Horse News

Countering BLM’s Extinction Plan, the Scapegoating of Wild Equids, and Equine Slaughter

An open letter by equine advocate Charlotte Roe

Fellow Wild Equid advocates, fans and partners;

Recent Fifiteenmile roundup which took place in Wyoming. Photo by Carol Walker

While the nation is riveted on impeachment hearings a vital part of our nation’s history is being threatened for its very survival.  We can’t, won’t let up on this challenge.  The BLM just rounded up 295 of the treasured Challis wild horse herd in Idaho and is poised to begin removing long-term removal of 80% of the Twin Peaks herd in northern California.  If it gets its way with Congress, the Great Removal Plan will go on steroids.

An article that Mary Koncel and I recently published in The Washington Examiner lays out the stakes:
(It was written before the Senate, without debate or oversight, passed the BLM’s wild horse and burro Extinction Plan as an Appropriations line item. Game’s not over, so keep the calls up.  Please see AWHC’s link below on the status of this program.)
This report by The Cloud Foundation’s Dana Zarello takes us inside the BLM’s October Advisory Board meeting AND the well-aimed efforts by American Wild Horse Campaign, Animal Wellness Action and TCF to educate House and Senate staffers about the wild horse disappearance plan and sustainable alternatives to the BLM’s broken roundup and removal system:
A heartfelt THANKS to the many advocates who commented at the AB meeting (or submitted comments) and who spoke out on the Hill.
American Wild Horse Campaign published this capsule of the events on Capitol Hill along with a cogent report on what’s in the Senate-passed bill, what was left out, what’s next, and what can be done:
Not to be missed is this classic piece by Erik Molvar, Exec. Dir. of Western Watersheds, on the blame game that targets wild horses and burros in order to take the focus off livestock overgrazing and industrial damage to public lands.  Erik spoke at the Oct. 23 press conference of business leaders in Reno organized by AWHC to expose the “overpopulating and starving” propaganda being pushed by BLM, the Wildlife Society, and welfare ranching allies:
Finally, Rita Reik shared USA Today’s article on the horrendous trade in equine slaughter in the U.S. and the work of Animals’ Angels to combat it.  The SAFE Act, by prohibiting the transport and export of horses & burros for slaughter, would drive one stake into the nefarious kill pen industry, though the fight would not end.  The bill has increased bipartisan support, but the forces against it are bloodthirsty and persistent.

10 replies »

  1. Shades of Teapot Dome


    Pendley followed Watt into the Reagan administration and was singled out in a 1984 Government Accountability Office report on ethical missteps among leaders of the federal coal leasing program and an “incomplete and unreliable” review by the agency’s inspector general.
    The GAO report highlighted a dinner Pendley, then head of the Minierals Management Service, and another Interior official and their wives attended a dinner with two coal company attorneys on March 19, 1982, the same day that Pendley and his colleague had made a favorable decision regarding bids on Powder River Basin coal leases. The coal company officials picked up the entire $494.45 tab, or $1,343 in today’s dollars.

    Pendley, who had moved from Interior to the Navy, resigned the year after the GAO’s findings became public.
    “By fixing this pivotal deal in 1984 – and getting away with it– Mr. Pendley may be one of the most important faceless functionaries in the expansion of coal use in the United States,” said Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, in an email. He said the report showed “a much wider pattern of high ranking employees and administration officials cutting deals with the industry without regard for laws.”

    As a result, he said, “billions of tons of coal could come to market from the Powder River Basin for the next now 40 plus years at below market prices due to what was done at the time.”
    Coal’s death and taxes

    Several years, several coal bankruptcies and tens of millions of dollars in jeopardized taxes later, Cambell County, Wyoming, is left with diminishing recourse as bankruptcies proceed.



    During the Teapot Dome scandal, Albert B. Fall, who served as secretary of the interior in President Warren G. Harding’s cabinet, is found guilty of accepting a bribe while in office. Fall was the first individual to be convicted of a crime committed while a presidential cabinet member
    As a member of President Harding’s corruption-ridden cabinet in the early 1920s, Fall accepted a $100,000 interest-free “loan” from Edward Doheny of the Pan-American Petroleum and Transport Company, who wanted Fall to grant his firm a valuable oil lease in the Elk Hills naval oil reserve in California. The site, along with the Teapot Dome naval oil reserve in Wyoming, had been previously transferred to the Department of the Interior on the urging of Fall, who evidently realized the personal gains he could achieve by leasing the land to private corporations.

    In October 1923, the Senate Public Lands Committee launched an investigation that revealed not only the $100,000 bribe that Fall received from Doheny but also that Harry Sinclair, president of Mammoth Oil, had given him some $300,000 in government bonds and cash in exchange for use of the Teapot Dome oil reserve in Wyoming.

    In 1927, the oil fields were restored to the U.S. government by a Supreme Court decision. Two years later, Fall was convicted of bribery and sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of $100,000. Doheny escaped conviction, but Sinclair was imprisoned for contempt of Congress and jury tampering.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have to say right here, though I have held my tongue in the past, that I am so dam angry that the groups who claim to fight for the welfare of wild equines, horses and burros, are at loggerheads and their stances are completely obscure. I find it VERY hard to believe that HSUS and ASPCA are in favor of wild horses becoming extinct. Very hard. I find NOTHING in any of this or Cloud Foundation’s article to enlighten me as to how (apparent) separate factions of wild horse advocates are so opposed to each other. This does no service to the general public who, Im guessing, are just as confused as I am. It makes me angry because I do not enjoy advocating for something just to find out that I may have hurt efforts to truly protect wild horses. It is my opinion that much of the public is also deeply confused as to why there exists such massive disagreement between these groups. You should know, you are NOT HELPING, by being obscure and entrenched in your beliefs while not explaining why well known national animal welfare groups are your apparent enemy.



    By Ginger Kathrens, Exec. Dir. of The Cloud Foundation:
    May 16, 2019
    Dear Friends,

    For the past couple of weeks, we have been in contact with the ASPCA and HSUS, the main drivers behind a new management proposal for America’s wild horses and burros. We learned of their concerns for our wild herds in response to growing impatience on the part of lawmakers, who are eager to find a workable solution. We have also listened to the comments of other wild horse advocates and all of you wild horse lovers. We share your deep concern, especially if this plan moves forward.

    In its current form, this “management” plan lacks safeguards, assurances and oversight that would keep our beloved wild herds safe from inappropriate, unscientific and cruel management practices. We have tried to work with the organizations supporting this plan, asking them to add language which mandates that funds be allocated for fertility control and provide for meaningful accountability on the part of BLM.
    Sadly, we understand that the proposal will soon be put forward to Congress as-is. This does not end our efforts. We will continue to fight for the protection of America’s wild horses and burros. We are actively working on alternative solutions to this disastrous proposal and we will see the fight through.

    We want to thank you all for your support of our mission and our work, and for loving our wild herds as much as we do. Transparency is at the core of meaningful communication and that is why we’d like to explain our concerns about this proposed plan, so you can decide for yourself whether or not it seems right to you.

    Our wild horses will need your voice in the coming months, and being informed is the first step in taking effective action. I have learned in my 25 years of advocacy that one passionate voice can make a difference, but an army of informed, passionate voices can create lasting change.

    Thank you for standing with us and with our wild ones.

    Ginger Kathrens
    Founder and Executive Director
    The Cloud Foundation



    By Ginger Kathrens, Exec. Dir. of The Cloud Foundation:
    May 16, 2019

    The proposal in its current form provides for no measurable or meaningful accountability on the part of the BLM to carry out their responsibilities. I can tell you from years of discussions and partnerships with the BLM, a mechanism for oversight is essential and needs to be specifically outlined. This includes:

    Annual accountability to an oversight committee. It’s important that the American people know where their money is going and how it’s being spent.

    A reporting mechanism. To our knowledge BLM has not made an HA status report to Congress since 1995, resulting in an appalling lack of transparency. This last report made 24 years ago listed every western wild horse and burro herd, the population estimate, the appropriate management level, the date of the last census and whether BLM and the Forest Service planned to continue to manage wild horses and burros in the HA.

    An outline of allocation of funds. A percentage of the budget must be earmarked for humane, reversible fertility control programs and BLM must be held accountable each year to show they are following through on this responsibility.

    A mandate that funds be spent on what they are allocated for, and not diverted to other uses. Money earmarked for fertility control programs must not be used to fund removals, for example.

    If removals absolutely must take place, Congress must allocate funds to care for these horses for the rest of their natural lives, unless adopted. We cannot take the chance that a lapse in appropriations down the road could result in thousands of American mustangs being sent to slaughter.



    By Ginger Kathrens, Exec. Dir. of The Cloud Foundation:
    May 16, 2019


    Appropriate Management Level (AML)

    Despite over four decades of “managing” our wild horses and burros, BLM has never been able to explain the science behind the calculation of AML. This plan seems to take BLM’s word for it that AML is, in fact, “appropriate”, a very large leap of faith.
    As far as we know, AML has never been subjected to peer review, scientific inquiry or validation. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences stated in their 2013 report, “How Appropriate Management Levels are established, monitored, and adjusted is not transparent to stakeholders, supported by scientific information, or amenable to adaptation with new information and environmental and social change.”(emphasis added)

    Since the future of our wild herds depends on the ability of this government agency to get it right, BLM needs to justify their AML projections. The 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act mandates that the herds “be managed as self-sustaining populations of healthy animals.” Healthy herds cannot be maintained without each herd meeting the minimum standards for genetic variability (150-200 individuals, per equine geneticist Dr. Gus Cothran). The BLM’s arbitrary AML figures as currently set fail to take these scientific facts into consideration.
    Again, the National Academy of Sciences 2013 report, Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program – A Way Forward,stated, “The Cothran studies are excellent tools for BLM to use in managing herds to reduce the incidence of inbreeding…” And yet, the AML of most Herd Management Areas (HMAs) is set well below what is considered to be a Minimum Viable Population (MVP). Reducing some herds to these low numbers endangers the herd, exposing it to biological concerns, illness, birth defects, infertility, and stagnating growth rate, as a result of potential inbreeding.

    The proposal cites the NAS report to support its argument that the current BLM practice of large-scale removals has stimulated reproductive rates in wild horse herds but neglects to reference the report’s other valuable recommendations on scientifically managing the growth of these herds in a safe and ethical way.
    I have to question why, and if this information was excluded because it doesn’t support some of the contributors’ objective of removing tens of thousands of wild horses from our western ranges?

    I also question if the genetic viability and diversity of our herds was considered in the construction of this plan? Given the BLM’s mandate to manage our horses in “self-sustaining, healthy herds”, they would be in violation of the law if they did not consider the potential for these unique herds to decline and eventually die out if maintained at current, unsubstantiated low AML numbers. No herd should be managed below the minimum viable population for genetic sustainability. If there is a scientific basis to show that the land cannot support large grazers in these numbers, then an alternative solution for both horses and livestock must be considered—i.e. range expansion to HA boundaries, introduction of wild horses from another similar herd, wildlife corridors to connect small populations, etc.



    By Ginger Kathrens, Exec. Dir. of The Cloud Foundation:
    May 16, 2019

    Protections for herds at or near AML and/or MVP

    As written, this plan doesn’t exclude from the proposed massive roundups HMAs that are at or near AML or MVP and/or which have an active fertility control program. HMAs such as the Pryor Mountain WHR, McCullough Peaks, etc. should be exempt from inclusion in this plan. These HMAs are examples of what can be accomplished with a willing BLM team and a committed group of volunteers and should be recognized as such. We could not support any plan that did not include explicit language to exclude these HMAs from the suggested removals.

    Forage Allocation

    While we understand that BLM has a multiple-use mandate for many of its managed lands, we have to question why the majority of the forage is allocated to privately-owned livestock rather than to the federally-protected wild horses and burros? It seems ludicrous for the American taxpayers to pay millions of dollars for wild animals to be removed from the range, to pay further millions to feed and care for them in holding pens when they were living at no cost to us on the range, and then also to pay to subsidize private ranching on public lands. Whom does this serve? Only one group of stakeholders benefits from this arrangement, and we don’t need a peer-reviewed study to see who it is. So, a discussion of forage allocation is long overdue!

    Maintaining Healthy Rangelands

    It would be impossible not to acknowledge the diminished quality of rangelands due to climate change, human disruption of fragile ecosystems, and usage by multiple stakeholders, including energy development and large grazing animals – privately-owned livestock included. In some cases, wild horses and burros have been marginalized on lands that are not fit for cattle, sheep or horses. That being said, the way in which horses use the land differs greatly from the way cattle do, and thus their impact is very different.

    Contrary to what private interests and BLM would have us believe; science supports the fact that horses do not have the same detrimental impact on our rangelands. This is true despite their grazing not being “managed” in timing or intensity, because horses are constantly on the move.

    Cattle, as ruminants, hang out near water, congregating in one area for hours at a time. Theirs is a sedentary lifestyle. They are not upland grazers; they stay near a water source, defecate in the water and pollute it for all other species. Due to their lack of movement, they erode and denude the soil surrounding water sources and leave piles of feces concentrated in these areas. By contrast, the digestive system of the horse requires it to move. Typically, horses trail in to water, drink their fill, and move on. In 25 years of wild horse documentation, I have seen only one horse defecate in water and this was a tiny foal.

    Interestingly, a rancher recently told me that his father used to let a few horses out with their cattle herd to help keep them moving, indicating that horses can act to the benefit of an ecosystem and even help mitigate the impact cattle have on the land. Horse droppings are also biodegradable and enrich the soil, whereas cattle droppings have high concentrations of methane and have detrimental effects on both soil and air quality.

    As a life-long advocate for our public lands and all wildlife, I was dismayed to find that this “management plan” does not once mention livestock, a major player in range degradation. If we are truly looking for a viable solution to create healthy open range ecosystems, all factors must be considered. All sides must compromise. What, I ask, are the private ranching interests compromising on in this plan?



    By Ginger Kathrens, Exec. Dir. of The Cloud Foundation:
    May 16, 2019

    Natural Predation

    This plan surprisingly makes no mention of natural population controls (i.e. natural predation). Over the years, wildlife services has killed or caused to be killed many of the horses’ natural predators. In the Pryors, mountain lions did an extremely effective job of keeping the herd at zero population growth. There were years in which nearly all the foals were killed by predators, until BLM encouraged the killing of the mountain lions, necessitating a return to human control of wild animal reproduction.

    If our goal is a naturally balanced ecosystem, the plan should include support for the predator-prey relationship.


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