2021 Impact Report
Photo by Scott Wilson
FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Dear Friends and Supporters, It had to get bad before it got better. That is my motto for 2021. And this year was as bad as it gets for wild horses and burros. More than 17,000 of these federally-protected animals lost their place on our public lands in roundups that robbed them of their freedom and their families and sentenced them to a life of confinement. Truckloads were sent into the slaughter pipeline. But as the abuses mount, so too does public outrage over the treatment of these national icons, fueling the political support we need to achieve true reform. In this context, 2021 was a breakthrough year for AWHC: • We built powerful alliances for change with the scientific and environmental communities; • We cultivated a strong political base of support in Congress and in key states like Nevada and Colorado; • We built game-changing partnerships with federal officials and ranching permittees for humane management of wild herds; • We continued to deliver record-breaking results with our humane wild horse fertility control program, now the largest of its kind in the world. • We strengthened our staff expertise and firmly established AWHC as a credible authority with federal and state officials and with the media; • We expanded our grassroots strength by adding more than 170,000 citizens to our supporter base. My personal hero, Dr. Jane Goodall, says that when times get dark, there is always a little light at the end of the tunnel. That light is hope. As we close 2021 and
enter the second half-century of protection for our magnificent wild horses and burros, I have great hope that we will succeed in establishing reverence for these animals as defining symbols for our nation. We will also restore the protections that Congress unanimously enacted when it passed the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act five decades ago. As Dr. Goodall also notes, hope takes action and each of us has a role to play. You played your role in stepping up to support AWHC when it was most critical. Thank you for your indomitable spirit and steadfast commitment. Your continued support will carry us onward to achieve our shared vision of eternal freedom, protection and preservation of America’s wild horses and burros on our western public lands. Thank you again and … Stay Wild! With Gratitude,
Suzanne Roy Executive Director American Wild Horse Campaign
We are America’s leading voice on protecting wild mustangs & burros. The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is a nonprofit organization fighting to ensure the future of America's iconic wild horses and burros and the Western public lands where they roam. We work to reform the cruel and costly federal wild horse and burro roundup program and replace it with humane management that keeps wild horses and burros wild, protected, and free. AWHC manages the largest, humane fertility control for wild, free-roaming horses in the world.
Photo of Wyoming mustangs by Kimerlee Curyl.
From left: Holly Gann Bice (Dir. of Government Relations), Meredith Hou (Counsel)
A Historic Step Forward for Humane Management
his year, AWHC led the charge to pass historic legislation to require the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to utilize fertility control to humanely manage wild horses and burros in the wild as an alternative to cruelly rounding them up with helicopters and confining them in holding facilities for life, or worse sending them into the slaughter pipeline via the agency’s cash incentive adoption program. The legislation — included by both the House and Senate in their Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bills — would appropriate $11 million to fund fertility control — redirecting approximately one-third of the funding increase requested by the Biden Administration away from helicopter roundups to this humane management method.
This groundbreaking language is a critically-needed first step to rein in the BLM’s mass roundup plan, which currently aims to remove an astounding 20,000 wild horses and burros from our public lands this fiscal year. The bills also include other pro-wild horse language including requiring the agency to evaluate options for relocating wild horses to other public lands instead of permanently removing them from the wild, prohibiting the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros and their sale for slaughter, and directing the Interior Department to create an interagency task force to address wild horse and burro management and investigate the disastrous Adoption Incentive program, which has resulted in truckloads of these cherished animals being sold at slaughter auctions. Taken together, these recommendations could result in meaningful reforms to the broken federal Wild Horse and Burro Program.
2021 Legislative Efforts Created a Framework for Humane Management: We developed a science-based framework for wild horse management to serve as an alternative to the BLM’s current accelerated roundup plan. Fought Horse Slaughter: We worked to maintain legislation to prevent horse slaughter plants from opening in the U.S. and actively lobbied to gain cosponsors for the SAFE Act to ban horse slaughter in the U.S. and transport of horses across the border for slaughter in Canada and Mexico,
© Scott Wilson
W H AT T H E Y S A I D “It’s due time for the BLM to pursue a more humane, sustainable track by implementing on-range management methods, like fertility control vaccines, that keep these animals in the wild where they belong.” Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) “The current strategy in place to manage our population of wild horses and burros is cruel and inefficient, and places them in danger of slaughter. Implementing a reversible fertility control program is a cost-effective, humane alternative solution. I thank Interior Appropriations Chairwoman Pingree for her support on this important issue.” Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) “Nevada is home to the largest population of wild horses in the nation. Taxpayer-funded roundups and removals are not only a costly and ineffectual management strategy, but they also endanger the lives of these beautiful animals. This funding promotes the humane and fiscally responsible management of America’s iconic wild horse and burros.” Rep. Dina Titus (NV-01)
Garnered Political Support to Stop the AIP: We received the support of 31 U.S. Representatives who sent a letter to the Department of the Interior to stop the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program (AIP), that is sending “truckloads” of wild horses and burros to slaughter. Upheld Federal Protections: We joined forces with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) to oppose legislation to allow the transfer of federal land -- including designated wild horse and burro habitat -- to states. Such transfers could have stripped wild horses or burros in these areas of federal protection. Defeated Dangerous Resolution: We worked with Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) and key leaders in the Nevada Legislature to defeat SJR3, a resolution calling on Congress to fund mass roundups in Nevada to decimate the state’s federally-protected wild horse and burro population over the next six years. Supported Safe Transport of Equines: Endorsed and worked to support the Horse Transportation Safety Act, led by Rep. Steve Cohen, which successfully passed the House as part of the Transportation Bill. Increased Support for Wild Horse Protection: We conducted broad, persistent outreach to the Hill to increase support and establish AWHC as a strong voice in equine protection.
AIP mustangs. Photo by New York Times.
Uncovering the Adoption to Slaughter Pipeline
E arly this year, rescue groups began to notice a huge influx in BLM-branded wild
horses and burros being sold at kill pens. The numbers were unprecedented as was the fact that the vast majority of these cherished animals were young, unhandled and untouched — some still had the tags from BLM holding facilities around their necks. We began investigating this program after receiving a call from one of our rescue partners, Evanescent Mustang Rescue and Sanctuary (EMRS), alerting our team members to 20 BLM mustangs — including foals and pregnant mares — at the Cleburne Auction in Texas, which is heavily frequented by well-known kill buyers. We granted EMRS funds to help support the rescue and they were all saved.
EMRS then provided AWHC with copies of the titles/ownership papers for these horses, who are now known as the “Cleburne 20” and we got to work to see if we could confirm without a doubt that these horses were part of the Adoption Incentive Program. Our investigation would result in our team not only confirming the Cleburne 20 — but well over 100 federally-protected mustangs and burros who have ended up at kill pens — as participants of the AIP. It’s not easy to confirm horses and burros as AIP. First, we have to identify them by either obtaining their title through our rescue partners like EMRS or by reading their BLM freeze mark brands. Then we have to submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the animals' adoption records, compliance inspection records, and AIP payment records. Often, we don’t get
the records in a timely manner, or they are withheld by the agency, which leads us to file lawsuits to force the agency to disclose the records.
The “Cleburne 20” at auction.
The “Cleburne 20” were just the tip of the iceberg. We would get weekly calls about branded mustangs and burros at kill auctions in need of rescue. AWHC would simultaneously file FOIA requests on the individual animals and dots began to connect. We also used investigative techniques to identify groups of related individuals who were each adopting the maximum of 4 horses each, then dumping them as a group at slaughter auctions shortly after collecting the full incentive payments. At this point in time, we reached out to Pulitzer-prize winning journalist for the New York Times, Dave Phillipps, who immediately understood the severity of the situation and began to investigate, armed with our records and documentation. Phillipps actually called one of the owners of the “Cleburne 20”, who when confronted with the knowledge that the horses were sold to a slaughter auction, promptly hung up on him. Prior to abruptly ending the conversation, the owner, Gary Kidd, admitted that
when he heard about the incentive program, it was too enticing for him to ignore. He conspired with five family members to adopt the horses taking advantage of the BLM's four horses per adopter allowance. The Cleburne 20 went on to become the subject of the New York Times exposé which landed on the front page of the Times in May. Following the article, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dina Titus (D-NV), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), and 25 of their House colleagues joined AWHC in sending a letter to Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland asking her agency to suspend the AIP indicating that the program is a pipeline to slaughter of federally-protected wild horses and burros. Under pressure from Congress and the public, the agency released so-called reforms of the program, in July 2021 which are completely inadequate and have done nothing to stem the flow of wild horses and burros to slaughter auctions. AWHC continues to investigate, document BLM horses and burros in kill pens, and help rescue them when we can. And we are fighting back with everything we've got. In July, AWHC, joined by Skydog Sanctuary, Evanescent Mustang Rescue and Sanctuary, and wildlife photograher Carol Walker, filed suit in federal district court alleging that the Department of the Interior and the BLM violated multiple federal laws in the creation and implementation of the controversial Incentive Program for wild horses and burros. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the groups by Eubanks and Associates, a top national public interest environmental law firm. AWHC’s investigation documened and exposed the AIP as a vehicle for the BLM to launder wild horses and burros to slaughter in violation of a clear Congressional prohibition. Our legal and legislative advocacy has laid the groundwork to force the BLM to address this serious issue. The cash incentive must end and we are doing everything in our power to make sure it does.
Photo of Virginia Range mustangs by volunteer Deb Sutherland.
Proving that Humane Management Works
WHC has implemented the world’s largest fertility control program right here in the U.S. on Nevada’s historic Virginia Range. Our volunteer-based collaborative program is proof that this in-the-wild management model is a viable alternative to cruel roundups and removals of wild horses and burros from their homes on the range.
The program delivers PZP birth control, a non-hormonal immunocontraceptive vaccine, to wild mares via remote darting. The vaccine is documented by 30 years of science to be safe and 97% effective in preventing pregnancy without impacting the mustangs’ natural behaviors. The program’s cornerstone is an online database that includes 3,000 horses individually identified by color, markings, social affiliation, and darting history (for mares). The goal for the PZP program is to reduce the population growth rates of the wild horses on the Virginia Range, thereby decreasing the number of horses who
will be subject to inhumane roundups/removals and possible slaughter; improving the health of the horses, especially the mares; reducing public safety concerns, such as horse-vehicle collision; and relieving grazing pressures on their habitat and improving its ecology. In only the second year of our program, foaling on Nevada’s Virginia Range in 2021 showed a 41% reduction in birth rates due to the PZP fertility control program. The reduction in births means we have 245 fewer foals adding to a population that is already strained due to recurring drought and habitat loss due to development. AWHC is now partnering with the University of Pretoria which has begun a program data analysis with a focus on the efficacy and safety of the PZP vaccine and its impact on Virginia Range horse birth rates. This is a groundbreaking analysis since previous studies have used smaller populations and study areas. The data generated will be peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals and will both advance the science of non-lethal wildlife management with fertility control and provide documentation that the PZP vaccine works to stabilize and reduce population growth humanely in wild herds.
2021 Rescue + Field Efforts Created Innovative Darting Strategies: We piloted methods for temporary bait feeding and the use of blinds to enable darting of difficult-to-approach wild horses, resulting in the delivery of over 1,800 treatments to more than 1,300 mares in 2021. Worked to Keep Wild Horses Safe from Traffic and Development: We operated a diversionary feeding program for wild horses at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center in the Virginia Range to keep wild horses from crossing roadways and entering developed areas in search of forage. We also worked with Storey County to install blinking wild horse signs in three critical impact areas to reduce horse-vehicle collisions. Shined Light on BLM Roundup Practices: AWHC plays a critically important role in the advocacy community by sending observers to nearly every wild horse helicopter roundup that occurred this year. Our videos and photos were seen by millions of citizens, providing a window into the fate befalling our wild horses at the hands of our own government. In addition to creating awareness, this documentation strengthens our legal actions and holds BLM accountable for violations of its own animal welfare policies. Granted Funds to Rescue Mustangs in Need: We granted funds to local Nevada group, Least Resistance Training Concepts (LRTC) Technical Large Animal Rescue Team for equipment needed for foal rescue and transport with their Incident Support Unit (ISU). The ISU is a retrofitted ambulance, now a support unit for complex rescues, and equipped with specialized foal rescue equipment for stabilization and safe transport of young foals. Rescued Foals in Need: Our Rescue Fund provided critical veterinary and supportive care for six foals who were orphaned and/or injured on the Virginia Range during foaling season this year. Saved Mustangs from Kill Pens: We granted funds and worked with our rescue partners to save nearly 100 wild horses and burros from kill pens across the country. These innocent animals were victims of the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program. Helped Local Groups with Programs: We granted funds to various nonprofit organizations to aid in their programs from fertility control to rescue to drought relief.
From top: Flashing wild horse sign in northern Nevada, BLM branded mustangs AWHC helped rescue with Evanescent, volunteers rescuing wild foal, Hazel on the range.
BLM-branded mustangs rescued from a Montana kill pen by Evanescent, with a grant provided by AWHC.
2021 Legal Efforts Filed Suit to Stop the AIP: After the BLM ignored our legal petition demanding change to its disastrous Adoption Incentive Program (AIP), AWHC filed suit to end the program. Stopped Surgical Sterilization: For the third time, we defeated the BLM’s attempt to perform dangerous surgical sterilization procedures on the wild mares of the Confusion HMA in Utah.
Filed Appeal to Protect Burros: We filed a legal petition with the Interior Board of Land Appeals to overturn the BLM’s decision to eradicate federally protected wild burros from three Herd Areas in the Mojave Desert in California. Litigated for Government Records: We filed 12 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the Department of Interior to compel the BLM to release key internal records that have exposed slaughter, holding deaths, corruption and more in the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. Challenged Decision on Colorado Roundup: After the BLM declared a drought emergency to round up the 82 percent of the beloved Sand Wash Basin wild mustang population in Colorado, we filed a challenge with the Interior Board of Land Appeals because the emergency designation short-circuited the public comment and accelerated the mass removal plan.
Photo at top: Wild burros in the Mojave Desert, Wild horses from Sand Wash Basin HMA. Photo by Carol Walker.
2021 Policy Efforts Challenging Horse Abuse at Roundups: When our field observers document BLM roundups and observe violations of the BLM’s animal welfare guidelines, we immediately file complaints with the agency seeking swift enforcement of these policies implemented to protect horses and burros during traumatic helicopter stampedes. We are documenting these abuses -- from running horses through barbed wire to chasing horses to exhaustion and at a pace so fast that tiny foals cannot keep up -- bringing them to the attention of Congress and the agency while pressing for transparency in all aspects of these capture operations. Submitted Scientific Management Plan for Onaqui Wild Horses: Working with environmental watchdog organization, Western Watersheds Project, we submitted a comprehensive plan to the BLM that would keep the beloved herd wild, while helping the BLM to adhere to its mandate for multiple use. Requested Investigation into Management of California Herd: We completed an in-depth report on the roundup, removal, and holding of the historic Devil’s Garden herd in California requesting a federal investigation into the off-range management of horses at the Forest Service’s Double Devil Corrals. Developed a Clerkship: We founded the Hope Clerkship to annually provide a new advocate with a start to a career helping wild horses, working directly with our government relations and litigation teams in developing and implementing strategies and resources to further legislative and policy goals. Took on New BLM Appointment: We challenged the appointment of a vocal anti-wild horse, pro-horse slaughter livestock rancher to represent the public interest on the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board in a letter to the Interior Department alleging numerous violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
Photo of Onaqui stallion by Kimerlee Curyl.
FO RG I N G PA RT N E R S H I P S We worked with the BLM Utah to lessen the impacts of the roundup in the Onaqui Mountains HMA and establish a unique partnership with the BLM, the local ranching permittee, and the local stewardship groups the Onaqui Catalogue and the Wild Horses of America Foundation to advance the long-term humane management of the Onaqui herd. Our shared goal is to ensure that the 2021 helicopter roundup is the last one that takes place in this beloved herd. We also worked in Colorado in partnership with a coalition of wild horse and environmental advocates, and business and political leaders to halt the wild horse roundup in the Sand Wash Basin HMA early, leaving more wild horses wild and free on the range. AWHC’s grassroots and media outreach work were essential to this effort. The coalition behind this achievement includes AWHC, the Sand Wash Basin Advocate Team, the Sierra Club Colorado Chapter and the Western Watersheds Project and was bolstered by political support from Governor Jared Polis, First Gentleman Marlon Rhys and Congressman Joe Neguse. Our goal is to work together with the BLM to improve humane management of Colorado’s iconic herds.
STORY FROM THE RANGE She couldn’t be more than 1 month old. But she found herself completely alone on over 150,000 desolate acres of Colorado’s public lands. This was after she and her mother, a mare named Serendipity, were stampeded by low flying helicopters and became separated the day prior. No one even bothered to go looking for her. The next day, she was found in the care of a stallion known as Merlin, who had seemingly brought her to the trap site for help. While Merlin could provide protection, the foal desperately needed milk. Upon being spotted, the helicopter took to the sky and began chasing the pair, then a wrangler on horseback followed and both the small foal and the brave stallion were captured. But here’s the thing about wild horses: they defy the odds. That morning, Merlin chose freedom. He jumped over the metal panels that surrounded him and took back to the open range. Because as they say, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.
Merlin and the orphaned foal from Sand Wash Basin. Photo by Scott Wilson.
2021 Communications + Campaigns Efforts
A billboard from AWHC’s Keep WY WYld campaign on I-80 in Sweetwater County, Wyoming.
Brought Wild Horses to the Front Page of the New York Times: Our investigation into the BLM's cash incentive program led to a New York Times report, which exposed the program as a pipeline to slaughter for thousands of federally-protected wild horses and burros. Reached New Americans: We added tens of thousands of supporters to our grassroots base this year alone, continuing to strengthen our army of citizens willing to speak up in defense of mustangs and burros! Launched National Campaign to Protect Wyoming Herd: We launched a campaign called Keep WY WYLD as part of our efforts to raise awareness and stop the unprecedented roundup and removal of 4,000 wild horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard. Components of the campaign included petitions, rallies, action alerts, and advertisements. Erected Billboards in Wyoming: AWHC put up six billboards on the I-80 corridor outside of HMA lands in
Wyoming depicting rounded up and captured mustangs posing the question, “Wy?” Empowered Supporters to Use their Voices: We created action alerts and petitions through which concerned citizens could comment on virtually every federal action affecting wild horses and burros in 2021 Raised Our Collective Voices: We generated 798,000 letters, emails and petition signatures to key government officials on wild horse issues. Hosted Education-Packed Virtual Event: Our fourth annual Stay Wild fundraising event, held virtually again this year, was a wild success! The event took our guests on a powerful journey through pivotal years of the movement to protect America’s wild horses and burros and showed how AWHC is leading the charge and picking up where others left off. We are grateful to our event sponsors, silent auction donors and all the attendees who helped make this special evening for wild horses and burros and AWHC!
By the Numbers
PETITION S I G N AT U R E S
Grew the AWHC Herd Scott Wilson, Board Member, is an experienced business leader with more than twenty years’ experience in brand building, communications and regulatory affairs, primarily with Molson Coors Brewing Company where Scott held UK, European and global leadership positions. Scott’s parallel career in landscape and wildlife photography introduced him to the beauty and plight of America’s mustangs and he has become a committed advocate most notably through the roundup of Colorado’s wild horses in September 2021. Joan E. DaVanzo, Ph.D., M.S.W., Board Member, is Chief Executive Officer of health economics and policy consulting firm in the DC metropolitan area. She briefs policymakers and Hill staff regularly and is directing a five-year Congressionally-mandated evaluation of a Medicare home infusion program for intravenous immunoglobulin. Kathleen Lewis, Board Member has been involved in every sector of the non-profit community for over 30 years. She has chaired and been in leadership of fundraising efforts and campaigns for numerous institutions. Kathleen has been involved with wildlife rehabilitation and advocacy, working on federal and state wildlife management policy. Tracy Wilson, Special Projects Contractor, fell in love with horses as a small child and eventually fulfilled her dream of owning her own horse when she bought a Spanish Mustang. When she moved to Nevada, wild horses captured her heart and ignited her passion. Tracy joined AWHC to assist with fertility control data, database setup for new projects, and land trust projects. Jamille Peters, Administrative Manager, oversees internal operations for AWHC. Jamille jsupports the Executive Director in the management of Board relations, human resources, finance, and overall administration for the organization. Prior to joining AWHC, she spent nearly a decade working in education management, where she developed policies and guidance, provided consulting services, and delivered strategic support to organization leadership and members of governing boards. Meredith Hou, Science and Government Relations Counsel, earned her J.D. from the George Washington University Law School in 2020. Before attending law school, Meredith majored in Chemistry at Princeton University, after which she followed her passion for horses to become an equine veterinary technician at one of the leading clinics in the country. Meredith employs her unique background and experience in equine care, science, and the law in fulfilling her work on the Government Relations team and in overseeing AWHC’s scientific initiatives. Allison Hinkle, Virginia Range Fertility Control Program Coordinator, is finishing up her B.S. in Environmental Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. As a part of her position, she oversees the Virginia Range and the volunteers that help make our projects possible.
PROGRAM BREAKDOWN ADVOCACY + COMMUNICATIONS FIELD GOVERNMENT RELATIONS LEGAL RESCUE SCIENCE
$377,036 $353,471 $274,918 $153,171 $82,477 $23,565
The figure is based on actual expenses through our third quarter 2021. A full report will be provided on our irs 990's as soon as available at americanwildhorsecampaign.org/financials.
80% PROGRAMS $1,178,238
AmericanWildHorseCampaign.org Photo by Kimerlee Curyl