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Nevada Roundups to Save Grouse

The Greater Sage Grouse Controversy and Wild Horses


Janice M. Ladendorf

The BLM Director in Nevada wants to round up 4,000 wild horses to protect the Greater Sage Grouse. As of 11-15, helicopters have rounded up 770 wild horses in Northern Nevada and more roundups are scheduled. Seven horses have died and 610 have been center to an Adoption Centers. The rest have been returned to the range after the mares have been injected with the fertility control vaccine, PZP-22.

BLM justifies these removals by claiming they will prevent further deterioration of Greater Sage Grouse habitat. Sagebrush is poison to horses, but cattle will eat it. Horses don't build fences. They are built to control cattle.  Grouse get caught in them, but rarely approach them because they fear the avian predators who perch on fence posts. Horses don't drive four wheel vehicles on the range, but humans do.  Grouse depend on riparian areas [the areas between a water source and land, e.g., river and stream banks] for brood rearing. Horses may create water sources by digging, but they don't hang around them and trample them as cattle do. So far, no plans have been made to reduce the number of cattle who are a far more serious threat to their existence.

PEER (Protecting Employees Who Protect Our Environment) has published and analysis of the BLM report on Greater Sage Grouse and the wild horses. BLM claims wild horses have twice the impact of cattle, but this claim was based on biased data. Accurate statistics reveal cattle have six times the impact of wild horses.

Humans are the ones who choose to destroy the sagebrush habitat by replacing it with crested wheat grass to feed their cattle. The BLM alone cleared 1.8 million hectares of sagebrush. A hectare is 2.47 acres.

Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist states,

 "Suggesting that wild horses are a problem for sage grouse while ignoring the comparatively massive impacts of cattle and sheep, is a bit like suggesting that the captain of the Titanic should be worried about the ice cubes in his passengers' cocktails rather than the icebergs floating in the North Atlantic."

Information Resources:

BLM Press Release, Oct. 25, 2016.

PEER, "Greater Sage Grouse - Wild Horses", 2016.

Sonner, Scott (AP), "Scott Sonner on BLM Nevada Director urging roundup of 4,000 mustangs", Las Vegas Sun, May 3, 2016."

Webb, Randy and Salvo, Mark. "Sage Grouse: Imperiled Icon of the Sagebrush Sea",

Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West. Wuerthner, George and Matteson, Mollie, editors. Foundation for Deep Ecology, 2002. pp. 237-9.

Copyright 11-15-16 Janice M. Ladendorf

Published by Valley Equestrian News, 1-31-17.


Public Ecosanctuaries



Janice M. Ladendorf

Today tourism produces ten percent of the world's gross national product. For this trade in the United States, our wild horses are still an underutilized asset. For thousands of years, the beauty and talents of horses has been celebrated first by artists, then by authors. To see and admire horses, urban dwellers flock to races, shows, state fairs, expositions, and other equestrian events. Movies and books which include horses are popular. Examples are Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, and Misty of Chincoteague. Millions of girls and women dream about someday owning their own horse.

Both our mustang breeds and the remaining wild horses add the romance of our western frontier to the general attraction all horses have for so many people. His breed became the first wild horses on our prairies. They were the Spanish horses who were ridden by Indians, explorers, mountain men, vaqueros, and our early cowboys.

When Americans first reached our prairies, they found millions of buffalo and thousands of wild horses. As they were caught and used, their numbers declined, but a few thousands with a mixed heritages still live on our public lands. Because these free roaming horses are afraid of humans and their vehicles, they can be hard to find and run away from us. Where they can be viewed on the range or in ecosanctuaries, they have become popular tourist attractions.


The public program began in 2010 when Bill Richardson wanted to use federal money to purchase the Ortiz Ranch, add it to the Cerrillos Hills State Park, and use it as a wild mustang sanctuary for ecotourism. At that time, he was the Governor of New Mexico. Unfortunately, his proposal did not succeed, but he is still promoting wild life protection and is seeking alternatives to the slaughter of wild horses.

His proposal started the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) thinking about developing such sanctuaries as an alternative to keeping horses in long term holding pastures. Initially the plan was to accept partnership proposals from private individuals, Indian tribes, and state or local governments, but their first request for applications was limited to private individuals. It was issued on March 15, 2011. This request required the partner to accept two hundred horses, but this limit was modified in 2012 to one hundred horses. Also, applications can now be accepted from non-profit organizations

Requests could be submitted for eco-sanctuaries, eco-sanctuaries with adoption centers, eco-sanctuaries with training centers, or eco-sanctuaries with combination adoption/training centers. Every eco-sanctuary was expected to encourage public visitation and provide opportunities for learning.  Partners will be expected to speak well of BLM programs. BLM managers believed establishing these ecosanctuaries could simulate local economies and provide local jobs.

As the public partner, BLM will provide the horses, pay their standard rate for their keep, and may help provide funds for the required setup of items such as fences. The private partner must be qualified to provide good care for the horses, accept a non-reproducing herd of mares or geldings, and provide tourists with the opportunity to view the horses. If their operation was a success, profits would be used to decrease payments for the upkeep of the horses.

So far, only three such sanctuaries have established. Two are in Wyoming and one in Oklahoma. They are described below.

1) Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse Ecosanctuary

This former cattle ranch has been a family owned operation for thirty years and is thirty-five miles west of Laramie on State Highway 11. This scenic route goes through the valley between the Sheep and Medicine Bow mountains. The Middle Fork of the Little Laramie River runs through the ranch and it is near other recreational sites. Three hundred wild geldings now graze there on about 4,700 acres of land. It is also home to other Wyoming wildlife, such deer, elk, and coyotes. The ranch offers public, photographic, and group tours by appointment. Also included is a guest cabin and a gift shop. Beautiful photographs by Jana Wilson can be viewed on the ranch website and in slide shows on YouTube.

2) Mowdy Ranch Mustangs

This family ranch is located twelve miles northeast of Coalgate in the hills of southeastern Oklahoma, the historic home of the legendary Choctaw ponies. They have dedicated one thousand, two hundred and eighty acres of their ranch as a wild horse sanctuary and one hundred fifty three wild mares now graze there. Up to thirty-two people can sleep in their lodges and they have dining facilities for larger groups and special events. Lodging and tours available by reservation. Their website includes some delightful photographs of their mustangs enjoying life on their sanctuary.

 3) Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary

 This sanctuary controls nine hundred acres and lies in the middle of the Double D Ranch. It is located on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming near the town of Lander.    The sanctuary currently has one hundred and thirty wild horses. It includes only yearlings or mares. Most have had some handling or been through the wild horse training program at Dept. of Corrections.

The partnership agreement between BLM and the Sanctuary includes plans for a learning/visitor/information center, tours, a gift shop, and a campground. The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe Tribes have approved the site and have contributed information to the learning center on native culture and the historic role of the horse. A grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund helped pay for the center and it is open to the public. The Sanctuary opened on June 4, 2016. Reservations are recommended for tours.


The BLM is currently holding over thirty thousand horses in long term leased pastures. Ecosanctuaries can be a beneficial alternative for all of those involved, but especially for the horses. There they should receive good care, be relatively safe from kill buyers, and can earn part or potentially all of their keep by serving as tourist attractions. This program is off to a good start, but should be expanded. If the program is to be continued in 2017, some recommended improvements are described below.

1) All sites should be encouraged to develop information centers and educational programs, describing the role played by mustangs in western history and Indian tribal life.

2) Foals and young horses should have great appeal for tourists, especially the children. Since BLM is still catching pregnant mares and foals, a few could be sent on to the sanctuaries where they might attract adopters.

3) Ecosanctuaries could be established in anyone of our states. In the Midwest and East, far fewer acres would be needed and there should be much less hostility towards the presence of wild horses.

One possibility is our southeastern states. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish did settle there to farm and ranch. When English settlers arrived, they found wild horses as far north as Virginia. In those states, mustang history begins well before wild horses had reached the western prairies.

Minnesota is another possibility. The tall grass prairies extended as far north as the southeastern part of our state. One possible site for a sanctuary could be near the Pipestone Quarry where all the plains tribes peacefully mined material for their pipes. Another one could be near Blue Mound State Park where buffalo now graze and tall grass prairies area being restored.

Information Sources:

"Lander-area ranch to be a BLM Wild Horse Ecosanctuary: Double D Ranch is on the Reservation", County 10, Dec. 10, 2014.

Raia, Pat, "BLM Seeks Private Sector Partners for Eco-Sanctuary Development", The Horse, March 16, 2011.

Silva, Alejandra, "Home for Horses", The Ranger, May 29, 2016.

Published by Valley Equestrian News, 12-27-16     


Private Ecosanctuaries for Wild Horses: Benefits and Risks

Introduction By Janice M. Ladendorf

   When public ecosanctuaries are compared to private ones, there are three major differences. The first one is funding. Instead of receiving payments from our government, private ecosanctuaries are almost completely dependant on donations. Varying with the sanctuary, additional funds may come from selling merchandise and lodging, charging for tours and clinics, and the adoption or sale of horses. Donation income depends on their marketing efforts and the state of the economy. As their income changes, private ecosanctuaries can expand or contract and appear or disappear. The three featured in this article are the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, the International Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs (ISPBM), and Return to Freedom (RTF). They are well known, but there have been or still are others.
   While horses can live on grass, this feed requires far more acreage than most sanctuaries have. If there isn't enough grass, then hay must be purchased and its price can vary with availability. It will be affected by time of year, amount of rainfall received, and shipping costs. If a sanctuary has too many horses and lacks the funds to purchase enough hay for them, the horses are the ones who will suffer. Unfortunately, the ISPMB fell into this trap.
   The second major difference lies in the way the bloodlines of wild horses are viewed. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) divides wild horses into two types, adoptable and non-adoptable. For obvious reasons, they focus on capturing and holding the most adoptable ones who tend to be young, good sized, and have unusual coat colors. Unlike BLM, some ecosanctuaries and certain breed registries are concerned about preserving the rare and valuable Spanish bloodlines were carried by some of the horses in the wild herds.
   The third major difference lies in the view of equine social and emotional needs. Horses belong to herds because membership gives them both protection and companionship. Unlike most wild animals, horses establish complex social relationships among and within their herds. Research has shown they use a wide variety of social behaviors to adapt to survival in their individual habitats. Many horses form close emotional bonds with each other and will grieve if they are separated. BLM ignores these needs and ruthlessly separates family and friends. Private sanctuaries respect them and usually lets their horses form their own natural herds and stay with their friends. The photographs below of mustangs first show two friends and then an equine family.

[Of the three sides chose for this article, one has been highly financial, one has failed, and one has done reasonable sound].  


The article includes the information on the ISPMB Crisis show below.

Beginning in 2015, complaints had been received by the Animal Industry Board about the quality of care given to their horses. They finally sent out a veterinarian to inspect the ranch on Sept. 14, 2016. He found some healthy horses, many thin ones, and some suffering from neglected conditions. He commented,

 "Ownership does not appear to have the means, money, labor, and facilities to support and manage a population of animals this size and does not appear to have adequate plans to assure the future of this herd. Based on my findings as outlined in this report, it is my determination that animal neglect is present at this facility."

 Later in September, an employee publically alleged horses were dying of starvation on the ISPMB ranch. Since it lies in both Dewey and Zieback counties, a judge ordered their county governments to impound and take over the responsibility for feeding these horses. The impounding agreement stated what the counties had to spend on feeding the horses would have to be repaid by ISPMB, direct donations, or auctioning off the horses. Requests for donations of hay or money went out immediately from ISPMB, other equine rescue organizations, and the county governments. On Oct. 19, the Dewey County Sheriff's office inspected the horses again and found them in better condition. Twenty-nine needed special care and one was marked for euthanization. Mrs. Sussman wanted to keep four hundred horses and has submitted several management plans to the court, but her last plan was still not acceptable.

That fall the counties released two hundred and seventy horses for adoption and asked Fleet of Angels, an equine rescue group, to find homes for them. Sixteen of them were taken in by This Old Horse (, a rescue operation located in Hastings, Minnesota. They planned to give seven blind Gila stallions a permanent home and they are in good shape except for the one in poor condition who died. The others horses were mares and they are still working on finding homes for some of them. Please contact them if you are interested in giving any of them a temporary or permanent home.

On Dec. 10, South Dakota state attorneys filed a motion requesting a judge transfer control of the five hundred and forty wild horses remaining at the ISPMB's ranch to two equine welfare associations, Fleet of Angels and Habitat for Horses. On Dec. 14, the Dewey County's Sheriff Office announced the auction has been postponed indefinitely. The Court hearing was on 1-27-17. The judge decided ISPMB was to be temporarily allowed to keep twenty of the horses. Fortunately, various humane organizations have already donated enough money to pay the costs incurred in feeding the impounded horses.

The other five hundred and twenty horses have been placed in the care of Fleet of Angels who will be responsible for their care until new homes can be found for them. They will be partnered in this mission by the new Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary Alliance. Members of this Alliance are the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Return to Freedom, Habitat for Horses, and Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue. Nelda DeMayo, the President of Return to Freedom played a key role in setting up this Alliance. In the future, these groups plan to provide a supportive and more cohesive community for wild horse and burro rescue. If it had existed two years ago, the sad situation at ISPMB ranch might have been avoided or corrected before the horses began to suffer.

Complete article can be found in Valley Equestrian News as of March 19,2017.

Undate: This Old Horse has already 28 of these horses and plans to take the 20 last horses who need new homes.