BLM Helicopter Roundups Continue to Destroy Wild Horse Herds

The Cloud Foundation Asks Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to end the abuse

ROCK SPRINGS, WY. (Nov. 26, 2013) – The Cloud Foundation (TCF) adamantly opposes the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) continuing policy of rounding up wild horses in brutal weather conditions as witnessed by humane observers at the Adobe Town/ Salt Wells roundup in southern Wyoming this week. TCF calls on Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, to step in and put an end to what the Colorado non-profit characterizes as “taxpayer funded animal abuse.”

Temperatures in the low teens in the Adobe Town/Salt Wells Complex (ATSW) did not stop the BLM from running wild horses, including small foals only a few months of age, to trap sites miles away from where the mustangs were attempting to survive wintry conditions. At least one small foal was unable to keep up with its mother according to humane observers of the operation. They also reported adult horses coming into the trap site wet from sweat, a formula for respiratory complications.

BLM announced the roundup start date less than 36 hours before the helicopters took to the air on November 21st, despite calls from the public asking the agency for an estimate of when the roundup was to begin. “I have been calling the Rock Springs BLM office every two weeks since August requesting a start date,” states Carol Walker, noted equine photographer, author, and wild horse advocate. “They started this operation without any reasonable public notification in horrible conditions right before Thanksgiving.”

The last minute notification flies in the face of recommendations to BLM in the National Academy of Sciences Report calling for improved transparency, as well as better, more meaningful communication with the interested public.

The roundup conforms to the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RGSA) Consent Decree issued on July 17, 2013 requiring removal of all wild horses from private lands within the checkerboard portion (a two million acre swath of public, state and private land in Sweetwater and Carbon counties) of the ATSW complex by the end of 2013. Rather than proceeding in favorable weather, the decision to begin appears to be based on the availability of the roundup contractor, Cattoor Livestock.

“Helicopter roundups are inherently cruel under the best of circumstances,” stated Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of TCF.  “Add to this the terror of being chased over snow-covered terrain in the bitter cold and wind. What happened to considering first and foremost the welfare of these wild horse families, some with tiny foals? This is nothing more than taxpayer funded animal abuse.”

“The BLM is wiping out Wyoming's wild horses at the behest of the private ranching interests that enjoy taxpayer-subsidized grazing on the public lands where the mustangs live,” states Suzanne Roy, Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a coalition of more than 50 organizations, including The Cloud Foundation. ”The agency had the discretion to delay this removal and instead started in treacherous conditions and unacceptably cold temperatures.”

BLM’s Jan. 23, 2013 Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy states, “the BLM is committed to the well-being and responsible care of WH&B we manage.  At all times, the care and treatment provided by the BLM and our contractors will be characterized by compassion and concern for the animal’s well-being and welfare needs.”

The BLM memorandum specifically states that the BLM will insure every effort is made to prevent foals from being left behind; that whenever extreme environmental conditions exist (such as temperature) the overall health and well-being of the animals will be monitored ...that the lead person will adjust gather operations as necessary to protect the animals.  But the policy fails to designate appropriate temperature ranges for humane roundups.  According to Temple Grandin, PhD, doctor of animal science and professor at Colorado State University, roundups should not be conducted when temperatures are below 20 degrees. The Humane Society of the United States recommends a minimum temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Interior Secretary Jewell has not addressed the broken BLM Wild Horse and Burro program in any substantive way, even after the National Academy of Science Report issued in June criticized the BLM program for massive roundups that only trigger higher reproduction rates on the range.

“The mustangs are just trying to avoid extinction,” Kathrens concludes. “Meanwhile, business as usual for the BLM continues, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars each year, destroying protected wild horses herds, and ‘cow towing’ to the demands of livestock associations like the RSGA and other consumptive users of lands that are owned by the American public.”

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Links:

Wyoming Wild Horse Herds in Jeopardy

Federal Court Sanctions Government Plans to Eliminate Wild Free-Roaming Horses from Wyoming Checkerboard

Recommendations on the BLM’s Standard Operating Procedures for Wild Horse and Burro Gather Operations, by the Humane Society

Wild Horse and Burro Gathers: Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy

BLM Daily Gather Reports, Adobe Town/Salt Wells

BLM Issues Adobe Town/Salt Wells Creek Wild Horse Gather

Adobe Town & Salt Wells Gather