Wild Burros

Return to Freedom continues its boondoggle with proposal to drive wild horses & burros to the brink of extinction

by Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

In my humble opinion:

Return to Freedom (RTF) continues to add insult to injury in their efforts to boondoggle the American public with a controversial proposal, by recently claiming “We understand that there has been considerable misinformation spread online about this proposal to Congress.  If you wish to delve deeper, please contact us to schedule a call.  We’re also planning a webinar for RTF supporters.” 

If you are one of their supporters, you should ask them direct questions, like “What, specifically, is the supposed misinformation?”

Every other major wild horse & burro advocacy organization, along with many knowledgeable advocates, have come out against their proposal.  All of these organizations have been very specific in the disastrous aspects of this proposal and have backed their concerns with facts.

Instead of listening to the concerns of all of the other organizations, Return to Freedom, HSUS, ASPCA and the American Mustang Foundation lobbyists are blindly charging ahead.  Return to Freedom’s recent spin is to claim their proposal is “a step forward for the wild horses.”  In truth, the only “step forward” for America’s wild horses & burros will be off the precipice into extinction.

The wild horses & burros would’ve been much better off if Return to Freedom, HSUS, ASPCA and the American Mustang Foundation lobbyists had done nothing.

Instead, these groups utterly caved in to the rantings of Rep. Chris Stewart and other rabid and extremist wild horse haters and the livestock grazing industry.

Return to Freedom “applauded the House Appropriations Committee” for this:


“With respect to the Wild Horse and Burro program, the Committee recognizes and appreciates that several stakeholder groups who each have avid, although diverging, interests in the program, have come together on a non-lethal compromise proposal based on the following four aspects: strategic gatherings in the most densely populated herd management areas; relocating animals currently in holding facilities and those being removed from the range to larger, more cost-effective pasture facilities; increased and vigorous fertility control strategies to help reduce the population growth; and increased adoptions. The Committee believes these concepts, once more fully developed by program specialists at the Bureau, have merit. The Committee therefore recommends a program increase of $6,000,000 for the Bureau to work with interested stakeholders to further develop a science-based removal, fertility control, and relocation pilot program targeted to the two or three most severely impacted herd management areas, and to begin to implement and scale up such plans once metrics for delineating a positive outcome have been designed and achieved. All removals must follow the guidelines outlined in the Bureau’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare.”  (See page 10 in this report)

The language is kind of vague, isn’t it?  We can only wonder how this will “further develop.”

Did the committee specifically say PZP would be used as fertility control?  No.  (This leaves sterilization on the table.)

Even now, can the BLM guarantee that wild horses & burros aren’t going to slaughter?  No.  Return to Freedom, HSUS and ASPCA certainly can’t guarantee that 45,000-60,000 wild horses and burros removed from public lands in 3 years (per their proposal) won’t end up in the slaughter pipeline.  They also won’t be able to provide oversight and accountability to the public.

Return to Freedom tries to justify their signature on this proposal by stating things like “Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have repeatedly expressed to RTF staff in D.C. that maintaining the current cruel and financially unsustainable path will not be allowed to continue for much longer before horses are killed or sold without restriction”

So, in response, Return to Freedom, HSUS and ASPCA decided to sign onto a plan where 45,000-60,000 wild horses & burros will be rounded up in only 3 years and many will end up in the slaughter pipeline?

How does this make sense?

Apparently, when members of the public have written to Return to Freedom regarding their concerns with the proposal, Cory Golden, who has been working on wild horse issues with Return to Freedom for about 2 years, sent a condescending response including:

Before talking about the proposal, let me be clear about the context in which it arises…”

Like you don’t know.

“BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program is headed for a cliff.  As recently as Friday, we had a face-to-face conversation with a key lawmaker who said the program cannot continue at its current trajectory or Congress will end up allowing wild horses and burros to be killed.”

Who was this “key lawmaker” and why all the secrecy?

Other organizations feel that the threat to wild horses isn’t as dire. They’re welcome to that opinion. We’re not about to sit by and do nothing.”

All other wild horse & burro advocacy organizations know how dire the situation is for our wild horses & burros and our hair is on fire.  We’re not sitting by and doing nothing.  And the wild horses & burros would have been much better off if Return to Freedom, HSUS and ASPCA had “done nothing,” rather than sign onto this disastrous proposal. 

What other alternative do we have than to offer a proposal?”

You don’t get it – it’s what you omitted and gave up in this proposal. 

It’s within that context that we’ve worked with scientists and an economist to model wild horse populations using different management tools and what that would cost. We didn’t like what we found…”

We don’t like what you found either.  We especially don’t like the narrowness of the scope of what was considered.  If you want to know what you should have focused on, read HERE.  And HERE.

“The proposal also includes barring BLM from killing wild horses or selling them without restriction.”

Knock, knock, Cory, this is supposed to be happening now.  The BLM has found ways around this for decades, and so will the cattlemen who are pushing this proposal along with you, HSUS and ASPCA.

“It does NOT include sterilization, but rather asks for Congress to mandate — and fund — the first real, robust fertility control program using safe, proven and humane vaccines.”

Uh, did anybody read this in the Appropriations language?

Return to Freedom urged their ”proposal to be implemented robustly.” 

We ask you to oppose their proposal robustly.  The Path Forward for Management of BLM’s Wild Horses & Burros” will be the fast track to slaughter and extinction.  You don’t have to give up.  And you don’t have to go along with this.

Contact your Congressional representatives to tell them you oppose this proposal.  Copy the articles that all of the other wild horse & burro advocacy organizations (and advocates) have written about their concerns with this proposal and fax, email or mail them to your Congressional representatives.

We will continue to fight for healthy wild herds on public lands.

26 replies »

  1. I was shocked to see that organizations who purpose to protect and save animals have joined in their demise. It is Unbelievable!!!! If it were not for those who work tirelessly for these wonderful Spirit Animals, the animals who have worked for the people for thousands of years would be gone. We do not Want Slaughter, nor these animals driven off their, our, land that they know. Give the people who care and want to take care of them do it. Money will be saved, the horses will stay, and be safe and the people who love them will care for them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Please stop BLM from these horrific roundups and slaughter of the beautiful innocent wild horses and burros! It is sad and wrong! They are icons of the west and don’t deserve this! It’s all about greed between the cattlemen and BLM!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for all the help for our wildlife, our North American native species- The Wild Horses. It’s very depressing watching the DOI/BLM continue to make ‘herd areas’ smaller every year, remove the older horses the herd wisdom. They leave behind disrupted horses with little herd structure- its a known fact wildlife breeds more when this type of disruption happens.

    I think the ‘Protect the Harvest group’ grew from the plans slaughterhouse sue presented 15? years ago to the usa BLM government as a way to continue the pipeline to slaughter. We’ve got to stop horse slaughter in mexico, stop the shipment of USA horses over the border.

    Exposure of this hidden pipeline is the key, I think also wild horses are slaughtered in the usa perhaps as pet foods? The BLM ‘black market’ have to be caught and as we learned with the “salazars neighbor” caught with wild horses- not much changes anyway. Now with slaughterhouse sues party firmly in charge of our public lands and our wildlife I’m not sure what can be done except for groups to band together and lobby the government.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I want to know who these so-called “scientists” are when they say, “we’ve worked with scientists”. Any scientist who IS a scientist stands behind what they discover and provides facts to back up their discovery. I realize that even scientists can be bought-and-sold in order to give whatever result they are being paid to provide but just saying “we’ve worked with scientists” doesn’t mean diddly-squat. What kind of scientists? Who are these scientists and where are their studies and reports?

    Is the scientist that RTF is referring to actually the same scientist that discovered “When you attach a weighted stick to a chicken’s butt, the chicken walks in the same manner that the dinosaurs are thought to have walked.” (Not kidding!) https://www.businessinsider.com/7-scientific-studies-that-are-too-weird-to-believe-2015-9

    The RTF propaganda is being shoved down people’s throats the same that BLM does … with no science at all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Also worth investigating if that “scientist” was fed data from the BLM from which to draw conclusions. This plan indicates they are still looking for money to do the design and testing of “plans” … all which indicate no hard science has been done or funded to date. So any reference to “a scientist” must be made clearer, as well as independent verification of any data that person (or perhaps computer) was funneled. A key tenet of good science is “replicable results” too, so simple one-off data collection used to model projected outcomes doesn’t constitute science, only imagined outcomes backed up with fluid facts.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Do you think that the following Jan 2019 range ruling could be applicable to the range issues for wild horses? CA would be a good place to start. https://www.endangeredspecieslawandpolicy.com/2019/01/articles/court-decisions/gray-wolf-listing-under-california-endangered-species-act-upheld-in-california-superior-court/.

    I have provided Return to Freedom and HSUS with sufficient data to take the lead on getting CA herds added to the inventory under the California Endangered Species Act. Instead, they have chosen a dead end. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in CA recognized wild horses as native species, explaining that BLM “establishes Appropriate Management Levels (“AMLs”) for populations of native species – including wild horses, burros, and other wildlife – and introduced animals, such as livestock.” In Defense of Animals, et al. v. U.S. Dept. Interior, et al., No. 12-17804, *6 (9th Cir. May 12, 2014) (emphasis added)

    In 1976 FLPMA provided for additional habitat designations as ACECs, This facilitates the need for special management attention. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Area_of_Critical_Environmental_Concern.

    AND the ICING ON THE CAKE is the response from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife ;Karen Miner Environmental Program Manager (Karen.Miner@wildlife.ca.gov) , re: fossil evidence 03-2016 stated “ When and if available scientific information convinces the experts that determine the checklist of native species to North America that Equus caballus should be considered as an indigenous species, they will make the change in the next revision to the list, and then we would take that fact into consideration for inclusion on our state animal lists.
    It is very disappointing that the organizations capable of maximizing historic/native preservation and restoration laws have appearantly chosen the path to extinction

    Liked by 3 people

    • The fossil record is abundantly clear that horses are native to N. America. The bigger question is why they are NOT already on the “experts” list of native species. They should be required to prove they are not native to keep them off the list, but the reverse is the case. I think we all understand why, and it isn’t from a lack of scientific evidence.

      Liked by 2 people

      • You are correct and if anyone is in doubt, take a look at the horse skeletons on display at the La Brea Tar Pits.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, and even if our Wild Horse was classified on the endangered list, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to the present chaos of the T***p regime. They will continue to bulldoze right over everything and everyone in the way of their complete devastation agenda of our ‘public’ wildlands.
        Again, Bernhardt, his lackey Hammond and the BLM (!) need to be taken to accountability and investigated!
        PUBLICLY and forcefully.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Boy and the RattleSnake Story

    A little boy was walking down a path and he came across a rattlesnake. The rattlesnake was getting old. He asked, “Please little boy, can you take me to the top of the mountain? I hope to see the sunset one last time before I die.” The little boy answered “No Mr. Rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you’ll bite me and I’ll die.” The rattlesnake said, “No, I promise. I won’t bite you. Just please take me up to the mountain.” The little boy thought about it and finally picked up that rattlesnake and took it close to his chest and carried it up to the top of the mountain.

    They sat there and watched the sunset together. It was so beautiful. Then after sunset the rattlesnake turned to the little boy and asked, “Can I go home now? I am tired, and I am old.” The little boy picked up the rattlesnake and again took it to his chest and held it tightly and safely. He came all the way down the mountain holding the snake carefully and took it to his home to give him some food and a place to sleep. The next day the rattlesnake turned to the boy and asked, “Please little boy, will you take me back to my home now? It is time for me to leave this world, and I would like to be at my home now.” The little boy felt he had been safe all this time and the snake had kept his word, so he would take it home as asked.

    He carefully picked up the snake, took it close to his chest, and carried him back to the woods, to his home to die. Just before he laid the rattlesnake down, the rattlesnake turned and bit him in the chest. The little boy cried out and threw the snake upon the ground. “Mr. Snake, why did you do that? Now I will surely die!” The rattlesnake looked up at him and grinned,
    “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”


    Wild Horse Wipe Out (Ongoing..) (excerpt)

    You know, one of the federal laws BLM and other government agencies are bound to examine is something ex-President Clinton passed concerning “Environmental Justice”. They actually have a box they are required to check off to see whether the proposal disproportionately affects the environment of people granted minority or low income status. Whenever I see this, I’ve often wondered if the general public could claim “minority status” under this law since the only thing the government is sure to include the public in is milking our paychecks for funding these proposals that continue to rob us of our heritage and our future.


    Liked by 2 people

    • From Reno Gazette Journal

      There is growing scientific research that shows PZP is not humane and has negative physical and behavioral impacts on wild horses. When the Humane Society obtained EPA registration for PZP in 2012, it never provided evidence PZP doesn’t have negative side effects … it only provided information about the efficacy of PZP and requested waivers for studies ordinarily required from pesticide registration applicants.

      In the BLM’s own words at an advisory board meeting in Oregon, “Spay/neuter may be an interim bridge until a time when we have better tools. Is it going to affect their behavior? Yes. Does PZP affect their behavior?
      Absolutely. Anything that we do in regards to this affects their behavior,” said Dean Bolstad, division chief of the Wild Horse and Burro Program.

      Some wild horse advocates are comfortable partnering with the BLM. But FoA is not, knowing the agency is beholden to ranchers who care only about grazing their doomed cattle and sheep and consider wild horses pests. Being pro-PZP only bolsters BLM’s FRAUDULENT CLAIMS fr of wild horse overpopulation, which are based on unscientific and arbitrary agency-imposed “appropriate” management levels.


      Liked by 1 person

  7. Bad enough that House Appropriations blindly passed this sneakily worded paragraph without real discussion. Pathetic that Return to Freedom, an organization with zero experience in wild horse management on the range, would now brag about this monstrosity. Shame on the lot! And especially on Chris Heyde, who largely drafted AWI’s paperback, “Managing to Extinction.” You’ve gone against everything you stood for, if indeed you did act on those words before moving on.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. When the Devil’s Garden debacle first arose in California, I contacted ‘Return To Freedom’ (who are based in the Lompoc area) to inquire about their participation in preventing the disaster of the majority of the DG horses being handed over to the slaughter pipeline.
    What happened??? Their self-proclaimed ‘Freedom Rangers’ must have been busy elsewhere.
    This area, Lompoc, and the surrounds is an extremely expensive place to live now and requires major funding to keep any enterprise such as their sanctuary(s) afloat. Maybe that is one of big factors in the flip of RTF…
    It’s just really difficult to understand how they could be so ignorant. Big money is always a big carrot on a string.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deborah Rainwater. I have been acquainted with Return to Freedom since 2003 when they were involved with BLM and the Coyote Canyon Wild horse debacle and have offered my two cents worth of research, some of which has been successfully used in various lawsuits by various groups that have grappled with voluminous approaches to derail the express train to EXTINCTION. Only when the courts support/enforce the rule of favorable conservation, preservation, restoration and maintenance laws will administrations comply. (Congress and the President)
      To do this the court must be asked the right question to amend resource management plans for providing sufficient habitat to ensure the native dna and historic cultural continuity of each herd. Every herd may qualify for special status. As to their special status BLM states “The issue of a wild horse as an invasive species is moot since the 1971 WHBA gave wild free-roaming horses “special” status based on their heritage of assisting man settle the “west” ( May 2003 Proposed Nevada Test and Training Range Resource Management Plan and Final EIS Comment 87, BLM Response, pg. 7.

      The 1966 National Historic Preservation Act SEC 106 is the Action that mandates NEPA and all states. Despite the policy not to include animals in the Federal Register of Historic places, the Guideliner for The Treatment Of Cultural Landscapes defines the term cultural landscape to include wild &or domestic animals (Birnbaum and Peters 1996:4).” Herds are inherently significant as a contributing element within the purview of the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act AND The National Historic Preservation Act Sec 106, as a protected cultural and natural resource,

      Our CA herds are diminished by politically motivated and technically fatally flawed Resource Management Plans. “ In structure and purpose, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act is nothing more than a land-use regulation enacted by Congress to ensure the survival of a particular species of wildlife noting that wild horses and burros are no less “wild” animals than are the grizzly bears that roam our national parks and forests ((Mountain States v. Hodel)

      CA alone has 45, 864,800 acres of federal lands and 100,206,720 acres of State Land. How much of that may meet the habitat requisites for relocating and rewilding wild horses?
      .Washington Office Instruction Memorandum 82-292 (dated March 5, 1982) was issued as final policy and the core of this policy is a new approach called selective management. Selective management is based on the concept that: (1) an allotment’s resource characteristics, management needs, and potential for improvement can be identified; and (2) the timing and intensity of the management actions should be varied according to an allotment’s identified needs and potential. Potential for improvement is the capacity of an allotment to produce a positive return on public investments within a reasonable time period. Positive return can be viewed in terms of increased resource production or resolution of serious resource use conflicts.
      t of Planning Criteria
      The BLM Grazing Management Policy issued on March May 1982 Washington Office Instruction Memo No 82292 establishes guidelines for categorization of rangelands. The objective is to distribute available funds and personnel in the MOST Effective and efficient Manner to improve increase production and range condition.

      Starat to re wild and save wild horses through the CA Endangered species Act (CESA) horse herds to restore Optimum Sustainable Populations. Is it possible to identify their historic ranges through DNA testing?


  9. Out of curiosity I looked up RTF’s public charity information. Some of this doesn’t square with their current positions. They emphasize “preserving freedom” and “on the range management” which doesn’t square with supporting removals of over 60,000 wild horses and burros from our public lands forever over the next three years, many of which will certainly end up slaughtered as nobody can deny.

    From Guidestar, information on RTF.


    (self-reported) (have to register on site to get further information, but RTF is required to file a 990 annually).

    GROSS RECEIPTS: $1,507,547

    ASSETS: $1,680,491


    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

    What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    Return to Freedom is dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity and habitat of America’s wild horses and burros through sanctuary, education, advocacy and conservation, while enriching the human spirit through direct experience with the natural world.

    We aim to:

    -Provide for the lifelong care of our wild horse and burro sanctuary residents.

    – Transition BLM away from inhumane, expensive system of roundups and holding facilities in favor of humane, sustainable on the range management.

    – Find ways to empower and incentive private landowners who wish to give sanctuary to wild horses and burros.

    – Grow the support for wild horses by educating the public about wild horses and the challenges that they face.

    – Help the public understand how wild horses fit into the management of our natural resources on our public lands and the influence climate change will have.


    RTF actively advocates nationally for the protection of wild horses and burros on their rightful ranges and to stop the slaughter, sale and transport of American horses for slaughter. RTF advocates for the redirection of funds from the costly and traumatic capture, removal and warehousing of wild horses and burros to the most minimally intrusive, humane management necessary to manage wild horse and burro populations on the range.


    Committed to conserving the rare and diverse bloodlines that define the American wild horse of today, RTF maintains a rare strains preservation program of herds with historical, genetic or biological significance, which exemplify the adaptation of the horse in their respective habitats.

    Another charity report organization:


    This shows their latest 990 filing was in 2016.

    Their overall ranking is 84.69 out of 100 (three stars out of four).

    GlobalGiving ranks them as a “Superstar.”

    The Mission posted here says:

    Return to Freedom is a wild horse sanctuary founded in 1997 by Neda DeMayo, and is the realization of her life-long dream: to protect the freedom and natural lifestyle of America’s free ranging wild horses. Return to Freedom aims to accomplish its mission through sanctuary, education and conservation, while enriching the human spirit through direct experience with the natural world. Return to Freedom provides a safe haven to over 400 wild horses and burros. Recognizing that wild horses live in tightly bonded herd groups, Return to Freedom became the first sanctuary with a focus on rescuing entire family bands. Return to Freedom’s educational programs facilitate a direct experience with nature and animals through non-intrusive, sensitive observation.

    REVENUE: $1,339,177
    EXPENSES: $1,508,448
    NET ASSETS: $1,616,461

    In 2016, 100% of income is listed as coming from contributions, gifts, and grants.

    The President was compensated $62,626 in 2016.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. On rereading this, I started to wonder how much of that $6M is earmarked for delivery to RTF, ASPCA, and HSUS (and others). Surely there is a budget drafted up already that produced this figure. This should be public information since these are federal dollars being sought, and these players are all public charities. They should be upfront and honest about who is planning to gain by this proposal, and in what amounts. It won’t be the horses or taxpayers.

    “The Committee therefore recommends a program increase of $6,000,000 for the Bureau to work with interested stakeholders to further develop a science-based removal, fertility control, and relocation pilot program targeted to the two or three most severely impacted herd management areas, and to begin to implement and scale up such plans once metrics for delineating a positive outcome have been designed…”


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