Nevada Begins Wild Horse Roundup; Willie Nelson Cries Foul

By Andrew Moseman | December 29, 2009 10:13 am

wildhorsesThe big roundup in Nevada has begun. But rather than being fodder for a old-fashioned Western, this one is kicking up a fight. Yesterday the Bureau of Land Management launched its mission to capture 2,500 wild horses from public and private lands across the state.

Contractors in helicopters and on horseback herded some of the mustangs into corrals in the Black Rock Range, a chain of mountains 100 miles north of Reno, according to a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management. Heather Emmons said she did not know how many horses were captured on the first day of the roundup, which will take two months and stretch across 1,750 square miles in the Calico Mountains Complex [Los Angeles Times].

According to the BLM, the Nevada lands can’t sustain the 3,000 wild horses that now live there, as the population will likely double in four years. So, the agency argues, winnowing the population will sustain the environment and protect the horses, too. But where the horses will end up remains uncertain. Long-term plans call for the mustangs to be placed for adoption or sent to holding facilities in the Midwest. The agency said a facility in Reno was full of adoptable horses, making it unclear when the animals gathered in the latest capture could be put up for adoption [AP].

To say that the helicopter roundup riled up some horse lovers would be an understatement. “To start this immense roundup … on private land where members of the public are forbidden to attend is a brilliant, insidious move on the part of the BLM to hide the suffering and death that they are about to inflict on our mustangs,” said activist Eylse Gardner [San Jose Mercury News]. Activists say that helicopter-assisted roundups frighten the horses and can cause injuries like broken legs, which cause horses to be euthanized. However, a federal judge last week denied a request to stop the operation by ruling that it didn’t violate the law, paving the way for its commencement yesterday.

Opposition remains, in both local activists and celebrity sympathizers—it seems the Rolling Stones aren’t the only musicians with a soft spot in their hearts for “Wild Horses.” Celebrities including singers Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow and former Playboy models Shane and Sia Barbi have tried to call attention to the issue. “We must act now before the BLM has managed these magnificent animals into extinction,” Nelson said [USA Today].

Related Content:
80beats: Wife of Billionaire T. Boone Pickens Plots to Save Wild Horses from Slaughter
80beats: Horses Were Tamed, Milked, and Probably Ridden 5,500 Years Ago
DISCOVER: First to Ride, on the intertwined histories of horses & humans

Image: flickr / zenera

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • J B Drueke, MD

    Culling is as old as animal (or plant) domestication.I think Willie and many others just don’t like to see government agencies do anything. The horses are more likely to go extinct by not culling than by doing so.

  • Editor
  • http://none Wesley B

    This Country just can’t leave anything alone the way it has been for years without a problem and they know it.
    It isn’t about the wild horses, its is about control and getting the gov’nt to lobby and pay your Agency to do something unnecessary and at the same time claim a falsehood that has been rebuked by biologist.

  • Susan

    #1 – You obviously do not know what you are talking about. Credible scientists, including well known people the BLM itself uses (but only when it suits the BLM agenda) have attested that the escalated pace and magnitude of round up is totally inapropriate, unnecessary and damaging to wild horse populations that should be protected under the Wild horse and Burro Act. Beyond the right of this species that is in fact native to North America, the deceitful BLM is wasting millions and millions of our taxpayer dollars to house Mustangs that should never have been rounded up if 20 million acres of public land had not been taken away from them to roam. Add to that the millions of dollars spent to subsidize the use of public lands for cattle which are not native, create disproportionate damage and do not deserve entitlement. So, unless you are a welfare rancher or energy developer lobbying for the removal of horses, you are getting screwed too as a taxpayer.

  • Harley L.

    Common sense would have it that you have a plan for the end result of a project…but then, in this case, we are talking about the BLM. They don’t have a plan for the horses they round up – but then – they don’t care, they just want the horses gone forever. The ONLY priority the BLM has is to play puppet to the welfare ranchers, the mining, and energy projects that are padding their pockets at the horses and taxpayers expense.

  • InfidelAvenger

    I support this if is really can restore balance to the local ecosystem. After all, horses ARE an invasive species in the Americas.

  • Kathy Long

    Big business ranching does not want the horses eating feed for their cows. Everyone knows BLM caters to the ranchers. These horses are public property. Who is losing? The public. Of course, the horses. Who is gaining? The ranchers. To use that land they only pay the public a couple of bucks per head per month. Big rip off of the public again. Fleecing really.

  • Best Blend

    Why is there such an argument about wasting tax dollars for the preservation of the Wild Mustangs and no such disagreement about funneling billions into war, after war, after war, after war, after war . . .

  • Kathy

    Wild horse is a bit of a misnomer. All ‘wild’ horses in North America are feral, there having been no horses here before the arrival of the Spaniards. As such, they are an invasive species. Certainly, if the species in question had been something less attractive–camels, goats, toads…perhaps there would be less controversy. But what is it about the horse? Perhaps this is something many of these protesters could mull over while eating their next hamburger.

  • T.A. Paxton

    I’m sure there is money waste in other areas, and controversy. But it can’t always be proved. In this case it has been.
    A congressional investigation and various other studies have found the BLM can’t prove their claims about the mustangs numbers or affects on the range. They keep making those claims to the general public as if they were facts. If they want to make massive decisions to spend millions on roundups and that so many in the public don’t want, they should have to prove their reasons-this isn’t the 1800s the age of range wars, this is an age where we have the science to base decisions on. Things like range condition, how many horses are really there and how much foaling is going on and the affect of the contraceptives can be proven. Who is causing damage-horses or cattle or both-can be proven. The fact that they aren’t even offering up scientific evidence to support their claims suggests a private agenda which they are spending OUR money on.
    Nor have they looked into alternatives like tourism. Look at Chincoteagues VA pony penning every year. Thanks to one book called Misty of Chincoteague the island explodes with tourists every year while the wild ponies are driven across the channel and foals auctioned to thin the herd and provide revenue. On the contrary, the BLM claiming the roundups are available for viewing and then holding them on private land closed to the public suggests they DO have something to hide about the safety of the horses during these roundups. Theycan’t get away with saying no horses are hurt-people have caught it on camera and posted it on the internet. Horses trotting away lame, horses flipping over….any private person doing this stuff would be up on animal cruelty charges.

  • J. Hagedorn

    Keep up the good work BLM. You folks who protest population controls of this feral speceies should do some research into what has happened in the past to big game populations, such as deer and elk, that over-populate. Mother nature is not nice.

  • Chris Jubic

    J. Hagedorn, with that attitude, you must be one of the “Welfare Ranchers” on the dole from the BLM Grazing Administration Program, you know, the one that costs U.S. taxpayers nearly 500 MILLION DOLLARS a year to administer, and you all make up what,….3% of our Nations beef supply. Most of Nations beef these days comes from Canada anyways. Not only that, but I hear alot of you all are subleasing your allotments for much more $$$ than the paultry amount BLM charges you for your grazing fees – so you Welfare Ranchers doing that are making a profit while taxpayers loose.
    Quit your whineing about govt waste cause you all and your kind are a BIG part of it! ….Your statement about the need for culling, saying “Mother Nature is not nice.” Maybe at times it seems that way but she most certainly is not DISCRIMINATORY like the BLM is against our wild equines – How dare you compare Mother Nature with the BLM! You are confused, or, er, ah, just bias.

  • James

    The horses are supposed to be Federally protected. Instead the BLM is harassing the horses and injuring them with these round ups. And some of the horses have been sold for slaughter. Why? Because the ranchers want the land and water for their cattle.

    As to the comment earlier about the horses being an invasive species, what about the cattle? And any rancher knows how damaging cattle are to land.

    Unfortunately the article only tells a small fraction of the real story and all that has been going on. For example the fact that the BLM has claimed that there is not enough water for the horses while they are fencing off productive springs to prevent the horses from reaching the water. So how can the BLM claim they are looking out for the horses best interest when they are doing everything they can to make the horses sick and to kill them so they can use their excuse that the horses need to be moved for their protection? The only thing they need protection from is the BLM who is breaking Federal laws with the round ups.

    On the same line, why is it that a private benefactor has bought sufficient land to house the wild horses on a preserve and the BLM is also blocking this?

    Yet the BLM is implying there is enough food and water to handle significantly more cattle than the horses that are already there?

    It is clear that the BLM is not looking out for public interests like they are paid to do. They are just puppets for the cattle ranchers that are lining their pockets.

  • L. West

    This whole thing is absolutely devastating. I was at an Opal Mine in the Calico mountains 2 summers ago. To my surprise and delight there was a canyon with a large spring that supplied water to a pond complete with Bullfrogs next to the mine! Imagine that in the middle of the desert! A herd of 13 horses (maybe more) were living there and had been there for many years. The area was full of forage for them and they looked so very happy and healthy. They had everything they needed and weren’t hurting anything as far as I could see. I’ve heard claims of them destroying water sources and consuming all of the food so other animals starve and they were sharing the area with some Big horn sheep and others. It was August and if they were eating everything in site, the grass and other plants would not have been there. I am just sick thinking about the BLM taking them away. The stallion was a beautiful Palomino and he and I had an awesome encounter. He even escorted me out of the canyon to protect his mares and babies. He was so proud and I immediately respected him. I will never forget him. I am terribly worried that reducing the herds from 3,000 to 500 or 600 horses will cause inbreeding among other problems. I believe that the BLM is trying to rid the area of horses completely and in time they will be gone forever. I hope to visit the area this year to see if that herd makes it without being captured. The ones taken will never be free again and it breaks my heart.

  • wendy

    From all that I have heard this is unnecessary and being done for the benefit of welfare ranchers.

    I would like to see the reintroduction of wolves and bears to all of their former range-the only predators that are big enough to take down horses. Then the numbers of horses would be controlled naturally, along with deer and elk, ending the ecological damage of overpopulating grazers of all sorts.

    Don’t like what the BLM is doing? STOP EATING COW, and put the ranchers out of business!

  • smm

    There is nothing about this that is necessary, there is plenty of land out there, but the ranchers
    needs come first. Money is always the guiding force in this country not whats best for the whole.

  • blogo

    to #4: Horses are not native to to North America. The Spanish brought them over in the 1400/1500s. They are now wild, however.

  • Teresa Bestwick

    i wish we could go back years before Money and greed and heartless people ran our country. I am so ashamed of the America today

  • Heart for Horses

    While this fight continues, please help us rescue the horses from the prison like holding pens. Instead of capturing and holding them, we can love & nuture, train and introduce a community healing to include hippotherapy and educational & riding training for youth.
    We need your suppport!
    Kim Flink
    Wild Horses Rescue Mission


  • truth

    you all need to do more research on the topic to have facts and actual understanding on this topic cause the situation started back before the seventys when the ranchers were the ones that actually managed the horses by going out on the range ,catching and taming select horses for their use on the ranch. this was noted by wild horse annie to be unhumane unnessacary and for the benifite of the so called wellfare ranchers. the result the national wild horse act of 1971. what happened over the next few years proved to be much more devistating. the truth is that yes their may seem to be plenty of feed right now well of course cause the population is being managed yes mabey in the wrong way but still managed. the truth is that when these populations go unmanaged and the numbers get excessive its not just the weak that die the whole population in the area die off. and belive me it really creates a stink when their is a few hundred horses piled on top of each other around a dried up water hole rotting the smell can literally be noticed for miles then what will be left of the majestic wild mustang. another thing yes over 33,000 mustangs sit in blm holding facilitys the cost ten dollers a day per head so all you mustange lovers out there that want to help go get one or even better one thousand and help the government out since they cant be fed to starving countries then watch as your ten doller a day investment rots away within twenty to thirty years its really sad that we have the resource to make a huge impact agenst world hunger but instead we are required by law to spend millions watching it just litterally rot. its funny when someone makes the comment that we should just reintroduce large preditors to manage this problem cause first of all yes these large preditors are capable of hunting and taking down horses but soon enough they will get tired of running the horses and they will figure out that a human is a much easier and quicker meal not to mention that its guarnteed if your kids are left out walking the streets or your domesticated pets are tied up or stuck in a corell. the bottom line these populations must be managed to ensure their survival as well as they all must die at some point so lets make use of the situation to better the world and keep our majestic free roaming mustanges by the use of proper management and disposal of excesseive horses i can still remember a time when every human had to make use of everything he was givin bones were made tools not a thing was wasted now we are so wasteful in all that we do.

  • Rachel Perkins

    How dare you! How would you like it if you were chased! We have 2 sons in USA and often have to defend the American way. Not now, it makes me think that people who criticise the Americans are right. Have you not moved on at all Teresa Bestwick is right and I bet a lot of Americans feel the same way – but you must fight this and all inhumane acts to animals – and people!

    In part of Spain even bullfighting has stopped! Make our world a better place for animals and then humans will follow. People who murder start with hurting animals. Think about it. Progress please. I am in the UK unfortunately, but I know the states and have skiing in the area and love it so much but unfortunately there are dumn people everywhere!

  • Bonnie Conley

    Heli chasing horses is barbaric! It is a disgrace to our country to continue to round up horses that are clearly HEALTHY at this point and put them in pens where it will cost additional money to maintain them. Proper management before this would have kept the numbers in check and truly you can’t tell me that their isn’t a master plan behind this huge operation that unfolds as we speak. It is simply inhumane and the blatent disregard for Congress and the general public is appalling…I guess I thought we could do better and I believed in human decency…how stupid of me!

  • John

    What the BLM needs to do is roundup moronic, uninsightful goons like J. Hagedorn. The horse population will take care of itself. Hey, Truth. Ever hear of “survival of the fittest?” Probably not. Not if you are a Jesus freak. Remember, in your book, Darwin was a lunatic. We just have to have control. Leave it alone. It all worked out before we were here, it will work out after we are gone. We can’t run our lives, what makes us think we should have the right to play master over a species that WE BROUGHT OVER? Maybe we should worry about the economy, war, housing, not being asses to others…the list goes on, instead of forcibly moving other beings from their home. Wait, we are good at that, aren’t we?

  • spiele

    Thanks for your article sir

  • Rafael Canlas

    You made some decent points there. I seemed on the web for the issue and located most people will go together with along with your website.


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