The Bureau of Land Management’s Ethics Wild Horse Wreck

Wild horses

By purest coincidence, Tucker Carlson had a segment on Fox New last night about the federal government’s wild horse fiasco (I didn’t see it), a topic I’ve had on the Ethics Alarms issue runway for the better part of a month.

The Bureau of Land Management is charged with the care of the nation’s wild horses and burros. These once numbered in the millions in North America, but after the Western settlement and the diminishing of the open range after the 19 century, the beasts were widely hunted and turned into fertilizer and dog food. By 1971, when they were finally given protection by law, there were fewer than 20,000 left. But freed from predators (like man) wild horse herds increase by about 20% a year. The herds started growing faster than the government had planned or budgeted for.

About 3,500 mustangs and burros a year are rounded up and resettled into a network of government storage pastures and corrals known the holding system. The 51,000 animals in the system cost taxpayers $60 million a year, leaving little in the budget to protect the rest of the wild mustangs running free. Legislators and regulators are afraid of the wrath of PETA and voters who would he horrified at the government killing these symbols of the old West and wild America, so the country is stuck. What to do?

Well, some genius came up with the Adoption Incentive Program in 2019, which was supposed to move wild mustangs and burros out of government corrals into what dog rescue groups call “forever homes.” Horse-lovers were paid a cool $1,000 for each equine friend they adopted, a good deal for Uncle Sam, who has to pay an average of $24,000 during the lifetime of each wild horse. Thousands of alleged wild horse enthusiasts signed up to get their horses and checks. The number of horses leaving the holding system more than doubled. The Bureau of Land Management pronounced it “a win for all involved” that was helping “animals find homes with families who will care for and enjoy them for years to come.”

OK, now, you’re smart. What is the obvious flaw in this plan? Come on. Fredo Corleone could figure it out with a little effort.

The rest of his family would know what to do the second they heard about it. Have you figured it out yet?

Records show that instead of going to “good homes,” truckloads of horses went to the dog food manufacturers after they were sold at slaughter auctions shortly after their loving adopters got their $1000 per horse. “This is the government laundering horses,” said Brieanah Schwartz, a lawyer for the advocacy group American Wild Horse Campaign, which has exposed the scam, told the New York Times ( Horse photographer and advocate Carol Walker told Carlson the same thing last night). “They call it adoptions, knowing the horses are going to slaughter. But this way the B.L.M. won’t get its fingerprints on it.”

Nice. The bureau denies the allegations, so we know it’s telling the truth. Why, the government insists that all adopters sign affidavits promising not to resell the horses to slaughterhouses or their middlemen! The bureau, however, has no authority to enforce the agreements or to track the horses. Not only that, the entrepreneurs who dump mustangs at auctions are free to adopt and get paid again. For some families, this is a lucrative business.


1. Mark this down as one more glaring, if relatively obscure, example of why the accelerating movement to make the government responsible for more and more of our lives is delusional and irresponsible. Bureaucracies are incompetent and usually corrupt, and the bigger they are, the less trustworthy they are. (The CDC is a more high profile example that we are beginning to learn about.)

2. It is also an example of what happens when the government pays no attention to budget deficits in the aggregate and lacks the courage to cut the big expenses that are out of control (like entitlements and social programs). Instead, the government lies around the edges, pretending to do things like saving wild horses while they are really posturing, cutting corners and selling the horses to be sold again for dog food.

3. As for the fake “adopters,” they prove, once again, that if you leave a huge loophole in a system that allows people to cheat for their own benefit and there is no way to keep them honest, they will cheat. In fact, you can assume massive cheating is going on.

4. Those who deny #3 in any context are either lying, covering-up, corrupt or stupid.

5. Nah, there was no ballot fraud during the 2020 election…there’s no need to even check.


Source: New York Times


13 thoughts on “The Bureau of Land Management’s Ethics Wild Horse Wreck

  1. Isn’t the idea of “maintaining” a herd of “wild” horses a little crazy? Horses are an obsolete form of transportation and power. I’d say a herd of over a million “wild” horses was a massive problem. I used to get a kick out of older cars as a kid. Why aren’t we preserving millions of obsolete motor vehicles and keeping them in running condition and well garaged instead of scrapping them? Who decided “wild” horses need to be protected? They are a man-made phenomenon.

    (Living in Arizona, we see lots of horses. We’ve even encountered “wild” horses on open range. But most often, we see horses standing in corrals. I can’t help wondering what the heck kind of life that is for an animal.)

      • The snail darter was more than just high-priced sentimentality and protecting a supposedly endangered species from extinction. It was an example of the EPA attempting to take lands without compensation to the owners. The EPA has a long history of imposing its will on landowners by declaring that a wild animal preserve needs roaming areas in between park areas because, well, the horses need the space to get from Park A to Park C, and their migratory route just happens to go right through the middle of Spot B, so the owners cannot use that land for anything other than allowing wild horses to follow their ancestral paths.


        • The dumb thing is that this ends up being counterproductive. Instead of enlisting landowners to help with conservation efforts, the government instead creates an incentive to “shoot, shovel, and shut up”. If you find an endangered frog in your pond, you’re better off killing it in secret than engaging in conservation efforts that might result in you losing the use of a large portion of your land with minimal or no compensation.

  2. A few years ago my wife, son, and I visited Mesa Verde National Park, after visiting Four Corner s National Monument (which is pretty frickin’ cool, if I don’t say so myself!). Our tour guide at Mesa Verde was well-informed about the region’s history. Our son noticed fresh hoof prints in the ground and asked her about them. I was surprised to learn that herds of wild horses did more damage to the site than tourist traffic. Tourists, she said, mostly obeyed the rules and respected the site; wild horses simply do what horses do and keep knocking things over, trample on important artifacts, and generally wreak havoc. It is a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences. BLM* needs some real overhaul. They went after Nevada ranchers over cattle grazing rights and caused a total mess. Yet, this is an agency of the same bloated government the Left wants to run health care and every other aspect of our lives.


    *Ed. Note: Why is it every entity with the initials “BLM” is craven, corrupt, and stupid?

    • *I have similar questions about anything that calls itself “a movement,.” John. An inadvertently apt description in my book.

    • I visited Mesa Verde as a twelve year old in 1963 during a cross country trip with my wonderful maiden Aunt. Mesa Verde was one of the highlights of the trip. I don’t remember horses being a problem. The park and the restored ruins were essentially pristine. I wonder whether the “wild” horses are a recent problem due to mis-management.

      By the way, I saw a lot of grafitti in bus station bathrooms on the trip. The most memorable (and mystifying) was in the Durango bus station while we waited for the shuttle to take us up to the park: “Don’t bother standing on the seat. These Colorado crabs can jump ten feet!”

      • OB – I too took a cross-country trip at 12 with my maiden Aunt, though my trip was through the Canadian west, north and into Alaska. it was also 12 years after your trip.

        My first 5 days were spent on my own, travelling from the east by bus, nervously ensuring I made all the connections and trying to feed myself. I learned a hell of a lot about life and myself on the bus and in bus stations at 4:00 AM waiting for a connection. Drunk rowdies love 24 hour bus stations and young white kids who have just landed in town. I grew up way faster than I thought possible. I pity anyone who had to sit near me the last couple of days, having not had a shower or a proper meal (or shit!).

        Once I met my Aunt, way north in Alberta, we drove in her VW Beetle all the way to Alaska before heading to Vancouver. We were supposed to take a coast line ferry/cruise but a longshoreman strike put an end to that summer’s travel. It was an astounding trip. You would have loved (parts of) it. She was an Anglican minister, one of the first ordained women in the world and had lived in the north nearly all her professional life after her university days in Toronto at divinity school.

        Sorry for the off topic information.

  3. There is no way that the Bureau Of Land Management isn’t fully aware of what’s going on, and it seems almost inconceivable to me that this program isn’t functioning exactly as designed. There’s no way this “adoption” program was designed to get the animals into “forever” homes. It seems clearly established to do exactly what it’s doing, get rid of excess horses with no questions asked. $1000 wouldn’t even cover a couple of vet and farrier visits for horses that almost certainly are going to have health issues stemming from the neglect they’re going to experience in large holding facilities. The $1000 is a bribe for the “adopters” to not blab about the scam that’s making them money. There might be a few kind-hearted souls who adopt a horse or donkey out of this program for sentimental reasons (and likely end up with a problematic animal), but if the percentage of these horses that are killed within a week or two of their “adoption” is less than 95%, I’d be flabbergasted.

  4. Having just watched “Five Came Back,” George Stevens’ lament “There is a Nazi in all of us” comes, unfortunately, to mind.

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