Wild Burros

Wild Horse Freedom Federation finds out the truth about America’s wild horses & burros

Source: Wild Horse Freedom Federation


Letter from USDA’s Forest Service informing us that they had no records of the Devil’s Garden wild horses for almost a 4 month period of time (Click on each page to enlarge or print)

by Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Wild Horse Freedom Federation has been working diligently, over many years, trying to find out the truth about what is happening to America’s wild horses & burros.

We currently have 9 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed for violations of FOIA law by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

We have completed 8 other FOIA lawsuits for violations of FOIA law by the BLM in the past few years.

The Bureau of Land Management, an agency of the Department of the Interior, continues to lack transparency.  We file these FOIA requests to obtain records for YOU.  As we review FOIA records, we are continually finding out new information that the BLM has not shared with the public on their BLM website, or even at National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board meetings.

We currently have about 17 FOIA requests filed with multiple government agencies.

Wild Horse Freedom Federation’s Directors have spent many hours reviewing tens of thousands of pages of FOIA records.  We have shared these FOIA records with members of Congress, with the media, with other advocacy groups and organizations, and with the public.  You can find some of the records on Wild Horse Freedom Federation’s documentation page in a series called THE TRUTH.

We also currently have 1 FOIA Appeal filed with the USDA’s Forest Service, who claimed they had no records regarding the Devil’s Garden wild horses over almost a 4 month period of time (see letter at top of this page).  In other words, they claimed there is not one email, not one Bill of Sale, not one piece of paper.

Wild Horse Freedom Federation will continue to fight for transparency.  We need your help to continue our work.  Please donate here: http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/donate/

Be sure to subscribe HERE to Wild Horse Freedom Federation, so that you can receive email alerts.




28 replies »

  1. I would think thats problematic, right? Isnt there some kind of regulation that would ensure that records are kept???? I realize this agency is yet another agency (like BLM) that seems to have difficulty with record keeping – to put it mildly. I mean in a normal business situation, records must be kept – am I jumping to a conclusion here – that even government agencies should be keeping records?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I had a similar experience with the Forest Service when I filed a FOIA about a harassment incident regarding a Forest Service employee and a person camping in the forest. Their reply came back saying they didn’t have anything about it on record. Sweep, sweep, sweep…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So the FOIA office is saying that there was no communication between the USFS and Laura Snell? How then, did they communicate the removal and sale of the hundreds and hundreds of wild horses? Did they communicate by using carrier pigeons? OH, WAIT! That would never work because Snell would certainly have EATEN the pigeons!

    “… Ms. Snell has not only used the preliminary results of her study to advocate for the removal of the Devil’s Garden horses but also to position herself as a vocal supporter of horse slaughter, stating: “I really think the sale of horses should be allowed. I think if there are groups that want to buy those horses and keep them, that should be fine. If there’s a group that would like to eat those horses, I think that’s fine.” Ms. Snell made these remarks as an employee of the State of California, where the cruel practice of horse slaughter has been banned for more than two decades!


    • It seems our estimable USFS told Debbie to go FOIA herself.

      No records of any sort for paid contracts that were highly publicized and scrutined by the public as well as the USFS, The Farm Bureau, UC Davis, and others? From a post on this thread just The Farm Bureau was awarded half a million by USFS.

      If there is no paper trail of any sort this should lead to legal action as it constitutes fraud, malfeasance and incompetence. People should be fired if this is found to be true. It also raises questions about the adoptions and sale papers for those horses liquidated by the USFS, especially since the spotlight was on them to prevent sale to slaughter (recall the letter from California’s senior senator Dianne Feinstein). She should be contacted about this closed-door FOIA.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I want to take a minute here to thank Ms. Coffey and ALL members of the WHFF who have diligently and selflessly given up many days, weeks and years of their personal lives to do everything within their power to do research and to educate the public and govt officials about the deadly crisis our wild horses and wild burros are living through today. These people are all volunteers and their dedication comes from their hearts and they are ALL ABOUT THE WILD HORSES AND BURROS.
    Thank you all.


  5. From AWHC
    Prepared by Mary Koncel
    Incompetent and Dangerous Management of Corrals on Full Display at Adoption Event
    (November 20, 2018) On Saturday morning, I returned to the Double Devil Corrals in the Modoc National Forest near Alturas, CA for the sale/adoption of recently captured wild horses from the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory. Seeing wild horses who weeks ago were living freely on our public lands now separated into pens from their band members – numbers spray painted on their backs to identify them and their age – was nothing short of heartbreaking.
    But on Saturday afternoon, the worst was yet to come – witnessing the incompetent and dangerous handling of the horses by members of the Modoc County Farm Bureau and wranglers hired by Farm Bureau representatives. (The Forest Service awarded the Farm Bureau a four-year $500,000 contact to help build and apparently operate the corrals.)
    That’s right, the Modoc County Farm Bureau, and specifically Laura Snell – a vocal pro-horse slaughter cattlewoman who shockingly represents the University of California as a cooperative extension agent. Ms. Snell has previously agitated on behalf of other cattlemen for the removal of wild horses from the Devil’s Garden Territory, but she has zero experience handling wild horses. Yet, she is apparently in charge at the Double DIncompetent and Dangerous Management of Corrals on Full Display at Adoption Event (continued)
    The predictable result of putting these inexperienced and uncaring people in charge was chaos, ineptitude, and trauma to horses as well as possible injuries.
    I’ll explain.
    While being escorted by Susie Johnson, a Forest Service staff member, to look at older or special needs horses for possible placement into sanctuaries and rescues, we stopped at a pen with about 25-30 geldings. Lying near the front was a small chestnut, estimated to be around 20 years old, in a small group of horses. In fact, a few minutes earlier, Leigh Sevy, Forest Rangeland Management Specialist, had approached me and a member of the volunteer placement group that found homes for horses captured in the 2016 roundup and has been working to place the horses currently in the pens at the Double Devil Corrals.
    Ms. Sevy was interested in placing the senior gelding because she was worried that he was stressed from being beaten up the bigger and younger horses.
    Ironically, just after she left to make arrangements to move him into safer holding, two wranglers on horseback entered the pen to sort out a horse who was either sold or adopted. The plan was to separate him from the other horses and move him through an open gate at the far corner of the pen and into an aisle that lead to the loading area for trailering.
    When the wranglers began to push the horses to where the older horse was still lying, however, a few people outside the pen asked them to stop because they were concerned that the wranglers couldn’t see him and that he could get trampled. In the response, one wrangler dismounted and got the horse up.
    But after that, the chaos began. As the wranglers continued to move the horses around the pen, trying to get the adopted/sold horse into the aisle, the other horses began to stampede, circling around and around the tight space of the 60’ x 60’ pen. At least one horse fell while others ran into the aisle and charged back out, with many of them crashing into the gateposts. This continued for several minutes, with the wranglers never backing off their efforts to move the horses.
    When I asked a Forest Service official watching this mess unfold who was responsible for hiring and training these wranglers, he responded “Laura Snell” and that the wranglers were learning as this was all “a new experience.”
    Almost immediately after this conversation, Ms. Snell came rushing over from the loading area to the same Forest Service official, complaining that “members of the public” were interfering with the wranglers’ work! One of the people she was referring to was me – simply for observing and raising concerns about the safety of the wranglers’ actions.
    In the past 10 years, I’ve attended over 15 BLM wild horse and burro adoptions across the country where hundreds of horses and burros have been sorted and loaded into trailers. Never once have I seen such utter bedlam.

    Liked by 1 person

    • RIGHT ON Grandma Gregg…THANK YOU Debbie Coffey and Wild Horse Freedom Federation
      This work represents hours and hours of painstaking research.
      The best way for all of us the show our gratitude is to circulate your information far and wide

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Violation of Conflict of Interest Policy

    Conflict of Interest

    UC Davis employees are government employees and the state California has special conflict of interest (COI) laws and regulations affecting government employees. These laws include the Fair Political Practices Act, also known as the Political Reform Act of 1974 (PRA). In addition, federal law has special provisions relating to health care COI that result in more stringent standards than for most other businesses.


    Liked by 1 person

    • After reviewing the conflict of interest for state employees (UC Davis) I would say that Snell certainly had a conflict of interest when she took over the care and handling of the Devil’s Garden wild horses. Research is one thing but conspiracy with the local welfare ranchers to rid the wild horses from their legal lands is another.


  7. It is confusing to me, I believe Laura Snell is hired by UC Davis to be a researcher and advisor to the livestock interests in Modoc Co.,
    yet she is repeatedly engaged in advocacy and politics re: the wild horses in Devils Garden. She concludes wild horses destroy the
    riparian areas in DG but has not gathered and analyzed the facts. She concludes 4000 horses are in the Garden in 2018, but after a
    2018 gather of 932 horses with foals she concludes 5000 horses are in the Garden though in a flight the FS says 1802. She concludes
    long time generational ranchers are the permittees in the Garden, yet Svensen bought his permit in Emigrant Springs in early 2000,
    and Wilson in Pine did same.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. From AWHC

    Allowing cattle to graze where horses were “starving”?

    While the USFS and the Modoc County Farm Bureau have repeatedly justified the massive roundup and removal as necessary to “save” the Devil’s Garden wild horses from “starvation,” the real reason is to allow private ranchers to continue grazing their livestock on the public lands in the Territory.

    Now, less than one year after the removal of almost 950 wild horses, the USFS will be returning 300 cow/calf pairs to the Pine Springs allotment on the Territory.

    AWHC first heard about this plan in a March article,, https://www.tsln.com/horse-rodeo/successful-wild-horse-gather-sets-positive-tone-for-the-future/ ironically titled “Successful Wild Horse Gather Sets Positive Tone for the Future.” In it,
    Laura Snell – the University of California Cooperative Extension Director and Agent for Modoc County, vocal horse slaughter supporter, and self-appointed spokesperson for the Modoc National Forest – stated, “Things are much better than they were a year ago” about the general “climate” in Modoc County. The article, which features Ms. Snell, goes on to report:

    With two permits being deemed complete non-use for cattle grazing in the Modoc National Forest due to wild horse populations, ranchers in the area have been hit hard by the lack of initiative in previous years. However, Snell was happy to report that conversations are being had between the Forest Service and local permit holders to allow cattle back onto those permits this year. With just over 900 head of horses being removed from the permits, the opportunity for cattle to once again utilize the range is becoming the light at the end of tunnel for many in Modoc County, California.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. From AWHC

    ALTURAS, CALIF (July 30, 2019)… Today, the U.S. Forest Service announced its plan to conduct another wild horse roundup in the Modoc National Forest at the same time as it released a censusshowing far fewer mustangs live in the Forest than previously claimed. In response, the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), the nation’s largest wild horse protection group, charged that the Forest Service and livestock interest groups had been falsely inflating horse number with the intent of securing tax dollars for roundups to remove most of the wild horses from the Modoc Forest

    he Forest Service census found that 1,802 wild horses in and around the territory, while
    Forest Service spokespeople,
    the Modoc Farm Bureau
    and a livestock advocate for the UC Cooperative Extension Service
    claimed as many as 4,500 wild horses in the Forest.

    “The new census exposes the propaganda campaign, waged by ranching interests, that inflates wild horse numbers to convince the public that wild horses must be rounded up and sold for slaughter,”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The truth brings out so many questions. One the horse transfer to BIA, is this why they had a so called overpopulation? Two horses in Siberia/Russia/China, is this the area where all hoofed animals are now extinct because of over hunting tor the Worlds largest Prison? What I would love to see is actual accounting of every single horse. In 2008 Salzavar claimed there was 50,000 horses in holding, In 2012 Jewell claimed there were 50,000 horses in holding, in 2016 congressional testimony, yep again 50,000 in holding. Today the same, sometimes less never very many more. Where did all the horses Go?


  11. Many thanks to Debbie, Grandma Gregg, Louie C and all who are doing what they can to save our wild horses and burros.
    Until there is a Congressional investigation of the BLM and USFS I’m afraid the corruption will continue.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. There was an enormous amount of taxpayer money transferred from the Forest Service to the Modoc Farm Bureau.
    There needs to be an audit.

    Office of the Campus Counsel

    This site provides information related to the conflict of interest rules of the California Political Reform Act. The Political Reform Act (“Act”) requires certain state and local government officials to publicly disclose their private economic interests on the Form 700, Statement of Economic Interests. Additionally, it requires that all government (University) employees disqualify themselves from participating in decisions in which they have a personal financial interest.
    The University’s Conflict of Interest Code adopts and incorporates portions of the Act, identifying those positions on each campus and at the Office of the President which are required to file a Statement of Economic Interest form. University employees may also be subject to other UC policies and procedures in addition to other conflict of interest laws. On this site you will find links to some of these policies and laws.
    The University’s philosophy on conflict of interest is that none of its faculty, staff, managers, or officials shall engage in any activities that place them in a conflict of interest between their official activities and any other interest or obligation. Personnel Policies for Staff Members 82, Conflict of Interest provides a short summary of a number of University conflict of interest policies. In addition, a variety of specialized policies and guidelines have been issued in recognition of the need for guidance in this area and in the related areas of ethical standards and codes of conduct.
    The compendium of policies and guidelines is intended for the use of University employees should the question of a possible conflict of interest arise. An individual who, after considering these policies, guidelines, and regulations, is still uncertain about the propriety of a particular action or relationship in connection with University duties, can consult the Conflict of Interest Coordinator in the Office of the Campus Counsel.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Louie, can you or someone who lives in CA get this information to Sen. Feinstein? It is beyond unbelievable the USFS has “no” records and they must be held to account, as must the Farm Bureau and UC Davis for their roles. All three are public institutions, not private, and therefore must be held to a higher standard. It will take folks in CA with standing to get this daylighted — as Debbie has brought forth a damning situation for all three.


      • IcySpots, it won’t hurt to have people from other states calling and contacting both California senators as well.
        The Devil’s Garden and the wild horses belong to ALL of US
        I’ve found that calling the local offices of senators or representatives is often the best way to get a message through and to actually talk to someone.

        Senator Dianne Feinstein

        Send an e-mail message

        San Francisco
        One Post Street, Suite 2450
        San Francisco, CA 94104
        Phone: (415) 393-0707
        Fax: (415) 393-0710

        Los Angeles
        11111 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 915
        Los Angeles, CA 90025
        Phone: (310) 914-7300
        Fax: (310) 914-7318

        San Diego
        880 Front Street, Suite 4236
        San Diego, CA 92101
        Phone: (619) 231-9712
        Fax: (619) 231-1108

        2500 Tulare Street, Suite 4290
        Fresno, CA 93721
        Phone: (559) 485-7430
        Fax: (559) 485-9689

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Senator Kamala Harris

    Send an e-mail

    500 Tulare Street, Suite 5290
    Fresno, CA 93721
    Phone (559) 497 – 5109
    Fax (202) 228 – 3864

    333 Bush Street, Suite 3225
    San Francisco, CA 94104
    Phone (415) 981 – 9369
    Fax (202) 224 – 0454

    501 I Street, Suite 7-800
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    Phone (916) 448 – 2787
    Fax (202) 228 – 3865

    11845 West Olympic Boulevard, Suite 1250W
    Los Angeles, CA 90064
    Phone (310) 231 – 4494
    Fax (202) 224 – 0357

    600 B Street, Suite 2240
    San Diego, CA 92101
    Phone (619) 239 – 3884
    Fax (202) 228 – 3863

    112 Hart Senate Office Building
    Washington, D.C. 20510
    Phone (202) 224 – 3553
    Fax (202) 224 – 2200

    Liked by 1 person

    Attorney General

    Office of the Attorney General
    1300 “I” Street
    Sacramento, CA 95814-2919
    Phone: (916) 445-9555

    Office of the Attorney General
    P.O. Box 944255
    Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
    Office of the Attorney General
    455 Golden Gate, Suite 11000
    San Francisco, CA 94102-7004
    Phone: (415) 510-4400

    Office of the Attorney General
    1515 Clay Street
    Oakland, CA 94612-1499
    Phone: (510) 879-1300

    Office of the Attorney General
    P.O. Box 70550
    Oakland, CA 94612-0550
    Office of the Attorney General
    2550 Mariposa Mall, Room 5090
    Fresno, CA 93721-2271
    Phone: (559) 705-2300

    Office of the Attorney General
    300 South Spring Street
    Los Angeles, CA 90013-1230
    Phone: (213) 269-6000

    Office of the Attorney General
    600 West Broadway Street, Suite 1800
    San Diego, CA 92101-3702
    Phone: (619) 738-9000

    Office of the Attorney General
    P.O. Box 85266-5299
    San Diego, CA 92186-5266

    Liked by 1 person

  15. AWHC response
    Response to Alta Magazine’s, “Feral Horses, Fierce Controversy”

    “Fake news” is a reality in today’s society, and our wild horses and burros are not immune from the barrage of inaccurate, misleading, agenda-driven reporting.

    A recent example is Jason G. Goldman’s “Feral Horses, Fierce Controversy” that was published in the July issue of Alta, a magazine that professes to fashion itself after The New Yorker and Rolling Stone and promises “a celebration and examination of all things about California.”

    On the one hand, Mr. Goldman’s cover story is typical of other anti-wild horse/pro-rancher propaganda pieces. In this case, the subject was the wild horses who live on the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory (DGWHT) within the Modoc National Forest in Alturas, CA. According to Mr. Goldman, these federally-protected mustangs are so overpopulated that private ranchers in Modoc County are no longer able to make living grazing their livestock because of rangeland degradation caused exclusively by the horses.

    Mr. Goldman constructed this “fake news” premise through an alarming combination of sensationalism and sloppy and biased reporting. In doing so, he’s elevated the conflict between wild horses and ranchers to a whole new level for no purpose other than to misinform and push a divisive and dangerous agenda

    Start with the sensationalism. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Goldman is so enamored by the cowboy archetype and its manifestation in his story’s subject, ranch manager Jesse Dancer, that he fails to peel back the layers and investigate the real story in Devil’s Garden – the undue influence on federal policy of local private ranchers seeking unfettered access to grazing on the 258,000 acres of public rangelands and the near elimination of the Devil’s Garden wild horses.

    For starters, Modoc County is not the Wild West. While ranchers shooting people and wild horses and things getting “ugly in the cattle vs. horse standoff” makes for good headlines, it’s irresponsible of Mr. Goldman to frame his article around Jess Dancer’s glib predictions of violence, especially because there is no evidence that other ranchers support such actions.

    Moreover, Jess Dancer is not a “small family” rancher struggling to survive. He’s the manager of Alturas Ranches, a corporate ranching operation owned by a wealthy developer based in San Jose, CA.

    Instead of focusing on the financial woes of Alturas Ranches as a result of reduced grazing in the Devil’s Garden Territory, a more salient line of inquiry would be why a multi-millionaire is allowed to graze his cattle on public lands, paying grazing fees that are a fraction of market rate, thanks to subsidies from American taxpayers. And this is not an isolated situation – other wealthy individuals and national and international corporations, such as J. R. Simplot Corporation and the Hewlitt and Hilton families, also enjoy similar perks.

    Then there’s Mr. Goldman’s fondness for inaccuracy, bias, and omission. There’s a whole list of examples – in fact, way too many to cite. But here are some of the most egregious.

    Regarding the wild horse population in Devil’s Garden, Mr. Goldman asserts that removing 932 horses in 2018 wasn’t “enough to solve the problem” because nearly still 4,000 remain. He also cites Laura Snell, a livestock specialist for the University of California Cooperative Extension and a vehement wild horse opponent, who predicts that another roundup this fall will target 1,500 horses for removal in order to restore the ecology of the range.

    Here’s the reality. Last week the United States Forest Service (USFS) issued a press release that totally contradicts those numbers – a Spring 2019 census found 1,802 horses inside and outside the Territory –less than half the number claimed by Goldman — and a roundup scheduled this fall will remove 500 of them. In the article, Jess Dancer claimed that over 1,000 wild horses are on the Emigrant Springs public lands allotment where Alturas Ranches grazes privately-owned cattle, but the Forest Service Census found 436.

    This brings up another concern – Mr. Goldman’s sources. Like Jess Dancer and Laura Snell, his other go-to guys, Keith Norris, and Eric Beever are both affiliated with the Wildlife Society, which lobbies for the interests of cattlemen and hunters and pushes for the mass roundup and slaughter of wild horses. Both Norris and Beever scapegoat wild horses for rangeland damage in the West. Of course, Goldman’s article promotes their claims without alerting readers to the fact that an estimated nine million cattle and only 80,000 wild horses and burros actually live on Western public lands.

    Perhaps the deepest flaw in Mr. Goldman’s treatise is that he never bothered to contact two major stakeholders. One is the Modoc National Forest, the federal agency that is tasked with managing the Devil’s Garden Territory. In fact, they didn’t even know he was writing the article.

    The other is the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC). If Mr. Goldman had spoken with us, he would have learned, among other things, about our efforts to expose the unprecedented influence that local ranching interests have on the management of the Devil’s Garden Territory; our lawsuits to win back the middle section of the Territory for the wild horse herd and prevent the USFS from selling the horses for slaughter; our very successful PZP program for the 4,000 wild horses on the Virginia Range in Nevada as well as our proposed PZP pilot project for Devil’s Garden . (After we committed substantial resources to the planning the project, the USFS sidelined it in large part, we believe, because of resistance from the Modoc County Farm Bureau and local cattle groups.)

    But he didn’t. And here’s why.

    He’s touted as an award-winning journalist, but Mr. Goldman has failed to uphold journalistic standards in his article that perpetuates the simplistic “wild horses are bad – ranchers are good” myth. According to him, “feral” horses – not wild horses, mind you – are solely responsible for “squeezing out cattle and native wildlife that must compete for limited resources” Nothing is said about the thousands of cattle and sheep that run in the Modoc Forest every year. Mr. Goldman’s only solution: rounding up and removing them – and, if necessary, selling them for slaughter.

    Finally, adhering to the tenets of “fake news,” Mr. Goldman practices the fine art of omission, which includes omitting any mention of the following:

    · a 2013 report by the National Academy of Sciences warns that roundup and removals are “expensive and unproductive” and maximize “the population growth rate” and recommended the use of fertility control, including PZP, as a more cost-effective and sustainable alternative for stabilizing and reducing population rates;

    · paleontological and mitochondrial DNA evidence supports the fact that wild horses are native wildlife, not “feral” or an invasive species;

    · protection of the Devil’s Garden wild horses is mandated under federal law, while livestock grazing there is a privilege offered at the discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture;

    · the number of privately-owned livestock that the USFS allows to graze on the DGWHT vastly exceeds the number of wild horses permitted there – 3,700 cattle and 2,900 sheep compared to 206 – 402 wild horses;

    · 100 years of unmanaged livestock grazing and current intensive grazing practices that sanction turning out livestock during the spring, a critical growth period for grasses and other forage, are the real cause of the extensive ecological damage within the DGWHT; and

    · California’s elected officials – including Senator Diane Feinstein, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Representative Ted Lieu, and Assemblyman Todd Gloria — have spoken out against the USFS’s inhumane management plans for Devil’s Garden wild horses.

    In “Feral Horses, Fierce Controversy,” Mr. Goldman and Alta miss an opportunity to celebrate and examine “all things about California” – in this case, the state’s largest and most historic wild horse herd and the ongoing threats it faces by entitled local ranching interests who control the USFS’s management of the DGWHT. While Mr. Goldman is correct in characterizing the DGWHT as controversial, he misses the mark in branding the Devil’s Garden wild horses as the “problem.” In serving up this fake news, he does a huge disservice not only to the readers of Alta but the American public who value wild horses and their protection.


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