AZ BLM to Black Mountain Wild Burro Herd: “You are TOAST”

update from Grandma Gregg

Please start preparing yourself for this Black Mt. Arizona BLM EA re: PZPing all the burros (plus apparently removing most of them also?). This article and (radio show) is FULL of misinformation that the BLM spews.

Article and radio show and link to EA are below and below that is the independent analysis of the BLM’s nine days aerial flight that only documented 72 burros and below that are some herd stats and information. You may recall that these are the same burros that the local board of supervisors said should be hunted.

BM Burro Herd
Public Comments
Bogus BLM Numbers

In addition, per available data of 161 burros captured from Twin Peaks in 2010, 16% foaling rate was found but less than half lived to be yearling age (7%) and then after you factor in adult mortality that 7% increase would be even lower.

Below: Black Mt. Herd BLM Herd Stats show very high annual population increases and nowhere near the actual average burro annual increase as shown in Twin Peaks. You will especially notice the  gigantic 45% increase which is a standard method BLM uses to exaggerate populations in order to acquire funding and justification for capture and removals (and now PZP also).

PS Video cameras (Go-Pro) have been around for many years and if the BLM wanted to prove the large populations they would use it … but they don’t because their population numbers are false.

Black Mt Per Herd Stats
Burros Population Per BLM Herd Stats
Year       (March 1st) Black Mt Population Increase /Decrease % Change Known Removals Subtotal Last Capture/Removal
3/1/2016 1551 101 7% 125 Sep-15
3/1/2015 1450 450 45% Apr-14
2014 1000 200 25% Apr-12
2013 800 0 0% 12 Oct-11
2012 800 70 10% 57 Oct-11
2011 730 95 15% 105 Mar-11
2010 635 50 9% 92 Jan-10
2009 585 81 16% Nov-07
2008 504 70 16% Nov-07
2007 434 -44 -9% Dec-03
2006 478 0 0% Dec-03
2005 478 Dec-03

BLM: Liars, Liars Pants on FIRE

“We were about to post the BLM’s latest propoganda and lie-fest when Grandma Gregg sent an email that lit me up.  Instead of posting her comment after the article we are using it as a ‘forward’ to the idiot article, it’s just too much…so Grandma, tell us what you think and take it away…!” ~ R.T.

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

FYI although BLM has claimed that the 1971 population was about 25,345 they FAIL to include the over 70,229 wild horses and burros that were “claimed” by anyone who wanted to round them up from 1971 to 1979. These would be “mustangers” in the truest form of the word and these WH&B would have gone to slaughter – i.e. sold by the pound. And these over 70 thousand are ONLY the ones that were reported and I don’t think anyone familiar with the wild horse and burro issue would disagree that many many many others would have been captured by mustangers and NOT “reported”.

So although we will never know the exact population of WH&B on the day the 1971 Act was passed there is no way in ‘ell you can convince me that it was 25,345 and that those other over 70 thousand were already owned by the people who captured them. No way. I personally have no problem believing that the true wild horse and burro population in 1971 was well over 100,000 and they were not over grazing their lands. The domestic private/corporate livestock were over-grazing since there were many many many more of those on public lands (millions from what I can figure out ( but the wild horses and burros were not overgrazing their legal lands simply by comparing the numbers of WH&B versus the domestic private/corporate cattle and sheep.
And then we can ALSO talk about their unsupported and non-defensible annual population increases they puke all over us each year and on each and every EA.
Cindy Macdonald (American Herds) wrote a summary about this subject.
Time to get our 100,000 plus wild horses and burros back on their legal lands where they belong.
(Please excuse my rant … but just felt I had to speak up) ~ Grandma Gregg


BLM seeks to expand initiatives to address problems with new legislative authority

  • 46,000 Horses Already Being Cared for Off-Range
  • Off-Range Care of Unadopted Horses Would Exceed $1 Billion
  • Necessary Horse Gathers Exceed Available Space and Funding

The Bureau of Land Management announced today that as of March 1, 2016, more than 67,000 wild horses and burros are roaming Western public rangelands – a 15 percent increase over the estimated 2015 population.

The updated numbers show more than twice the number of horses on the range than is recommended under BLM land use plans. It is also two and a half times the number of horses and burros that were estimated to be in existence when the Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed in 1971.  To help address the problem, BLM is seeking legislative authority for additional initiatives.

“Over the past seven years we have doubled the amount of funding used for managing our nation’s wild horses and burros,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “Despite this, major shifts in the adoption market and the absence of a long-term fertility control drug have driven population levels higher. A number of program reforms are underway, but assistance is needed from our local, state, and federal partners.”

While herds of wild horses consistently double in size every four years, there has also been a dramatic decrease in adoptions in recent years. In the early 2000s, nearly 8,000 horses were being placed with private adopters each year.  Due to a number of economic factors, that number is now down to roughly 2,500 animals each year, compounding an already difficult management situation.

The total lifetime cost of caring for an unadopted animal that is removed from the range is substantial. Costs for lifetime care in a corral approaches $50,000 per horse. With 46,000 horses and burros already in off-range corrals and pastures, this means that without new opportunities for placing these animals with responsible owners, the BLM will spend more than a billion dollars to care for and feed these animals over the remainder of their lives. Given this vast financial commitment, the BLM is now severely limited in how many animals it can afford to remove from the range.

To address these issues the BLM is taking a number of steps, including sponsoring a significant research program focused on fertility control; transitioning horses from off-range corrals to more cost-effective pastures; working to increase adoptions with new programs and partnerships; and requesting two new pieces of legislative authority — one to allow for the immediate transfer of horses to other agencies that have a need for work animals and one that would create a congressionally-chartered foundation that could help fund and support adoption efforts. Additional tools and resources are needed to bring this program onto a sustainable path.

The table below shows the 2016 West-wide, on-range population on a state-by-state basis as of March 1, 2016.  This year’s 15 percent increase over the 2015 population compares to an 18 percent increase from 2014 to 2015.  The BLM plans to remove 3,500 wild horses and burros from Western public rangelands in 2016.

Wild Horse and Burro On-Range Population as of March 1, 2016

 State  Horses  Burros  Total  Maximum AML
 AZ  318  5,317  5,635  1,676
 CA  4,925  3,391  8,316  2,200
 CO  1,530  0  1,530  812
 ID  468  0  468  617
 MT  160  0  160  120
 NV  31,979  2,552  34,531  12,811
 NM  171  0  171  83
 OR  3,785  56  3,841  2,715
 UT  5,440  400  5,840  1,956
 WY  6,535  0  6,535  3,725
 TOTAL  55,311  11,716  67,027  26,715

Call on Congress Now to De-Fund the Wild Horse Roundups

Commentary by Laura Allen of Animal Law Coalition

The Roundups Need to STOP

Twin Peaks Horses prior to helicopter stampede and capture ~ photo by Terry Fitch

It is no secret that BLM’s program for the wild horses and burros is to round them up, remove them from the range and warehouse them in holding facilities. What is a mystery is why taxpayers would foot the bill for managing wild animals in this way.

For Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010, the BLM removed 10,137 horses and 476 burros; 443 mares were treated with the fertility control drug PZP. The total FY 2010 program expenditures were $65 million, of which $44.6 million was spent on roundup, removal and holding.

So far during FY 2011, which began on October 1, 2010, the BLM has removed 5,825 horses and 75 burros and PZP-treated 469 mares. So far in FY 2011, $4.5 million has been spent on roundup and removal; holding costs for FY 2011 are projected to be $38.5 million.

Another 4,686 wild horses and 150 burros are slated for capture and removal from herd management areas this year, 2011. If BLM continues on its present course for FY2011-FY2012, the agency will roundup and remove from the range 28,000 wild horses and burros at a total cost of almost $223M over the life of these animals. This would bring the total number of wild horses and burros held in holding facilities to nearly 46,000. (Though BLM appears unable to keep track of the wild horses and burros trapped in its holding facilities.)

Ginger Kathrens, founder of The Cloud Foundation, recently told the BLM, “Please consider that the removal of a mustang costs already strapped American taxpayers over $2,000 in addition to a possible $2,098 to $470/year holding cost for the rest of the horse’s life if they are not adopted or sold. Why not apply the [these funds] to range improvements, livestock and fence removals, noxious weed treatment, water improvements, and any number of projects that would improve the condition of the [herd] area for wild horses and all the other wildlife species?”

These are not the only costs for taxpayers. The primary reason for removal of these animals has been to make way for cattle grazing. The cattle industry receives a substantial taxpayer subsidy from livestock grazing on public lands. The industry pays only $1.35 per animal under 18,000 grazing permits and leases on 258 million acres of public lands Grazing livestock on public lands is a “$132 million loss to the American taxpayer each year and independent economists have estimated the true cost at between $500 million and $1 billion dollars a year.” Despite this, only 2-4% of beef production is from grazing cattle on public lands.

BLM’s planning documents, the agency’s land use plans and environmental assessments almost always cite degradation of the range and lack of water as a reason to justify roundups and removals of wild horses and burros.  But BLM rarely mentions the thousands of cattle or sheep grazing on these lands, let alone as a substantial cause of any range degradation or use of water.

Yet, in 1990, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the range was in the best condition it had been in during the past century. The GAO found any degradation was the result of livestock grazing and suggested removal of cattle.

To illustrate the absurdity of blaming wild horses and burros for range degradation or water loss, in zeroing out 12 herd management areas in Nye and Lincoln counties, Nevada in 2009, for example, the BLM estimated there were 1,357.43 acres per wild horse in one area, about 350 horses; and 3,377.38 acres per horse in another herd area, about 270 horses. The BLM would have us believe one wild horse per 3,377.38 acres caused substantial degradation of the range and water sources but that the thousands of cattle left there caused no harm at all.

A full year continuing appropriations bill for 2011, H.R. 1, that has been approved by the House of Representatives, would reduce the BLM’s total budget by $2 million but does not restrict the roundup, removal or holding wild horses and burros in facilities. The Obama administration has requested an additional $12 million over 2010 expenditures just for more roundups, removal and holding wild horses and burros. The Senate is considering a year long continuing appropriations resolution for 2011 that would authorize $75.7 million for the wild horses and burros program. It is expected the entire increase as was the case in 2010 would be spent on – you guessed it – roundups, removals and holding.

A vote will be held in Congress on the FY 2011 budget resolution on or before April 8.

In a recent Wild Horses and Burros Advisory Board meeting in Phoenix, Dean Bolstad, a BLM wild horses and burros specialist, announced there would be no more roundups in 2011 unless Congress agreed to the additional funding. A challenge to Congress.

And, another ploy. BLM issued this week for public comment Environmental Assessments (EAs) for roundups in the Three Fingers and Jackies Butte Herd Management Areas in southwestern Oregon. The plan is to roundup during the August heat 460 mustangs, 310 of which will be permanently removed from the range, leaving only 75 mustangs. BLM claims as always there is not enough forage or water for the horses, but that is probably because the agency allocates nearly three times more forage and water to cattle than to wild horses in this area.

Despite efforts to improve the image of its wild horses and burros program, BLM seems intent on continuing the roundup and remove wild horses from the range, using helicopters to run down the terrified animals, and then warehouse them in holding facilities. This despite no good information as to the census of wild horses and burros on the range. The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act requires the BLM to maintain a “current inventory” of wild horses and burros” on the range. The BLM’s own Office of Inspector General found in a 2010 report that the agency’s number lack a scientific basis, oversight or checks and balances.

Also, BLM spends less than 3% of its program budget on monitoring horses on the range. It’s unclear how the agency could really know the number of wild horses and burros that are still free-roaming.

A report recently submitted to members of Congress,  Refuting Fy2011 Budget Justifications and Request to Defund Roundups and Removals, charges “estimates used by the BLM to support funding are not based on the best scientific, peer-reviewed data or state-of-the-art technology. The BLM’s data has proven to be continually inaccurate and unreliable … At this time, all outside authorities, including Congress, rely solely on the data the BLM provides, although its accuracy cannot be verified or substantiated.” For more on the numbers…

What we do know is that BLM has removed wild horses and burros permanently from nearly 21 million acres of lands that were originally herd areas.

The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. Sections 1331 et seq., says that before removing wild horses and burros from the range, a determination must be made that they are “excess”, that there is an overpopulation, and removal is indicated “so as to restore a thriving natural ecological balance to the range, and protect the range from the deterioration associated with overpopulation“. 16 U.S.C. §1333(b)(2) BLM is also supposed to set appropriate management levels, the number of wild horses or burros that a herd area can support.

According to the report, Refuting Fy2011 Budget Justifications, despite “BLM’s stated goal for reducing national wild horse and burro populations to 26,600”, the agency is actually reducing “on-the range populations to the midpoint of Appropriate Management Level (AML) or lower…. without Congressional oversight or approval, without general public knowledge or input”.  In other words, BLM is removing wild horses and burros where they are not “excess”, in violation of WFRHBA. According to the report, more than 2/3 of wild horse herds do not have enough numbers to remain genetically viable.

Even if BLM’s estimate of a 20% annual reproduction rate is correct and if BLM receives funding for its 2011-2012 plans, using BLM’s own numbers, “remaining populations on the range will be less than 5,700 animals.”

And, of course, study after study has demonstrated “these rates [from BLM] are generally inconsistent with all research on reproductive rates”.  3.1%-13% seem to be more realistic annual reproduction rates depending on the area and the herd. Meaning there will likely be far fewer wild horses and burros left than the projection of 5,700 animals.

BLM has other ways of justifying removal of more and more wild horses and burros besides manipulating census or AML: The BLM has authorized itself to divide herd areas into “herd management areas“, something not authorized by WFRHBA. 43 CFR 4710.3-1. In this way, with no statutory authority at all, BLM has limited wild horses and burros’ access to thousands of acres that were historically their herd areas. This is done without thought about the horses’ seasonal migration patterns or available resources. The BLM then removes wild horses and burros from the artificially created “herd management areas” on the basis there is insufficient forage, water or habitat! BLM also targets them for removal if they cross the artificial boundaries into their original herd areas.

Taking this tactic even further, BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, for example, actually plan now to erect a fence to cut off wild horses and burros from traditional summer grazing lands in the Custer National Forest area. There is litigation pending to try to stop this.

More recently, BLM has claimed “emergency” conditions, drought and the like, as reasons for rounding up and removing horses. In the Tuscarora round up, for example, BLM did not mention “emergency” conditions as a reason for the round up in any of its planning documents. Then when horses began collapsing during the 2010 summer roundup from dehydration as they were forced by helicopters to run for miles in the searing heat, BLM claimed the round up was necessary because of drought conditions.

BLM has also labeled wild horses and burros as “feral” or “estray”, which are defined by state law and are generally domesticated horses that have been left to fend for themselves and become wild. It’s not easy to tell the difference between a feral, estray or wild horse. As feral or estray horses, BLM claims they belong to the state and can be rounded up and removed.  BLM ignores that the WFRHBA is supposed to protect “all unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands of the United States“. 16 U.S.C. Sec. 1332

BLM has opted for roundups and removal of wild horses and burros at great cost to the taxpayer and contrary to the requirements of the WFRHBA which mandates that these animals roam free of “capture” or “harassment” on public lands where there were found when the law was passed in 1971. 16 U.S.C. Sec. 1331 BLM is to manage the wild horses and burros on these lands at the “minimal feasible level” which should mean instead of roundups that BLM removes fences or other barriers to water and traditional migration routes, includes wild horses and burros in a fair allocation of forage, and takes steps to assure they remain self-sustaining and genetically viable.

As District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled in the case, Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition, Inc. v. Salazar, No. 06-1609 (D.D.C 2009):

“It would be anomalous to infer that by authorizing the custodian of the wild free roaming horses and burros to ‘manage’ them, Congress intended to permit the animals’ custodian to subvert the primary policy of the statute by capturing and removing from the wild the very animals that Congress sought to protect from being captured and removed from the wild. …[T]he statute expressly provides that BLM’s ‘management activities shall be at the minimal feasible level . . . .’

It is difficult to think of a ‘management activity’ that is farther from a ‘minimal feasible level’ than removal.”


Right now before Congress votes on another continuing budget resolution on or before April 8, write (faxes are best) or call your U.S. representative and senators and urge them not to increase the BLM’s budget this year or de-fund the roundups except in the cases of true, verifiable emergencies, at least until the National Academy of Sciences has completed its study of the wild horses and burros program, and we can determine appropriate management for these animals, identify public lands where wild horses and burros could be returned to roam free, obtain an accurate census and set appropriate AMLs to ensure the herds are self-sustaining and genetically viable, and managed at the minimal feasible level.

BLM Helicopter Stampede to put 50% of California’s Wild Horses and Burros behind Bars Forever

(The News as We See It) by R.T. Fitch ~ author of Straight from the Horse’s Heart

Let the Suffering Begin!

HOUSTON – (SFTHH)  The BLM’s much contested Twin Peaks stampede began amidst a cloud of controversy on August 11th in Northeastern California.  The aerial assault is scheduled to last 6 weeks with a total of 2,000 wild horses and burros set to be placed behind bars to endure a lifetime of imprisonment and potential sterility.  Setting the stage paranoid BLM officials over reacted by calling in county Sheriff Deputies and Federal Rangers in the advent that a passive equine welfare advocate might “do something” to disrupt the roar of helicopter blades and stampeding horses.  Much to their chagrin, nothing happened.

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BLM Helicopter stampede contractor David Cattoor, (“The United States of America vs David Cattoor” where Cattoor plead guilty to the count of “Conspiracy” and also a second count of “Using Aircraft to Capture Wild Horses, Aiding and Abetting”), had his pilot fire up the company helicopter at 0730 hrs and commence with the destruction of our native wild horse herds.

Pay no mind to the fact that Cattoor has made millions from the BLM by stripping our public lands of their native wild horses, but Dave actually made a comment to Sam Stanton of McClatchy Newspapers on the opening day of wild horse destruction.

“They’ve got to be managed,” said Dave Cattoor, the Utah-based contractor in charge of the roundup. “They’re just totally wiping themselves out.”

Thanks Dave, we appreciate your one sided and highly slanted input but your wife and normal mouthpiece for your company walked all over herself, last week, with rumor, untruths and innuendo regarding the trumped up lie of the Owyhee roundup being conducted as an “emergency” due to “lack of water”.  Now we should listen to you, NOT!

Virtually every single, independent photograph or video of the wild horses that are harassed and assaulted by the BLM and their contractors has proved to be healthy and in excellent condition.  That is when independent photographers manage to exercise their First Amendment rights and are allowed to be on public land watching their publicly owned horses being brutalized by a publicly funded private contractor hired by an out-of-control federal government agency.  That has not happened much, as of late.

According to reports about 130 formerly free wild horses were jammed kicking and biting into the trap and pens prior to the conclusion of the first day of the dastardly deeds.  Reports indicate that Cattoor called the activity off early due to high winds in the area but there is no direct report that the high winds were generated by an excessive amount of BLM PR generated hot air.

Two seated Federal Judges allowed the destruction of this herd to proceed without comment or any indication as to basis of their decision.

The BLM indicates that they will leave 500 horses on the tens of thousands of acres at Twin Peaks but if they perform as they have in the past the U.S. public will be lucky to see any equines remaining as the BLM has no policy for scientific integrity and cannot manage grade school math.

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Wild Horse was Driven over Rocks to His Death During Recent Owyhee Roundup

By Maureen Harmonay ~ Equine Advocacy Examiner

BLM Helicopter Stampede Casualties Continue to Mount

BLM Helicopters drove Wild Horse off Cliff ~ Photo by Katie Fite

An independent observer who recently returned from scouting the Herd Area in north Elko County, Nevada where the Owyhee portion of the Tuscarora Gather took place has photographic evidence that one of the wild horses appears to have been driven to his or her death over rocky cliffs, presumably by Cattoor, the BLM’s helicopter contractor.

Though no such fatality was ever reported by the BLM, Katie Fite, a Biodiversity Director for the Western Watersheds Project, was able to document it during her visit to the area on July 25th and 26th.  Her photograph depicting a horse lying dead on the rocks near the Owyhee River was submitted in support of Laura Leigh’s legal motions against the BLM on the Tuscarora matter, the most recent of which was filed on Friday, July 30th.

Ms. Fite explained:

“I noted evidence that horses had been driven down the river bed and held in temporary corrals.  Also noted a horse that appears to have been driven onto the rocks.”

Ms. Fite’s photographs were taken at the South Fork of the Owyhee River, north of the Owyhee roundup trap site, where she observed four places at which wild horses have access to water, contrary to the BLM’s prior assertions that because no water was available to the mustangs in this Herd Area (HA), an “emergency rescue gather” was justified and necessary.

Another observer, wild horse advocate Sandra Longley, also visited the Owyhee roundup area on July 16th and 17th, to document forage, water sources, cattle, and gates.  She reported:

“I stood there on the Owyhee on July 17th amidst fields of wildflowers, water pouring out of the sides of mountains, and springs with water running down and alongside of roads.  There was nothing but cattle, but over a few hills, many wild horses were dying. . .No horses could be documented except an ecosystem littered with the dead bodies of horses, who had suffered heat stroke at the hands of Sue Cattoor, the helicopter contractor.

There is so much more to come.  We have yet to get the total of horses who died or were ‘rescued’ with a bullet out on the desert where they were stumbling around suffering from heat stroke from being pushed by the helicopter.  Many of those would have been foals. . .By not counting those horses as ‘gather’ deaths, but due to drought, the BLM is allowed to escape being blamed for the largest massacre during a roundup.”

It is true that the BLM has never acknowledged, or reported, the deaths of the fallen horses Ms. Longley describes, but their stories must be told.  In a press release issued today, the agency admits that 34 wild horses have died as a direct result of the Tuscarora roundup, but it’s clear that the actual number who have perished at the BLM’s directive is much, much higher.


You can support ongoing legal efforts to stop the BLM’s inhumane roundups of America’s wild horses, and to make sure that the carnage of the Tuscarora Gather is not repeated, by contributing to the citizen-funded

You can contact me at

The Legal Voice of the Amercian Equine

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Bio-Diversity Group Sues BLM to Stop Controversial Ruby Pipeline

by R.T. Fitch

Suit Too Late for the Calico Wild Horses

HOUSTON (SFTHH) – The controversial $3 billion gas pipeline from Wyoming to Oregon faces yet another law suit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity on Friday.  Once cited for the reason the BLM zeroed out a herd of almost 2,000 wild horses, with the death toll still ticking beyond 150 killed horses, the new suit alleges that the pipeline will cut across pristine land and harm endangered fish.

Two other environmental groups, Oregon Natural Desert Foundation and Western Watersheds Project recently abandoned their standing suits in favor of accepting $20 million from the pipeline owner, El Paso Corp.

The new suit was filed in federal court in San Francisco against both the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Noah Greenwald, endangered species coordinator for the group stated;

“The Ruby Pipeline will cross more than 1,000 rivers and streams, harming species such as the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Warner Creek sucker, Lost River sucker and Colorado pike minnow.   More broadly, we don’t understand why they had to choose to put a new pipeline through some of the most pristine lands in the West,” he said. “Why couldn’t they use an existing pipeline route?”

Greenwald continued to add that if the constructions begin the Center for Biological Diversity is prepared to seek an injunction to stop the work until the issues stated are addressed.

The BLM project manager, Mark Mackiewicz said that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had issued a notice to proceed on Friday, the same day that the suit was filed.

“I imagine by Monday you’ll have hundreds of people out there starting to work on this,” he said.

He said the BLM and Ruby Pipeline LLC, a subsidiary of El Paso Corp., worked hard to address environmental concerns.  Various sources indicate that  El Paso spokesman Richard Wheatley declined to comment.

The Ruby Pipeline will begin at Opal in western Wyoming and cross northern Utah and Nevada before ending at Malin, Ore., near the California state line. Work on the project would begin at seven locations along the pipeline route, simultaneously.

The 42-inch-diameter pipeline will be among North America’s largest, approaching the size of the 48-inch, 800-mile-long Trans Alaska oil pipeline.

Prior documentation indicates that El Paso expects that the Ruby Pipeline will become operational in March of 2011

The Legal Voice of the Amercian Equine

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Wild Horses Symbolize U.S. Freedom

By Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) printed in The Hill

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu a Champion of the American Horse

The image of hundreds of wild horses freely roaming the open terrain in the American West is reminiscent of times past and our country’s trailblazing heritage. However, on July 10, the 200 wild horses galloping frantically across a breathtaking Nevada plain, with dust swirling around their sweaty bodies, were running in fear. With dry summer heat reaching 95 degrees, these horses were forced to run for miles over rough volcanic rock in an attempt to escape the government’s low-flying helicopter in pursuit. It is foaling season and many of the mares and foals were weak from their recent pregnancy or from giving birth.

The offending helicopter was part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) effort to round-up and relocate 1,200 of our nation’s wild mustangs from this area. It is just one of dozens of planned roundups to permanently remove and relocate thousands of our wild horses.

The BLM states that the wild horse population is expanding rapidly, and it needs to relocate these animals to prevent the exhaustion of the region’s resources. The BLM has been stating this for more than a decade now, but has yet to implement a sound management plan.  In 1971, when the National Wild Horse and Burro Program was created, there were 54 million acres for wild horse and burros. Now, only 27 acres remain. And in every year since the BLM was entrusted with this program, populations have exceeded the agency’s appropriate management level by thousands of animals, reaching over 60,000 at one point. Enough is enough. It is time to find a more effective management plan for these horses that does not result in the careless death of so many.

As a result of the July 10 and July 11 roundups, 13 mustangs died.  Although horse advocates fought for a suspension of the roundups, their efforts were overruled and they continued the next weekend. The death toll now stands at 17.

The bloody tale of the recent roundups in Nevada is not unique. Last winter, during the 40-day BLM Calico Hills Roundup, the government captured 1,800 horses and about 80 died, some during the roundup and others at the holding facilities. Additionally, dozens of pregnant mares suffered miscarriages.

A report issued in April 2010 by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign found 43 percent of the deaths that resulted from the winter Calico roundup were due to diet and metabolic failure that was brought on by stress and trauma.

Currently, more than 32,000 horses have already been removed from the ranges and are being forced into overcrowded and inhumane holding facilities. Not only is this not a safe or desirable solution for the animals, but also it is costing the American taxpayers more than $30 million a year. There are an estimated 37,000 mustangs and burros that live in our Western states. We now have nearly that amount in custody, and the BLM plans to remove an additional 12,000 wild horses from the ranges at a cost of millions to the American taxpayer.

The actions of the BLM are contrary to The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971’s original intent to manage the wild horses and burros in their natural state and to protect them from capture and harassment. I have repeatedly called for an end to these roundups until a more humane and cost-effective solution has been put in place. The Obama administration should be ashamed that this is happening under its watch.

Congress took an important step forward last year when the Interior Appropriations Bill, at my request, directed the BLM to develop a new comprehensive long-term plan for wild horse populations by September 30. I was joined by Congressmen Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) in writing to Director Bob Abbey of the BLM urging a moratorium on the roundups that have caused so many horses unnecessary pain and suffering. We are making long-overdue progress, but more must be done.

The wild mustangs are living symbols of our country’s history and pioneering spirit. Anyone who has had the privilege of watching a wild herd graze freely and calmly understands what majestic animals these wild mustangs truly are. It is hard to fathom that hundreds of our wild horses have died at the hands of the federal agency entrusted to protect them. I will continue to urge the BLM to stop the inhumane roundups and work to find a better legislative solution.  Letting the death toll of America’s mustangs continue to rise is simply not an option.

Sen. Landrieu is the senior senator from Louisiana.

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