Fraudulent figures, sterilization and underpopulation

PM Burros Wild 2 © Carl Mrozek

To:  Heather van Blokland at KJZZ

Rio Salado College and Maricopa Community College, Arizona

I am emailing you directly because comments cannot be posted to your article.

First, let me commend you for correctly identifying PZP as a “sterilization drug.” The Bureau of Land Management (BoLM) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) both like to refer to it as “birth control,” but PZP is actually a sterilant.  More on that later.  The reason for my email is to alert you that BoLM has given you false information regarding the wild horses and burros.

While a reporter or any member of the public should be able to secure accurate data from government agencies, BoLM’s data is fraudulent as concerns wild horses and burros.  BoLM is aggressively pursuing a disinformation campaign against the mustangs, concocting a crisis that does not exist, and using scare-tactics to secure increased funding for itself.  Let me now address certain points cited in your article.

Herd-growth rates:  Equids are slow-growth species when it comes to reproduction. The gestation period for horses lasts 11 months, and a mare produces just 1 foal.  The gestation period for burros lasts 12 to 14 months, and a jenny is less fertile than a mare.  While an independent study of BoLM’s records did confirm an almost 20% birth rate for wild-horse herds, and an almost 15% birth rate for wild-burro herds, the study also found that 50% of foals perish before their first birthday.  Thus, the effective increase in population from new foals is just 10% for wild horses and 7% for wild burros.  Adult mustangs also die.  They succumb to illness, injury, and predation at a rate of at least 5% a year. So, what is a normal herd-growth rate?  Around5% for wild horses and about 2% for wild burros, probably less in each case.  Thus, a herd could not double every four years — that’s just BoLM propaganda.

Fraudulent figures:  There is no overpopulation except on BoLM’s falsified spreadsheets.  Reviews of the agency’s population-estimates reveal biologically-impossible herd-growth rates.  For instance, in Arizona, BoLM reported that the Big Sandy herd grew from 250 burros to 754 burros in one year, a 202% increase.  In Nevada, BoLM would have us believe that the Lava Beds herd grew from 40 burros to 350 burros in one year, a 775% increase.  In Wyoming, BoLM declared that the Salt Wells Creek herd grew from 29 horses to 616 horses in 6 months (yes, months), a 2,024% increase.  The agency’s “data” is chock-full of such preposterous growth-estimates.  So, when you hear talk of how the wild horses are reproducing “exponentially,” that’s a sure sign that the numbers have been falsified.

Wild horses and burros are underpopulated:  Per the guidelines of BoLM’s own geneticist, 83% of the wild-horse herds and 90% of the wild-burro herds suffer from arbitrary management levels (AMLs) set below minimum-viable population (MVP).  Low AMLs enable BoLM to claim an “excess” in herds whose numbers, even if they were over AML, would still not reach MVP.  For instance, the AML for Arizona’s Black Mountain herd was set at 382 to 478 wild burros.  The Black Mountain Herd Management Area comprises 925,425 acres, or 1,446 square miles.  Thus, per the AML, BoLM implies that each burro needs 1,936 to 2,423 acres, or about 3 to 4 square miles per burro.  If BoLM projects there to be 2 burros per 3 square miles, the agency declares an “overpopulation” because there is “double the number” that the AML allows.  As you can see, being “over AML” is meaningless as well as misleading.  But the low AMLs, combined with falsified, biologically-impossible herd-growth estimates, give BoLM an excuse to scapegoat those few wild horses and burros for the range-damage done by the millions of livestock that overgraze the public lands.

Adoptions:  Have not declined — let alone “disappeared” — contrary to what BoLM led you to believe.  It’s just that BoLM used to count the thousands of sales-for-slaughter as “adoptions.”  Now that only true adoptions — “forever-family” placements — qualify, it just seems as if the number has declined.  However, wild horses are not homeless horses.  They have a home — where they belong — on the range.

HSUS:  Is the registrant of PZP / ZonaStat-H with the Environmental Protection Agency.  Thus, HSUS’ information is not impartial because the organization has its reputation to protect.  Further, HSUS has submitted a proposal for a multi-year project in which BoLM would pay for HSUS staff to experiment on Arizona’s burros via “opportunistic” darting with PZP.

Pesticide:  PZP is not just a sterilant but also a registered pesticide that was approved by the EPA for use on wild horses and burros “where they have become a nuisance.”   However, PZP was registered without the standard testing requirements.  There is currently a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the registration, especially in light of new studies that have disclosed PZP’s many adverse side-effects.

Sterilizing mustangs:  PZP is a potent weapon in BoLM’s arsenal — for its biological warfare against the wild horses.  But population control for wild horses is unnecessary because there is no overpopulation.  Why would we contracept herds whose population is inadequate for genetic viability?  Why would we contracept herds based on falsified figures?  Logically we wouldn’t and ethically we shouldn’t.  Further, if PZP were going to stop the roundups, it would have done so long ago for the famous Pryor Mountain herd, home to Cloud, the stallion who was the subject of a number of documentaries that aired on PBS.  The Pryor Mountain mares have been darted with PZP for nearly two decades.  Yet roundups have been scheduled there like clockwork every 3 years and, in spite of intensifying the PZP treatments recently, BoLM tried to implement yearly roundups until stopped by a Friends of Animals lawsuit.

PZP — the anti-vaccine:  PZP causes disease — auto-immune disease.  PZP “works” by tricking the immune system into producing antibodies that target and attack the ovaries.  The antibodies cause ovarian dystrophy, oophoritis (inflammation of the ovaries), ovarian cysts, destruction of oocytes in growing follicles, and depletion of resting follicles.  The mare’s estrogen-levels drop markedly as PZP destroys her ovaries.  Ultimately, PZP sterilizes her.  Because PZP stimulates the immune system, it ironically works “best” — sterilizes faster — in mares that have strong immune-function.  Such mares respond to the anti-vaccine and produce quantities of PZP antibodies that destroy their ovaries.  But, conversely, PZP may not work at all in mares whose immune-function is weak or depressed.  Those mares fail to respond to PZP.  They keep getting pregnant and producing foals who, like their dams, suffer from weak immune-function.  So, the PZP pesticide works against the very horses that Nature has best equipped for survival-against-disease while favoring and selecting for the immuno-compromised.  Worse yet, radioimmunoassay tests indicated that PZP antibodies are transferred from mother to female offspring via the placenta and milk.

Health-risks to volunteers:  As for the well-meaning volunteers who dart wild horses, EPA’s Pesticide Fact Sheet for PZP advises that Personal Protective Equipment requirements include long sleeved shirt and long pants, gloves and shoes plus socks to mitigate occupational exposure.  EPA specifically warns that pregnant women must not be involved in handling or injecting ZonaStat-H, and that all women should be aware that accidental self-injection may cause infertility.  Unfortunately, PZP’s manufacturer misrepresented PZP as “so safe it is boring.”   But research shows that PZP is a powerful hormone disruptor.  Further, consider the magnitude of the risk — the PZP-in-question is a horse-sized dose.  If volunteers think PZP is safe, they will be less likely to protect themselves from this dangerous pesticide.

Mengelian experiments:  The Big Lie of “overpopulation” is the pretext for BoLM’s war against the wild horses, and the wild horses are prisoners of that war.  It’s BoLM’s version of the “Shock Doctrine,” wherein the agency concocted a phony crisis to push through policies antithetical to the Wild Horse Act against the will of The People.  Now, BoLM is funding surgical-sterilization studies on the equine POWs to develop a Final Solution to the “problem” — handing out $11 million for these diabolical experiments.  The grant money is surely intended to buy loyalty and silence potential criticism from academia.  Plus, BoLM, a corrupt, rogue agency, gets to cloak itself in respectability by affiliating with prestigious universities.

Should you wish to learn more about how BoLM is mismanaging Arizona’s wild burros, I would be happy to send you a copy of comments recently submitted.  Just let me know.


Marybeth Devlin

Miami, FL

Protect Mustangs is a 501c3 nonprofit organization who protects and preserves native and wild horses.

Do they want to roundup, remove and kill wild horses & burros to make room for energy corridors?

PM Energy Corridors on public land

Study of ‘West-Wide’ Energy Corridors

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) released in May a study that provides a foundation for upcoming regional reviews of energy corridors on western public lands to assess the need for revisions and provide greater public input regarding areas that may be well suited for transmission siting. The regional reviews will begin with priority corridors in southern California, southern Nevada and western Arizona, and provide more opportunities for collaboration with the public and Federal, Tribal, state and local governmental stakeholders.

The study examines whether the energy corridors established under Section 368(a) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 are achieving their purpose to promote environmentally responsible corridor-siting decisions and to reduce the proliferation of dispersed rights-of-way crossing Federal lands. With the aim of encouraging more efficient and effective use of the corridors, the study establishes baseline data and presents opportunities and challenges for further consideration during the periodic regional reviews that BLM and USFS will conduct.

The corridors address a national concern by fostering long-term, systematic planning for energy transport development in the West; providing industry with a coordinated and consistent interagency permitting process; and establishing practicable measures to avoid or minimize environmental harm from future development within the corridors. Section 368(a) directed several federal agencies to designate corridors on federal lands in the 11 contiguous western states to provide linear pathways for siting oil, gas and hydrogen pipelines and high voltage transmission and distribution facilities. The contiguous states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

The BLM, USFS, and DOE, among others, undertook an unprecedented landscape scale effort, including a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, starting in 2006 and completed in 2009–when the onslaught of mega roundups and removals started–that designated nearly 6,000 miles of corridors, issuing two Records of Decisions and associated land use plan amendments

As required by a 2012 Settlement Agreement that resolved litigation about the corridors identified, the BLM, USFS and DOE established an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explain how the agencies will review the Section 368 (a) corridors on a regional basis. The MOU, signed in June 2013, describes the interagency process for conducting the reviews, the types of information and data to be considered, and the process for incorporating resulting recommendations in BLM and USFS land use plans.

The full-text of the corridor study is available online at:

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of AmericaÂ’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Does the meat Industry want to SLAUGHTER wild horses?

Read what the Pro-Slaughter advocates say about wild horses below. They are publishing this in pork industry publications!

Meat of the Matter: Wild and worrisome

Time for a brief quiz.

Question 1): How many wild horses and burros are currently roaming across the Western rangelands?

Question 2: How many wild horse and burros are adopted by private citizens each year?

Question 3): Absent “control measures,” how long does it take for the population of wild horses and burros to double in numbers?

Answers: 1). 67,000. 2). 2,500. 3). Four years.

In other words, each year there are thousands more of these feral animals being added to what is already an overpopulation across the semi-arid rangelands of Nevada, California, Utah and several other Western states.

In fact, the Bureau of Land Management announced last week that as of this March, there an estimated 67,000 wild horses and burros in the West public rangelands, which is a 15% increase over the estimated 2015 population.

The updated data are more than twice the number of horses on the range than is recommended under BLM land-use plans. It is also two and a half times the number of horses and burros that were estimated to be in existence when the Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed 45 years ago in 1971.

“Over the past seven years we have doubled the amount of funding used for managing our nation’s wild horses and burros,” Neil Kornze, BLM Director, said in a statement. “Despite this, major shifts in the adoption market and the absence of a long-term fertility control drug have driven population levels higher.”

The major shift to which Kornze referred is a dramatic decrease in adoptions of wild horses, due to economics and other factors — ie, the fact that the wild mustangs, in particular, don’t adapt well to life in a stable.

Here’s the problem: The lifetime cost of caring for an unadopted horse removed from the range approaches $50,000 per animal. With 46,000 horses and burros already residing in off-range corrals and pastures, this means that without some way to place these animals with willing owners, BLM will spend more than a billion dollars to care for and feed them over the rest of their lives.

And there are plenty more where the current ones came from.

As The New York Times phrased the situation in a lengthy article two years ago, “There are now twice as many wild horses in the West as federal land managers say the land can sustain. The program that manages them has broken down, and unchecked populations pose a threat to delicate public land, as well as the ranches that rely on it.”

And the situation has only worsened since then.

A question of numbers

Keep in mind that the population of wild horses and burros affects not just agency budgets and wildlife populations, but impacts a significant economic and cultural resource: the grasslands of the West. When deer populations exceed their rural habitats east of the Mississippi, there is property damage and traffic accidents for suburban and rural residents to contend with, but there is far less impact on agriculture.

Not so out West. There simply isn’t carrying capacity for ever-expanding herds of horse and burros, while at the same time maintaining the grazing rights of ranchers and conserving the limited supply of grassland and water resources.

BLM officials are trying to address the challenge on a number of fronts, including:

  • Sponsoring research on fertility control, which to date is neither effective nor inexpensive
  • Transitioning horses from off-range corrals to lower cost pastures, which at best may offer modest mitigation of the cost burden
  • Working to increase adoptions with new programs and partnerships, which won’t even get the populations stabilized at the levels of 10 or 15 years ago, when horse adoptions were far more popular

None of those measures — even in combination — will be enough, however, and so the agency announced in a statement that it would request two new pieces of legislation: One to permit the transfer of horses to other agencies that have a need for work animals; and another that would create a congressionally chartered foundation to help fund and support adoption efforts.

Unfortunately, all the money in the world can’t turn adoption in to a sustainable solution. Wild mustangs and feral burros make lousy pets and equally undesirable work animals. It’s one thing to “domesticate” bison, another “wild” species dependent on rangelands. The time, trouble and expense of keeping them corralled represents an investment recouped by selling the meat and hides, whereas the only reason to keep horses around these days is to ride them, either for pleasure, for racing or for equestrian competition.

Most wild horses are highly unsuited to all of the above.

As is true with any invasive species, the spectrum of control measures starts out with the least intrusive, most humane interventions. But unless such a limited strategy actually works, efforts must be ramped up — all the way to forcible population control.

I’ve yet to hear from any activist with a better solution.

Or one with an extra billion they’d like to donate to the cause.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator. Cross-posted for education and discussion from PorkNetwork

Protect Mustangs is an organization who protects and preserves native and wild horses.

Is your representative in Congress pushing for America’s wild horses to lose their federal protections?

Stop elected officials who want to ruin the 1971 Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act!
READ the shocking letter written last year by elected officials who seem to be supported by special interests groups:
Notice the following points in their letter:
These elected officials call the wild mustangs just “horses” most of the time not “wild horses”. Obviously, this is a constructed subliminal move to wipe out the WILD ones that are to be protected since 1971. [Note: Be sure to always refer to mustangs as wild horses]
Members of Congress, elected by the public but who seem to serve special interests, seem to make false claims of: “overstocking” in HMAs, failure to “dispose” of horses and burros, significant ecological “damage” to riparian areas, “overgrazing” and “compromised water” resources, etc.
We know the public has been telling these elected officials the truth for years so why aren’t they listening? Are they getting paid off?
They also claim “adoptions have “fallen almost 70 percent” in the last 10 years. Is this true?
Is this why the BLM makes it so hard to adopt wild horses due to the worst customer service in America? Do they want the adoption program to fail so they can kill them all?
The BLM always wanted to “dispose” of our cherished wild horses & burros. Sterilization is the next best thing in their eyes. They NEVER wanted to use PZP. They label return-native wild horses as “INVASIVE SPECIES” aka PESTS as you see in their letter. Just like the PZP Pesticide applicant classified them in their 2012 PZP application.
The signers of the letter seem to falsely claim: “Improper management compromises equine health, habitat conservation efforts and allows for resource degradation and encroachment by invasive species that will affect wildlife, livestock producers and recreationalists for decades to come.”
What about the cattle and sheep at more than 100 head of livestock to 1 wild horse that is grazing on public land? Do they think the American public is so stupid to buy into the myth that range degradation is the fault of wild horses?
Contact your elected officials across America to let them know you want your voice in Congress to stand up for what’s right, stand up for the 1971 law, keep America’s wild horses federally protected and never give them to the states!
The letter to Neil Kornze, the Director of BLM, was signed by the following elected officials from the Republican Party:
Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
Steve Daines (R-Mont.)
Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)
Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
Mike Lee (R-Utah)
John McCain (R- Ariz.)
James Risch (R-Idaho)
Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)
Mark Amodei (R-Nev.)
Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)
Raul Labrador (R-Idaho)
Steve Pearce (R-N.M.)
Adrian Smith (R-Neb.)
Chris Stewart (R-Utah)
Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.)
Now in April 2016 Rep Chris Stewart’s plan has gained momentum as you see in the video below
Links of interest:
Letter to BLM’s Neil Kornze asking for the states to grab control of America’s federally protected wild horses & burros:
PZP Application calls wild horses and burros “PESTS” to get the pesticide approved:
READ the Associated Press article from 2014: Rep. Chris Stewart’s bill seeks to allow states to manage wild horses

Protect Mustangs is an organization who protects and preserves native and wild horses.

McCain & Flake postpone roundup of wild horses in Arizona

PM Salt RIver Horses McCain letter 8-5-15-horses

PM Salt RIver Horses McCain letter page 2 8-5-15-horses

Washington, D.C. (August 5, 2015) ­– U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) today sent the following letter to the U.S. Forest Service and the Arizona Department of Agriculture requesting that they postpone the roundup of horses from the Mesa Ranger District on the Tonto National Forest until there has been sufficient public engagement in the process, and that they respond to questions.

“A growing number of our constituents have expressed deep reservations about the Forest Service’s intent to gather these horses and transfer them to the Arizona Department of Agriculture,” write Senators McCain and Flake. “We request that you postpone action until there has been sufficient public engagement in the process and that you respond to our questions below.”

The full letter is here.

August 5, 2015

Mr. Neil Bosworth

Forest Supervisor

Tonto National Forest

2324 E. McDowell Rd.

Phoenix, AZ 85006

The Honorable Mark Killian


Arizona Department of Agriculture

1688 W. Adams St.

Phoenix, AZ 85007

Dear Supervisor Bosworth and Director Killian:

We are writing to inquire about your plans for removing up to 100 horses from the Mesa Ranger District on the Tonto National Forest. A growing number of our constituents have expressed deep reservations about the Forest Service’s intent to gather these horses and transfer them to the Arizona Department of Agriculture. We request that you postpone action until there has been sufficient public engagement in the process and that you respond to our questions below.

Whether they are treated as feral under state law or “wild” under federal law, horses are celebrated as icons of the West. However, we understand that the Forest Service is increasingly concerned that unclaimed horses on the Mesa Ranger District present a public safety risk. The concern appears to be that as the population continues to rise, so does the likelihood for vehicle accidents involving a collision with a horse on State Highway 87, or that campers and other recreationists enjoying the Salt River could be kicked or injured.

Again, please provide us with answers to the following questions:

How many horses have been identified for impoundment and how many will remain on the District?
What will happen to the horses once they are transferred to the state?
How would you ensure that a roundup will be humane for the horses?
Where did these horses likely originate and how long have they been on the District?
Has the Forest Service explored entering into a management arrangement with horse advocates? If so, what elements of an agreement would the Tonto National Forest require and generally support? Would this agreement apply only to the horses on the District?
Does the Tonto National Forest have the authority to enter into a management agreement for these horses beyond the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971?
A timely response to this request is greatly appreciated.


John McCain

Jeff Flake

# # #

Protect Mustangs wants to especially thank Senator McCain and Senator Flake as well as Victoria McCullough for coming to the rescue of the Salt River Wild Horses.

Please visit the Salt River Wild Horses on Facebook to sign up for updates here:

URGENT: Prevent Salt River Wild Horses from Being Eliminated

PM Salt River Wild Horses

Salt River Wild Horses group appeals to the global community for help

The Forest Service has issued a Public Notice ( stating the Salt River Wild Horses will be permanently removed beginning August 7, 2015.

These horses were virtually unknown until 2012 when photographer, Becky Standridge, documented a wild stallion named Champ ( rescuing a filly from drowning. Since then, this act of compassionate heroism has been viewed over 1.5 million times on YouTube and the Salt River Wild Horses have become one the most famous group of wild horses on the planet – with fans residing at least 45 different countries.

The Forest Service classifies the horses as feral and unauthorized (which legally permits them to be removed) because they were not included in the Census that followed the passing of the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The Mesa Ranger District had three years to complete the Census. This period began with management that had decided to create a wild horse territory and ended with new management that redacted the decision and stripped the horses of their legal rights. Never the less, photographic evidence places the horses on the Tonto National Forest in the 1950s and printed documentation archives their presence back to the 1800s.

It has been said, “the horses have been there forever.” Forever may mean they are the descendants of the noble steeds that once belonged to the Spanish Jesuit Priest Father Eusebio Kino or of the U.S. Cavalry mounts that General George Crook and Fort McDowell soldiers used during their campaign to capture Geronimo. Either way, generation after generation after generation has been born, lived and died wild – they have a right to remain this way.

Recently, a rumor has been circulating that some of the Salt River Wild Horses have not been able to access water. This rumor is being used as one of the justifications for removing the horses, however, the premise is not true so the conclusion is invalid. These horses know where to find water; at the furthest extent of their home range they are only a few miles away from water, they have many routes to reach any location and they can travel distances in a short period of time. These horses have existed for a very long time without the intervention of man.

Rumor has it that concern over the horses becoming injured or dying is justification for their removal. This is absurd. Domestic horses are also at risk or being injured or dying. So are we. It is a fact, that in living we are all at risk but we don’t lock ourselves away or give up. It is wrong to eliminate the wild horses under the false pretense of helping them.

The Forest Service’s Public Notice states the horses may be “condemned and destroyed, or otherwise disposed of.” The removal effort alone will place the horses under undue risk of injury that may result in death. All the horses will suffer tremendous fear and all will loose their freedom. Despite the fact that horses do not have the facial muscles to express themselves as we do, they still experience emotions, suffer pain and cling to life just dearly as we do.

We need all interested individuals, regardless where you live in the world, to call, email and/or mail the three individuals listed below. Also please contact as many Congressmen (, Senators (, Forest Service personnel (, Arizona Department of Agriculture personnel (, Arizona Game and Fish personnel (, BLM personnel ( and the Media regarding your desire to preserve the Salt River Wild Horses. If you can think of anyone else that should be contacted then please do.

Neil Bosworth – Supervisor for the Tonto National Forest
2324 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix, AZ 85006

Clay Templin – Forest Fire Chief/Fire Staff Officer
2324 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix, AZ 85006

Gary Hanna- District Ranger
5140 E. Ingram Street, Mesa, AZ 85205

We need to contact everyone possible as quickly as possible. We need to contact so many people that even the people we contact in other agencies and states will begin calling the three individuals above to encourage them to resolve the issue.

We do not have all the contact information readily available for everyone so if anyone obtains helpful references then please add them to this post for others to reference.

Please refrain from sharing emotional comments on this post so that the contact comments will not become lost in the comments.

Now is the time to act on behalf of the Salt River Wild Horses. Time is of the essence. Champ’s life is at stake and so are the lives of all the Salt River Wild Horses. We can do this if you help.

Please be polite when expressing your comments and contacting people. Please express yourself using your own thoughts and words. Feel free to reference information in this post but please be sure to use your own words.

Please share this post with as many people as you can and know how very much we, and the Salt River Wild Horses, appreciate your support.

Ecological Report on Salt River (AZ) Wild Horse Herd & Associated Ecosystem

Arizona’s Salt River Wild Horses (Photo © Craig Downer)

By Craig C. Downer, Wildlife Ecologist, President: Andean Tapir Fund

Date: December 19, 2012

For three days, between Tuesday, September 25 and Thursday, September
27, 2012, I joined horse activist Simone Netherlands and musician
Joseph Bobian in observing the Salt River ecosystem just to the NE of
Mesa, Arizona. The section we covered in kayaks was upstream from
Granite Reef Dam and below the Stewart Mountain Dam. Much of the
northern side of the river here belongs to the Salt River (Pima) Indian
Reservation (the Pima are likely descendants of the fascinating Hohokum
people who dwelt in this region for nearly 2,000 years and had
extensive canal irrigation systems). The rest of the land is under the
jurisdiction of the Tonto National Forest. Camping and picnicking is
allowed in three sites along the river on its south side. The Phon-D.
Sutton Recreation and wildlife viewing area is found on the lower side.
The area is accessed along the Bush Highway, FR 204, at the ranger
station, where we put our kayaks into the river. This section of the
river occurs right above its junction with the Verde River that flows
in from the north. The Salt River drainage has been subject to
intensive development for both agricultural and municipal purposes, and
it is responsible for much of Phoenix’s great expansion since 1911 to
become the sixth largest city in the United States. However, the
exploitation of this basin’s water, power, soils, natural plants and
animals, etc., has come at a price. Some of the consequences are
readily detected, such as the erratic flows caused by the dam, the
sections of the river with eutrophied and/or polluted waters, and the
large quantities of garbage present in and around the river and its
riparian habitat. However, in order to assess the full consequences of
this enormous alteration of the Salt River, a comprehensive comparison
of what this river used to be and what it has now become would be
necessary. Clearly, only a vestige of its former exuberance and
extension remains. But this is an crucial vestige, and several
institutions are working to restore the full vitality of this river,
including private and government entities. These projects are
certainly worthy of our input and collaboration.

This area is a riverine habitat set within the great Sonoran Desert
ecosystem, and it is crucial for maintaining the native plant and
animal diversity of the region. Since water is the key limiting factor
of desert life, the importance of a river to its adjacent life
communities is critical one. Ecologists and naturalists have
recognized the Salt River for its great variety of birds, and the
Audubon Society has been quite active in conservation projects,
including the annual Christmas Bird Counts. Also fish are very diverse
and abundant here. This ecosystem has many features of a marshland,
which accounts for its high annual productivity in terms of biomass, in
areas that are not overly polluted or otherwise degraded.

As a wildlife ecologist, my primary purpose for visiting the Salt River
ecosystem was to observe its wild horse inhabitants and to assess their
health and populatioin as well as their impacts/contributions to the
whole life community, including humans.

Field Observations:
During the mid to late afternoon and early evening of 9/25/12, I
kayaked from the ranger station a few miles west along the Salt River
near to where it joined with the Verde River. Immediately upon
disembarking and just below a minor rapids, I encountered a band of
eight wild horses with one foal. All had glossy coats and were in good
condition, judging by the Heineke scale as 4’s or 5’s. They were
eating a variety of riverbank vegetation, including tall cane grass,
cattail, acacia, small aster bushes, and even tamarisk. They
were also eating the fresh water Eelgrass that grew on the river
bottom. Though they maintained a safe distance of ca. 50’ from the
kayak, they did not appear to be frightened, but carried on with their
meals. They were mainly a rich reddish brown and some had significant
white facial markings. A few hundred yards further down the river,
another band of six was encountered, including a pregnant gray mare.
They were also in fine condition and peacefully grazing. Another few
hundred yards further down, a strong, young, white stallion stood off
from a band of several horses whose leader stallion was a mature, fit
pinkish-purplish roan, whom Simone named “Pink Floyd”. Among his band
were sorrel mares with blazes. It later became apparent that the white
stallion was trying to woo at least one mare from the band and that the
roan stallion was keenly aware of his intentions.

In general during my three days, I observed that each band usually
maintained a space of at least a few hundred yards from other bands,
except for rare times such as in the late afternoon when I did observe
a few bands coming together. Each band usually kept moving so that no
particular portion of the river habitat became over-browsed or grazed.

I soon began to notice how these wild river horses were eating the
fresh water Eelgrass much of the time. This I consider a positive
ecological contribution that prevents the clogging of the river,
especially during periods when the Stewart Mountain Dam releases less
water. I had been told by locals that there were times when very
little water was released and the river slowed to a trickle. The river
bank revealed high flows and even flood stages in the recent past, and
the present flow was quite full. If the flow is often cut drastically,
then many species would appear to have a tortured life history, past,
present, and future.

During the late afternoon float, we observed large willow trees, some
of which were being moderately browsed by the horses. “Continental
species of conservation concern” observed here include the Abert’s
Towhee and the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (also endangered). Marsh
Wrens, Great Blue Herons fishing in the shallows, and groups of Turkey
Vultures circling high overhead, Snowy Egrets and Belted Kingfishers
were also frequently observed. Large-mouth Bass propelled themselves
bodily out of the water in the early evening, making loud thumps and
splashing sounds that carried a long ways. Sunfish were also present.
Around 100 or so recreationalists were also present, many in kayaks or
boats of various sorts. Many were fishing. There were many pink or
reddish clusters of small gelatinous eggs plastered on herbaceous stems
at the edge of the river, which were probably those of a frog. I
noticed several small Lowland Leopard Frogs, which the herons seemed to
be hunting with their stabbing beaks along with fish. Nesting Bald
Eagles were reported to me by locals as well as Joe Bobian. Several
species of Dragon Flies were observed, including a large 3”-winged,
orange one. Mosquitoes came out at sundown. Small biting Black Flies
were also present. Sign of Muskrats were detected on the river banks.
Beaver were also gnawing on some trees on the north bank and there was
sign of a former beaver, submerged when the river was at a higher level.

The north side of the river had considerable cattle, and ca. 100 were
observed during my three days on the river, compared with about a half
as many wild horses, i.e. ca. 50. Many of the cattle were on the
reservation and causing much habitat destruction. The south side of
the river, however, did not display such habitat destruction except
where people and their activities, including ORVs and garbage were
negatively impacting. This indicated that the wild horses, present on
both sides of the river, were not causing such destruction. It would
be both dishonest and unfair to blame them for habitat destruction
being caused by cattle or by people. For truly they are restorers and
healers here.

I directly observed many positive contributions that these horses were
making to the riparian ecosystem. A variety of seedlings sprouted from
the horses droppings and included those of the thorny Acacia tree
common here and whose leaves and twigs I observed the horses eating.
Their pruning of this tree or eating of its seedlings maintains open
areas and habitat diversity by preventing this tree’s overcrowding of
the ecosystem.

Of all the species I observed the horses eating, the river or fresh
water Eelgrass seemed to log the most time in the horses schedule.
Perhaps this was because they had to work hard at pruning these tough
leathery ribbons with their upper and lower incisors and at the same
time tug them out of the water. Sometimes I observed them flinging
this vegetation, perhaps to clean it of clinging mud particles. There
were other types of river vegetation, one of which was Potamogeton,
which was also eaten.

While investigating a sandy island, I observed a horse wallow area in
the river-washed sand. There were also trails that wove from the
rivers through the thickets and out into the upland Sonoran desert
hills, with their colorful and statuesque cacti. Some tree trunks were
used as rubbing posts, and some shady groves were occupied for shade
and for concealment. Puma occur here, as well as coyotes and bobcats.
Puma can take young horses or weakened, diseased or declining, older
horses, especially in ambush. Shortly prior to my arrival, one
unfortunate, dark-colored stallion had become entangled in barbed wire,
which cut deep into the flesh above his hoof. Though we persistently
searched for him during the three days in an effort to help him, he was
no longer to be seen. It is possible that a puma had followed the
bloody trail left by his wound, then overtook and killed him through
strangulation, which would have been merciful in the end. Abandoned
barbed wire fences are particularly a problem on the north side of the
river where the cattle occur and should be removed here as well as on
the south side of the river, where there are also many fences. These
are real hazards for many animals, including both species of deer found
here: the Mule Deer and the Whitetail Deer.

On a sandy island in the middle of the river, I gathered evidence that
horse feces were clearly helping to build the soils by contributing to
their humus component and by dispersing many intact seeds of a great
variety of plant species, including the Acacia, along with some Mints,
and members of the Sunflower Family, Asteraceae. I also observed many
Squash seeds that had been deposited in tact in the horse feces. This
ecological contribution by the horses is quite major and serves to
increase the diversity of plant and animal species in many ways (See
Downer, Ch. 2). I have done detailed studies of this sort and could so
again given adequate support. From what I saw of the river and its
riparian habitat, the wild horses are not over-populating, but are at a
numerical level that is in balance with the other species and well
spaced. Their removal or major reduction would have a
dis-equilibrating effect upon the Salt River ecosystem.

Wild horses have been here for centuries, dating back to Spanish
missionary times, three to four hundred years ago. They were also
present during the passage of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and
Burros Act of 1971 (P.L. 92-195) and are legally entitled to protection
within the Tonto National Forest. Please note that the U.S. Forest
Service, under USDA, (along with the BLM, under USDI) is also charged
with preserving, protecting, and managing the wild horses as
“principal” resource recipients within their legal territories (USFS).
(See section 2 c of this act, & Downer, pp. xi-xiii.)

Rather than removing or greatly reducing the modest population of wild
horses here, Tonto National Forest officials should focus on clearing
up all the garbage that has accumulated for many years in and around
the Salt River, and prevent its further accumulation. Officials should
also restrict recreational vehicles, such as ATV’s and motorcycles, as
well as certain river craft, that are having damaging effects on the
stream banks and other riparian areas, or upon the river itself.

The majority of the horses I viewed were in good shape with Heineke
scores of between 4 & 5, with a few 3’s and a few 6’s. Present were a
reasonable number of foals and yearlings. The latter were not at all
excessive as would indicate a population boom. The wild horses were
establishing a harmonious balance within the Salt River ecosystem and
contributing positively to this.

An important aspect of a Salt River wild horse band’s year-round life
is its occupation of the upland Sonoran desert habitat. The band
trails I followed led into the surrounding upland ravines and
mountains, some with spectacular red sandstone formations. This
indicates that the wild horses are being true to their ancient,
semi-nomadic nature. They are distributing their grazing and browsing
pressure over very large areas involving hundreds of square miles, thus
minimizing their impacts on any given part of their home range and
allowing this to regenerate. Such a wholesome lifestyle, attuned to
seasonal variation, stands in marked contrast to the domestic cattle I
observed, either directly or indirectly, concentrating their grazing
and browsing pressure along the northern side of the river, and
trampling and over-consuming vegetation. This is causing increased
erosion of soils as well as putrid, stagnant conditions along certain
river plains where the excess urine and feces of cattle become a
breeding ground for dangerous bacteria and disease-conveying
mosquitoes, which brings me to my next topic.

Examining the water of Salt River, I realized it carried a high
nutrient, including Nitrogen, load. Although it did not show signs of
extreme eutrophication, if the volume of water released from the
Stewart Mountain Dam to the east were to be decreased, such
eutrophication could set in to the detriment especially of animal life.
This would result in a harmful concentration of anaerobic bacteria and
the depletion of oxygen from the water with attendant die-off of fish,
amphibians, many invertebrates and dependent reptiles, birds, and
mammals of a great variety. Also of concern is the introduction of
pesticides, herbicides, chemical leaching from nearby mines, air
pollution, sewage from homes and businesses, and the general littering
of plastics, tin cans, picnic garbage, etc., from visitors. I could
tell the situation was serious when I visited certain river edges with
little current on the slow side of bends. These were becoming
eutrophied and had gobs of algae floating in them as well as masses of
floating plastic refuse, some of which is ingested by animals or
tangles them up and even strangles them. The wild horses’ daily visits
to the river significantly aid in more thoroughly circulating its
waters. Also, by wading or swimming through and eating the river
vegetation and then moving inland to deposit their feces in drier
uplands, the horses assist in preventing eutrophication and keep the
ecosystem more open for deer and other animals to circulate. They aid
in the aeration of the waters. The wild horses maintain and even
enhance the ecological health of the river and its riparian habitat, as
well as that of the adjacent Sonoran desert, with all its amazing
variety of cacti, mesquite, succulents, herbs, grasses, forbs, bushes,
and trees that have adapted to the hot and arid conditions here.
Acting on the river bottoms, their hoof action serves to aerate
stagnant areas and prevent toxic anaerobic conditions from developing.
(See Downer, Chapter II.)

The life of the Salt River wild-horse-containing ecosystem begins to
really stir during the crepuscular hours of late afternoon and early
evening. At this time dramatic chases occurred between stallions
competing for mares, and bass spectacularly leaptout of the river
followed by the loud slapping of the river surface as they re-enter the
water. I also heard the hoarse chorus of the gangly Great Blue Herons,
the cheerful, cozy chatter of day-active songbirds seeking their
protective roosts in bushes, and the energetic takeoff of ducks and
geese, quail and doves, seeking their nocturnal abodes as well.

An Overview:
For all the assaults the Salt River ecosystem has suffered,
particularly during the last century, the portion I visited still
appears to be more healthy than sick, more animated than dead. In
spite of bearing the burden of having made possible the sixth largest
city in America with several million human inhabitants, it is still
more alive than moribund. And when allowed to resume their natural
life in accord with their age-old instincts and traditions, those
returned North American native species: the horses truly serve to
resuscitate the Salt River ecosystem. They were here for many millions
of years, in this land of their evolutionary origin and long-standing
evolution (see Chapter I of my book). They are refilling a vacant
ecological niche only quite briefly dis-occupied. They have deeper
roots than just about any group of mammals one can name, much deeper
than even the autochthonous pronghorn, and it is absurd to call them
“misfits”. And who is modern “civilized” man, anyway to be calling
them misfits?! Modern civilized man who is the most unnatural and so
misfit creature on the living Earth, because of his own over-population
and artificially making over of the Earth’s life community. He prides
himself in doing an “extreme makeover” of it all. But I ask: by what
guiding principles other than materialistic self-serving?! Isn’t it
high time that we humans learn to be more truly “civilized” with our
fellow species – in this special case the horse, who has done so much
for us. Isn’t it high time we do something truly good and decent for
him?! We can start by just letting horses be themselves in free and
natural habitats where they belong and to which they contribute so
positively. One such opportunity is Salt River.

Finally I quote from the current November, 2012, issue of National
Geographic Magazine in its “Next” section on “Horse Power”:
“Diminutive Konik horses stand about four feet tall, but they can have
a big impact on biodiversity. By eating the woody vegetation that
overcomes open marshes, these likely descendants of the horses in
prehistoric cave paintings are helping revive the natural landscapes
that existed when large herbivores roamed freely.”

“Before Neolithic farmers began to till marshes in what is now Europe,
grazers kept forests from creeping in, which allowed varied habitats
for birds, insects, and plants to flourish. Today, conservationists
are trying to revive that diversity. In many places that means cutting
brush back with chain saws. But Koniks are cheaper and better at it.
The horses are now at work in nearly a dozen countries – including some
20 sites in the U.K. alone.” (Williams.)

This tribute to the value of the horse in restoring and maintaining
ecological diversity by preventing takeover of brush, etc., is directly
applicable to the Salt River ecosystem. Salt River’s wild horses are
positive assets. They should not be removed but rather allowed to fill
their ancient niche within their ancestral lands in North America.
They are post-gastric digesters who complement ruminant digesters, help
build the soils, disperse the seeds of intact seeds capable of
germination, prevent catastrophic fires, and maintain productive and
bio-diverse riparian habitats, among other habitat types. We
“two-leggeds” (old Indian term for humans) must learn to appreciate a
wild-horse-containing ecosystem. It is a restored and enhanced one –
and what’s more it is especially beautiful!

List of Species for Salt River riparian and aquatic and adjoining
desert above Mesa AZ:
White mussels and white clams, food of Muskrat, evidence for which also
Dragon flies, several species including metallic orange and electric
Mosquitoes, especially in more stagnant waters.
Black Flies, biting and in large swarms, more noticeable as day warmed.
Dung beetles, reducing horse droppings and enhancing food chain, e.g.
bird, lizard food.
Water skippers, abundant in river.
Funnel Spider, in drier riparian on forest floor, north side river.

Carp (may lay red eggs on twigs according to Joe Bobian)
Large-mouth Bass
Lowland Leopard Frog, several in stiller waters, some floating belly up
in stagnant water.
Arizona Black Rattlesnake.
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.
Black-tailed Rattlesnake.
Lyre Snake.
Night Snake.
Southwestern Black-headed Snake
Sonoran Mud Turtle, swimming in middle of river, large head emerged
from water.
Whiptail lizard, in dry upland desert.
Collared lizard, in dry upland desert. (Both lizards fell into an open
tank and perished.)
Many lizard and snake tracks, especially drier desert, but also
riparian and shore (drink).
Sonoran Spotted Whiptail,
Gila Spotted Whiptail.
Tiny, slender white “ghost” lizard scampering midday to shade of bush,
upper desert.
Belted Kingfisher: several seen flying rapidly, diving for fish,
issuing strident cry.
American Coot, floating at sides of river lower down near dam.
Osprey, solitary, near lower dam, flying high.
Ducks: Mallard, Northern Pintail, Green-Winged Teal.
Canada Goose.
Black Phoebe, several seen perched along river edge in trees, willows.
White Winged Dove.
Mourning Dove, seen frequently, cooing, rapid flight.
Several sparrow species.
Great Blue Heron, frequently observed. Was fishing in shallows, flying
overhead, crying out with hoarse cry.
Spotted Sandpiper, in rocky shores, picking among rocks for tiny
insects, etc.
Killdeer, on stony shores, rapid walk.
Gambel’s Quail. Frequent in inland riparian among bushes in large
White-Faced Ibis, on stony shore.
Red-Tailed Hawk, observed overhead.
Cooper’s Hawk, observed in thicket.
Purple Gallinule, crossing over shallow water overgrown with vegetation.
Common Mud Hen.
Black-Throated Gray Warblers.
Common Grackle, Frequent, white eye, gregarious, often around garbage,
picnic areas.
Turkey Vulture, common, circling overhead.
Red-Winged Blackbirds, several seen among cattails and in mesquite and
Abert’s Towhee, seen.
Cowbird, nest parasite. Observed in riparian thickets.
Common Merganser.
Gilded (Northern) Flicker.
Great Egret.
Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.
Whitetail Deer.
Mule Deer.
Spotted Skunk.
Raccoon, tracks seen.
Gray Fox.
Kit Fox, tracks.
Puma, or Mountain Lion, track seen.
Coyote, heard, track seen.
Badger, den seen.
Long-tailed Weasel, bank slide seen.
Many bat species are found in this Salt River habitat and feed on the
many flying insects here, helping in controlling their numbers and in
the process adding nutrients to the river and soils. I saw quite a
variety emerging during the late afternoon and early evening. Here are
some of the species (leaving out the word “bat”): Big Freetail, Pallid,
Mexican Big-eared, Pocketed, Freetail, Western Big-eared,
Silver-haired, Smooth-footed Myotis, Yuma Myotis, Long-legged Myotis,
California Myotis, Long-Eared Myotis, Fringed Myotis, Arizona Myotis,
Cave Myotis, Little Brown Myotis.
Cattle, many on north side of river.
Many rodent tracks, diverse species, both desert and riparian.

Gooding’s Willow, may be large tree size to 20’ high and broad.
Crabgrass, on shore.
Vetch on sandy island, horse food.
Prickly Pear Cactus, upland desert.
Saguaro Cactus, upland desert.
Barrel Cactus, upland desert.
Ocotillo Cactus, upland desert.
Blue Palo Verde tree.
Datura, or trumpet flower bush/tree.
Many Aster shrubs and forbs.
Several algae growing on stones, sometimes clustering into balls and
floating in river, especially still waters receiving nutrient-rich
waters, sewage, along edges of river.
Fremont Cottonwood trees. Interspersed amid Acacias, etc. Good nesting
habitat for birds and other animals.
Walnut trees, good food source for many birds, mammals.
Velvet Mesquite.
Arizona Ash trees.
Potamogeton aquatic vegetation.
Euphorbs, succulent plants at edge of river.
Various species of grass
Food of wild horse: Eelgrass, Willow, Cane Grass, Tamarisk (a.k.a..
Salt Cedar, an undesirable exotic species, wild horses could help
control or eliminate this.), Cattail,
Wild Squash.

Some Wild Horse Observations and GPS (Geographical Positioning System)
reading with corresponding observations of horses and other important

9/25/12: Band of 8 w/ 1 foal. Mid morning, upper river, eating.
Band of 6 w/ pregnant gray mare, mid morning, upper
Band of 6 w/ pink roan stallion & white stallion pursuing mares, mid
afternoon. mid river. Grazing. Later photographed
chase of white stallion by pink roan.

9/26/12: 3 bands of wild horses seen, one w/ 4 wh’s, 1 w/ 8 wh’s (same
as seen on 9/25), 1 w/ 3 wh’s. GPS: 33 d 32.720’ N; 111 d 40.264’W.
4,791’ elev. Time 12:32 pm. Horses feeding, grooming, bathing,
splashing. Many small flies about, some large horse flies also. Horses
swish tails, throw water, twitch skin to repel flies.
Another GPS taken where band of 6 observed to move to another area: 33
d 31.279’ N; 111 d 39.179’ W. 1,349’ elev. 2:53 PM.

9/27/12: Same band of 6 observed in earlier days, observed followed.
GPS: 10:32 AM. 33 d 32.366’N; 111 d 40.273’W. 1,327’ elev. On rocky
island. Tiny white “ghost” lizard seen, ca. 3” long. Slender, rapidly
ran to cover under tiny bush.
11:29 AM. Band of 7 wh’s spotted, including 2 adult roans and 1
yearling roan with red mane. Area of wh congregation. GPS: 33 d 32.545’
N; 111 d 40.305’W. 1,331’ elev.
11:40 AM: At 3-strand barbed wire fence, covered up to avoid wild horse
entanglement, repeat of Tango tragedy. GPS: 33 d 32.507’N; 111 d
40.325’ W. 1,363’ elev. Fence runs parallel to road. Pole #6. Hazardous
barbed wire here. Ocotillo, barrel, & saguaro cacti here. Whiptail
lizard trapped in open barrel, dead.
GPS at mailbox on road # 7322: 12:28 PM. 1,359’ elev. 33 d 32.503’ N;
111 d 40.361’ W.

4:30 PM: Met Retired man fishing from small inflatable boat in river:
Vaughn Dolle. He enjoys wild horses here and has observed them since
1967 (may substantiate the legal protection of Salt River herd under
the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 along with many
others, including Amerindians). He would miss them if removed and
feels they are harmonious here. Film interviewed by Simone. Lives

Important Information for literature search:
The Lower Salt and Gila River Ecosystem is one of Arizona’s IBA’s, or
Important Bird Areas. This is high in productivity of biomass due to
its constant supply of nutrient-rich waters. Fish here are among the
most abundant in the state, and hence so are the fish-eating birds,
mammals, etc. And there are various species of egrets, herons, and
cormorants. Least Bittern and Upper Clapper Rail also are common here.
The threatened Abert’s Towhee has its highest count here. The Audubon
annual Christmas Bird Counts occur here each year.

Raptors wintering in the river corridor include Northern Harrier,
Copper’s Hawk, Osprey, Red-Tailed Hawk, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Prairie
Falcon, Peregrine Falcon. Swainson’s Hawk and Ferruginous Hawk migrate
through here in fall and spring.

Ecological threats include Tamarisk invasion, loss of water due to
pumping and diversion. Risks to water quality come from herbicide and
pesticide run off and pharmaceuticals in effluent waters. Uncontrolled
human use of area disturbs nests and habitat. Much illegal dumping
occurs and some damaging and dangerous accidental fires. Invasive
Cowbirds are numerous and parasite nests of other birds.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Los Angeles District) was given an
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contract to restore the
Va Shly’Ay Akimel Salt River Ecosystem between the Salt River
Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Mesa, Arizona. This $645,000
contract funds Phase I involving ca. 2.5 miles along the river. It
plans to restore the riparian ecosystem to support native vegetation
and wildlife. This project runs a total of 14 miles between Granite
Reef Dam and the SR 101 freeway.

The Salt and Verde Riparian Ecosystem is an IBA that is also germane to
our project to protect the wild horses. It encompasses two rivers: the
Salt and the Verde. The Salt River section of the IBA extends from
Saguaro Lake’s Steward Mountain Dam along the riparian corridor of the
Salt River west to the Verde Rive confluence. The Maricopa Audubon
Society conducts the Salt and Verde River Christmas Bird Count each
year that includes a portion of this IBA. This IBA contains ca. 1/3 of
all Bald Eagle nest areas in Arizona. Nesting here are the
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Lucy’s Warbler,
Abert’s Towhee, and the Common Black Hawk, all “Species of Conservation
Concern”. Recreation uses, including boating and ATVs, disturb
nesting birds. ATV’s impact flood-plain vegetation and cause erosion.
Species on the Audubon list that I observed include: Gambel’s Quail,
Northern Pintail, Common Merganser, Gilded (Northern) Flicker, Great
Blue Heron, Great Egret, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Abert’s Towhee.

The 12-mile Salt River portion of the IBA is located in the Tonto
National Forest, except the last 3 miles downstream. In the latter,
the north side of the Salt River is within the Salt River Indian

Fremont Cottonwood, Gooding’s Willow, and Arizona Ash are the dominant
riparian species present in the flood plain habitat. In the lower
section, Velvet Mesquite, Saguaro, Blue Palo Verde, Foothill Palo
Verde, and Ironwood are the dominant upland trees.


Abbey, Edward, et. al. Cactus Country. The American Wilderness.
Time-Life. N.Y.

Cloudsley-Thompson, John. Desert Life. The Living Earth series. Danbury
Press London.

De Lorme. Arizona Atlas & Gazetteer. 2004.

Downer, Craig C. The Wild Horse Conspiracy. Availabe at as
printed or eBook.

Findley, Rowe. Great American Deserts. National Geographic, D.C.

Leopold, A. Starker, et. al. The Desert. Life Nature Library. Time
Inc., N.Y.

McCarry Charles. The Great Southwest. National Geographic, D.C.

National Audubon Society. 2012. Important Bird Areas in the U.S.

Niering, William A. The Life of the Marsh. Our Living World Of Nature.

Peterson Field Guides to: Western Birds, Mammals, Reptiles & Amphibians

Sutton, Ana & Myron. The Life of the Desert. Our Living World Of
Nature. McGraw-Hill.


Usinger, Robert L. The Life of Rivers and Streams. Our Living World Of
Nature. McGraw-Hill.

Williams, A.R. Horse Power. In “Next” section. National Geographic
Mag. Nov. 2012.


Carl needs airline miles and donations to fight for his civil liberties

Donations needed to fight for civil rights

Carl Mrozek, an American journalist and filmmaker from New York, believes his civil liberties were violated while filming a controversial Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild burro roundup near Yuma, Arizona. After his footage from a previous roundup aired on AZ TV newscasts—showing a helicopter chasing a burro and flipping it over—BLM employees began harassing him. Then one day, in 103 degree weather, things got worse. His camera was ripped from his hands, he was manhandled, handcuffed and detained in a ranger vehicle until he passed out and was rushed to the emergency room. The BLM searched his belongings and took his video footage—all without his permission. Carl needs your help with airline miles and donations towards defending his civil liberties. Thank you for helping Carl stand up and fight this. Donate to via Paypal. Every dollar received will help fight this.



Catch the killer

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Happier times

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Livestock’s Heavy Hooves Impair One-Third of BLM Rangelands

33 Million Acres of BLM Grazing Allotments Fail Basic Rangeland Health Standards

WASHINGTON – May 14 – A new federal assessment of rangelands in the West finds a disturbingly large portion fails to meet range health standards principally due to commercial livestock operations, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  In the last decade as more land has been assessed, estimates of damaged lands have doubled in the 13-state Western area where the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducts major livestock leasing.

The “Rangeland Inventory, Monitoring and Evaluation Report for Fiscal Year 2011” covers BLM allotments in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.  The report totals BLM acreage failing to meet rangeland health standards in measures such as water quality, watershed functionality and wildlife habitat:

  • Almost 40% of BLM allotments surveyed since 1998 have failed to meet the agency’s own required land health standards with impairment of more than 33 million acres, an area exceeding the State of Alabama in size, attributed to livestock grazing;
  • Overall, 30% of BLM’s allotment area surveyed to date suffers from significant livestock-induced damage, suggesting that once the remaining allotments have been surveyed, the total impaired area could well be larger than the entire State of Washington; and
  • While factors such as drought, fire, invasion by non-native plants, and sprawl are important, livestock grazing is identified by BLM experts as the primary cause (nearly 80%) of BLM lands not meeting health standards.

“Livestock’s huge toll inflicted on our public lands is a hidden subsidy which industry is never asked to repay,” stated PEER Advocacy Director Kirsten Stade, noting that the percentage of impairment in lands assessed remains fairly consistent over the past decade.  “The more we learn about actual conditions, the longer is the ecological casualty list.”

Last November, PEER filed a scientific integrity complaint that BLM had directed scientists to exclude livestock grazing as a factor in changing landscapes as part of a $40 million study, the biggest such effort ever undertaken by BLM.  The complaint was referred to a newly appointed Scientific Integrity Officer for BLM but there are no reports of progress in the agency’s self-investigation in the ensuing months.

At the same time, BLM range evaluations, such as this latest one, use ambiguous categories that mask actual conditions, employing vague terms such as “making significant progress” and “appropriate action has been taken to ensure significant progress” that obscure damage estimates and inflate the perception of restoration progress.  For example, in 2001 nearly 60% of BLM lands (94 million acres, an area larger than Montana) consisted of grazing allotments that were supposed to be managed to “improve the current resource condition” – a number that has stayed unchanged for a decade.

“Commercial livestock operations are clearly a major force driving degradation of wild places, jeopardy to wildlife, major loss of water quality and growing desertification throughout the American West,” Stade added, while noting that BLM has historically been dominated by livestock interests.  “The BLM can no longer remain in denial on the declining health of our vast open range.”


Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER’s environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Links:
Posted from the PEER press release