BLM: “We are not the Bureau of Horses”

by Laura Allen of Animal Law Coalition

ITHACA, NY (ALC) – The BLM had temporarily suspended its Tuscarora roundup of wild horses initiated in the intense summer heat just days ago on July 10, 2010.

BLM halted the roundup after public outcry over the deaths of horses now said to number 12 including 3 foals.

Based on BLM’s representation the roundup would not begin again until Sunday, July 19, 2010, the judge set a hearing yesterday, July 14 on a motion for restraining order filed by plaintiff Laura Leigh to delay the roundup until August and compel BLM to allow access to the roundup by the media and the public. The judge explained that he was then informed regardless, BLM Director Bob Abbey had issued an order for an “emergency” roundup of the horses prior to the hearing.

Judge Hicks ordered, “Based on this change in the BLM’s position, the court finds it necessary to grant an immediate injunction preventing the Tuscarora gathering of wild horses until further order by the court.”

A hearing is set today, July 15, 2010, on plaintiff’s motion. For more on this case and the Tuscarora roundup, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

Go here for more on the planned Tuscarora roundup of 1,438 wild horses in the 482,191 acres of the Owyhee, Rock Creek, Little Humboldt Herd Management Areas. In proceeding with the roundup on July 10, BLM basically ignored thousands of citizens who submitted letters and emails in protest during a period of public comment on the planned roundup.

An appeal of BLM’s decision to round up wild horses in the Tuscarora HMAs has been filed with the Interior Board of Land Appeals by In Defense of Animals and Craig Downer, a wildlife ecologist. BLM, however, can resume the roundup while the appeal is pending.

The dehydration, the deaths, the cruelty

Once again, BLM hired Dave Cattoors to round up wild horses. Cattoors has a federal conviction for aiding and abetting the theft and sale of wild horses for slaughter and also for using the helicopter as part of this conspiracy. But he has made millions as a BLM contractor rounding up wild horses and burros – with a helicopter.

As summer temperatures soared on the first day of the roundup, Cattoors ran down approximately 228 horses in a matter of a few hours with a helicopter. Most of the horses were forced to run for miles. Many of the mares had just given birth or were about to do so. It was a tragedy in the making, and 7 horses died during the first day of the roundup while another was euthanized in the holding pen after breaking a leg.

Michael Lindinger, PhD, MSc, an animal and exercise physiologist at the University of Guelph, explains: “It only takes 17 minutes of moderate intensity exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse’s temperature to dangerous levels. That’s three to 10 times faster than in humans. Horses feel the heat much worse than we do.”

If a horse’s body temperature shoots up from the normal 37 to 38°C to 41°C (98.6 – 105.8°F), temperatures within working muscles may be as high as 43°C (109.4°F), a temperature at which proteins in muscle begin to denature (cook). Horses suffering excessive heat stress may experience hypotension, colic, and renal failure.

BLM acknowledged the deaths were the result of dehydration or water intoxication, meaning horses were consuming large amounts of water because of dehydration. According to The Cloud Foundation, other horses were “exhibiting signs of colic and brain swelling” from dehydration or water intoxication.

Dehydration obviously results from forcing horses to run for miles in summer heat. Add to that extreme stress and fear. Common sense would tell anyone that this would be particularly dangerous for mares that have just given birth or are about to do so and also for foals. In fact, The Cloud Foundation reports, “[BLM] 2009 … Roundup planning documents stated: ‘…Not only are young foals in summer months more prone to dehydration and complications from heat stress, the handling, sorting and transport is a stress to the young animals and increases the chance for them to be rejected by their mothers.’”

BLM’s Rationale for the Roundup

The BLM continues to insist publicly there were too many horses in these herd areas and thus the roundup was “necessary”. There were 464 acres per horse, however, and the animals were healthy, according to the agency’s own spokesperson, Heather Emmons. At least they were healthy until BLM began its brutal roundup. Go here for analysis of the BLM’s decision to round up these horses.

Recently, BLM has said the horses must be removed because of damage to livestock fences. Hardly a reason to remove animals protected by a law which tasks BLM with protecting them from “harassment”, “capture” and “death” and which is supposed to manage them at the “minimal feasible level”as “free-roaming” “components” of the public lands and treat these animals humanely.  Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. §1331 et seq.

Buried in its Environmental Assessment, BLM says that to “leave …. wild horses on the range, could lead to negative impacts on livestock grazing management”. Agri-business does not want wild horses and burros on public lands it uses for livestock grazing. And neither does BLM.

A BLM ecologist Cameron Bryce has said, “Wild horses do not belong in western ecosystems….the 1971 Horse and Burro Act was based on emotions, not science.”

Long time rancher, now Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has said wild horses do not belong on public lands. BLM is an agency within the DOI.

Follow the money: Fees charged for cattle or sheep grazing are $1.35 per animal under 18,000 grazing permits and leases on 258 million acres.  Grazing livestock on public lands is a “$132 million loss to the American taxpayer each year and independent economists have estimated the true cost at between $500 million and $1 billion dollars a year.” For more including a look at the astonishing cost to taxpayers to implement BLM’s policy of rounding up and removing wild horses and burros…..

Investigative reporter George Knapp has also revealed plans to build the Ruby oil and natural gas pipeline likely facilitated the mass removals of wild horses. The pipeline will extend across northern Nevada. It is no surprise to find BP involved. BP and another DOI agency, Minerals Management Service, have operated as one and the same under DOI Secretary Ken Salazar.

Go here for a discussion about this with George Knapp on CNN Headline News, Issues with Jane Velez Mitchell.

Leigh Lawsuit

Laura Leigh, a journalist, author, publisher, artist and wild horse advocate, filed her lawsuit in Nevada federal District Court to delay the Tuscarora roundup until after foaling season and a period of rest for birthing mares. Leigh also seeks an order requiring BLM to allow public and particularly media access to the horses during the roundup and after they are placed in a holding facility.

Leigh asks BLM to delay roundup until after foaling season

Leigh says BLM violated its own policy that prohibits helicopter roundups until at least six weeks after peak foaling season ends on or about June 30. According to her Complaint and affidavits she has submitted, observers confirm a number of mares have given birth in recent days or are about to do so.

Leigh says the roundup during the summer virtually during foaling season violates the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act’s requirements for humane treatment of the horses.

BLM’s illegal closure of public lands and access to the roundup

Leigh’s other claims is that BLM’s closure of 27,000 acres of public lands in the area of the roundup constitutes a violation of the First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of the press. Leigh says the BLM is effectively “censoring” information and denies the media the ability to observe and report on a government action.

The BLM actuallly began the round up on private land, many say as the excuse to keep the public away. The agency gave no excuse, however, for closing access to public lands even temporarily during the roundup.

R.T. Fitch, author, Straight from the Horse’s Heart, recalls, “Don Glenn [of the BLM] stood up in front of God and country (also a video camera) and promised that the BLM would be transparent and equine advocates (taxpayers, the one paying his cushy government salary) would be ‘allowed’ to witness all round ups and at the same time he was speaking an undercover round up that was never publicized was taking place.  I mean it was going on while the words were falling out of his mouth and splatting on the floor before him.”

Also, following Glenn’s comments, BLM shut down public access to horses after a brutal, deadly helicopter round up by Cattoors in the Calico Mountain Complex during the bitter cold of winter over icy, treacherous terrain. 153 of those horses have died including 2 foals whose hooves were literally torn off as they were chased for miles by Cattoors’ helicopter.

The closure of the Tuscarora roundup to the public comes on the heels of promises made at the June, 2010 meeting of the WH&B Advisory Board by BLM Director Bob Abbey of a “dialogue” to engage the public and that the agency would seek ”in depth” public input in managing wild horses and burros.

Then there is the law.  Federal regulations strictly limit when public lands can be closed to the public even temporarily.

The refusal to allow even the media to watch a wild horse roundup is consistent, however, with BLM’s Bush era discussions during which the agency considered ways to keep the public away from round ups and  devised a plan to brand protests as “eco-terrorism”.

BLM manager Gene Seidlitz recently cavalierly announced, “We are not the bureau of horses”.

Yes, there is no doubt about that.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

Join Equine Welfare Alliance, The Cloud Foundation, Animal Law Coalition and thousands of organizations and citizens and call on Pres. Obama to order a moratorium on wild horse roundups. Here’s his number:

202.456.1111

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17 comments on “BLM: “We are not the Bureau of Horses”

  1. A BLM ecologist Cameron Bryce has said, “Wild horses do not belong in western ecosystems….the 1971 Horse and Burro Act was based on emotions, not science.”

    Here’s a news flash jerk…..I don’t care what you personally think when it comes to MY wild equines. I expect you and the other trolls at DOI to OBEY THE LAW! But thank you so much for the public statement as it is so much ammunition for our side validating the prejudice and ignorance that permiates DOI/USDA/State Agencies.

    Hey scientist Bryce, question: Has the DOI/USDA EVER filed an EA or NEPA in FAVOR of the wild equines? Last I checked, the equines are ALWAYS the first to go, so I question whether you or any other “paid for” employee has the integrity to do anything ethical or moral.

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    • And just where is that science, Mr. Bryce? I’d say the BLM rounds up horses based on discrimination and emotion, not science.

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    • Cameron Bryce’s quote is my favorite bad guy saying. If wild horses do not belong here where they evolved where in the world do they belong?? Only here.

      The horses do not have 464 acres each as the mines, road improvements, cattle allotments have taken maybe half. of this by now.

      “Recently, BLM has said the horses must be removed because of damage to livestock fences. Hardly a reason to remove animals protected by a law which tasks BLM with protecting them from “harassment”, “capture” and “death” and which is supposed to manage them at the “minimal feasible level”as “free-roaming” “components” of the public lands and treat these animals humanely. Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. §1331 et seq.”

      This is the perfect example of the Pettiness BLM goes to in trying to justify this and other roundups. If the horses are fenced out of so many areas how can they survive?? That has been done gradually and surely to this end. If they didn’t get a new drought they could simulate one. People need to go in there and see what has been going on. It is not like we could not recognize signs. Laura sure could. But BLM will do everything it takes to keep control of these poor horses, pawns in their game, in order to prevent, also, anyone from going in there and figuring out the real order and scale of the events that have killed horses.

      May the judge keep listening and considering he may be played by BLM and the only way to know is to go look. mar

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  2. Just a reminder that the ever efficient and competent DOI with hired spin doctors paid by taxpayers new name for MMS is

    The New Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE)

    Now is that name a tongue twister and long enough to say that you forget what you’re talking about or what? Well maybe that’s the intention!

    Just impaired, sadly human thinking impaired, but consistent. My question is….how much did I as a taxpayer pay for that CRAP?!?!? And the BLM is BOEMREs counterpart.

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  3. I am hoping that with all the lawsuits, not only for the orses but also investigating DOI and oil, that change is imminent. I pray so.

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    • Cattle do not belong is western ecosystems. Much better beef comes from fenced in pasture lands in the Midwest. Plus, it actually rains in the Midwest year round on a regular basis.

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  4. I am just pissed that lease holders can leverage their permits for cash and land values all the while whacking wild equines, wolves, bison, coyotes and many endangered species. That’s what jacks my jaw!

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  5. The statement by Michael Lindinger, PhD, MSc, is based on SCIENTFIC RESEARCH. The BLM WH&BP has already admitted to a woeful lack of scientific research across the entire spectrum of its program. Dr. Lindinger has provided an important piece of the puzzle.

    BLM – wake up and smell the coffee! No actions should be taken before proveable, independent scientific research on any and all impacts to the wild ones has been undertaken and COMPLETE reports are made available to the general public.

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  6. I sometimes wonder if the oil and cattle are even the impetus for the raids now. I think they just are on a path of horse destruction and the train just can’t stop until it reaches the end of the line. There is NO science that the BLM can show in black and white. The whole program is based on make believe–the only thing real is the suffering of the horses. I’m holding on to hope that these lawsuits stick and that we get a judge that demands to see some fact-based rationalization for running the horses into the ground.

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    • When a dept.is on a budget there is always the big push to spend *every penny* of that budget or next year you will get less!

      There are even ways to create emergencys with higher costs to create the need for a higher budget next year.

      IMO, this is the way the BLM works with their millions. Except they don’t spend much at all on horse care.

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  7. If the BLM is not the bureau of horses, then they have NO business locating/herding/penning the horses. Let the BLM manage the land– locate/provide water sources for all wild roaming animals, remove fences that prevent wild roaming animals from roaming/grazing/finding food and water. Fences are not a natural land form. Remove all animals that are NOT wild roaming– such as cattle/sheep and others that come under the term “livestock”. ( This might include branded farm-released horses.) Manage the land— maybe there are too many elk in an area—round them up—-or are they protected under the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act? Call the President! Call BLM! Fight on! Save the horses!

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  8. To the idiot BLM ecologist Cameron Bryce, who said “the 1971 Horse and Burro Act was based on emotions, not science.” – It is NOT your place to make judgment calls as to why the law was passed (“will of the people, democracy and all that) —it is merely your job to ENFORCE it!! …Jerk.

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  9. Laura Allen, one of the best articles to date – thank you.

    I do not understand this portion though – is TCF there or is this some typo of sorts? – “According to The Cloud Foundation, other horses were “exhibiting signs of colic and brain swelling” from dehydration or water intoxication.”

    So BLM is putting anew spin on slaughter, but why waite till the slaughter plant? They are “cooking” them on the range! – “…temperatures within working muscles may be as high as 43°C (109.4°F), a temperature at which proteins in muscle begin to denature (cook).”

    Do we need to chip in and get BM a dictionary with a clip on the pages for “primary” and “use”? – “Buried in its Environmental Assessment, BLM says that to “leave …. wild horses on the range, could lead to negative impacts on livestock grazing management”. Agri-business does not want wild horses and burros on public lands it uses for livestock grazing. And neither does BLM.” I have I mind a particular line of expletives for what they can do with their livestock grazing management.

    And who is this un-American Cameron Bryce – emotions huh – everything in life is based on emotions, even the lust for science and pure fact – what a goof this person is – this is a BLM ecologist who does not know horses are indigenous – what better science than that – sorry Craig Downer, but this person makes ecologists look like a bunch of overeducated morons. So will Bryce next say the American Indian does not belong on the reservations – that would be true science – I would agree – so Bryce would be in favor of giving them back all their land then – that would be the “scientific” thing to do right? Bryce needs to read the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution and then point out which parts are NOT based on emotion? – “A BLM ecologist Cameron Bryce has said, “Wild horses do not belong in western ecosystems….the 1971 Horse and Burro Act was based on emotions, not science.”

    Rant complete – for now.

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  10. Congress unanimously passed the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act. I don’t care if it was “emotional” or not — it passed. And now the “intent” of it is being undermined by the BLM.

    On CNN Jane said –the horses look great –until they are rounded up and put in pens–then they die. And she asks about the relationship between the horse round-ups and the Ruby pipeline.

    Remember this number 17 minutes is all it takes for horses to begin to suffer from heat exhaustion– so when BLM runs them for miles, they run them to death. Fight! Call Obama! Stop BLM!

    Like

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