Horse News

Remembering Wild Horses and Burros in a Time of Chaos

by Charlotte Roe

Given the daily avalanche of information and misinformation and surreal happenings to process, I’ve been slow to communicate. A roundup is overdue.

BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Harvesting Machine by John Holland


— Pendley’s Houdini Act: Intense opposition by wild horse, public lands and racial justice advocates to William Pendley Perry’s appointment as Bureau of Land Management Director resulted in Congress rejecting his nomination by President Trump: thanks to all! On Sept. 25, a federal court in Montana, responding to a lawsuit brought by Montana governor Bullock, declared that Pendley had “served unlawfully as acting BLM director for 424 days.” The decision showed him the door, and could nullify several of his despicable anti-public lands, anti-environment and horse-hating decisions. 

Case closed? Hardly. Interior Dept. Secretary David Bernhardt, a Big Oil man, reportedly authorized Pendley to continue his “acting” role while appealing the decision. Western Watersheds, the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental watchdogs filed a brief in court laying out the consequences of this illegal order:

The Appropriations Circus: As you’re aware, the FY19 Appropriations bill anointed the BLM/HSUS/National Cattlemen’s Assn. “Path Forward” (aka Path Backward) plan to remove wild equids to extinction levels. The spending bill stipulated that the Agency spend $11 million on PZP, a reversible fertility control vaccine that could in time make roundups unnecessary. Surprise! The BLM is not implementing this humane alternative, but instead keeps pursuing massive, mindless roundups.  AWHC’s comment: The Bureau of Land Management is unleashing an unprecedented assault on America’s federally-protected wild horses and burros, using $21 million in funds appropriated by Congress to round up and remove thousands of wild horses from public lands this fall. Despite the fact that Congress directed the BLM to conduct roundups in accordance with the agency’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare (CAWP) guidelines and in conjunction with comprehensive fertility control programs, the BLM is doing the opposite. Using MILLIONS of our taxpayer dollars to round up wild horses and burros in numbers not seen in decades (if ever), while using fertility control in a token manner on a small number of mares.” 

Last week, rather than approve the FY20 spending bill – which would increase the BLM’s rid-the-West-of-wild-horses plan, the House and Senate chose a Continuing Resolution (CR). The CR goes through December 11, which falls in a lame duck session. Anything will be possible in that circus environment.

Worse On Its Way?:  Euthanasia again raised its scaly head in the September BLM Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board recommendations. This was inevitable, since neither the “Path Backward” nor the FY19 spending bill included fiscal provisions to ensure the health and safety of captive equines, and because Congress was unable to pass another emergency round to offset impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The BLM’s massive roundup machine continues, leading to more deaths, overcrowded and unhealthy holding pens, the exile of captive horses and burros to secret (no public access) off range “pastures,” and the construction of some new holding facilities in proximity to kill pens. This is being driven by muscular pressure from cattle and extraction industry lobbies, coupled with a budget deficit in the trillions, making wild equids even more expendable. Laura Leigh noted “our wild horses live predominately on ranges in extremely arid states where rapid fire policy changes, backdoor deals and buddy clubs run everything. The industrialization of our public lands has hit critical mass.”

The Pay to Slay GameA related, urgent issue is the BLM’s continuing practice of paying adopters — with the flimsiest vetting and zero followup — $1000 per captive wild equid. Many “adopted” mustangs and burros end up in  kill pens, while their “adopters” pocket the money. The Skydog Sanctuary has documented this “subsidy for slaughter” program and presented evidence to the BLM Advisory Board, which chose to do nothing:

In what could be the largest roundup in history, the BLM is out to decimate the multiple herds of Wyoming’s Red Desert complex. Carol Walker’s chronicle of the removal plans is a heartbreaking though exquisite account of the lives about to be impacted. Consider sharing it with your representatives in Congress. Tell them to stop funding the BLM’s abusive roundups and demand accountability, i.e. that the agency follow its own CAWP guidelines and begin scientific management of wild equids on their designated public lands.

Sterilization is backLike the ghost of the living dead, the BLM has revived its plan to sterilize wild mares. Its Finding of No Significant Impact for the Decision Record on Utah’s Confusion HMA claims that the brutal, discredited ovariectomy via colpotomy surgery on captive mustangs will be, like, no big deal, despite past court findings to the contrary and despite universities wanting nothing to do with it. The Cloud Foundation is seeking help to challenge the decision:


Facing November 3: Sunday’s Salt Lake Tribune published my oped on the elections. I’m sharing it here, since everything — the health of our public lands and families and wild ones, our freedoms and future as a country — is up for grabs. Here’s hoping you can vote early & make it count.

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