Monday, September 21, 2009

BLM Responds to Pryor Mountain Coverage

Coverage From Horseback Magazine

Cloud Foundation Video of Limping Mustangs After Labor Day "Gather"

Lame Foal Video From Pryor Mountain

The Bureau of Land Management has taken issue with the coverage of its “gather” of wild horses in the Pryor Mountains of Montana over the Labor Day weekend. The iconic Palomino stallion Cloud, made famousby Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker Ginger Kathrens in the PBS series “Nature” by was captured and later returned to the wild limping. The following is the federal agency’s response to Horseback Magazine’s coverage. We stand by our stories and everything said in them.

Steven Long, Editor

Photo by Terry Fitch

From BLM Spokesman Paul McGuire

Dear Editor:

We appreciate your efforts to keep your readers informed about important issues relating to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program. We know your readers value these cherished icons of the West. We know, too, that your readers value accuracy in reporting.

Unfortunately, recent reporting in Horseback Magazine about the gather of wild horses from the Pryor Mountain herd in Montana falls short of that standard. Let me point out several errors and mischaracterizations that warrant special attention.

In one article you use the term "equicide" in connection with the gather. That term, however creative it might be, has no applicable meaning here. By using such inflammatory language to describe proper actions taken under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, you veer into fringe territory hardly befitting a reputable equine news publication. It is true that BLM possesses the legal authority to euthanize healthy horses for which no adoption demand exists, but the agency has not exercised that authority since 1982, nor was it ever a management option posed for the Pryor Mountain herd. To suggest as much by calling the gather “equicide” is false and irresponsible. As for an internal document prepared last year by BLM staff (made public through the Freedom of Information Act, not “leaked,” as your article suggests), the agency looked at how it might implement all aspects of the law, if directed to do so by leadership. There was and is nothing sinister or devious about examining a contingency that is predicated on full compliance with existing law.

Second, in one article you report, “Several horses, including Cloud, were released lame…” That is not true. As Horseback Magazine itself has correctly reported elsewhere, Federal regulations governing the program define lameness as a wild horse or burro with one or more malfunctioning limbs that permanently impair its freedom of movement. No adult horses or foals suffered from this condition after the gather. The famous white stallion known as Cloud was gathered along with most of the rest of the Pryor Mountain herd and safely released back into the wild, along with a healthy and diverse group of 124 other members of the herd.

With regard to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued last fall on the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, Horseback Magazine quoted an unidentified Senate staffer as saying the GAO cited "the [BLM's] utter mismanagement of this program." Horseback readers can review the report themselves (at ) to determine whether that accurately summarizes the GAO’s findings. The GAO identified several areas where BLM could improve its management of the program and offered some practical recommendations as to how it might do so. In a statement issued Nov. 10, 2008, BLM fully agreed with the GAO's findings and recommendations (see

Thank you again for your efforts to keep the public accurately informed. Further information about the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, including extensive documentation about the Pryor Mountain gather, can be accessed at

Paul McGuire

Public Affairs Specialist

U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Oklahoma Field Office

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