Joining Forces to Spur Action

sage grouse

Sage grouse populations in the West are threatened by habitat destruction from free-roaming horses.

Frustrated by the continuing overpopulation of free-roaming horses and degradation of public lands throughout the West, 13 organizations banded together a couple years ago to form the National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition.

Among the Coalition’s members are the Wildlife Society and other conservation organizations, sportsmen organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and National Rifle Association, and natural resources professional societies such as the Society for Range Management.

According to the Coalition, “The overpopulation of horses and burros on public lands poses a severe threat to the native fish, wildlife and plants that characterize a healthy rangeland ecosystem.”

Western States Fed Up With Poor Horse Management

Placitas is not the only place with horse issues. Throughout the Western states, free-roaming horse populations have burgeoned, causing problems for rangelands, forest lands, public parks, private land, and local communities.

A reader brought to our attention that the State of Wyoming has recently sued the federal government, alleging the BLM isn’t doing enough to control the growing wild horse population in the state, which is now seven times higher than the intended population size.

BLM horses

Governors of other western states are also fed up. The Western Governors Association has issued a resolution calling for better federal management of horse populations in order to limit land degradation. (You can learn more about the critical horse management problems faced by BLM in this article in the journal Science).

The problem isn’t only on federal lands designated for management of “wild” horse herds. We wrote awhile back about the severe environmental damage caused by free-roaming horses in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California and Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada.

Lyon-County-logoMany Nevada communities have serious horse problems, too. In Lyon County, Nevada, during one 10-day period in 2014, horse-vehicle collisions on public roads resulted in the death of one person, injuries to two others, and the death of seven horses.

Remind you of anything? In Placitas, we had several horse-vehicle collisions a year and a half ago in which some horses tragically died and drivers narrowly escaped injury or worse. Open space areas and parks in Lyon County (which, ironically, sports an image of a galloping horse on its logo), have had to be fenced to keep out horses, just as they have in Placitas.

All this is just the tip of the iceberg. When you learn how severe the free-roaming horse and related environmental problems are throughout the western US, Australia, Canada and other countries, you realize that Placitas is a microcosm of a much larger problem.

Valentines for Horse Lovers

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day–and a great excuse for hardcore free-roaming horse advocates everywhere to take a break from cutting fences, trespassing on private land, and dumping manure around the neighborhood.

Instead, we suggest you relax and enjoy the day. And this year, why not skip the roses and chocolates in favor of giving a unique gift that really shows your sweetheart you care? Any one of these items is sure to make your special someone feel, well, pretty darn special:

HandicornDoes your lady love unicorns? Then she’ll adore transforming her hand into one with this lovely Handicorn finger puppet set. Added bonus: it hides that rough, reddened skin caused by tossing hay and vandalizing property.


horsehead maskFor the guy in your life, you can’t do better than this handsome rubber horse mask. Just light a candle, turn on the music, and feel the magic as he dons this suave piece of head gear.


horsefeetStepping out for a Valentine’s Day dinner at a fancy restaurant? Your sweetheart will enjoy dressing up in these realistic horse hooves. And guys, we guarantee these alluring leggings will have you neighing appreciatively.


If your special someone is a wildlife lover, the Horse Head Squirrel Feeder is a must. Place food inside the head and hang from a tree.squirrel feeder The unsuspecting squirrel will look like it has a horse head! Be sure to have your camera handy.


emergency horseFinally, we know that some of you are missing waking up to the sight of a dozen or so horses crapping on your back patio. Show your loved one you really care by getting her this handy Emergency Horse. When she’s feeling horse-deprived, the reassuring whinny of a horse is just a click away. Also includes neigh, snort and gallop sounds.



Disclosure: We have received no monetary or other compensation for reviewing these items, although we wish we had. Photos and products: Archie McPhee Company, 

Here We Go Again–Free-Roaming Horse Advocates Trespass and Vandalize

Property destruction, trespassing, stalking, theft, illegal dumping, and one-finger salutes—welcome to friendly Placitas!

After a quiet winter, horses are now frequently being seen wandering neighborhoods along the north end of Camino de las Huertas. Overgrazing of what little vegetation is left in these areas continues. [2/14/15 update: adding together counts done by various residents in early February, it appears we still have at least 40 free-roaming horses in the vicinity]

Some residents have been putting up portable fence panels in hopes of corralling the horses to protect their property, Las Huertas Creek, and hilly upland areas from further damage and erosion. But in at least three instances in the last month, vandals have trespassed onto residents’ private property. They have dismantled fence panels, taken down and stolen driveway and pipeline gates, and stolen signs. (To be clear, we don’t know if free-roaming horse advocates are behind all the mischief).

Stolen Driveway Gate

All that’s left of one resident’s driveway gate.

And though we say it’s been a quiet winter until now, that’s relative. Several people tell us they’ve been stalked, tail-gated, run off the road, yelled at, honked at, and given the one-finger salute by free-roaming horse advocates for months. Other residents say they have been crudely berated for fencing their property, or for considering fencing it, to keep out horses and protect their pets (we’ve heard of at least two dogs that have been severely injured by free-roaming horses, one losing its eye).

Some residents have built corrals and taken in some of Placitas’ formerly free-roaming horses. That’s an admirable thing; taking care of horses is expensive and cleaning stalls and corrals is labor-intensive. But what to do with all that manure? We’ve heard from several people that piles of manure are being dumped on the BLM parcel known as the Buffalo Tract where it adjoins the Indian Flats neighborhoods. Someone has posted a sign notifying the dumpers that she’d be happy to take the manure for composting (Note to the person in the dark pick-up seen unloading manure: Please call her).

The latest acts of vandalism and theft are reminiscent of last year’s activities, when a few individuals repeatedly cut the fences surrounding the Placitas Open Space (POS) to allow feral horses in. Fences had to be repaired and gates had to be padlocked by the City of Albuquerque and BLM to prevent these individuals from herding horses onto the POS. The pro-free-roaming-horse folks’ response was to bash in the locks or fill them with super glue and add their own locks, which had to be cut off. Thanks to those few individuals, the gates to the POS have had to remain locked (with newer, stronger locks), and visitors now have to climb through the wire fence to get in.

Maybe the northern Placitas vandals are relative newcomers to the Southwest who have little understanding of arid, high-desert ecology. Maybe they have some romantic notion the feral horses are part of an historic wild mustang herd, rather than strays that migrated south from San Felipe Pueblo in recent times. Maybe they think, in spite of long-standing state laws and recent court decisions, that residents don’t have the legal right to gather up trespassing feral horses to protect their own land. Or maybe they’re just bullies, vandals and thieves.

ES-CA Weighs in on BLM Buffalo Tract

What’s in store for the BLM Buffalo Tract north of Placitas? More mining? Real estate development? Preservation of the wildlife corridor?

The Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) recently surveyed its membership regarding their preferred uses for the land, asking members to rate seven potential uses or restrictions. (Several entities are hoping to obtain all or part of the BLM acreage for various purposes).IMG_0251

Not surprisingly, the majority of ES-CA members surveyed oppose any type of mining on the land. Their other priorities for the land include low water use, limited public access, and prohibition of motorized vehicles (except for emergency and maintenance). A statement by ES-CA regarding the types of land uses it supports, based on its member survey, can be read here.

You can check out the ES-CA website at, and their blog at

Santa Ana Buffalo Tract meeting Saturday

Pronghorn antelopeThe Pueblo of Santa Ana will present its plan for the BLM Buffalo Tract at a public meeting tomorrow, October 25, 9:00-11:00 a.m., Tribal Council Chamber, 2 Dove Rd., Santa Ana Pueblo. (The pueblo headquarters are a short distance north of the town of Bernalillo. At Walgreens in Bernalillo, turn right onto Hwy 313 and go two miles to Dove Rd., then left on Dove Rd.).

The pueblo’s plan for the land, should they acquire it, focuses on habitat restoration and preservation and enhancement of wildlife corridors. We wrote about the pueblo’s experience in these areas in an earlier post.

This public meeting is a great opportunity to learn more about the Pueblo’s Natural Resources Division and expertise, view an excellent slide presentation of their accomplishments in habitat and river restoration and wildlife management, and learn about their goals for preserving wildlife on the Buffalo Tract.

Santa Ana is one of several entities hoping to obtain the BLM tract. In addition to the Pueblo of Santa Ana, the San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant Association, San Felipe Pueblo, mining interests and real estate developers are all hoping to acquire some or all of the 3142-acre parcel of rolling foothills, arroyos, and creek basin. And everyone is waiting for the BLM’s revised Rio Puerco Resource Management Plan, which is expected to be released in the next few months. This document will contain BLM’s plans for this tract, including a potential expansion of mining operations, as well as BLM’s plans for other lands in the BLM Rio Puerco region.