HSUS boss renews call for reform of wild horse management program

Wild horses in Wyoming.
Wild horses in Wyoming. © BLM

The Humane Society of the United States has renewed its criticism of the federal management of wild horses as hundreds of mustangs are being mustered from the checkerboard lands of Wyoming.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is targeting about 800 wild horses in the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas (HMAs).

The three HMAs total about 2,427,220 acres, with 1,242,176 acres falling within the checkerboard region, so named because of its alternating public and private land parcels.

Under the muster plan, wild horses will be cleared from the checkerboard section under a deal reached between the state of Wyoming and the Rock Springs Grazing Association. A reduced number of wild horses will remain in the HMAs in areas outside the checkerboard.

The muster was the subject of a legal challenge by the Cloud Foundation and other wild horse advocates, but a court cleared the way for the gather to proceed.

The BLM has so far confirmed the arrival of 338 horses from the checkerboard portion of the HMAs at its Rock Springs Wild Horse Holding Facility.

The facility can hold up to 800 wild horses and it expected to receive up to 400 from the checkerboard removal.

The humane society’s president and chief executive, Wayne Pacelle, writing in his blog, A Humane Nation, described the Wyoming muster as strategically suspect, saying it could have been avoided had the BLM put in place a more humane and economically viable management plan for wild horses throughout the West.

“The HSUS has long argued that the BLM, which conducts these roundups, should be working with the humane community to manage wild horses using fertility control methods.

“The broader implementation of this strategy would come with some costs, but those would be offset and then some by reducing the need for removals and the housing and feeding of tens of thousands of horses in short-term and long-term holding facilities.

“Implementing aggressive fertility programs is a solution supported by most stakeholders and the National Academy of Sciences. It would be much more humane for the horses if the government opted for this strategy.

“It is a well-known fact that the BLM’s wild horse roundup program is a case study in mismanagement. There are now more than 40,000 free-roaming wild horses in the United States, most of them in Wyoming and Nevada, and the government has been rounding up and removing them, ostensibly to control these wild populations and minimize their ecological impact.

“Over the years, they have built up a captive horse population that now numbers in the tens of thousands, at short-term and long-term holding facilities. The cost of the roundups and housing and feeding the animals is now cannibalizing about two-thirds of the budget for the entire program.’

Despite this, the BLM continued to view the roundup of wild horse herds as its primary management strategy, Pacelle said, “even as the continuation of this strategy threatens to break the bank”.

The bureau, he said, had yet to make meaningful reforms, saying the 2400 horses and burros to be targeted by federal authorities this year was still too many.

Without reforms in favor of fertility control, the continued loss of horses’ lives in roundup and big costs were bound to recur, he said.

12 thoughts on “HSUS boss renews call for reform of wild horse management program

  • September 30, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Unfortunately Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society USA draws the wrong conclusion from the correct premise that the BLM’s roundups of wild horses is inhumane. From the worst of evils, managing to extinction via rounding up wild horses and allowing them to die in slaughter feedlots, it does not follow that we the people are forced to choose the lesser of two evils: use of PZP to deal with a non existent “problem” : wild horse overpopulation. Sterilizing mares and continuing to geld stallions will also lead to the extinction of wild horses because 70% of the herds are already non-viable. Moreover, siding with the BLM’s mythology that there is indeed a wild horse overpopulation by supporting the need for PZP use only confirms their false premise while accelerating their disappearance from our public lands. Rather than choose between two evils, continuing roundups or sterilization – both of which lead to the same dead-end of extinction- the third choice is to leave wild horses alone, returning those now in captivity into public land reserved only for wild horses. It may be that the Humane Society has been too long dealing with the problem of overpopulating stray dogs and cats to realize thatthis is not the problem with our wild horses. From a population of two million in the 20th century, they have diminished to perhaps 20,000 left running free on public lands. Wild horses don’t need to be “managed” by human beings at all, either harassed by helicopters or darted with PZP. They need to be left alone on their home ranges !

    • October 1, 2014 at 3:48 am

      Thank you for making an excellent point! You are so right, we should not have to choose from the lesser of two evils. I agree the wild horses and burros do not need human intervention to survive and we are in fact impeding their future and driving them to extinction. Unfortunately it is because of human greed and our own population growth that the wild horses have been deemed as overpopulated in order to suit our own needs.

  • September 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    There is no overpopulation of Wild Horses.

    There has not ever been an overpopulation of Wild Horses or Burros.

    There are less than 25,000 left on the range now.

    There were about 25,000 on the range in 1971 when the Free Roaming Act passed unanimously with the support of over 90% of the people.

    Sterilization is another of the BLM’s cooked up solutions not to overpopulation but to fulfill the desires of the ranchers and the energy companies who own the BLM.

    Wild Horses and Burros must be left alone and those penned returned to save them. Greed wants them destroyed.

  • October 1, 2014 at 1:02 am

    Shane and Elaine, you are both right. PZP if given several years consecutively will cause sterility and gelding will destroy an already low genetic pool.
    The NAS study found the roundups were causing the increased birth rates , and Karen Sussman has proved when herds are left alone the birth rate will only be 10% . Wild horses complex societies are destroyed with roundups . Also foal survival is only about 10%.

  • October 1, 2014 at 3:28 am

    Bravo Shane Destry !!!!!!!!!!

  • October 1, 2014 at 3:37 am

    The quest for extinction is sadly the current path – instead on focusing on Reserve Design solutions such as created by Craig Downer. So much land is available yet cleverly titled for other uses and horses have been stripped of their rightful ranges since decades. The HSUS must support a solution that sustains horses on the range the way the 1971 Act reflects. PZP’ing and permanent fertility to kill out the herds is not that vision. I also wonder if there is a new Director of HSUS for wild equines ? Why does the HSUS instead not support the use of drones for accurate census instead of building their strategies on the phony foundation of inaccurate numbers given by the BLM ? If this wipe out continues, our horses will disappear from the American landscape forever – another approach must be found soon. Reserve Design by Craig Downer is a solution on the table – yet deliberately ignored by the land grabbing agency whose interests are biased as we all know. HSUS must demand the creation of a more unbiased Board that sees to the fair and humane management on the range with the help of available experts other than bought out parties by the BLM. A reform can only take place with a replacement of Board members whose agendas have been solely for cattle, mining and wipe out under the guise of “management”. It is high times the HSUS acknowledges that as well.

  • October 1, 2014 at 3:45 am

    Where is the new Director ? He/she should work with the advocacy groups to preserve our wild horses accordingly and where they belong, on the range. Reduce cattle leases and reassign land to Reserve Design for mustangs and burros to curb eco-tourism. Create education centers for our society who know nothing about the important role that wild horses have played in building this nation. Stop the eradication process and implement scientifically credible census, not inflated estimate counts handed down by those who use numbers to push their propagandas as they please.

    From: Stephanie Boyles Griffin
    To: Tcourt5096 Wayne Pacelle
    Sent: Mon, Sep 30, 2013 3:06 pm
    Subject: RE: Wayne on Federal guidelines for BLM from Monika

    HI Monika –
    We certainly understand your frustrations and we will continue to demand that the BLM take the welfare of horses seriously – during gather operations (via helicopters or water/bait trapping), transport and at holding facilities.
    We are committed to reforming the BLM’s entire wild horse and burro program, and for that reason, we are in the process of hiring a full-time Wild Horse and Burro Program Director whose sole responsibility will be to advocate for protection of wild horses and burros in the U.S. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it yet or not, but we posted the position on our website a week or so ago. Feel free to share this link with anyone you think would be interested and qualified for this position:


  • October 1, 2014 at 3:50 am

    Forwarded with Pat’s permission –

    There is something dreadfully wrong here. In my view, it is up to HSUS and its scientists to educate the BLM/DOI on how ZonaStat-H (porcine zona pellucida or native PZP) should have been used and should be used to slow population growth in federally protected wild horses… but only when there is a scientifically documentable issue of over-population on Herd Management Areas. The NAS Report of 2013 is being ignored by the very agency that is legally obliged to protect, control, and manage federally protected wild horse herds.

    Public relations can be a significantly positive force that brings to light the scientific issues that prop up the case for reversible, safe, and effective fertility control. When will scientists ever learn that data collection and publication in obscure journals… that the public has no access to… are not solving the pragmatic problems to alleviate continued suffering and stockpiling of these animals? Quality research is to be praised but only if it is dispersed in a way that makes it readable for the average individual.

    Admitting that there are problems with native PZP and PZP-22 is not all that bad. The public isn’t this ignorant… Give people a chance. The truth shall set us all free… and then one can move on to solve the problems with these vaccines that have already shown promising results in small wild horse populations. Extrapolation is possible when good minds forge alliances and work on settling the administrative concerns, while convincing the American public that what is currently not perfect can be made so, in time. The imperfections do not exceed the extremely inhumane issues involved with alternative population control, such as ovariectomies and questionable chemical sterilants, along with continuing gathers and holding.

    Attorney and journalist Andrew Cohen (and others like him) should be on your team. He does not rant. He does not write 5,000-word documents that no one will publish and no one will read. This is well beyond a crisis… but with some intelligent, educated thought and planning, all is not lost.

    Wild horse advocates mean so well… but they are failing… and my heart bleeds for them. However, my heart aches far more for the horses that are being tormented. It all comes down to blockages caused by poor communication skills, insipid public relations, and pompous jockeying for position. The finest word machine is sitting in the field gathering rust.

    Patricia M. Fazio, Ph.D.
    607 Eleventh Street #2
    Cody, Wyoming 82414-3064
    (307) 587-3353

  • October 1, 2014 at 4:00 am

    On 12/2/2013 1:03 AM, Tcourt5096 wrote:


    I never said you didn’t achieve many good things. But as the powerhouse you are, it would be a good thing to support the wild horses and burros more to reduce their plight / suffering by acquainting yourself with the complete, horrid reality they face at the hands of BLM. Your membership does not hear enough and broadly on the WILD HORSES AND BURROS.

    You recognize there are many trapped in holding, as you mentioned both times you appeared with Jane. The issue lies much deeper – they suffer, are killed, left behind… they are reduced to prisoners in barren feed lots, without ANY humane aspects… disposed or “managed” with covert tactics such as non-public access to accommodate kill buyers. Broken Arrow… does that ring a bell ?
    No one doubts you do many great things Wayne, but the wild equines don’t get the attention nor protection they deserve from you, the organization who could kick some serious ass and achieve a change for the wild horses just as you did for the issues you sent me below. Didn’t you tell me you have a superb legal team ? While you certainly need to maintain dialogue as you told me in Denver, you also have an obligation to fight this cruelty, and educate what is really going on. Because of diplomatic relations with BLM, that is overlooked.

    The horses deserve better. All animals do, right ? We need to be there for them all, Wayne.

    Your list below is incomplete, as you omit the wild equines, but mostly you deprive the American public (and your membership) from finding out the hideous truth. Since most media moguls (except Jane Velez-Mitchell and George Knapp who have the guts to show that horrible truth) are spineless bias wonders bought out by big $$ on what they air – you owe it to your members to shed light onto the wild horses and burros’ plight. They suffer, I can submit plenty of evidence and video footage. How the HSUS does not publicly pursue and acknowledge this suffering, is beyond many.
    How about getting that on national television as you did for puppy mills ?
    I and many others would greatly welcome it to see another record to your list below… such as :

    “The HSUS stopped cruel round ups for American wild horses and burros” and instead swayed BLM to implement humane fertility control programs (NOT ovariectomies) on the range as the main objective in managing herd sizes, protecting gene poles and ensuring equines’ welfare in their rightful habitat. Furthermore, the HSUS developed a federal welfare guideline for all horses in holding and on range, embracing humane care, basic comfort, routine trimming, shelter from all harsh elements, regular vet inspections and the permitting of adequate, viable numbers in their HMA’s. HSUS also strives to transform current holding facilities into more appealing standards, as to enhance nationwide adoptions and improve transparency to the public.

    As HSUS’ commitment to humane treatment for all animals; we led a national education campaign to inform/apprise our membership on current negligent practices and shortcuts affecting America’s wild horses and burros, resulting in increased general public interest and support for overdue change as to the immediate overhaul of abusive practices, ending cruel helicopter round ups, introduction of independent oversight, an unbiased BLM Board and mandatory humane animal welfare protocol. The long term goal of HSUS is to create eco-sanctuaries, restoring habitat for all wild horses and burros in efficient partnership with BLM, the Secretary of Interior and independent sources/experts as to protect this American icon for all future generations.”

    Let me know when you achieve that to your record’s list.
    If you need help, there are many amongst us who can do so. And I am sure if your members find out, many would GLADLY know their dues went to aid the mustangs on whose back this very nation was built. Let’s not forget the wild horses and burros, let’s be there for them, too.
    Monika Courtney

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Wayne Pacelle
    To: Tcourt5096 Sent: Sat, Nov 30, 2013 6:48 pm
    Subject: RE: Inspiration avalanche for HSUS website – join now
    Here’s a list of just some of the major things we’ve done in 2013. I’d compare this record to any group in any field.


  • October 1, 2014 at 10:24 am

    “The recent National Academy of Science (NAS) report on the Wild Horse and Burro Program determined that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has no evidence of excess wild horses and burros; because the BLM has failed to use scientifically sound methods to estimate the populations (NAS, 2013). The NAS cited two chief criticisms of the Wild Horse and Burro Program: unsubstantiated population estimates in herd management areas (HMA), and management decisions that are not based in science (NAS, 2013).”

    Above quote from research study available to view here:

  • October 1, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Why did HSUS wait until after the WY Checkerboard roundups were over before making a statement?

  • October 1, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Wild Horses are not overpopulated, as the public and the media have been led to believe.

    A biologist’s response to the BLM’s wild horse “problem” (excerpt)
    By Robert C. Bauer


    The rangelands, however, can easily sustain not only the wild horses and burros existing out there now, but also every one of those in holding facilities, which now number well over 40,000.

    The truth is that every one of those wild horses and burros in holding facilities, if released back to the areas from which they were taken, along with those in the wild, would help bring the balance back to the rangelands, a balance that is so very vital!




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