The Tuscarora Roundup

wild horseYou may have seen the wild horses in Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon that were featured on CBS Sunday Morning this past weekend.

They looked healthy as they cavorted with each other.

The horses were not thin. There were no horses suffering from starvation or thirst.

Yet BLM claims routinely to justify its roundups of wild horses and burros, that it is necessary for protect the degradation of the range and protect the horses and burros from starvation and thirst. BLM has used this excuse to justify the planned roundup of more than 12,000 wild horses and burros just this year, 2010.

Take the Tuscarora roundup in the 482,191 acres of the Owyhee, Rock Creek, Little Humboldt Herd Management Areas.  The BLM plans to round up 1,438 wild horses and remove permanently 953-1,039 of them.  Up to 399 wild horses would be sterilized and released back to the range. BLM accepted public comments on this plan through May 21, 2010.

In its April 10, 2010 Environmental Assessment, BLM claims the removal of these wild horses is necessary to "prevent undue or unnecessary degradation of the public lands and protect rangeland resources from deterioration associated with excess populations of wild horses". The plan also calls for removal of all wild horses outside the boundaries of HMAs to prevent "use of rangeland resources".

These words could have been cut and pasted from any one of dozens of environmental assessments BLM has prepared to justify roundups of wild horses and burros.

In thumbing its bureaucratic nose at the statute that was passed to protect the wild horses and burros on lands where they were found as of 1971, BLM emphasizes the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. §1331 et seq. requires the agency to remove these horses it has deemed to be excess.  What was a statute enacted to protect these animals is now used as authority to remove them from the range.

Curiously, in this same environmental assessment, BLM discusses the abundance of fish in the rivers and streams that criss cross this area. BLM talks of the wildlife, including large animals, that are thriving across this 750 square mile region.

Yet there is no room, no resources at all, for about 953-1,039 horses already there with approximately, 464 acres per horse?  

What BLM doesn’t mention are the thousands of cattle grazing in this area. BLM explains that it could not remove or reduce "livestock within the HMAs….This alternative was not brought forward for analysis….. Additionally, …changes to livestock grazing cannot be made through a wild horse gather decision. Furthermore, even with the current situation of significantly reduced levels of livestock grazing within the Owyhee, Rock Creek and Little Humboldt HMAs, there is insufficient habitat for the current population of wild horses. As a result, this alternative was not analyzed in detail."

If the impact of reducing livestock was not considered or analyzed, how does BLM know a reduction in livestock would not mean sufficient habitat for the current population of wild horses? Maybe more to the point, it makes no sense to say there is sufficient habitat for the thousands of cattle grazing in this area but a reduction in their numbers would still mean insufficient forage and water for about 1,000 horses. If that’s the case, some of the cattle must have insufficient habitat. Or, is it as we saw with the wild horses on CBS Sunday Morning, and as we have seen with horses rounded up from Cloud’s Herd,   the Ely District, Calico (more on Calico here) and Twin Peaks, that these animals are not starving or thirsty?  In the case of each of these recent roundups, BLM ignored evidence not only of the health of the animals but the good condition of the range. Besides, are we to believe a few hundred horses on 482,191 acres are degrading the range, but thousands of cattle aren’t?

To support its claim there are too many wild horses in the Tuscarora HMAs, BLM is relying on appropriate management levels or AMLs set in a 1987 range management plan that was updated in 2003. According to the BLM, assessments done in 1997 for the Rock Creek HMA and in 2002 for the Owyhee HMA, show the wild horses are "contributing to the non-attainment of the Standards and Guidelines" for Rangeland Health approved in 2000. The Little Humboldt HMA was assessed for conformance with the Rangeland Health Standards and Guidelines in 2002.  "The assessments … concluded that historical levels of grazing use by wild horses are factors that have contributed to not meeting the standards for rangeland health." The BLM also claims to have looked at a number of other old assessments in reaching its decision, some dating as far back as 1981. BLM claims the AML for these herd management areas is 337-561 wild horses.

wild horsesThe population of wild horses was determined by a March, 2009 flyover of the region.

Before rounding up more than 1,400 wild horses from the range and placing up to 1,039 in long term holding facilities, all at significant cost to the taxpayer, shouldn’t the BLM at least determine current AMLs? Shouldn’t there at least be an accurate census completed? The Calico roundup, for example, cost taxpayers $2 million. (In FY 2010 there was a substantial increase in the budget for the wild horses and burros program for a total of $67,486,000 with the entire additional $26,873,000 to be used for rounding up 12,000 horses and holding what will be a total of about 40,000 horses in pens. 95% of the budget is used for rounding up and holding wild horses and burros and attempting to find homes for them. (BLM report – 2010 Budget Justification) For FY 2011 BLM has requested an additional $12 million apparently to defray the costs of holding wild horses and burros in corrals and long term holding facilities and then another $42.5 million to buy the first of seven "preserves" or holding facilities in the midwest or east. For more on BLM’s plan to move wild horses and burros to preserves in the Midwest or east….. )

But perhaps none of this matters given BLM’s concern here, buried in its Environmental Assessment, that to "leave …. wild horses on the range, could lead to negative impacts on livestock grazing management". Agri-business does not want wild horses and burros on public lands it uses for livestock grazing. Also, a BLM ecologist Cameron Bryce has said, "Wild horses do not belong in western ecosystems….the 1971 Horse and Burro Act was based on emotions, not science." 

Long time rancher, now Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has said wild horses do not belong on public lands.

Follow the money: Fees charged for cattle or sheep grazing are $1.35 per animal under 18,000 grazing permits and leases on 258 million acres.  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."

For a schedule of other upcoming wild horse and burros roundups, and how you can help call for a moratorium on the roundups and de-funding of roundups, go here….. 

5 thoughts on “The Tuscarora Roundup”

  1.  Go to this link that is also in the article above at CBS Sunday Morning;snav

    1) Go to the link, find the mustang video right there, and watch the piece —

    2) Directly under the video there’s a "(number) Comments" –  This is the best way to comment, but fi you cannot log on for some reason, …

    Go to "Contact us" at this link:

    Select CBS Sunday Morning as the "category" and here is a sample comment: 

    This is a COMMENT and REQUEST. I appreciated your  closing depicting the "vanishing" American mustang. Please, CBS, do a special on these horses, such as a 60 minutes investigative piece, to investigate and inform us as to why the Bureau of Land Management is dramatically decreasing the remaining herds and zeroing out whole herd areas and horse populations at great cost to taxpayers and despite a federal law that is supposed to protect these animals. We know investors involved in livestock grazing, mineral extractions, as well as development, play a big part in marginalizing these animals. Please tell us the full story.

    Politely urge CBS to do a long-overdue special on the American mustang within a venue like 60 minutes.  Tell them we want more information.

  2. Do any of you people so emotionally invested in this cause ever bother to do the research and the math to see how right or wrong the facts and figures are? Consult a range management text to see for yourselves that carrying capacity is a mathematical process that factors in animal units, forage yield, slope, climate, etc. From this, the stocking rate can be determined. Just bear in mind that in terms of forage, one horse equals one and a half cows!

  3. ONLY approxamately 37,000 wild horses and burros remain on OUR public lands (PUBLIC lands…which would make you think it should be for the animals the PUBLIC would like on OUR lands not what a few PRIVATE cattle rangers want on OUR PUBLIC land) while MILLIONS of cattle graze there so Beth, you do the math….but take it up a few notches….lets say 1 horse equals 4 times 1 cow instead of the 1 1/2 times you mention and you still only get 148,000 horses…..a far cry from the MILLIONS (12.5 million BTW) of cattle already grazing on public lands. Face the facts…the BLM is in bed with the billionaire cattle barons. If they had their way (and it looks like it’s headed that way) there would be 0 horses on public land so more of their cattle can graze. Take the few 37,000 horses left away and they will simply replace them with a million more cows. The wild horses/burros represent .3% (three tenths of a percent) of the animals grazing on public lands and it is a fact the MILLIONS of CATTLE grazing that are responsible for range degradation. But oh yes, they (the BLM and their buddy cattle barons) let the public think it’s the horses who are to blame. Less horses = more land for more cattle. Leave the public lands to the wild horses which were there long before the cattle. The land rightfully belongs to them.

  4. Why in the WORLD would you just ASSUME that we don’t know all of that and more? Huh? Why? How do YOU know how much research we’ve done over years and years?

    We KNOW who is right in the facts and figures. Why would you assume that we don’t? That’s what we’re protesting about! YOU are the one who seems to be TOTALLY uninformed.

    I get SO sick of these smart ass “questions” that assume that because we’re “emotionally” invested in the horses that we have gone off the deep end and don’t have a clue as to what’s really happening. Since when is compassion and a sense of fairness equal to being crazy? What a load of crappy propaganda! It’s BECAUSE of these feelings for the horses that we have worked SO hard, researched SO much and continue to fight for the rule of law and fairness for these horses that are being so severely wronged.

    Next post, Beth, keep your sarcasm and ignorance to yourself. I’ve HAD IT with you people who know nothing and assume that others don’t know any more than you do.

  5. i dont know much about this matter but what i see and hear deeply sadens me for these beatiful must leave them alone!!let them live free and run free!I ASK IS THERE A PRICE FOR EVEYTHING?They have the right to live as god has made them to live!and we as humans must stand up for these god given animals!all i now is its wrong for anyone to take these horses from where they live and are born at!!you dont have that right they are wild and free and you must leave THEM AS THAT!!!i hope maybe by telling you people how i feel will make a difference for them!!may god forgive you for treating them this way because i cannot!LET THEM LIVE FREE AND STOP ROUNDING THEM UP!HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF SOMEONE DID YOU THIS WAY!OR YOUR KIDS THIS WAY!Well its the same difference for them.i now you dont think they have feeelings but they do!!as for me i say let them live free!!!!

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