Washington, DC – April 8, 2014

Today, as the U.S. Senate confirmed Neil Kornze as the director of the Interior Department Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, its parent organization, Return to Freedom, and coalition partner, The Cloud Foundation, called upon the new BLM director to vigorously uphold federal law in the face of threats by ranchers in Utah and Nevada to illegally capture and remove federally-protected wild horses from public lands.

Across the West, ranchers are taking aim at wild horses because they view them as competition for cheap, taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing on public lands. However, the number of wild horses on BLM land – fewer than 35,000 on nearly 27 million acres – pales in comparison to the millions of livestock that graze on 155 million acres of BLM land in the West.

“We expect Director Kornze to impose a zero tolerance policy toward threats of illegal action by ranchers who are given the privilege of grazing their privately-owned livestock on our public lands,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC director. “The BLM is mandated to protect wild horses, while livestock grazing is authorized entirely at the discretion of the Interior Department.”

“These are America’s horses, and the public strongly supports their protection on our public lands,” said Neda DeMayo, President of Return to Freedom and Founder of the AWHPC coalition. “The BLM must stop catering to special interests and start managing our public lands for the interests of the American taxpayers, wildlife and the environment.”

“American taxpayers already bear the heavy burden of the federal livestock program,” said Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “The BLM kowtowing to ultimatums from welfare ranchers sets a dangerous precedent that could impact not only wild horses but all the uses of public lands.  It’s time for Director Kornze to reverse course. The BLM needs to decide who they manage the public lands for – welfare ranchers or the public at large.”

Late yesterday, attorneys for the groups sent a strongly-worded letter to the Iron County, Utah Board of Commissioners and the Utah BLM in response to a threat by local officials to round up wild horses on BLM lands in southwestern Utah. The letter warns that any attempt by local officials to round up wild horses would be a federal crime, and that the BLM itself cannot round up horses without proper analysis and disclosure under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act as well as the National Environmental Policy Act.

“…The statutes at issue here provide a clear preference for protecting wild horses and burros over private livestock when these animals come into conflict on public lands,” wrote Katherine Meyer of Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal, a Washington, DC-based public interest law firm representing the advocates. “BLM must stop caving to the private financial interests of livestock owners whenever they complain about the protected wild horses using limited resources that are available on such lands. These horses belong to everyone… Accordingly, they must be protected to the greatest extent of the law.”

National polls demonstrate that the vast majority of Americans support protecting wild horses on public lands, while just 29 percent of the public wants to ensure that public lands are available for livestock grazing.

Return to Freedom (RTF) is the founding and parent organization for the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. RTF is a national non-profit dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, education and conservation, and also operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, CA.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.

The Cloud Foundation is a Colorado-based 501 (c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wild horses and burros on our western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.