4 Steps to Real, On the Range, Humane Management of Native North American Wild Horses

We want our wild horses managed ON the range, not gathered and put in these auctions after being forced to submit to behaviors humans want to be called ‘gentled’. These adoption events and auctions are nothing more than a farce to get you, the public to believe that adoption is the answer if we don’t want the ‘excess’ horses that are being warehoused killed.
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BLM presents adoption as the ‘big solution’ when we will not allow killing.
The simple, real solution that must be implemented is to give back the land that was designated as a result of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA), to the Wild Horse and Burro program. Then manage these areas as mandated by that law, principally for wild horse/burro. Open historic migratory routes of the wild horses/burros that were left out of the original boundaries to be used as preserves for the management of wild horses/burros. Look at the Appropriate Management Levels (AML’s) of each of the preserves, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) call these Herd Areas or HA’s. These AML’s must meet the minimum number of horses for genetic viability, that number varies from 150 (BLM to 250 (Dr. Gus Cothran’s original estimate) to in the thousands (geneticists in other countries, we will provide those reports in the notes as we update this article). IF there is an overpopulation after this minimum number is achieved, consider the total acreage, the forage allocated to wild horses/burros as ‘principle’ use of the forage (formulated as AUM’s) and implement Native PZP if it is deemed there is an overpopulation. Below we discuss each of these steps that must be taken both legally and ethically to preserve our wild horse and burro populations for future generations.
Giving Land Back to the Wild Horse and Burro Program

41% of the original preserve acreage has been removed from the program, and that was not done with proper legal consultation. This means it was done without considering all other laws, such as the Historic Preservation Act, which would have maintained that these lands and our wild horses as part of our heritage and culture, must not be removed from the program. Any herd that was zeroed out was done illegally, and BLM uses the excuse that the herd was not thriving, populations were too small to be viable.
However, BLM maintains 2 HMA’s that were not in the original boundaries outlined for the ‘Kiger” wild horses in Oregon. They are only 33 and 66 horses after a gather, and gathers are done only for the sale to private breeders who value the Kiger’s as being different from other wild horses. To deal with the low population and declining genetics (documented in Genetic Analysis Reports by Dr. Gus Cothran) they introduce a mare or stallion from outside herds.
If they can do this to keep these herds growing for breeders, why was this not done in those herds that were zeroed out?
Keep in mind the Kiger’s were part of the Beatys Butte horses. The Kiger’s had the highest level of Spanish DNA in the states, and we believe that has been watered down to the point that there is nothing special left of this unique bloodline of wild horses.

Should BLM offer unaltered males (stallions) for breeding purposes when they claim such a crisis in this nation that wild horses must be killed and there is also a push to reopen horse slaughter in this country? (One stallion in this ‘adoption’ auction sold for $30,000.)
So, if we don’t want horses moved about because it waters down unique genetics…the questions arises: How did they survive before human interference? This is answered in our last management topic. Reopening Migratory Routes.

Management Principally for Wild Horse and Burro on Federally Mandated Preserves

The excuse for not doing that is that the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA), passed into law after the WFRHBA, mandated public lands management use a multiple-use approach. However, the part conveniently ignored is the latter part of FLPMA which states that it does not override existing federal land use acts. Several court cases have ruled that the WFRHBA is a federal land use act or law. Therefore, FLPMA cannot override the management of the wild horse preserves principally for the horses. We have shared the excerpt from FLPMA below:

Sec. 701. [43 U.S.C. 1701 note] (a) Nothing in this Act,
or in any amendment made by this Act, shall be
construed as terminating any valid lease, permit,
patent, right-of-way, or other land use right or
authorization existing on the date of approval of
this Act.

In other words:
Nothing in this Act shall be construed as terminating any other land use existing on the date of approval of this Act.

Open Historic Migratory Routes

When the first maps were drawn up in 1973 and 74 for the wild horse preserves they were designed for where the horses were, and that depended vastly on where the horses were spotted the day or days the surveying crews went out to look for them. Some of these included known seasonal areas that may not have been in use on that day. But very few included the migratory routes of a herd when a stallion was looking for another herd to steal a few mares and naturally select genetics for his family to remain genetically healthy. This was not a problem initially, but as those routes were permitted or leased for other uses the routes became unusable for the wild horses, blocked by obstacles such as fences or roads.

AML’s Must be Reevaluated to Meet Minimum Population for Genetics

As time has moved forward there is an increasing number of herds who have been squeezed into smaller areas, thus reducing the AML, and decreasing the variability of genetics. Without access to the migratory routes, or access to other herds they begin inbreeding. Inbreeding creates a number of anomalies that are being seen throughout herds in the west, and these anomalies are irreversible.

Anomalies of inbreeding include birth deformities, blindness, increase of stillborn and newborn mortality rates, etc. 80% of our western herds fall into the category of Under minimum genetic viability population numbers. As we stated above, the BLM will, at times, like when the herd has monetary value, augment the genetics by the introduction of a horse from an outside herd. However, the majority of our herds are simply moving toward irreversible damage that will make the herds functionally extinct.

Implementt Safe, Reversible PZP Vaccines
Once genetic viability minimum population numbers are reached there needs to be a form of population control. This is necessary because our wild horses have very few predators left, we have killed them for the protection of livestock. It has been documented that wild horses will not self-regulate, meaning if there is no food they would not breed. This is simply not true.
Wild horses are few, so they breed, and it is unknown if the numbers came up to genetic viability levels if the horses would then self-regulate population, studies exist that support both yes and no answers to that question. However, given the situation of a sanctuary in the past year, we saw that when left to their own, with very little to no forage or feed given, the wild horses did populate beyond the land capacity and were starving.

Working on that assumption we believe that Native PZP must be implemented to control populations. However, it must be done and managed properly, which is something BLM has not been able to do at this point. Advocate groups that are managing various herds throughout the east and west are managing wild horse herds successfully with PZP, native and 22. The statistics have shown several positive effects of using birth control, for example, mares live an average of 9 years longer. The reason for that is mares not having the physical toll of giving birth every year and regaining a healthy body weight and muscular repair in between birthing years.

(In any herds where the area is too small for this population number, PZP use and augmentation of genetics may be necessary. However, the investigation as to how that herd survived there before human interference must be done. It is likely a migratory route, or zeroed out herd would have naturally created genetic augmentation.)
In conclusion, there is a 4 step management plan that should have been done in 1971, and not following these steps has created the problems seen for the preservation of wild horses and burros. These steps must be now taken to correct the mismanagement and properly manage our horses on the range. This eliminates the largest expense of BLM which they claim is the warehousing and care of horses removed from the range.

2 thoughts on “4 Steps to Real, On the Range, Humane Management of Native North American Wild Horses

  1. I vigorously support the organization Citizens Against Equine Slaughter. BLM mismanagement.is ovetreaching,outrageous and is illegal. You must protect the wild herds and horsed in general. No horse roundups,holding or slaughter. You are only promoting land owners for their money greedy practiced. Shame on you.

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