Agency denies need for same protection it requires of all mustang adopters
In late January Lisa Friday and Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation (TCF) met with BLM District Manager, Mark Storzer, in Rock Springs, Wyoming to discuss ways to protect the over 600 horses held captive in the 30-year-old corral facility. Harsh westerly winds regularly blast the corrals and the BLM has tried to deal with the problem in the past by putting up plywood on the corral panels, but few of the wooden windbreaks remain.
“At the meeting, we discussed what might work for windbreaks and Mr. Storzer indicated that plywood is too heavy and the wind could topple the entire fence,” states Kathrens, Executive Director of the Colorado-based wild horse advocacy organization. “A week after our meeting with Mr. Storzer, we were excited to find a state-of-the-art lightweight product that is easy to install. I contacted Mr. Storzer and Joan Guilfoyle, Chief of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program in DC, to let them know what we had found and that we were willing to purchase the material and have it installed at no cost to the agency.”
“But BLM chose to look a gift horse in the mouth,” states Friday, a TCF Board Member and wild horse adopter. “Via email, Mr. Storzer reversed course and told us ‘This facility has been in operation for many years and there has not been a need to install or construct wind breaks.’ “
During the same time period, Kathrens informed the American Humane Association (AHA) of the situation. They communicated with BLM, asking to help with the corral windbreak project and received a conflicting letter from the DC office of BLM in which Ed Roberson, Assistant Director of Resources and Planning stated that “Animals held at the facility receive… protection from the harsh winds through both man-made and natural windbreaks…”
Mr. Storzer explained in his email why there is no need for wind protection for the mustangs saying “On the range, within these herd management areas, the weather conditions are cold with few natural wind breaks due to the desert terrain.”
Carol Walker, noted wild horse photographer, author, and Board Member for the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, disagrees with Mr. Storzer’s statement. Walker has photographed horses in the area for years and states “I was just in the area two weeks ago prior to the big snow storm that came in, and I watched several bands of horses move to sheltered, protected areas that had little to no wind because of high cliffs. This area, which has many rock formations, mesas, and cliffs has an abundance of shelter for wild horses. These horses have the freedom to get out of the worst of the storm unlike their extremely unlucky brethren who are trapped in pens with no windbreak and no alternative but to huddle together in the freezing cold, snow, and wind. This is not humane treatment. This is abusive.”
Justin Scally, National Director for Humane Intervention at American Humane Association in Washington, D.C. said, “American Humane Association remains deeply concerned about the welfare of hundreds of beautiful horses after hearing reports that they are being warehoused without basic and/or adequate sources of shelter. These animals are now dependent on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for their protection and while we applaud their requirement that potential adopters provide basic shelter for any horse someone adopts – they must be held to the same minimum standard.”
“How hypocritical to require shelter for adopted animals but those kept captive for years are provided none,” adds Friday. “The BLM’s denial of help seems short-sighted if their main concern is for these poor horses that can no longer find shelter as they would in the wild.”
“In many states, confining horses in conditions like this is illegal!” stated Timothy J. Harvey, Humane Advocate, BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. “The fact that these windbreaks would be installed at NO cost to the BLM is in direct line with recommendations the Advisory Board has made in the past regarding accepting volunteers’ help both financially and with volunteer labor efforts. I do not understand why the BLM would turn down this offer.”
Adopters of any wild horse must provide proof of shelter before they can obtain an animal. Specific instructions state, “You must provide shelter from weather and temperature extremes for your adopted wild horse or burro. Shelters must be a two-sided structure with a roof, well-drained, adequately ventilated, and accessible to the animal(s). The two sides need to block the prevailing winds and need to protect the major part of the bodies of the horse or burro.”
Ed Roberson publicly asks for help in managing wild horses, yet continues to refuse help to care for those animals the BLM is supposed to be caring for.
Kathrens first contacted Mr. Roberson and Ms. Guilfoyle over a month ago regarding wind protection for the Rock Springs horses. To date Mr. Roberson has not responded to Ms. Kathrens. Ms. Guilfoyle only responded after she received a draft of the Press Release on Feb. 27, 2014 from Paula Todd King, Communications Director for TCF. Ms. Guilfoyle indicated she did not have time to review the “draft docs” by today. “We are unclear which ‘draft docs’ she is referring to besides the press release itself,” commented King. “Ms. Guilfoyle suggested we proceed with the press release.”
“In the meantime, a foal has recently been born in the corrals, the first of likely numerous wild horse babies,” Kathrens concludes. “This little one and the other little ones to come deserve protection. (Please see attached photo) I remain hopeful that something positive can be accomplished to help the captive mustangs.”
photography by Carol Walker, soundtrack from Opus Moon’s Wild Horse Anthology “Let Them Be Wild And Free” available on iTunes, produced by R.T. Fitch