A New Year’s message from Return to Freedom

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Dear friends,

This year, you directly helped save the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of wild horses and burros.

Please take a moment to pause and feel that.

At this time last year, Return to Freedom was working hard to find solutions for 907 wild horses needing food and standing unsheltered in below-freezing, blizzard conditions in South Dakota. The horses were impounded by the state and scheduled for a public auction where most would be sold to be slaughtered. Because of your generosity and the herculean efforts of our team and fellow animal-welfare groups, those horses are now safe. That includes the 120-strong Gila herd, for which RTF took responsibility. The Gilas are now living on beautiful leased Northern California pastures with their foals as our work to forge a future for that historic herd continues.

Thanks to your support, Return to Freedom (RTF) has long been active on policy issues while coming from a very unique position. Not only do we have a nationally respected voice for advocacy, with nearly two decades of campaign work, but RTF also operates The American Wild Horse Sanctuary – giving us hands on experience with diverse management needs in varied locations as well as a history with horses on the range.

Because of you, and only because of you, we were able to respond swiftly and forcefully to budget proposals in Congress which would allow the BLM to sell without restriction or “euthanize” – shoot – thousands of healthy wild horses and burros. Last summer, when the House of Representatives voted in favor of allowing BLM to kill wild horses as well as the return of horse slaughter, your calls, letters and personalized videos helped our voices to be heard and ensure that the Senate voted against killing wild horses and against horse slaughter. As of this writing, we are still urging the Senate not to waiver on wild horse protections or horse slaughter as it works out its differences with the House in conference.

With your support, we were able to keep a humane witness at four lengthy helicopter roundups, photographing them, actively raising concerns about treatment of wild horses, and bringing more concerned citizens to see for themselves what happens during roundups.

Thanks to your commitment, we continued to join other advocates in victorious lawsuits. These including preventing the Bureau of Land Management from sterilizing an entire herd of wild horses in Idaho and blocking the U.S. Forest Service from cutting the size of the last large wild horse territory in California by 23,000 acres. We won again when a federal judge tossed a case brought by Utah ranchers demanding that the Bureau of Land Management immediately remove “excess” wild horses, rather than use fertility control or other tools to control the population.

Those are but a few examples of the work that we were able to do with your support. Others include the many lives touched through the successful educational programs at our sanctuary and fundraising events made possible by our hard-working volunteers and generous donors.

As we look ahead to RTF’s 20th anniversary in 2018, the political climate surrounding our wild horses and burros remains as precarious as it has ever been in our organization’s history. Nevertheless, we remain optimistic, because the community we’ve built together around these amazing animals is stronger than ever before.

RTF’s experience with humane wild horse and burro management and our solution-oriented approach to advocacy have earned us a seat at the table and the ear of decision-makers. We will continue to do all we can to represent well America’s wild horses and burros, the people like you who cherish them, and the freedom that they represent.

RTF remains committed to our mission of sanctuary, education, advocacy and conservation.  We will continue to increase opportunities for your engagement and to empower you as a wild horse and burro advocate. In 2017, we began producing webinars and plan to bring you many more opportunities to learn about wild horses and burros, their unique histories, varied habitats, and the challenges that they face – so that you can use your own voice to help share the story of America’s wild horses.

In light of the increased threat to wild horses on the range and in government holding, RTF also brought aboard a seasoned lobbyist who in 2018 will continue to amplify your voice in the halls of Congress and help you sharpen and deliver to policymakers our shared message of respect for wild horses and burros and the equitable allocation and protection for resources and other wildlife on our public lands.

As ever, there is much work to be done on behalf of wild horses and burros, at our sanctuary locations, on the range, and on Capitol Hill.  We have added to our team and, with you at our side, we are ready to accomplish even more this year. Let’s get started!

Wishing you a wild and wonderful New Year,

Neda DeMayo and the Return to Freedom team