Horse News

Judge Hears Arguments on Controversial Proposal to Roundup Wild Horses and Burros

Source: By Sarah Favot of the Pasadena Star-News

“They can’t speak for themselves so we have to speak for them,”

Twin Peaks Horses just prior to 2010 roundup ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Twin Peaks Horses just prior to 2010 roundup ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

PASADENA — Wildlife activists packed a federal appeals court hearing Thursday afternoon to oppose the roundup of wild horses, which were recognized by the 1971 Congress as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.”

“It’s cruelty,” said Patty Shenker of Tarzana, who has rescued five horses. “I want to see wild animals stay in the wild and enjoy it.”

In a 2010 lawsuit, In Defense of Animals alleges the Bureau of Land Management violated the Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it planned to round up about 2,300 wild horses and burrows in 2010 on the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area, which consists of about 800,000 acres in Northeastern California and Northwest Nevada. About 180 wild horses and burros were to be released back into the wild. The remaining horses were transported to BLM facilities for adoption, sale or long-term holding in private facilities, under what In Defense of Animals describes as “zoo-like” conditions.

While In Defense of Animals filed an injunction to stop the roundup, the motion was denied and the roundup went forward.

A total of 1,799 horses and burros were gathered and 59 were returned to the range. Fifteen animals died, according to BLM’s website.

In November, a U.S. district court judge ruled in favor of BLM and the U.S. Department of Interior saying the roundup did not violate the NEPA or WFRHBA.

In Defense of Animals appealed and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments for about one hour Thursday afternoon.

The Act, approved by Congress in 1971, allows the Department of Interior to manage the population of wild horses if the natural ecological balance of the land is threatened.

The wildlife advocacy organization’s attorney Rachel Fazio said BLM did not adequately prove wild horses solely threatened the ecological balance at Twin Peaks.

“In this situation, that benchmark was not established by BLM before they proceeded to round up 80 percent of the animals on this range,” said Fazio.

Mark R. Haag, BLM’s attorney, argued BLM had established the number of horses on the range exceeded the appropriate management level. He said areas of the range were trampled, vegetation was lost and cultural artifacts were damaged due to erosion.

“My problem here is I thought the purpose was to achieve a thriving natural ecological balance and that the appropriate management level determination was just a tool to get to that thriving natural ecological balance, but it seems to me the agency disregarded that,” said Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson.

Jack Carone, communications and campaigns director for In Defense of Animals, said if the court rules in their favor, he hopes other parties would question other BLM roundups.

Apache Running-Hawk Daklugie, who grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico, described the sacred relationship between wild horses and Native Americans.

“They’re brothers and sisters to us,” he said. “We painted and fought with them. We went to war with them and we tamed them.”

Tonya Littlewolf, founder of Wolf Mountain Sanctuary in Lucerne Valley, said during the roundups some horses’ hooves fall off and their legs are broken.

“They can’t speak for themselves so we have to speak for them,” she said.

She was hopeful the case would rule in the activists’ favor.

“I feel it will be a good thing today because God walks with us and these are his creatures,” she said. “He made animals before He made us.”

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15 replies »

  1. This is so sad, I have fought this all my life. I thought we had won many years ago, I can see we haven’t. I have my Beautiful horses in my Prayers every day, for Mother earth and all of her wonderful creatures. Many blessings to of you who are working so hard.


  2. Glad to see that rest of the American population is finally weighing in their thoughts about horses. Scoundrels like Ben Shelly and Ernie Zah were giving the native Americans a bad light. Horses do heal whether they are in the wild or domestic. They have that ability. They teach us far more than wr can learn from each other. why can’t these humans see this?


    • That is a lot to hope for isn’t it, Grandma Gregg. I must say that Judge Rawlinson seem very level headed about this brief. She seemed to understand the hypocrisy of creating an AML from 15 year old data. She also seemed to understand that it represented what was really wrong with the round ups. The BLM had not proven that the land was threated by wild horses and burros. She indicated that the clear point of the law was achieving thriving ecological balance. We also had two less favorable judges on that panel. They did not seem negative, they seemed less interested in the facts and more interested in precedent. I remain hopeful, nonetheless. It was good to see so many people in that court room supporting the wild horses and burros. And, for the most part all were very quiet and polite throughout the hearing. I am glad that I went.


  3. We all are praying for ONCE that this court & judge will finally see the light of day, do what must be done what is right. The comments does give me hope…… Please let this be good news….. Thank you ALL so very much for standing up and fighting so very hard, God Bless


  4. Wild Burro Protection League – operating under Todd Mission Rescue
    14 hours ago (from facebook)

    Today I attended the court hearing on the Twin Peaks HMA. I am thrilled to say that the court was full, completely full, and there was a strong Native American presence as well.

    Grievances were brought forth by In Defense of Animals and Dream Catchers, litigated by Rachel Fazio. She did a terrific job, and as each of the three judges went through their questions to both the petitioner and the petitioned, it became clear that they knew little of the Wild Horse and Burro program. One judge stood out as having a great deal of common sense and zeroed in on the heart of the matter, which is the Thriving Ecological Balance sought by all. She indicated in her questioning that she believed that setting grazing allotments did not necessarily provide for Thriving Ecological Balance and that the BLM’s premise that it did, was false.

    Rachel Fazio presented her case well, and countered equally well when the BLM lawyer tried to fudge numbers and actually told the judge he could not give direct numbers when she asked about EA assessment information. He was caught being truly disingenuous at least twice. Great job Rachel, and I hope they rule in our favor. The other two judges struck me as being out of touch and one was slightly negative. No matter who this court rules in favor of the decision will be appealed and it will go to the supreme court. Stay tuned.


    • “One judge stood out as having a great deal of common sense and zeroed in on the heart of the matter, which is the Thriving Ecological Balance sought by all. She indicated in her questioning that she believed that setting grazing allotments did not necessarily provide for Thriving Ecological Balance and that the BLM’s premise that it did, was false.”
      This is sort of significant. Don’t you think? I do hope this will be followed up. Glad that you went and thanks Grandma Gregg for your synopsis as it is better than the above article.


      • The above synopsis was from Marjorie Farabee who is the Wild Horse Freedom Federation director of wild burro affairs and manager of the Wild Burro Protection League – operating under Todd Mission Rescue and also known as “Miss Abby”. She was in attendance in court and gave the above reviews. Thank you Marjorie.


  5. As with criminal trials, of which the wild equines appear to be the criminals by BLM standards… can BLM attribute the supposed damage solely and 100% to wild equines????? Good God….common sense alone says there is more living things and events than those wild equines. Seriously, how can these cretins keep getting away with this lying krap?????

    Didn’t they remove 80%+ wild equines in that area????

    Seems to me (and many others), the evidence is either mishandled or falsified. Waiting for the day that a USDA, DOI and state employee will expose the conspiracy by those agencies to exterminate, NOT protect our wild equines.

    Glad to hear it was a “packed” court room.


  6. I just got a message from Rachel Fazio, the attorney for this case, and she asked me to “please let people know how much their support is appreciated”.

    Thank you Rachel Fazio and thank you to all supporters. I will try to share more information later but for now … we wait.


  7. In my protest of this outrageous roundup from the Twin Peaks wh HMA where BLM has decided to allocate 83% of forage to livestock, I predicted that if they gutted the wild horse and burro herds here — which they proceeded glibly to do — there was very probably going to result a catastrophic fire. And there was last summer then over 315,000 acres burned. You see the wild horses and burros can reach much more steep and rugged, rocky areas where the livestock do not reach and their digestive systems are perfectly equipped to reducing this dry coarse flammable vegetation without burning up their metabolism. This I explain in Ch. II on wh/b ecology of my book The Wild Horse Conspiracy, available on amazon as eBook or in print or through me via



    It was subtle, it was sweet and done with such professional flair that most people would have missed it on the first go around but a second viewing cements the words and causes the jaws to drop. Clare Major, of the New York Times, caught on video BLM Wild Horse Stampede contractor Dave Cattoor discussing with his company and BLM personnel the process of killing a horse, that his firm would injure, and how to hide it and dispose of it in such a manner that the public and press would not see it or become aware of the incident. How sweet is that?

    The New York Times covered the Twin Peaks roundup with a story and an informative video. The video contains an interesting exchange between BLM helicopter contractor Dave Cattoor and one of his wranglers. They are discussing strategy to prevent public observers from getting photos of horses injured in the roundups.
    Video and partial transcript below.

    D.Cattoor: If something happens, we’re going to correct it quickly –
    Wrangler: Okay.

    D.Cattoor: — just like we talked about. If it’s a broken leg, we’re going to put it down.
    Wrangler: Okay.

    D.Cattoor: Slide it on the trailer, same thing, and go to town with it.
    Wrangler: Okay. D.Cattoor: We’re not going to give them that one shot they want.

    Wrangler: Okay. You got it.”


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