When Faced with Facts the BLM turns Silent
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – The Chicago based Equine Welfare Alliance issued a press release Monday alleging a Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board member, Robin Lohnes, may be working behind a shell organization to bolster her position as an equine welfare advocate on that board.
“Lohnes is the executive director of the American Horse Protection Association (AHPA). The AHPA has no website and maintains only a small, unoccupied office on the lower level of a Georgetown hotel,” EWA stated. “If the organization has been involved in any activity (horse protection or otherwise) since the 1990’s they have managed to conceal it both from Google and from the hotel’s maid who told an EWA investigator that she had never observed anyone in the office.”
Horseback Magazine did a Google search for information on the organization and confirmed the findings of EWA. The magazine then asked BLM chief Washington spokesman, Tom Gory, if the agency was investigating the animal welfare organization’s allegation regarding Lohnes and her group.
“Simply put, the BLM does not accept your contentions about this organization,” was Gorey’s reply.
Horseback Magazine made no contentions about Lohnes or her organization, yet in an interview with her earlier in the year the board member claimed her organization was legitimate and had thousands of members. At that time we confirmed what EWA recently found. An office in a Georgetown hotel sat vacant and was not used although Lohnes name as well as the name of the American Horse Protection Association was on the door.
Horseback asked EWA Vice President Vicki Tobin to again confirm her organization’s recent findings.
“I just called the hotel where her “office” is located,” she said. “I said Iwas going to be visiting DC in the near future and wanted to visit the AHPAoffices but haven’t been able to get in contact with them. I asked if the lower level office was still there and she (the hotel official) said yes, but there is rarely anyone in the office and to make sure I contact them because if I just stop by, chances are nobody will be there.”
“In the 80s and early 90s AHPA was a huge advocate for the horses,” Tobin continued. “Obviously, things have changed.”
“Clearly Lohnes got control some how and left the organization in cold storage so she could play on its old reputation,” said EWA President John Holland of Virginia. ” But that only works for a short time. Sooner or later someone is going to notice the corpse isn’t breathing.”
The office is located at 1000 29th St. NW.
For an organization with such a low profile, the AHPA appears to be well funded. In its most recent IRS filing required of non profit cheritable organizations, the group had assets of $985,848 and income of $1.417,718 for 2008.
Lohnes appointed four academics to determine if BLM “gather” procedures were humane. The group, some longtime supporters of horse slaughter, gave the agency a clean bill of health. In 2009 BLM discussed euthanizing thousands of wild horses because it’s program of captureing them was out of control and over budget. But the discussions were leaked to the Associated Press which did a story. A firestorm of protest erupted among wild horse advocates and the horse loving public. The agency shelved the proposals.
“If the observers think butchering a live horse is humane, they certainly wouldn’t find fault with the BLMs handling of wild horses.” Tobin said.
Horseback also spoke with the EWA investigator who originally went on site to determine if Lohnes’ organization staffed a viable office.
“This is exactly what the person behind the hotel desk told me when I went to see her,” said the investigator who declined to be identified. “There are no posted hours outside the door and there was no one in the office. There was one light on in the office. It looks like a hotel room was converted to an office because the basic layout is what you would see in a hotel room and there is a bathroom. The front part of the office (the only part I was able to see) had pictures of Robin on horses and there was one empty desk with a small desk lamp. On either side of the door is a large window and the door was locked with no sign that anyone would return to the office.”
Horseback Magazine’s questions to the BLM spokesman, Gorey, were journalistic, reasonable, and polite. We said:
“In light of the issue raised by the Equine Welfare Alliance regarding BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Member Robin Lohnes organization – what is the agency doing to verify the information in the release they sent out and that we printed. FYI, months ago I received the same information they used from a source independent of them and confirmed that her offices is really just a shell, or mail drop, and is never used. My confirmation came from sources within the building. Further, I had highly respected and trustworthy investigator go to the building and confirm what was reported. I didn’t do the story on this months ago because I was just too busy to get to it. Further, I’m pretty well connected in the equine community and can’t find anybody who has crossed paths with Lohnes or her organization in a very long time other than one horse rescue organization that said in a blog post they had received a questionnaire. Lohnes purports she is the head of a 10,000 member equine welfare organization. When I interviewed her months ago she was sketchy in the information she was willing to provide to me regarding her membership and funding. I have never heard of a single person who is a member.”
We continued in our note to Gorey, “So the question is this. If this organization is bogus, as it appears, is BLM investigating? Has homeland security been called in? Is the director considering asking for her resignation from the board? As you know, if this continues to check out it will reflect badly on the administration and there tends to be a domino effect when things like this surface. Has the White House been notified of EWA’s findings? Has BLM received instructions in the matter from Pennsylvania Ave?”
Gorey would not respond Horseback’s questions regarding Lohnes’ organization.
“We continued, asking, “Also, the EWA is claiming that some of the handpicked experts Lohnes chose and you named in your press release are longtime horse slaughter advocates. In light of Abbey’s attendance and speech at the upcoming Vegas event will BLM now acknowledge that despite its stated prohibition to slaughter it in fact supports the slaughter of wild horses?”
Gorey responded saying, “The BLM does not support the slaughter of wild horses, as made clear by Director’s statement at http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2010/december/NR_12_03_2010.html
Our inquiry continued saying, “Finally, I continue to hear of unbranded wild horses being taken from BLM lands and ending up in slaughter auctions. Is BLM doing anything to police its contractors and truck drivers to determine if there is trafficking in stolen government property (horses) going on?
“If you have any evidence whatsoever that wild horses are being stolen from BLM-managed public lands, please provide that information to the BLM and our law enforcement rangers will look into it.”
Horseback Magazine has recently been informed that BLM rangers have un-holstered their weapons in the presence of wild horse advocates and threatened them. BLM has consistently refused to call in outside law enforcement organizations or observers.
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