Facing National Scrutiny, BLM Struggles to Explain Wild Horse Program


Susanne Roy, May 14, 2013, Huffington Post

ss-130403-wild-horses-17.ss_full“Wild horses are not receiving a fair shake.” Those are the words of a thirty-year Bureau of Land Management (BLM) veteran to NBC News’ senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers, as part of hergroundbreaking report, “Horses are wild — but not free.”

The segment is must-see TV. It not only reveals the inside experience of a former BLM official who worked on the program, but it also marks a defining moment in the fight to secure fairer treatment of America’s mustangs by the federal government.

Until recently, the BLM’s wild horse program has operated without accountability, due to a lack of public awareness and political pressure. But over the last four years, the program has slowly started to take on water: the $80 million annual price tag, the fact that three out of five wild horses have been captured and now live in government warehousing, and the sale of 1,700 wild horses to a known kill buyer.

The NBC News report leveraged all of this and more to put the program’s supporters on the defensive. When Myers challenged the head of the program, Joan Guilfoyle, over the justification for the program, Guilfoyle responded that the BLM was trying to maintain a “balanced approach” to public land use.

The former BLM official quickly dismissed this by pointing out, “what really needs to be done is reduce the livestock numbers.” Cattle, after all, outnumber wild horses by 50 to 1 on public lands. As further evidence, NBC pointed to research by our campaign, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), that shows the BLM is allocating more than 80 percent of forage in wild horse habitat areas to privately-owned livestock instead of to federally-protected mustangs.

Myers went on to press the program’s supporters on what they want to do with the nearly 50,000 wild horses in government warehousing. While Guilfoyle claimed that the BLM would not consider slaughter, a rancher interviewed by Myers said flatly, “let them go to [the] slaughter house. What value are they now?”

This view is embraced by many of the program’s supporters — including people who sit on its advisory board — despite opposition from 80 percent of Americans who oppose the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption.

The most damning part of the report came when Myers played footage of wild horses being tortured, injured and killed during helicopter roundups, forcing Guilfoyle to concede, “the incidents we see there are not the way we want animals to be handled.”

This is the kind of journalism that serves the public well, and Myers and her producer, Michael Austin, are to be commended for spending the months of hard work necessary to understand this issue and properly convey it to NBC viewers.

Music legend and environmentalist Carole King, who graciously agreed to be interviewed by NBC at our request, described the BLM’s wild horse roundups as “so offensive because they are so inhumane, so unnecessary and so cruel.”

After watching this story, many citizens agreed. They took to AWHPC’s Facebook page to describe the anguish they felt while watching the NBC story. “It brought tears to my eyes,” wrote one. “I am just heartbroken and outraged,” wrote another.

CONTINUED – Read more and COMMENT at The Huffington Post (Note – posting comments at the Huffington Post page is VERY important. As a news media outlet, the more people who go to their site, the more they will carry stories like this.)

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • shirley mix


    May 15, 2013
  • Allan Wilson

    These are OUR horses and not for the Government to take away… No slaughter for American horses !!!!!! Stop the injustices to them . !!!!!!

    May 15, 2013
  • Vicki Fancher

    We have to stop the welfare ranchers and the BLM before they rob America blind. Wild horses are supposed to be protected as is our government land. BLM has protected neither… round up wild horses and burros unnecessarily then leased the American land for barely a song… subsidized ranching and sheep herding, over grazed our land and cost the tax payers millions a year! Get the horses back on their rightful land, stop the abuse of taxpayers… we want our wild horses!
    Thousands of horses have died and many are missing… some went to slaughter in the middle of the night… stop stop stop! I am a U S Citizen and those are my horses!

    May 15, 2013
  • We’ve posted your article on both of our facebook pages and provided a link to the letter for signing.
    Thank you for fighting so hard for the horses – you and your colleagues are going to make the difference that’s needed to save their lives. Thank you …

    May 15, 2013
  • patti

    Shame on you BLM.. Destroying these magnificent creatures for money.
    It is time the American people stand up for the horses and demand accountability from this govt. and the BLM…this is disgusting and it is inhumane. How dare you create such a disturbance among these creatures.
    The BLM has had free reign too long.

    May 15, 2013
  • Laurea Piedallau

    I am SO HAPPY that the media is finally paying attention to the national disgrace the BLM and its inhumane programs are perpetrating onto these horses. At a recent equine event, I spoke with a BLM rep who found it hard to defend a program that shows bias toward cattle ranchers (can you say “pay off??”) and NOT to the horses it is supposed to protect!! Wild Mustangs are part of our country’s proud heritage and need to be preserved and protected. Murdering these supposedly “federally protected” animals is akin to allowing some power company to damn the Grand Canyon in order to “conserve energy.” Americans, PLEASE let your voice be heard and INSIST that OUR land is used for OUR Mustangs and not for some private business’s cattle!

    May 15, 2013
  • Tina L. Anderson

    The BLM is corrupt and they should all be fired. The horses are in no way being protected. This is just another Gov. office that needs an over haul . Better yet closed them down all together . They are obviously not up to the job. Every time I hear or see anything about the wild horses it is bad news for them. We all know why they are holding them. Why else have any been sold to slaughter. They are the only horses safe to eat . It does not take rocket science to figure it out. Stop the corruption that is running wild in this country!

    May 15, 2013
  • Sheri Lynn

    Please, please protect these beautiful creatures. These roundups have to stop!!

    May 15, 2013
  • Kim Daily

    I can’t believe this country allows such cruelty to our horses. Where’s peta now??? or the commercials asking for money to help the cats and dogs? I’m sure people would donate if they showed those commercials

    May 15, 2013
  • LInda Otherlyn

    Fully abolish or drasticlly DE-FUND the BLM. Wild horses and burros do not need to be “managed”. The BLM’s disgraceful, deliberate desimation aiming toward the deliberate total destruction of our American herds is an abomination. We cant afford it, nor do we need it. Leave the wild equine herds alone. They are OUR National Heratage, and a part of our collective treasure.

    May 15, 2013
  • Anne

    The issue is highlighting the horses, but there is a big-picture issue here… ecologically sound management of our public lands for all wild animals including the horses.
    I am very disappointed in our system… sound science is more sustainable than lobbying interests, who wreak havoc and walk away leaving their mess for someone else to clean up.

    May 15, 2013
  • Kim Bird

    I agree with Anne…for to long our government has been allowing the interests of big cattle business to interfere with the BLM wild mustangs…its time they enforce the Act that was put in place to protect these animals…a good management program with experienced horse people who can implement a breeding program to benefit the horses and the land is a must…the way the horses are rounded up from the air and penned is not only cruel but abusive and needs to be stopped…

    May 15, 2013
  • Marilyn Wargo

    This is not Just Public Lands. This is the specific lands the wild horses were given by the people through our government for them to have in Perpetuity! These wild horse lands were divied up from the original HAs (Herd Areas) into HMAs (Herd Management Areas) which are a small portion of an HA and the invention of BLM. If a wild horse is off HMA it can be removed even if of is still on it’s HA (Herd Area) lands! This is Policy and not law. Policy can be changed. he 1971 Act is not adhered to and is in fact ignored and broken by BLM Policy daily.

    May 15, 2013
  • Melanie Morris

    Please. Do the right thing.

    May 15, 2013
  • Arlene

    I Loved the video because it really showed and presented the BLM as the fools, and lairs they really are, and also the rancher, by the way who was he does anyone know??????/ It was clarifying hugely the torture and abuse our Mustangs are forced to endure !!!!!! !!!! Heres the other thing anyone who knows and has studied Wildlife knows that when there is overpopulation , what you need to do is but out, what happens is Nature who knows truely how to Keep the Balance , does what they call survival of the fittest she knows what she doing !!!!!! With Mustangs this has never even been an issue they were never overpopulated in the first place !!!!! What the BLM did was create a Hitler regime with the Mustangs and are trying to create a Horse Holicost .sorry for spelling………….. They have absolutely no BUSINESS managing something they do not know the first thing about !!!!!

    May 15, 2013
  • Debbie Tracy

    BLM is quite an organization to be proud of right??? I AM SO GLAD this show was shown on NBC, FINALLY, NOW MAYBE someone will listen who can change this…. LIKE everyone here said THOSE ARE OUR HORSES, we PAY for the food, IT IS also OUR LAND, LET THEM GO NOW, you all have made a mess clean it up, and let them GO where they belong on THEIR LAND, not the Welfare Ranchers land the HORSES LAND>…

    May 15, 2013
  • Melissa Ohlsson

    The guy was obviously a welfare rancher. His comment, “If my cows don’t calve, I don’t make any money!” gave him away.
    He pays the BLM $1.35 a MONTH to graze both cow and calf on our public lands. This is one of the main reasons BLM is rounding up our wild horses… to support Mr. Welfare Rancher and his fellow “rancher” cronies. The 14 million scrub cattle now grazing public lands on the tax-payers dime provide less than 2% of our nations table beef. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all those cows are feeding us… they aren’t! They exist only for the tax write-offs and subsidies they qualify the welfare rancher for!

    Melissa Ohlsson
    Vice President
    America’s Wild Horse Advocates
    Las Vegas, NV.

    May 15, 2013
  • Julia McBride

    This is horrid. And disturbing,to say the least.

    May 15, 2013
  • Joan Harrell

    These round ups are cruel and represent the horrible treatment of these beautiful animals. Horses if treated with kindness will return love and friendship. Stop this abuse and let these horses run free. Let nature take it’s natural course. Stop this horrible interference.

    May 15, 2013
  • After all horses have done for mam through the ages, they should be revered and cared for.

    May 15, 2013
  • MorganG

    Thank you Suzanne Roy. Went over to HuffPost and placed comment.

    May 15, 2013
  • Kathy

    Is anyone thinking depo, to control birth . Different bands get it different years & you would do the whole band . Some mares have to foal , to maintain head health. Predators get some , even a stud will kill one .something to think about .

    May 15, 2013
  • Dave Tate

    Please stop the round ups of the wild horses they are the symbol of america in so many ways. if cuts need to be made in the animals on BLM lands then cut the cattle and sheep from wasting the lands the horse has ruled these lands and it is there homes not cattle or sheep homes that are affected with the round ups let our horses run free the way god had intended them to do

    May 15, 2013
  • tammy

    This has gotten ridiculous!! Those horses are wild and they were there first !!! Your taking their lives as wild animals !! Leave them alone !! As if slaughtering all of these other animals isn’t bad enough !!!!! Put an end to these disturbing slaughter houses altogether!!!!”‘!!!,,

    May 16, 2013
  • Kay

    Please, let our horses go. This battle was fought and won in the 70’s, the why and how of the BLM’s change of heart and change of charge/directive need to be investigated AND REPORTED. Ask the media for follow up reports, more investigating, more light on a shady area.

    May 16, 2013
  • Jordan

    This is ridiculous! The mustangs out there nowadays are not the same as 50 years ago. They are all inbred and look nasty. Why give priority to a mustang over a cow, when all mustangs do is take tax dollars out and don’t put anything back in, and they are 100 times harder on the land than a cow. At least the rancher is paying his taxes and providing a source of meat that most Americans eat. A cow is not hard on the land when ran right. And how do you account for the countless mustangs that roam private property?

    May 16, 2013
  • Gayle-Suzanne Barron

    The BLM Senior Advisor told me to my face at the last BLM Advisory Board Meeting in Oklahoma this year that the lands are designated as “multi-use” not just for the mustangs and they need to be managed according to the balance of use for these public lands as regulated by law.
    Basically they are mult-using the Wild Mustangs, Burros and Mules to extinction!
    This rogue agancy should be audited on a regular basis including their Standard Operating Procedures, as well as the Administration Procedures.
    The Criminal Procedures and Miss Use Of Our Hard Earned Tax Dollars Should Shut This Entire Government Agency Down, But Instead The Cattle Wars Of The 1800’s Never Ended, They Just Changed Their Tactics To A Degree!
    This Administration Condones, Promotes And Funds Their Insanity Carte Blanche, Although It is Beyond Obvious That They Are Nothing More Than A Corporate Mafia Government Department!
    We have begged and pleaded in every form imaginable for their release, common sense, compassion, common equine sense, stop the round ups and humane treatment.
    All to no avail!
    We have supported Laura Leigh in her observations and documentation of their breaches of ALL forms of the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act, as well as her court cases against the Bureau of Liea and Mismanagement as we call them.
    More hard earned tax money to take them to task on their evil agendas.
    I hold this administration completely responsible for this agency’s out of control behavior, lack of accountability, funding, unreasonable/non =-existant management other than to cater to special interests and fill their own bank accounts with OUR Hard Earned Tax Dollars while driving these supposedly PROTECTED Magnificient Amercian Icons to extinction in Our Lifetime!
    There Will Be A Reckoning Of Accountability By Father God For Being Lukewarm, As Well As For Evil And Good!
    So, Choose And Act Wisely AMERICA!

    May 16, 2013
  • Arlene

    POSTED on Huffington

    it is pretty hard to lie their way out of this one, they have been lieing for years and wasting taxpayers money, maiming, torturing and murdering Wild Mustangs for years, undercover without the knowledge of the people who own them the American Public, the Mustangs were unanimously declared protected by Congress and the American people, they are loved and respect by each and every American, so much so ROAM ACT of 1971 !!!!!! They have changed the wording to push them to extinction for their own GREEDY purposes, they need to get their priorities straight !!!!! The MUSTANGS BELONG to the LAND and the American people !!!!!! And the American people owe the MUSTANGS Protection and preservation……………They built the West !!!!!! Their History is filled with their heroic deeds for which we all OWE them !!!! ecologically perfection they are, Wild life depends on them, the LAND calls out to the Mustangs Return…………. Nature has always handled the Balance !!!! The MUSTANGS have earned beyond a shadow of a doubt their PROTECTION, and The BLM can not ever proof any of their falsified Claims of overpopulation !!!!!! PUT OUR BELOVED MUSTANGS BACK WHERE THEY BELONG ON THE RANGE !!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 16, 2013
  • Tami Hottes

    This needs to be stopped right now! I also do not agree with the birth control issue. There are not enough horses left to warrant that. The AWHPC needs to break ties with HSUS who holds the patent for PZP. What seems like wanting to help is really about money. Lets fight for the horses and not big Pharmaceutical companies!

    May 16, 2013
  • Linda

    It breaks my heart that they are not free that land is for the horses not some one
    who wants to free grase their cattle those horse have more rights to that land than those cows and blm needs investigated all those horses beinging killed cruelly set them free back at their home land and if that rancher cant affored to buy land for his cattle then he shouldnt have them his cattle is taking from our wild horses wake up our wild horses were there first thats their home set them free please

    May 16, 2013
  • Ambur

    I agree that the horses need to be treated humanely but living in Nevada(has the most wild horses) for over 20 yrs and seeing the herds and all the other animals that share the range, their numbers do need to be controlled. Every other animal that shares this range hs their numbers controled through either natural predators, hunting and going to market. Everyone who loves the wild horses says its the ‘greedy’ ranchers that want to put more cattle out but I have to ask-if these ranches that have been around for generations are so bad, why hasn’t their ‘livelihood’ eaten them out of house and home? The calves that are born every spring replace the ones that went to market the fall before-their numbers stay pretty consistant. During severe droughts, they do the right thing and sell off more then they can feed. Nevada is desert land-there are not rolling hills of grassy plains. Wild horses are domestic horses that were turned loose or got loose-not even originally native to America-they were brought over from Spain if I remember my history correctly so we can’t say they were here first. If we are going to argue who was here first, it would be the deer, antelope and elk. Cattle and the true wildlife has just as much a part in our history as the horse does-they ALL helped us survive. The horses herds double in size approx. every 4yrs-there is nothing beautiful about skin and bone horses and I’ve seen them like this out free on the range. left to themselves to ‘be free’ will eventually kill them and as most everyone knows, they’re expensive to feed. I own horses and with the current hay prices, which are not going down it cost an average of $1000 per horse a year to feed!! If the numbers are not controled and all the horses are turned free, lots of them will succumb to a long, slow death and that is in-humane and they are not the only wildlife that will suffer.

    May 16, 2013
  • Teresa Unger

    These horses should take precedence over privately owned cattle. Those federal lands are public and private cattle ranchers profit off of these lands while the wild horses, whom the American people as a whole want protected, are robbed of their lives. Why should the cattle ranchers get first and only dibs on land that is supposed to be shared and used for the benefit of the common good?—it is the “commons” and yet they act as if they and they alone should have access to it, feeling outraged if wild horses, whom many American people love and want protected, eat the grass and drink the water, at the supposed expense (often not even truly so) of their privately owned cattle herds, which only THEY profit from. It is time that cattle ranchers quit claiming primary and sole access to public lands. They have profiteered for centuries from the resources of this public land, and have been the main force working to eliminate (often successfully) the wildlife (wolves, bears, horses, cougars) that naturally populate these areas, areas that often were originally designated as “protected wilderness.” Those who would eliminate the wild horses have money and power, and often greed and a sense of outpaced entitlement (not being willing to share the land with other species whom many other people DO want to see benefiting from it), and, because they often live adjacent to these lands, or the ranches owned by large corporate powers are adjacent to these lands, their voices often win out in local and state decision making. But these are federal lands, and the people voted a long time ago—in the nineteen seventies—in favor of protecting wild horses. We need to see that it is done. And ranchers (private or corporatized) need to stop thinking that federal lands belong to them more than they belong to the American people as a whole. And the American people as a whole want America’s wild horses to run free—and while that land could be shared with private interests, private interests should not be claiming sole use of public lands and decimating the will of the American people, nor the LIFE and spirit of the American mustang.

    May 17, 2013
  • Teresa Unger

    I also agree with Tami that “birth control” is not the way to go. Just as these drugs are often harmful for women, they are likely harmful to horses as well. Besides, it deprives them of living natural lives, raising foals, etc. If we would truly allow wilderness…then natural predators would keep the horse population in check. If we truly want to “preserve” wilderness (how about “support” wilderness, or “protect” wilderness”?) then we would let these areas be truly wild. Domesticate herds of cattle would not have a place there…

    May 17, 2013
  • Ed Lewis S.

    Thank you, Patti, and all the rest for your insight and faith. Only money and political intervention can help us and the horses now.

    Son of Dark Horse–Onendaga Tribe

    May 18, 2013
  • Karen

    This story is truly heartbreaking. I sure hope the news media continues to investigate and report the facts. The BLM is totally out of control and needs to be held accountable. They are charged with caring for the public land, not destroying it!

    May 18, 2013
  • susan kotraba

    How can we turn our backs on this…these, and all horses, helped make America what it is today….it is our turn to give back to them!!!!! Stand up and doing something for them!!!!!

    May 22, 2013
  • Linda Taschereau

    Perhaps at one time , maybe thERE was a good intent . WELL L.ONG GONE BRUTEL DISGUSTING & SHAMEFUL TO THE USA

    June 2, 2013