Greed and Slaughter on the Western Range


This summer the federal Bureau of Land Management, which overseas most of the nation’s federal lands, intends to take approximately 10,000 more horses from their legal, designated ranges in Western states.

Beginning July 1st there will be roundups in Nevada, Wyoming and Oregon and later in Colorado.

This huge removal number is likely to represent two-thirds of the remaining wild horses living on public lands. We will have almost nothing left of these herds by this coming November.

Many of these animals will die, along with a piece of America.

The BLM claims there are 36,000 wild horses on public lands but those wild horse advocates who have been out in the field compiling the numbers removed and the numbers left after round-ups realize, as usual, that BLM plays fast and loose with such numbers. This is something the agency has been criticized for even by the Government Accounting Office, state representatives and U.S. senators.

This numbers game explains how the BLM can remove more animals than allegedly “intended,” and at the same time actually succeed in “zeroing out” from what is called — at least while there are still wild horses there — a Horse Management Area (HMA).

We have lost over 100 HMAs that have now been “zeroed out,” and over 20 million acres of designated wild horse and burro range has been taken by the BLM for conversion to other uses. It’s all about private industry displacing wild herds.

The scheme works like this: First the BLM shrinks in size, on paper, the area where horses live. Then it determines the HMA to have an “excess” population of wild horses on the newly reduced territory. The “excess” horses are subsequently removed in tortuous roundups. Thousands of sheep and cattle, mines and energy projects–all owned by commercial interests that grease the palms of the political machine — then replace the horses, despite a federal law declaring that the horses are to have priority on their designated rangelands.

“Multiple use” implies that the Horse Management Areas must allow other uses, but in practice, the wild horses are never the primary management concern as they are meant to be under the 1971 Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act. Rather, they are considered last and are removed to make more land available to these other more lucrative interests.

Removing the horses is illegal, but in practice, private industry– particularly the ranching interests–have been given free rein on many HMAs. Basically, anything goes when it comes to stealing these lands from the horses.

There has been no compensation for the destruction of the horses and little headway made to check the illegal removals by BLM. Wild Horse Advocates are trying to change this. Laura Leigh is our foremost advocate in the field.

The issue of wild horses and their removal from designated HMAs has for some time been one of the top ten subjects the White House receives phone calls on. These calls come in from the thousands of people who have heard about the systematic loss of our wild herds. Many are horse people but many more just love the idea we still have wild horses and want them saved and protected. More people are becoming aware of this scandal daily.

Since the economic slump, the American media have left many urgent stories by the wayside. This is one.

Some of the cattle that get moved onto the HMAs are owned by the corporations who have leased cattle allotments inside the HMAs where the cattle and sheep can eventually outnumber wild horses and burros by factors of more than 200 to one.

The BLM is also selling off thousands of acres of public lands. Little investigation has been done into this rape of the West and there has been no public accounting of the loss to taxpayers. Transparency is nonexistent. The response to public outrage is to hide everything as much as possible from critics, investigators and observers like Laura Leigh.

Many horses of all ages are killed during these roundups– especially vulnerable young animals.

No tally is kept of the number of animals left to die on the range from injury or dehydration. In fact, foals are not even counted until they are at least four months old and unless they have been weaned. Many foals die from the forced runs driven by helicopters flying low to the ground. Horses have been known to run 10 miles or more, and observers fear they have been forced to run up to 20 or more miles before reaching the trap site.

If the average citizen did to these horses what the BLM does routinely, they would be arrested and thrown in jail. The animal abuse issues are also growing and many new advocates have taken up this aspect of the crisis.

New management is needed. The BLM is violating to the law and instead of protecting it is destroying our national heritage.

MARILYN WARGO is a horse professional certified in Equine Science. She is also an award-winning photographer who studied with Shelby Lee Adams, a journalism graduate of New Mexico State University and a longtime wild horse and wildlife activist who lives in the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado.

She wrote this article for ThisCantBeHappening!



October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)
Anthony Papa
Coming Home: an Open Letter to 6,000 Soon-to-be-Released Drug War Prisoners From an Ex-Con
Ramzy Baroud
Listen to Syrians: The Media Jackals and the People’s Narrative
Norman Pollack
Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street
Gilbert Mercier
Will Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite Militias Defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Stanton
Vietnam 2.0 and California Dreamin’ in Ukraine
William John Cox
The Pornography of Hatred
October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Cuba’s Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War