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Suzanne Roy Letter: The failure of wild horse policy

Letter: The failure of wild horse policy
By Suzanne Roy /
Published Jul 15, 2016 at 12:02AM —
The Bend Oregon Bulletin

The headline for The Bulletin’s June 28 editorial is absolutely right and deserves some all-caps emphasis: “Wild horse policy is NOT working.”

This statement is true and has been for many years. The reasons for this are many but can be boiled down to a single underlying reason: We aren’t using science to determine appropriate numbers of wild horses on federal lands, nor to effectively and humanely manage them.

And this disregard for science is becoming ever more extreme. Ranchers who graze cattle on our public lands call for mass roundups of wild horses from the wild, using overblown and unsubstantiated claims about the effects wild horses have on the range.

In Nevada, a state veterinarian has suggested sterilizing ALL wild mustangs left on the range after massive roundups take place. And the U.S. Bureau of Land Management — the agency charged with protecting these iconic animals — is proposing the use of dangerous and backward sterilization surgeries on wild horses while setting the stage to overturn the federal protections that prohibit the export of wild horses to foreign slaughterhouses.

The proposal by BLM and Oregon State University to perform a barbaric procedure to remove mares’ ovaries by pulling them out with a chain is but one grim example. (italics added)

All the while, the unscientific way BLM uses to determine how many wild horses can inhabit the range goes unquestioned. As do questions about why the agency isn’t making better and more widespread use of humane fertility control.

The National Academy of Sciences in a 2013 report questioned the BLM’s system of “Appropriate Management Levels” for wild horse ranges. The notion of how many horses are appropriate in specific Herd Management Areas using the AML system appears to be arbitrary. The academy wrote that it “could not identify a science-based rationale” for how AMLs are established.

Yet, AML numbers are always used as a way to say there’s an overpopulation of wild horses on federal lands. This, despite the fact that horses inhabit just 12 percent of federal rangelands and are outnumbered on these lands 50 to 1 by livestock

The academy report also stressed that the BLM’s system of rounding up and removing horses from the range merely exacerbated population growth by “facilitating high rates of population growth on the range.”

And it emphasized that using fertility control vaccine is “a more affordable option than continuing to remove horses to long-term holding facilities.”

In areas where wildlife managers have implemented careful and detailed management plans, fertility control with the PZP vaccine has resulted in controlled herd sizes and improved health of horses. A well-documented example is the Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland.

PZP is used in several Herd Management Areas in the West, yet BLM spends only 1 percent of its $80 million wild horse budget on this approach. If more widely used, PZP could help stave off the “billion dollar” crisis BLM is forecasting due to the failed system of roundups and removals. It would also spare these cherished animals from dangerous and invasive sterilization surgeries.

Use of PZP as an alternative to roundups, removals, sterilization and slaughter is supported by more than three dozen wild horse advocacy groups.

According to public opinion polls, three out of four Americans favor protecting wild horses and burros, while 80 percent oppose horse slaughter.

It’s true: Our wild horse policy is not working. It’s wasteful for taxpayers, harmful to horse and out of step with what the public desires.

Our state and federal decision-makers need to wake up, read the science and demand a better way.

— Suzanne Roy lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and has been the campaign director of American Wild Horse Preservation.

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11 thoughts on “Suzanne Roy Letter: The failure of wild horse policy”

    1. The EPA has classified PZP as pesticide. Here’s a look at their Pesticide Fact Sheet for it at Protect Mustangs.

      Is is preferable than these brutal roundups then stockpiling them against their will with the very high risk they will be sent to slaughter? That’s the question some wild horse advocates keep asking concerning this hideous drug.

      None of it is right of course. The BLM forcing the people who love these horses and trying to preserve them to make a Sophie’s Choice.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. When there are 6,000,000 cattle vs. 40,000 wild equines on public lands in the west, what group is doing the most damage to the grazing lands? That’s 150 head of cows to each wild horse or burro. What group needs to be culled? Totally out of whack.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And we all know that cattle have to be moved. They do not “roam”. They graze all the way down to the dirt. Not like wild horses who keep moving for forage and water. Wild horses actually replenish the lands. They have been re-introduced in desolated areas and restored the area for flora and fauna, even in places like Chernobyl. So fed up with the outright lying. The NAS Study? Ignored.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Amending the resource management plan to provide sufficient habitat for FREE ROAMING WILD horses and burros on their native ranges it the legal vehicle. However the change occurs AFTER it is proven that the 1971 inventories were deficient and failed to include the migratory ranges. If those migratory ranges were/are on livestock allotments, then the allotment must be amended for less livestock. Fortunately in Southern CA many allotments have been vacated, and provisions of law exist for the repatriation of our heritage herds on cultural historic landscapes.. CA Fish and Game as well as CA Dept of Resources/Parks are the real culprits…along with BLM who is mandated to implement protocol agreements. The devil is in the details particularly negligent in consulting with interested parties about Wild Horses/Burros and their habitats as a cultural Resource. sources for this information can be found at: programmatic agreement – Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
      Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
      PROGRAMMATIC AGREEMENT … directives system (BLM Manual Sections 8100-8160) to help guide the BLM’s …. through this agreement. will enable BLM.

      ACHP | Bureau of Land Management › … › Federal
      Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
      A Programmatic Agreement (PA) to address how historic properties will be taken into account in that process was executed on February 5, 2016, by BLM State


  2. I would agree that PZP should not be pushed on an already struggling, questionably viable wild horse and burro population. Why put the cart before the horse?

    Counts need to be done., and until then these herds should be left alone. Why not put resources into fighting the battle where it needs to be fought instead of rolling over and taking the easy way out? That to me shows we are not fighting the good fight, as we should be.

    Putting those syringes into the hands of a still rogue agency, and yes their ranching cohorts, spells danger to me! Moratorium until science can dictate policy. Fight the good fight!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I believe PZP is a good alternative to roundups BUT I strongly believe that it is not ok to use it on herds that are at below naturally sustainable herd numbers. As wild horse supporters we needed to be at the table when the AML numbers were set…the livestock permittee was there! Any changes to the management plan for a herd management area needs to have wild horse supporters speaking up for the horses and the taxpaying citizens.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. NAS also found no evidence of an over-population of wild horses. Therefore the use of any fertility control is unnecessary. BLM over estimates the numbers of wild horses and burros.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Whether or not PZP is used, the basic issue is amending resource management plans to comply with various preservation and conservation laws.. The court finds: In structure and purpose, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act is nothing more than a land-use regulation enacted by Congress to ensure the survival of a particular species of wildlife. It is not unique in its impact on private resource owners. (Home799 f2d 1423 mountain states legal foundation v. p hodel w) Another tool advocates may use to maximize historic preservation of Heritage Herds are found in the BLM/state historic preservation programmic agreement:


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