Craig Downer speaks out against proposed roundup and PZP drugging

PM Craig Downer by Rona Aguilar

Statement by Craig C. Downer, Wildlife Ecologist and author of The Wild Horse Conspiracy (2014) concerning the BLM plans for the Pine Nut Herd Management Area (HMA) wild horse population recently announced by the Carson City BLM District Office.

December 24, 2014

Yesterday I received the Carson City BLM’s BLM Nevada News announcement of Dec. 19, 2014, from Lisa Ross, the Public Relations official. In this, the Sierra Front Field Office announced its Decision to round up 332 wild horses and permanently remove 200 of these, while releasing 132 back into the range but only after injecting the mares, estimated at 66, with 22-month Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP-22), an immunocontraceptive vaccine whose long-term effects on the well-being of the wild horses is highly questionable.

The claim by these BLM officials is that there is an “overpopulation” of wild horses in the Pine Nuts, in other words, “excess” wild horses and that these animals are damaging the ecosystem, degrading sage-grouse habitat and reducing native grass plants. No mention, however is made of the fact that cattle and sheep grazing pressure on the grasses and other forage species is several times that of the wild horses here. Nor is any mention made of the many positive contributions the wild horses make to bolster the ecosystem as non-ruminant, post gastric digesters who complement the ruminant grazers.

I visit the Pine Nut Range frequently and am not at all convinced of the terse and perfunctory claims made in the BLM’s recent announcement. What I have observed in the Pine Nut Range is actually an under-population of wild horses who are in the process of filling their ecological niche, but are no where near filling their niche.

The arguments for the wild horse “gather” presented by the BLM are contrived and based on their desire to justify the continuing monopolization by livestock grazing permittees, mainly, but also the hunters and the Nevada Department of Wildlife, as well as other exploiters of this beautiful mountain range and its ecosystem. The claim that the wild horses are affecting the Sage-Grouse leks are highly suspect, as I have seen wonderful harmony between the wild horses and the Sage-Grouse. This issue, I feel, is being used conveniently to avoid reducing livestock. How easy to simply blame the deterioration on the wild horses, but how dishonest!

The so called Appropriate Management Level that the BLM has set for this vast range (at least 30 miles long and in places 15 miles wide) of 119 to 179 individuals is a gross injustice to the wild horses and to the many public citizens of Nevada and elsewhere. We greatly appreciate this historic herd and wish to observe a full and exuberant population of mustangs here, not an overly reduced, mere token number that is not even at a genetically viable level, and that is not permitted to adapt naturally and harmoniously to this rich ecosystem.

From observations I have gathered, the PZP vaccine will disrupt normal social interactions and cause much frustration and dysfunction among the members of this herd. There is much cover up concerning this drug and the problems for the wild horses are not being fully revealed by those promoting it, including wild horse supporters who are being manipulated into supporting PZP but relinquishing their protest of the unfair AML and the monopolization of the grazing resource by livestock interests. In doing so, they are abandoning the true intent of the WFHBA and the long-term well being of this mustang herd in the wild by going along with their semi-domestication!

To me what is happening in the Pine Nuts and with its wild horses is another “quick drug fix” the likes of which so much of modern, technologically oriented society is wont to adopt when confronted with “problems”. In other words, rather than making the needed sacrifices to share the land and freedom with the beautiful wild horses, thus allowing them to realize a truly long-term viable population in this range, true to the pure intent of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (WFHBA that was unanimously passed and remains very popular among the General Public), our officials have chosen to shirk their legal duty and “do a number” on these animals and their public supporters.

The figure of 2,500 is the number of individual horses recommended for the viability of a wild population by the IUCN Species Survival Commission Equid Specialist Group. So why is this being ignored and such cripplingly low AMLs being adopted? It is clear to me that the wild horse enemies are getting their way almost 100% and that like overly spoiled juveniles these ranchers, hunters, etc., throw a tantrum every time they are asked to share.

The Pine Nut herd is being over managed, or reduced, to a dysfunctional level and the sound tenets of Reserve Design for a thousand or more wild horses that would allow for naturally self-stabilizing and ecologically harmonious populations is being ignored by the authorities (though I have presented it to them on numerous occasions including to their RAC and National Advisory boards. Though their heart seems not to be attuned to the true and pure intent of the WFHBA, the good news is that this deplorable situation can change with the reawakening of a noble resolve to curb livestock and other overweening monopolies and to restore the Pine Nut mustangs to a much fairer and more viable population level.

I call upon BLM authorities to discontinue their insidious disinformation campaign that ignores the positive contributions that wild horses, as returned North American natives, make to the ecosystem (soils building, seed dispersal, fire prevention, etc.). From the Secretary of Interior, to the BLM and US Forest Service heads, to the Wild Horse and Burro program directors on down, there is an urgent need to “come clean,” to “own up,” and to rectify and “make up” for all the past injustices that have been committed with the aim of either crippling or eliminating America’s last wild horses. These animals are deeply rooted in America, far more deeply than most people seem to realize. They are an ancient and long-standing presence dating back millions of years, and they are true healers of the land and the life that dwells thereon. I have come to realize this so fully after a lifetime of wild horse observation and meditation. The challenge of restoring the herds and of learning to share the land and freedom with the horses, likewise their cousins the burros, is a critically important one, one linked to all of the other critical challenges facing our human kind today. To ignore or make light of this challenge is not right. IN the spirit of Christmas, the Festival of Lights, or whatever traditions one celebrates during these Holy Days of renewal and recommitment, I call upon everyone to honor the place of the wild horse upon the land that is their ancient home, knowing we will be blessed for so doing and even in ways we at present can scarce imagine.

For a complete revelation concerning the above, please go to my website and consult the new edition of my book. Here are the links: (see my 2014 article under Resources section) and for my well-rounded book order as eBook or printed book (illustrated & well referenced/ indexed book at special reduced price on Amazon: . Also go to for a thorough-going defense of these magnificent American heritage animals.