President Obama

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

We, the members and supporters of Friends of Animals, located in every state and in several countries, firmly oppose the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to round up and remove yet more of free-roaming wild horses and burros from U.S. public lands in a scheme to place the horses in holding sites, sterilize them, and privatize them, all at U.S. taxpayers’ expense. There are few sustainable or genetically viable herds left, and they must be respected: not sterilized, not privatized.

At the beginning of the 20th century, 2 million mustangs roamed free.(1) Today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar tells reporters, “We have a huge problem — out-of-control populations of wild horses and burros on our public lands.”(2) But the reporters also note that 37,000 free-roaming horses and burros remain on public lands. (The actual number varies depending on the estimate being cited, and might be far less than that.) The round-up policy itself is the huge problem, as it has resulted in the accumulation of tens of thousands of horses by the BLM and the question of what to do with them.

At the same time these small communities of free-living horses and burros are under attack, ranchers graze several million cows and other domesticated animals on public lands. Animal agribusiness is notorious for its heavy use of fuel and water, a driving force behind environmental damage, and a leading generator of greenhouse gases. The blame for the degraded, overgrazed condition of western public lands lies with cattle ranching, not free-roaming horses and burros.

The U.S. government’s willingness to serve the interests of agribusiness by leasing it nearly all public lands with any forage potential compromises the well-being of wild horses on the very rangelands the government is charged with protecting.

This destructive cycle of roundups, privatization and sterilization must stop. There is ample public land for free-living equids: over 19 million acres are legally designated for their use. Federal plans to spend nearly $100 million in tax dollars to create “preserves” is thus as wasteful as it is disrespectful to these equid communities.

Also as wasteful as it is disrespectful is the proposal to aggressively manage herds remaining on rangeland through sterilization and control of reproduction.

Wild free-roaming horses and burros should be entitled to genuine and full protection of the law. We assert that the only way to truly protect free-living horses on the pockets of lands that constitute their habitat is to empower them to remain free.

The time has come for the BLM to do the job of protecting and respecting wild horses and burros, instead of continuing to compromise this duty for the benefit of animal agribusiness.


Priscilla Feral
Friends of Animals

(1) See Deanne Stillman, “Wild Horses Aren’t Free” – Los Angeles Times (2 Jun. 2008).

(2) Lyndsey Layton and Juliet Eilperin, “Salazar Presents Ambitious Plan to Manage Wild Horses” – Washington Post (8 Oct. 2009).