Horse News

BLM Boss’s Wild Horse fixation distracts from the real threats to Public Land

By Jonathan Thompson as published on The Jackson Hole News & Guide

This scourge ‘wreaks havoc’ everywhere it goes…”

(SFTTH Editor’s Note: Please reference Craig Downer‘s work which verifies that wild equids indeed improve and upgrade the land on which they roam.)

Pryor Mountain Stallions ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

In mid-October, William Perry Pendley, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, warned environmental journalists at a conference in Fort Collins, Colorado, about the greatest problem facing the 244 million acres of public land that he is charged with overseeing. This scourge “wreaks havoc” everywhere it goes, and — far more than being a mere headache for land managers — it is an “existential threat” to the lands that Americans hold dear. And that threat is? Wait for it … wild horses.

The statement was so over the top, so ignorant of the actual threats to the planet, that one almost expected Pendley to pull out a Sharpie, a la President Trump, and scribble on a map showing the projected storm path of a vast herd of feral equines, before revealing that the whole scene was the opening skit for “Saturday Night Live.” But Pendley wasn’t joking. Whether he believed what he said, or was just throwing it out there to distract folks from the real threats — namely, his and his bosses’ environmental agenda — remains unknown.

Horses — whether wild or domesticated — can, indeed, make a mess of things. An estimated 88,000 wild horses and burros currently roam federal public lands. Each of them weighs, on average, 850 pounds, and eats as much as 25 pounds of grasses and forage per day. Their hooves trample and lay waste to big swaths of cryptobiotic soil, the living crust that keeps much of the Western landscape from dissolving into a cloud of dust. These animals do not tread lightly.

So, yes, wild horses do, indeed, cause damage. Pendley’s not wrong about that. It’s his use of superlatives, his claim that wild horses are the biggest problem facing public lands — even amounting to an existential threat — that stretches the bounds of logic.

By Pendley’s own reasoning, for example, cattle should be a much greater menace. The average beef cow, according to Beef magazine, weighs 500 pounds more than a wild horse, meaning its hooves will cut that much deeper into the delicate soil. Each of these walking hamburger factories eats more, defecates more, and tramples vegetation more thoroughly than a wild horse. Plus, there are a heck of a lot more of them: Last year, close to 2 million head of cattle feasted upon BLM lands, with another couple million on Forest Service lands.

Pendley said that horses leave land “so devastated and destroyed” that it will never recover. The same can be said of oil and gas companies. For each of the 23,000 wells drilled on public land over the past decade, more than an acre of land was scraped clean of all vegetation, topsoil, cactuses, sagebrush and even centuries-old juniper trees. Hulking drill rigs then came in and churned miles into the earth, followed by fracking trucks, which blasted water, chemicals and sand into the hole. For weeks or even months afterward, tons of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — along with harmful volatile organic compounds were flared or vented from the wells. Oil or wastewater spills are not uncommon.

And yet Pendley doesn’t seem to see grazing, oil and gas development, or any other extractive industry as a potential problem for public lands. Nor has he expressed concern about global warming-driven wildfires that rage almost year-round, about the potential extinction of the sage grouse or the widespread drought that even one of the wettest winters on record couldn’t end. And Pendley completely ignored the impacts of the burgeoning numbers of human beings now flocking to public lands for recreation.

Instead, Pendley is fixated on wild horses, in a clear attempt to distract Westerners from his larger purpose. Prior to becoming a federal bureaucrat, Pendley was the president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation. Under his leadership, that organization fought in court to overturn a ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, it represented oil and gas interests fighting for their “property rights” to drill on public land, it fought the Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone tribes’ ability to administer the Clean Air Act on land taken from them in 1905, and it attempted to overthrow protections for endangered species. Pendley has spent much of his life waging an ideological crusade intent on wrecking the very agency that he now oversees.

Pendley claims that his own past is irrelevant, and that these days he is merely following orders. If that’s true, it’s only because his superiors’ aims align so closely with his. The Trump administration has systematically weakened its own government agencies, torn down environmental protections, attacked tribal sovereignty, and done everything it can to turn public lands into profit-making machines for corporate interests.

The real problem with wild horses is that there’s no money to be made from them. And by focusing on them, Pendley hopes to divert our attention from the true threat to public lands: unbridled greed.

Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of “River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster.” The views expressed here are solely his own. This article was originally published by High Country News ( on Oct. 25.

14 replies »

      • Freemattpodcast, this might help answer your question. The most important thing to understand is that there is HUGE difference between domestic and wild. Those who are fortunate enough to be able to observe those wild bands understand that immediately. There is a good reason why people are so mesmerize by them.

        Genetic Diversity in Free-Ranging Horse and Burro Populations


      • More info: Domestic Vs Wild
        The animal’s BREEDING is subject to human control.
        The animal’s SURVIVAL depends upon humans.
        Domestic animals rely on humans for food & shelter, bred through artificial selection to choose and perpetuate desired traits
        Exists without human intervention of any type (feeding, breeding selection, etc.)


      • Wild Horses

        After all these years, my family and I made our first trip to see the wild horses of the western United States. My work has been dramatically influenced and inspired by the study of these horses and their hooves.

        So, I walked into wild horse country thinking that I was on a tourist trip; confirming what I already knew. I could not have been more blind. I could not have been more wrong. They were much, much more than I had ever imagined. What I write here, will probably sound very similar to what my predecessors have written. I don’t know if anyone’s words can get the point across to the world, but I have to try. I thought I was ready, but what I saw literally blew me away. I have worked on thousands of horses, all over the world. I spent six years of my life in the saddle from daylight till dark. I’ve had the privilege of working on some of the finest horses, for the finest horsemen in the world. Understand that after two minutes with the wild ones, I knew that I had never seen a true horse.

        Pete Ramey
        Hoof Rehabilitation Specialist

        Liked by 2 people

      • Technically, all horses alive today are E. caballus or E. Przewalski, and all originated in N. America (per the fossil record). It is looking ever more likely the “P horses” are rightly also E. caballus in origin.

        The differences we see in different breeds is human-caused, the differences in wild herds results from responses to their environs over time. Some Spanish blood circulates in our wild herds, but it’s important to realize the origin of Spanish horses is N. America, so they were only bringing them home once they eventually got to the mainland of the New World.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. How many off-road vehicles are debasing how many acres of public lands? They weigh as much or more than any horse does, tear up far more surface area in sensitive areas, are often parts of larger groups or repeated trips on the same hill, and tend to choose multiple paths for fun when a single one might do. Thrill seekers also look for the steepest, most erodible lands to climb then race down. Do I need to point out trash, noise, and repeat violations? Wild horses are only allowed to exist on 12% (and shrinking) of our total public lands, and are supposedly professionally managed. Yes, they do live, and walk around, and eat renewable biodegradable forages, and deposit seeds in their dung that remediate their impacts. They also by nature will roam widely in a single day in ways that minimize impact on a single area (waterholes perhaps being the exception as they must be revisited regularly). Any damage caused by wildlife being contained should lead anyone to directly question their managers, not the animals. Pendley’s deflecting hysteria and obvious compromises prove his is particularly unsuited for his current job (paid for by we, the people). He’s not even a good “actor.”

    Our public lands are a national treasure which Pendley has sought to privatize for many years. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing! Wild horses do have predators, and it seems he would kill them all if he could.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. George Knapp award winning investigative journalist

    ATS News – The Mustang Conspiracy – Part 2

    In Part two of our hard hitting ATSNews Special Report: ‘SEX, DRUGS, MUSTANGS, CORRUPTION and BP TOO’, ATSnews’ Mark Allin (AKA: Springer) and 17 time Emmy Award Winner, KLAS 8 News Now (Las Vegas, NV) Investigative Reporter, George Knapp discuss the unbelievable corruption, sex and drug parties and payola schemes that transpired between the MMS and several Big Oil Companies. The Inspector General of the U.S. investigated the ‘Culture of Substance Abuse and Corruption’ that ran rampant through the Denver Office of the MMS and several big oil companies from 2002 through 2006. The U.S. Taxpayer was bilked out of hundreds of millions of dollars, the environment was utterly neglected, the affected areas populations were at great risk (and still are), all for the betterment of a handful of Big Oil Companies’ bottom lines.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Here’s Part 1..I put the “cart before the horse”

      ATS News – The Mustang Conspiracy – Part 1

      Part one covers the history of the BLM’s lies and provides the factual counterpoint to those lies from a former BLM employee, Craig Downer, who quit in disgust and has proven the BLM’s data is false. Part one also covers the investigations into the bogus data used to support these lies, via FOIA work done by a private citizen, Cindy MacDonald, that shows what the true motivations are behind these heinous acts. We’ll also get a glimpse into George’s 20 plus year investigation of this activity , the truth about the horses, their land and how it’s been handed over to Big Agriculture (Corporate Cattle Ranches) and Big Oil, all at the expense of the U.S. Tax Payer and in violation of U.S. Federal Law.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Emergency status, Wyoming once again starts paving the way for pressing for horse slaughter plant approvals. The Fence Post publication has an Article where the Farm Bureau is pressing this point. We need to raise HELL and stop this nonsense. This aligns with their decision to work with finding homes for wild horses recently. They contradict the purpose of rehoming horses by backing another slaughter plant. Do not dismiss this but please start informing people so we can pound this out of America once and for all!

    Liked by 1 person

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