The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been making plans to send America’s wild horses & burros overseas for over two years, with very little, if any, transparency about their activities to the American public.
I spoke with Holle’ Waddell, the BLM Off-Range Branch Chief, on July 2, 2019. She told me as of that date, no wild horses had been shipped to Guyana or to Russia. She also told me that the BLM was working to prepare an “international policy.” When I asked Holle’ if that was going to be discussed at the National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board meeting (that was to take place the following week in Boise, Idaho), she replied no.
How we found out about the BLM’s plans:
On July, 25, 2018, Wild Horse Freedom Federation filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, for records regarding shipping America’s wild horses or burros to other countries. The BLM did not assign our FOIA request a tracking number until Aug. 15, 2018. This delay of almost 20 days put our FOIA request behind many other requests in the BLM’s FOIA queue. In September, in October, in November and again in December of 2018, I sent emails to the BLM WO FOIA office, copying BLM FOIA Officer Ryan Witt, to ask for an estimated date we could expect responsive records, but I received no response to any of those emails. On Jan. 22, 2019 (almost 6 months after filing our request), we filed a Freedom of Information Act. legal complaint against the BLM.
We have received thousands of pages of records, in several releases, in this ongoing legal case. In this FOIA request, we asked for records from the time frame of June 1, 2017 – July 25, 2018.
What we found out:
The Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs of Guyana sent a letter to the BLM stating that they needed 2,000 horses. Other records indicated that the BLM later considered starting out with a “pilot program” to send fewer horses at first, then more later.
In a June 14, 2017 Briefing for the Deputy Director, from Dean Bolstad (Division Chief of the BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program) to Kristin Bail (Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning), indicates that the BLM knew, almost from the beginning of its extensive planning, that the survival rate for America’s wild horses would be less than 50% in 5-10 years due to tropical diseases.
Although Stan Brock of Remote Area Medical (RAM), who was the source of the proposal to ship wild horses to Guyana, died Aug. 29, 2018, the plan to ship America’s wild horses to Guyana may still be going forward. A few months before Brock’s death, BLM’s Sally Spencer had been communicating with Gary Edwards, a “friend of Stan’s,” to discuss sending wild horses to Guyana. Prior to this, Edwards had been surrounded in controversy.
The BLM has been in contact with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USAID, USAID’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), USAID’s General Services Administration (GSA), the U.S. Department of Defense, and the government of Guyana regarding plans to send America’s wild horses overseas.
BLM’s Sally Spencer, who authorized the sale of about 1,000 wild horses to “kill buyer” Tom Davis, is a Resource Advisor for the BLM’s Eastern States office in Washington D.C., and has also been a BLM “International Liaison” for shipping our wild horses & burros overseas.
We also received records about a USDA proposal to send America’s wild horses to a reserve in Kazakhstan. (This is a separate proposal from Lon Ball’s proposal to send wild horses to be prey for Siberian tigers in Russia.)
The BLM was in contact with USAID about shipping America’s wild horses as part of USAID’s Limited Excess Property Program (LEPP).
A USAID employee sent an email to BLM’s Holle Waddell, Dean Bolstad, Sally Spencer, Anna-Maria Easley, Colin Strylowski, and the Dept. of the Interior Office of the Solicitor’s Ryan Sklar and Gregory Russell stating: “It was good to talk with you all the other day…Anyway, as I suspected – animals are not considered excess property.” “In brief, the ‘surplus properties categories’ for LEPP do not include live animals, and horses/other livestock cannot be ordered/shipped through LEPP.”
In 2011, it was clearly the policy of the BLM to NOT send wild horses or wild burros overseas.
FOIA records of emails between BLM employees in 2011 stated:
“The idea is if we sell horses to over seas recipients knowing we have no authority as to how they are treated or dealt with it is the same as selling without limitation and we are not allowed to do that under the omnibus.” – Zach Reichold
“Zach is exactly right. We’ve looked at this issue before, because of the excess horse challenge. We’ve advised that the BLM would have limited ability to protect horses’ welfare once they’re out of the country.” – Greg Russell
“…our requirements for not selling to slaughter or proper treatment could not be enforced. Even if it is private property we could not enforce anything the individual signed. A person could buy a horse and march it right over to a slaughter house or rodeo and we would have no recourse. That is the point.” – Zach Reichold
Karla Bird, who was the Acting Division Chief of the BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program, then wrote “Looks like we won’t be going overseas at this time.
Jumping ahead to 2017:
Mike Nedd, right, shaking hands with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke after being named the Bureau of Land Management’s acting director this month, says the agency will “push all of the energy sources” on federal lands under President Trump, not just renewables. Photo courtesy of @SecretaryZinke via Twitter.
Michael D. Nedd, was the BLM’s Acting Director March 2017-Nov. 2017 (during about the first 6 month time frame of this FOIA request). (Nedd is currently the BLM’s Deputy Director of Operations.) Nedd was born and raised in Guyana, before coming the U.S. in 1976, when he was about 17 years old. In an email dated Sept. 12, 2017 from BLM’s Anna-Maria Easley, another BLM International Liaison, to BLM’s William Woody, she states “This project is a priority for our BLM Director and he wants to see some action!”
(Click on documents to enlarge or print)
Brian Steed was named the BLM’s Acting Director (Nov. 2017 – May 2019), for about the last 8 months of the time frame of this FOIA request.
The BLM stated they didn’t want to sell the horses – they wanted to give America’s wild horses as gifts to Guyana. And, the BLM seemed to be trying to justify this donation as a “gift” or as “humanitarian aid.”
Are America’s wild horses needed as “humanitarian aid” in Guyana? In May 2015, ExxonMobil announced that it had discovered large oil and gas deposits off the coast of Guyana.
In June, 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that “a giant oil find” in Guyana could make Guyana a “top global energy frontier.” ExxonMobile estimates that for one project, Guyana will receive $1.6 billion in royalties after they begin pumping in 2020 for the first 5 years, and then about $7 billion during the life of the project. But ExxonMobile hasn’t even finished appraising all of the oil that it has found, and it keeps finding more.
Guyana’s livestock industry failed. And how could using our wild horses for Guyana’s border patrol be considered to be “humanitarian aid?”
In a March 2016 report by USAID titled Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Assessment of Guyana, it states: “Guyana faces a number of social problems. These include high levels of crime and violence; high levels of domestic violence; incidents of violence against transgender individuals; high incidents of trafficking in persons (TIP); and the increasing use of guns, particularly for criminal purposes. Guyana is also a trans-shipment point for drug smuggling from South America to North America, Europe, and West Africa.”
How would America’s wild horses be treated in Guyana? Especially in remote areas?
Previous articles about this topic were based on FOIA documentation that Wild Horse Freedom Federation has obtained: