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DC Judge Holds Lives of Thousands of Wild Horses in his Hands

Judge Friedman was appointed United States Dis...
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by Steven Long, Publisher/Editor of Horseback Magazine

HOUSTON, (Horseback) – A longtime federal judge will decide whether the Bureau of Land Management may go ahead with its planned “gather” of tens of thousands of wild horses in the desert lands of Nevada.

Judge Paul L. Friedman, a 1994 appointee of President Bill Clinton served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and Assistant U.S. Solicitor General of the U.S. Department of Justice. The Solicitor General represents the government before federal courts including the U.S. Supreme Court. Immediately prior to taking the bench vacated by Judge Gerhard Gesell, he was in private practice with the Washington law firm, White and Case for 18 years.

The 65-year-old judge, born in Buffalo, NY, says he will decide before Christmas if the BLM can proceed with the roundup. Plaintiffs claim the federal agency wants to rid the West of wild horses.

The suit was filed by the respected animal welfare group, In Defense of Animals based in California. Joining as a plaintiff is Ecologist Craig Downer, a wildlife biologist. Also joining the suit as a plaintiff Monday was author Terri Farley.

They claim that the use of helicopters in the gathers is inhumane and traumatizes horses to the point of injury and even death.

Such claims appear to have a solid foundation in fact according to records released to Horseback Magazine last month by the BLM.

The Bureau of Land Management’s concerted effort to thin the herds of wild horses on land it manages has repeatedly proven deadly, so deadly in fact, that for each of the last two years (and this year’s not over yet) there have been fatalities on almost half of the “gathers” the agency has conducted.

And last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the roundups will continue as herds across the West will be reduced as horses are moved from their natural habitat to artificial refuges in the Midwest and East – this despite the 256 million acres potentially available to the animals on BLM lands.

In 2008, 45 percent of the roundups resulted in at least one fatality, and on one in Nevada, 27 horses died. The total number of deaths through injury or for other reasons totaled 126 animals last year.

The percentage of dead horses on BLM roundups this year is slightly worse at 46 percent resulting in at least one horse death. In July, a Wyoming gather proved fatal to 11 horses. To date this year, 79 horses have died as the agency rushes to clear wild horses from the West.

Over the last two years a total of 205 horses have died at the agency’s hands during its gathers to thin the herds despite the vastness of the lands managed by BLM..

In BLM roundups, horses are often driven down miles of rocky slops by a roaring helicopter. Such was the case in Wyoming this year when 11 horses died at Coconut Creek when 349 horses were caught.

Equine geneticists have told Horseback Magazine that the massive roundups are leaving the western wild horse herds genetically bankrupt. And chemical sterilization is taking its toll as well, they say.

Although helicopter induced stampedes often result in fatalities, the agency is reluctant to classify a limping horse as injured.

The bureau classifies equine deaths two ways, according to national spokesman Tom Gorey of the agency’s Washington office.

It classifies horse deaths directly related to a gather as “the number of animals that died or were euthanized because of acute injuries or medical conditions brought about by the gather and removal process, including those that occurred during capture, sorting, and herding at the gather site. This category includes all animals euthanized for reasons related to gather activities.”

All other deaths are lumped together in one group for “reasons related to chronic or pre-existing conditions such as body condition, lameness, and serious physical defects. This category includes all animals euthanized for reasons not related to gather activities.”

Gory classifies as myth reports that the agency views a 1 percent death rate as acceptable.

“There is no fatality rate that is considered acceptable to the BLM,” he said. “Our goal is zero percent fatalities in connection with gathers.”

Gory said a non-gather percentage of deaths in 2008 was unusually high because they were “primarily related to Nevada horses that suffered serious health issues resulting from shortage of water and poor forage conditions because of drought and wildfire”

He said these horse deaths occurred at the Nevada Wild Horse Range, Roberts Mountain, New Pass/Ravenswood, and Augusta Herd Management Areas.

In fact, the agency reported that of the 126 deaths attributed to gathers last year, 106 of them fall into the latter category.

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16 replies »

  1. The numbers of horses killed or injured during “gathers” is (accurate?) available. But what about the horses already in holding facilities? Are there statistics on injuries and deaths of those poor horses and burros? Surely the BLM must keep death records??? Who is the “evaluator” of “pre-existing” conditions?


  2. troll through this blogsite to steve long’s article a few weeks back about the so-called “accuracy” of the numbers of horses killed or injured during roundups. i think the same evaluator of “pre-existing conditions” is the same evaluator who says what is & isn’t “lame.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I remember reading the article. I hope the attorneys pointed out to the judge what big-fat-liars the BLM people are when it comes to deaths and injuries. I assume the BLM uses the Henneke body condition score to evaluate the horses’ condition…lol… this would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.


      • How do we stay within the protections for the horses and an umbrella agency, too, without it being BLM? I have been told no one wants this responsibility, but I would think if a more dynamic management was put forth we may have a chance with someone else. If DOI needs to be cleaned up I hope that would mean a branch would be more open to the task. After all, it would mean jobs and and a budget. I used to think the Forest Service could do this, now I am not sure who. What are your ideas, RT? It cannot be with this agency without great change taking place. Mar

        Liked by 1 person

      • RT, It seems like long ago but in September we had all ‘talked’ about the possible National Monument status which could lead to National Park status. If the Ponies of Chincoteague can have a National Park, then some Mustangs might, also. If the law that protects the horses were to be such that none were left out, like Forest Service horses have been, then under that umbrella the horses may be managed by different parts of Park, Forest and even Wilderness designations. They all need to be treated the same and the best possible… with many professionals and the public involved. Mar

        Liked by 1 person

      • RT & Mar, all great ideas!

        Just for ideas, wouldn’t ROAM cause term limits and inlcude many more people, with wild horse advocate and wild ecology representation.

        Eventually at least the advisory board would come around – but “eventually” is the problem – our horses may be gone by then!

        If no one else wants this responsibility, for now we have to work with what we have. As well as work toward perhaps a Park Status – I really like that.


  4. Hi, RT! I’ve seen statements from the BLM indicating their job is manage the public lands, not the horses. They’ve made it clear they don’t want to manage the wildlife, only privately owned livestock, i.e., The Bureau of Livestock Management….

    The current team will always have their alliance with the cattle ranchers, not the wild horses and burros. Their managment should be turned over to an independent panel or agency and at least when there are differences (which I suspect would be with every proposed round-up) the wild horse experts would have a voice in the outcome. The first order of business should be to take Cattoor off retainer and cut-off the flow of millions of our tax payer dollars. That alone would pay for an independent agency several times over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pearls of wisdom…thanks Vicki. You are spot on.

      Speaking of the Cattoor rip-off, I think it’s time for an eye witness op-ed on the conduct of self-professed Wild Horse Expert, Sue Cattor, during the Pryor Mountain Gather. It is the stuff that late Saturday night B Horror films are made of. It’ll either make your blood turn cold or have you rolling on the floor laughing, but it speaks to the BLM’s inability to follow federal mandates when hiring contractors. Doink!!! What a surprise.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Where is Sue Cattors letter to us all on your site – what was the title?

        I’ll take it (meant to long ago) and line it up with M Scott Pecks “what evil people do” list.

        For those not up on M. Scott Peck, you can get a lot from the Wikipedia entry.


  5. All – I signed the petition to have Salazar removed – see blog above from mustang33.

    This should rock some boats! Great idea.

    If you have not already, please go there and decide if this is something for you, and if yes, sign it. You may also leave your own personal message (which of course I did), and/or sign anonymous.


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