Mare and stallion along the banks of Copper Springs Pond, July 9, 2021
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced that an emergency round-up of 783 wild horses in Sand Wash Basin, beginning September 1, 2021, has been approved. They claim the justification is drought and high horse numbers above, what they call the Appropriate Management Level.
Lori, my wife, and I were in Sand Wash for several days last month. It was extremely hot and dry, but there was plenty of water in Copper Springs Pond, plus the Sand Wash Advocate Team (SWAT), a volunteer non-profit organization, had 30,000 gallons of water delivered Friday, July 9 to the numerous stock tanks they’ve installed. We saw hundreds of wild horses roaming free during our visit and they were all in good condition.
If the BLM is allowed to go ahead with their plan, it will amount to the removal of just about every horse from Sand Wash Basin. It’s clear to me that the BLM wants to completely eliminate wild horses from public lands.
According to the BLM, they remove wild horses from public lands to protect the horses and the health of our nation’s public lands. Their words say one thing – their actions another.
Please contact the Secretary of the Interior and members of Congress, asking them to stop the Bureau of Land Management from going through with this unfounded act.
I invite you to read through the letter below that I sent to Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, for items to cover in your letter.
Dear Madam Secretary,
First, let me express my feelings that I am so happy and thankful of your recent appointment to the President’s Cabinet as Secretary of the Interior. Congratulations.
I received troubling news a couple of days ago. As I am sure you are aware, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans on removing 783 wild horses from Sand Wash Basin HMA in northwestern Colorado, if indeed there actually are that many, which I seriously doubt.
The BLM claims this is an emergency removal and justified due to drought and high horse numbers above what is referred to as an Animal Management Plan. Please don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that global climate change has induced a crisis that will get worse as time goes on, but this is not the first warming crisis planet earth and its inhabitants have faced; and this includes horses. Wild horses are survivors.
It is also important to consider that horses, along with many species, control the growth rate of their numbers based on habitat size. According to the National Academy of Sciences, removal of excess horses can actually facilitate a higher growth rate in wild herds due to decreased competition for forage. Studies have shown that growth rates are higher in herds where removals have been conducted.
I spent four days in Sand Wash Basin four weeks ago. It was extremely hot and dry, but there was plenty of water in Copper Springs, plus the Sand Wash Advocate Team (SWAT), a volunteer non-profit organization, had 30,000 gallons of water delivered Friday, July 9 to the numerous stock tanks they’ve installed. We saw many wild horses running free during our visit and they were all in good condition.
I have included a selection of wild horse photographs I made during my most recent visit to Sand Wash. The pond depicted in a few of the images is Copper Springs. As you will note, there’s plenty of water in that pond. In fact, we parked nearby several days and photographed horses coming and going. Many, as is typically the case after drinking their fill of water, would splash the water over their bodies to cool off. Some would even lie in the water, allowing it to cover their bodies.
The exception to this activity were the young foals, most preferring to watch from shore as their mothers waded in. It was interesting to note that the number of foals was considerably down from my observations in years past. This is the result, I am confident, of the fertility program administered by the SWAT team and approved by the BLM, that began a few year ago.
They use a gun that shoots a dart, injecting the vaccine into the horse that lasts a couple of years. Last year, I met one of the lady’s that administers this vaccine. She invited me to join her as she administered the drug to a number of horses. I actually went along and photographed the whole process. This will eventually reduce the Sand Wash horse population, as it continues, to a level recommended by the BLM. Based on what I saw last month, it is already beginning to work.
It is interesting to note that SWAT, in addition to administering the fertility program, installing stock tanks and supplying water for the horses during the current climate change induced droughts, also obtained approval and put up fencing on the western edge of Sand Wash Basin along State Hwy 318 to prevent accidents, protecting both horses and automobile drivers.
If the BLM is allowed to remove horses from Sand Wash Basin and other areas they have inhabited for years, the horses will be placed into holding pens that are already filled to capacity with horses being held for adoption. Unable to find homes, the horses are eventually sold, many for commercial purposes. Most will go to Mexico where they will be sold for dog food. I know what they say, but there is evidence that this takes place. None of this should be allowed to happen.
Adding insult to injury, helicopters are used to roundup the horses. The worst incident occurred at Sand Wash Basin during the summer of 2011. Stampeded by helicopters in temperatures exceeding 90°f, seventeen died from dehydration.
Unfortunately, roundups by hellicopter continue. Many horses do not survive this onslaught. Others are maimed, injured, and separatedd from their families. Survivors are forced into cramped steel pens. The unlucky ones will be sold to slaughter houses.
Wild horses are protected by law. The 92nd United States Congress unanimously passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. It was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 15, 1971. The law prohibits the capture, injury, or disturbance of wild horses and burros and for their transfer to suitable areas when populations become too large.
As the law is currently being applied, the horses are protected from the general public, and that’s a good thing. What is not good, wild horses are not protected from the practices of the BLM. Their words say one thing . . . their actions another.
It’s clear to me that the BLM wants to completely eliminate wild horses from public land.
Ansel Adams summed it up when he said, “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”
I beg and pray that you will consider what I have written. These are not just wild horses, they are our American heritage. They are our wild brothers and sisters. They deserve better.
I comfortably rest in the wisdom of your Native heritage.