What's the future for Mustangs (wild horses) & Burros?

THERE ARE LOTS OF SERIOUS ISSUES GOING ON NOW WITH WILD HORSES & BURROS - AND WITH EQUINES IN GENERAL.

Take time to study these issues, dig deeper, consider all sides (there is some truth in all sides), make your own decisions and keep your mind open to change.

 "These horses belong to all the people of America and they exist on lands
that belong to all the people of America."
- Velma "Wild Horse Annie" Johnson

It is not the purpose of this website to be political, yet to ignore the fact that important political questions are out there right now would be negligent. Study and learn, consider all sides, and make your own decisions. And your voice can count! Call, email & write your elected officials. Tell them you care!

Use these links to jump quickly to a specific section:  

THE ROAM ACT

HR 1018 PASSED! Now on to the Senate - S. 1579

This bill is stuck in committee. If it doesn't come to the Senate floor by the end of the year, it is dead. No legislation perhaps in US history has had so much popular support and yet been denied. But here we are.

Senator Robert Byrd has sponsored a Senate version of the Restore Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act, formerly known as HR.1018.  The Senate version is numbered S.1579.

Every year since 1984, a variant on the current bill has passed the House in flying colors and then died on the Senate floor. Hopefully, this year will be different...

Here's a link to the bill.

Here's a link to an annotated version of the bill: Additions in italics, changes & deletions to the existing law are in "strikethrough"

HIGHLIGHTS: The bill mandates that real science be used to determine what makes up a "thriving ecological balance" for any specific herd management area, that wild horses be considered part of the natural ecology (no longer "invasive non-native species!) that safe, effective birth control be used on a wide scale, that the Dept. of the Interior (not just BLM - all of it!) SHALL protect wild horses & burro. It also sets up provisions for identifying & setting up new rangelands for sanctuaries, and puts much more stringent restrictions on decisions to destroy captured animals. It repeals Sale Authority, and a lot more: Read the above links. There's a lot in them.

READ ABOUT S.1579 - To Restore Federal Protection and Improve Management of America's Wild Horses & Burros

What do YOU think?    

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" (Thomas Jefferson)

"Democracy without honest information creates the illusion of popular consent
 at the same time that it enhances the power of the state
and the privileged interests that the state protects."

-
Bill Moyers

First, The Bad News:

1. BURNS RIDER GUTS WHB PROTECTION:

Starting in late 2004, with the surreptitious insertion of the Burns Amendment into the Omnibus Spending Bill, which ended Federal protection for mustangs and burros 10 years old and older, and for younger ones who have failed to be adopted after three offerings (3 Strikes You're Out), through the fight to end horse slaughter plants in the US (which was passed by an overwhelming majority in the House but failed to make the Senate floor before it recessed for fall elections in 2006 ) - horses, especially wild ones, need our efforts to protect them more than ever.

These horse were photographed on one of the BLM Sanctuaries for older, less adoptable horses in the Midwest. Please note that these are the living conditions that Conrad Burns described as so "inhumane" that the horses would be better off dead!

2. BLM Proposes "SUNSET SOLUTION" (death) for 30,000 Wild Horses in Holding Facilities

NEWS FLASH: It's "on hold" for at least another year, while BLM and concerned citizens work together to find better, more humane solutions! (as of November 17, 2008)

It's a very tough situation at this point. And yet, the very thought of lining up 30,000 healthy horses and killing them seems unthinkably macabre. So the task at hand is to come up with workable solutions.

30,000 HORSES IN HOLDING?

How'd that happen? The way I understand it, and I may not be entirely correct, is that around the turn of the century, there was tremendous political pressure to get wild horse & burro numbers down to AML. Many HMA's did not even have an AML set yet, so pressure to do that also increased.

The plan, as presented to Congress and approved, was that there would be several years of large-scale round ups, until all herds were within AML. Then the round ups would reduce to just maintenance level. The large roundups needed to bring things down to AML would result in a temporary buildup of animals in holding, and these would be housed in long term sanctuaries, to either live out their lives or await adoption, whichever came first. Congress supported this plan.

Well, obviously, something went haywire with that plan. The reasons and possible reasons and accusations on one side or another are beyond anything I want to get into here. But some obvious factors that don't require finger-pointing are economic and demographic changes resulting in fewer adoptions, and widespread, long-lasting drought conditions which required emergency gathers to prevent widespread animal deaths.

So here we are: more animals in holding than on the range.

WORKABLE SOLUTIONS?:

  • improved range management
  • water source development and improvement
  • widespread birth control; A horse not born is a horse not gathered.
  • the current "inventory" of older wild horses in long term holding will gradually die off from old age. If improved management can reduce the numbers being gathered each year, the "overstocking crisis" will gradually subside.
  • beefed-up and improved adoption efforts, and
  • the cooperation of private and public groups, citizens, and organizations for
    • on-the-range preservation and management
    • cost-effective but humane long term sanctuaries, and
    • a stronger commitment to supporting adoption

Many people feel that gathering should not be the major management tool - that re-aligning the budget away from gathering as the major focus, to favor a combination of birth control, range improvement, water source improvement, cooperation with other range users (rather than fostering competition) and improved and better-funded adoption efforts (A) could have prevented the current crisis in the first place, and (B) should still be enacted before declaring the situation hopeless and killing thousands of healthy horses. S.1579 is an important step toward making any of this happen.

Read:

  • Wildlife Biologist Craig Downer's Call to Reform
     
  • The Wild Horse & Burro Program needs better funding! It is the least-funded branch of the entire BLM system. It cannot effectively manage wild horses if there is no money to do so. Somehow funds are always found to pull horses off the range, but better funding for a balanced management program could have prevented the need for many emergency gathers and improve the adoptability of those gathered.

LINKS TO EXPLORE THESE TOPICS FURTHER:

An Assortment of Various Sides of the Euthanasia Discussion:

CLIMATE CHANGE: INCREASING FIRES & DROUGHT

An additional factor that is adding to the problems of wild horses is global climate change. The Great basin area of the US is being affected by global climate change in the form of more frequent and longer-lasting droughts, which make emergency gathers necessary, which adds to the overpopulation of wild horses in government holding facilities.

BLM is charged with protecting wild horses and burros. Other branches of government have no such mandate, and those animals sometimes fare far worse:

3. Texas Burro Massacre:

Feral Donkeys Killed in S. Texas
by
Crystal Ward January, 2008

In recent months, perhaps as many as a hundred donkeys have been brutally shot by officials representing the Big Bend Ranch State Park in southern Texas. Most of the shooting was performed with little or no notice to any of the Park employees (many of which were interviewed and voiced their disapproval in the slaughter). Big Bend Ranch State Park covers over 300,000 acres of Chihuahuan desert wilderness. It's been a state park since 1988. It is rugged and remote land, which also encompasses two mountain ranges. For several centuries feral donkeys have lived in this area. At one point, big horn sheep apparently lived in the area too. Now, park officials claim the donkeys must go so they can reintroduce the big horn sheep which will compete for the same range. The big horn sheep already exist in three areas in Texas.

The drive to re-introduce the big horns is primarily a financial concern. Texas holds lotteries for the chance to trophy a big horn. The Park also manages longhorn cattle on the ranch. They hold annual cattle drives which bring in tourists. Although the cattle are not native to the area either, one can only speculate why the cattle may remain in manageable herds, but the donkeys must be eliminated.

Letters to the Editor are being printed in the Big Bend Sentinel in Texas. Many are from outraged animal lovers from throughout Texas and surrounding states. Most note the vicious way these donkeys were shot. Many were hip and belly shots. One article cited how a young foal was attempting to nurse off his dead mother.

Quoting another letter to the Editor, Curt Swafford from Terlingua, Texas writes; "I spoke with Mr. Robert Garcia, the retired park police officer who first investigated the burro massacre until Internal Affairs basically rendered his investigation impotent. He feels the taxpayers have a case regarding cruelty to animals under a law stating you cannot shoot an animal and leave it to linger and suffer. He tells me the mother burro suffered two weeks before she died, and he has proof, evidence, and photographs."

In January 2008, Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue toured Big Bend Ranch State Park to evaluate the site and plan on a humane capture of several surviving donkeys. We are grateful for PVDR and in recent weeks the Board of Directors of CADAMA voted to donate club funds specifically for the rescue of feral donkeys in Big Bend Ranch State Park. This will be a huge undertaking and donations will be gratefully accepted.

You can send your donations directly to www.donkeyrescue.org . On that same site you can view the article written by Mark Meyers regarding this issue.

What can we do? Several things. First and most important, we can send a donation to PVDR specifically for this rescue.  Talk about this tragedy.....write letters. Tell your friends. Send emails to people across the country. Get involved. For those who are passionate about this subject, please join us in a letter writing campaign. Change will only come about when the people request change, give valid reasons and show support in unison. We need to right a wrong. Hopefully these donkeys did not die in vain.

Presently feral equines are protected on federal lands by the "Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act" of 1971. It mandates that these animals shall be prohibited from capture, branding, harassment or death. Their populations on federal lands are kept in check by a round-up and adoption system. No such system seems to be in place for feral equines on state lands. This is where the donkeys in Texas on state park land falls through the cracks. Simply put, they are on state land, not federal land.

Here's where your letters can help. By writing elected officials in Texas, perhaps one individual will introduce legislation to incorporate state park land in a similar law already on the books with federal lands.

Addresses/FAX for letters

(Texas) Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711

(Texas) Senator John Cornyn
FAX only (202) 228-2856

(Texas) Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson
FAX only (202) 224-0776

(Texas) Senator Carlos I. Uresti
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711

(Texas) Representative Congressman Oro Rodriguez
FAX only (202) 225-2237

(Texas) Representative Pete Gallego
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

Big Bend Ranch State Park
P.O. Box 2319
Presidio, TX 79845

The Alpine Avalanche
(newspaper)
P.O. Box 719
Alpine, TX 79831
email
editor@alpineavalanche.com

Marathon New Leader (newspaper)
P.O. Box 99Sanderson, TX 79848
email
editor@tcnewsleader.com

Austin American-Statesman (newspaper)
P.O. Box 670
Austin, TX 78767

The Big Bend Sentinel (newspaper)
Drawer P
Marfa, TX 79843
editor@bigbendsentinel.com
sterry@bigbendsentinel.com
FAX (432) 729-4601

President George W. Bush
FAX only (202) 456-2461 

 

NAIS (National Animal Identification System) is not only an attack on personal liberty, it also threatens small holders of livestock with a huge economic burden of micro-chipping, registering & reporting all stock (including poultry, sheep, goats, ponies, horses, donkeys, mules, horses, cows, pigs, or any other livestock not defined as "pet"). NAIS, in the opinion of this writer, threatens our freedom as US Citizens with "Big Brother Is Watching You" surveillance of ordinary citizens. The stated purpose is to be able to quickly locate (and destroy) animals in the case of a disease outbreak (such as bird flu). I'm sorry - I'm just not with this one!

NOW, THE GOOD NEWS For Wild Horses (Mustangs) & Burros!

1. "Euthanasia" is OFF for Another Year!

Government delays decision on killing wild horses

11/17/2008, 9:04 p.m. EST
By SANDRA CHEREB
The Associated Press
 
RENO, Nev. (AP) ó The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will round up fewer wild horses and try to shuffle funds within the agency to hold off for now on killing large numbers of the animals in an effort to control herds and spiraling costs, an official said Monday.
Deputy Director Henri Bisson said maintaining the wild horse and burro program for another year will give horse advocates, the BLM, Congress, ranchers and wildlife advocates time to explore possible solutions and let "cooler heads prevail."
"Let's focus on doing something positive before we have to look at last resort tools," Bisson said. "We're not making any decisions today. We're not making any decisions next week."

2. The Ford Foundation established a "Save the Mustang Fund" in the wake of the Burns Rider, after horses purchased under the Burns Rider's new sale authority, began showing up at slaughterhouses. You can donate to this fund now, to help save the thousands more who are still in peril, under the recently-proposed "Sunset Solution."

3. The Mustang Heritage Foundation: This organization, reorganized under the direction of Patty Colbert and Weslie Elliott, is a HUGE shot in the arm for the wild horse world! They have the vision, the commitment, and the know-how to get things done. Watch for the EMM on RFD-TV!

The MUSTANG HERITAGE FOUNDATION has these exciting and innovative programs currently in place:

4. California BLM Volunteer Project & Related Volunteerism:

5.  Private Enterprise: Here's a wonderful story about a Reno-area "Green" commercial/industrial park and Wild Horses;
Same Happening, another report: http://www.kbrhorse.net/news/tri0804.html

6. Private Enterprise/GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP: Cooperation between private horse advocates and the State of Nevada develop water sources to preserve Comstock horses on the range, reduce need for gathers.

7. American Mustang Foundation's Legacy Ranch Center for Education & Advocacy
The American Mustang Foundation (aka Legacy Ranch) is a California 501(c)3 non--profit corporation with the overall mission to educate the public about the history and plight of the American Mustang to improve the lives of mustangs both on the range and in captivity.

WHAT WE CAN ALL DO
TO HELP WILD HORSES AND BURROS:

1. PEOPLE WON'T PROTECT WHAT THEY DON'T KNOW AND LOVE:
G
et your good mustangs and burros out where the public can get to know them!


Getting your well-trained horse or burro out to shows and competitions is a great way to show the world that these are animals with merit and value.

Meet the Mustangs Day in Napa and Napa Mustang Days 2009 were the effort of the local Napa Valley Horsemen's Association and California BLM Volunteers to help educate the public about mustangs and burros, while providing a day of fun and camaraderie.

It's amazing how many people  today have never even seen a horse at close range. Generally, people get very excited about being able to pet a real horse that is clean and well-behaved. Being an ambassador for Mustangs is usually fun and gratifying.


Ruby and Sparky participating in a public schools Farm Day

Sparky at a BLM adoption

Sparky in a parade

Benny, Sparky & Ruby at a BLM adoption
(photo courtesy of Jeff Fontana, California BLM)
It's important for today's kids growing up to know and feel good about horses. Here's a meeting of the Napa Valley Horsemen's Association's Junior Club. Horse care and riding are taught to kids who don't have a horse of their own. Sparky, Ruby and & Max, and Lucca, another BLM Mustang, are shown here being perfect kid-friendly ambassadors for both wild horses and all horses.

Other things you can do:

1. Educate Yourself!

2. Communicate your desires for America's wild horses and burros to your elected officials www.congress.org is a good place to start.

3. If you cannot adopt, SPONSOR a Wild Horse through the FORD FOUNDATION'S SAVE THE MUSTANG FUND, or through a private sanctuary such as LIFESAVERS (New home of Lewis and Clark)

4. PARTICIPATE IN BLM PLANNING! Here's a link to how BLM makes decisions - YOU can participate!

5. More information & long articles on some of these subjects:

Hit Counter since March 7, 2006