Journalism in the Public Interest

All the Missing Horses: What Happened to the Wild Horses Tom Davis Bought From the Gov’t?

The main buyer from a federal program designed to protect wild horses is a Colorado man who advocates slaughter. He’s bought more than 1,700 since 2009, but won’t say where they are.

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Oct. 11, 2012, 8:13 a.m.

I know the President put Salazar in his position to placate ranchers, etc, in the Western states, but Salazar is corrupt and one of the WORST Interior Secretaries ever- right up there with James Watt (heck, maybe even worse).

Those lands were set aside for HORSES, not cattle.  That doesn’t seem to register with ranchers, Salazar or his ilk.  Those horses have a right to live on those lands in peace.  Rounding them up is just wrong.  Selling them to people like Davis, who anyone with common sense would know is selling to kill buyers, is EVIL. 

There was a time when congress didn’t behave this way toward these horses and put such pressure on the BLM.  However, this Republican congress is a danger to ALL of our natural resources and the wild animals living on government lands.  They have to go—-  along with Salazar.  Vote them out of office and send President Obama a message to fire Salazar.  And if you’re thinking Romney would appoint someone better, think again.  Look at the promises he’s already made, and you’ll see someone even WORSE waiting in the wings.  Republicans NEVER saw a natural resource nor land they didn’t want to exploit, and Romney is all about making money.  Wild horses will never bring in the dollars….

Carrie Lynne

Oct. 10, 2012, 10:17 p.m.

It is sickening the grotesque display of disrepect for life and the exchange of their personal integrity and dignity for a dollar. SHAME does not cover it…EVIL is what EVIL DOES! SOMEONE NEEDS to go to answer for this. Starting at the top! Responsibilty rolls “UP HILL”!

lesser white buffalo

Oct. 9, 2012, 7:48 p.m.

Here we have an animal that is not native, is rough on habitat and has no natural predators. There is no way that each and every one of these animals is going to find a nice home to live out it’s life in comfort.
Either we wipe them out, sterilize them, or cull them and keep it as hush hush as possible so as not to offend anyone.
I’ve owned horses and I think they can be wonderful animals and no one can deny the romantic appeal of a herd of wild horses. But if they’re not managed they’ll ruin their own environment and seal their own fate while playing hell on the land.
Tom Davis meanwhile is performing a service that most people might not have the stomach for myself included but I see few viable alternatives. I suppose they could be hunted but I’m guessing this would be even more offensive that “disappearing” them.


Oct. 9, 2012, 2:51 p.m.

I continue to wonder if Salazar was the originator of the current policy or if we are now seeing the result of plans made years ago. Several energy project agreements were made during the Bush administration that included elimination of the mustang/burro herds within the project’s local area. For example, burro herds were “zeroed out” at Clark Mountain, CA, to make way for Bright Source’s Ivanpah solar project.  I won’t elaborate on the “greenness” of a project designed to generate energy for communities far away from the source other than to question why rooftop solar in an equally sunny L.A. wasnt considered an option. The real shame here belongs to a BLM beaurocracy that didn’t give a damn about the Clark Mountain burro’s fate. For all we know, some went to the same “retirement homes” that you mentioned and have been stuffing themselves on grass. Burros are desert animals. Allowing them to graze unrestricted on rich forage kills them in the long run (google laminitis). Others we hope got homes back east. We don’t know. Rescuers begged to take the herd but were ignored. The BLM dispersed a genetically and phenotypically unique population that included pink and lavender coat colors and zebra-like leg stripes.
There has been a lot of attention given to the severe and unlawful mustang culling but less about the burros. Dave, I hope I gave you a little nudge to give the burros a chapter in your book. If you need information, I can give you some people to talk to. I would start with Wild Burro Rescue in Olancha, CA.

Marjorie Caruso

Oct. 9, 2012, 10:48 a.m.

Wow, it’s amazing when some speak out when they don’t even know what they are talking about.

Case in point, Mr. Jack Brown:  “But it sounds from this article that most of it gets shipped to Mexico for slaughter, ground up and probably reexported to the US for yuppies to feed to their dogs.”

No horse meat is sold in the United States for dog food because American’s will not feed their dogs horse meat!  LOL

And Ken Salazar is as corrupt as they come. Talk about letting the wolf guard the hen house.  That’s what this Administration has done.  Shame on Obama and everyone else who has allowed this atrocity to happen. 

It’s truly about time that moral American’s speak out and stop this horror.  We are losing OUR wild horses!

Raoul Diblasi

Oct. 9, 2012, 9:59 a.m.

It always strikes me when someone tries to dismiss people with compassion as being “bleeding hearts”.If caring about horses makes me a “bleeding heart” so be it.I’m in good company along with Jesus,Ghandi and Albert Schweitzer.Sooner or later if you live long enough you will find yourself helpless and at the mercy of others.When that time comes you better pray you fall under the care of people like me rather than people like yourself.


Oct. 8, 2012, 9:51 p.m.

I have some “issues” with this article. Although it appears well-researched and well-written, and FOR the wild horses, their are a few comments I have trouble accepting.  One is at the beginning of the article. To paraphrase: the BLM had too many wild horses and no where to put them and they would cause long-term damage to the range.  Meaning, if they were set free.  Wild horses manage the range, keeping it robust and healthy! Another problem is the author’s giving a number of wild horses on the range and the reproduction by mares, yearly. Come on!  the BLM does not take a head count.  They just helicopter round-up, in a frenzy, to take wild horses off their federally designated land and immediately move in the range damaging cattle!!! Then there is mention of the wrong info by the GAO!!  But I thank the author for relaying the Bull>>()*(&^*%$ from the BLM regarding hauler/kill buyer/Salazar friendly neighbor Davis.  Reminds me of the BLM Advisory Board meetings where all was a lying, beating-around-the-bush farce.  And here it is so obvious that the BLM is so corrupt…they don’t know the horses are going to slaughter?  Pleaseeeeee. We are the taxpaying public being duped and lied to again, as our wild ones go through the most heinous, inhumane, suffering…the horse slaughter pipeline with the utmost agony in the kill box.  This is criminal.


Oct. 6, 2012, 7:56 a.m.

Commenters:  Here’s your chance to address your concerns direct with the BLM, either in person or via email, etc., when they have their advisory meeting.  Contact details below:

The Bureau of Land Management’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board will meet in October in Salt Lake City to discuss issues relating to the management, protection, and control of wild horses and burros on Western public rangelands. The day-and-a-half meeting will take place on Monday, October 29, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday, October 30, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., local time.

The meeting will take place at the Radisson Hotel Salt Lake City Downtown at 215 West South Temple. The hotel phone number for reservations is 801-531-7500 or 1-800-333-3333.  The agenda of the meeting can be found in the September 24, 2012, Federal Register (
The Advisory Board provides input and advice to the BLM as it carries out its responsibilities under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The law mandates the protection, management, and control of these free-roaming animals in a manner that ensures healthy herds at levels consistent with the land’s capacity to support them.  According to the BLM’s latest official estimate, approximately 37,300 wild horses and burros roam on BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states.
The public may address the Advisory Board on Monday, October 29, at 3:30 p.m., local time.  Individuals who want to make a statement at the Monday meeting should register with the BLM by 2 p.m., local time, on that same day at the meeting site.  Depending on the number of speakers, the Board may limit the length of presentations, set at three minutes for previous meetings.
Speakers should submit a written copy of their statement to the BLM at the addresses below or bring a copy to the meeting.  There may be a Webcam present during the entire meeting and individual comments may be recorded.  Those who would like to comment but are unable to attend may submit a written statement to: Bureau of Land Management, National Wild Horse and Burro Program, WO-260, Attention: Ramona DeLorme, 1340 Financial Boulevard, Reno, Nevada, 89502-7147. Comments may also be e-mailed to the BLM at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) .
For additional information regarding the meeting, please contact Ramona DeLorme, Wild Horse and Burro Administrative Assistant, at 775-861-6583.  Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may reach Ms. DeLorme during normal business hours by calling the Federal Information Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339.
The Advisory Board meets at least once a year and the BLM Director may call additional meetings when necessary.  Members serve without salary, but are reimbursed for travel and per diem expenses according to government travel regulations.


Oct. 6, 2012, 12:23 a.m.

Dave Philipps,thank you very much.


Oct. 5, 2012, 12:27 p.m.

This is all very discouraging.  But we must keep plugging away, and not give up.  The Cloud Foundation and other organizations are doing a great job of educating the public and advocating for the horses.

LynnDell Cox

Oct. 4, 2012, 8:48 p.m.

I live 15 miles from the Frisco HMA in Southern Utah and I enjoy going out into the mountains and range country and seeing these wild horses on my days off from work and they are part of my hobby to film them and study them and their habits.  I love these horses like my own horses here at home. I am doing a research paper for college concerning these horses and I am scared for these horses.
  At the end of November the BLM plans to round up 166 wild horses and turn back some but why I ask because the BLM is already complaining about places to put the horses and how to feed them, why round up that many and what will happen to them after wards? Slauughter?  What has this country come to ?  All the BLM seems to care about is cattle, mining and big money and the wild horse is the victim of their greed.  Lets help these horses some how lets get some idea’s set on paper and quit talking in circles and do some thing.  The BLM needs to start counting the cattle on these allotments they lease out because I would dare say every rancher out there is over on numbers yet they worry about the management of the Mustangs and the cattle allotments over lap with the HMA’s for the wild horses. A cattle count would be a tiny start in the right direction.  I don’t want to see these beautiful animals disappear I want them around for my grand kids to see. What about you?


Oct. 4, 2012, 9:18 a.m.

I encourage you to watch this video and the damage caused by these roundups:

Then watch read about how the wild horses are treated and maintained at Assateague in the East…a sharp contrast to the cruelty of the West:


Oct. 4, 2012, 8 a.m.

Please take action on this issue by going to this link and sending your comments directly to the BLM.  If we are to be taken serious about our feelings on this issue, we cannot have people leaving threats or other statements that only hurt, not help the horses.

Alan J. Kania

Oct. 4, 2012, 12:39 a.m.

This could have been a wonderful forum for effective civil discourse on the wild horse/burro issue and the administration of the public lands.  But ignorant comments from Jhmaguire demonstrate that the concept of civil discourse is no longer possible. It’s sad.

Morgaine Bergman

Oct. 3, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

My solution:

(1)  As government property, the horses belong to the public.  They should only be culled when necessary, and only by government officials.

(2) If for any reason the horses should die out, the land should immediately be converted to grazing publicly owned bison and elk.

(3)  In either case, Native American people should be invited to be stewards of these animals and should be paid a fair wage for their work.

(4)  When animals are culled, and any profit should go to maintaining the habitat and health of the surviving herds.  The meat and by-products should be packaged and offered to Native American communities and homeless shelters to help the many poor who are not on public assistance and who are unable or unfit to work.

(5)  There should be real accountability to the public for herd populations, culls, where the culled animals go and who is involved in maintaining and processing them.


Oct. 3, 2012, 1:22 p.m.

To all those who commented, here is an opportunity to contact the BLM directly and oppose the planned and continued roundup of even more mustangs.  Below is the link to the website where you can sign a letter of protest for these roundups in Nevada.  You can copy and past this link to get to the letter on the American Wild Horse Preservation site.


Oct. 3, 2012, 12:21 p.m.

Deanna you are so right,


Oct. 3, 2012, 12:11 p.m.

Davis is getting away with murder, along with Salzar and the BLM, 2 LITTLE DIRTY MEN and the dirty blm which our GOVT allows, how sick is this. This is communist thats what it is

Carol Ryder

Oct. 3, 2012, 10:29 a.m.

Thank you to all who took the time to shine a light on issues like this. I am setting up a non-profit with the goal of education and legislative changes needed to help critters, veterans, service members and other underdogs. I just waited for the seminar at the Suffolk County Bar Assn on setting it up and running it properly. Obviously, this problem is too big, goes up way too high and a new NP can’t take this on right now. However, we can all do our part to shine a light on these cockroaches doing this. And, of course, we can use the power of the vote AND the power of the voice-calls to our lawmakers over and over. It is election season-time to see what we can do. Even if we do something local, remember, we are still helping critters locally and, as we have seen with other laws passed in Suffolk County and other places, it spreads. Maybe because the Hamptons are here and promionent people have houses, events and summer here things spread a bit quicker. Still, never believe you can’t make a difference. I’ve seen it. For example, Suffolk has the first Animal Abuser Registry in the country (state criminal abuse laws lousy but that is another issue being worked on, so we can get perps on there). I brought clients to the voting session for that and another animal law that was supposed to be tabled (meaning, put aside because they don’t think it will pass in its current form). When the client’s little girl went up there and showed a photo of her and her now-gone dog, The bill was put back up for a vote and passed.


Oct. 2, 2012, 9:27 p.m.

If you get lucky, Itasca, you might live to see the day when human overpopulation lets you talk about other people that way, too.


Oct. 2, 2012, 9:20 p.m.

I can’t see what the big deal is. Horses are just big pieces of meat surrounded by perfectly good leather unless one lives in a rich country with plenty of money to piddle away on the whims of idle hands chasing anthropomorphic fairy tales.


Oct. 2, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

I just read this article today and am appalled at what is happening right under our noses.  I live in michigan and am wondering what I can do.  Who can I email or call or write to for changes to be made in this system?  And who re-legalized horse meat?  These magnificent creatures need someone who has their best interest at heart, not the monsters mentioned in this article.  Maybe I don’t live in that area but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that changes must be made NOW.


Oct. 2, 2012, 7:47 p.m.

People need to be there at gathers and auctions to make these people accountable and get the videos out to the public. This whole process needs to be shut down! It has become a way to make money while people have turned a blind eye or profited themselves.
I agree with another poster who pointed out our extermination of all predators. I would rather think of a horse meeting it’s demise quickly from a predator then the suffering they are subjected to now.
There are countless videos out for you to tweet and share with the world.
I also wondered about the removal and adoption of stallions instead of the gathering of entire herds as a last resort to slow breeding down.


Oct. 2, 2012, 3:17 p.m.

Hey, better if you give a little supporting information.

Like, say, the individual did here:

The solution is obviously birth control for the horses…but for some reason birth control is sacrilege, while wild horses are sacred cows.


Oct. 2, 2012, 2:53 p.m.

I wonder how many of these commenters are familiar with the western landscape these animals exist on?  How many of you can recognize and name even one plant, yet somehow can make proud proclamations about ecosystem managment and population dynamics. I’ve been working the western landscape for 15 years and there is nothing, (not oil and gas development, not cattle ranching, not hunting) more devastating to our natural resources than uncontrolled feral horses.  None of you even understands the deffenition of the word “wild” versus “feral”.  The BLM program is impractical in many many ways, but it is driven by the unaware, out of touch (with their ecosystem), advocate groups perpetuating their illogical value judgements (like that horses are more important than deer, elk, cattle, sage grouse, and all other native and sometimes threatened native wildlife).  The west was collonized because of cattle, driven to the western landscape in wake of a massive slaughter of native animals.  That slaughter was facilitated by horses.  Please stop jumping to accusations and hanging on old western mythology.  The reality of life is death.  And to all you vegies who love all animals…nothing has displaced wildlife more than agricultural development.  Use your shallow thinking minds and consider that for a while. Soy beans and corn have replaced more native habitat in the US than all the houses put together.

Jack de Golia

Oct. 2, 2012, 11:20 a.m.

The real story here is the insanity of the Wild Horse & Burro Act of 1971.  These animals aren’t “wild” like native wildlife, they’re feral, as in they don’t belong in the ecosystem.  Cattle at least are managed by ranchers.  You can argue about how well, but that’s a far better system than allowing horses and burros to trash the rangelands of the West.

Dianne Appel

Oct. 1, 2012, 7:53 p.m.

The BLM is clearly suffering under poor leadership spawned by a confused mission. If the agency knew its real purpose, there would be no problem carrying out mission-based initiatives. Fracking, drilling, grazing and hunting split hoofed wildlife (not horses) are contrary to saving wild equine herds. To root out the problem will be to redefine why BLM exists.

Roger David

Oct. 1, 2012, 5:04 p.m.

Per the facts stated in this article, this can no longer be a BLM matter. Agency corruption has been charged publicly in this article and, per federal policy, this now makes this an FBI matter. The FBI now has an obligation to investigate both Davis AND the BLM. They may not have seen this article, yet, though. If you want to help them, email a link to this article to the Washington, DC FBI office and ask them if they have seen the article and when they intend to raid the Davis And BLM offices. Not only are horses getting violated but taxpayers are too.

Dr. Brad Bergstrom

Oct. 1, 2012, 3:30 p.m.

If you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t speak (or blog).

“Wild” horses are NOT part of the native fauna of North America.  They are the descendants of DOMESTICATED animals, now feral, released by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1600s.  Ancestral horses did evolve in North America, but they all left or went extinct tens of thousands of years ago, and since then the plants and ecosystems have evolved without a grazing animal possessing UPPER as well as lower incisors.

They are a part of the (not so) “Old West” like gunfights at the OK Corral, and they should be allowed to pass away just the same.

Horse Boy

Oct. 1, 2012, 3:03 p.m.

Those of you that are actually distressed by this can take Tangible Action.

Google “RICO laws”. Read about them on Wikipedia. The bottom line is: If you paid taxes you can file a RICO action based on the charges in this article and get this stopped and get the money back and pay the taxpayers back. In this recession, lawyers will do it for you at no upfront cost and for 20% of the recovery. So… You can either sit there and read the article above and go: ” that is just a darn shame!” And then go buy a Starbucks or YOU CAN GET UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!


Oct. 1, 2012, 9:04 a.m.

This well-researched article hammers the problem—BLM in Washington has a different agenda that is not for the welfare of these animals.  There are fewer wild horses on public land than at any time in history, they only get 2% of the allocated land for grazing (livestock get 47% and other wildlife get 51% of the allocations), and the BLM continues to round up wild horses and put them in holding, at the cost of taxpayers.  Now we see that going to holding also costs them their lives at a vicious end.  Mr. Davis is a symptom of the real problem, but for him to flaunt that he breaks the law (doesn’t everybody else?) is despicable if the BLM to continues to ignore this.


Sep. 30, 2012, 11:37 p.m.

Davis said he had found most of the mustangs “good homes” on properties mostly in the southeastern states.

Well, now…that’s either true, or Davis is what you call a varmint.


Sep. 30, 2012, 10:44 p.m.

I am a former equine cruelty investigator for the US Equine Rescue League of NC and certified compliance checker for BLM mustangs and burros. Also headed up campaign in Texas in the 90’s to ban horse tripping in Mexican rodeos or charreadas during which time I learned of BLM employees selling wild horses to slaughter for personal profit.  I want to thank you for this revealing story that needs to be made available to mainstream/cable media as this information clearly shows that the BLM is reverting back to its old corruption practices of the 80’s and early 90’s of selling America’s mustangs to slaughter to line their own pockets. The village idiot could read your article and put two and two together that Ken Salazar is in bed with the likes of Tom Davis in order to systematically channel horses to slaughter in Mexico. When Tom Davis says he loves wild horses to death, he ain’t kiddin’! Let’s see….he purchased 1700 head of horses from the BLM for $10 a head and sold some to Mexican movie makers and some are in holding near El Paso, TX where horses bound for slaughter in Mexico are checked over before crossing the border. Something of a red flag, huh? Just do the math…...1700 horses purchased for approximately $17,000 then possibly resold , say an average of 500 lbs per horse at 20 cents a lb comes to a tidy $170,000 which is no shabby profit. The question is how many BLM fingers are in this pie? The 50,000 head of wild horses currently in holding facilities represent a slaughter value of at the very least $5,000,000. The Obama administration has been bombarded with emails and calls for the past 4 years calling for a moratorium on the brutal roundups of wild horses on public lands and the resignation of Ken Salazar, an avowed cattleman that hates the mustangs. So far public outcry has fallen on deaf ears even with expose’s of the BLM’s treatment of the horses on a variety of news shows and YouTube videos. Maybe Romney’s campaign might find this information tasty fodder for attacking Obama for corruption in the Department of the Interior. Ann Romney is a well-known horse owner/enthusiast that might want to take up this cause as well. Hmmmm!

Marsha May

Sep. 30, 2012, 10:43 p.m.

Thank you Alan Kania! I will buy your book!

It is my view that there is something fishy here and from all I have read since this piece appeared. There were people investigating this man and then Mr. Phillips published this and may have ruined all their work and put them in harm’s way with bad timing. There are others also claiming to have helped Mr. Phillips but it seems unlikely. One of them did tell him the Sally Spencer story about the reputable repeat buyer. But there is no way advocates were ever fooled by Sally Spencer who, indeed, needs to lose her job. I think this Davis got his way because he is friends with the Salazar family. So Secretary Salazar or Colorado Ag Dept. Salazar, or Both! should also lose their jobs.

Why on earth did Madeleine Pickens send this article out to her mailing list with the photos and graphics removed? It was most unprofessional and unlike Madeleine. We have some very interesting characters here besides Davis. We have Madeleine Pickens, Laura Leigh and this Mr. Phillips who was the one who researched and then interviewed Davis. It is quite the interview, too! Everything else seems par for the course and I have to also wonder why Phillips used BLM figures? Just like all the press who do Not dig far enough do. Why didn’t his friend Laura Leigh correct his BLM math for him if she spent 6 months helping him do this little piece. This article has FOIA’d info and an interview. How simple can that be? Why would he need anyone’s help? He did the right things. 

What is Mr. Phillips relationship to Madeleine and what is hers to ProPublica? Just thoughts to ponder. And after Laura Leigh put down the possible destruction of the 3 HMAs adjacent to Spruce Ranch what is her current relationship to Madeleine? MAdeleine is basically pro BLM and wants to be a contractor for them. Of course she wants it her way and BLM wants it their way. Will they ever make up their minds? Or do we just have magic rabbits coming out of hats and something else is afoot? I would not trust a one of these people in the present wild horse climate. Everyone seems to be out for themselves and not for the wild ones. 

And who is Mr. Phillips? New kids on the block need to show a little bit of bio in this business. This is the tip of an ice burg so do not be so taken yet. Davis has basically admitted his guilt has no proof offered against him by Phillips except the interview because the other researchers work was interrupted by his untimely release. 

What we have here is failure to communicate. Good show. Maybe someone will still be able to salvage this unfinished investigation and present proof of guilt on Davis. Maybe we will also find out what these people were really after out there on the ranges of Nevada?

Craig Downer

Sep. 30, 2012, 10:18 p.m.

It is such a shame that our federal government agencies, the BLM (USDI) and the USFS (USDA) that are charged with protecting, preserving and managing the wild horses and aburros under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, are governed by persons who negatively portray and undermine the wild equids. In fact these officials, starting at the top with the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture have consistently connived together with many of the lower officials to zero out the herds from their legal areas. Failing this they reduce them to such low population levels that they risk inbreeding and chance die out. The act says they are to be left to integrate with the natural ecosystem and to be minimally interferred with, and that they are to receive the principal share of the resources.  The BLM and the USFS are doing all the opposite of this and contrary to the law. As a wildlife ecologist I have proposed and described in some detail a solution to this terrible miscarriage of justice and in benefit of both the wild equids and the general public of the United States. This is a caring way to achieve naturally self-stabilizing populations within viable habitats. Please get a hold of my book and read it. It is entitled The Wild Horse Conspiracy. Then get back to me and let’s work together to honor these wonderful animals and left them have the freedom and the land they deserve. They have done so much for us, now it is time we do something great for them. Paradoxically in so doing we will be saving both life on Earth and our own true and worthy human life here, by learning to share, by learning to do something good for other kinds ... The animals contributed so muchy that is truly positive here on planet Earth.  The present situation is crucial test for us, indeed! May God help us all to do what is right!

Alan J. Kania

Sep. 30, 2012, 9:10 p.m.

After working with Mrs. Velma B. “Wild Horse Annie” Johnston during the last seven years of her life and reading the feature story in Sunday’s Denver Post, I’m not surprised that things have not changed during the past 35 years since Annie’s passing in 1977.
  Mrs. Johnston began her campaign to (1) protect the wild horses (and burros) from airborne and mechanized roundups that resulted in the horses being sent in large numbers of the slaughterhouses throughout the American West, Canada and Mexico; (2) manage the public rangelands on a multiple-use basis where ranchers, hunters, energy developers, wild horse/burro enthusiasts can share the public lands and (3) control population numbers so that neither livestock, wild horses/burros, nor game animals will ever increase to levels that exceed the forage capacity of public land range habitat.
  Wild Horse Annie challenged the effectiveness of the Bureau of Land Management’s responsibility for overseeing the implementation of both the 1959 Wild Horse Annie Act and the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act that were passed on behalf of Mrs. Johnston’s 27-year campaign.
  When the wholesale slaughter of wild horses brought the population down to an estimated 17,500 wild horses and considerably fewer wild burros, Annie proposed that it was time for the BLM to initiate a management plan for both wild horses and livestock to determine what was necessary to maintain proper range management. This would require an objective review of the livestock allotment system on public lands. It would require studies of wild horse and burro behavior, breeding, nutrition and other components upon which good multiple-use range management can be developed.
  This did not happen.
  The studies recommended by the National Academy of Sciences were ignored by the BLM. The chance to evaluate the source of the wild horses through the evaluation of grazing permits, consistent census counting parameters, and an evaluation of branded and unbranded horses passed through the network of state brand inspectors, were ignored by the BLM.
  BLM Director Robert Burford gutted the proven adoption program initiated by Wild Horse Annie while BLM administrator Kay Wilkes in 1975, trumped up an arbitrary breeding rate of 20% to 25% by the BLM. These are figures that no commercial breeding ranch could ever achieve under favorably controlled circumstances.
  The “Adopt-a-Horse/Burro” program was poorly marketed once the BLM took over the program from Wild Horse Annie in the mid-1970s.  The roundup of “excess” wild horses was never effectively coordinated with a marketing program to move the animals into private ownership. As a result, a back-log of tens of thousands of wild horses and burros have been warehoused at tax-payer expense.
  When we write the history of the wild horses and burros that contributed so much to the development of the American West, will we look at the wild horses without taking the impact of the livestock industry on the public lands and the biases inherent in the political administration of federal wild horse and burro program?
  Will we look at the errors of the past, the political wrangling to protect territorial positions, or the potential value in the development of a vast heritage composed of all of these entities?
  It’s no surprise that Wild Horse Annie’s campaign to manage, protect, and control the wild horses as components of western heritage – has become corrupted as another component of the commercial exploitation of the public lands at the expense of the public tax-payers.

Alan J. Kania is the author of Wild Horse Annie: Velma Johnston and Her Fight to Save the Mustang published September 28, 2012 by the University Press of Nevada. Following the death of Wild Horse Annie, he served on the board of directors of one of Wild Horse Annie’s organizations, the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros.

He lives in Parker, Colorado with his wife. Their wedding carriage was drawn by Alan’s adopted-and-trained wild horse 25 years ago.


Sep. 30, 2012, 8:37 p.m.

To all the EXPERIENCED advocates:

I am very confused.  Which is it irresponsible reporting or masterful investigation?  I have now heard it both ways from people who I thought were (and should be) working together.  I know where the BLM stands but I am not sure anymore about the people who are helping the mustangs.


Sep. 30, 2012, 6:20 p.m.

The Sacramento Bee has run stories on this. It is the local cattle ranchers in California that are most against this. They have testified that the ranges where they graze their animals are not in any way affected by the wild horse and burrow population and think they should be left alone.

Debera Mansfield

Sep. 30, 2012, 6:08 p.m.

How could you report this article knowing there was an undercover investigation. That is irresponsible reporting in my opinion and many advocats who have been fighting this battle for years.

Christie Finn

Sep. 30, 2012, 5:14 p.m.

Very informative, but it is prosecutable?

The Bureau of Land Management has refused to use proper population control measures because it wants to be able to sell our wild horses for slaughter and make a profit.  This sounds so much like Vicki Tobin’s White Paper Report from 1997.

There is absolutely, positively no excuse for tax payers to continue to fund this incompetent, cruel, and blood thirsty agency.

If these employees don’t do treat and release, then let us insist that they be released from their federal position.  This is totally untenable.  The BLM has created this mess.  I suggest that the next truckload of mammals you sell for $10.00 a head be filled with BLMers.  Don’t panic.  I am sure you’ll get turned away at the plant.  Maybe they’lturn you lose like they do the horses they reject. 

Fraud.  Abuse of Power.  Overreach of Power, Breaking of federal law.  l

Nathen Culbraeth

Sep. 30, 2012, 4:27 p.m.

OK all you bleeding hearts .Please stop using my tax money to feed these horses and to hold them in a holding area and paying someone to feed them doctor them and house them . I don’t want pay for a micro chip or anything .The man is doing us a favor shut up about it . Also my dad has around 22 of these grass eating hay burning medicne taking money pit of an animal .

Sandra Evans

Sep. 30, 2012, 3:58 p.m.

Services such as:

Can pull a DNA test on each horse and you can find that horse again, even if it turns up in a McDonalds Hamburger.

Stop the people that buy horse meat too…

Claudia Rosenfeldt Zwick

Sep. 30, 2012, 3:42 p.m.

What about starting a petition to end this
horrific abuse?


Sep. 30, 2012, 3:21 p.m.

It costs almost nothing to micochip a wild horse as they move them onto a trailer. People do it with their dogs and cats in a few minutes. Why are not the horses sold to Davis microchipped so they know where they go? Why are the wild horse protection groups not over flying his ranch with cheap drones or following his trucks to their deliver points?

Many protection groups for other causes have ended the abuse by following the trucks. Protection groups: please follow the trucks!

Iris Davidson

Sep. 30, 2012, 3:21 p.m.

Thank you Mr. Philipps for this article AND thank you for being a VOICE for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Hopefully, Ken Salazar will be replaced with a compassionate caring individual.

Mike Miller

Sep. 30, 2012, 2:20 p.m.

Great article.  All outraged readers that are engaged-Please contact John Salazar at the CO. Dept. of Agriculture (google for all info).  Additionally, contact the Dept of Justice for a full investigation into Sally Spencer with the BLM and her/their relationship with Tom Davis.
Good organization in South Dakota: Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary—check it out, trust me!
Full exposure and accountability are the only options.


Sep. 30, 2012, 2 p.m.

Let’s cut the crap.  Certain people want to perpetuate this problem because $8M is flowing into their bank accounts from it.

The solution is simple and doable if all the rescuers and activists would get behind it: fix the animals, starting with the males.  $8M will fix a lot of horses.  Let’s get behind this simple solution and stop the suffering.

Jim Hill

Sep. 30, 2012, 1:16 p.m.

I guess Tom Davis thinks we all live in a pumpkin patch!  I wonder what his bank account looks like?  This has been going on too long.  Kenny Salazar and his croonies are using our Federal land to pasture their cattle and the wild horses supposedly get in their way.  Can I pay $1.25 per month and sponsor a wild mustang to graze on our Federal Land…..I bet not.  It’s all about the Cattlemen’s Association and big money.  What happen to We the people for the people?

Kathy Leonard

Sep. 30, 2012, 12:32 p.m.

Please use this link to read how other advocates are reacting to this article:

Personally, I believe Washington is well aware of what is happening.  I also believe that there is an agenda by the current administration to utilize all the resources the US has control over to produce energy.  Not only does fracking damage the earth, but it also makes the water toxic.  They are literally removing mountains in West Virginia using this process and I believe that it will spread across public lands in the West.  Between the cattle ranchers and the mining and energy companies, I actually believe the government has written off the mustangs as a priority despite the laws in place.  Sadly, instead of having the BLM controlling these mustangs with their roundups, a fertilization program should have been used long ago before the BLM stockpiled all these horses that even in good times, produced very few adopters.  These horses should have been managed by a wild life organization, not the BLM.  Now that hay and grain has skyrocketed in price and people in general are in trouble with this economy, this situation has become dire. I also believe the BLM might be using backdoor methods to eliminate the mustangs and are doing so under the radar of the law.  As with most government agencies, things don’t happen until the crisis is on the horizon.  Look at what happened during 9/11/2001…agencies of our government knew who the terrorists were long before that terrible day and the information was available, but they didn’t share it with other agencies within the government.  Only after the event, did it become clear that had this information been shared and acted on, we might have been able to prevent what happened.  Now, practices are in place to prevent more acts, but look at what it took to bring this about.  I also believe that this reality has created a 9/11 for the mustangs.  The Mustang Monument (which could be called the Mustang Zoo) is just part of the process.  Mustangs are sought out because of horse meat regulations now imposed on the Canadian/Mexican slaughterhouses that will prevent them from using drug-ridden racehorses and drug-treated family pet horses from the European and Chinese horsemeat-eating markets.  I have also read that PETA has also recommended that slaughter be allowed in the US rather than subjecting these horses to horrible conditions of being starved, mistreated and stuffed into transport trucks for days to be delivered to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses.  I hate to be a pessimist, but I would rather see a humane euthanasia of these poor creatures in stockpile pens than subjecting them to the horrific torture of a slaughterhouse.  At that point, stop the BLM from rounding up more families and have a REAL wildlife agency maintain the remaining wild herds with a fertization program that reduces, but does not eliminate the remaining wild mustang population.

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