Horse Health

Neguse, colleagues pen letter to Pelosi: Wild horse roundups ‘harmful to health of animals,’ keep PZP in 2021 funding

by John LaConte as published on the Vail Daily

“…holding facilities, like the roundups themselves, are often harmful to the health and well-being of these animals…”

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

A Nov. 25 letter from 22 members of Congress, including House Representative Joe Neguse, urges House leadership to consider a more “humane and sustainable” practice of fertility control for wild horses in Colorado and across the West.

Neguse, who represents Vail, EagleVail and parts of Avon in the U.S. House of Representatives, co-sponsored a bipartisan wild horse protection amendment in July which directs the federal Bureau of Land Management to use at least $11 million of its annual wild horse program budget on PZP fertility programs for wild horses, a fertility-control vaccine given to female horses on the range through an injection via remote darting.

But the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, on Nov. 10, instead added more funding to the Bureau of Land Management’s horse roundup program, which involves the controversial drive-trapping method of chasing wild horses into pens using helicopters. The horses are then separated from their herd-families and held in expensive holding facilities.

According to a Sept. 16 report from Bureau of Land Management , 71% of the more than $87 million that had been spent on the Wild Horse and Burro Program in 2020 was used to conduct roundups and place horses in holding facilities, and none of that budget was spent on PZP, Porcine Zona Pellucida.

“We appreciate the Appropriations Committee’s effort to support the BLM’s horse and burro program in FY20 by providing more than $21 million in additional funding over previously enacted levels,” Neguse and others wrote in the Nov. 25 letter. “We also appreciate the Committee’s efforts to promote agency accountability, requiring that the BLM submit a report to Congress detailing past expenditures and accounting for future program planning and needs. However, we remain concerned about the BLM’s management of equine populations. As a result of the BLM’s mass roundup strategy and removal mismanagement, there are nearly 50,000 animals in short- and long-term holding, and this number will only increase if the BLM continues to rely primarily on a failed system of mass removals. These holding facilities, like the roundups themselves, are often harmful to the health and well-being of these animals.”

The letter is addressed to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives; Rep. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Betty McCollum, chairwoman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee.

Proposal for Colorado

In Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management estimates roughly 2,100 wild horses are roaming the public lands.

The bureau says a more appropriate level of horses, based on the available range land, would be closer to 800. Bureau of Land Management range land available to wild horses has shrunk from 723,095 acres in the early 1970s to 365,988 acres now.

Bureau of Land Management has proposed the use of helicopter, fixed wing aircraft and other motorized vehicles to track, inventory, gather and transport wild horse and burro herds throughout Colorado in 2021, but will first have a public hearing on the matter to receive comments from citizens.

An in-person public hearing was originally scheduled to take place at the Bureau of Land Management’s White River Field Office on Nov. 19 but has been postponed in order to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19.

“The hearing will be rescheduled and may be held virtually at a later date,” said Benjamin Gruber, acting deputy state director of resources.

Gruber says the use of motorized vehicles and aircraft helps the BLM to “efficiently monitor and manage wild horse populations.”

“The more efficiently we can do our job, the more effective we can be at protecting and preserving these iconic animals,” Gruber said.

But wild horse advocates like the Colorado-based Cloud Foundation say the Bureau of Land Management’s use of helicopters to gather and remove wild horses is cruel to the animals, which see high mortality rates during the operations.

“The BLM has woefully inhumane standards when using helicopters,” Deniz Bolbol, director of advocacy for the Cloud Foundation, told the Vail Daily.

“I have viewed horses when they take them off the range, in short-term holding, some of the babies had been running so long and hard, their hoofs had literally disintegrated,” Bolbol said.

Accepting comments until Dec. 23

In the Bureua of Land Management’s 190,000-acre Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area (and surrounding lands) in northwestern Colorado, the bureau estimates there are nearly 1,000 more wild horses than the agency has deemed appropriate for the area.

“We are currently supporting more than 1,200 wild horses in areas where the appropriate management level allows for up to 235,” White River Field Manager Kent Walter said in a news release issued Nov. 23. “The removal of excess wild horses over the next few years will reduce impacts to private property and promote healthy range lands.”

Bolbol told the Vail Daily the Bureau of Land Management’s idea of healthy range lands has been influenced by area ranchers, who don’t want profitable livestock like sheep and cattle to lose range land to wild horses.

“The whole area south and east of Rangely should all be robust wild horse country,” Bolbol said, but the West Douglas herd area has been ”zeroed out,“ or deemed ineligible for wild horse habitat, despite the fact that wild horses currently roam the area.

“We are committed to maintaining a healthy population of wild horses in the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area as well as being a good neighbor to the communities we serve,” Walter said.

The Bureau of Land Management aims to confine wild horses to herd management areas on public lands, as opposed to the larger herd areas where horses have been identified.

The Bureau of Land Management has released an environmental assessment on the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area, analyzing potential wild horse removals inside the area that could occur over the next several years, which “may use helicopters and/or bait trapping,” according to the BLM. “Fertility control treatments would also be introduced to help reduce annual population increases, without which, herd numbers increase by approximately 20% each year in the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area.”

The public can comment on the assessment until Dec. 23 by viewing it at or submitting written comments to the White River Field Office at 220 East Market St., Meeker, CO 81641.

Utah roundup underway

On Saturday, the BLM began a helicopter roundup operation to gather 500 horses from public lands in Utah. The effort is expected to run through Dec. 13 and is taking place on the Confusion Herd Management Area.

“The appropriate management level for this HMA is 70-115 animals and the current population is approximately 661 horses,” the Bureau of Land Management stated in a press release issued Nov. 23. “Horses removed from the range will be transported to the Axtell Off-Range Contract Wild Horse Facility in Axtell, Utah. The Bureau of Land Management anticipates administering population growth suppression in the spring or summer of 2021 on approximately 17 mares that will be returned to the range.”

The population growth suppression method the Bureau of Land Management intends to use, according to the American Wild Horse Campaign, is known as an ovariectomy procedure and involves “a veterinarian manually reaching into the mare’s abdominal cavity via the vaginal canal, blindly locating the ovaries then using a rod and chain device called an ecrasuer to sever and remove the ovaries.”

The American Wild Horse Campaign also added that in 2013, the National Academy of Sciences concluded: “The possibility that ovariectomy may be followed by prolonged bleeding or peritoneal infection makes it inadvisable for field application.”

“It is unconscionable for the BLM to pursue the ovariectomy procedure while the scientifically recommended and cost-effective fertility control vaccine, PZP, is readily available for humane management right now on the range,” said Brieanah Schwartz, policy counsel for the American Wild Horse Campaign.

In May, the American Wild Horse Campaign completed the first year of a PZP fertility control program in Nevada. Deemed “highly successful” by the campaign, an estimated 690 births were prevented at a cost of $182,000.

“In stark contrast, BLM would spend $690,000 to round up those same horses and an astronomical $34.5 million to maintain them in holding facilities for life, resulting in a net cost to taxpayers of $35 million in a single herd area,” the American Wild Horse Campaign reported.

20 replies »

  1. Forcing injections on horses, is not so different than forcing injections on people. “For the greater good.” Except it never is, and only serves the few at the top, with their God-like complex, lining their already lined pockets. And after altering the entire herd’s behaviour, mares cycling endlessly, being bred over and over, stallions fighting endlessly, creating genetic bottlenecks, possible sterility and even death, the horses are rounded up and removed anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The truth is that the numbers of the BLM are highly exaggerated and overly inflated, sometimes to the point of 400% inflation, and overcount. Added to this is the extremely low appropriate management levels set by the BLM that are far below genetic viability, numbers that add to the possibility of inbreeding. From this comes the cry of overpopulation, and the plea for unjustified appropriations to continue the “Wild Horse and Burro Program” of the BLM and roundups, in what has been called a program designed for extinction. In addition, PZP is applied which stems reproduction and encourages compromise of the equine immune system. Indeed, just by itself, continual use of this contraceptive in any given horse, produces permanent sterilization. By encouraging PZP usage in areas that are already at levels of questionable genetic viability, along with the continued roundups will drive the wild horses to extinction. This does not even get into the horrendous and immoral ovariectomy procedure.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Wild horses can be thought of as a keystone species, whose free roaming habits and symbiotic relationship with other wildlife, encourage the rejuvenation and rebuilding of an ecosystem. Their existence stabilizes these areas. Much more, they don’t need to be managed except by nature and the dictates of nature. A principle called,” Density Dependent and Independent Inhibition” regulates numbers of wild horses in conjunction with coexisting species of grazers, predators, which do exist, and environmental factors. Added to this, is the self-regulating behavior of the wild horses which serves to govern reproduction. Delayed implantation and spontaneous abortion, kick in in times of environmental stress, and many times due to the existing conditions the band stallions won’t even reproduce, or breed selectively. Yes, reproductive compensation steps in after roundups but not to the point that the horses breed like sex crazed rabbits. Yet the roundups occur so often the wild horse numbers are not allowed to fill their ecological niche and stabilize.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Nature is dynamic and not static, which means it is constantly adjusting numbers of any given species according to the principles mentioned above, of both flora and fauna. As a result, we cannot place a fixed figure upon the number of any given species that are to exist in any given area, at any given time, such as the BLM’s appropriate management level, or AML. The answer then lies with removing the manmade restrictions placed upon the wild horses, and allowing them to truly live free, unmanaged and untouched.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A few things jumped out at me here, from among the same horrific “management” we are buying from the BLM:

    1. “According to a Sept. 16 report from Bureau of Land Management , 71% of the more than $87 million that had been spent on the Wild Horse and Burro Program in 2020 was used to conduct roundups and place horses in holding facilities, and none of that budget was spent on PZP, Porcine Zona Pellucida.” This is a clear a statement as can be as to the BLM’s focus. To wit, in just 2020 (if you assume for argument’s sake there are approximately 87,000 horses remaining in the wild), they have spent almost 3/4 of a million dollars PER HORSE.
    Since they will sell these for only $10 there is a major breakdown in our government and our society about how to value these heritage species. Anyone should be outraged at this ridicullous expenditure which causes zero positive results, fiscally or ethically.

    2. “The removal of excess wild horses over the next few years will reduce impacts to private property and promote healthy range lands.” Just re-read that a moment, and ponder why horses are being removed from their legally designated PUBLIC LAND homelands “to reduce impacts to PRIVATE PROPERTY.”

    3. In Colorado “Bureau of Land Management range land available to wild horses has shrunk from 723,095 acres in the early 1970s to 365,988 acres now.” Within this statement lies a multitude of intentional obfuscation. The public land hasn’t mysteriously “shrunk” but has been inexorably taken acre by acre from designated use by wild horses to be put to other uses. In other words, other priorities have diminished the legal rights granted to these animals on these lands, most often to prop up private interests against the public good.

    Definition of Boondoggle:

    boon·dog·gle | ˈbo͞onˌdäɡəl | North American informal noun
    – work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value

    • a public project of questionable merit that typically involves political patronage and graft

    This will not change from within the BLM, nor from logical, scientific or ethical directives. This is happening and we are paying for it, as our our remaining wildies. It is incumbent on us to insist Congress take more decisive action, and soon. I don’t see any prospect for change otherwise, until the last wild hoofprints are blown away in the wind.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Many thanks, Robert and IcySpots for your information but how can we get Congress to act on these facts ? HSUS, ASPCA , etc. have gotten Raul Grijalva and other legislators convinced that PZP should be part of BLM’s budget and many don’t care or are corrupt. BLM has gotten away with breaking laws for so long with Big Ag’s , USF&G’s, Farm Bureau’s, USFS”s , etc. help . DOI/BLM need to go or be completely overhauled but how can that be accomplished ? For years we have sent information to Congress . Perhaps things will change with a new administration. We can keep trying and hope and pray before it’s too late.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barbara, I share your concerns and dismay. It does seem this issue is ultimately too small for Congress to take much notice, so it seems the only path is to follow Wild Horse Annie’s example and get enough people motivated enough to prod Congress to take action. In these times when most of our population is urban it is even harder for people to understand these wild ones belong to them, too, though they may never see one alive. It’s only marginally better to have them seen in outdoor zoos as nonreproducing or highly manipulated “manmade” herds.

      One suggestion I have for the new administration is to remove the BLM from oversight and management of wild horses and burros, and/or create a new entity that would have the sole best interests of the American public and their public lands legacy as their priority. Part of the trouble with the BLM is they were conflicted and corrupted from the start, and to be honest were given an impossible mandate by Congress. The results were and main predictable and unchanging. To me this points to the need to “reset” our engagement strategies from grassroots up then the top down.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with Icy Spots. The BLM needs to be removed from oversight of the wild horses No question. Another issue however is that I see many comments reflecting a lot of emotion, but not understanding of the ecological implications, or sweep it away as unimportant. Yes it is an emotional issue, that stirs much anger, but whatever it is worth, most people, and not everyone, it seems, put aside in their minds the ecological aspects of this fight or don’t take the time to understand them. I hear a lot of comments that there is a lack of predators so we have to rush in and use PZP, or the other side, that it is the next best thing to stop the roundups. Another that reproductive compensation steps in after the roundups and so there is a need to use PZP or roundups. But the natural aspects of balance don’t operate independently, but always together, sort of an eco-concerto. Bad example I suppose, but where one is lacking others will step in to compensate. This operates with all forms of life both plants and all forms of wildlife.. People including the government need to be educated, but again the BLM needs to be removed as well as the manmade restrictions on the wild horses. Perhaps I am missing some things,but just some thoughts off the top of my head

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Craig Downer has a couple of good books that explains the ecology very well, one is very easy reading. Again just some thoughts, Perhaps someone with a good understanding of these aspects could sit down and talk with governmental figures, face to face. especially those figures that are sympathetic.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. There is definitely a conspiracy however, but Velma Johnston appealed to the children which resulted in a writing campaign from kids across America which ushered in the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971. Brainstorming

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is true and what I was alluding to earlier. We have many millions more citizens now, and many easier ways to network with them than she did, and in truth, probably far more awareness of our wild ones generally than in her time. Yet blindness and pseudoscience prevails, and those who benefit from this further entrench it. Education is a great answer, but most people don’t have the time or interest to parse all the conflicting information — including even the relative rarity of consensus amongst the “advocacy.” In this confusion and bickering horses and burros are languishing and vanishing, along with their ecosystems as you point out.

      “We, the People” deserve better but have no real voice at the existing decision making tables. Our wild ones don’t have time to wait for the glacial changes we may gradually accomplish as the extinction agenda is in full power right NOW. At a minimum it seems a non-conflicted CITIZEN panel with some actual authority could easily enough be established as a counter the the blindness of the BLM towards our national interest. We have put the foxes in charge of our hen houses, and paid them well, for nearly 50 years, with the absurd notion that there shouldn’t be any more hens than the ESTIMATE made 1971! Why can’t we fire them as well?

      How about a letter FROM Santa to President-elect Biden on behalf of our wild ones? The Biden-Obama administration was not much interested in these matters but one can perhaps point to the sea change in our demographics as a possible starting point. After all, our wild herds were once nothing but laboratories of diversity themselves, and our ham-fisted management is ultimately a form of eugenics.


  10. That piece in the Washington Post is bringing up bad memories of Ken Salazar and Tom Davis under the Democratic administration. I hope we can rely on the Biden administration to do better. For wildlife advocates, it’s either bad or worse, not Democrat or Republican.

    And restricting horses to certain areas all but guarantees damage to the landscape, does it not? These devious people are in the business of creating self-fulfilling prophecies. And it is dismaying how little the general public knows or cares about our wild horses.

    I shudder to think of just what will be emblematic or iconic of our country in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ^^So much for ‘being at a point we’ve never been before’ per the WP article. It appears we’ve been there, many times, and even worse.

    These people can’t even expend the energy to come up with a new line of bull!

    Liked by 1 person

Care to make a comment?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.