Congress Stands With Wild Horses



A low flying helicopter chases a herd of wild horses as the dust flies behind them.

A still from Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West

The Wild Beauty Foundation applauds Representatives Dina Titus, Steve Cohen, and David Shweikert for reintroducing the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act to Congress. The bill aims to amend the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 by prohibiting the use of cruel aircraft during the roundups of wild horses. 

During the five years WBF spent creating the documentary WILD BEAUTY: MUSTANG SPIRIT OF THE WEST, traversing over 20,000 miles to film not only the beauty of wild horses in their natural habitat, but the roundups; it became instantly clear that the use of low-flying helicopters to chase horses into trap sites was unnecessary and inhumane. 

Horses are run for miles, many to the point of exhaustion, by menacing aircraft that fly at dangerously low altitudes. The exhaustion and overcrowding of trap sites during a helicopter roundup oftentimes results in injury or even death, in addition to severe, lasting psychological stress in the horses from enduring the experience. WBF questions the integrity and ethics of The Bureau of Land Management, given its repeated characterization of helicopter roundups as “humane.” 

This bill cites the devastating roundup of the Pancake Complex wild horses in central Nevada, which inspired the rage of the public; where a young colt was chased by helicopter for miles, until eventually sustaining a major injury that forced BLM authorities to euthanize him. In young horses, exhaustion can be fatal; during the summer months when most roundups are conducted, there are still many young foals on the ground who can be at high risk of fatal injuries due to helicopter roundups.  WBF documented numerous instances of this in WILD BEAUTY.

Hundreds of wild horses are confined to a dry, hazardous pen in a holding facility.

Captured wild horses are incarcerated after roundups stripped them of their freedom as seen in WILD BEAUTY

Additionally, the BLM conducts helicopter roundups at enormous taxpayer expense, and pays contractors $500-$800 per captured horse. It has been determined that the BLM has spent an estimated $36 million in taxpayer funding on three private helicopter contractors since 2011, with $5.3 million spent just within the past two years. Given the unacceptable animal abuse and the enormous financial costs that accompany the roundup operations, WBF feels it is beyond time that we put an end to the devastation caused by the BLM’s roundups and stand with our nation’s wild horses.

“Having been on the ground to witness and document the shocking mistreatment of our wild horses and burros for WILD BEAUTY: MUSTANG SPIRIT OF THE WEST,” stated Ashley Avis, Founder & President of The Wild Beauty Foundation, and the director behind Disney’s BLACK BEAUTY.  “I find it unfathomable that in our modern day, a government agency could possibly consider the use of a low flying helicopter a “humane” way to treat wild horses.  These are highly intelligent flight animals; and the harrowing experience to me is barbaric.  I sincerely hope that the bill shall pass, and we will do everything we can to support the efforts of these admirable representatives with our film.” 

A still photograph by Marcelo Araujo of the Triple B Roundup in Nevada, 2019

“The solution to the West’s land health crisis is restoring a natural balance, by reducing or eliminating commercial livestock and restoring native predators,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and Executive Director with Western Watersheds Project. “Helicopter roundups of wild horses do nothing to improve land health or native ecosystems; federal agencies replace the horses with increased cattle and sheep numbers, and native ecosystems suffer as a result.”

“We applaud Rep. Titus and the other cosponsors for their leadership to help end the horrific helicopter roundups that continue to plague our iconic American wild horses and burros on federal lands,” said Marty Irby, Senior Advisor at the Animal Wellness Foundation. “Congress should move swiftly to enact this legislation and ensure the very horses whose backs this country was built upon are protected.”

“We have been watching the archaic practice of brutally rounding up our wild horses and burros by helicopter for far too long,” stated Kimerlee Curyl, a fine artist and wild horse photographer.  “It is time to get out of the dark ages and actually protect these icons of the West. It is time to do better for our majestic wild world. Thank you to Rep. Titus and the members of Congress who recognize this in support of this bill.”

A helicopter descends on a herd of fearful wild horses as they try to escape.

A helicopter descends on a herd of wild horses during the Triple B roundup in 2019 from WILD BEAUTY

“Taxpayer dollars are being spent by the tens of millions to hire helicopter contractors to chase down wild horses and burros, and tens of millions more to incarcerate them en masse in deplorable government corrals,” said Scott Beckstead, director of campaigns for Animal Wellness Action. “There is nothing responsible or humane about the helicopter roundups, and Rep Titus’s legislation is an important step to restoring some sanity to the BLM’s wild horse and burro program.”

The Wild Beauty Foundation had the honor of being recognized by Congresswoman Titus in Las Vegas this past March. Her consistent efforts in bringing public awareness to the plight of wild horses is evident, and we are encouraged to see her, along with representatives Cohen and Shweikert being stewards of the beauty and continued freedom of wild horses everywhere.

A Still from WILD BEAUTY

WBF urges you to contact your local lawmakers and ask for their support in standing with wild horses by considering cosponsoring this impactful bill.  For it is only with collaboration and teamwork, that we as wild horse advocates can make a difference in the lives of generations of wild horses in our western states.

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Watch the “Investigation” Trailer Here