Help Stop BLM’s Plan to Wipe Out Wild Horses

wild horsesU.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) is calling on other representatives to sign a letter he has prepared for Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) director Bob Abbey.

The letter which is attached below for downloading, states, "In recent months the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has unveiled detrimental new policies in regards to the management of America’s wild horses and burros.

"Recently selected … for the White Mountain and Little Colorado herds in southern Wyoming, the most disconcerting of these is the decision to create non-reproducing herds on legally designated wild horse and burro herd areas."

Though the BLM Rock Springs Field Office issued a June 22, 2011 letter deciding not to proceed with the plan at that time to spay mares and create what was initially described as "non-reproducing" herds, Rep. Grijalva noted the decision to continue to return gelded wild horses to the wild.

Rep. Grijalva continues, "To accomplish the goal of creating a non-reproducing herd, the BLM proposes to geld stallions and also spay wild horse mares. Both procedures are dangerous for wild animals, but the spaying of female horses is a practice not even recommended for domestic mares, let alone wild ones.

"Only one field example of spaying of wild mares exists. This spaying took place at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. At least, ten percent (30 horses) of the mares died. The Sheldon operation was conducted on a much smaller scale than what is currently under consideration by BLM. It is also possible that the recorded number of deaths at Sheldon is far below the actual number of deaths- some mares were released to the wild and not tracked to determine if more deaths occurred.

"The potential risk to the affected herds is troubling. Even the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) veterinarian, Dr. Al Kane, expressed concerns about the procedure.

"In fact, the majority of equine and large animal veterinarians strongly discourage the practice, particularly with wild animals. The surgical environment needs to be completely sterile and recovery time takes at least a month, neither of which is something BLM has the capacity to undertake. At Sheldon the wild horses were hoisted into front loaders of tractors where the procedures were performed."

"Although sterilization is mentioned in the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act, it is intended to reference population control, and not the creation of completely non-reproducing herds, which would result in the extinction of wild horses in their legal herd areas."

Indeed, the Act directs the BLM to protect wild horses and burros from "capture" and  "harassment" and manage them as "components" of the public lands at the "minimal feasible level". The idea is to preserve their free-roaming behavior. Gelding stallions and spaying mares would directly violate the letter and the spirit of WFRHBA.  

Rep. Grijalva notes BLM has failed to consider seriously natural population controls including predators. He explains, "Predator management through mountain lions has been enormously successful in stabilizing the population of the Montgomery Pass herd on the California-Nevada border. Due to predation of foals by mountain lions, that herd has not had a roundup in almost 30 years. The same is true for the Cerbat wild horses of Arizona who have shown a stable population in an ecosystem with natural wildlife predation."

Rep. Grijalva criticizes the "BLM[‘s]… documented history of inhumane treatment of wild horses and burros during roundups." He adds that this "inhumane treatment comes at an enormous price to the animals, but also to American taxpayers. Short-term and long-term holding of wild horses and burros cost the taxpayer $36.9 million in fiscal year 2010. With the continuation of roundups this summer, that cost will certainly escalate."

Rep. Grijalva charges that BLM has failed to obtain an accurate census of wild horses and burros as required by WFRHBA and inflated the population to justify rounding up even more horses and burros.  In this way, BLM could round them all up all the while claiming there are too many. 

As evidence of this, Rep. Grijalva points out, "BLM has consistently failed to round up its target number of wild horses. There are numerous examples of actual herd numbers ending up to be far fewer than stated in the BLM Environmental Assessments. For example, a roundup this winter in the Antelope Complex of northeastern Nevada resulted in the removal of 1,398 wild horses. BLM maintained that there were 2,705 horses on the range and intended to remove between 1,867-2,2 28 of those horses… This discrepancy demonstrates the need for the execution of more accurate censuses.

"Given the current methods employed, we have serious doubts about BLM’s ability to provide an accurate census of the wild horse and burros. Despite pressure from outside groups for a state-of-the-art multispectral camera census using unmanned aircraft- currently in use by Homeland Security, NASA, and the Department of Defense- it appears no real effort has been made to explore this option. The potential for partnership with other Federal Agencies with access to this technology exists. A partnership between NASA and the US Forest Service has resulted in the use of the unmanned aircraft to spot forest fires. Customs and Border Protection has unmanned aircraft at our Northern and Southern Borders that could be engaged for accurate wildlife census in the Western states."

Rep. Grijalva concludes, "BLM budget allocation to census operations and actual on the ground range monitoring was a paltry $1 million last year, while roundup operations alone constituted over $7.7 million. It appears that BLM is focusing their efforts on eradication of wild horses and burros, rather than actual management and monitoring on the range."

For more on the highly suspect BLM census calculations and determination of the appropriate numbers of wild horses and burros the range can support, or what is called appropriate management levels…..


Find your U.S. representative here by putting in your zipcode in the top right corner of the page. Write (faxes or letters are best) or call the switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative; urge your representative to contact Rep. Grijalva to sign onto this letter.  

Don’t call Rep. Grijalva, call your rep. Don’t wait; we only have until July 15 to get as many signatures from other reps as possible. 

Go here for information about how else you can help call on the Senate to de-fund roundups or hold BLM to 2010 spending levels for FY 2012.