BLM AML’S ARE TOO SMALL
BLM AML’S ARE TOO SMALL
THE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (BLM) SHOULD BE TRYING TO PROTECT THE FEW REMAINING WILD HORSES & BURROS ON OUR PUBLIC LANDS RATHER THAN CONTINUING TO REMOVING THEM
As we come to the end of 2022, a record breaking year for the number of wild horses removed from their home on our public lands, we are anxious about what the upcoming 2023 gather schedule will show. We fear there are truly less wild horses on public lands now than there were in 1971 when Congress voted unanimously to pass the Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burros Act to protect a “fast disappearing” native and wild species from the western landscape.
For the record, the real problem on OUR PUBLIC LANDS is too many devastating cattle/livestock – they are everywhere and are methane producing machines due to their 4-stomach physiology and who also represent a significant contribution to our carbon footprint because of the crop growth to feed them.
There are multi millions of cattle/livestock on OUR PUBLIC LANDS, and they are also on the Wild Horse and Burro Heard Areas (HA’s) and Herd Management Areas (HMA’s). Contrast this to the few thousands (30,000-40,000) wild horses the BLM is trying to eradicate from their HA’s and HMA’s on OUR PUBLIC LANDS.
The numbers indicate the real problem. Wild horse/burro gathers are ongoing and are a huge threat to wild horse and burro genetic viability over time. This is evidenced by the BLM’s low target numbers for the Appropriate Management Level (AML’s) described later in this report. The truth is the BLM has become infiltrated and controlled by big money cattle/livestock interests, fossil fuel, mineral extractive industries, logging and corporate interests who want no competition from wild horses/burros/and even wildlife as they expand their exploitation of OUR PUBLIC LANDS.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Appropriate Management Level (AML’s) as posted on their website on August 29, 2022 would seem to be detrimental to the future genetic viability of our country’s wild horses and burros. Further, the BLM AML targets are not consistent with the
‘intent’ of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA) of 1971, which was to provide wild horses and burros a place to call home and give them ‘principal use’ on their original HA’s and HMA’s, which were also much larger areas with forage and access to water not encumbered by all the fencing that’s been put up by welfare ranchers since 1971, impeding the equine populations’ the ability to roam freely and graze for available forage and water. This is significantly more important due to the increasing competition by the significant number of cattle/livestock now sharing OUR PUBLIC LANDS and again numbering in the multi millions.
Cattle/livestock often out number wild horses and/or burros on their HA’s and even their HMA’s,
especially after a wild horse gather. As a result of BLM grazing and land leases afforded to ranchers and the multiple other uses where BLM uses the mandates in the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) which requires BLM to manage our public lands for all uses including: wildlife, livestock, wilderness, and recreation. This requirement is also in the Public Rangeland Improvement Act of 1978. BLM claims this was an amendment to the WFRHBA relative to HA’s and HMA’s for a so-called “thriving natural ecological balance.” However nothing in either FLPMA or PRIA took away the mandate in the WFRHBA to manage the areas where wild horses/burros were in 1971 principally for wild horses/burros, these other acts simply meant BLM could not choose to favor one use over another if there was room to allow multiple uses, and if the area was not already designated, by prior land use policy.
Wild horses and/or burros seem to be relegated to last place rather than given ‘principal use’ per the original WFRHBA, And this is further evidenced by the intensified number of controversial and questionable wild horse gathers, removing equines from their HMA’s rather than removing cattle/livestock and competing for profit operations that make equines survival
more difficult and extremely questionable. The problem has gotten worse as more equines are removed and their numbers diminished to meet very low BLM AML targets described
herein; this is now compromising the native and iconic equines' unique bloodlines.
Why not remove the cattle/livestock and protect the Wild Horses and Burros sustainability numbers, especially considering most Americans - over 75% by public survey - want our wild
horses and burros to stay where they belong on their HA’s, HMA’s and OUR PUBLIC LANDS?
And, if you have an HMA with an AML that’s inadequate for wild horses and/or burros to have genetic viability, according to BLM’s own expert specialist (dr. Gus Cothran), wouldn’t it be more appropriate to manage that HMA for principle which would allow the AML to be raised to a number that would allow that herd to be genetically self-sustaining? This would be management that truly protects the wild horses/burros rather than ignoring the mandate to give them principal use and giving that priority use to any of the other multiple uses allowed on their HA’s and HMA’s. And wouldn’t you manage the HA using the entire area originally allotted for the wild horses and/or burros rather than continuing to assign them smaller and smaller HMA’s?
Today it is estimated that only 12% of the ORIGINAL ACREAGE included in the first maps of the areas where wild horses and burros were in 1971 is actually utilized for wild horses and burros. This is the acreage left after BLM gave priority to all other multiple uses on wild horse/burro areas, and the original areas were diminished for wild horses/burros.
BLM continues reducing Wild Horse and Burro numbers to accommodate more cattle/livestock for for-profit operations often zeroing-out the HMA’s altogether, making wild horse and burro future sustainability very questionable. Is it really all about the money even on OUR PUBLIC LANDS and on our ICONIC WILD HORSES AND BURROS HOME ON THE RANGE?
BLM has a mandate per regulations from the WFRHBA to manage these herds as genetically self-sustaining herds. Dr. Gus Cothran, a geneticist at Kentucky and Texas A&M (considered a known expert in the field of genetics and used by the BLM) has recommended a range of 150 to 200 breeding animals for each of our wild horse and burro herds to maintain the genetic viability of the herds.and to protect unique herd traits and their bloodlines. When BLM determined the AML for each HMA they set a range having a low population number or AML and a high population number. We found the following:
(1) Only 35 HMAs out of BLM’s 177 HMA’s have an AML low-end target number that is above the genetic viability number of 150. Keep in mind the low-end target number recommended by Dr. Gus Cothran is for breeding animals and not all wild horses are capable of reproduction or breeding, especially when BLM is now releasing gelded stallions as part of the total AML.
(2) If we add those HMA’s that have an AML high-end target number that is above the genetic viability number of 150 per Dr. G. Cothran, Geneticist for breeding animals – we get 32 more HMAs that might be genetically viable for a total of 67 HMA’s out of BLM’s 177 HMA’s.Here it is important to note that an HMA will be gathered once the high-end population is reached or exceeded and then reduced to the low-end AML after a gather.
(3) This leaves 110 that have AML target population numbers that are below what is considered genetically viable.
It would seem, based on this cursory analysis, that the BLM is trying to destroy the sustainability of most wild horses and burros on OUR COUNTRY’S PUBLIC LANDS. Plus, the continued helicopter gathers, removing more wild horses and burros and leaving herd numbers that are not sustainable per accepted research done by geneticist, Dr. Gus Cothran. BLM is not managing the herds to preserve unique bloodlines or genetic viability. Preserving, especially unique bloodlines and traits are very much at risk by BLM’s arbitrary approach to wild horse/burro management practices and their unscientific and arbitrary AML’s. Some of these unique traits include: the wild horse curlies at the Fish Creek HMA, New Pass Ravenswood HMA, Whistler Mountain HMA, Callaghan HMA, Black Rock East HMA and Black Rock HMA, and the smaller wild horses that have unique “Spanish” bloodlines (more scientifically proven to be old world traits before man started breeding for specific traits like Quarter horses, thoroughbred etc.) need to be protected at the following HMA’s: Goshute, Pine Nut Mountain, Snowstorm Mountains, Kiger - which was part of Beaty’s Butte, King Top, Onaqui Mountains, Swasey, and Tilly Creek, Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, Buckhorn, Coppersmith, Twin Peaks, New Pass- Ravenswood, Sulphur, and Beatys Butte, etc. There are also the very rare pinto burros in the Canyonlands HMA.
Our wild horses and burros have some unique genetic markers that BLM calls “Spanish markers” we call them old world traits. However, BLM tends to remove horses with these old genetic traits and leave horses that have common breed names. We believe this is to support their theory that wild horses went extinct here and that the current horses on the land somehow do not belong.
All wild horse and burro unique DNA mentioned above are invaluable and important for preservation and wildlife tourism. Many HMA locations are a source of western states tourism revenues. Wildlife tourism is one of the fastest growing industries worldwide.
It would seem a MORATORIUM would be in order to STOP THE HELICOPTERS now and conduct a public independent investigation of BLM’s policies and practices before the BLM eradicates and does irreparable harm to the unique bloodlines and the sustainability of wild horses and burros in the United States before it’s too late to save them!
1. Muddy Creek HMA, BLM Article/Facebook Post, August 2019.
Equine geneticist Dr. Gus Cothran has long stated that in order to remain genetically viable, herds must be 150-200 reproducing animals in size at a minimum.
“The Cothran studies are excellent tools for BLM to use in managing herds to reduce the
incidence of inbreeding…” National Academy of Sciences 2013 Report: Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program – A Way Forward (p.192). The report cited geneticist, Dr. Gus Cothran which BLM posted on this Facebook post.
2. – 3. BLM.gov Webpage, Wild Horse and Burro Program, Herd Management, BLM HMA’s AML Target Populations by Specific HMA.
Chart on the nex pages displays: BLM AML Targets for HMA’s Data Summary.