“You have to know the past to understand the present.” ~ Carl Sagan
Today we wanted to take a moment to talk about birth control and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) wild horse herd.
In 2009, Colorado State University (CSU) began what it called a “Birth Control Study” on the wild horses in TRNP. The “study” was supposed to last 4 years. To the best of our knowledge, there was no impact study conducted BEFORE the CSU “study” began. We will also admit that since the National Park Service (NPS) is not very transparent with its records, there could have been an impact study and they honestly either do not have the document, do not know where it is, or, as we stated above, there never was an impact study done. Yes, those are all real excuses we have been given from the NPS when we have asked for records.
It is important to clarify something here: The horses in TRNP are managed by the National Park Service (NPS) NOT the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). That slight change in management means that the horses in TRNP are NOT protected under the Wild Horse and Burro Act. HOWEVER, the NPS AND the BLM BOTH fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior (DOI) so really potato/potatoe.
Interestingly, also in 2009, North Dakota Badlands Horse was formed as a 501 (c )3 organization to: “register, promote, appreciate, and preserve the wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota that are unique to the area.”
In their efforts to “appreciate” and “preserve” the wild horses in TRNP, they have fully supported CSU and what would become their 11 years of experimentation on the wild horses in TRNP. They gave them more than support, their board members worked side by side with CSU and the park as they experimented on our horses. There were CSU tech’s that became board members of NDBH and NDBH board members who went to work for and got paid by CSU.
Why is this important?
It is important to understand how we got to the place we are currently in and where the challenges currently facing the wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park originated from.
“You have to know the past to understand the present.”
A simple search of NDBH’s Facebook page will show you they have said:
“NDBH works very closely with CSU and park in documenting this herd.”
“NDBH assists on the ground with the captures.”
“Many of the volunteers on the ground have helped with the roundup for many, many years”
“Our current nine directors, from five states” (Most of their board doesn’t live here and your donations to them pay for their trips to North Dakota.)
“Two NDBH volunteers have worked hand in hand with Dr. Baker and the CSU technicians for eight years.” (this was as of 2016)
“The babies and fancy ones bring the highest prices.”
“NDBH supports the park in what they have decided”
“We do not question the park”
“Starting tomorrow there will be weanlings removed from TRNP and available for adoption through our program.”
From their website: “Marylu Weber had already been documenting and photographing these horses since the 1980’s, recognizing that they were special and deserving.”
If you look at the last 40 years under Marylu Weber’s leadership in documenting these horses, who in 1978 were dubbed one of the most genetically diverse herds in the US, has now become one of the most inbred herd of horses as reported in a research paper in 2018. That is a direct result of their unwavering support to TRNP park management, CSU and their support and advocacy in favor of yearly captures of horses from the age of 4 months old – 3 years old as well as them supporting CSU and their birth control experiment for over 10 years. All of this has created a herd of horses that is completely out of balance by the factors of age, sex, and most importantly, genetic diversity.
We are far from perfect and just starting out, but we do have something that Marylu and NDBH doesn’t seem to have: the courage to question the park (Marylu told us MANY TIMES not to question the park). We have also educated ourselves with hours direct research, talking to people who manage similar herds as well as working with local and national wild horse advocacy groups.
Part of that research has led us to a new document that was shared with us by another wild horse advocacy group, that we uploaded to the Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocacy Library today: “BLM Wild Horse and Burro Research Background Materials for Advisory Board, June 2021”
You may be thinking to yourself, “I thought you said the BLM doesn’t manage this herd of horses, how is this relevant to the TRNP herd?”
We have also all heard the term, “Follow the money” right?
This paper shows where the BLM has spent money from 2009 through budgets being created into 2022.
We have said these things before, but this paper will help us pull things together. Also note, we are often accused of misreading and mis-leading people – we think you will see that what we have been saying is documented pretty clearly in this report.
First, you have to ask yourself WHY a nationally recognized research college like Colorado State University would have any interest in a small herd of wild horses living in southwestern North Dakota. The answer is because in 2009, this herd was not as well known as it is now. This helped create that “perfect laboratory” that Dan Baker from CSU talked about in the article we shared earlier today. There is also a video of Dan Baker speaking about the “research” at TRNP in 2019 at a conference in front of his peers. In that video, he expresses concern about wild horse advocates. By getting Marylu Weber and her NDBH followers to buy into what they were doing as well as allowing them to be a part of some groundbreaking research, they took care of CSU’s concerns regarding opposition by wild horse advocates. The TRNP wild horse advocates were now working WITH CSU. If you watch Dan’s video in its entirety, you will see that he personally thanks Marylu Weber by name.
What EXACTLY were they all working on?
CSU working with TRNP park management with NDBH as their biggest cheerleader have been working since 2009 to test different effects of GonaCon on the wild horses in TRNP. In May of 2020, TRNP created a portal to share information regarding the wild horses. On that page it states that the “research” from CSU with GonaCon ended in 2019. However, this document created by the BLM in June of 2021 shows that CSU was given a grant to continue their research on the TRNP horses through the end of 2020!
Looking at this document in detail gets increasingly disturbing.
Through our research, all of which has been shared on our Facebook page and is being continually updated on our website, showed us that the “research” being done in TRNP was being done for reasons beyond the horses in TRNP. The plan was always to continue to experiment on our horses until they were able to find the right dosage of GonaCon that would permanently sterilize mares. Once they found that dosage, they could take that, along with the new remote darting system that the TRNP horses were also subjected to experimentation on, out west to sterilize mares out on the range. At the same conference that Dr. Dan Baker proudly spoke at, Dr. Jenny Powers also spoke proudly about this remote darting system being developed to use on the wild horses on the western range. Links to both videos can be found on our website: https://chwha.org/library/
Let’s be clear:
Sterilized mares=less babies
less babies=the elimination of wild horses on the western range
Part of the initial work with GonaCon started right here in TRNP. If you look at the document, you will see that from 2009-2015, the NPS paid for research using GonaCon on the horses in TRNP with the reason for the “research” being: “If only one dose is used GonaCon vaccine is only moderately effective to reduce mare fertility.”
From 2015–2020, CSU was gifted $287,884 by the BLM and it is noted also received in-kind support from The National Park Service. The purpose of this part of the “research” was: “Using this vaccine repeatedly would slow annual population growth rates and could allow for longer times between gathers.”
“BLM is now including GonaCon in many NEPA analyses and has begun to use it more in management.”
The BLM is now pushing the use of GonaCon EVERYWHERE!
In a separate research project being done by CSU (NOT on the TRNP horses) from 2015–2020 the BLM awarded them $1,110,065 to research: “This study showed that this new type of fertility control vaccine could, in theory, sterilize mares. The four-shot version of the vaccine worked well, but now is being tested as a one-shot vaccine, in project #1
WHAT is “project #1”?
Project #1 is a new project slated for 2019-2022 that the BLM has granted $238,281 to so they can research: “test whether a one-dose version of the vaccine against BMP-15 and GDF-9 causes long-term infertility.”
They continue: “If successful, this one-shot vaccine would permanently sterilize mares, and no further treatments for the life of those animals would be needed.”
Do you see WHY we are just a little nervous that TRNP released this statement on May 06, 2021
“To reduce foaling rates and minimize the number of animals that must be captured and sold annually to manage the herd size, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is administering GonaCon™ Equine immuno-contraceptive vaccine to ALL female horses ≥8 months of age.”
You can upload the full report here: