Horse News

Priscilla Feral: Wild horses suffer unspeakably at the hands of the Bureau of Land Management

By Priscilla Feral as published on The Salt Lake Tribune

The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that the Bureau of Land Management ripped 435 wild horses from Utah’s Onaqui Herd Management Area after forcibly drugging them with fertility control for years. The agency spared the elder statesman of the herd, a 30-year-old white stallion known as Old Man.

photo by Carol Walker of the Onaqui herd

Accepting this as a good deed by the BLM or victory might make humans feel better, but life as Old Man knew it will never be the same considering wild horse herd dynamics, something the agency in charge of protecting them could care less about.

“Horse Speak” author Sharon Wilsie writes that a healthy herd, made up of grandmothers, aunts, mothers and daughters, has many roles that get played out: leader, mapmaker, peacemaker, sentry, joker, bully. To lead is to be responsible for the welfare of those who are weaker. The dominant stallion guards his mares from other stallions and predators. Stallions who have no mares band together in bachelor herds, and although they can enjoy some rowdy play, they tend to develop strong emotional bonds and follow the same dynamics as any other herd.

Old Man may be free and not have to suffer from being privatized — or worse, slaughtered — but he’s suffering nonetheless from broken bonds with family and friends.

Other wild horses will soon experience this unspeakable pain — BLM will assault them in Utah’s Conger Herd Management Area and three HMAs in Oregon starting Aug.1. The genocide then moves to Idaho and California.

It’s business as usual for the meat industry-loving BLM.

However, because the Onaqui wild horses are so famous, all eyes are now on the agency — and public backlash matters.

There is hope to derail BLM’s wild horse extinction plan through Friends of Animals’ ongoing legal efforts, but also if the public keeps pressure on new leadership — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, BLM Deputy Director Nada Culver and a new BLM director — to demand reforms to rein in this rogue agency, which has obliterated the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

The BLM can legally establish appropriate management levels, but it doesn’t use science to do so. Then it perpetuates the lie that there are too many wild horses, convincing Congress that roundups and fertility control are necessary.

BLM has shirked responsibility to maintain thriving natural ecological balance, letting doomed livestock dominate the range. Case in point — the AML within the Onaqui Mountain HMA, which spans 240,153 acres, is a scant 121-210 wild horses. However, in nearby allotments 527 cattle and a staggering 8,736 sheep can graze. The AML for the Conger HMA, which is comprised of 170,993 acres, is a measly 40-80 horses, yet in the surrounding five allotments a whopping 1,455 cattle and 4,885 sheep can graze.

It is the 50th anniversary of the Wild Horse and Burro Act, the perfect time to begin phasing out livestock grazing allotments in wild horse HMAs and to start using scientific models to determine AMLs and to survey the range. Doing so would also give our planet a better chance to combat the climate crisis.

Speaking of, wild horses have a positive impact on the habitat where they evolved. A recent study reveals they are ecosystem engineers, using their hooves to dig more than six feet deep to reach groundwater, which helps other wildlife. Other studies show wild horses do not decompose the vegetation they ingest, which allows them to spread seeds of many plant species and sequester carbon in their droppings. And they help to build more moisture-retaining soils and prevent catastrophic fires.

One can only imagine the favorable effect noble Old Man has had on the range in his lifetime. BLM could learn a thing or two from him.

18 replies »

  1. Another administration, another day in the fight for the rights of our native wild horses to remain unharnessed on the rightful range. Will we succeed? Who knows. It can get so disheartening but we fight on because without us our wild ones are doomed.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The parallels between our past “management” of “the indian problem” are stark here. One can only hope our new Secretary of the DOI might step up and begin to right some of the similar wrongs, but I admit I am not holding my breath.

    The only stronger path I can see necessitates many millions of US Citizens stepping up and loudly enough, to assert our natural places in the oversight of our public lands and our public wild horses and burros. In our ignorance and apathy this destruction will continue unabated. Sadly, this all starts to smack of the horrific history we all know of WWII as well. Only here, the horses have hardly anyone defending them, and even among the few there are enormous conflicts. Godhelpthem.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. FAMILY is everything to wild horses. Knowing that, imagine what torture you would be going through not only during the violent capture but afterward too; regardless if you were trucked away or if allowed to stay.
    Either way, your life is “over”.
    Every single person (BLM employees and the highly paid capture contractors and the welfare ranchers and their cattle/sheep lobbyists on down the line) is part of an evil scheme of torture and greed … all for the sake of the almighty dollar. How can they sleep at night?

    Liked by 2 people

    • GG, I understand your sentiment but don’t see things as so simply divided. There is plenty of evidence “ranchers” are stuck in the system too and not all are enemies of wild horses and burros. The government we pay for enables this system and somehow has twisted the grazing management “privileges” with property rights. Ranching in general is a very low profit margin lifestyle — as witnessed by how many can barely make it even with the $1.35/month for a cow and calf subsidized fee. Many would go bust without relying on offloading cattle on the public lands for about half of each calendar year. Surely some are greedy but a little digging would reveal the producers generally make very little, nor do the slaughterhouse workers. Our commercial beef production system is essentially a monopoly held by a few powerful packing company organizations. Producers, workers, and consumers are all generally losers. Consider how beef prices are manipulated and rise and fall at whim — while no US citizen gets a discount for funding subsiized grazing on our public lands though we pay mightily for this loss-leading system.

      Government contracts have always been rife with corruption, the BLM/USFS contracts are clearly no exception. I try to remain optimistic capitalism does not have to equal corruption but am getting old waiting for a different result. The only suggestion I can make is we all need to do some soul searching and begin to nurture Reverence for all life (including our own) over simply transactional relations with “all our relatives.”


  4. Surprised this isn’t posted here already, but TODAY IS THE DAY to get letters in for these WHB Board positions:

    “The BLM and USFS seek nominations to fill vacancies on National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board

    GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are seeking nominations to fill three positions on the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. The Board plays an important role in the efforts of both agencies to be good neighbors in states where the BLM and USFS oversee wild free-roaming horses and burros. The Board advises the agencies on the protection and management of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands administered by those agencies.

    This call for nominations is for the positions that represent public interest (with special knowledge of natural resource management), veterinary medicine and wild horse and burro advocacy, which will become vacant on September 20, 2021.

    The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is comprised of nine members who represent a range of interests. Individuals qualify to serve on the Board because of their education, training, or experience that enables them to give informed and objective advice regarding the interest they represent. Successful nominees will demonstrate experience or knowledge of the area of their expertise and a commitment to collaborate in seeking solutions to resource management issues.

    Board members typically meet twice annually; however, additional meetings may be called when necessary. Members serve a three-year term without salary, though members are reimbursed for approved travel and per diem expenses related to their activities on the board.

    Any individual or organization may nominate one or more persons to serve on the Board; interested parties may also nominate themselves. Current federal and state government employees are not eligible to serve on the Board.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are correct in saying that this issue is not simple but wild horses and burros are legally DESIGNATED on the Herd Management Areas and Herd Areas (HMA & HA) and livestock are only PERMITTED. Definition of the word “designated” is to “set aside for” or “assign” or “authorize”. Definition of “permit” is to “allow” or “let” or “tolerate”. The wild horse and wild burro legally designated lands and resources are set aside for, and assigned and authorized for, the use of wild horses and burros whereas the livestock is only allowed and tolerated and let to use the public range resources.

      While commercial livestock grazing is permitted on public lands, it is not a requirement under the agency’s multiple use mandate as outlined in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA). Public land grazing clearly is a privilege not a right, while the BLM and USFS are mandated by law to protect wild horses and burros.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes — I made the distinction about “privileges” vs rights above, and completely agree with you. It is worth reminding all as well that the legal areas which are the ONLY places wild horses and burros are allowed to “freely” exist have been and are consistently and incessantly reduced.

        It seems a logical and achievable first step would be to NOT permit livestock on any remaining legal horse and burro areas, then to revisit and rewild some of those legal lands taken out of the equation for our wild horses and burros by our paid managers. Most of these deadly conflicts are man-made by dubious management decisions. We can change that, and must!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Word definitions appear to have always been a problem for the BLM. As Icy said – a LOGICAL first step – Any Herd Management Area certainly should have been kept for the Wild Horse Herds the area was designated for and the ones zeroed out? Open them back up to the horses and other wildlife.. Remove the allotments from HMAs & let the horses and other wildlife have places of their own – which was the original idea all those years ago. Re-wilding sure does sound good. Its working in other countries but it appears here in the US humans just cannot let go of any land without putting it to a commercial or industrial use. The whole privilege vs rights issue should be examined & spelled out because it sure does sound like there is some misconception there! It seems like theres more push to round the horses up right now – and no one in government making an attempt to either stop it or slow it down. Nothing said about that horrific AIP either. Just keep pulling the horses off & sticking them in pens or giving money to people to take them.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so angry. Let’s debate these horney mormon men that keep reproducing and living off the church
    Where is the justice for the wild horse. OMG UTAH open your eyes


  6. Hi All,
    I read your comments often and most of you feel the way I do. I wrote my Representative and forwarded that letter, with an explanation, to one of Senators (the one that would most likely do something) asking them to sponsor an amendment to the 1971 FRWH&B act to remove the management (mismanagement) of our wild horses & burros out from under the BLM & USFS. I plan to send the same letter every week and ask over and over. I get so frustrated because no one in government will stand up to the BLM. And, quite frankly, it doesn’t appear that Haaland is going to do what some thought she would. She should have already stopped the roundups and stockpiling of our wild ones; stopped the AIP and directed a full investigation of the fraudulent program and demand prosecution of those involved (BLM employees & adopters); remove ALL livestock/sheep allotments that are within and overlap HMAs/HAs. These are just a few things that need to be done NOW.
    My humble opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am in the UK but for years have followed these posts about the BLM and wild horses, I’ve said many times I believe the BLM are in many cases in the pockets of the rich ranchers , why else do they keep up these relentless roundups in areas where cattle and sheep also graze, get rid of the ruminants, they are the ones doing damage to the environment and turning water holes into mud, wild horses should be bringing in revenue from visitors if properly managed , this latest roundup was so totally unnecessary, these horses should be put back on their range immediately before it’s to late. I bet if you had a national poll about this then horses would win hands down.I thought the Biden government would have done something about how the BLM works, or rather doesn’t work, for safeguarding these precious horses.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think it is awful how the BLM treats our wild horses. None should be sent to slaughter under any circumstances. I am totally against it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Didnt watch the “new” the night that was on. Thanks for putting it up here. One more person in the fight for our horses.


  9. These horses are a treasurer ♥️
    They have been in our country for decades.
    It breaks my heart 💔
    BLM is basically corrupt in my opinion.
    What can we do to stop the slaughter of these beautiful horses.

    Liked by 1 person

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