Orphaned Foal by Elissa Kline

BLM urged to cancel proposed wild horse roundup in Idaho’s Challis Mountains

National Coalition Urges Agency to Stop Removing and Stockpiling Wild Horses and Start Removing Destructive Cattle

Challis Mustangs by Elissa Kline
Challis Mustangs by Elissa Kline

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and Western Watersheds Project call on BLM to cancel plans for 2nd roundup in three years in Challis, Idaho Herd Management Area and manage mustangs on the range instead.

For Immediate Release

Challis, Idaho (February 23, 2012) Today, as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Challis Field Office holds a public hearing on another proposed roundup of wild horses living in the Challis Herd Management Area (HMA) in central Idaho, a national coalition of horse advocates and environmentalists is calling on the agency to rein in its roundup plans, and implement a fertility control program for the mustangs instead.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a coalition of more than 45 organizations, and the Western Watersheds Project, a non-profit conservation group headquartered in Idaho, today urged the BLM to implement available alternatives to the roundup that would leave wild horses on the range where they belong.

The proposed October 2012 roundup would take place just three years after a summer helicopter stampede and capture operation claimed the lives of at least 11 Challis mustangs, orphaning several foals. In the July 2009 roundup, 366 wild horses were captured and 225 were permanently removed from the range.

“The fact that the BLM is proposing another roundup at Challis just three years after the last capture operation is confirmation that the direction of wild horse management needs to change,” said Neda DeMayo, CEO of Return to Freedom and AWHPC founding coalition member, “With nearly 50,000 wild horses stockpiled in holding facilities, the government can no longer afford this inhumane and costly approach to wild horse management.”

According to DeMayo, who has 15 years experience managing hundreds of wild horses at her sanctuary in Santa Barbara County, California, a more cost-effective alternative to mass mustang roundups and removals has been available to the BLM for decades in the form of a non-hormonal fertility control vaccine called Native PZP. However, the agency has made only a token effort to utilize it by treating too few mares to adequately impact population growth rates.

“The Challis herd is a small population that should be easily managed on their native range without the need for capture and removals,” DeMayo continued. “A committed long term effort should be made to preserve what is left of the Challis horses on their HMA without further fracturing the herd.”

The BLM allows just 185 federally-protected wild horses to live in the 160,000-acre Challis HMA, while authorizing the equivalent of more than five times as many privately-owned cattle to graze the same public land area.

AWHPC and the Western Watersheds Project take issue with the BLM’s claim that Challis horses must be removed to restore a “thriving natural ecological balance,” given that horses are greatly outnumbered by cattle in the HMA. Yet, the BLM proposes to remove only horses; no reductions in livestock grazing are even contemplated.

Photographer Elissa Kline documented the lives of the Challis herd for five years before she witnessed & photographed the 2009 roundup.

Orphaned Foal by Elissa Kline
Orphaned Foal by Elissa Kline

She recalls:

    Days after the round up, in the BLM corrals, I saw things I will never forget:

    A young foal orphaned, weak, going from mare to mare, looking for its mother . . .

    A tiny foal had been left behind in the stampede of the “gather”, his mother already shipped to Boise before the foal was found on the range days later, barely alive.

    Another foal had to be put down after he broke his leg… too many panicked horses in close quarters.

    “Weanlings” taken away too soon from their mares, listless & exhausted from the trauma of the roundup.

    Stallions separated from their herd by metal bars.

    Family bands destroyed.

    Those horses lucky enough to be re-released mixed up, injured, left to re-group many miles from where they were taken.

    It’s like a war waged on those horses. They are living beings, not just ‘Animal Unit’ numbers!

“These wild horses are a cherished part of the Challis environment and are supposed to be protected as national symbols of freedom,” continued Kline. “There is a better way to manage these horses that allows them to live and die on the lands where they were born. It’s time for the BLM to change course in this upcoming management decision for Challis.”

Yesterday, AWHPC issued an alert about the proposed Challis roundup. In less than 24 hours, the BLM has received over 2,600 letters from citizens in Idaho and across the country urging the agency to implement alternatives to any roundup and removal plan.

The Challis HMA, one of six remaining HMAs in Idaho, comprises just over 40% of the federally- designated wild horse habitat in the state. The BLM manages more than 11 million acres of public land in Idaho, on which the agency permits tens of thousands of private livestock to graze at below-market, tax-subsidized rates.

Elissa Kline’s video of the 2009 Challis roundup can be found here, and her photo essay can be viewed by clicking here.

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Source: Press Release


The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 45 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.

Western Watersheds Project (WWP) is a regional non-profit conservation organization founded in 1993 dedicated to protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation. WWP is headquartered in Idaho with field offices in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and California.

Return to Freedom (RTF) is a non-profit dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity and habitat of America’s wild horses through sanctuary, education and conservation. RTF provides sanctuary to over 400 wild horses rescued from roundups and slaughter auctions in a pioneering model that allows the horses to live in natural social groups while controlling reproduction through the use of PZP fertility control.

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