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Government Shutdown Puts 50,000 Captive Wild Horses At-Risk of Neglect 

BLM Holding Pen

From: The Desert Independent

RENO, Nevada – The government shutdown jeopardizes 50,000 American wild horses stockpiled in federally funded holding facilities. For example, today some mustangs are caught in limbo from the controversial Sheldon Wildlife Refuge roundup in Nevada orchestrated by the Forest Service. Protect Mustangs has been warning the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) about the fiscally irresponsibility to remove close to 80% of the native wild horses and burros off the range in order to fast-track the New Energy Frontier at great ecological expense. The BLM’s claims of overpopulation have been debunked by The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report stating there is “no evidence” of overpopulation.

sheldon wildlife refuge “The public is up in arms wanting to know who will feed and care for the wild horses and burros during the shutdown,” states Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs. “This is a perfect example of why wild horses and burros should be living on the range and why 80% of America’s wild horses and burros should not be kept in federally funded facilities. That said, we don’t endorse the use of fertility control without population studies first. We want good science to govern policy. Tobacco science and guesstimates got the feds and the American taxpayer in this mess in the first place.”

Today some wild horses are stuck in limbo at temporary holding. They were rounded up from the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge and haven’t been given to government contractors who receive $1,000.00 per horse to take them off the feds hands and adopt them out.

“We are concerned the wild horses are suffering in pens without care,” states Kerry Becklund, director of outreach for Protect Mustangs. “We want to have access to monitor captive wild horses to ensure their care. We have volunteers who will help at all the holding facilities as needed during the government shutdown. We’re here to help.”

Protect Mustangs is against the removal of native wild horses from public land especially from a wildlife sanctuary where they belong. Wild horses are not an invasive species nor are they “pests” as the EPA wrongly named them in order to pass a controversial “restricted use pesticide” known as Porcine zona pellucida (PZP) under the name ZonaStat-H for use on wild horses and burros. PZP is an immunocontraception made from pigs ovaries that did not pass the FDA.

This year the NAS released a report on the Wild Horse and Burro Program wherein they stated there was “no evidence” of overpopulation. Despite the news, the BLM continues to endorse myths of alleged overpopulation.

The BLM has pumped up their population guesstimates to justify federal spending increases to roundup and warehouse the majority of America’s wild horses and burros who are using less than 3% of public land.

burro round up “It’s the Emperor’s New Clothes,” reveals Novak. “Everyone is being fooled there is an overpopulation issue when in fact they are underpopulated on the range today. We are calling for an immediate moratorium on roundups and removals for scientific population studies.”

“With the gluttony of roundups and removals, wild horses reproduce at a higher rate than normal–to prevent extinction,” explains Novak. “We need scientific studies to establish what the normal reproduction rate is, under normal circumstances and discover scientific truths about for wild horses and burros legally allowed to roam freely on more than 30 million acres of public land. Today there is no scientific proof of BLM’s alleged overpopulation to merit fertility control, roundups or removals.”

The Wild Horse and Burro Program costs have been rising rapidly, from $38.8 million in Fiscal Year 2007 to $74.9 million in Fiscal Year 2012. Now 59 percent of the funding ($43 million) goes to holding costs. Despite a troubled economy, the administration wants to remove additional native wild equids and has requested an additional $4 million in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.

When the wild equids live out on the range it costs virtually nothing to “keep” them on their native habitat. They help reduce the risks of wildfires and reverse desertification. That’s the beauty of native wildlife filling their niche in the ecosystem.

The New Energy Frontier push is the reason for massive roundups on public land since 2009-10, when the former Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, introduced his “Plan”.

In 1971 the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act designated 339 herd areas on 53.8 million acres. Today only 179 herd areas remain on 31.6 million acres. The herd areas have been zeroed out for oil, gas, livestock and mining interests to capitalize on the land legally allocated to wild horses and burros for primary, but not exclusive, use.

In 1900 there were 2 million wild horses roaming in America. Today only 17,000 estimated wild horses remain in all 10 western states combined. The BLM’s estimate, over 37,000, is grossly inflated to justify additional removals and hide the true threat of extinction facing America’s wild horses and burros.


Protect Mustangs is a San Francisco-based conservation group, with an international membership base, devoted to protecting native wild horses. Their mission is to educate the public about the indigenous wild horse, protect and research American wild horses on the range and help those who have lost their freedom.

“We want to find the win-win, to return all the wild horses and burros to their native range so they can balance out the environmental devastation caused by the New Energy Frontier,” states Novak. “There is a way for all this to work out but first we need scientific studies to make sure it’s done right.”

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