Celebrities Join Thousands Demanding Obama Stop BLM Wild Horse Roundups

Sheryl CrowBill Maher and Lily Tomlin, along with singer/actress Sheryl Crow, actors Ed Harris, Jorja Fox,  Viggo Mortensen, Kevin Nealon, author Michael Blake, filmmaker Donny Moss, and musicians Shaunna Hall and Neil Schon, as well as business leaders such as CEO & Co-Founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems, John Paul DeJoria, have added their voices to more than 180 organizations and thousands of individuals including business leaders, scientists, advocates and citizens, asking President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to halt the round-ups of America’s wild horses and burros.

Mariana Tosca issued a statement, "With virtually no oversight, the BLM’s maneuvers are methodically cleansing the land of these animals who have become an inconvenience and impediment to the goals of the ranching, gas and oil industries.

"It is the action of arrogance and the lowest instincts of man to place greed above the rights of others and to shape policy to fit private agendas. Millions of head of cattle are grazing on public ranges – public ranges that were designated for these wild horses and burros on land that belongs to American taxpayers, not to private entities.

"These horses are connected to this land; their ancestors roamed unfettered on it over a million years ago. They represent the basic principal that our nation was founded on: FREEDOM. These animals are the physical embodiment of all that we as people and as a nation aspire to… liberty and self-determination. And at some level that resonates with each and every one of us. With every BLM round up that is allowed to happen, our heritage is under siege."

Tosca continues, "We have to stop eroding the law that ensures their protection, simply to cater to and placate private entities. America faces a very real risk that the wild horse will go the way of the buffalo, wiped out by a zealous hunt to make room for commercial interests.          

"Since the BLM is a government agency, with perceived mismanagement and conflict of interest issues, the public has a right to call for an independent audit of the horses in BLM managed short and long term holding facilities, as well as an independent count of the horses remaining on the ranges. The management of our remaining wild horses should be moved to another agency."

Sheryl Crow issued a statement, ""We ask that President Obama or Secretary Salazar cease all BLM roundups as of this date to prevent further suffering. We request that the government and BLM begin to work in good faith with wild horse advocates for a sustainable solution. The Calico Roundup, scheduled to begin in December and continue through the dead of winter, is inhumane and must be stopped!…It’s time for all of us to speak up for our Wild Horses and Burros so we do not lose these living legends and inspiring symbols of our freedom in America." 

Equine Welfare Alliance agrees, "The assault on America’s wild horses and burros must be halted until range studies can be performed and a solid plan is established for the management of these magnificent animals that represent our American heritage."

(Go here for more on Animal Law Coalition’s call for a moratorium on the gathers and how you can help, and also go here for information about the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act and other examples of gathers that establish BLM’s pattern and practice, its policy of illegally rounding up and zeroing out or eliminating America’s wild horses.  Read about the lawsuit filed to halt a roundup scheduled this month in the Calico Mountain Complex in Nevada.) 

helicopter chasing wild horsesOn November 18, 2009, American citizens and partners in Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa, [including Animal Law Coalition] delivered the following letter to the President, Congress and the Department of the Interior.

A Unified Call for an Immediate Moratorium on Wild Horse & Burro Roundups and a humane, fiscally responsible plan for preserving and protecting the iconic, free-roaming wild horses and burros of the American West – President Obama, Members of Congress and the Department of the Interior:

We, the undersigned, request major changes to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro program. This must begin with an immediate moratorium on all roundups. While we agree that the program is in dire need of reform, and we applaud your Administration’s commitment to avoid BLM’s suggested mass-killing of horses, the plan outlined in October by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar raises numerous concerns. These include:

  • Perpetuating the flawed assumption that wild horses and burros are overpopulating their Western ranges. In reality, the BLM has no accurate current inventory of the 37,000 wild horses and burros it claims remain on public lands. Independent analysis of BLM’s own numbers reveal there may be only 15,000 wild horses remaining on public lands.
  • Continuing the mass removal of wild horses and burros from their rightful Western ranges: The BLM intends to spend over $30 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to capture more than 12,000 wild horses and burros. This stockpiling of horses continues even as an astounding 32,000 are already being held in government holding facilities at enormous taxpayer expense.
  • Scapegoating wild horses and burros for range deterioration even though they comprise only a tiny fraction of animals and wildlife grazing our public lands. Far greater damage is caused by privately-owned livestock, which outnumber the horses more than 100 to 1.
  • Moving wild horses and burros east off their Western homelands to "sanctuaries" in the east and Midwest at an initial cost of $96 million creates significant health concerns if animals adapted to western landscapes are managed on wet ground and rich grasses.

Removing tens of thousands of horses and burros from their legally-designated Western ranges and moving them into government-run facilities subverts the intent of the 1971 Wild Free-roaming Horse and Burro Act, which mandated that horses be preserved "where presently found." A 2009 DC district court case held that "Congress did not authorize BLM to "manage" the wild horses and burros by corralling them for private maintenance or long-term care as non-wild free-roaming animals off the public lands."

We appreciate your Administration’s recognition of the horses’ value as an ecotourism resource. However, the display of captive, non-reproducing herds in eastern pastures renders them little more than zoo exhibits, further discounting the contribution to our history and the future of the American West.

We believe that workable solutions to create a healthy "multiple use" of public rangelands, protect the ecological balance of all wildlife, and preserve America’s wild horses and burros in their rightful, legally protected home can be achieved. We are calling on the Obama Administration to reform the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Management Program.

We ask that you reverse the current course and immediately take the following actions:

  • Place a moratorium on all roundups until accurate and independent assessments of population numbers and range conditions are made available and a final, long-term solution is formalized.
  • Restore protections included in the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. Update existing laws that protect wild horses by reopening certain public lands to the mustangs and burros, thus decreasing the number in captivity. Return healthy wild horses and burros in holding to all available acres of public land designated primarily for their use in 1971. If these lands are not available, equivalent and appropriate western public lands should be added in their place.
  • Support federal grazing permit buybacks. Reduce livestock grazing and reanalyze appropriate management levels for herd management areas to allow for self-sustaining, genetically-viable herds to exist in the west.
  • Conduct Congressional hearings regarding the mismanagement of our wild herds and further investigate the inability of BLM to correct the shortcomings of the program as audited by the Government Accountability Office’s 1990, 1991 and 2008 reports.

Supported by the undersigned on November 16, 2009: The Undersigned Hereby Unite As One Voice Calling For An Immediate Moratorium On Wild Horse & Burro Round-Ups. Individuals can go here to sign a petition!

wild horse(Go here for information about the next planned roundup in the Calico Mountain Complex where BLM intends to round up approximately 2,500 horses, paying a contractor up to $2 million to run the horses down with a helicopter.


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Alex Brown Racing

American Horse Defense Fund

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Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Castleton Ranch Horse Rescue, Inc.

Chantal Westermann, former ABC reporter

The Cloud Foundation

Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition

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Cornwalls Voice for Animals

Craig Downer, wildlife ecologist and author

Senator Dave Wanzenried, Montana

Deanne Stillman , Author of Mustang

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Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund

Home At Last Equine Rescue and Sanctuary

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Hope Ryden, congressional advisor on 1971 Act, Author America’s Last Wild Horses

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Horseback Magazine

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Paul Sorvino, Actor

Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kaufman, TX

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Rainbow Meadows Rescue and Retirement, Inc.

Redwings Horse Sanctuary

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Saving America’s Horses A Nation Betrayed

Saving America’s Mustangs

Saving Horses, Inc.

Saving Our American Wild Horse

Second Chance Ranch

Silent Voices Equine Rescue

South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Spirit Riders Foundation

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Spring Farm CARES Animal Sanctuary

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Terri Farley , author of The Phantom Stallion Series

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Wayne McCrory, Wildlife Biologist and Conservationist

Wendie Malick, Actress

Valhalla Wilderness Society

WFL Endangered Stream Live

Whispering Winds Equine Rescue

Wild Burro Rescue and Preservation Project

Wild For Life Foundation

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Wild Horse Observers Association

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Wild Horses In Need

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