Wild Horses/Mustangs

BLM’s Beatys Butte “Model” Program: The Devil is in the Details

A special feature article on Straight from the Horse’s Heart:

(Photo:  BLM)

Beatys Butte is a Herd Management Area (HMA) of wild horses in SE Oregon.  With 437,000 acres, the AML, the appropriate management level of allowed wild horses on that acreage, is set at 100-250.  The program was designed as a closed loop system.  Horses on the range were to be bait trapped yearly.  Some would be given fertility inhibitors to manage population growth and some, 20 colts and fillies, would be brought in to resupply the training center in Adel, Oregon, for training and adoption.  The program was designed by ranchers, elected officials, fish and wildlife agencies, the BLM, and “advocates.”  The initial cost was $425,719 for the gather, training and adoption program over a 5 year period.  It appears money also came from the sage grouse program.  The concept of the program appears to be good, but is the execution acceptable?

This program is poised as a “MODEL” but is it a “MODEL?”

  • In November, 2015, 1070 Beatys Butte wild horses, out of about 1400 or 1500 wild horses on this Herd Management Area, were gathered and removed from the range.  Nobody talks about them today.  Nobody talks about the fact that they were to be used to do different sterility experiments on the mares until the BLM was stopped.  Nobody talks about the fact that some were sent to feedlots.  Nobody talks about the fact that some were sold to Dave Duquette of the pro-horse slaughter group Protect the Harvest (and a couple of other people), only to be spayed (likely by Oregon veterinarian Leon Pilstick) and sent to Futurity Contests to be used for reigning, when their bones hadn’t yet fused.  Nobody talks about the callous, abusive handling of these wild horses.  After all, this is a “MODEL” program.
  • The AML was set at 100-250 with the idea the BLM would put only 100, the lower AML, on the 437,000 acre range spouting “a thriving, natural ecological balance.”  Dr. Gus Cothran, the equine geneticist hired by the BLM, laughingly says there should be a “minimum” of 150 to 200 in a herd with 150 effective breeding age animals to have a slow genetic decline.  In other words, there should be many more wild horses if the herds are to be healthy.  With only 100 wild horses, they are not thriving.  With only 100 wild horses, they are far outnumbered by the 4000 plus livestock grazing on Beatys Butte.  A “MODEL” program?
  • The BLM wants to gather the remaining 200 wild horses on the range, even though they are not over AML.  Is this even legal?  A “MODEL” program?
  • Then the BLM wants to select 60 stallions in the Burns Corrals to put back on the range and 40 mares.  In other words, it wants to also skew the sex ratio, even though Paul Griffin, the lead researcher for the BLM, says sex ratio skewing is now believed to be detrimental to the herd’s social behavior and dynamics.  The Oregon BLM maintains this 60-40 sex ratio does not affect the growth of the herd, as opposed to the 50-50 ratio, so even why do it?  A “MODEL” program?
  • In addition to the sex ratio skewing, the BLM wants to give fertility inhibitors and fertility boosters to the 40 mares now confined in Burns for two years before they are returned to the range.  Then BLM figures it will bait trap 30% of the horses per year and dart them again.  Dr. Kirkpatrick would likely roll over in his grave if he knew the PZP program he developed was being administered in this way.  The BLM allowing only 100 wild horses not only compromises the continuance of the herd, but the sex ratio skewing and the application of the PZP further compromises the continuance of the herd.  This is setting up the herd for collapse.  The BLM isn’t worried.  They say they will just bring in horses from other herds to bolster the genetics of the herd.  So much for the closed loop idea of the Beatys Butte program.  The 1971 Law said the horses were supposed to be “where found.”  A “MODEL” program?
  • At the first Beatys Butte Mustang Adoption Event, the message booming over the PA System to the audience was “This year we have 10 Beatys Butte horses for adoption.  Next year we will have 20.”  First of all, the 10 for this year were not from the Beatys Butte range. Eight 2 year olds were likely born in captivity at the Burn’s Corral.  Then next year, it is unlikely that 20 will be from the Beatys Butte range, because of the 40 PZPed mares.  You’ll be lucky if you have one.  Not to worry, the BLM will bring in colts and fillies from other HMAs and call them Beatys Butte horses.  Again, so much for the closed loop.  A “MODEL” program?
  • With 60 stallions and 40 mares (Beatys Butte horses) from the Burns Corrals and with infusing horses from other herds into this herd, it seems a selective human based breeding program is being promoted and developed.  This is not a wild horse program.  A “MODEL” program?
  • The training and adoption event this past Saturday, April 14th, brought into question the practices of these aspects of the “MODEL” program.  Two 4 and 5 year olds were featured and eight 2 year olds.  The 2 year olds came to the facility last September at the age of 1.  In the brochure given, the public was told all the horses have been ridden in the mountains in the snow, mud, trees and rocks.  The public was also told these horses had been used in gathering, sorting and and trailing cattle in rough terrain.  Bumpy, at about 1 or 2 years old, is seen pulling a cart with a 200 to 250 pound man behind him.  Horse veterinarians will tell you that horses should not be ridden beyond a walk until they are 3 years old, and not ridden at a trot or gallop until they are 5 years old, because their bones are not fused.  Riding too early can create lameness problems when they are older.  A “MODEL” program?
  • The public is told the program is supported by ranchers, advocates, and government officials.  Yet no advocates are seen on the Board.  What is the cost for such a facility just to train 10 or 20 horses a year?  With only an adoption event one time a year, this does not seem cost effective. Should the other 162 HMAs across the West have this type of facility as well?  Should more wild horses be removed from other HMAs yearly to train just 20 horses for this adoption event?  A “MODEL” program?                                                                                                                                                                                  While the concept of a rangeland management, training, and adoption program might seem to be a good idea, this is not rangeland management and the details of this program are anything but ideal.  In fact, the details are egregious and do not benefit America’s wild horses on or off the range.  And, this “model” program does not benefit the American taxpayer.

Contact Rob Sharpe or James Price of the Oregon Wild Horse and Burro Program for more information or to address your grievances.

An interesting fact:  In 2009, the BLM conducted a gather and removal of Beatys Butte wild horses, leaving a reported 102 wild horses on the HMA.  With a 20% growth rate, 354 horses would have been on the HMA in 2015-2016.  Yet the BLM reported 1400 wild horses were there.





14 replies »

  1. See population chart in the article…256% population increase in ONE YEAR?

    by Grandma Gregg
    Oct 6 2015
    At this time, all outside authorities, including Congress, rely solely on the data the BLM provides, although its accuracy cannot be verified or substantiated. BLM is not in the cattle and sheep business and is not authorized to promote private for-profit ranchers. Until BLM goes beyond using the Wild Horses and Burros as a scapegoat for range overuse and admits it is the destruction and abuse by the private domestic livestock over-use, then the true problem of public land destruction caused by private/corporate domestic livestock will not be corrected.

    Recent independent scientific research using BLM data on 5,859 wild horses from four different HMAs shows without a doubt that although a 20% foaling rate is possible, only half of those foals even live to be yearlings and therefore an average wild horse herd population will not exceed 10% – and with additional adult mortality factored, the annual population would be even less. So … as you can see in the above chart, the BLM’s Beatys Butte population increases are IMPOSSIBLE.
    So, we ask ourselves why the BLM insists on their scientifically impossible herd increases on the Beatys Butte and other Herd Management Areas. Here are a few facts that show why money is the reason for their deception.
    Wild horses and burros are legally DESIGNATED on the Herd Management Area (HMA) and livestock are only PERMITTED. Definition of the word “designated” is to “set aside for” or “assign” or “authorize”. Definition of “permit” is to “allow” or “let” or “tolerate”. The Wild Horse and Burro lands and resources are set aside for, and assigned and authorized for, the use of wild horses and burros whereas the livestock is only allowed and tolerated and let to use the public range resources.
    While commercial livestock grazing is permitted on public lands, it is not a requirement under the agency’s multiple use mandate as outlined in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA). Public land grazing clearly is a privilege, not a right, while the BLM is mandated by law to protect wild horses and burros. Yet, the BLM clearly embraces the multiple use concept for all lands designated for wild horses and burros and further, to prioritize the private/corporate domestic livestock permittees.
    Per BLM’s Rangeland Administration System (RAS), forage allocations for livestock in the Beaty’s Butte HMA are currently 26,121 AUMs of active use and 14,466 of suspended use, equaling a total of 40,587 livestock AUMs. There is one grazing association that grazes in the Common Pasture of Beatys Butte Allotment #600, which is mainly the same area as the HMA. Forage allocation is 500 AUMs for deer, 22 AUMs for pronghorn, 240 AUMs for California bighorn sheep, and 3,000 AUMs for wild horses (compared to the 26,121 active AUMs for livestock).
    Here are Beaty’s Butte livestock grazing allotment permittees and their USDA farm subsidy data:
    Dan Cron received farm subsidy payments totaling $56,079 from 1995 through 2012
    USDA subsidy information for Beaty Butte Grazing Association:
    Myron Steward received payments totaling $136,226 from 1995 through 2012
    Conn Fitzgerald received payments totaling $15,759 from 1995 through 2012
    James H Gipson received payments totaling $246,840 from 1995 through 2012
    George Shine received payments totaling $102,442 from 1995 through 2012
    Samuel Farr received payments totaling $401,039 from 1995 through 2012
    Edward D Stabb received payments totaling $377,871 from 1995 through 2012
    Michael Gravelle received payments totaling $83,128 from 1995 through 2012
    Schadler Ranch Inc received payments totaling $138,007 from 1995 through 2012
    L X Ranch Inc received payments totaling $572,374 from 1995 through 2012
    Cahill Ranches Inc received payments totaling $172,283 from 1995 through 2012
    Kiely Brothers Ranch received payments totaling $116,858 from 1995 through 2012
    Glenn E Way received payments totaling $28,183 from 1995 through 2012
    Richard E Bradbury received payments totaling $28,205 from 1995 through 2012
    Misc. Oregon Welfare Rancher whining:
    2013 News Article: [Beatys Butte livestock rancher] “Kiely said he fears that cows may have to be pulled from the area”. “The weight gains of the livestock would decrease, especially in the late summer and early fall, as the quality and quantity of available water and forage decreases. The level of livestock use would need to be or reduced to compensate for the excess number of horses. This, in turn, would affect the financial income of these operations.” Last December, the Lake County, Oregon Board of Commissioners Meeting recommended “a joint County letter be forwarded to Secretary Jewell requesting (demanding) the BLM work with the Cooperative Group on resolving the concerns that were established.” “Mr Davies requested this letter to include two important points: 1) the immediate need for AUMs for impacted ranchers and 2) for the BLM to actively pursue any and all solutions for the massive over population of wild horses.”


    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I saw the allotment numbers paraded at the kill summit by the resource managers. He seemed almost in tears that 14000 aums had to be suspended and made the audience blame it on the horses. This ranch has allotments on 4 different hma’s. Another Whole Foods consortium I suppose. Perhaps one of the Model research ranches that will participate in the overgrazing program for fire control (paid by the public for participation no doubt), and one of the ranches that convince our brain dead fire committee that the Gov. should spend millions digging up all the juniper.


      • I think we might need to recall also that there is a group of BLM “volunteers” at Burns, who are squarely Pro-slaughter! One of them has a page on Facebook and most of her friends are also Pro slaughter. In fact her page often reads like a “Who’s Who” of Pro slaughter as well as a rallying place for activities that share that view both in Oregon, CA and perhaps Nevada. I spoke with her once and her reason for supporting slaughter for Wild Horses was basically, “Well my Daddy did it, so am I.”

        Liked by 1 person

    Calico: Past, Present & Future VI (excerpts)
    This is the sixth in a series of articles that attempts to disclose some of the known issues playing behind the scenes in the Calico Complex and beyond….

    The Beaty Butte HMA is located at the southern tip of Oregon and is in the vicinity of the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.

    The wild horse AML has been set at a high of 250 horses or another way of saying it is, wild horse populations cannot exceed more than one horse per 1,752 acres. This AML was established in 1983 in the High Desert Management Framework Plan and has obviously been rubber-stamped every since….

    In September 2009, BLM conducted a roundup of the Beaty Butte wild horses. In the Post-Gather Report, BLM reported a pre-removal population estimate of 485 wild horses of which they gathered 423, removed 379 – including four reported deaths – and treated 30 mares with PZP who were returned to the range with an estimated 102 wild horses remaining.

    In September 2009, when BLM signed off on the environmental assessment to remove wild horses from the Beaty Butte HMA (and Paisley Desert HMA), they also slid in a ten-year plan authorizing “adjusting the ratio of males to females to approximately 60/40 and returning geldings to the HMA as part of the male component, in combination with treatment of all breeding age mares released back to the range with PZP to further slow population growth”.

    The 2009 Beaty Butte EA also stated that, “A long history of horses drifting into and out of the Beatys Butte HMA exists. There is movement between Sheldon and Hart National Wildlife Refuge, private land and the Burns District HMAs including Warm Springs and South Steens.”

    Despite BLM removing 260 horses in 2007 and potentially 150-190 horses also moving across many miles to relocate in the South Steens HMA, BLM continues to report there were still 534 wild horses in the Beatys Butte HMA by September 2009!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sheldon and Hart were both zero’d out in recent years as I understand it, so they cannot be a source population for Beaty’s Butte.

      It also seems unlikely (though not impossible) almost 200 horses would not be noticed wandering 25-30 miles between HMAs, especially in an area where grazing rights are so hotly disputed. It begins to make me wonder if some of the horses removed from WY and other places that never showed up in holding are being hauled and released elsewhere to escalate population claims that support additional roundups.

      Without an open public process there is no way to reassure the public that the BLM/USFS are indeed acting in the public interest. Shame on them for creating this situation after 47 years of paid managment; shame on us for believing what cannot be true.

      Liked by 2 people

    • BLM = Fraud
      In order for there to be a 256% population increase in ONE year, each and every horse (including the young and the old and the mares and the STALLIONS!) would have to give birth to two and a half successful, surviving foals in ONE year without any adult or foal mortality. Biologically impossible.
      Does anyone still believe that the BLM is honest and based on science?
      The problem is that this is an example of the fraudulent figures that the BLM provides to our congress and senators who don’t realize the fraud and therefore believe there truly is an overpopulation. Because of this … this is management for extinction.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was present in the early stages of what evolved into this model. I was naively hopeful that this was a way forward that would one day result in all wild horses living on HMA’s having a jointly-managed BLM/NGO partnership stewarding America’s treasures, and assuring them a healthy future on the range.

    I am heartened to know that people like yourself are tracking truth and reality alongside the model, which is a desired future vision.

    Now, I hope all the voices surrounding this herd will meet and discuss the gaps between vision and reality. Each issue may require a separate action item, led by a knowledgeable subject-matter expert. Major large-scale system change is hard, but you can do it. Stay in dialogue, drop the blame game, and figure out how to manifest the vision… wild horses living free on U.S. Public lands.

    People operating from their hearts can together imagine creative solutions going forward that no one person can do alone. You all must respect one another, listen to everyone, learn from one another… and when you do, doors of solutions will begin to fly open… and the horses will be enriched and thrive. You must believe that a way forward exists…you just haven’t done it yet.

    Here is a link to a Resource Manual that several heart-centered, on range, subject matter experts put together to ignite the vision, and inspire people on the ground to work together to manifest a new reality.



    • Apparently the Sand Wash Basin herd follows this resource manual. And it sure does seem to work for them. Looking at the pictures of these horses & reading about the relationship between these BLM employees and the advocates who watch over this herd certainly shows that this is possible. This organization brings in various volunteers – college students, and others to get the physical work done & help the BLM. BUT it takes cooperation from both sides! I saw TJs very emotional comments to the BLM Advisory Board a while ago, which SHOULD have opened the eyes of anyone there. I got the impression they blew her off – whether they said the right things or not. Obviously, they ignored what she was attempting to tell them. That it is possible to, as Sandra says, to manifest a NEW reality.


      • I have to add, volunteers can only do so much, the local BLM employees have to want to make things better for these wild animals – rather than making things better for the local livestock growers!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Maggie, I agree BLM employees could do more — but not all are bad apples. Many live in the communities they serve and it’s not uncommon to learn about death threats etc. for those trying to improve things for other than private interests. It’s also very clear some have been relocated if they actually accomplished bettering things on the ground for the public, the volunteers, and the public. The best thing we can do is get more people paying attention and insist on improving the system, which would then support the people on the ground much more.

        In other words, the tail is wagging the sleeping dog, but once it wakes up, it has all the cards.


      • I know, Icy, these BLM people in the field dont have it easy – I remember reading about one of them who was so badly harassed – by ranchers AND his bosses! The circumstances at this time are even worse for them than before! The main thing I meant to say was in a case where there IS cooperation and volunteers – people who work at making things better – it just goes to show – it can be done! And it could be possible in other HMAs. Also just read a good article on CAES blog about REAL on the range management. Worth reading.


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