Thursday, November 29, 2007


It was New Mexico law enforcement agents that began investigating the selling of wild horses to slaughter in 1992. This investigation centered around the direct participation of BLM employees and contractors selling wild horses for slaughter with both the knowledge and approval of BLM managers. Their scheme involved the use of satellite ranches and horse sanctuaries to hide the horses for profit operation. (1)

The Grand Jury investigation into illegal wild horse slaughter began with two BLM employees: Mr. Galloway and Mr. Sharp, both working under the direction of Steve Henke, currently still employed by BLM as a District Manager in Farmington, New Mexico.

In 1995, the Grand Jury issued subpoenas intending to inventory more than 1,200 horses at a BLM sanctuary in Bartlesville, OK but a Department of the Interior lawyer in New Mexico, Grant Vaughn, wrote a letter telling the prosecutor that his agency could not comply with the subpoenas and efforts to access any information about these facilities was successfully thwarted. (2)

Over ten years later, a different investigative report has just been released by Valerie James Patton, which includes some serious questions surrounding BLM sanctuaries in Bartlesville, OK and the more than 8,000 geldings these sanctuaries now hold.

Ms. Patton’s Investigative Report centers around an anomaly of exclusive gelding exports from the Santa Teresa Livestock Port of Entry between New Mexico to Mexico, where USDA export records indicate record breaking levels of geldings have been, and are still being sent to Mexico under a “non-slaughter status”. The current total of these non-slaughter geldings shipped into Mexico has now reached over 3,000 for this year alone.

Her report on the possible illegal shipment of these horses compares the Texas export numbers of non-slaughter geldings with the Santa Teresa Port’s export numbers, notes that Santa Teresa does not send any other kind of horse through their port under a non-slaughter status and asks hard questions about what Mexico is doing with these geldings that are now numbering into the thousands, as they are obviously not for breeding purposes.

Furthermore, her report states that the only currently known source for such a continuous supply of geldings is BLM sanctuaries. The report gives significant treatment to statistics, numbers, locations, interviews, newspaper articles, government connections between U.S. and Mexican officials, and as the evidence mounts, a powerful case is presented which demands an official investigation into the both the source and the destination of these non-slaughter geldings.

Except it looks like that is going to be very difficult…..

Her report also includes the results of a recent on-site investigation by Animals’ Angels investigators who were denied access to Santa Teresa’s facilities and what little information New Mexico officials offered turned out to be false - these officials included USDA employees. Yes, this is the same USDA that flipped Congress the finger when they voted to withdraw funding for horsemeat inspections in efforts to shut down the American horse slaughter trade in 2006.

In another AP news article by Martha Mendoza published in 1997, Trail’s End for Horses: Slaughter, over 200 BLM employees were cited as adopting wild horses and burros with most unaccounted for and some employees acknowledging they were sent to slaughter while Pascal Derde, the proprietor of Cavel West Slaughterhouse in Redmond, OR, reportedly "displayed a sheaf of BLM certificates for horses he recently butchered".

Gabriel Paone, a Department of the Interior ethics official was quoted as saying there was nothing wrong with BLM employees adopting wild horses and then selling them for profit. "They’re not doing this as public officials." Paone said. "They’re doing this as private citizens."

In an article by American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Story Behind The Burns Amendment, a plan is outlined showing which way American wild horses were headed. “A few years ago, a Montana rancher proposed to send 10,000 wild horses to Mexico, the second largest horse meat supplier in the world, for his private enterprise craftily dubbed the "Sonora Wild Horse Repatriation Project."

Apparently, the boldness of this proposal created so much opposition it was ultimately defeated - perhaps an even craftier enterprise was needed to move our horses into Mexico.

The political consequences of openly killing wild horses and burros was foreseen during the July 1998 Field Hearing held in Reno, NV (see Year of the Horse II) as John Balliette, Contractual Natural Resource Manager, Eureka County, NV stated, “I also urge you to be cautious with euthanasia, especially for large reductions. Personally, I would view putting thousands of horses down as a terrible waste of a resource. I also believe the first time several hundred horses are euthanized in one spot, a political firestorm will follow”.

Needless to say, Mr. Balliette was correct but it didn’t take several hundred to do it.

In November 2004, the Burns Amendment was “slipped in” and became a reality for our wild horses and burros in 2005. Forty-one wild horses were slaughtered in an Illinois slaughter plant, some of the first sold under this new For Sale Authority and public outrage caused BLM to temporarily suspend sales between April 25 thru May 19, 2005.

BLM also rewrote and strengthened the adoption contracts before resuming sales but considering past historical violations, even by the agency itself, as well as no true legal consequences to those who violate these contracts due to Congress continuing to give BLM the authority to sell them “unconditionally”, there is little hope that violators will actually be prosecuted if our horses and burros end up hanging from a hook.

According to Ms. Patton’s investigative report, the shipment of unusually high numbers of non-slaughter geldings sent through Santa Teresa, New Mexico to Mexico began on August 16th, 2005 – just three months after BLM resumed selling our wild heritage to sealed bidders.

Advocate and watch dog groups have been requesting details about the For Sale Program but meaningful answers have not been forthcoming and the BLM only publicly provides a running total of the wild horses and burros that they “sell”.

So here we sit…..

Unprecedented numbers of wild horses and burros have been swept off public lands authorized by completely absurd assessments, BLM cut adoption events over the last few years during a time when they needed this outlet most, the cost of capturing and holding our wild horses and burros in these mysterious sanctuaries continues to skyrocket and suddenly we find New Mexico in the news - again!

Yet Congress sits stalled – refusing to investigate the Wild Horse & Burro Program or demand accountability, refusing to repeal the Burns Amendment, and refusing to open an investigation into these non-slaughter geldings being exported from New Mexico at record levels.

Some speculate these geldings are being shipped to Mexico as unwilling participants in a popular form of Mexican entertainment called Horse Tripping, as illustrated in the header photo. Even so, most horses used for these events end up in Mexican slaughterhouses once the ropes have cut their flesh too deeply or their legs finally brutally break.

The Humane Society of the United States has recently released a video on the reality of Mexican Horse Slaughter, often performed by repeatedly stabbing a knife into the horse’s spinal cord until it is paralyzed, though not unconscious for its slaughter. There is little question the final destination of the majority of these “non-slaughter” geldings will share the same fate of those so graphically depicted in this video.

In 1998, Mr. Balliette also recommended a sale authority that would be “sunsetted” once the numbers on the range and in the adoption pipeline were brought down to manageable numbers before more “politically correct” population control methods were again employed.

Maybe Congress is waiting, as Mr. Balliette suggested, until a sufficient amount of America’s wild horses and burros have been “disposed of” before bringing the vote to the floor…. or maybe they will never repeal it - after all, it’s only the majority of the American people who so passionately love wild horses and burros and have showed their overwhelming support time and time again for mandating their protection – but does anyone in Washington care?

Tell Congress to stop stalling and protect

Non-Slaughter Geldings To Mexico

In efforts to bring awareness to the weekly shipments of these Non-Slaughter Geldings being sent to Mexico from New Mexico for over two years now, the American Herds Hot News Section will now display their weekly exported totals until -we pray -these shipments are investigated and finally brought to a halt.

(1) Horses to Slaughter - Anatomy of a Cover Up with the BLM (1997-04-01)
(2) Mendoza, Wild Horses Criminal Case Shut Down,

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Closing The Deal

The government’s continued lackadaisical attitude toward the mustangs makes it necessary for private conservation groups to constantly remain alert and follow the administration and enforcement of the law. Otherwise, the horses’ traditional enemies will succeed in slowly but surely eliminating them.” -The Politics of Extinction by Lewis Regenstein, 1975.

So how long have a handful of individuals been trying to eliminate wild horses and burros from the American scene? As far back as their American history goes……

In fact, there is so much available evidence clearly showing inappropriate and often illegal activities against wild horses and burros, only the illiterate could be convinced otherwise.

In his book, Wild Horses: Living Symbols of Freedom, wildlife ecologist and author, Craig C. Downer states how it began, “It was the White life style which caused the mustang’s demise, along with that of the buffalo….The horse allowed the Indian to withstand the White settlers and, so, the horse came to be regarded as part of the whole Indian “problem”. A prejudice against wild horses has remained as a part of the tradition to this very day among ranchers and farmers as well as others in the West.”

Mr. Downer asserts the 18th century saw the pinnacle of wild horse populations, estimated then at nearly 10 million strong but by the turn of the 19th century, their numbers had been reduced to 2 million and in the late 1950s, when Wild Horse Annie began creating public awareness for the plight of the wild horse, it was estimated their numbers had been gutted to a paltry 25,000 throughout the West. (1)

When public love and outcry sparked Congress to pass the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971, those still prejudice against the wild ones have been seeking to overturn their federally protected status ever since.

In 1973, legal proceedings were initiated by a New Mexico cattleman who unsuccessfully tried to overturn their federal protection in Kleppe vs New Mexico (June 17, 1976).

Betsy A. Cody, Specialist in Natural Resources produced a report for the Congressional Research Service on Wild Horse and Burro Management, which stated, “In 1984, BLM started to allow individuals to adopt large numbers of animals for free. Approximately 20,000 horses were adopted while this fee-waiver program was in effect and several thousand of these animals reportedly ended up in glue or pet-food factories.(2) The program was stopped in 1988 due to public outcry.”

Karen Sussman, President of the International Society for the Preservation of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB) submitted a Report to the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands June 5, 1998, that stated, “Regulation changes proposed in 1984… allowed BLM to gather an unprecedented number of wild horses during the two year period that the rule changes were pending.”

Another 1984 regulation was implemented known as fee-waivers/mass adoptions which allowed 100 or plus horses to be given to adopters. Ranchers adopted them and turned around and sold many to slaughter after title passed.”

“During these years, with BLMs approval, several attempts were made to allow BLM to sell “unadoptable” horses for slaughter by initiating language, which never got out of committee in Congress. The Range Omnibus bill which included the slaughter provision made it to the floor of Congress but was defeated.”

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) released their audit and report in August 1990 of the BLMs Wild Horse and Burro Program titled, Rangeland Management, Improvements Needed in the Federal Wild Horse Program, which included scathing indictments of wild horses being regularly sent to slaughter and unfair treatment by BLM.

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign provides a Link to a 1997 report released by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Horse Slaughter -Anatomy of a Cover-Up, which explicitly details BLM abuses, wild horses and burros going to slaughter and a complete lack of accountability in the wild horse and burro program that many believe still continues today.

The PEER Horse Slaughter Report states: “BLM has tolerated and in some instances facilitated the routine and illegal trafficking of wild horses to slaughter. The agency has obstructed efforts by its own law enforcement officers to expose commercial theft of wild horses, fraudulent adoption schemes and fictitious "sanctuary" herds not only to avoid embarrassment but also to maintain the flow of horses off the range.”

The BLM began a crackdown on wild horse-to-slaughter operations in 1993 under former Director Jim Baca. BLM investigators began compiling evidence documenting:”

  • theft of wild horses during BLM sponsored "gathers" or captures;
  • "black booking" or phony double branding of horses so that duplicate branded horses could disappear without a paper trail;
  • manipulation of wild horse adoptions where one person holds the proxies for a group of supposedly separate adopters and the horses all end up at slaughter;
  • use of satellite ranches to hold horses for days or weeks as stopping points on the way to slaughter;
  • fraudulent use of wild horse sanctuaries--ranches subsidized by the federal government to care for unadoptable wild horses deemed excess and removed from the range--as fronts for commercial exploitation.
Lawyers from the Department of Justice also urged that the case be dropped because the tolerance within BLM for the horse to slaughter trade was so widespread that it would be unfair to single out any one person for prosecution.”

Associated Press reporter, Martha Mendoza also did a series of articles on the travesty occurring, such as Wild Horse Criminal Case Shut Down, which involved additional investigative reporting that found a long-standing history of cover ups, abuses and wild horses and burros being sold for slaughter.

Bill Sharp, who worked for the BLM before retiring in 1994 was quoted as saying, "If I really was worried about intent then I probably wouldn't have adopted out any horses, because I believe 90 percent of these horses go to slaughter."

While evidence piled up that indeed, America’s wild horses and burros were routinely being sent to slaughter with many BLM employees actively participating, looking the other way or being too afraid to speak out, the Grand Jury Investigation was successfully slammed shut in 1996 without any of the hard won evidence ever being heard.

Congress responded by turning a blind eye – to this day, they have failed to demand any investigation or accountability of these allegations and have failed to require BLM to submit biannual reports on the Wild Horse and Burro Program, as required by law, since 1997.

    In July 1998 Congressional Subcommittee Hearing in Reno, Nevada (see last post, Year of the Horse II), the Honorable Delegate from the Territory of American Samoa, Eni Faleomavaega, continued to press for answers; “…there are allegations that thousands of horses are being slaughtered and there are further allegations that BLM could not even account for some 32,000 adopted animals, and that even BLM employees may have been participants and may even have profited in the slaughter of thousands of wild horses.”

    His questions, and ours, have never significantly been addressed.

    The prosecuting attorney for the derailed Grand Jury investigation, Alia Ludlum, stated, "I believe that my investigation was obstructed all along by persons within the BLM…..I think there is a terrible problem with the program and with government agents placing themselves above the law."

    And so, with improprieties, abuses, and illegal activities against wild horses and burros being sanctioned and covered up at the highest levels, Larry Johnson, Director of Nevada Bighorns Unlimited and currently serving on the 2007 Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, stepped up to the plate.

    In March 2000, Mr. Johnson submitted statements in concert with BLM under a Wild Horse Attachment to a Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources to urge their support for “The Restoration of Threatened Watersheds”, citing wild horses and burros, not livestock, were one of the major threats to both watershed health and wildlife and as such, funding was needed to drastically reduce their populations across the West.

    The Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses was also cited by jubilant anti-wild horse supporters as being the key factor in convincing Congress that their removals were truly a necessity in Nevadas 2000 Public Land Policy Update (pg.17).

    In October 2001, armed with Congressional approval and funding, BLM proceeded to launch the most aggressive removal campaign ever implemented, rounding up over 70,000 of our wild horses and burros over the last six years.

    With the Sales Authority waiting in the wings, BLM officials successfully escaping federal indictments, prosecution or any accountability at all, years of frustrated efforts to strip federal protection of America’s wild horses and burros was finally rewarded - our Land Lords just sat back to wait…..

    Photo taken from BLM Internet Adoption Website
    #9259 – Two Year Old Mare - Captured 1/17/06 – Sand Springs East HMA, NV

    (1) Report prepared by the ISPMB, Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, June 5, 1998.
    (2) GAO RCED-90-110 Rangeland Management, Improvements Needed In Federal Wild Horse Program, pg. 31

    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Year Of The Horse II

    The second big event that happened in 1998 was a Congressional Subcommittee Hearing of National Parks and Public Lands held in Reno, Nevada on July 13th titled, Field Hearing on Range Issues and Problems with the Wild Horse and Burro Act and Its Implementation.

    It was here that a handful of men began laying the groundwork to amend the Wild Free-Roaming Horse & Burro Act to include a “Sales Authority” clause to allow them to be slaughtered as well as exploring all possibilities for disposing of America's “excess” wild horses and burros.

    The need to grant BLM the authority to slaughter America’s wild horses and burros was openly discussed by many with testimony citing them as merely feral “like alley cats” and that BLM needs to be able to manage them as livestock, a position supported by then BLM Director, Pat Shea.

    Nevada rancher, Demar Dahl, offered this practical insight by stating, “We eat them. The horse is a resource….I love good horses, but there are a lot of horses that are just to be eaten and that is their best use…..And I can tell you right now, there are a lot of wild horses, BLM—horses with a BLM freeze iron under the brand, that go through the sales to the killer plants today. And any horse sales that you want to go to where they put killer horses through, you will find a number of wild horses….So it is happening already, we just need to recognize it.”

    John Balliette, Contractual Natural Resource Manager from Eureka County, Nevada stated,“Some real double standards exist when it comes to sale authority. Each year our country sells thousands of privately owned horses for slaughter. But the mere mention of sale authority of ''wild'' horses with the possibility of slaughter is offensive to some. Horses are the only large ungulate on Federal lands that are not harvested for consumptive purposes. If harvesting one large ungulate is acceptable, why is harvesting horses unacceptable? Horses must be viewed as are other large ungulates on Federal lands, a renewable resource that can be effectively managed by harvesting excess numbers.”

    Senator Dean Rhoads, Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee for the Nevada Legislature and a rancher himself led the charge to implement a Sales Authority with such statements as, “I usually do not go to the sales yard so I have no idea who buys them, but I assume that some of them are bought by people that take them home and break them. Others are probably bought that ends up in the slaughterhouse. But that is just the thing that we have been doing for centuries.

    Nevada Lincoln County Commissioner Rey Flake reminded everyone that “Ranching on public lands is also a legacy of the west” and presented this vision to Congressional representatives for his model of what the Wild Horse & Burro Program should look like, “We need to consider the idea of having one or two herds of horses in each state.”

    Senator Rhoads supported Commissioner Flakes statement by affirming the idea for a few public-viewing centers citing “…we would probably put up some vistas and interpretive centers and so forth” then also added, “Then you could remove all the other horses from the west on much of our grazing lands.

    The following individuals all testified and supported a need to introduce legislation to allow BLM to sell “excess and unadoptable” wild horses and burros or explore all means to dispose of or destroy them:
    Utah Congressional Representative James Hansen, Nevada Congressional Representative Jim Gibbons (now Nevada Governor), NV Legislative Senator Dean Rhoads, NV Assemblyman John Carpenter, NV Elko County Commissioner Anthony Lesperance, Ph.D, NV Lincoln County Commissioner Rey Flake, NV Eureka County Natural Resources Manager John Balliette, National Wild Horse Association Field Director David C.J. Tattam, Arizona Game & Fish Department Director Duane L. Shroufe, and NV Rancher Demar Dahl.

    Current Nevada Senator John Ensign, who introduced S. 1915, a bill to amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes, was also present as a Congressional Representative at this 1998 Field Hearing.

    Representative Ensign made no comment throughout the proceedings regarding the selling of America’s wild horses and burros for slaughter. His statements were limited to,“How much of the policy is actually being directed based on pure emotionalism? How much of the policy is being directed on what is truly best for the environment, best for the animals in the long-run for the overall part of the population, and truly how are we getting to where we are going….?”

    As politicians and cattleman lined up to testify against the wild horses with arguments that ranged from how their “excessive numbers” destroy the range and riparian areas, strip the forage for their livestock, and threaten true wildlife species such as bighorn sheep, they never failed to grind the ever popular axe of wild horse and burro management costing the taxpayer a fortune by being nothing more than a “Federal welfare case” - (Representative Jim Gibbons).

    Utah Representative James Hansen stated, “If any public land program could be called a subsidy, this would be it.”

    While these cattleman were arguing against the costs of the Wild Horse & Burro program and how public land is really their land, USDA Records shows in 1998, almost $2.7 million dollars was handed out in federal subsidies in Nevada and exceeded $62 million dollars between 1995 and 2005 for Nevada ranchers and farmers alone. This does not take into account that a rancher is currently paying less than $1.35 per month per cow to graze them on public lands -1/10th the cost of private grazing fees.

    USDA federal subsidies records also shows NV Senator Dean Rhoads of Rhoads Trust Dean & Sharon have personally received $500,875 dollars between 1995 and 2005.

    This Field Hearing was conducted one month before the Nevada Draft Management Plan for Wild Horses was introduced (see last post, Year of the Horse I).

    During this field hearing, Cathy Barcomb, Administrator for the Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses reported to these Congressional Committee members that the Draft Management Plan for Wild Horses for Nevada was due out in August adding, “..a lot of people that are in this room helped us write the plan and I think it is a good compilation from Nevada.”

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    Year Of The Horse - Part I

    The year 1998 was a big one for our wild horses and burros -two major events happened that laid the groundwork for the most stunning change in wild horse and burro policy since the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act.

    Of course, this change would be the Unconditional Sale of our herds commonly known as the Burns Amendment and now carried out by BLM under the term “Sale Authority”.

    However, as is commonly believed, there was nothing “stealth” about it – selling our wild heritage was well planned and coordinated long before it was “slipped in” the day before the Thanksgiving break.

    In August of 1998, Nevada Ecological Consulting, Inc. presented the Draft Nevada Wild Horse Management Plan for Federal Lands to the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources/Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses in response to Bill 211, enacted by the Nevada Legislature in 1997 requiring the Commission to develop a plan for managing wild horses in Nevada.

    There were sixty-five participants that provided input for this plan as well as nine public meetings held throughout the state.

    The Plan discussed a large array of issues on wild horse and burro management but almost none of the solutions presented to maintain wild horses and burros as integral components of public lands have gone any further than the drawing board. The emphasis seemed to be on what to do with the wild horses and burros once they had been removed from the range, not providing the critical habitat requirements necessary to keep them from being removed.

    Here are exact quotes from this Draft Management Plan:

    Section 5.82 - Strategy:
  • By the year 2005, reach AML on all delineated HMAs by removal of unadoptable wild horses (as a last resort), either by euthanasia methods preferably on home range, or by sales authority granted to BLM with all sale receipts earmarked to defray program costs.

    Section 5.83 - Actions:
  • BLM and Congress should abide by the provisions of the ACT allowing euthanasia as a humane method of removal of excess numbers of unadoptable wild horses, and that the euthanasia prohibition in the annual Congressional Appropriations Act for funding of the wild horse program be rescinded.
  • Congress should consider amending the ACT to allow sales authority to BLM for placement of unadoptable wild horses where a reasonable number of adoption attempts have failed to place the animals. All sale receipts from such placement to be earmarked to the state of origin to defray costs of program.
  • BLM should consider initiating studies on time delay “Sunset”* euthanasia drugs which would allow humane death of known unadoptable wild horses on home range to spare the animals the stress of shipping and corral storage and to eliminate these program handling costs. (*A Sunset Drug is a drug that would be administered allowing the wild horses and burros to be killed slowly.)

    Appendix B, Page 11
  • 1) Amendment to the Wild Horse & Burro Act of 1971 is needed to include a sales authority clause to remove excessive numbers of unadoptable animals with sale proceeds earmarked to defray program costs.

    Appendix C, Synopsis of Public Forum, Page 5
  • 3 strikes and you're out by either sale or euthanasia.

    Here is the law that was enacted six years later, initially reported as having been co-sponsored by Nevada Senator Harry Reid, which our Congress has still failed to repeal-

    Fiscal Year 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Act
    Public Law 108-447, Division E, Section 142

    SEC. 142. SALE OF WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSES AND BURROS. (a) IN GENERAL- Section 3 of Public Law 92-195 (16 U.S.C. 1333) is amended--

    (1) in subsection (d)(5), by striking `this section' and all that follows through the period at the end and inserting `this section.'; and

    (2) by adding at the end the following:


    `(1) IN GENERAL- Any excess animal or the remains of an excess animal shall be sold if--

    `(A) the excess animal is more than 10 years of age; or

    `(B) the excess animal has been offered unsuccessfully for adoption at least 3 times.

    `(2) METHOD OF SALE- An excess animal that meets either of the criteria in paragraph (1) shall be made available for sale without limitation, including through auction to the highest bidder, at local sale yards or other convenient livestock selling facilities, until such time as--

    `(A) all excess animals offered for sale are sold; or

    `(B) the appropriate management level, as determined by the Secretary, is attained in all areas occupied by wild free-roaming horses and burros.

    `(3) DISPOSITION OF FUNDS- Funds generated from the sale of excess animals under this subsection shall be--

    `(A) credited as an offsetting collection to the Management of Lands and Resources appropriation for the Bureau of Land Management; and

    `(B) used for the costs relating to the adoption of wild free-roaming horses and burros, including the costs of marketing such adoption.

    `(4) EFFECT OF SALE- Any excess animal sold under this provision shall no longer be considered to be a wild free-roaming horse or burro for purposes of this Act.'.

  • Photo of wild horse being roped downloaded from BLM State Field Office Website

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    A Good Plan

    The Commissioners statements in the NVCPWH April 2005 Meeting Minutes* can only leave us wondering….

    Why would BLM cut adoption events or refuse to supply wild horses and burros to events where “all they had to do was collect the money” when holding pens were bursting at the seams?

    In 2001, when BLM launched the most aggressive wild horse and burro removal campaign they had ever undertaken, didn’t they know what would happen?

    Did they have a plan on how to deal with tens of thousands of wild horses and burros now crammed in government pens at taxpayers expense?

    The Plan
    The plan developed by BLM was to escalate removals to balance public lands and achieve AML (Allowable Management Level). At the same time the Fleishman-Hillard study had introduced some very innovative changes to the adoption program.”

    The whole concept was introduced to Congress to bring public lands down to AML. BLM asked Congress for an additional 36 million dollars over 4 years to implement their new plan because they knew they would be taking approximately 12 thousand wild horses off of public lands per year, BLM knew they could average 7,000 horses per year in the adoption program, they knew there would be approximately 5,000 horses in excess each year.”

    “They knew it and planned for it. They knew that by the fourth and fifth years that they would have 20,000 horses in holding, that’s what the extra funds were for. The concept was that after BLM got to AML that only 3,500 to 4,000 horses per year would be removed from public lands and with a demand of over 7,000, the BLM would then start removing them from the sanctuaries and place them in the adoption program.”

    “The whole plan was to balance itself and greatly reduced the costs because you would then be lowering the costs of holding horses in sanctuaries, you would only be removing 1/3 the number of horses on public lands and reducing that cost drastically, and you wouldn’t be holding or processing as many horses because they would be adopted. The whole plan was a good one, Congress endorsed it, and now, we are there, we are within one year, they got all the horses in the sanctuaries, as planned, and then voted into slaughter all of them.”

    “I feel it was somewhat of a setup, we were betrayed. We all bought into the plan and supported it, only to be turned on once the horses came off the lands.”

    Cathy Barcomb, Administrator
    Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses
    April 7, 2005

    So what happened?

    *See last post, "Doing Everything We Can"

    Photo taken from BLM Internet Adoption Site
    Captured Wild Burro from California Slate Range 2007

    Saturday, November 17, 2007

    "Doing Everything We Can"

    As Chief Investigative Reporter, George Knapp and the I-Team of KLAS 8 in Las Vegas, Nevada ask hard questions about what BLM is doing to help our now captured wild horses and burros find good homes through adoptions, Mr. Knapp's Interview with Nevada Wild Horse and Burro Lead Susie Stokke shows her confidently assuring us that, “If you look at what Nevada is accomplishing compared to other states, we are doing everything we can.”

    So is this true? Not according to the Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses. Here is what they had to say in the Commissions April 7, 2005 Meeting Minutes.

    In discussing the Prison Wild Horse Training/Adoption Program, Ms. Cathy Barcomb, long-time administrator for the Commission reported that, “The last prison adoption had been extremely successful with all horses adopted averaging $1,500. She reported that the new indoor arena had been dedicated for opening and that almost all of the Commissioners had been present for the ceremony. Ms. Barcomb noted that the Bureau of Land Management had recently met with prison officials and stated that they could no longer afford the prison program or adoptions in Nevada as their focus was primarily to place all funding towards removals of wild horses from public lands in an attempt to reach AML.”

    She also added, “BLM was reducing the number of BLM supported adoptions to 3 per year instead of 4. She added that she felt BLM has not generally been very cost effective in their approaches to wild horse adoptions. She stated that there were usually 5-6 BLM personnel at each prison adoption, being paid overtime, and that it was unnecessary to have so many people there, which drives up the costs.”

    Commissioner Gleason stated that she felt BLM was spending more with no accountability.

    Ms. Barcomb reported that, “In 2004, that the Expo and Department of Agriculture transported all the prison horses to the Expo adoption, not BLM, the volunteers and Dept. of Agriculture had also transported and set up all the panels for holding the horses, not the BLM. She stated in general, that BLM really didn’t have to put any effort into the marketing, transport, promotions, care, feeding, or adoption of the prison trained horses that they just had to show up and collect the funds. But for 2005, the BLM has declined to allow any BLM horses, prison trained or not, to be adopted at the Expo.”

    Ms. Barcomb also stated, “The BLM Nevada would not be actively participating in the Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo either. They would not have prison-trained horses on site, nor would they be doing an open house at the Palomino Valley Corrals.”

    Commissioner Evans stated that, “He was disheartened by the fact that BLM has approximately 28,000 horses in holding facilities, that its costing taxpayers a fortune, that the solution to the problem IS adoption, and cutting back on the adoption program shows a serious lack of judgment as to what is needed for a comprehensive working program.”

    Commissioner Brehm stated, “Adoptions hosted around the National Final Rodeo in Las Vegas were a good event and that almost all the horses were adopted in the previous years when BLM hosted adoptions there, but that it has been over 10 years since they did the NFR adoptions."

    During the public comment period, Frank Cassas, Chairman of the National Wild Horse and Burro Foundation stated,
    The ‘National Marketing Plan for the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program’ submitted by Fleishman-Hillard, Inc. on January 12, 2001….includes numerous constructive recommendations for invigorating and centralizing the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program’s marketing and adoption activities."

    Mr. Cassas expressed his frustration in that “nothing has been done since the report and recommendations have come out.”

    Commissioner Evans stated, “We’ve been talking about this with BLM for over 5 years… it’s 5 years later and nothing. You can spend millions of dollars on study after study, and nothing ever happens.”

    Meanwhile, when George asks Ms. Stokke, “You would say the BLM has done its best to market to Nevadans in adopting wild horses?”

    Stokke replies, “I think that we are continuing to explore new opportunities and new avenues..."

    Photo taken from BLMs Internet Adoption Site, Nebraska wild horse and burro holding pens.
    Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses, Meeting Minutes, April 7, 2005

    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    Hero Of The Herds II

    Part II
    As promised, Chief Investigative Reporter, George Knapp and the I-Team of KLAS 8 in Las Vegas, NV have followed up their first investigative story, No Straight Answers on Wild Horse Budget (Part I), with an in depth look at questions on how BLM determines our wild horses and burros need to be removed.

    Today, with more wild horses in government pens than now roam free, millions of dollars being spent the last few years for their removals and millions more now spent to feed them, Mr. Knapp asks whether BLM has any justification for corralling them in the first place.

    “So how does BLM justify the round ups? Usually by claiming the horses are a threat to the health of the range. The question is – can they prove it?”

    So the Knappster begins his quest for answers as he and the I-Team examine the 40 million acres under BLM control in Nevada, the recent Jackson Mountain HMA round up that led to over 150 deaths in BLM's Palomino Valley holding facility, the 8,000 livestock that have been approved to graze the Jackson Mountain home range area, and allegations by national BLM scientists who have accused BLM of politicizing range science to benefit ranchers, miners, and oil companies on public lands.

    In an interview with Craig Downer, once employed by BLM as a range scientist but claims he quit in disgust, Mr. Downer grew up watching wild horses near his Northern Nevada home and stated, “It’s very skewed data, very arbitrary statements. They’ll just come out and say that wild horses are a detriment to the ecosystem without any proofs."

    He further added,“How can you say the several thousand horses that remain in all the west compare with several million livestock? It’s just ludicrous”.

    Mr. Downer feels that most of the information used to justify many of the round ups is “bogus”.

    In another interview with long time wild horse advocate Jerry Reynoldson of Wild Horses 4 Ever, the Knappster found continuing support for the position that BLM uses bogus information to justify the round ups.

    “What I really think is there is no science” Reynoldson said. “It has little to do with range conditions and a lot to do with we just want to get them out of here….Nevada BLM basically makes it up as it goes along.”

    While questions continue as to how BLM has justified the removals of thousands of wild horses and burros from public lands, the millions of dollars being paid to those who remove and feed them, and little being budgeted towards their adoptions, is it any wonder the I-Teams choose “Nevada’s Wild Horses Face Desperate Future” for part two of their look at America’s remaining herds.

    Kudos to Mr. Knapp and the I-Team for working to expose the truth behind this American tragedy as these living symbols of freedom are once again “fast-disappearing” - this time funded out of the government trough.

    Comments to Chief Investigative Reporter, George Knapp can be emailed to

    The photo used was taken from the Palomino Valley Internet Adoption site five days after BLM began conducting the Spring Mountain round ups based on "BLM formulas" that determined they "might starve or become thirsty in the future". This horse was one of the 864 wild horses and burros BLM removed from the area in January 2007.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    Hero Of The Herds!

    PART I
    Veteran Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp and the I-Team (KLAS 8) in Las Vegas, Nevada have just released a series of news stories on the BLM’s Nevada budget for wild horse and burro management or perhaps the more correct term is “mismanagement”.

    The whole affair began last February when Mr. Knapp and the I-Team requested information asking BLM what they spend on removing Nevada wild horses and burros compared to the money doled out for adoption events.

    Forced to file a Freedom of Information Act request in order to obtain answers to this question, a seven-month wait finally revealed the BLM shelled out almost $10 million dollars between 2003 and 2007 for the removal of Nevadas wild horses and burros alone.

    For the same time period, the money spent on adoption events in Nevada totaled a little over $1 million, according to an interview conducted by the Knappster with Nevada Wild Horse and Burro Lead, Susie Stokke.

    However, there’s a reason George Knapp is the I-Teams Chief Investigative Reporter.

    In the I-Team Wild Horse BLM Budget Preview, George states, “We asked some tough questions and the answers we got turned out to be a lot less than truthful

    First, he finds that Stokke inflated the 2007 adoption money by “padding the numbers” with imaginary funds set to be released at “some future date” - a deceptive tactic at the very least. Without “cooking the books”, the actual amount spent on Nevada adoptions between 2003 and 2007 totaled merely $6.3k, almost 50% less than what Ms. Stokke was claiming.

    Then, while Susie tries to do the usual song and dance, George corners her when she reports the wrong figures during the interview, figures she insists are more accurate than the information the I-Team obtained from the National Program Office, even while Mr. Knapp is holding the evidence right in front of her eyes!!!!

    The Knappster states, “This is one of the most contentious interviews I have ever been involved with” and that says a lot for someone who’s been interviewing people for decades.

    The full news story, I-Team; No Straight Answers on Wild Horse Budget is peppered with facts, statistics and the reality of dealing with the Nevada BLM.

    While the stories linked here cover the issues of adoptions versus removals and the fortune it’s costing taxpayers to capture and hold our wild horses and burros, a second story by the Knappster and I-Team has been promised that will examine the “science” of how BLM determines they must be removed and if it was even necessary to remove them in the first place.

    With deep gratitude and heartfelt thanks to George Knapp and the I-Team for their dedication and perseverance in working to get the real stories out about the “managed extinction” of our American Herds!!!

    Saturday, November 10, 2007

    NCPWH - Why It Matters

    NCPWH stands for the Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses.

    To those interested in American wild horse and burro preservation, knowing who the Commission is, how it was established and what it is doing and has done for the American herds over the years, is a vital piece to the puzzle of understanding where our herds stand today.

    The Commission has had a profound influence on policy, strategy, and decisions – not just in Nevada but also within the entire National Wild Horse and Burro Program itself. Many of the national strategies that have been implemented, which are causing such distress to wild horse and burro lovers everywhere, can trace their roots back to what the Commission has set in motion.

    As with many of the public land and resource issues, the Commission has a long and complicated history, mostly due to politics, that are difficult to summarize in a few paragraphs.

    Therefore, a series of articles has become necessary to help wild horse and burro advocates understand why they need to know about the Commission, its activities, its historical and current role in wild horse and burro management, the political influence on both state and federal levels that has had such devastating effects to wild populations everywhere, and where the future of the Commission is headed.

    Inspired by the recent ruling from the Interior Board of Land Appeals (see last post, WHOA-The Final Blow?) of the appeal filed against the Red Rock wild horses by Dawn Lappin of Wild Horse Organized Assistance (WHOA), the time has come to examine the Commissions lasting impact on America’s wild horse and burro herds.

    Dawn Lappin herself, though not officially part of the Commissions, has a very long history of involvement in wild horse and burro advocacy. One can find her name in public comments submitted to BLM and other agencies that stretch back for decades.

    She and her organization, WHOA, are nearly joined at the hip with the Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses as well as having deep and lasting ties with the Commissions long-time appointed administrator, Cathy Barcomb.

    These two women have routinely worked together throughout Nevada, with the BLM, and with state and federal authorities on multiple levels to influence policy and carry out agendas. They could single handedly be considered the two most influential people in wild horse and burro management in the country and have been so for a very long time.

    While they use to work together on a more open basis, changes in Nevada Revised Statutes that began to limit the Commissions authority have caused them to use each others organizations to accomplish their goals, which are now carried out more “behind the scenes”.

    What they are planning, supporting and suggesting is important information for anyone interested in Preserving the Herds of America.

    The Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses website can be accessed at-

    Photo of five year old mare captured 11/30/05 "Outside an HMA" downloaded from BLMs Internet Adoption Website.

    Wednesday, November 7, 2007

    WHOA - The Final Blow?

    Has Wild Horse Organized Assistance (WHOA) Director Dawn Lappin just delivered the final blow to Americas remaining herds?

    On August 2, 2007, the Interior Board of Land Appeals, 172 IBLA 128 ruled that there is nothing in the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act that prohibits the BLM from augmenting non-self sustaining herds to prevent inbreeding.

    Based on BLM provided studies, Administrative Law Judge, T. Britt Price declared that "only 50 breeding animals are necessary for genetic diversity" and goes on to say, "Appellant seemingly argues that the need to augment the herd by introducing breeding mares demonstrates that the horses of the Red Rock HMA cannot be considered either healthy or self-sustaining under the new AML" (Allowable Management Level for the Red Rock wild horses was established in 2004 at a range between 16-27).

    The Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) oversees administrative law for the Department of the Interior and is available at no cost to anyone who wishes to appeal a decision by public land managers. The catch? It is up to you to provide a preponderance of evidence that clearly shows managers erred in their decisions.

    Judge Price, who issued the decision stated,"Neither the Act nor regulations uses "uniqueness" as a standard in managing wild horse and burro populations"

    In case you are wondering what the Appeal was about, here are the main contentions of Lappin's argument to the Court;

    • that "as published in the Pierson Report, the BLM was to fully pursue and implement actions to reduce herds within Nevada's ephemeral ranges in the Mojave Desert,"
    • that "the ephemeral range cannot support sustained use by the Red Rock herd, which has suffered because of prolonged severe drought,"
    • that "genetic thresholds cannot be maintained at the AML selected, and that herd augmentation is 'contrary to provisions of the ACT that limits BLM's discretion to alter the Red Rock Wild Horse Herd's uniqueness or natural balance", and that
    • "the development and allocation of water constitutes an action that is 'contrary to the role and responsibilities of the Nevada State Water Engineer'."
    Director Lappin closed her argument with, "WHOA therefore contends that BLM should have established a zero AML for the wild horses of the Red Rock HMA."

    Is she for real with a name like Wild Horse Organized Assistance?

    While WHOA charged in to court aiming to set a national policy regarding the genetic viability of our herds (of which she seemed to be shooting for zero), she came to the fight empty handed and presented nothing to support or counter the Department of the Interior's statistical reams or crack legal teams.

    BLM has now been given legal license to give even more forage to livestock and big game because all they have to do is add a horse, any horse from any where, and PRESTO! they are a now an "American Mustang".

    To learn more about the crisis of genetic diversity and future viability now facing many of Americas wild horse and burro herds, go to American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

    Photo taken from BLM Internet Adoption Website

    Monday, November 5, 2007

    Rattlesnake Retrospect

    While BLM continues to remove the wild horses from the New Pass/Ravenswood and Augusta Mountain Herd Management Areas (HMA) due to wildfire damage, let’s take a look at another HMA being ”managed” for wildfire recovery…..

    The Rattlesnake Herd Management Area (HMA) spans 71,429 public acres and was established in 1983 through the Caliente Management Framework Plan. The “allowable management level” (AML) of wild horses within the Rattlesnake HMA is currently one wild horse.(1)

    Why only one? Because if BLM establishes in their land use plan that they will manage for wild horses and burros, they cannot “legally” zero it out for wild horse and burro use until the land use plan is changed. In order to get around this obstacle, BLM managers just establish an AML of one until the new land use or resource management plan is developed.

    The Rattlesnake AML was set in 2003 at the same time AML was set for 12 Herd Management Areas, all set in the same document, all of which fell within the same area as the 1999 Lincoln County Elk Management Plan and was implemented under a "Categorical Exclusion", which allowed BLM to circumvent required legal analysis of what impacts the elk introductions would have to the area. (2)

    In December 2006, the Rattlesnake wild horses were included as part of the “Dry Lake Complex” scheduled removals but no wild horses were found in their protected habitat to remove. (3)

    Though very arid with limited water sources, BLM still manages to accommodate livestock grazing. The Rattlesnake Grazing Allotment, encompassing 39,948 public acres in the Herd Management Area, is failing to achieve every BLM rangeland health standard measured. Of course, BLM did not find cattle to be the cause of these failures. (4)

    BLM issued a Proposed Decision on September 25, 2007 that authorized 1,180 Animal Unit Months (AUMS) for livestock or 169 cattle for six months out of the year while refusing to answer questions about these exclusive forage allocations.

    BLM responded to questions about wild horse allocations with, “This is outside the scope of the EA, which does not address wild horse populations”. As well as, “Other comments also made regarding wild horses, which are also deemed outside the scope of the proposed action for the EA are not discussed further.”

    As for what else BLM had to say while they were evaluating the ten-year grazing permit, in addition to referencing wild horses as “feral”, these are direct quotes taken from the environmental assessment BLM issued in July 2007.

    “The allotment provides year round habitat for game animals such as mule deer and elk. Elk habitat encompasses the area but the allotment’s location is not high quality habitat for elk. Elk have moved into the area recently, though their current numbers in the area are not known. Elk use was observed at Rattlesnake Spring in 2007. Elk have begun using the fenced spring site for foraging and bedding purposes.”

    “Elk use on riparian vegetation inside the spring exclosure was heavy in 2007. As a result, the spring vegetation has not recovered since it was burned in 2002. No livestock use has occurred in the riparian area due to the exclosure fence….Livestock contributed moderate use in the burn seeded area in 2006.”

    So the wild horses being removed today are a result of not being allowed the same “moderate use in the burn areas” that livestock are……imagine that.

    Questions about the elk population drew this response from BLM:
    “The commenter references the Lincoln County Elk Management Plan. This plan is a community based plan, which applied principles of coordinated resource management (CRM) of which BLM participated as a stakeholder. Further comments addressing elk populations, resource degradation, by elk, etc. are not discussed further since BLM does not manage elk populations.”

    Isn’t this the same agency that removes wild horses and burros to protect riparian areas? Yet the elk have been documented as degrading the riparian area for the last five years!

    Maybe BLM doesn't “manage” elk but they have been mandated to preserve public resources and riparian areas are supposed to be one of the highest priorities in all their management decisions.

    After all, wasn’t it these riparian areas and threats to watershed health that caused “experts” to line up and testify to Congress about how they were in mortal danger by the wild horse and burro population, testimony that Congress believed and resulted in 70,000 wild horses and burros being cleansed from our lands over the last five years?

    (1) BLM 2006 Nevada Herd Area Statistics, Wild Horse & Burro Program
    (2) Lincoln County Elk Management Plan, July 1999, pg 4.
    (3) BLM Ely Field Office, Gather Summary, Dry Lake Complex and Fire Gathers, December 2006, Courtesy of Benjamin Noyes.
    (4) United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Ely Field Office, Caliente Field Station, Preliminary Environmental Assessment # NV-040-07-016, June 2007.

    Thursday, November 1, 2007

    Getting Burned

    The BLM Battle Mountain Field Office will be removing up to 714 wild horses this weekend in the New Pass/Ravenswood and Augusta Mountain Herd Management Areas (HMA) located in central Nevada and 10 "Outside", in response to wildfires that burned 62,000 acres within the HMAs alone.

    Citing the wild horse removals as necessary to allow vegetative recovery, the BLM authorized reducing the New Pass/Ravenwood wild horse population by 316 more wild horses than their established “low” range of AML.

    According to the Battle Mountain Field Office, the total acreage of the two HMAs span 468,683 acres while the National Program Office only reports 437,996, a difference of 30,687 acres.

    The estimated wild horse population due to a recent census ranges between 1,030-1,095 while the total established wild horse “allowable management level” (AML) ranges from 730-874.

    The “Emergency Burn” environmental assessment that authorized the wild horse removals lists 8 livestock grazing allotments that effect both these HMAs but forage allocations were only included for 7 of them totaling 20,801 Animal Unit Months (AUMs).

    And is it any wonder they left #8 off their list.

    On October 5, 2007, BLM authorized a ten-year grazing permit for 6,882 cattle to graze throughout the year in #8, the Mount Airy Livestock Allotment and home of the missing forage allocations in BLMs wild horse "Emergency Burn" removal plans.

    On top of that, on October 11, 2007, BLM approved an additional 2,500 AUMs of Temporary AUMs of forage for the Mount Airy Livestock Allotment citing “the forage was available”. This included authorizations to run 386 cattle the last week of September, between 11/1 and 11/30, and 714 cattle between 12/1 and 2/28 of this year.

    Available forage burned indeed....

    New Pass/Ravenswood Herd Management Area

    260,357 HMA Acres
    AML ranges from 545-566
    Estimated Population 648-713

    Propose to Remove: up to 494
    Proposed Remaining Population: 229
    All Mares Treated with Fertility Control PZP

    Livestock Grazing Allocations IN Wild Horse Herd Management Area:
    Gilbert Creek-11,251 AUMs, Manhattan Mountain- 1,432 AUMs,
    Clan Alpine- 798 AUMs

    Augusta Mountain Herd Management Area

    177,639 HMA Acres in EA
    AML Range 185-308
    Estimated Population 382

    Propose to Remove: 200-230
    Proposed Remaining Population: 185
    All Mares Treated with Fertility Control PZP.

    Livestock Grazing Allocations IN Wild Horse Herd Management Area:
    Cottonwood- 4,660 AUMs, Hole in the Wall- 1,197 AUMs,
    Home Station Gap- 914 AUMs, Jersey Valley- 549 AUMs.

    All figures and statistics taken from:
    -Department of the Interior, Battle Mountain Field Office, New Pass/Ravenswood and Augusta Mountains HMA Burned Area Wild Horse Removal Environmental Assessment #NV062-EA-07-188, October 2, 2007.
    -Department of the Interior, Battle Mountain Field Office, Final Decision, Austin Complex Permit Renewal, October 5, 2007.
    - Department of the Interior, Battle Mountain Field Office, Final Decision, Mount Airy Allotment Temporary Non-Renewable Use Permit, October 11, 2007.
    -Photo from BLM Internet Adoption Site and cited as removed from “Outside HMA”. No further information was provided as to the wild horses original location.