Wild horse overpopulation is fake news

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Response to Ben Masters’ justification of drastic measures toward America’s last wild horses and burros

PM Craig Downer by Rona Aguilar


I have just read Ben Masters’ justification for the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board’s recommendation to either adopt out, place, sell to killer buyers, or have BLM itself kill the 44,000 wild horses being held at public expense. His justification rests on the premise that the wild horses are destroying the habitats, not only in the Antelope Valley HMA’s eastern side around the Dolly Varden spring, but in many other similar areas throughout the West. I was also on this field trip and heard what the BLM officials had to say. It should be noted that on the west side there were much better habitat conditions and there were bands of wild horses here as well, though not as many. I also attended the Thursday meeting of the board and heard BLM’s presentations by Alan Shepherd, Nevada BLM wild horse and burro lead, and also by John Ruhs, Nevada BLM State Director, among others. I heard all the testimonies given, and was able to give testimony myself.

I think a lot is being overlooked and that there is a rushing to judgment concerning the wild horses and their effect on the ecosystem. Especially being overlooked is how the wild horses often find themselves being set up, placed into difficult situations, not allowed to adequately spread out. Much of this is due to not securing adequate water for them and to fencing. I am particularly concerned about the over-pumping of subterranean aquifers by ranchers and mining companies that lowers the water tables and causes many of the areas where wildlife still have a place to survive to be parched and declining ecologically speaking. This was particularly noticable in many parched mountain ranges above ranchers and also around large open-pit mining operations, where water tables have subsided at an alarming rate.

I have seen and photographed the graphic evidence of this during flights I have realized thanks to LightHawk pilots. One of the areas I overflew was eastern Nevada including in the Ely BLM district and also portions of the southern Elko BLM district where the Antelope Valley hma is located. I have been in this area several times before, hiked around,and spend considerable time there during two recent summers doing field investigation concerning the ecosystem, its condition, and the wild horses and other animals, including livestock and deer, sage grouse etc. What I noted was that the ranchers and miners are being given priority consideration and access to the most productive and intact portions of the Antelope Valley Complex as well as to the Triple B Complex of wild horse herd management areas just to the south in the Ely BLM District (White Pine County), and that the wild horses are being relegated to what’s left. This runs contrary to the provision of the Wild Horse and Burro Act that states that the legal 1971 lands where the wild horses and burros lived in 1971 be “devoted principally” (Section 2 c) though not exclusively to the welfare and benefit of the wild horses. What I see as happening is that the other interests are being given priority treatment and the wild horses left to defend for themselves. This is why they find themselves on the least productive lands.

And though Alan Shepherd repeatedly stated that no livestock had grazed the declining land around the Dolly Varden Spring for ca. 7 years, sorely lacking was a revelation of the historical use by livestock in past years. An area that has been severely impacted by decades of livestock grazing can take centuries to recover, and I have reason to believe that the area around the Dolly Varden spring is just such an area. During all these 45 years since the Wild Horse and Burro program has been in effect, there has been ample opportunity for our BLM and USFS to secure much more adequate and well-spaced watering and foraging areas that would have obviated the present crisis we witnessed around Dolly Varden.

I also noted how all of the wild horses both on the east and the west sides of Antelope Valley HMA as well as its south side coming along Hwy 93 were very flighty and took off immediately when our cars stopped to view them. On the northwest side of the Antelope Valley HMA at the end of the day (near Deer Spring), I stayed longer and tried to get closer to a few bands far off to the south. Though I drove a few miles, these bands and particularly their lead stallions would never let me get within a mile of them. From a lifetime of experience as an observer of the wild horses mainly in my home state of Nevada, I know this to be a sure sign that the wild horses are being persecuted, particularly shot at with long-range rifles. So now perhaps we know the reason why the wild horses from the east side are not coming over to the west side of the hma where the grass is lusher! The horses on the west side were considerably more frightened than those on the east side, though these too were quite afraid of people and their cars, clearly alarmed when our tour caravan came into view.

During my brief presentation I indicated how it is the human population and its impacts upon natural ecosystems both here in Nevada, in the U.S.A. and around the world, that are presently reaching crisis levels. How convenient it is then to shift the focus of attention upon such a noble and highly evolved animal as the horse, returning to living in its natural state, and to claim that it is the one who is overpopulating, all the while ignoring all of its many positive contributions to the ecosystem. I have written a book on this subject and in chapter II, I point out how the post gastric, caecal digestive system of the horses and burros provides a much needed balance to the monopolization of our public lands by ruminant digesting grazers such as cattle, sheep and deer. The horses and burros contribute much more humus to build the soils and many more intact seeds capable of germinating than do the ruminant grazers that much more thoroughly digest and break down what they eat. I go on to elaborate on this and to explain many of the positive benefits that accrue from this basic biological observation in my book. It is available through Amazon and is entitled The Wild Horse Conspiracy. You can read it as an ebook and considerable portions of it in the preview. www.amazon.com/dp/1461068983

I would also like for you to note that although Ben Masters alludes to similar extremely degraded conditions being caused by the wild horses throughout the West, again each area has its own special history, and the vying of special interests especially livestock ranchers, mining companies, oil and gas companies, Off Road Vehicle operators, and Hunters for the available resources often works very much against the wild horse and burro interests. In other words, they end up getting the short end of the stick, being placed on the bottom of the totem pole by profit-oriented individuals and corporations as well as the government officials who largely serve the latter rather than the General Public’s major interest in this Quality of Life issue. I have found this to be almost invariably the case in visiting and investigating many of the wild horse and burro herd areas/herd management areas on BLM lands and wild horse and burro territories on USFS lands in several states, as I discuss in some detail in my book.

I would also like to address Masters’ advocating for the intensive and widespread use of PZP to inhibit the reproduction of mares. The effects of PZP upon individual wild horses and their social units, be these bands or herds, have been studied by professional behavioral zoologists, such as Dr. Cassandra Nunez, and there are some serious detrimental effects that have been noted. These have been the subject of peer reviewed articles and used in court cases that have recognized their serious effects on the wild horses. In short, we should not overly compromise the future well-being of the wild horses in the wild, take away their natural vitality, in order to obtain a “quick drug fix” instead of doing right and providing adequate resources, space, habitat, etc. for long-term viable and thriving wild horses able to realize their ecological niche in their legal areas. We must not replace natural selection by artificial selection by people, as this will only thwart the natural, ecological adaptation of the horses and burros to each particular ecosystem. Remember that Section 3 a of the Act clearly states that the wild horses and burros must be allowed and managed “to achieve and maintain a “thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands” and “at the minimum feasible level” of management, or interference. The Act’s preamble also clearly states that they are to be considered “as an integral part of the natural system of public lands”. To me this clearly signifies being allowed to naturally adapt to the ecosystem where they have their legal rights. Why is this being denied them in spite of the law?!

As a Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, I have presented a Reserve Design proposal to the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board as well s to the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program itself. I had done so repeatedly and outlined a way forth that does not involve all these cruel and unnatural manipulations and restrictions upon the wild ones. I have presented this proposal as a way to achieve long-term genetically viable, ecologically well-adapted, and naturally self-stabilizing populations that would live in harmony with and contribute positively to all the other plants and animals in the legal herd management areas and territories. These wild horse/burro-containing ecosystems would be enhanced ecosystems, not degraded ones, if we people would only give them adequate habitat. Key to the success of Reserve Design is the provision of viably sized habitat of good enough quality for the horse/burro populations to realize the above. Such provision is what has been so sorely lacking in the past, and this is what must change today. Please check out my Reserve Design proposal at www.gofundme.com/mstngreservedesign and let me know what you think. I believe it is in the true spirit of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and that we Americans both can and should restore the true and noble intent of this unanimously passed act. It is one that has to do with the Quality of Life we all experience and is a General Public issue.

I appreciate your listening to what I have to say. The horses are depending upon us. What is happening in Antelope Valley, the West, North America, or on Planet Earth today is not their fault. They are restorers of North American wildlife and ecosystems in many places, and they are of ancient and long-standing ancestry here. They are awesome presences and quickly revert to living in harmony with nature, reviving their age-old instincts. We should give them adequate areas where they can be themselves and prove their healing work in our world.

Submitted by Craig C. Downer, Wildlife Ecologist. A.B. UCB; M.S. UNR; Ph.D. Cand. U. Durham UK. Link to his article The Horse and Burro as Positively Contributed Returned Natives in North America is http://www.sciencepublishinggroup.com/journal/paperinfo.aspx?journalid=118&doi=10.11648/j.ajls.20140201.12 or just Google it by title and author. Website to check out is www.thewildhorseconspiracy.org in which the links to the article and how to order his book are present.

Listen to Craig Downer starting at 55 min mark on Big Blend Radio: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/big-blend-radio/2016/09/12/nature-connection-pipelines-and-wild-horses

Also please consider signing this important petition to stop this massacre of the wild horses and burros from happening: The link to this petition is: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/907/592/301/demand-nokill-45000-wild-horses-burros-in-holding/


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

Wild horses sold to middle men for slaughter

Wild mustang weanling in holding. (Photos © Anne Novak, all rights reserved.)

“We request a freeze on all roundups until Congress can investigate and stop the BLM from selling wild horses by the hundreds to alleged kill-buyers,” states Anne Novak, executive director for Protect Mustangs. “Internal corruption needs to be flushed out fast.”


Today the press revealed a man who has purchased at least 1,700 wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program for $10 a piece. Dave Phillips reports in ProPublica, All the missing horses: What happened to the wild horses Tom Davis bought from the government?  It appears that the BLM is selling healthy indigenous wild horses to a known pro-slaughter kill-buyer to dispose of our living legends.

This needs to stop now.

Here are some articles providing some background about the BLM’s heinous wild horse traffic to slaughter . . . America’s living legends, betrayed by those entrusted to protect them under the 1971 Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act.

National Geographic (May 5, 2005) Wild Horses Sold by U.S. Agency Sent to Slaughter http://bit.ly/IaLgoA

The agency’s mission changed in December, when Congress passed a bill that made it legal for the BLM to sell wild horses outright . . .

Since December the BLM has sold about a thousand wild horses under the new rules. The slaughtered horses were originally sold to the Rosebud Sioux Indians in South Dakota and to an unnamed Oklahoma man who said he wanted the horses for a church youth program.

The Sioux group bought 105 wild horses at a dollar apiece, then traded 87 of them to a horse broker, who sold some of the horses for slaughter. The Oklahoma man bought six at $50 apiece, according to the BLM. Slaughterhouses are known to pay hundreds of dollars for a horse.


Christian Science Monitor and cross-posted by The Seattle Times (March 2, 2005) Law allows slaughter of wild horses for meat  by Brad Knickerbocker http://bit.ly/K8DWIF

Now, a law signed by President Bush will allow the slaughter and export of horse meat form thousands of wild horses. Horse lovers are urgins reversal of the measure, which slipped into a recent federal appropriations bill by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.


Chicago Tribune (Dec, 12, 2001) Adopted wild horses are still being slaughtered by Robert Gehrke http://bit.ly/IcWL2g story went viral

WASHINTON–Wild horses put up for adoption by the Bureau of Land Management continue to be slaughtered, in some cases within weeks of he owner gaining title to the animal, according to the latest BLM records.

The quick turnaround has critics questioning how aggressively BLM is enforcing a rule requiring adopters to swear that they don’t plan to sell the horse to slaughter.

‘Not only is the BLM not actually prosecuting people, but they’re not even doing the investigation to try to figure it out and it seems like they don’t want to know,’ said Howard Crystal, an attorney for the Fund for Animals, whose lawsuit led to the no-slaughter clause.

The Desert News (Dec. 12, 2001) Rules are not preventing slaughter of wild horses by Robert Gehrke http://bit.ly/IMYibB

The Deseret News (August 18, 1999)  Wild horses are going to slaughter, BLM says http://bit.ly/IMiyKq

Adopted wild horses are being slaughtered for meat or pet food at a rate that could top five per week, according to an employee of the Bureau of Land Management.BLM wild horse expert Lilly Thomas said once-wild horses adopted from agency land are being slaughtered at four major packinghouses. Speaking this week at a meeting of the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board in Salt Lake City, Thomas said she based her estimate on reports from a slaughterhouse near Fort Worth, Texas,…


Buffalo News (January 5, 1997) US effort to save wild horses leads thousands to slaughter as workers profit by Martha Mendoza http://bit.ly/IMb3Dn

A multimillion-dollar federal program created to save the lives of wild horses instead is channeling them by the thousands to slaughterhouses where they are chopped into cuts of meat.

Among those profiting from the slaughter are employees of the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that administers the program.

AP viral story (January 4, 1997)  Program to protect wild horses often funnels them to slaughter by Martha Mendoza http://bit.ly/IhtEds

NY Times (Jan 29, 1997) Report Acknowledges Wild Horses Are Being Slaughtered http://nyti.ms/IwGF1x

The Spokesman Review (December 12, 1986) Wild horses being sent to slaughter http://bit.ly/IatqoK

HELENA — The Bureau of Land Management has been shipping hundreds of horses to Montana ranchers under the government’s “adopt-a-horse” program, and some are going to slaughter, one of the ranchers says.

Since 1985, more than 1,800 horses rounded up on government land in Nevada and other states have been shipped to ranchers in eastern Montana’s Yellowstone Valley, according to figures supplied by BLM Associate State Director Marvin Lenoue,

Hundreds of other wild horses have been shipped to South Dakota, mostly to Indian reservations . . .

Some owners sold them to rodeos, he said and “some of those people sent them to slaughter.”

Lakeland Ledger (March 11, 1973) U.S. Probe Wild Horse Slaughter ~ story went viral http://bit.ly/Io6nC5

LA Times (March 5, 1973) Apparent Roundup of Wild Horses for Slaughter Probed http://bit.ly/JUlvvG

Federal authorities are investigating a blood-soaked cliffside in the high, remote mountains of southeastern Idaho where officials say a herd of about 60 wild horses was apparently rounded up and sold for slaughter.