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Friends of Animals’ Reply to the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board

Friends of Animals’ Reply to the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board

The Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board oversees in the Wild Horse and Burro Program, created by the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971. Since that year, more than 200,000 horses and burros have been privatized and ousted from the land in order to make room for an ever-burgeoning cattle industry. Friends of Animals is actively petitioning for policy changes and explaining the link between horsemeat and hamburgers.

On November 7, 2005, the Advisory Board met to plan current and future roundups and adoptions of free-living horses. Here is a letter sent by Friends of Animals to the Board. As of February 2006, the Board has not replied.

by Laurel Lundstrom | November 17, 2005

To the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board and the Bureau of Land Management:

I am Laurel Lundstrom. As program director for Friends of Animals’ Wild Horse and Burro Program and a concerned member of the public, I would like to respond to several issues raised at the most recent Advisory Board Meeting. Please consider the following comments, submitted in response to the 7 November 2005 meeting of the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board and the Bureau of Land Management, which I attended.

I am gravely concerned about the mission of the agency that was in evidence at the meeting, and how the mission makes inevitable an unfortunate fate for free-roaming horses and burros in the United States. Public lands, not private benefits, should be the agency’s core priority. The priority should not be rounding up, privatizing, and stocking previously free-roaming animals; rather, officials should be making all efforts to protect animals in their natural state.

Budget planning. Apparently, about three percent of the Bureau’s budget is allotted to monitor and assess the health of public lands; that is, just over $1 million of the $36.9 million horse and burro budget is set aside for environmental assessments. Environment should be paramount if the mission is based on respect for the horses and the environment.

Unfortunately, the majority of the funds support feeding and caring for animals already in long-term holding.

The $200,000 raised through Take Pride in America and individual donations would be better used toward assessments and range modification rather than as an incentive for buyers with unknown intentions.

Agency officials should be making all efforts to protect animals in their natural state. To that end, Board members should look to ranchers for concessions. That’s entirely possible. The agency’s Public Lands statistics speak for themselves. In fiscal year 2004, 6,819,250 Animal Unit Months were allocated to cattle grazing; 629,425 to sheep and goats. Just 44,744 AUMs were allowed for free-roaming horses and burros.1 Yet it’s the wild horses and burros that are seen as overpopulating. In reality, they are just inconvenient.

Population counts and foraging. At the meeting, census researcher Jason Ransom claimed that census techniques are becoming more precise, but that wild horses are almost always undercounted during surveys. This may be true, but the margin of error is small. Since roundups began, “forage use by wild equids remains a small fraction of the total forage use by domestic animals on public ranges, regardless of whether the actual number of equids is in accord with the censuses or somewhat higher.”2 The latter assessment was made by the National Academies of Sciences in their 1982 report, which should be re-examined by the Advisory Board today.

The National Academies of Sciences’ report lists the ratio of forage on BLM land by ranched animals versus by wild horses and burros as 12 to 1.

Keeping free-roaming horses and burros on public land is, unfortunately, not an agency priority. This is demonstrated by the Bureau’s policy of rounding up to the lowest end of all Appropriate Management Levels (AML).

At the 7 November meeting, Don Glenn stated that some of the AMLs stand for years without being reassessed, although landscapes and weather patterns are continually changing. Not only does the agency unfortunately continue making roundups and adoptions its priority; it does so ignoring climate science and relevant geographical realities. Today it is not science but the social and political prowess of ranchers to spread into public lands which is the main force driving removals.

There are now far more privatized animals and animals in holding than there are left roaming public lands.3 It is proven that removals and life in captivity are very stressful for the animals. In fact, many mares abort following the roundup.4 And those actually removed sometimes have to travel miles in stock trailers to be put in small corrals until they are tame enough to be handled.

Fertility Control: While the Board considers birth control as a means to limit roundups, members should instead consider limiting the control and privatization of free-living animals all together.

Wild horses once lived without human interference. Through predation, weather and competition with their own and other species, herds were self-limiting. It is only by critiquing the government’s willingness to control them today, that wild horses and burros will ever again have the chance to live and survive on their own terms.

Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to your response.

Very truly yours,

Laurel Lundstrom
Wild Horse and Burro Program Coordinator
Friends of Animals

Mailed to: Robin Lohnes
Executive Director, Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, Bureau of Land Management
c/o American Horse Protection Association
1000 29th Street, NW, Suite T-100
Washington, D.C. 20007

  • 1. Bureau of Land Management Public Land Statistics FY 2004.
  • 2. “Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros,” Final Report, page 43, Committee on Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros, Board on Agriculture and Renewable Resources, National Research Council (1982).
  • 3. “Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Removal and Adoption by Office, Fiscal Year 2005,” Published (28 February 2005).
  • 4. There were more lactating mares than foals found in the groups which were rounded up; half of the pregnant mares aborted in captivity of the 394 surveyed during a gather in 1979, NAS Report (1982).