Former U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico has made history as the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary, responsible for overseeing more than 480 million acres of public land as secretary of the interior.

Wild horses inhabit slightly less than

27 million of those acres — only about 200 remain on lands managed by the Interior Department in New Mexico — yet industry lobbyists continue to portray these iconic animals as a nuisance to be removed in favor of livestock ranching, oil and gas drilling, mining, logging, and more.

Haaland has been a vocal critic of efforts by the federal Bureau of Land Management to surgically sterilize wild horses using a procedure called ovariectomy via colpotomy, which involves the blind insertion of a metal rod to sever and crush a mare’s ovaries while the animal remains conscious. Likewise, dozens of members of Congress, veterinarians and the vast majority of Americans have objected to the procedure, as has the National Academy of Sciences, which has cited risks of prolonged bleeding and infection.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration last year greenlighted a controversial plan to conduct ovariectomies on a herd in Utah as early as this spring, which would set a dangerous precedent for how wild horses are managed across the West. The Animal Welfare Institute and other leading wild horse advocacy groups are asking the new secretary to direct the BLM to stop pursuing such sterilizations.

We have reason to be optimistic. Last summer, Haaland co-authored an amendment to the interior appropriations bill, directing the BLM to spend at least 10 percent of its wild horse and burro program budget to implement scientifically proven and safe immunocontraceptive vaccines to manage wild horses.

New Mexico offers a successful case study for wild horse fertility control. In 2009, Carson National Forest began implementing the first immunocontraception treatment in the country for wild horses on territory managed by the U.S. Forest Service. More recently, horse advocates have administered the Porcine Zona Pellucida vaccine to the horses who roam freely around the historic town of Placitas, resulting in a 70 percent reduction in births.

Yet the BLM seems intent on spending $60 million a year rounding up horses by helicopter and stampeding them — sometimes to the point of exhaustion or even death — before sequestering them in long-term holding facilities. The agency has called for even more mass removals at a projected cost of $900 million in the first five years alone.

Haaland brings a bold, refreshing vision to the BLM, which has suffered from stagnation, inefficiency and, at times, gross negligence. She has co-sponsored legislation that would permanently ban the slaughter of American horses — both wild and domestic — for human consumption. One high-profile example of such slaughter occurred in 2015, when a federal investigation revealed that rancher Tom Davis, who lived just north of the New Mexico border, sent nearly 1,800 wild horses to be slaughtered for human consumption in Mexico. Davis later admitted that he had bought these animals by the truckload for next to nothing from the BLM.

With Haaland at the helm, the Interior Department may finally embark on a more thoughtful, humane and fiscally responsible approach to wild horse management.

Joanna Grossman, Ph.D., is the equine program manager and senior adviser for the Animal Welfare Institute.

(1) comment

William Simpson II

The so-called 'bold new vision' is the 'Path To Extinction' as is described in this posit. Treating any wildlife, especially wild horses, with chemicals (PZP or GonaCon) is a recipe for genetic erosion and deconstruction of wild horse family bands.

This Letter to DOI Director Deb Haaland explains the problems and the solution:

TO: The Honorable Debra Haaland - Director Department of Interior

RE: Draft Solution (bill) For Plight Of American Wild Horses

March 17, 2021

Dear Ms. Haaland:

I trust that you, your staff and others at your offices are well.

My name is William E. Simpson II. I spent my formative years on my family's working ranch in southern Oregon as a rancher managing lands with forest and with horses and cattle, as a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA).

I am now retired, and living on my ranch in the Soda Mountain wilderness area (OR-CA border) among the free-roaming wild horses that I have studied for the past 7-years.

The combination of my training in science, background in business, logging, livestock production and forest/land management (including firefighting), and wild horses have informed my perspective in a unique and synergistic manner.

The first 5-years of my ongoing and continuous Study ('Impact Of Wild Horses On Wilderness Landscape And Wildfire') of wild horses has been condensed and published at GrazeLIFE (a division of Re-Wilding Europe):

My study is unique in that the wilderness Study site is virtually devoid of livestock (too remote and too many apex predators); there are only cervids and equids.

My experience, is both academic in regard to my background in science (attended Oregon State University as a Pre-Med Science major), and empirical, in regard to the behavioral ecology of wild horses and their management.

Some of my bona-fides (letters from legislators and public officials) are online at this URL:

I am writing to you in regard to a Draft legislative outline, for a bill (attached PDF) that I believe can solve the longstanding dilemma facing public lands managers in regard to the conflict between stakeholders in public lands uses and the interests and well-being of native-species American wild horses.

Americans cannot allow any virus (Covid or not) to derail or stall the efforts to save native-species American wild horses, a National Treasure, especially at a time when rogue elements at DOI, BLM and USFS are engaged in what is arguably the largest and most reckless roundup in recent history.

As you know, the recent and ongoing roundups by the BLM and USFS are devastating to the wild horses.

Wild horses (and burros) are driven beyond their physical abilities, in many cases, some are dying from stress during or after the roundups. Foals literally run their hooves off, and some can't keep up and are lost, left behind for predators. Pregnant mares abort their unborn, some die from shock out on the range, some of these atrocities are concealed from the public.

Some atrocities are not, such as this BLM contractor helicopter ramming a fleeing burro, and a BLM contractor beating and punching a helpless little burro (he was never prosecuted); VIDEO EVIDENCE:

Ecosystems (flora and fauna) are devastated in wild horse roundups:

Roundups that use helicopters and other vehicles, force wild horses to run for their lives randomly (abnormal behavior) across the landscape, and in the process of their desperately fleeing, they inadvertently trample threatened and endangered species of flora and fauna.

How does the BLM and USFS get away with this? Are NEPA and EIS just rubber-stamped for these now seemingly corrupted agencies?

Caused by the BLM & USFS roundups; the trampling-damage affects the nests, crushing eggs of ground birds (sage grouse) and the birds themselves, as well as numerous small mammals and reptiles (lizards, turtles, snakes, etc.), which are all crushed by the thundering hooves of escaping wild horses and other wildlife, all of which are running for their lives as helicopters disrupt the normal tranquility of the ecosystems subjected to what could be called the government's monetary biased War on Nature.

These wide-scale roundups are coupled with the systematic implementation of a combination of diabolical methods that are arguably designed to lead to genetic erosion and loss of genetic diversity, leading to the ultimate extinction of free-roaming native species American wild horses...

The draconian methods currently being used by the BLM, USFS and their cronies, include these;

1) Reducing breeding populations so low (less than 200 breeding adults in a herd) as to induce in-breeding and loss of genetic vigor; and,

2) Castration of stallions, which results in the loss of genetic diversity (we don't even know which alleles are responsible for the resistance that wild horses have to Chronic Wasting Disease), and this also interferes with evolved evolutionary competition for breeding rights (survival of the fittest); and,

3) Chemical interventions (PZP & GonaCon) which interrupt critical social structures in family bands (matriarch mares lose status and their intuitive knowledge for survival is lost to family bands; some mares become infertile, etc. Darting wild horses with chemical contraceptives, as some of wild horse organizations lobbying legislators want to do, is not ecologically correct and it disintermediates evolutionary processes.

4) Wild horses are being shot to death by people now embolden by what seems to be an 'open season' on wild horses by the BLM and USFS, resulting from what the public sees as a total disregard for the value of these sentient beings by these government agencies.

5) The BLM even has the audacity to propose using an outdated procedure known as “ovariectomy via colpotomy,” where a metal rod-like tool is blindly inserted through a vaginal incision in order to sever and remove the ovaries of wild mares while they remain conscious!

These government agencies (DOI, BLM, USDA, USFS) which are arguably influenced by money and politics around public land livestock grazing, are devastating the remaining populations of the relatively few (based on genetic diversity) remaining American wild horses....

The BLM is still engaged in an ongoing campaign of 'willful ignorance' and 'campaign of misinformation' via their ongoing propagation of manifestly false statements, including but not limited to:

"Wild horses have no natural predators..." IS a false statement promoted by the BLM (and now widely repeated) (Page 1, Executive Summary, paragraph 5) that was presented to Congress in writing as a part of their so-called 'Report To Congress - Management Options For A Sustainable Wild Horse And Burro Program'.

Only a corrupted agency would manage a resource starting with a lie.

It's a well-know scientific and common-knowledge fact that: All north American apex predators (mountain lions, bears, wolves and coyotes) are the evolved predators of wild horses and burros.

We need to restore ecological-balance and the trophic cascades in areas where that is still possible, in the remaining remote wilderness areas, where the American wild horse is a critical keystone-species large-herbivore, as is the case in many ecosystems.

The BLM paying ranchers more than $100-million annually to house wild horses off-range is a serious waste of our tax dollars (it's obscene; one ranching family alone, the Drummond family, has already been paid $24-million by the BLM!).

This waste of tax dollars is totally unnecessary when there exists a readily available, virtually cost-free path for solving the entirety of the wild horse dilemma, while concurrently reducing wildfire fuels; a concept supported by peer-reviewed, published science.

Treating wild horses (deemed as 'native species' & 'wildlife' by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals) with any chemicals is wrong on so many levels it's just obtuse, and there are numerous experts who agree with this position.

The Natural Path To Successful Wild Horse Management

Relocating wild horses from holding (thus initiating immediate reductions in expenditures for offsite holding), and also, relocating wild horses from areas where they are in conflict with livestock interests (subject to potential BLM-USFS interventions) via humane relocation methods [unmolested family bands are baited-in and relocated together as family bands], into select wilderness areas with abundant water and forage, that are nevertheless manifestly unsuited for livestock wildfire grazing (for many sound reasons; I.E. loss of profits due to; predators, management logistics in rugged remote terrain, etc.) is both economically and ecologically appropriate.

A new article was out (Friday, Jan 5th) in Colorado at the Pagosa Daily Post, detailing how American taxpayers and Counties in Colorado can save (literally) hundreds of $-millions annually by implementing new public lands management using Wild Horses!

This older article details why, exactly, wild horses are appropriate ecologically on the American wilderness landscape:

And finally, this article that appeared in the Mail Tribune and the Pagosa Daily Post, outlines the common-sense solution that all stakeholders should consider in contrast to the ongoing dire situation:

I can only hope that there are enough enlightened people in the mix to implement a final solution that is fair and just to these magnificent, highly evolved, sentient beings.....

So far, in our short stead on the planet, we've done a fine job of wrecking almost everything we mess with... especially things in the Natural world. Maybe we proceed with that thought to guide us as we evaluate our next plan to save wild horses....

William E. Simpson II - Naturalist

Wild Horse Ranch

Siskiyou County, CA

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