Sequester prompts call for wild horses and burros to be returned to the wild

Conservation group requests a freeze on roundups

Blonde and Tibet Photo by Anne Novak

WASHINGTON (April 8, 2013)–Last week Protect Mustangs, the California based conservation group, officially called for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to put a freeze on roundups and return all wild horses and burros, in government funded holding, to herd management areas in the West. They cited the current climate of federal economic instability as putting captive wild horses and burros at risk. As of April 7th, Protect Mustangs has not received a response from from BLM officials.

“It’s fiscal folly to roundup more wild horses and burros than they can adopt out,” explains Anne Novak, executive director for Protect Mustangs. “The roundups need to stop now. We are calling for the more than 50,000 stockpiled native wild horses and historic burros to be returned immediately to public land. We are concerned the government won’t be able to pay for their feed and care during the federal fiscal crisis. We need to be proactive to ensure their safety. If a government shutdown occurs, their only chance of survival is in the wild.”

The Weekly Standard broke the story on BLM’s $6 Mil helicopter contract for the wild horse and burro program after the sequester went into effect.

Roundups increased dramatically in 2009–the same year BLM started fast tracking energy projects with the Stimulus Act in full force. The deadly Calico Roundup and others popped up all along the Ruby Pipeline natural gas route. Protect Mustangs believes wild horses and burros are being removed from 26 million acres to avoid environmental mitigation and costly delays for the extractive industry.

Last month, in response to the BLM’s request for comments on the controversial Continental Divide-Cresta natural gas development project, Protect Mustangs called for a $50 Mil fund to mitigate environmental distress and removal of Wyoming’s wild horses.

In 2012, Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board member, Callie Hendrickson, suggested slaughtering native wild horses as a solution for the government’s holding crisis. Protect Mustangs is concerned the pro-kill faction of the BLM will jump on current federal economic instability to spin a death or slaughter sentence for captured wild horses and burros.

“Native wild horses should not be made to suffer further because of the BLM’s fiscal irresponsibility,” states Kerry Becklund, outreach director for Protect Mustangs. “Killing them is wrong. Now it’s time to return them to their wild lands. All the captive males have already been castrated so they won’t be reproducing. Overpopulation is a myth anyways.”

The BLM justifies using fertility control drugs because of the overpopulation myth. Yet cattle outnumbers wild horses at least 50 to 1 and is the source of most range damage. EPA approved “limited use pesticides” such as SpayVac®, GonaCon and ZonaSta-H appear to be risky forms of fertility control. Currently the BLM is using these drugs on wild horses and burros on the range. Protect Mustangs is against using pesticides on native wild horses–especially the nonviable herds.

“Why aren’t these drugs FDA approved for domestic horses if they aren’t harmful?” asks Novak. “We are against using these drugs on mares being released back into the wild. It’s dangerous to use these drugs on nonviable herds. If the herd numbers drop then inbreeding occurs and that’s bad.”

In Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife (Revised January 2010)  J.F.Kirkpatrick Ph.D., and Patricia M. Fazio Ph.D. wrote:

The key element in describing an animal as a native species is (1) where it originated; and (2) whether or not it co‐evolved with its habitat. Clearly, E. 6 caballus did both, here in North American. There might be arguments about “breeds,” but there are no scientific grounds for arguments about “species.”

The non‐native, feral, and exotic designations given by agencies are not merely reflections of their failure to understand modern science but also a reflection of their desire to preserve old ways of thinking to keep alive the conflict between a species (wild horses), with no economic value anymore (by law), and the economic value of commercial livestock.

Wild horses are a native species. There were 2 million roaming in freedom in 1900. Today they are underpopulated on the range. Advocates estimate there are less than 20,000 left in the wild. They can fill their niche in the ecosystem and be managed using holistic methods to reduce wildfire fuel, reseed the land, create biodiversity and reverse desertification.

“We are asking for a proactive solution to avoid disaster,” adds Novak. “It’s simple. Return wild horses and burros to the range and save more than $50 Mil taxpayer dollars annually.”

# # #

Below is a copy of the official email sent to Ms. Guilfoyle, Division Chief of Wild Horses & Burros. It was copied to the BLM Acting Director and other staff:

Subject: Calling for a Freeze on Roundups & Return to HMAs

From: <>

Date: Mon, April 01, 2013 1:02 pm



Joan Guilfoyle, Division Chief

Division of Wild Horses and Burros

20 M Street, S.E.

Washington, DC 20003

Main Contact Number: 202-912-7260

Dear Ms. Guilfoyle,

In this climate of federal economic instability, including the possibility of government shutdown, we request that all wild horses and burros in government funded holding be returned to the herd management areas immediately. We call for a freeze on all wild horse and burro roundups to prevent the equids from being caught up in an uncertain fate.


Anne Novak

Anne Novak

Executive Director

Protect Mustangs

38 comments for “Sequester prompts call for wild horses and burros to be returned to the wild

  1. valerie price
    April 15, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Wild horses are native and never went extinct in the Americas. Medicine spots ofer genetic evidence of ancient precursor of spotted coat pattern not found except in American wild mustangs. Read Extinction or Extermination: The Mystery of the Missing Bones on Lulu. Horses are native wildlife and it is economically sensible to release those being held and stop any future round ups.

  2. Denise C
    April 12, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I’m feeling that Ldg has given up the fight and exposed his/her belly to the BLM and the gov. Everyone MUST cont’ the fight and never ever give up on our wild ones !!!! Ldg…. you’ve already lost, but the rest of us haven’t !!!!

    • admin
      April 12, 2013 at 9:50 am


  3. Barbara Leonard
    April 12, 2013 at 8:51 am

    We will NEVER stop fighting the thieves at BLM….we want our wild horses back on their rightful LEGAL lands and we want the WELFARE cattle & sheep & fracking OFF our western public lands….we will not go away until that happens!

  4. dave
    April 12, 2013 at 4:12 am

    The BLM acts like they’re employed by industry. Slaughter should never be an option of our horses. Please sign and share and help stop slaughter…

  5. Ldg
    April 9, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    It occurs to me that some of those 40K horses, especially the older mares and geldings that have been in Long Term Holding pastures for several years not having to search for water or compete for forage, might not thrive returning to the wild Then there are the younger horses born in captivity who have never been in the wild at all. Many of the HMA’s are rugged and throwing them back into ranges, particularly ones that they weren’t born into might not be the best.

    Maybe I just don’t like mantras. The reality is often much more complicated.

    • admin
      April 9, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      Horseback has consistently advocated for natural selection among wild horse populations. All of the horses should be released back into the wild. With 242 million acres under their control, BLM has no excuse to do otherwise. Sequestration is not an excuse for wholesale slaughter. The wild horses will thrive if they are allowed to work things out for themselves, predators and all.

      The Editor

      • Lisa L.
        April 9, 2013 at 11:42 pm

        Most of the young ones born in captivity still have only a nodding acquaintance with humans; they would no doubt quickly adapt to what’s in their nature.

        I admire all those people who support wild equines but part of being a wild animal is not living a life of luxury. Part of the reason wild horses are so strong and smart is the daily grind of finding enough to eat and drink, evading predators and surviving fights or accidents.

        We tend to think of them as untrained domestic horses,and they’re not. They would revert back to self-sufficiency in no time if given the chance, and the younger, inexperienced animals born in captivity would choose or be adopted by more experienced leaders.

        ‘Admin’ is right, though: There is NO excuse good enough.

        • Ldg
          April 10, 2013 at 6:53 am

          They can adapt to what’s in their nature, but it’s nature they will have to adapt to. As has been stated, life in the wild is rugged.

          And I don’t even know why I’m wasting time talking about this. It won’t happen. It won’t save money in the short term. The premise of the request by Protect Mustangs in the above article is heartfelt but flawed.

        • Karen Rhinevault
          April 12, 2013 at 2:23 pm

          I have a ranch-born gelding from a BLM mom and pop–he has never been on the range but he demonstrates multiple “wild” characteristics from predator tackling (coyotes and mt. lions) to foraging. He is the guard animal for our sheep. Generations of evolution don’t disappear in a couple years. He’s not untouchable “wild”–just survivor “wild”.

      • Ldg
        April 10, 2013 at 6:44 am


        what predators? The BLM has sanitized the land for livestock and killed nearly all of them on the public lands grazed by livestock. And there are no 235Million acres allotted for horses. The horses were only allowed to roam on 40M acres when the law was created and that is now down to less than 28M. Once they remove another million acres from Wyoming and another million acres when the Elko sanctuary is approved and a few other HMA’s that they will zero out along the way, in a year or two it will be closer to 25M. If the public lands were a closed system, I would agree with you and I think they should make some Herd areas completely hands off, but that is a change in the rules that would be decades in the making .. if the horses have that much time.

        And what dots are you connecting that get you from sequestration to wholesale slaughter?

        • Karen Rhinevault
          April 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm

          Try connecting the dots from the fact that the BLM has already been turning the other cheek while they have been sold out of long term holding to known kill buyers along with good old Callie who advocates openly for slaughter, to the fact that even without the sequester they do not have the money for their ill-advised blundering plan of the last decades and any new crisis, such as the sequester, are just a shove over the edge. That should be enough dots for anyone to see where this is headed.

      • Linda Poignant
        April 13, 2013 at 6:52 pm

        The horses of Sable island are a good example of horses living wild. We are also trying to protect the wild horses of Alberta. This animal is part of our history and an iconic creature. I believe education is key.


  6. April 9, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    It stacks up to the same old “He who lobby’s with the most money Lobby’s best! It will take a march on the White House and it will take most of the now more than 14,000,000 advocates to be there. My congressmen have stopped responding to my very polite and chocked full of facts letters. Maybe the Jewell woman will be different but I have my doubts. She’s an oil gal you know……

    • admin
      April 9, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      Name that congressman here. They sometimes follow Horseback, to my surprise.

      The Editor

      • Tami H
        April 12, 2013 at 6:45 am

        My congessmen are Dick Durbin and Bill Enyart! I recieved the exact same form letters from both. Enyarts office once and Durbins twice. Oh yea…and Mark Kirk in which I have received nothing. I juzt signed an online letter that goes to all three plus the President and ordered hsrd copies to send as well.

      • Karen Rhinevault
        April 12, 2013 at 2:20 pm

        Mine is Kurt Schrader, who is supposed to be an equine veterinarian and has not even responded to my requests that he address comments from an animal welfare and humane treatment standpoint.

  7. Terri Russell
    April 9, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    let’sSee..Sterile Mares And Gelded Stallions..No Babies. Ok.. Now WhatExcuse Wkuld Tgey Come Up With.. The BLM Does Not Pay Attention To Emails, Snail Mail, Phone Calls From John Q. Public. Great Idea To Go OveR Their Heads. I Still Wo.Der What StAnd Jewelld Ms. Jewell Is Going To Take With These Rogues. Who REALLY has The Power To Put Them In Their Place? Something HastTo Be Done!!

    • Ldg
      April 9, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      The mares are not sterile. Thank God the BLM has not put THAT particular part of their plan into place, at least as far as we know.

  8. darlene bowers
    April 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Please stop starving the horses It will be stopped

  9. darlene bowers
    April 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    please stop the abuse!

  10. darlene bowers
    April 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    please stop

  11. T Pauley
    April 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    I am a disable veteran that served her country proudly. I served it not only to protect Americans from harm but also to protect our American rights. One of those rights is to enjoy the land that was set aside for ALL Americans to go and enjoy. This land that was sert aside was land that wild horses could run free and All Americans can go and enjoy seeing them do that. I did not become disable serving my country so the wild horses could be rounded up and slaughtered and that mining operations could stripe the land of its resorced so only the few could reap the rewards. I want my children and their children and future generations to have the right to enjoy nature in the wild. Not cattlemen and stockholders of mining operations enjoy counting their millions. Please do the right thing and set the horses free to roam the lands that belong to the American citizens. Thank you

    • jean
      April 11, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      Well said and thank you for your service!

  12. Lisa L.
    April 9, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    According to Bureau policy, approximately 23 Million acres of federal land – legally designated for wild equine use – can support only 26 to 27 thousand wild equines.

    That equates to around 852 acres PER ANIMAL. I wonder if you can picture the enormous magnitude of a single horse or burro on an 851 acre spread…

    If the purported 50,000 in captivity were released along with the purported 37,000 already existing, those animals would require about 264 acres each.

    However, single herd management area – Twin Peaks in Northern California, for example, covers 798,000 acres. Yet the animals allowed (before a roundup is deemed necessary)tops out at only 758 wild horses and burros – a requirement of 1,053 acres per wild horse or burro.

    Since wild equines have no monetary value on the range, the acres allowed are overly stringent, so their removals are almost always necessary: According to Twin Peaks managing field office and it’s population ‘estimates’, these animals were already above allowable capacity the year following the 2010 roundup.

    BLM sets the policies for the herds. It bases yearly population projections on estimates, and I assume it bases those estimates on reports from the various field offices, which also base their assumptions on estimates. Since 2009, 33,828 wild horses and burros have been removed from the ranges, yet the wild populations still hover at around 37,000 – the highest populations since 2004, illustrating that roundups haven’t worked in reducing those populations.

    Or so we’re led to believe.

    The 50,000 we suppose to be in captivity is the culmination of nearly everything that’s been removed from the range and un-adopted since year 2000. Given the odd nature of In-Holding bookkeeping and the occasional scandals attributed to wild equines after removals, how likely is it that every animal captured and sent to or retained in holding over 12 years is still completely accounted for?

    Any other government-sponsored business that has operated in the red after 40+ years would have undergone investigations and reforms decades ago. The Wild Horse and Burro Program should be no different. The hole has been dug deeply; it’s past time to stop shovelin’.

    • smokeysdad
      April 11, 2013 at 10:27 pm

      Do not forget that original lands designated was about 52,000,000 acres. One third has been stolen by Congress for other purposes leaving about 36,000,000. We need to have congress restore all the land back to the horses and burros and exempt the HMA’s from the Multiple Use Policy which by law they can do.

      That gets rid of the livestock…the actual number of those remaining in the wild is nearer 20,000…now redo your math and you’ll see there would be more than enough room.

      • admin
        April 11, 2013 at 10:32 pm

        Horseback has long maintained with 242 million acres of land under its jurisdiction, there is ample room for all of the wild horses. Moreover, we believe they should be left totally alone and natural selection will take care of the rest.

        The Editor

    • Robert B.
      April 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      Well said Lisa. All of the science, and numbers point against eveything that the BLM has done, roundups and holding contracts all carried out in oppositon to pure science and in opposition to the fact that Federal Law has designated these areas, for the wild horses and burros, as the principle species. AML’s based not upon what the land can naturally sustain, through natural selection,(grade school science), but how much forage the BLM want to allow the wild horses, in comparison with how much it wants to allow for the cattle, which in the horses and burros case turns out to be a very very small percentage, as small as 6% in one case. Based upon this the AML, and the actual numbers BLM say are out there, pure myth. The Land can and would sustain all in holding on top of all of those still out there, ( far fewer than the BLM says,less than 10,000) The BLM wants us to give up and for that very reason we must continue blasting away at the BLM propaganda, with pure science, as exhibited here in this statement by Lisa.

  13. Debbie
    April 9, 2013 at 11:04 am

    We are after all suppose to be protecting them?? Yeah right…. They have survived on their own for decades and have been fine, then our GOV. had to step in
    PUT THEM BACK, Ed Whitfield of Kentucky wrote to me and he can not understand that there is 259 million acres of land that BLM has control of, and they say they don’t have enough land??? He feels it is a awful act of animal abuse, so there are some good people in Gov. they can survive all of them if put back that is NOT a lot of horses with ALL that land!!! Honestly with this horse slaughter issue and what the gov. has done to the Wild horses and Burro’s one would think America hates the horses and want them all gone??? Well, not all but many!!! I just wish for once the gov would do the right thing for a change!!!! HOPEING

  14. Ldg
    April 9, 2013 at 10:10 am

    As much as I love our wild mustangs and believe they deserve a place on our public lands, I think releasing 50K wild horses back into the HMA’s is simply unrealistic. If we are using it as a bargaining tool then maybe it would have a place in the discussion under normal circumstances .. but as we have learned discussion with the BLM is not only futile, but often impossible. It’s a shame that we can’t truly expose, at the highest levels, that the WH&B program, except for a few committed individuals, is a complete sham. And we can’t get a statement out of our soon-to-be Secretary of the Interior as to her intent regarding our wild horses which doesn’t bode well for them either.

    • April 9, 2013 at 11:03 am

      BLM exceeded their authority when it neglected to amend the Resource Management Plans to 1. include the herd area migratory ranges 2, manage for distinct populations of special species, 3. maintain historic cultural landscapes, manage for genetic viablity. Repatriation of 50K animals to their historic ranges it a mere pittance considering that wild horse and burro herds constitute less than one percent of all domestic and wildlife public land grazing. Occupied Herd areas were designated in perpetuity to maintain the inventory of wild equis herds, as an appurtenance running with the land title. I have been preaching this for ten years. Finally the Sagegrouse decision confirmed that Resource Management Plans must manage for all special status species AS IF THEY WERE ESA CANDIDATES FOR LISTING.

    • LNorman
      April 9, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      It’s not unrealistic at all since as mentioned above, the males are castrated. It’s a matter of returning stolen property. These horses have nearly 30 million acres of legal domain on our Public Lands and were stolen from their legal domain and the American taxpayers; 7+million cattle/sheep have no legal domain on those lands, they are renters that need to be evicted. Blm claims 50K in holding but truly that number is greatly exaggerated as they have sold thousands to killbuyers. Less than 50,000 horses/burros on 30 million acres is totally within reason. Unrealistic? No. Make too much sense for gov agency to agree with? Yes. Save the taxpayers money and the horses lives? That would be too logical.
      The injustices and crimes committed against these so called “protected” species is abhorrent. Experimenting with toxic pesticides, holding them in concentration camps, selling them to killbuyers, scattering them to the winds, depriving them of hoof & vet care, it’s vile. Some of the Calico mares ended up in MI starving to death, one escaped her prison and was shot by police while running down the interstate (she was headed west). The other day I met a woman who said she adopted one years ago, was never able to touch him after he was unloaded; a month later he broke his leg and had to be euthanized. These stories are not exceptions, they are the norm of tragedies that befall these majestic animals when they are removed from the wild. I pray for justice and common sense to return to America although I’m not holding my breath.

      • Ldg
        April 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm

        It’s unrealistic to expect the BLM to return them given the amount of livestock that graze on the AML’s (and getting rid of the livestock won’t happen in my lifetime, as much as I’d like for it to happen). It’s also unrealistic to think that returning 40K horses from Long Term Holding pastures will save any money. Those contracts are already in place and shipping that many horses across the country will be cost prohibitive. The premise that returning them will save money during the sequester does not make sense (or even cents).

        I think we all need to start with the “reasonable” in a unified manner. As the article indicates, the BLM has not responded to the Protect Mustangs request and odds are low that it ever will.

        • Athena
          April 12, 2013 at 4:07 pm

          They could save money by stopping all future roundups…

  15. Gunnel Söderback
    April 9, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Let burros and wild horses return to the wild, please.

  16. April 9, 2013 at 9:34 am

    this is the only sensible solution.

  17. Rose
    April 9, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Fir decades the BLM has violated Americans, thank god Anne Novak still gas it in her to fight for our horses.

    • Rose
      April 9, 2013 at 8:21 am

      *has it in her

Comments are closed.