BLM blantantly ignoring law about dealing with wild horses

By Thomas Mitchell

It just doesn’t get any more blatant than this.

While miners, ranchers and county commissioners all across rural Nevada can attest to the Bureau of Land Management’s arrogance and indolence, it takes a special level of hubris to openly and wantonly defy Congress and the law of the land.

Yet, when it comes to carrying out the instructions from Congress on the management of wild horses and burros under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, the BLM is so bold and so brazen as to write on its own website that it doesn’t care one whit what the law says.

Under a section of its website labeled Myths and Facts the BLM denies that it is selling or sending wild horses to slaughter:

“Fact:  This charge is absolutely false. The Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management care deeply about the well-being of wild horses, both on and off the range, and it has been and remains the policy of the BLM not to sell or send wild horses or burros to slaughter. Consequently, as the Government Accountability Office noted in a report issued in October 2008, the BLM is not in compliance with a December 2004 amendment (the so-called Burns Amendment to the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act) that directs the Bureau to sell excess horses or burros ‘without limitation’ to any willing buyer.”

In another “Fact” the agency admits there are 14,000 too many horses currently roaming the West.

These are just two of the myriad misdeeds by the federal land management agency revealed in a recent federal lawsuit filed by the Nevada Association of Counties and the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation against the Department of Interior, the BLM, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and others.

The suit asks the court to issue an injunction or writ requiring federal agencies to follow the wild horse and burro law, because its current failure to do so is starving the very animals the law was intended to protect.

“Free-roaming horse and burro herds in Nevada are frequently observed to be in malnourished condition, with the ribs and skeletal features of individual animals woefully on view and other signs of ill-health readily observable,” the suit says.
Additionally, the suit says the excess horse and burro population is damaging public and private property and water rights and other endangered or threatened species, as well as having an adverse impact on counties’ tax bases and economies.
Roughly half of all wild horses and burros are in Nevada. The suit also points out that technically the horses and burros are not wild, but are feral animals.

“Given the propensity of such horses and burros to breed in an uncontrollable fashion as they have virtually no natural predators (such animals can easily double in population every four years) Congress imposed a number of mandatory duties on the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior,” the suit explains, which is why the law mandates those agencies to monitor the population and remove “excess animals” to protect the range from deterioration.
The plaintiff county and farm organizations say in the suit that they tried to correspond with the federal agencies and obtain relief, but they were largely ignored. They quote a letter from one BLM official saying that “nearly 50,000 unadopted animals are currently housed in long-term holding facilities,” though the law clearly states that, if an animal cannot be sold or adopted, it must be destroyed.

The federal agencies often claim that their ability to properly maintain the population of wild horses and burros is hampered by a lack of funds. The suit calls this a “self-inflicted handicap,” because half of the BLM’s horse and burro budget is going to warehousing those 50,000 animals, which can live for 25 to 30 years.

Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs, told The Associated Press, “The plaintiffs have an arrogant sense of entitlement. I’m grateful the American public will see how the plaintiffs allegedly intend on denying native wild horses the right to water and are requesting BLM destroy the majority of the roundup survivors. Their lawsuit will rally more voters to fight for wild horses to remain wild and free for future generations.”If that is the case, perhaps the law should be amended rather than ignored by those paid to enforce the law.

Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at Read additional musings on his blog at

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  1. How ironic this lawsuit is…. Those greedy cattlemen expect to be catered to and why no cause that is exactly what has happened for years, more and more horses are taken off their lands because of the Livestock, the horses are healthy and deserve Their LAND, but every year more and more are taken off because of any excuse the BLM can think of, and NOW the cattle aren’t getting exactly what they want, they turn on the very org. that has given them pretty much whatever they have wanted… Funny really because you see this will indeed SHOW everyone what really has been going on this will back fire BIG TIME for all those welfare cattle ranchers…. and I say YAHOO,,, just like the cattle industry supporting horse slaughter they are cutting there own throats more and more folks are NOT eating beef because of there support on this issue… SO bring it on you god for saken leaches you will get your dues in the end…. HA what a JOKE….. DISSGUSTED but can’t wait to see them walk out of that courtroom with there cattle tails between their legs…. YES SIR

  2. JanWindsong says:

    It takes a certain level of arrogance to deny that the Congress, which this writer so blatantly and verbosely sides with, has DENIED BLM any funds to kill healthy wild horses. The budget goe son to DENY BLM any funding to transport horses for slaughter. Now, which Congress are you speaking to or of? Get your facts straight Henny Penny. Better yet, crawl back to your cow pie and slither under it.

  3. Hubris? You bet it takes hubris and the livestock grazing industry is full of it. The BLM just announced their 2014 grazing fees….surprise! They are the same…$1.35 an AUM and this fee has not changed since 1920. Private grazing goes for $13.60 an AUM. In a study from the Center for Biological Diversity on the full costs, direct and indirect, taxpayers subsidize the BLM livestock grazing program, it was found that taxpayers subsidize the livestock grazing industry $1billion annually. That is not enough, apparently, as the welfare grazers want all the legally designated land our wild horses and burros live on too. That is why they have been systematically removing them, without any fact-based required studies to prove their claims. They simply want them off the land so they, and the oil/gas industry, can have more land. They have been running this show for decades now and it is high past time for it to stop. The NAS (National Academy of Science) turned in their study of the BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program last Summer and found many problems. There has been no criteria for record-keeping or data collection, etc. They put together a pragmatic fact and science-based management program for our BLM to follow that will not require roundups and our WH&B can live in peace on their legally designated land. The BLM just needs to implement it. I would also suggest the BLM manage our WH&B ‘exclusively’ on their legal lands, not ‘primarily’, and return the legally designated land taken from them…..22 million acres. This relieves the competition of ‘multiple uses’. BLM should also make it known that if a grazer fences water away from our WH&B that is on their legal land, or harms a WH&B in any way, that they will lose their grazing privileges on BLM land permanently. Finally, the BLM must release our WH&B from their cruel and needless captivity to their legal lands. They are all sterilized. Let them live their lives freely on their land in peace, while the BLM develops a proper management program for our magnificent, iconic, historical, and beloved WH&B based on the NAS study.


  1. […] whit what the law says, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free […]

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