Federal agency accused of "sneak attack" on herd

December 14, 2009


Wild burros in California being rounded up by helicopter and horseback in June 2008. The EWA says the BLM has been rounding up horses in the state, despite the muster not being scheduled until August, 2010. © BLM

The Equine Welfare Alliance has challenged the Bureau of Land Management over the transparency of its wild-horse roundup programme, pointing to a muster in California as evidence.

Alliance representatives John Holland and Vicki Tobin said the programme chief Don Glenn assured those attending the bureau's Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting on December 7 that his agency was "transparent" and that the public was welcome to attend round-ups.

"Even as these assurances were being delivered, the bureau was secretly in the midst of a sneak attack on the herds of Buckhorn, California," the alliance said.

It says there are unconfirmed reports of two other round-ups under way or completed at Coppersmith and Carter Reservoir. The latter is said to have also included eight Buckhorn wild horses.

The Buckhorn roundup, which was officially scheduled for August of 2010, was brought to the public's attention only when the helicopter chasing the wild horses spotted six dead horses on the range.

The bureau had said there were 596 horses at Buckhorn and that they were going to remove all but 60, but according to an Associated Press report only 217 wild horses were found and only 26 will be returned to the range.

The bureau said the removal of wild horses without public notice was due to an "internal communication failure", according to AP.


Wild horses in California. © BLM
"This leaves yet another sterile, unviable herd," said alliance spokeswoman Cindy McDonald. "This discrepancy casts further doubt on the accuracy of the BLM's population estimates."

Tobin added: "We keep hearing that the mustang population is growing rapidly but the BLM population numbers don't add up.

"We continue to ask the bureau how 32,000 wild horses represent a population out of control, but millions of privately owned livestock on bureau land are at appropriate levels."

The alliance says the musters are continuing despite public anger and the threat of more legal action. A challenge is already under way to prevent the muster of up to 2700 horses from northern Nevada, from an area known as the Calico complex.

The alliance says the bureau is keeping to its announced timetable of rounding up almost half (14,518) of America's wild horses and burros in the current fiscal year.

The alliance is seeking a moratorium on all wild horse musters, pending development of a plan to ensure their long-term sustainability.