Three wild horses were killed this weekend as a result of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) roundup in Nevada that was sold as an effort to "save" them from drought.
The BLM announced this and other roundups several weeks ago, arguing that most were "scheduled in response to emergency conditions" such as drought. We questioned this basis at the time by pointing out that the agency's own handbook classifies droughts not as emergencies, but as events that "can be detected in advance and are managed through the normal planning process."
Tom Gorey, a BLM spokesman, said, "the opponents of our horse gathers face a daunting question of ethics. On one hand, they imply that if Mother Nature kills off the horses from thirst or starvation, that's OK. But if we intervene to save these horses, that's unacceptable."
But what happened in Nevada this weekend is a strong reminder that it's the roundups themselves, and not Mother Nature, that present the greatest threat to wild horses:
- One mare was killed because she was blind in one eye and the BLM said that "it was dangerous for processing." She was 15.
- A second mare was kicked by another horse while in temporary holding, and suffered a broken leg, so the BLM killed her. She was 8.
- A third mare suffered the broken neck from ramming a gate while in the trap after the roundup. She was 9.
Here's video my colleagues, Deniz Bolbol and Grace Kuhn, captured of this weekend's roundup:
These horses are the causalities of the BLM's failed approach. Instead of proactively managing these horses through fertility control and range stewardship (e.g. protecting and restoring water sources, etc) the BLM has once again fallen back on its unsustainable practice of roundup, remove and stockpile.
It's important to remember that, in addition to the deaths, over 200 other wild horses were captured during this roundup and will soon join the 50,000 wild horses already in government warehouses across the country, far outnumbering the horses that remain free in the wild.
This "business as usual" approach to wild horse management is under intense criticism after the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded in an independent report that the roundup and stockpiling program is "expensive and unproductive for the BLM and the public it serves."
A Denver Post editorial published on Sunday described the result of this approach as "absurd" and called for a "full court press" to implement the NAS report's main recommendation for reform, fertility control, which the editors described as "the only feasible solution."
Fertility control is available today and can be implemented on the range, which lets wild horses stay wild and reduces the need for an expensive and unsustainable stockpiling system.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told the Denver Post in May that she was waiting for the NAS report to determine the future of the BLM's program. But it's been over sixty days since the report was released and all we've heard from Secretary Jewell, the Interior Department and BLM is that they are in the process of "reviewing" the findings.
While bureaucrats in Washington are "reviewing," BLM officials in the field are showing no signs of revising their thinking on the issue as they execute sixteen roundups and trapping operations, including the roundup this past weekend, throughout August and September to remove 1,300 wild horses from the range.
What's missing here is leadership from the top to guide the program to a more sustainable path as laid out in the NAS report. That's why tens of thousands of Americans, dozens of members of Congress, the nation's leading wild horse advocacy organizations and celebrities signed a letter to Secretary Jewell in June calling on her to "step in" to bring about these much needed changes.
We're still hopeful Secretary Jewell will implement the needed reform, and we stand ready to work with her to turn around this government program that wastes taxpayer money and costs wild horses their freedom and sometimes their lives.