Environmental Groups Eye Idaho BLM Sage Grouse Ruling

By Keith Ridler as published in the Reno Gazette-Journal

“Ruling could give leverage to Wild Horse & Burro Advocacy”

Greater Sage GrouseBOISE — A small portion of a federal judge’s ruling in Idaho against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management concerning grazing permits in sage grouse habitat is being eyed as a potential lever by environmental groups considering similar lawsuits in other states.

Most of U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s 21-page decision late last month involved his ruling that the agency violated environmental laws in issuing permits on four grazing allotments in south-central Idaho, considered test cases for about 600 other permits.

But he used three pages near the end of his decision to rule on a separate matter that the agency incorrectly used a congressional budget rider to issue additional grazing permits in south-central Idaho with no environmental analysis at all.

“This is a clear shot across the bow of the BLM,” said Todd Tucci, an attorney for Advocates for the West that represented Western Watersheds Project in the lawsuit. “I will bring this argument to any federal court in the country and feel very comfortable about my likelihood of success.”

Ken Cole of Western Watersheds Project said the BLM has used the rider to issue hundreds of grazing permits across the West. Winmill’s decision only pertains to Idaho, but conservation groups in other states are viewing the winning lawsuit as a possible template.

“This is a legal victory that is certainly going to get a lot of scrutiny from environmental groups moving forward,” said Erik Molvar of WildEarth Guardians….(CONTINUED)

Video: Horse Attempts to File Complaint in British Police Station

by R.T. Fitch ~ president/co-founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“Sometimes Fact is more bizarre than Fiction”

If you haven’t seen it already this viral video it looks, and would sound like if it had any soundtrack, an old joke and play on words: “A horse walks into a Police Station and….”

Well, it really happened in a Cheshire Police Station, Great Britain last week, no joke.  Caught on a surveillance camera a pony, from a nearby field, decided to make a visit.  His intentions?

  • Perhaps he wanted to file a complaint because he was sick of the same old feed day after day.
  • Maybe he got a tip on a British horse rustler and he wanted to share.
  • There’s a chance he heard about the plight of American Wild Horses and Burros and wanted to get the local boys involved in stopping the U.S. BLM.
  • Then again, he might have had a hot tip on last year’s horse meat scandal and wanted some help in breaking the case.

Who knows his/her intent but one thing is for certain, he wanted to see what was going inside that building beside his field and he was going to check it all out one way or another.  Heck, he may have been staring at it for years…inquiring minds want to know.

A Cheshire Constabulary spokesperson said the pony was “quickly escorted” back, adding: “We like to ensure a warm welcome to all our guests at HQ and at neigh point did the horse pose a risk to security!”

That’s not how it started out as his initial greeting was not by one who had any understanding of horses and could be inclined to brush up on conciliatory protocol.

Happy “Feel Good Sunday.”

The Final Days of the Checkerboard Wild Horse Roundup Part II

Eyewitness account by photographer Carol Walker ~ Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Farewell Wild Horses of Wyoming

Day 24

Carol WalkerI am getting ready to drive out to Bitter Creek Road so I can get led out to the observation site for the 24th and hopefully last day of the Checkerboard Roundup in Wyoming. The Cattoors and the BLM hope to capture more than 100 wild horses today from Salt Wells Creek.

We are here again in Adobe Town, on public land, 3 miles from the trap site which is out of sight behind a hill. There is a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case on the subject of BLM restrictions of public observations of roundups, which states:

“To provide this First Amendment protection, the Supreme Court has long recognized a qualified right of access for the press and public to observe government activities.”

Even though we ask for a better, closer spot to view the roundup, we are told that this is the location that the contractor has selected.

Shortly after we arrived at the observation site 3 miles from the trap Shelley Gregory the public information specialist spotted a group of 20 horses coming down the hill and a few minutes later we spotted the helicopter. Then we can see more and more groups of horses converging. They are so small this far away they look like ants and all we can distinguish is lighter colored horses from the darker probably grey or appy. We finally count about 50 horses streaming in lines and standing out against the huge cloud of dust. As they go into the trap the dust billows wildly. The two helicopters immediately head right back out. Suddenly a gorgeous grulla stallion runs right in front of us heading away from the trap. We hope he runs and never stops. Then about 30 more horses are brought in by both helicopters in another cloud of dust.

Linda and I are the only observers on Day 24. A white pickup comes roaring up the hill and a tall, big woman leaps out and starts yelling at Linda, and gets right in her face, looming over her. She said I demand that you give me your name and address and phone numbers, how dare you tell me where I can be on my private land, and you have to tell me who made the phone call to the Cattoors. She started insisting that someone from yesterday had called the Cattoors and said she was too close and told the Cattoors to make her move. In the meantime I was getting alarmed and frightened so I called to Shelley Gregory, the Public Information Specialist who accompanies up to the observation site and she rushed over and so did the BLM ranger. They got between her and us, thankfully, and I was never so grateful in my life to have the ranger there. Both Linda and I said we did not make any such phone call, but she did not believe either of us.

Then she started ranting about “you people” who have all this money and do this lawsuit, and she has lost all this money having to remove cattle from her land because of the horses, and that RSGA had to do something about these inbred horses, running all over her land, they are just feral ranch horses, no Spanish blood, worthless, and her family has been there for 100 years long before the horses were there, which really is not true of course. The horses have been here hundreds of years before her family began welfare ranching in this location.

The horses are most certainly not inbred in this herd, which used to be one of the largest remaining wild horses herds. The numbers exceeded the minimum number, 150 adults, of wild horses necessary to sustain genetic viability. And Gus Cothran, the leading geneticist on our wild horses has been genetically testing the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creeks Herds for many years, and they have a high percentage of Spanish blood. she was ranting on and on I said you won, why are you yelling at us? They are taking all the horses. She said they can never get all the horses, they are still there. Luckily Shelley diffused the situation and took her aside and talked to her. The rancher asked where we were from and Linda said Colorado, asked for our names and towns and I said none of your business. Her mother, a small lady with white hair came out and told us that a stallion had taken the saddle pad right off of her daughter’s horse one time.

I said why don’t you just leave and she said this is public land you cannot make me leave and proceeded to stay up there for another hour and a half, probably just to annoy me. She had had a much better viewing spot than we did earlier before she came to harass us. She asked me what I was doing because I was typing on my phone as she was yelling at Linda, and asked if I were blogging about her and I said yes, and then she started ranting again about all the lies I was spreading about her. As she is muttering you better hope that your car doesn’t break down out here I know that I would rather walk the 20+ miles back to the highway than ask her for help.

Just before they left, she told me she wanted me to not post any pictures of her ranch on Facebook, would I not do that – I told her I don’t care about her ranch, I am here for the horses. She stomped off and drove away, and we were very relieved that she left.

I think it is a shame that she is the only representative of RSGA that anyone has been able to talk to. The four journalists who have been here during the roundup have all said that RSGA has been unwilling to give them an interview.

Helicopters brought in two more groups one of about 16 and another of 6 bringing the total for today to about 95. The helicopter was chasing a lone horse back and forth, back and forth, he stopped and went to meet another horse and possibly a foal. Then the helicopter peeled off possibly to refuel. We heard they are just going to possibly be bringing one more small group. We hope we are allowed to go see the horses in temporary holding once they are done.

I am now waiting to go into the temporary holding facility to see the over 100 horses that brought into the trap today from Salt Wells Creek near the Eversole Ranch. The last horse brought in today had the helicopter right over him for about an hour. He looked bewildered and slowed to a stop and a walk. We asked what they were doing and found out he was a young sorrel yearling and they were bringing a rider on horseback to catch him and put him in a trailer, which they finally did. The wrangler caught him and trotted and cantered with him to the trailer and he got in with the saddle horse and was taken to temporary holding.

As we were packing up to leave the observation point this morning after the helicopters finished for the day we were really surprised to hear and so were our BLM escorts to hear that this might NOT in fact be the last day of the roundup. Apparently there may be some more horses needing to be removed from the Checkerboard area even though the number removed is close to 1200 wild horses. We were told that because the number so far exceeded their estimates they were having a conference call with Washington D.C. this afternoon and that they might be rounding up more horses tomorrow. After what happened this morning with the woman from Eversole Ranch I think it is highly likely that she has been aggressively complaining that they did not catch every single horse on both her private and public leased land. This is speculation on my part, of course.

When we went into the temporary holding area in Salt Wells Creek this afternoon, we asked Sue Cattoor about what had actually happened with the rancher from Eversole and what had actually happened was she was parked too close to the path of the horses being driven on by the helicopters and Dave Cattoor called her and asked her to move. It had absolutely nothing to with us or any other member of the public observing the roundup at this trap site. The new location she moved to was still at least a mile closer than we were allowed to go.

At the temporary holding corrals late this afternoon I learned that they captured 129 horses today bringing the total to 1217 wild horses removed from their families and their homes. If they do capture 30-40 tomorrow on the really last day of the roundup they will have over 1250.
We did see the sorrel colt that had to be roped and put in the trailer – I had thought he was a yearling because he was so far away as it turns out he was a little foal too little to be weaned. He was happily reunited with his mother. There was a death today, in the morning, a weanling foal broke his neck when being sorted out for transport. The horses in the pens that we saw looked good and the big bay roan stallion was still king of the stallion corral.

Day 25

Linda and I left even though we knew they would be rounding up horses on this last day – neither of us wanted to go through another confrontation at the observation site with the angry rancher. Although the BLM ranger prevented us from being punched or even shot, he did not prevent the bullying and intimidation.

47 more wild horses are removed and the roundup is finally concluded. Of course the BLM has to have the last word, and posts on their Wyoming Facebook page that it is OUR fault that they removed 1263 instead of 800 wild horses in this roundup:

“Appeals and motions delayed removal operations, allowing more wild horses to move across the fluid boundary from solid block public lands into the checkerboard in preparation for winter and in search of water; thus, the population estimate for the checkerboard was surpassed by the number of wild horses actually removed.”

The truth is, we sought an emergency injunction to stop the roundup from occurring so that our case might be heard on its merits BEFORE the horses were rounded up and removed, because if we had won, none of these horses would have been removed. We lost the temporary injunction and the roundup went on. Our case has still not been heard, and the horses are being shipped or are already in Rock Springs and Canon City short term holding facilities.

I am sick, physically sick, and sick in heart and soul about what is happening to those horses right now. We will not hear about the rest of the deaths and injuries that will occur in transport and at the short term holding facilities. We will not hear about the final fate that can happen when the BLM sells the older horses under the Sale Authority Act, when they most likely will end up at slaughter. We may hear about the approximately 4% that get adopted.

To rub more salt in the wound, the BLM posted on Facebook these close up photos of these beautiful horses running into the trap, photos that they took close to the trap, an area none of the public were allowed to go into. The images I took that are in this post were taken at the public observation point with the longest lens available. The horses are simply dots.

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The Final Days of the Checkerboard Wild Horse Roundup, Part I

Eyewitness Account by photographer Carol Walker – Director of Field Documentation at Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“Carol Walker has been back out in the desert, along with others, witnessing the total destruction of Wyoming’s wild horse families and their freedom.  It’s a tough thing to witness and even tougher when the BLM and their contractor make it all but impossible to photograph.  This is done so that when horses are killed, and there were many, there will be no photographs taken which would/could verify and document the cruelty rained down upon these helpless creatures.  Today Carol gives us the beginning of the end with a scheduled closeout article, tomorrow.  ‘Thank you for being there for us and the horses, Carol.  We appreciate your dedication and compassion.'” ~ R.T.


Destruction in the Desert

Day 23

We are out waiting for the trap to be set up near Sand Butte and Pine Butte across from the Eversole Ranch in Salt Wells Creek and unfortunately last week I saw the most gorgeous families with many very colorful Appaloosas which I have not seen anywhere else in the wild. They are expecting to get 200 wild horses here and said it is the last trap site of the roundup.

We are at least 3 miles from the trap site in Salt Wells Creek and the Cattoors selected this site obviously to keep us as far away as possible. I would NOT call this access. We have to use binoculars to see the wings of the trap and we cannot see the trap itself at all. The horses are so far away that they look like ants, and the best way we can find them is when there is a huge cloud of dust from the helicopters. The wind is howling and Ginger and I set up our cameras between two cars to provide a wind block.

We have watched several large groups coming in some with 20-25 horses and since we are facing directly into the sun it is hard to tell the colors of horses beyond grey, palomino and dark. The horses look like little ants as they approach the trap because it is so very far away, if it were not for the blowing clouds of dust we would not be able to see the horses at all. The two helicopters work together squeezing them into the trap. We see one stallion escape. There is a huge group of Pronghorn Antelope, maybe 200 who are also running from the helicopters. We have seen about 75 horses captured in the last hour and a half. My eyes are straining to make out the horses in the dust and wind.

The helicopters have finished chasing the horses for today, they are done by 11;30 which is early, because the horses were in relatively large groups, unlike the horses in Great Divide Basin. We pack up our gear and are heading to temporary holding pens to see the horses once they have gotten food and water.

We waited for 2 hours to go see the 76 horses that had been captured today in the temporary corrals. There were some gorgeous stallions, most notably a very proud bay roan who was clearly the dominant one in the pen, and a lovely pinto stallion with a mostly white body, dark bay sculpted head, and a brown shield on his chest. He was hanging back away from the other stallions. The horses were very quiet, and they all looked very tired, they had run a long way today. There was a group of weanlings who had been separated just a couple of hours ago from their mothers. The littlest one was running around crying for his mother. He looked to be about 3 months old. Some of the horses are whinnying for their families and it is a heartbreaking sound.

The adult horses will be shipped to Canon City tomorrow and the weanlings, yearlings and two year olds will be shipped to the Axtell Burro facility in Utah since they are running out of room.
The total removed so far is 1088 and there is at least one more day to go. The original number of horses that were to be removed was 800 – 950, but that amount was exceeded days ago. When I ask why so many more, the BLM tells me they are mandated by the Consent Decree to remove all wild horses from the Checkerboard Area. That is actually not true, they are mandated to remove all wild horses from private land, but that is how they are interpreting the ruling, it is impossible to separate the horses which are on public land from the horses on private land in the Checkerboard Area, so their solution is just to remove all of them.

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Wild Burros Vanishing From SoCal Hills

Missing BurroThe mysterious disappearance of wild burros that roam the hills above Moreno Valley has rescuers wondering whether predators or thieves are targeting the small donkeys.

An animal group named DonkeyLand has been tracking the herds and noticed that some foals as young as 3 weeks old have inexplicably gone missing in recent months. (Normally, that would be caused by the BLM and their contractors. – R.T.)

Rescuers with the Riverside-based nonprofit on Wednesday said predators, such as mountain lions, could be dragging them away. But they also believe thieves could be abducting them for breeding or killing them for food.

“We have seen animals’ bones up there, where we’ve heard they were gutted and used for meat, which is totally against the law,” said Wendy Petrunio of DonkeyLand.

Rescuers say the wild burros are federally protected and it is illegal to take them.

In September, rescuers said a newborn “miracle baby” burro was taken from its crying mother, which had previously lost three of her newborns to fatal accidents.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Moreno Valley Police Department at 951-486-6700.

Are North America’s Wild Horses Native?

paper written by Jay F. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D. and Patricia M. Fazio, Ph.D.

“The non-native, feral, and exotic designations given by agencies are not merely reflections of their failure to understand modern science, but also a reflection of their desire to preserve old ways of thinking…

Wild Outer Mongolian Takhi - photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Primitive Outer Mongolian Takhi – photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Are wild horses truly “wild,” as an indigenous species in North America, or are they “feral” weeds – barnyard escapees, far removed genetically from their prehistoric ancestors? The question at hand is, therefore, whether or not modern horses, Equus caballus, should be considered native wildlife.

The genus Equus, which includes modern horses, zebras, and asses, is the only surviving genus in a once diverse family of horses that included 27 genera. The precise date of origin for the genus Equus is unknown, but evidence documents the dispersal of Equus from North America to Eurasia approximately 2 to 3 million years ago and a possible origin at about 3.4 to 3.9 million years ago. Following this original emigration, several extinctions occurred in North America, with additional migrations to Asia (presumably across the Bering Land Bridge), and return migrations back to North America, over time. The last North American extinction occurred between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago.¹

Had it not been for previous westward migration, over the land bridge, into northwestern Russia (Siberia) and Asia, the horse would have faced complete extinction. However, Equus survived and spread to all continents of the globe, except Australia and Antarctica.

In 1493, on Columbus’s second voyage to the Americas, Spanish horses, representing E. caballus, were brought back to North America, first in the Virgin Islands, and, in 1519, they were reintroduced on the continent, in modern-day Mexico, from where they radiated throughout the American Great Plains, after escape from their owners.²

Critics of the idea that the North American wild horse is a native animal, using only paleontological data, assert that the species, E. caballus (or the caballoid horse), which was introduced in 1519, was a different species from that which disappeared 13,000 to 11,000 years before.

Herein lies the crux of the debate.

However, the relatively new (27-year-old) field of molecular biology, using mitochondrial-DNA analysis, has recently found that the modern or caballine horse, E. caballus, is genetically equivalent to E. lambei, a horse, according to fossil records, that represented the most recent Equus species in North America prior to extinction. Not only is E. caballus genetically equivalent to E. lambei, but no evidence exists for the origin of E. caballus anywhere except North America.³

According to the work of Uppsala University researcher Ann Forsten, of the Department of Evolutionary Biology, the date of origin, based on mutation rates for mitochondrial-DNA, for E. caballus, is set at about 1.7 million years ago in North America. Now the debate becomes one of whether the older paleontological fossil data or the modern molecular biology data more accurately provide a picture of horse evolution. The older taxonomic methodologies looked at physical form for classifying animals and plants, relying on visual observations of physical characteristics. While earlier taxonomists tried to deal with the subjectivity of choosing characters they felt would adequately describe, and thus group, genera and species, these observations were lacking in precision.

Reclassifications are now taking place, based on the power and objectivity of molecular biology. If one considers primate evolution, for example, the molecular biologists have provided us with a completely different evolutionary pathway for humans, and they have described entirely different relationships with other primates. None of this would have been possible prior to the methodologies now available through mitochondrial-DNA analysis.

Carles Vila, also of the Department of Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University, has corroborated Forsten’s work. Vila et al have shown that the origin of domestic horse lineages was extremely widespread, over time and geography, and supports the existence of the caballoid horse in North American before its disappearance.4

Finally, the work of Hofreiter et al,5; examining the genetics of the so-called E. lambei from the permafrost of Alaska, found that the variation was within that of modern horses, which translates into E. lambei actually being E. caballus, genetically. The molecular biology evidence is incontrovertible and indisputable…(CONTINUED) at HorseTalk.co.nz

EXPOSED! Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration: Anything BUT a Celebration

by as published in One Green Planet.org

“…the animal’s are tossed aside and often sent to slaughter houses”

Tennessee_Walker_X-RayFor those of us who are familiar with equestrian shows or may even have a knack for equestrian sports, we are accustomed to the posh appearance of fancily clad riders on top of perfectly clipped, athletically built horses. While there are many different kinds of equine events that can capture the attention of even the least horse-savvy people, one popular sporting event is that of the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration.

The Celebration recently held it’s 76th annual event in Shelbyville, Tennessee where nearly a quarter of a million tickets were sold. Considered to be the showcase performance competition for horses, the event looks for a horse’s ability to display the “Big Lick” gait – a movement exhibited when Tennessee walkers swiftly lift their front legs high into the air as they waltz around an arena. Horses are judged on the combination of the over-stepping walk with the typical nod (or rhythmically bob their heads up and down as they walk).

While the competition is specific to Tennessee, similar events occur nationwide (especially in Kentucky) and encourage visitors to gather for an “incredible” experience to view the graceful dance of the Tennessee walking horse. Also, other horse breeds – such as the Hackney horse – have been used as high-stepping show breeds, but due to their graceful charisma, Tennessee walkers remain the traditional breed in the Walking Horse Celebration.

With more than $650,000 in prizes and awards up for grabs, and fair favorites such as decorating contests, dog shows, and trade fairs, who could turn down such an awesome opportunity to enjoy some good old, traditional equestrian fun? Right?

While we would love to support such a grand event that celebrates the beauty of horses, we can’t exactly provide much (or actually, any) positive feedback about this one. Behind the scenes of this “magnificent” show, is the abhorrent practice of horse soring (or abusing a horse until it performs in the “appropriate” manner).

It’s time to saddle up and truly understand the suffering of the Tennessee Walking Horse…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story and to comment at onegreenplanet.org