Bureau of Land Management in the USA allegedly rounding up too many mustangs

NEWS AND COMMENT – COLORADO, USA: The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act 1971 is an American statute which protects wild horses in that country. It was created because there was a time in the 1950s when wild horses were commercially exploited. A campaigner, Velma B. Johnston a.k.a. ‘Wild Horse Annie’ successfully campaigned for legislation to protect them. In 1959 the Wild Horse Annie Act was enacted but it did not include Annie’s recommendation that the legislature introduce a programme to protect, manage and control wild horses and burros. That protection came about later in 1971 when the then president Richard M Nixon signed the bill into law on December 15.

Picasso a famous mustang
Picasso a famous mustang. Photo: Scott Wilson – WilsonAxpe Photography

In the news today there the story coming out of Longmont County, Colorado, USA. There is a lady, Carole Walker, who lives on a 44 acre property in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains north of Denver. She looks after two horses (brothers), previously wild horses, who she has named Micah and Hermoso. She adopted them after they were rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a government agency charged with managing the wild horses of the USA.

It seems that in the past they might have been criticised for not gathering enough wild horses on the basis that there was an overpopulation problem. They say that they gather them from public lands where the highest concerns are about their impact. They want to protect wildlife habitat and the public.

Carole Walker believes that they round up too many horses and ideally she’d like her two horses enjoying the wild. She says that the BLM are acting against the spirit of the 1971 Act. And she wants them to be reined in (sorry for the pun).

Brad Purdy, a spokesperson for the BLM said that the roundups are necessary because there are too many wild horses. The land cannot sustain them. There are voices against this attitude amongst the public.

For example, Erik Molvar, an environmental biologist and director of the Western Watersheds Project said that the pressure on the land does not come from wild horses but from cattle and sheep. He believes that the land can sustain more wild horses but that the BLM is removing them in order to allow more livestock to feed on these public areas. This implies that the BLM is being pressured by commercial enterprises which frankly wouldn’t surprise me if it is true.

It is reported that state governments have stepped up their concerns about overzealous roundups of wild horses by the BLM. Colorado Governor Jared Polis has written to the US Department of the Interior stating that he is “extremely concerned” with the extent of the roundups and has called for a six-month moratorium to allow the public to have their say.

There is a concern, too, that the alleged overzealous roundups is leaving too many horses up for adoption. At present there are 50,000 in long-term holding waiting to be adopted. BLM has set up an incentive program which provides $1,000 to adopters. It is said that this is being abused by the public who sometimes adopt the horses and then sell them at auction after which they are killed. They then claim the £1,000 without actually looking after the horse.

And of course holding 50,000 horses in temporary holding areas is unsatisfactory. In the meantime, Carole Walker wants an investigation into the BLM and to have them removed as managers of wild horses. She said that people need to stand up for them otherwise America’s beautiful mustangs will disappear.

P.S. The mustang is a free-roaming horse of the Western United States, descended from horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish.


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