Ecology Law Currents is the online-only publication of Ecology Law Quarterly, one of the nation's most respected and widely read environmental law journals. Currents features short-form commentary and analysis on timely environmental law and policy issues.


To be notified when the latest Currents articles are published, subscribe to the Currents list serve by emailing here.


Ecology Law Currents accepts submissions on an ongoing basis. For more information, see our guidelines.

« Student Review of Selected Panels at the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice 2010 Symposium “Empowered Partnerships: Participatory Action Research for Environmental Justice” | Main | 7th Annual EJ Symposium — Hungry for Justice: Growing an Equitable Food System »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

This is my first time knowing about any of this at all, but I know we have to stand up for the ones that aren't able to speak for themselves and we have to take action and spread our heartache as well as theirs.

What can we do?
Give me instructions on how to support the cause in favor of the wild horse.
I just stumbled upon this information in the process of researching horse slaughter practices in the USA.
I'm in the process of learning right now...
I would like to know what I can to get involved. I live in Washington State where we don't have the wild herds, but we can still be informed to take action along with others that want to make a difference.
There needs to be more public information presented through the media that reachers far beyond where this is happening.
These horse herds have earned a right to live on the land, they are America's legacy...we have to stand up for this animals right to life if we are going to continue to live truthfully to the American roots that have made this great country what it is today. They are our wild life, our natural heritage and it's something we have to fight for!!!
I have learned a lot from reading this site, and will continue to do so.
Thank you, Barbara

That is our federal govt for you.

Excellent Article! People need to see the round-ups for what they are extermination of an American icon and the stripping of American pride and way of life The are no secrets anymore as to why this is occurring. The BLM need to remove the Wild Herds to ensure the American people don't know the environmental effects of the oil, gas, and mining industries. The cattleman association have been responsible and bear a large burden on the removal of the wild herds due to grazing leases throughout history. However, a WAKE UP call needs to happen with them because since oil and other resources were found in these regions big business has been controlling and taking over our country using the BLM as their enforcers with no accountability to anyone. They are suppose to be a government agency that is protecting and managing with the best interest of American. They Don't and Won't!!!! They are being used to divert attention away from big business interests who are the primary supporters and contributors of the BLM. Less than 3% of cattle consumed in American comes from cattle raised in the US. The average small ranchers are and will be pushed off their land and leasing contracts will be eliminated for them and only Corporate ranchers will have leases. These strong American families are and will have their land and livestock confiscated, and/or their land polluted with contaminated water killing them, animals, and foliage like in other countries where people are pitted against each other to divert people from seeing the stripping of resources. These mining actions use a large amount of water which is effecting the countries already depleting watershed. If we don't join together and stop the greed behind these roundups All American Will Lose. Please everyone let's unite to protect our countries, heritage of ranches that will be destroyed that have been in families since the west was homesteaded, wild animals, forests, clean water and our water supply, our way of life. Take a look to what has been done on indian reservations where entire cultures, land that was to be protected has been confiscated, polluted, wild herds removed, people dying from cancer due to the effects of big business greed Remember what values this country was built on "United We Stand Divided We're Falling"

Its an interesting issue but I don't think the article adequately addresses the legal aspect of the problem. Personally I would have liked to know more about the judicial trend in the cases that have been brought before the courts and definitely more about the reasons why the principle legislation- Wild Horses Act has failed to address the problem. Also, the article does not put forward concrete solutions.

This paper is so full of ignorant emotional garbage. The title of the journal includes the word ecology but it is obvious that the authors have no clue about the ecology of the wild horse or that of the Great Basin.

I have now lost all trust in the professionalism of this publication.

I really enjoyed reading this article and I think the author did a great job of accomplishing part of their proposed solution of public education since I had never read about this issue before. While I typically champion science in this case I think that the author has it right that the results of the new study are unlikely to accomplish what is needed and rather more direct political action is needed. My only constructive criticism is that I would have been interested to read a bit more about the motive behind those who agree with the current practice and policies because it is not obvious to me given my sympathy with the author's viewpoint.

It seems very clear from this article that BLM is acting outside of its statutory authority in at least two ways: (1) regulating horse populations based maximizing monetary value of land, and (2) employing "zero out" methodology in herd management.

The article is interesting and informative, but I wish that it included more concrete steps that could be taken to solve this problem, whether legal, legislative, or social.

my comment is: do you see the pix of the Foals @ Fallon? looks just like they are lying down resting doesn't it? not so...those foals are lying down from exhaustion after a 10 mile roundup; then an 8 hours transport in a trailer;

then upon arrival; they are not given bales of Hay; so if Mum is dry; the BLM does not give them Hay; this is why the foals "nibble the ground; looking for any semblance of hay or feed!

I understand what the authors meant when they included the pix of the Foal born @ Fallon NV;

the meaning is:

If the foal was born in captivity...the foal should be "sleek and fat; healthy looking...

alas; the foal looks "ragged and undernourished;

so the BLM does not know how to feed foals in captivity; even I; a mere novice; even I could get the Foal some decent Hay and Foal pellets !

I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay, a region with large wild horse populations. For that reason, I am particularly in tune with these issues. The wild horses on the east coast, however, are relatively domesticated, as tourists of Chincoteague, Assateague, and the Outer Banks frequently interact with the animals. It is a shame to see "true" wild horses of the west undergo such inhumane treatment. That said, I believe that this article might be more powerful if the author had centered on data-driven analysis and provided specific means of remedying the situation.

It’s brutal. It's barbaric and it does not need to be done this way!!! These animals feel pain and have a beating heart. Some people love and respects animals, everybody should!!! Please help these animals!

This as a great article, which wonderfully demonstrates every basic problem inherent in environmental law.

First and foremost we see the principal-agent problems inherent in Congressional delegations to agencies, with BLM effectively able to evade Congress' mandate to protect the horses as a result of inherently imprecise statutory language.

As fundamental is the unwillingness of courts to engage in exacting review of agency decision-making.

Given the way in which doctrines of deference to agency have been firmly embedded within the U.S. legal system, it's incumbent on environmental activists to start considering non-litigation alternatives to addressing agency behavior. Litigation may be able to slow some agency actions, but so long as the agency is committed to actions which imperil these creatures, litigation is not a long-term winning strategy.

Unfortunately, the next obvious alternative, political action, is also tilted against those fighting on behalf of wild horses. In a battle between two relatively narrow interest groups, one of whom has lots of resources and has effectively captured the agency (the extractive industries operating on BLM land), wild horse advocates are likely to lose unless they can create a large groundswell of public support.

What to do about a seemingly hopeless situation? Perhaps environmental groups can succeed, if, as a whole, they seek to have major structural changes made to the ways in which agency actions are reviewed. Such an effort, mobilizing the whole of the environmental movement might have a chance of succeeding.

Thanks for your concise article.

One of my earliest childhood images is "Fury of Broken Wheel Ranch (a TV western of the late 50s starring a wild black horse) which led to my own wild black horse in 1985. She taught me a great deal. While horses are an introduced species (some would argue...note several recent Audobon articles... they don't belong in our wild lands, and that they interrupt habitat for endangered species; um, who's the invasive here? Humans perhaps?), I believe there is room for this American icon, for cowboys, for some cows (fewer, more sustainably raised) and wildlife.

Here in the east, Assateague Island demonstrates reasonable management: wildlife preserves (not open to human, pet or wild horse), drive-on beaches (to encourage the public to care about this wild island), a privately owned wild horse herd (the Chincoteague Fire Dept's herd, rounded up annually in the only wild horse roundup in the east), wild ponies managed by the Park Service in the north of the island (birth control used to keep the herd to a manageable size), and all on a forty mile island.

We need the genetic diversity wild horses offer (some are direct descendants of Spanish Colonial Horses, all are designed by nature, not showring standards). We need the intelligence, wisdom and "horse culture" passed on in wild herds (my mustang mare, wild for 8 years, showed very different behaviors from my domestic bred horses).

Keep fighting for sanity.

I love how concerned we are with the population of these animals but do nothing to control our own population. I know the subject is taboo and I do not mean to offend anyone. Seriously though, anyone who has ever worked a farm knows the importance of population control. Maybe if there were a few less people eating a few less cows ranchers wouldn't need so much of that land to fatten them up with to feed us. Of course, greed is a factor too and I do not side with them on this issue. I don't believe the wild herds are overpopulated. If they were then disease and competition would eventually thin out the herd naturally anyway. Instead, this is probably what will happen to us since we can't seem to use the sophisticated brains given us. The horses are not overpopulated. We are.

Not knowing where you both live, wish you could be in Washington DC at a hearing with Sec. Salazar. On March 3, Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar will testify before the House Natural Resources Committee to justify his Department's 2012 budget request to Congress.

What you have outlined is right on track and the message from us advocates goes on deaf ears in the courts and offices of various Senators and Congressman.

Sincerely, michael golembeski

Wow, a well written and researched article.
I am part of a Nation Wild Horse Advocate team, we just returned from DC lobbying our Senators and Congress men to defund the roundups based on the fact that the BLMs own data shows that they may very well have been rounding up horses and burros that are not in excess. Please take some time to read the 2010 Report To Congress,, Refuting FY 2011 Budget Justifications. I would love some feed back.
Great to see attorneys taking an interest in this as the horses obviously are not well represented legally.
We do however fight this fight on all fronts, but we must get smarter and for once get ahead of it, offense instead of defense. Please get contact me if you have any questions or comments on this report. thank you for the article and your time, Leslie Peeples

There is NO EXCUSE for this. Absolutely NO EXCUSE. No one can in any way justify the cruel and abusive manner in which these beings of GOD have been treated.

Looking at horses, or any other animal, solely from our perspective keeps us ignorant of their intricate social structures and needs. While the Wild Horses Act portrays consideration/protection of animals as its central mission, allowing rampant use of inaccurate data to 'zero out' wild horses renders the 'Act' useless. GAO's review of the Wild Horse program shows that a 1987 herd management plan set the wild horse target population in six Nevada herd areas at the 1974 levels. This type of inaccurate data should be enough to push the legislature to formulate other ways to protect these animals from needless cruelty and death.

Ken Salazar is a fifth generation rancher. Can we say, "Conflict of interest?" It breaks my heart to see these poor creatures chased from their lands, public lands which belong to us American taxpayers I might add, by helicopters which chase the horses to exhaustion. WE PAY FOR THIS CRUELTY WITH OUR TAXES!!! I hope & pray the BLM is denied the $12 million MORE they want to continue this cruel & I think illegal activity.

Evidentally all who are participating in all of this and those who are doing nothing about it have forgotten who put these animals here in the first place for our well being!!!!!!!These animals have worked along mankind for decades. Shame on all of those who are involved and that is MANY.

I am very saddened by what I read in this article. The videos included were powerful and I really am going to take some of the actions recommended, such as calling the White House and contacting my House Representative and Senator to prevent BLM from continuing the inhumane roundups of wild horses. One quote from the legislation regarding the criteria for roundup was that horses were to be put down in the most "humane and cost efficient" way possible. To me, humane mechanisms and cost efficient mechanisms of putting animals down are not necessarily consistent and it makes me question the motives behind these "protective" measures. Thank you for bringing my attention to this situation. I appreciate the work you are doing to create awareness so that we can hopefully put pressure on the government to discontinue these cruel, and poorly enforced, policies.

Very interesting article. I am surprised and shocked that this occurs in our backyard and yet little is being said or done. This article serves a valuable role in providing basic information to the public so that we can be more informed for future action. Thank you for your work.

The BLM should absolutely be defunded. And re-named the Bureau of Land for Cattle Management. Sadly, the treatment our OUR wild and iconic horses is tame compared to what the BLM is doing to our last remaining bison, who should be on the endangered species list. Please see:
Laws, directives, and policies should include both horses and bison, both of which are iconic species for the American West; both of whom are being treated shamefully with OUR tax dollars.

I have been following the Wild Horse & Burro's lives since way before they were "federally protected" in 1971. It's amazing how they have endured the "abuses" they have gone through over the years and still survive. Obama orders Salazar who orders BLM to destroy just one more of America's beautiful assets. My heart breaks!

The comments to this entry are closed.