the river to a developer. As Bullhead City was developed, the burros were not considered at all in planning. During planning, construction of the highways and new buildings, thought should have been given to accessing water. Bullhead City lies inside the outline of the HA designated for wild burros making it clear that their survival needs should have been a part of the planning. Despite knowing they were developing critical habitat belonging to a federally protected species, no modifications were made to protect them or the public from harm. There are no under passed or overpasses included in planning. Furthermore, there is no lighting where the burros are most often hit as they make their way to the river. There are no warning signs for drivers and there are no fences keeping burros from entering a very busy highway. The burro strikes happen at the same spot over and over again because the terrain comes to a valley between two mountains. There is a wash that leads to the river and the burros follow it. It was a predictable outcome that there would be burros hit on that section, yet the politicians ignored the obvious and ignored the burro’s existence when construction took place. They knew the burros traveled through this section, yet they did not try to help them or stop them. They simply did nothing. But, of course, the burros are blamed for the city planners poor judgement

Bullhead City and the Black Mountain HMA are just one example of the systemic rot that exists within the BLM. The flagrant misuse and exploitation of our public lands is rampant. The laws governing protections are compromised and often ignored by a system that rewards corruption of the people put in place to enforce those laws. This isn’t going to change by removing a few low level employees. The stench comes from the top. Our public lands cannot be protected when profit is given preference over environmental health. It is up to us to look at voting records. To get a true measure of how your politician is looking out for your interests, look at their voting records which are made available to the public and easily accessed. If you want to see positive change, cleaning up the corruption pervasive throughout the Department of the Interior will require voting into office politicians who are dedicated to protecting our environment. Lasting change will not happen until we have people in place to clean up the corruption and secure real protection for our wild horses, burros.

I have been exploring ways to bring everyone on board including the ranchers who thus far have pushed back against any change in their behaviors. None of us can be speciests. All of the parts of an environment are important to the whole. So, to bring about the change we want, we need to find common ground with other organizations who have similar goals for their preferred species. All are important, and it is important for environmental groups to realize that we cannot pick and choose. Nature will do a fine job of reaching a balance, if we allow it. We have to work together, all of us to go after the core of what ails our public lands which is rampant greed.

We must look at voting records. Here is how:……

Current legislation depends on getting compassionate representatives in office who will listen to proven, demonstrable facts over lobbyists dollars. Looking at voting records tells you if they care about the environment, wildlife and animal welfare in general. The votes are a true snapshot super-ceding all political rhetoric.

There are solutions to the degradation of our public lands are that are sustainable. Holistic Range Management, Re-wilding, Reserve Design, and Natural Management all have at their core, allowing nature to be nature. Re-wilding in Europe is seeing fantastic success because of the cooperation between citizens and government. We can see that level of success here if we remove the profit motive currently used to drive policy. Corruption at the highest levels will only change if citizens first inform themselves and vote in every election, especially local

I recently hosted a radio show for my first time (please forgive my unpolished presentation) exploring some of the approaches just discussed. We can reach out to ranchers who have a desire to leave behind a healthy environment. We can reach out to politicians who want leave a healthy environment to future Americans. We can find success if we work together to push out corruption. This will require a dedicated effort that starts with upholding laws already in place, building on those laws, and being vigilant about politicians who are not friendly to wildlife or the environment. Voting records do count. Politicians who vote against the interests of the American people and vote on the side of big moneyed interests need to be exposed and voted out of office. If you really care about wild horses, burros and wildlife in general then never skip a local election. These are the elections that count. Our representatives and senators are put in place locally. Congress sets the budget and they hold the purse strings. If you are serious about change vote locally. Look up the voting records of your representatives to make an informed decision. Then, vote.

About the radio show:…

During my interview of Christopher Gill I wanted to get the information added that the dense hoof action described by Holistic Range Management proponents could easily be any ungulate, including horses and burros. He also confirmed the high mortality rate of foals confirming our findings of a 3-7% growth increase, as well as the fact that the burros do not compete with any other wildlife. Although he is clearly all about ranching in the traditional sense of grazing livestock, what he is doing could easily use wild horses and burros for the same affect. There are many valid approaches to managing our public land that will restore the natural balance including Craig Downer’s Reserve Design and the Re-wilding being attempted in Europe. We just need the will to do it, and commitment to vote to make it possible.

All of the most successful natural approaches to land renewal have elements that mirror each other. The core belief system being biodiversity and letting nature decide. Karen Sussman has worked with this system for over 30 years and she has had some successes. I deeply respect her knowledge and dedication to our wild horses and burros. But, she was a lone voice trying to set up an eco-team that the BLM was not committed to having succeed for the Black Mountain HMA. It was lip service. Imagine if they had followed through with the monitoring, and followed their own rules.

Clearly, until we can get the politics out of managing our public lands, we are all held hostage by each new threat against our wild herds. It is clear to us that our herds face the real possibility of being driven to extinction in the wild. The anguish we all feel for our wild ones is all too real and too raw. We hurt and we work to stop it from happening year after year. Our suffering and the suffering of our iconic herds is completely irrelevant to the profiteering policymakers. Yet, it is we who choose them by staying at home and not voting. If you care, look up the candidates running in your area and then look up their voting record. If they don’t have a record, ask a direct question to them by phone, at a rally or by letter. To save our wild lands and protect our beloved wild horses and burros we need to change the policymakers. Vote

Marjorie Farabee is the equine manager of TMR Rescue, Inc. where safe haven is provided for 46 wild burros and two mustangs in addition to the 350 domestic donkeys, mules and horses under their care. In addition, Marjorie is also director of wild burro affairs as a board member with Wild Horse Freedom Federation, and the founder of Wild Burro Protection League.

11 replies »

  1. The only answer is to elect government top down who are NOT afraid of these “Bullies” and call a spade a spade. Whistle Blowers all of the country do it every day under duress. But they do it! Its about time ALL were fired from top down. The use of a helicopter at $785,000 could surely provide a lot of care. If they dont want to play by the regulations, then EVICT the Welfare Ranchers and all their cattle. We need a woman President who will finally kick some ass instead of the rhetoric and inaccurate statistics that are constantly fed us like we don’t have a brain cell working!! And give our public lands back to the rightful animals who belong there!!!


  2. You are right about the statistics because at every mustang event every single person involved recites the exorbant numbers of wild horses on the range. Thank you for this great piece. I will look up the politicians in my area but since I have already heard back from them with a form letter they truly don’t care to understand the advocates position.


    • WILD BURROS..will they disappear forever?

      Dr. Lori Eggert, University of Missouri – Genetic Diversity
      BLM Advisory Board meeting Sept 9-11, 2013
      Genetic diversity of burro populations well below what you would see in healthy populations.
      12 burro HMAs with populations between 2 and 49 animals.
      Burro populations do need priority for genetic management.
      Maintenance of genetic diversity over time is going to require higher population size than even the largest HMA now has.


  3. A report presented to the National Academy of Sciences Committee to Review the
    Management of Wild Horses and Burros
    Prepared by: Animal Welfare Institute
    October 2012

    The BLM should consult with population modelers, equid biologists, and persons
    with expertise in burro population demographics and behavior to develop a burro
    population model. At present, no model is available to predict the impact of management actions on burros.

    Management incompetency, agency structural inadequacies, and procedural failings:
    BLM has demonstrated a lack of competency to be the primary agency responsible for wild horse and burro management

    The procedure used by the BLM to allocate forage between wild horses and burros and livestock is, at best, unclear, and, at worst, ILLEGAL.

    Liked by 1 person

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