Wild horses being brought to Oklahoma

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Reported by: Janna Clark
Updated: 7/16/2013 12:21 pm Published: 7/16/2013 11:25 am

The government is spending your money -- millions -- to protect wild horses and bring them to Oklahoma.

But it's how those horses got here that's causing concern.

Horses you can see as you drive along the Creek Turnpike, just east of Tulsa are wild horses.

The federal government pays ranchers in Oklahoma to take care of them.

The Bureau of Land Management runs the program and gathers horses and burros in western states.

Horse owner Pam Smith says the way crews gather the animals with helicopters is cruel.

"Imagine the heat we have today. Multiply that in the desert. Horses of all ages run for two hours. Babies that run, they die of exhaustion," Smith said.

Smith says horses are herd animals, and she doesn't agree with the BLM's way of separating them.

"They're families. You're taking moms away from babies, sisters from sisters, and dads away from them," Smith said.

She pointed out videos she's seen on the Internet that show a separated foal calling for its mother and one that shows confused horses trampling each other. Another shows a horse that's so tired it can't get up. And in another, a foal can barely walk.

"It's tragic. So many animals killed. Babies vanish," Smith said.

In another video Smith showed FOX23, a helicopter hits a horse. In another, a chopper knocks down a burro, and a man hits and later kicks a captured one.

"It's horrific what they do to these horses," Smith said.

"I've seen the dramatized videos that are out there on the Internet," said the BLM's Paul McGuire.

"Many opinions out there are driven by emotion," McGuire said.

He says the horses are not mistreated.

"I've seen actual gather operations. I'm impressed by the professionalism," he said.

"Horses are very adaptable animals ... It's going to respond very quickly and very readily to its new environment," McGuire said.

Smith thinks the BLM should just leave the horses alone on federal land.

"Horses are an American icon, they need to run free ... Let nature take its course," Smith said.

But McGuire says that's not a good idea, that horses double in population every four years, and they would destroy the land.

"Eat it and trample it into desolation. Once its trod under, it may never recover ... It's not something the American people want to see," McGuire said.

Smith says she's also concerned about the BLM selling horses to kill buyers who slaughter them for the meat. McGuire admits the BLM has concerns about that too. So earlier this year, it changed its policy. Now it will only sell four horses at a time to try to prevent that from happening.

Jay Litchfield also owns horses. He's concerned about the cost of the government program.

"I don't know why we're collecting wild horses. truly don't know why," Litchfield said.

Congress decided 1971 to protect the wild horses. The government's doled out millions, so the BLM can manage them.
Once the government gathers the horses, if it can't adopt or sell them, the BLM moves them to private pastures. The government pays ranchers to keep them.

Back on June 11, FOX23 emailed an open records request to the BLM to find out who keeps the horses and where.

The BLM emailed FOX23 a list of 21 ranchers that have contracts with the government. More than half -- 13 of them -- are in Oklahoma.

FOX23 stopped at land in Catoosa, where the owner leases 10,000 acres to Hughes Cattle Company in Bartlesville. The Hughes tell FOX23 they have a contract with the BLM to hold about 4,000 horses in Catoosa, Bartlesville and Ramona.

The Hughes wouldn't tell FOX23 how much money the government pays them, saying the BLM asked them not to but the family did say they've had a contract for 25 years.

The BLM says it pays $500 per horse per year. That means it pays Hughes Cattle Company more than $2 million per year.
Overall, the BLM spends more than $75 million in tax dollars each year on the program. More than half -- $40 million -- goes to contracted ranchers.

Litchfield says a horse can live up to 30 years. So to save one horse, could cost tax payers $15,000.

"I don't understand why we'd spend that much money on them," Litchfield said.

The National Academy of Science audited the BLM and criticized it, saying the rising costs continue to overwhelm the program and that more than 49,000 horses are kept in private pastures with considerably fewer -- 31,000 -- left in the wild.

Litchfield believes he has the answer to save millions. He says the government shouldn't gather horses and pay ranchers to keep them. He says leave them on federal land and figure out how to maintain the population.

"You can put them down. I hate to say that. But you have unwanted horses. Why are we doing it?" Litchfield suggested.
McGuire says although Congress authorized putting down excess horses, it doesn't provide the funding for it and that maintaining the population is difficult.

"There is no simple answer," McGuire said.

"When are they going to wake up ... We're spending a lot of money to keep horses nobody wants," Litchfield said.

McGuire says part of the reason the number of wild horses in private pastures is rising is because adoptions have been down for the past decade.

The BLM is holding an event where you can come look at horses up for adoption. It's at the Claremore Expo Center on Aug. 16 and 17.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

husker10 - 10/16/2013 6:33 PM
0 Votes
Thank you for this article. Mr. McGuire clearly supports cattlemen as he suggests the dramatic videos on the internet are what ? made up? Video and photos are how we find out the BLM fail to manage the horses and burros and they have admitted such. the NAS report was not favorable to the BLM, yet the BLM want it their way or now way. All year the public has asked for shelter for the horses at Palomino Valley holding pen. Over 100 degree temps, horses dying and the BLM still dont get it. While the cattlemen pay 1.35 per mo. per cow/calf, to eat on the range the horses are removed to end up in holding pens and often end up at slaughter houses. Canadian plants and Mex. plants see them. How is it full loads of gelding horses, mustang? end up in Mexico? they are sure not riding stock on a one way trip. Our BLM just cant change their ways. It has gone on and on that our horses end up at slaughter with someone connected to the BLM. Ken Salazar's buddy ended up with over 1700 wild horses and no accounting where they are? Wonder who got the slaughter check? The BLM knows adoptions are down so why roundup the horses? oh right, Mr. McGuire favors the cattlemen who fence up the water holes so the horses die of thirst. When this is over, the cattle will be next. I attended one roundup. That roundup cost $697,000. Tax dollars. I made sure the vet saw a little foal that was bleeding from the knee. No one else cared. We were treated like a criminal. BLM is the most corrupt agency I know of. They know they cant manage the horses and burros, so let someone else!! Mr. McGuire sounds like he agrees with the past head of WH&B program. Don Glenn wanted them all dead. One day they may get their wish. The taxpayers can not afford the care of the horses in long term pens. It is not a way to MANAGE wild horses and burros. HINT* WILD. The BLM has killed far too many over the years. Put the horses on the range where they belong. What has happened to the horses is not what Congress intended.

eagleye - 10/16/2013 5:27 PM
0 Votes
As a videographer who has filmed some of the roundup abuses referred to by the BLM employee quoted in Janna Clark's article I can assure you that none of the footage of horse & burro abuse that he referred to was dramatized for emotional effect. Would that were so. Unfortunately, it is just a small sampling of the abuse which horses & burros endure when being driven over dusty hills and rocky dales by BLM-contractor choppers. Multiple fatalities are not uncommon during horse and burro roundups. Sometimes they even run into double digits as these chopper cowboys literally run them to death. True, that does not happen on every roundup, but sadly, deaths due to injuries sustained during the roundup are fairly commonplace and injuries range from sprained and broken legs to various lung and internal injuries plus many miscarriages and foal deaths. The sue of helicopters to round up wild horses & burros was expressly banned in the Wild Horse & Burro Act of 1971, but early on BLM used its federal muscle to push changes to the original act thru Congress to allow helicopters to become the primary tool for rounding up wild horses and burros, -much to their demise. In fact, it has now become common practice to operate two choppers simultaneously so that the chances of daring escapes have been reduced to nearly zero. One fact that the BLM never mentions publicly is that there are multiple horse and burro herds which haven't been rounded up for decades, if ever, and yet don't overpopulate. They have achieved a state of balance over time by not having to compensate for frequent, aggressive population control by the BLM. These lucky herds suffer little if any abuse, and not only don't double every 4 years as BLM is fond of claiming, but some of them maintained a fairly constant herd population formally years without the need for cruel, family-busting helicopter roundups.

eagleye - 7/18/2013 11:19 AM
1 Vote
Cudos to Jana Clark for her 'fair & balanced' coverage of this festering dilemma, which is driven by BLM's refusal to obey the Wild Horse & Burro ACt stating: "The land (51 million acres) is to be devoted principally but not exclusively to their [Wild Horses & Burros] welfare in keeping with the multiple-use management concept of public lands.”. Instead of adhering to this straightforward mandate BLM has equated management with reduction. 51 million acres of herd areas have been shrunken to barely 30 million and the number of horse or burro herds is down to around 170 from over 300. Moreover, less than half of those are large enough to be genetically viable (a healthy population of over 120 animals). The really sad thing is that in many, many cases when horses are removed -under the pretext of 'rangeland management' they are typically replaced by an even greater number of cattle. This directly contravenes the letter and spirit of the Wild Horse & Burro Act and it is bad for rangeland health as cattle are notorious for fouling sensitive riparian areas, particularly in arid areas (=most herd areas) and for ripping out grasses and other small plants roots and all thus desertifying already degraded rangelands. By contrast, horses & burros, which have upper and lower teeth prune the plants they browse on, which mostly stimulates re-growth. In addition, they only partially digest the plants they consume, leaving seeds intact. Hence they perform a vital role in seed distribution and rangeland regeneration in contrast to cattle. The bottom line is that horses & burros have co-evolved with the western range, while cattle definitely have not. However, cattle are a financial commodity, with well-financed constituency, -'welfare ranchers'. It is no surprise that horses & burros are losing this battle over access to American rangelands. The big winners in this secret war are mega-corporations & millionaires -compliments of our tax$$. We should all be sad & outraged !

MAnderson - 7/18/2013 10:43 AM
2 Votes
Putting the BLM in charge of managing our Wild Horses, after the unanimous 1971 Act of Congress enacted law to protect our Wild Horses & Burros as the PRINCIPAL species in the areas they roam, was like putting the Nazi's in charge of protecting the Jews after rescuing them from Holocaust. It was a horrendous conflict of interest, & a cruel trick on the American People, since the BLM had a history of blocking efforts to protect our Wild Horses from being hideously tortured & slaughtered by the greedy multimillionaire Welfare Ranchers that control the BLM. The BLM publicizes the $80 million annual cost of inhumanely rounding up & stockpiling our Wild Horses on private ranches because they hope taxpayers will get angry enough about the tax money to allow the BLM to send our Wild Horses to slaughter, (which they've illegally done in secret). What the BLM doesn't want US taxpayers to know about is that it costs us at least $500 million to $1 billion in taxes annually to subsidize the Public Lands Grazing Program, so that wealthy cattle barons, including Congressmen & huge corporations, like Hewlett Packard & the Hilton Family Trust, can overgraze & destroy our public ranges with their millions of cattle & sheep at 1/10th of the market rate, while producing only 3% of America's beef, because they use their livestock as a tax shelter at our expense! There are only thousands of Wild Horses on our public ranges, but MILLIONS of private livestock, yet the BLM falsely accuses our Wild Horses of damaging our range lands! The BLM is controlled & staffed by Welfare Ranchers & their family members, who want all our Wild Horses slaughtered so they can hog all the public forage for their private livestock. Retired 30-year BLM Wild Horse & Natural Resource Manager, Bob Edwards, told the Today Show that there is NO justifiable reason for removing our Wild Horses from public lands, & that the solution is to reduce the number of cattle! Call Secretary of Interior Jewell & protest!

Barbwire - 7/18/2013 10:18 AM
2 Votes
McClure is full of BLM BS. The videos prove how cruelly our wild horses and burros are treated. Private citizens would be charged with animal abuse. The 1990-91 Government Accounting Office study proved the millions of cattle have caused the destruction of the range and riparian areas and not the few wild horses.Now the National Academy of Science has proved the extensive removals have caused the 20% reproduction rate as the horses try not to be wiped out. 70% of the herds are not genetically viable and sustainable now with less than 150 adults. Also these horses are not unwanted. The 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act was passed to protect and preserve our American wild horses because the American people wanted them but the BLM is breaking this law. Put the nearly 50,000 wild horses in holding back on their lawful herd management areas and return the over 22 million acres taken from them. If they need water and hay providing it would be a lot cheaper than roundups and paying to keep them in captivity. Let them be, running free. Remove the livestock and fences.

agrtlady - 7/17/2013 2:51 PM
3 Votes
this is an abomination that needs to be stopped... ranchers getting rich... connected to the government officials while taxpayers want the horses left alone. We do not want the wild horses captured we want them free... especially free of the welfare ranchers both cattle and sheep... this has to be corrected... horses and burros are nationally protected? @#$% no they are not! It would have been much healthier and much much cheaper to keep them in the wild. We drop feed and water other wild animals like elk and bison why couldn't we do this? well the almighty greed... put our horses back!

blpaints - 7/17/2013 10:39 AM
4 Votes
Let's talk about the REAL reason our wild horses are being removed from their rightful LEGAL lands.....to make room for more WELFARE cattle & sheep (the MILLIONS of which are actually the ones ruining the land), to make room for more mining & fracking (an environmental disaster). In spite of the water shortage out West, BLM continues to lease lands to mining & fracking who use unimaginable amounts of water. You can start out helping by BOYCOTTING BEEF AND LAMB.

VickeryEckhoff - 7/17/2013 8:51 AM
4 Votes
The government is spending millions to protect ranchers, not horses. The math tells you all you need to know: $300.00: cost to taxpayers to round up one wild horse $70.80 per month: cost to taxpayers to warehouse each horse $1.35 per month: income from permits allowing cattle to graze in their places on public lands Don't think so? Suggest BLM contractors stockpile cattle instead of horses. The public should be really mad about this!

Janwindsong - 7/16/2013 1:16 PM
4 Votes
There may be some areas that are overgrazed or fenced such that the horses cannot move to their seasoinal grazinbg areas, but those areas are few and far between. It is no secret that BLM has been spending its budget to outsource rounding up, processing, transporting, feeding and housing, administering birth control - you name it - there is a contract to do it. And thank goodness there are so many horses and burros or the well would have run dry long ago. And how does BLM rig the plight of the public land needing rescue from the omnipresent and destructive wild horse? Well, you paint this scenario of 1200 pound animals breeding like bunnies, pillaging stream beds, eating all the forage and trampling that which the can't reach. You know, the unsuspecting public will buy into that. Oh the poor horses - rescue them from themselves! Poppycock! The horses and burros do just fine without interference as do the antelope, elk, deer and birds. If Wildlife Services would stop killing all the predators at the behest of the livestock industry - all the prey animals on public lands would be living as they were meant to. If people cannot stand the sight of a natural kill - stop planting your cows and sheep out there. As for the horses already rounded up, gelded and separated into same sex colonies - well the land owners who have furnished their properties are sitting pretty - those horses will live 20-30 years. And if BLM plays their cards right, the 15,000 or so horses left will squeek out another few years or so of foals. My question to BLM is this - once all the horses have been taken off the public land - what and how will you justify the degradation of the land and water? Oh wait, the 6 million cattle and 9 million sheep will still be out there. Still - without the horses, life for BLM will be so "boring."
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