While the Bureau of Land Management has a temporary hold on roundups for foaling season, they’re going to be back at it soon with roundups in California and Wyoming.
As the BLM tells it, with no scientific proof, western rangelands can’t support the current number of horses and burros. They’d like us to believe they’re doing them a favor by running them down with helicopters, destroying herd dynamics and stockpiling the ones that don’t die during the roundup or transport into holding pens where they wait for death or what will most likely be a horrific end at a slaughterhouse.
Despite public outcry, they continued with the last roundup at the Calico Complex in Nevada, which ended in February and brought in 1,922 horses, killed at least 86 of them and caused 40 mares to abort their foals. Foals born in holding facilities aren’t even counted.
The BLM called the Calico roundup a success, but wild horse advocates beg to differ. The Wild Horse Preservation Campaign pointed out that:
• 43 percent of deaths due to diet and metabolic failure, a condition related to the physiological changes induced by stress and trauma.
• 22 percent of deaths due solely to “poor condition,” with a majority involving 20+ year old horses, raising humanitarian concerns about the ethics of stampeding elderly and ailing horses up to ten miles with helicopters before capture, separation from family and confinement.
• 19 percent of the deaths due to traumatic injury either at the capture site or in the holding pens, including broken necks, spinal and pelvis injuries, fatal hoof and leg damage sustained in the helicopter stampede.
In addition to the inherent cruelty of the roundups themselves, advocates were also already suspicious of the BLM’s projected numbers and rationale behind saying half a million acres aren’t enough to support 2,000 horses when BLM memos turned up stating that the horses weren’t actually having that big of an impact on the land.
Documents supporting the Ruby Pipeline project also turned up, which showed that pipeline backers plan on working with the BLM and have consulted the BLM’s horse experts “to minimize wild horses and burros along the pipeline right of way.”
The BLM also doesn’t like to mention that the federal government spends at least $144 million each year managing private livestock grazing on federal public lands, while collecting only $21 million in grazing fees, according to a 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office. That’s a net loss of about $123 million per year. Others estimate the cost to be as much as $500 million or more.
All this for cattle that make up an estimated 3 percent of the nation’s beef supply.
The BLM is on a mission to rid the west of wild horses and burros. They’ve made a mockery of the public comment process and will continue to mismanage our public lands while wasting millions of our dollars doing it.
They’re about to get back to it with roundups planned for the White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas in Wyoming and the Massacre Lakes Herd Management Area in California.
Wild horse advocates are calling for a congressional investigation, public hearings and a moratorium on all roundups until a management plan that’s genetically, ethically and fiscally responsible, and works in conjunction with current laws, can be executed.
Visit the Wild Horse Preservation Campaign for more information.