Horse News

Wild Horse Stampede Traps Must Be Accessible, Reporters Committee Argues

Gestapo-Style, Covert BLM Operations Must End

Horseback Magazine correspondents R.T. Fitch and Laura Leigh held at great distance from operations by BLM during recent Antelope Complex helicopter stampede ~ photo by Horseback Chief Photographer Terry Fitch

Washington, D.C. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press urged a federal appeals court this week to order a federal trial court to reconsider its decision that a photographer’s First Amendment rights were not violated when she was not allowed to photograph the roundup of wild horses on federal land in Nevada.

Joined by the National Press Photographer’s Association, the Reporters Committee told the U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Cir.) in the case of Leigh v. Salazar argues that rules established by the Bureau of Land Management, which operates under the authority of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, amount to an unconstitutional restriction of the right to gather news on government property.

Photojournalist Leigh sought access to witness the BLM Silver King wild horse gather in Nevada, in which wranglers round up excess wild horses on government land. Hearing reports that horses had been mistreated, Leigh sought to photograph the gather but was allowed only limited access. The district court denied Leigh’s motion to gain additional access to the roundup, ruling the action moot as it had already occurred and that Leigh was unlikely to succeed on the merits of her claim.

“The First Amendment protects the people’s right to access and gather information,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “Any government attempt to prevent people from witnessing public events on public land has to meet a high and limited bar, which the district court did not require the BLM to meet in this case.”

The friend of the court brief argues that the issue is far from moot, as the likelihood of future horse gathers on government land necessitates a decision regarding the First Amendment issues raised, including the right to gather news of public interest and the right of access to events on government property.

“The evidence that [Leigh] and other members of the public were prevented from viewing significant portions of the horse gather raises serious doubts as to whether the restrictions were justified in light of the First Amendment right at issue,” the brief argues.

The Reporters Committee and NPPA urge the appeals court to send the case back to the district court to not only reconsider its ruling that the issue is moot, but also to weigh the First Amendment rights at issue against the government’s restrictions on access and newsgathering.

The Reporters Committee-NPPA brief is available online.

Founded in 1970 to combat an increase in subpoenas seeking reporters’ confidential sources, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to more than 2,000 working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee sets up special event reporters’ hotlines, is a party in amicus briefs and statements of support, and it offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists year-round.

For more information, go to, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.

21 replies »

  1. This is HUGE…these are two very important groups. Ken Salazar, CAN YOU HEAR US NOW?
    The STEERING COMMITTEE for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:
    SCOTT APPLEWHITE, The Associated Press
    DAVID BOARDMAN, Seattle Times
    CHIP BOK, Creators Syndicate
    ERIKA BOLSTAD, McClatchy Newspapers
    JESS BRAVIN, The Wall Street Journal
    RICHARD S. DUNHAM, Houston Chronicle
    ASHLEA EBELING, Forbes Magazine
    FRED GRAHAM, InSession
    JOHN C. HENRY, Freelance
    NAT HENTOFF, United Media Newspaper Syndicate
    TONY MAURO, National Law Journal
    DOYLE MCMANUS, Los Angeles Times
    MAGGIE MULVIHILL, New England Center for Investigative Reportering
    BILL NICHOLS, Politico
    SANDRA PEDDIE, Newsday
    DANA PRIEST, The Washington Post
    JIM RUBIN, Bloomberg News
    ERIC SCHMITT, The New York Times
    ALICIA SHEPARD, National Public Radio
    PAUL STEIGER, Pro Publica


    • I was going to say a simple WOW!!!

      But your post with the laundry list of those journalists/photo journalists involved is far beyond impressive.

      Agreed….THIS IS BIG!


      • NOW!! that’s what I’m talking about people you should have “ALREADY” been lined up to”FIGHT” for our Wild Horses! Come on people don’t you agree that our wild horses have been tortured and have suffered enough? Our precious beautiful”Wild Horses why they are”SO DESERVING of “REAL HELP RIGHT NOW!!” Come on move it “ALREADY BEFORE THEY SLIP THRU OUR HANDS!!” Save our Wild Horses GO! GO! GO!!!!

        By Tina Wooten Your Animal Whisperer


  2. Inquiring minds want to know – if BLM is on the side of the angels, if they are righteous in their methods and their contractors are doing nothing wrong, why is this aspect of the Wild Horse and Burro Program so contentious, so secret?
    Wild Equines couldn’t possibly be classified as state secrets; surely reports or pictures of a couple of broken or exhausted animals wouldn’t shake the foundations of Democracy. And yet…
    An EA, regardless of how ‘preliminary’, is a done deal. Nothing public can sway the Bureau from it’s self-appointed duty. Until the Calico Debacle, they were as sure as they could be of their authority to deny the public access to it’s own land.
    If there is nothing going on during a round-up to be ashamed of, why the media blackout?
    The only reason to go all Black Ops in matters of wild equines is if you KNOW you’re doin’ dirty.


    • Only need secrecy when you are wiping out wild horses in direct violation of federal law you are mandated to enforce and uphold. Time to shine a light on all aspects of the wild horse and burro program and this includes where they have all of them hidden in equine concentration camps.


  3. “The First Amendment protects the people’s right to access and gather information,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “Any government attempt to prevent people from witnessing public events on public land has to meet a high and limited bar, which the district court did not require the BLM to meet in this case.”

    Thank you! THank you! Thank YOU! Time to end the arbitrary, capricious and vindictive rule of the BLM! Newsflash BLM: You do not get to make up rules as you go along.


  4. Ain’t it the truth! It’s not like these trolls are protecting new weapons technologies or operations plans for Iraq/Afghanistan.

    Seriously, where do these equine haters and sloppy courts come up with this crap????

    MOOT MY WILD BURRO!!! (aka A**)


    • Judge Hicks just chaps my chaps with the “moot” approach as a sound legal framing.

      Moot? Excuse me, but Your Honor, take a look at the previous attempts to gain access to roundups…err massacres by advocates that are trying to report objectively that are also credentialed journalists, take a look at you legal reasoning for NOT answering the First Amendment question and then take a long HARD look at the schedule featured in the previous blog thread by Mr. Fitch! The crux of the suit was the CONTINUAL DENIAL OF ACCESS, SPECIFICALLY THE ONE LISTED (ANTELOPE VALLEY?) BUT DEMONSTRATES A PATTERN (REPEAT PATTERN) OF DENIED ACCESS BY JOURNALISTS, PARTICULARLY CERTAIN ONES.

      Moot my wild burro…I will repeat.

      Ain’t nothin’ moot about this US Court system and it seems other professional journalists agree.


      • Sorry…should have read “…DENIED ACCESS OF JOURNALISTS..”, not “BY”.

        Last I checked “moot” means to overcome by events and the “events” just seem to be continuing. Guess the courts are squabbling about 16 digit grid coordinates…not the under reported carnage and butchering of the 1971 ACT.


  5. Maybe the BLM, in addition to not being good with math, also has trouble with the alphabet. They seem to think they are the CIA.


  6. I hope Ken Salazar read of this and got and started his day with a very big headache. No Kenny we will not go away. Laura has not gone away, bless her perseverance and her continuing to record the events of the continuing saga of the mishandling of our national treasures. Now I have to go get some coffee and start reading the documents that Laura and her attorney Mr. Cowan have supplied to the court.


  7. Salazar ain’t afer’d of nothin’…’ceptin’ big Ag and resource suckin’ megoliths. And the Obama Administration, along with previous have gotten the “don’t mess with Ag OR extraction divas” message a LONG TIME ago.

    Regardless, we will not quit the noble fight for justice, truth and flat out decency for many, including our equines.


  8. YESSSSS! It’s about time some other BIG people ( group) step up to the poteum & enter into this fight. One person fighting a battle for all Reporters & Jurnalist WHO WORK FOR THE PEOPLE just isn’t fair.
    Maybe now the Government/ Courts will listen!
    Dear Laura, you will go down in History as one that MOVED MOUNTAINS no matter what the court decides.
    We love you, Sweet Lady.


  9. Excellent job! They know this has far reaching inplecations. Who are the BLM WORKING FOR ANYWAY? Hmmm..doesn’t the land
    belong to the American people? Let’s stop an ABC, NBC and local
    news reporters from reporting the news….I truly believe this is
    news worthy for Americans in our country. Last time I looked this
    wasn’t a dictatorship nor do I EVER WANY MY NEWS TO BE
    right…perhaps this would be another issue for my Legislator. Isn’t
    this a violation of my constitutional right if I chose to attend a


  10. Thank you Laura, keep up your incredible work – you will make history and I am thrilled to hear this. I wish you all the best, always.


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