Editor’s note: for more context to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) using drought to cull wild horse population, click here.

I’m Rick Karcich from Centennial, Colorado.

For the record, I state the following:

Regarding wild horses and burros, the question is not, “Can they reason?” Nor, “Can they talk?” But rather, “Can they suffer?” 

Why should the law refuse its protection to any sentient being?

The BLM’s management, dare-I-say mismanagement, of our wild horses and burros foments the illegitimate suffering of these animals, by helicopter gathers, by cruelly depriving them of water & forage on public lands mandated for their protection, by cruel transportation to subsidized slaughter thru an Adoption Incentive Program, and by cruel warehousing in feedlot-like settings ripe for disease & death.

And all this is performed at taxpayer expense without regulatory oversight while falsely blaming wild horses and burros for the destruction of public lands. 

There are documented discrepancies in the BLM’s count of animals moving through the Wild Horse and Burro Program and many situations in which, per BLM’s own statistics, the BLM’s growth rates and corollary population estimates are scientifically and biologically impossible, skewing the basis for the removal of wild equines from the range and jeopardizing the program at multiple levels.

The BLM’s justification for wild horse and burro gathers has ignored the very real threat to herd population dynamics and genetic diversity, two features that are vital components of any wild animal conservation and population management program. The BLM’s adoption of strategies that threaten to eliminate the functioning and self-perpetuating herds as healthy entities are part of the BLM’s Path To Extinction for wild horses and burros.

Truthfully, there is no wild horse and burro population problem on federal lands; the issue is the greed of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other livestock interests who want no competitors for the grass that grows on our public lands. There are now more than 4.3 million cattle and sheep on our western lands — 30 of these domesticated ruminants for every wild horse. These ranchers have long wanted to exterminate the wild equines, who eons ago occupied a central role in the North American ecosystem, or these ranchers want to reduce them to remnant populations that are the equivalent of functional extinction.

For its part, the U.S. Forest Service, operating under the Department of Agriculture, has taken a similarly untenable approach to wild herds on wild horse territories managed by the USFS. 

I, and millions like me, are asking for an immediate moratorium on further non-emergency gathers and removals of wild horses and burros until the BLM conducts a comprehensive, science-based, review of its wild horse and burro program and the impacts of private livestock grazing. 

We also seek to permanently bar the BLM & Forest Service from conducting any permanent sterilization procedures on wild equids. 

We believe the BLM has largely abandoned its statutory mandate to manage these cherished national icons in a manner that is humane and ecologically balanced. 

Instead, the BLM continues to weave a false narrative that blames roughly 100,000 wild horses and burros for degrading public rangelands, ignoring the cumulative impacts of millions of privately owned cattle and sheep. 

At the heart of this matter lies a simple conflict — the humane treatment of animals versus profit. 

If, as Mahatma Gandhi stated, “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” the United States is being left behind.

Rick Karcich is a retired engineer, native Coloradoan, and advocate for clear-eyed, science-based management of our Wild Horses.