Horse News

OPINION: Wild Horses Aren’t the Problem; The BLM Is

By Nicole Rivard as published on

“…upwards of 2 million cattle graze public lands, not to mention, sheep — compared to a measly 79,568 wild horses”

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

I commend the Pagosa Daily Post for including a piece about the plight of America’s wild horses.

However, Friends of Animals, unlike other so-called wild horse advocates, does not believe that there are too many wild horses on federal public lands. Therefore, they should not be forcibly drugged with the fertility control pesticide PZP.

What’s missing from the overpopulated wild horse narrative is the truth — that commercialized Western public lands is the real problem, not the wild horse population.

As the media tries to showcase the different characters in this real-life drama, I always walk away feeling like the ones who should be center stage, the wild horses, are diminished. The Bureau of Land Management believes wild horses only have value if they can be adopted out, domesticated, trained and paraded around in a “Wild Spayed Filly Futurity” event, and that is a national disgrace.

As I recently read about that event’s 2019 winner being from the South Steens Herd Management Area in Oregon, my heart sank because I visited there for Friends of Animals in 2016.

I remember seeing wild horse bands interacting and flourishing in their own way, and it was magical. The horses are so present and in tune with each other and the environment — something that should be admired and respected, not destroyed to make room for more doomed cattle and sheep exploited by the meat industry.

Since the passage of the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, wild horses have lost 41 percent of their habitat (20 million acres) and now only exist on public lands in 10 states. The wild horse population is fragmented and isolated in small herds, which creates a real threat to maintaining genetic viability.

The Bureau of Land Management’s assertions that wild horse populations are increasing by some 20% or more each year are not based on sound scientific methodology. But cattle are actually counted, and their numbers are staggering.

Today, upwards of 2 million cattle graze public lands, not to mention, sheep — compared to a measly 79,568 wild horses — and now the government is increasingly authorizing thousands of oil, gas and mineral extraction projects on federally owned properties. The result truly is a crisis—these commercial activities will continue to substantially fragment and reduce the amount of habitat left for western wildlife.

The BLM has proved to be incompetent when it comes to protecting wild horses. It’s time to entirely restrict cattle and sheep from grazing in wild horse Herd Management Areas (HMAs) and to amend the WHBA to allow wild horses to be returned or relocated to Herd Areas in states where wild horses have been wiped out. It’s time to increase grazing fees and protect natural predators such as mountain lions, as well as adjust outdated appropriate management levels to accommodate more horses

The BLM should be encouraging ecotourism by promoting wildlife watching of wild horses and other species out West instead of wiping out every specie deemed a threat to ranching.

And I don’t mean promoting wildlife watching by creating more paved roads, but rather by simply putting up some signs to point people in the right direction as their feet touch the earth while hiking.

I’ll never forget that a BLM employee at the Burns District office in Oregon actually told me the best place to see wild horses in Oregon is in the Wild Horse Corral holding prison.

Let’s face it, wild horses aren’t the problem. The BLM is.

Nicole Rivard is a correspondent with Friends of Animals.

10 replies »

  1. The BLM does not represent the West or horse men and women. They do not speak for the good hearted truly horse minded folks that have learned how to forge a bond with the horse. What they do is speak for the groups of souless humankind pretending to be Westerners, who have no affections but for themselves and their sickened concepts of right, wrong and what passes in their small minds as fair play. One can only pray that these soulless bastards find themselves in the same circumstances where their fate at the end of their years is placed into the hands of someone as heartless and ignorant as them.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. An excellent and factual article except I doubt if there are even 79,568 wild horses left. At the rate BLM is rounding our wild horses up they are in real danger of extinction.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The BLM has BEEN the problem for many many years. And yet they continue to be subsidized by our government every year drawing more and more dollars out of taxpayers while giving away the lands that belong to us. Watching one after another of the wild horse herds being rounded up & hauled away to satisfy the livestock corporations that take advantage of all the subsidies just given away by our government is beyond horrendous. For some reason – we the taxpayers who send our “representatives” to DC to make decisions for OUR welfare dont have any say in how these agencies do or dont do their jobs. Why is that? Remember We, the People? How many hard working wild horse advocates volunteer to do the hard stuff – to actually track individual herds – and are just ignored? I just wrote my comment – again – to oppose yet another roundup – at this point dont even remember which one this was. The roping of foals – now not just foals but adult horses (and you can imagine how that goes) running the bands so hard & fast into the pens that far too many horses break their necks & die. I would like to believe that there is a possibility of someone new in charge of DOI & BLM that will actually believe that wild horses should have a right to live & survive on their own land – maybe restricting livestock from their herd areas. Now THAT’s a dream right now as it has been for how many years?
    I absolutely agree with redmm100 – the humans responsible for what has been done to not just our NATIVE wild horses but our other native wildlife & the Wilderness areas that are all too few – yup – let them end their lives in captivity!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amen to this article. In truth the Wild Horse and Burro Program of the BLM needs to be abolished. Since the beginning the BLM has legally violated the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971. The arguments for the wild horses and burros are many, I remember my first encounter in the Pryor Mts. It was truly magical with the Pryor Mt Horses grazing all around me. Then one of the most cruel and devastating roundups, by the BLM, and I saw the other side. I found myself crying my heart out in the arms of another advocate. The issue with the wild horses is a moral issue, but goes beyond into an ecological issue. Wild horses are definitely a keystone species that not only preserve but also regenerate any area that they are in. This has been documented all over the world. Such amazing equine hearts and lives. They see and understand. They remember and feel. They actually cry, something I saw in my younger days being around horses. They have close knit families that encourage and teach each other, yet they have been turned into a dispensable object. Nature including the wild horses and burros has been speaking for hundreds of years. It is definitely a voice, a voice that teaches. All we have to do is open our hearts and listen

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I havent seen any comments etc from Grandma Gregg in a while – is she doing ok? In this dangerous time, staying safe matters. Miss her great comments & articles.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are very thoughtful, Maggie, and I am fine and along with all the other priorities I of course STILL greatly care about our wild ones and our public lands and our planet. Blessed are the beasts and the children.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thats good to know – these days, it gets a little scary when you dont hear from someone – know what I mean? Glad you and yours are all right. I never doubt that you care about our wild horses and all the rest!

        Liked by 2 people

  6. As long as advocates are challenging ranching the battle is waged on two fronts. Herds will be dead before the ranching industry is deprived of entrenched allotments.
    It may be more productive to focus on the– approximately 245 million acres (380,000 square miles) of US wildlife habitat managed by the BLM National System of Public lands in 23 states in addition to county and state multiple-use habitat designations and wildlife preserves. The order specifies that DOI bureaus prioritize “active habitat-management projects and funding that contribute to achieving wildlife population objectives” and to “review and use the best available science or other relevant projects to avoid or minimize potential negative impacts on wildlife.”
    . Revenues generated from 1935 Pittman-Robertson Act Federal Aid for Wildlife Restoration excise taxes are apportioned to state wildlife agencies for their conservation efforts , (8) the term “wildlife-restoration project” includes the wildlife conservation and restoration program and means the selection, restoration, rehabilitation, and improvement of areas of land or water adaptable as feeding, resting, or breeding places for wildlife, including acquisition of such areas or estates or interests therein as are suitable or capable of being made suitable therefor, and the construction thereon or therein of such works as may be necessary to make them available for such purposes and also including such research into problems of wildlife management as may be necessary to efficient administration affecting wildlife resources, and such preliminary or incidental costs and expenses as may be incurred in and about such projects.
    AFTER the Wild Horse and Burro Act and the subsequent 1976 Kleppe Supreme Court decision, Court findings mandated wildlife resource management plan i.e..The court in Mt. States v Hodel found that “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.”
    Therefore, Amendments to Resource management plans (RMPs) are necessary and imperative to correct habitat deficiencies, maintain and rewild herds. This is a basic process of redistribution and rewilding of warehoused wildlife.

    The addition of Wild Horse Herds to the inventory of Historic Cultural Resources is consistent with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. ( FLPMA) required(s) that: “… wild horses and burros shall be considered comparably with other resource values in the formulations of land use plans” 43 CFR Sec. 4700.0-6 .
    In March 2005 responding to application to a U.S. government project under the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act. the court declared that the Okinawa dugong did indeed constitute historically significant “property,” rejecting the US Dept. of Defense claim that it did not.
    By Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) reticence to include animals as cultural resources, the Dept. of the Interior’ agencies ( National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and US Fish and Wildlife) exclude necessary and imperative protection of wild horses/burros as a cultural historic resource in the Resource Management planning process (see) In carrying out its responsibilities the BLM employs a professional staff of Cultural Resource Specialists to advise the BLM’s managers and to implement cultural resource policies consistent with these authorities.
    Sec 106, as a federally mandated process, is circumvented while major capture actions systematically deprive Americans of their protected heritage. Until wild horses are designated by law as protected cultural resources this will continue as an unabated consequence .

    Liked by 1 person

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