Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah deceived Congress by implying there was a 41% increase in wild horse & burro population in only 5 months, and by showing a photo of one thin horse and claiming that a majority of the wild horse population on the range were starving or dying from dehydration.

Stewart authored the recent Amendment in the House that would lead to 46,000 healthy wild horses & burros in BLM holding facilities and tens of thousands more on public lands being “euthanized” (killed).

Now Stewart has stooped to spreading false information about wild horses in an OpEd that appeared to in the New York Times titled “The Hard Truth About the West’s Wild Horse Problem.” Stewart continues to push for the killing of healthy wild horses & burros, both in his OpEd and in Congress.

Researcher Marybeth Devlin submitted her remarks (below) countering Stewart’s OpEd to the New York Times via its “we want to hear from you” page. However, when I clicked on the link to the “we want to hear from you” page, it was gone (so apparently, the New York Times doesn’t want to hear from anyone). Marybeth also commented on The New York Times Opinion Section on Facebook, where Stewart’s piece is listed (among others, halfway down the page).

Our thanks to Marybeth Devlin for exposing the misinformation opined by this squirrelly politician (my apologies to squirrels). Stewart’s own constituents even booed him in Salt Lake City this year.

“No birth control, no euthanasia, no slaughter: None of them fixes fraud. The problem is fraud – BLM’s fraud – not overpopulation. What is needed is honest management of our wild horses and burros.” – Marybeth Devlin

by Marybeth Devlin

The Bureau of Land Management’s wild-horse fraud: The “overpopulation” of wild horses is a pernicious lie, a concocted “crisis”. The government doesn’t have a wild-horse problem — wild horses have a government problem.

Arbitrary management level (AML): The maximum number of wild horses that BLM declares the Western range can sustain — 26,715 — is a political construct. Per the 31,583,386 acres — 49,349 square miles — of dedicated wild-horse habitat across the Western states, the AML establishes a maximum stocking density of 1 wild horse per 1,182 acres — nearly 2 square miles! Even if the wild-horse population really were 72,000 (hint: it can’t be), that would mean a stocking density of 1 horse per 438 acres (⅔ of a square mile). No reasonable person would consider that excessive.

Sparsely populated, widely dispersed: Wild horses are few and far between. While the arbitrary maximum density that BLM begrudges is about 1 wild horse per 2 square miles, many herds are restricted even more severely. Here are examples of stocking densities that BLM deems “appropriate,” and down-to-which it strives to reduce them:

1 wild horse per 3,102 acres — 5 square miles — Antelope Complex — NV
1 wild horse per 3,566 acres — 5½ square miles — Triple B Complex — NV
1 wild horse per 4,381 acres — 7 square miles — Beatys Butte — OR
1 wild horse per 4,500 acres — 7 square miles — Warm Springs — OR
1 wild horse per 5,062 acres — 8 square miles — Paisley Desert — OR
1 wild horse per 6,606 acres — 10 square miles — Eagle herd — NV
1 wild horse per 9,591 acres — 15 square miles — Silver King herd — NV

Contrast with livestock density: To put this in perspective, nationally, BLM allows a stocking density of 1 cow-with-calf pair (or 5 sheep) per 76 acres, which means 8 cow+calf pairs (or 40 sheep) per square mile. Further, within dedicated wild-horse habitats — where the mustangs are, by law, supposed to receive principal benefit of resources — livestock are often awarded most of the grazing slots. Examples:

89% of AUMs to livestock — Red Desert Complex — WY
91% of AUMs to livestock — Checkerboard — WY
94% of AUMs to livestock — Triple B Complex — NV
96% of AUMs to livestock — Antelope Complex — NV

Normative annual herd-growth = at most, 5%: Horses are slow to reproduce. Gestation lasts 11 months, and a mare produces 1 foal. By analyzing BLM’s own raw demographic data, Gregg, LeBlanc, and Johnston (2014) found the average birth rate across wild-horse herds to be just under 20%. But they also found that 50% of foals perish before their first birthday. Thus, the birth rate is just a temporary blip in the data. Starting with the surviving-foal rate (10%), and then subtracting a conservative estimate of adult-mortality (5%), the expected normative herd-growth rate would be, at most, 5%. At that rate, it would take 14 years for a wild-horse herd to double. Meanwhile, the corresponding growth-rate for wild-burro herds is 2%. At that rate, it would take 35 years for a burro-herd to double.

Fraudulent figures on the range: BLM’s herd-growth figures are falsified. Repeatedly, we find BLM reporting one-year increases that are 50, 100, even 200 times the norm, far beyond what is biologically possible. Examples:

237% — 47 times the norm — Great Divide Basin — WY
256% — 51 times the norm — Beatys Butte — OR
260% — 52 times the norm — Shawave Mountains — NV
293% — 59 times the norm — Diamond Hills South — NV
317% — 63 times the norm — Jackies Butte — OR
418% — 84 times the norm — Black Rock Range East — NV *
522% — 104 times the norm — Salt Wells Creek — WY
525% — 105 times the norm — Carracas Mesa — NM **
1,218% — 244 times the norm — Centennial — CA
1,257% — 251 times the norm — Carter — CA

* BLM claimed the Black Rock Range East’s population grew from 88 horses to 456 horses in one year, an increase of 368. If so, that would mean each filly and mare gave birth to 17 foals.

** BLM claimed the Carracas Mesa population grew from 12 horses to 75 horses in one year, an increase of 63. If so, that would mean each filly and mare gave birth to 21 foals.

Fraudulent figures off the range: A report has just been released after a 5-year investigation by Wild Horse Freedom Federation. It revealed that BLM has been publishing fictitious figures regarding the number of wild horses removed from the range and now supposedly boarded in private pastures. BLM is paying, but where are the horses?

Fraud and embezzlement are crimes: BLM’s representations with regard to wild horses and burros are false and misleading. Making false and misleading representations = fraud, which violates Title 18 USC 1001 of the Federal criminal code. Embezzlement and theft violate various sections of Title 18 USC Chapter 31.

Adoptions: The adoption-market has not “dropped.” There’s just been a change in the definition of an “adoption.” Back-in-the-day, BLM actually used to count sales-for-slaughter as “adoptions.” Nowadays, only true adoptions — forever-family placements — qualify. However, wild horses are not homeless horses. They have a home — where they belong — on the range.

No birth control, no euthanasia, no slaughter: None of them fixes fraud. The problem is fraud — BLM’s fraud — not overpopulation. What is needed is honest management of our wild horses and burros.