The Forgotten Horses – at least that is what the BLM wants them to be.
by Carol J. Walker, Director Of Field Documentation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation
I spent three weeks in September and October of 2017 observing the roundup and removal of 1968 wild horses from Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek, three of the largest remaining Herd Management Areas in Wyoming and the country.
Although the Environmental Assessment prepared by the BLM prior to the Roundup said that they would remove 1560 wild horses total from all three Herd Management Areas, they illegally proceeded to remove a total of 1968 wild horses, contending that the 408 captured and removed foals and yearlings “didn’t count.” Although the BLM’s own numbers showed that they would only be able to remove 1560 wild horses total without bringing each Herd Management Area below Appropriate Management Level, which is illegal, and despite a lawsuit brought to stop this from happening, the horses were removed, with great and unseemly haste.
I have observed the last few roundups in these three areas, in 2014, 2011, 2010, 2005 and never have I seen horses removed and shipped so rapidly, with such unseemly haste. In the past, wild horses captured would be loaded into trailers and taken to a “temporary holding facility” where they would be sorted by age and sex, left to settle and then finally after a few days to a week shipped to the short term holding facility where they would be given freeze brands, vaccinations, have blood drawn for a Coggins test, if male, they would be gelded, and then all of them would be available for public observation. If they were younger than 10 years old, they would be available for adoption, and if they were older than 10 they would be available for sale.
Now, for this 2017 Checkerboard Roundup the Cattoors were shipping the horses from the temporary holding facility within hours of capture, before we were even able to see them. We would finally be allowed to enter the area where the horses were being held after hours waiting and after seeing huge semis pull out filled with horses, only to see very few horses left in the temporary corrals.
In past roundups in these Herd Management Areas, the majority of the horses would be shipped to the BLM facility at Canon City, Colorado or to the facility at Rock Springs, Wyoming. Both of these facilities are open to public observation and adoption and sale of the horses. Instead, we were told that there was a “problem with the contract” with Canon City, so as a last minute change the majority of the horses would be shipped to a private facility in Axtell, Utah and several hundred would be shipped to another private facility in Bruneau, Iadaho. When I learned this, I was immediately alarmed. How would anyone be able to adopt them if they could not see them? When I asked two of the Public Affairs Specialists who were working this roundup this question, Heather Tiel-Nelson and Jason Lutterman, they both repeatedly assured me that all the horses would be prepared for adoption and the BLM would not keep the public from observing and adopting the gathered horses.
After the 2014 Roundup, Ginger Kathrens and I traveled to the Canon City Facility in November and photographed and filmed the horses that had been rounded up and posted photographs and videos online and used our social media contacts to spread the word very widely. We were extremely effective in getting many more horses than usual adopted, especially the older horses whom I am most concerned about and whom are always harder to place. The staff at Canon City were extremely helpful to members of the public who called and emailed wanting particular horses, and aiding in reuniting wild horse family members who had been torn apart during the roundup. They acted as though they wanted the horses to be adopted, sold and placed in good homes.
I traveled to Rock Springs as as well at the end of February, 2015 when the facility reopened and was ready to allow the public to observe and adopt horses, and I again photographed the horses and spread the photographs far and wide. The staff at Rock Springs was extremely accommodating, going to great lengths to help members of the public, including me, to find particular horses and assist in reuniting families. They genuinely wanted to help as many horses as possible find good homes.
My experience has been vastly different this time. I have gone to considerable trouble, as has Ginger Kathrens, trying to get access to the holding facility in Axtell, Utah where most of the 1968 wild horses rounded up have been sent, and also the facility in Bruneau, Idaho. We were told no or ignored.
This is what Lisa Reid, Public Information Specialist from Utah had this reply to our request to go photograph and video the horses in order to facilitate adoption and sales of the horses:
“I received your email regarding the WY Checkerboard horses at the Bruneau Off-Range Corrals. Since the Bruneau Corrals are not open to the public, the horses will be offered at events and other BLM corrals after they foal and the foals are old enough to be weaned. As in Utah and Wyoming, the Bruneau Corrals will not be taking requests from the public to hold specific horses, but as the horses are able to be shipped (after foaling and weaning) to other locations they will be available for adoption or purchase.We have an annual public tour in the late spring/early summer each year and the public will be able to view and photograph the horses during the tour. At this time we do not have a date identified, but it will most likely occur between May and June, as it has the past two years. Please let me know if you have any other questions. ”
When I asked why the public would not be able to get specific horses this is what she said:
“In our experience, when people are ready and prepared to adopt, they will adopt. Unfortunately, we do not have the staff time available to track certain horses and retain those horses with the hope that someone who has placed a hold on one will indeed adopt them in the end. Adoptions are based on a first come, first served protocol at most of the adoption events.”
Last, Ginger contacted Holle Hooks (Wadell), Wild Horse and Burro Program, and we were finally told that 800 of the horses would be sent to the Delta short term holding facility in late February early March and we could come in then.
What about the rest of the 1168 horses? There are about 200 at Rock Springs, and they just had an adoption event for 60 mares last weekend, but where are the rest of the horses? What are they doing with these horses? Why won’t they let us see or photograph or video these horses?
The youngest horses may be offered at adoption events but not the older horses. What am I supposed to tell the people who are contacting me, wanting to adopt specific horses? Too bad? Good luck?
As we are waiting for Congress to vote on the 2019 Budget, are they assuming that Congress will vote to kill the 46,000 wild horses in holding, and hoping that we will forget about these recently rounded up Checkerboard horses? Why aren’t they motivated to help us get these horses placed? Have some of them already been shipped to slaughter?
Yes the facilities at Axtell and Bruneau are private – but they have contracts with the BLM to hold these horses, they are being paid huge sums of our money to keep the horses there and we all need to remember that THESE ARE OUR HORSES. The BLM should not be able to hide them away, or to ship all the horses over 5 years old to long term holding facilities where they never allow horses to be adopted from. The BLM staff should not be able to decide that it is too much trouble for them to help the public identify and adopt particular horses when doing so facilitates more adoptions. The BLM is behaving as though all they want to do is to do away with all these horses. This is not right. This should not be allowed. I will NOT forget about these horses and neither should the American public.
If you want to help, I am providing email addresses and phone numbers below of the people who should be bothered to do something to help these horses. Please spread the word. What I want is for Ginger Kathrens and I, Carol Walker to be allowed to visit all the wild horses brought in during the Checkerboard Roundup that are now at the facilities in Axtell, Utah and at Bruneau, Idaho and to be able to photograph them and video them, and get the word out in order to help them get placed by adoption or sale. I would also like the cooperation of BLM staff to facilitate this so that people can contact them about adopting particular horses. I feel that this is the very least they can do.
Holle Hooks, Wild Horse and Burro Program: 405 579-1862 firstname.lastname@example.org
Krystal Wengreen, Public Information Specialist, Bruneau, Idaho: email@example.com (208) 329-4534
Axtell, Utah Holding Facility Owner, Kerry Despain: 435-528-3990
Read this article HERE.