Navajo Nation eyes agreement reining in slaughter of wild horses



By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) – The first effort of its kind to prevent wild horses roaming the Navajo Nation in the U.S. Southwest from being sent to slaughter in Mexico has gained the preliminary approval of tribal leaders, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said on Thursday.

Under a draft agreement that still must be reviewed by the tribe, a foundation established by Richardson and actor Robert Redford would provide funds and expertise to the Navajo Nation to halt reservation roundups that have seen thousands of wild horses shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico.

  The impact of intensive grazing by wild horses in a high-desert reservation that spans more than 27,000 square miles (70,000 square km) of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah has been compounded by drought and led to competition with livestock for sparse vegetation, said Rick Abasta, spokesman for Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye.

  The roundups by the nation’s agriculture department and the fate of the captured animals has ignited controversy among the tribe’s more than 300,000 enrolled members, including wild horse advocates, Abasta said.

The issue has divided a tribal nation whose economy relies in part on free-range cattle and sheep but which also reveres horses.

“The Navajo elders have a saying which translates into English as ‘Our horses are sacred,'” said Abasta.

Richardson, whose second term as New Mexico governor ended in 2011, said he and Redford formed the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife with the aim of aiding wild horses.

“Our main objective is to stop the roundups and stop the horse slaughter,” said Richardson, who said Redford is a fellow horse enthusiast who owns a home in New Mexico.

Richardson said the agreement would first seek to identify the number of wild horses on the reservation, where estimates have ranged from several thousand to more than 70,000.

If ultimately approved, the deal, which proposes such methods as birth control to keep wild herds in check, would be the first of its kind on Indian lands and perhaps in the nation, he said.

“The Navajos are the biggest tribe in the country. If we strike an agreement here, it will set an example for other tribes that still slaughter,” Richardson said.

Abasta said the nation’s newly elected president is seeking feedback from tribal members.

“President Begaye wants a little more time to gather the input of grassroots organizations, ranchers and others to determine how best to go forward on implementing the agreement,” he said.

Navajo officials renegotiating wild horse agreement

th  Bill Richardson, former Gov. of New Mexico


Newly installed Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye is renegotiating a wild horse protection agreement with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and actor/activist Robert Redford.

Richardson and Redford formed the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife in 2013 as the state considered a permit for a horse slaughter facility in Roswell. The group later worked with the former Navajo Nation president to stop the roundup of feral horses from the reservation for shipment to slaughter facilities in Mexico.

Navajo officials have said the horses are overgrazing and harming the land. The prior administration signed an agreement with Redford and Richardson to halt roundups and find other ways to reduce the horse population, such as adoptions.

Alarie Ray-Garcia of the foundation said Richardson met last week with Begaye and other Navajo officials.

Rick Abasta, a public information officer for the Navajo Nation, said Begaye wants to consult with chapter house leaders and other elders before moving forward with changes to the agreement.

Ray-Garcia said the foundation was ready to hire a company to conduct an aerial survey of the horse population. Estimates have ranged from a few thousand to 75,000 animals.

The War on Wild Horses of the West Continues

Source: by Leslie Macmillan as published in Esquire

Celebrities are fighting it, deals are being brokered, and two proposals are sitting in Congress to end it. So why are horses still being slaughtered in droves?

Photo by Sam Minkler Navajo activist Leland Grass (right) confronts horse buyer Jeanne Collom

Photo by Sam Minkler
Navajo activist Leland Grass (right) confronts horse buyer Jeanne Collom

BLACK MESA, Ariz. — The West is on the verge of a wild horse crisis, according to the Feds. An estimated 33,000 roam freely on public lands and even more on tribal lands. Under a 1971 law, the Bureau of Land Management is supposed to protect these horses and control their numbers so that they don’t ravage grasslands or die of starvation.

But critics of horse roundups contend they are a profit-driven enterprise sanctioned by the federal government and driven by business interests like cattle ranching and extractive industries that want to clear land for development.

“The only way to get at those resources is to get rid of the horses,” said Navajo activist Leland Grass. He has been trying to stop roundups of horses, which are often bound for Mexican slaughterhouses, on the Navajo reservation.

Navajo Nation president Ben Shelly recently made national news, saying he had reversed his position on horse slaughtering and ordered a moratorium of the roundup of horses on the reservation. Actor Robert Redford and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who have formed a foundation to protect wild animals in the West, brokered a deal with the nation’s largest Indian tribe to find humane alternatives.

“It’s a big lie,” said Jeanne Collom, a horse buyer who said roundups are still taking place on the reservation, and she has been buying them.

This was confirmed by Erny Zah, director of communications for the Navajo Nation, who said roundups will continue until an agreement is signed between Richardson’s group and the tribe.

On a late September afternoon, the scene at one roundup on the reservation was chaotic as teens chased horses on ATVs and dirt bikes into corrals. Collom said she buys horses for just $20 a head.

“The population is growing and the range is shrinking,” said Elmer Phillips, the head ranger for the Navajo Nation. “What comes along on the range nowadays is a different kind of creature: most of these horses are inbred and under 700 pounds.”

But critics say the data the policy is based on comes from an environmental impact study commissioned by Peabody Energy in 2008 as part of the permitting process to expand a coal mine it operates on Navajo land. The coal mine fuels the Navajo Generating Station power plant, which is majority owned by the U.S. Interior Department. Interior oversees the BLM, the agency responsible for managing wild horses, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which issues grazing permits on the reservation and contracts with horse buyers, including “kill buyers,” who buy horses bound for slaughterhouses.

Asked whether that study informed the horse policy, Zah said, “It’s definitely part of it.”

Peabody Coal did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Many of the horses rounded up that day were not feral, but owned by Navajos who either lacked a grazing permit or exceeded the maximum allowable number of two horses per permit. Collom said rather than going through government red tape to purchase horses, she tries to buy directly from owners coming to claim their animals. “That’s why I hang around the corrals,” she said.

At one point, three women came to claim horses they say were taken from their property, and an angry scene ensued. “These are performance horses, not Rez horses,” one of the owners shouted.

Head ranger Phillips ordered journalists there not to document the event, telling me and photographer Sam Minkler, who is Navajo, “I will escort you off the reservation.”

As we’ve previously reported, the Obama administration has included a proposal in its 2014 budget that would effectively ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption by preventing money from being spent on inspection of slaughtering facilities. In the next few months, a legal fight to block the opening of horse slaughterhouses in New Mexico and Missouri will reach its final stages.

Meanwhile, Grass and his grassroots group Nohooká Diné sent a resolution to legislators in Washington, DC urging them to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, currently pending before Congress. Protecting horses on Navajo land is important, Grass said, but a national bill is critical to ensure there is no incentive for horses to be taken from our lands or elsewhere for slaughter.

Horses hold an important place in Navajo cosmology. Leaving the roundup, Grass pulled his truck off the dirt road and cut the engine. A couple of the horses glanced over, swished their tails. “Look at them,” he said. “Their mane is the thunder and their eyes are the stars. They possess the same fundamental right to life as we, the five-fingered ones, do.”

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Navajo Leader Drops His Support for Slaughter of Wild Horses on the Reservation

Source: New York Times

“Our land is precious to the Navajo people as are all the horses on the Navajo Nation. Horses are sacred animals to us.”

Ben ShellyPHOENIX — Under pressure by animal welfare groups and many of his own people, the president of the Navajo Nation, Ben Shelly, has reversed his stance on horse slaughtering, saying he will no longer support it and will order the temporary suspension of the roundups of feral horses on the reservation.

The agreement, brokered by Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, is scheduled to be announced on Tuesday. One of its key provisions is to pressure the federal government to do more to help the Navajos handle the tens of thousands of horses that roam freely on their land. Mr. Shelly has estimated that feral horses cost the Navajos $200,000 a year in damage to property and range.

“I am interested in long-term humane solutions to manage our horse populations,” Mr. Shelly said. “Our land is precious to the Navajo people as are all the horses on the Navajo Nation. Horses are sacred animals to us.”

Mr. Shelly’s recalibrated position is sure to strengthen the arguments against horse slaughter in the nation, just as a legal fight to block the opening of horse slaughterhouses in New Mexico and Missouri reaches its final stages.

It could also smooth relations between his administration and tribal elders in some of the Navajo Nation’s largest chapters, who have stood steadfastly against the roundups even as Mr. Shelly embraced them in August as the best available option, given the tribe’s limited resources, to keep its feral horse population under control.

At the time, his stance put the country’s largest federally recognized tribe in a collision course with Mr. Richardson and the actor Robert Redford, who had justified joining a lawsuit against horse slaughtering filed by animal-rights groups by saying they were “standing with Native American leaders.”

In a unanimous vote last month, the Navajo Nation chapter in Shiprock, N.M., banned horse roundups in its territory. The chapter’s president, Duane Yazzie, said members were concerned about the abandoned colts and the sale of the horses to meat plants in Mexico, where slaughter is legal.

On Saturday, several of the chapter’s members protested as Mr. Shelly took part in a parade at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock.

Mr. Shelly and Mr. Richardson met in Farmington, N.M., just outside Navajo lands, shortly after the parade to complete the agreement. It charges several animal welfare groups — including Animal Protection of New Mexico and the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, founded by Mr. Richardson and Mr. Redford — with developing alternative policies. One option is rounding up the horses and putting them up for adoption; another is dispensing contraceptives.

“This is a huge event,” Mr. Richardson said. “One of the most important and largest tribes in the country is now on the record against horse slaughtering, and that should be a major factor both in Congress and in the courts.”

All along, Mr. Shelly had spoken about the “delicate balance,” as he put it, between the horses’ significance to the Navajos and the cost of repairing the damage caused by feral horses on the reservation, which covers roughly 27,500 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Navajos estimate there are 75,000 feral horses roaming the reservation, an estimate based on aerial observations, a method they concede is unreliable. One of the points of the agreement is to find a way to take an accurate count.

During a meeting in Washington last month, Mr. Shelly told several animal welfare groups that the federal government needed to “live up to its responsibilities,” according to his spokesman, Erny Zah, and help the Navajos manage the feral horses. It was not until the agreement with Mr. Richardson, however, that he made his new stance on horse slaughtering official.

The Humane Society of the United States and other groups sued the United States Department of Agriculture in July to keep horse slaughter plants from opening in New Mexico, Iowa and Missouri, arguing that the agency had failed to carry out all of the environmental checks, and asked the courts to block its inspectors from working there. The owners of the plant in Iowa have since scrapped their plans to slaughter horses and turned their focus to cattle.

In August, Judge M. Christina Armijo of United States District Court in Albuquerque halted the inspections until she makes her final ruling on the case, which is expected by the end of the month.

Richardson meets agriculture secretary in Washington to halt horse slaughter

Source: by  of the Albuquerque Business First

“Secretary Vilsack made it clear to me that he opposes horse slaughter…”

Former Gov. Bill Richardson Thursday met in Washington D.C with meet with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and urge him to stop the reopening of horse slaughterhouses, but didn’t come back with the response he hoped to hear.

“I appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s willingness to meet with me and listen to the concerns of our foundation and those of others who adamantly oppose horse slaughter,” Richardson said in a news release. “Secretary Vilsack made it clear to me that he opposes horse slaughter, but said he has to follow federal rules.”

Richardson suggested that the USDA immediately conduct a complete review of its rule making procedures regarding horse slaughter and that it block any horse slaughterhouse from reopening until that review is completed.

The meeting was part of an effort made to prevent the opening of a horse slaughterhouse near Roswell.

Richardson’s trip was on behalf of The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, an animal protection foundation he recently founded with actor Robert Redford.

Earlier in the week the Foundation announced its first action was joining a federal lawsuit against the USDA that seeks to block horse slaughter.

Click (HERE) to comment at Albuquerque Business First

Friday Hearing Last Stand to Stop Horse Slaughter in N.M.

By Dan Flynn of Food Safety News

USDA meat inspectors are now set to provide inspection services to qualified applicants

"Don't Slaughter Us" ~ by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“Don’t Slaughter Us” ~ by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The federal court in New Mexico next Friday will hear the motion for a preliminary injunction against USDA granting inspections to equine meat packing houses that are close to opening in New Mexico and Iowa.

It is the hearing that Bruce Wagman, the top attorney for animal welfare groups, said had to happen last month to stop what would be the first horse from legally going to slaughter in the U.S. since 2007.

Wagman is asking the court to grant a preliminary injunction against USDA based on arguments that providing inspection services requires environmental review by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

If the long list of animal welfare groups does not prevail in the federal court hearing on Aug. 2, Valley Meat Company in Roswell, NM is ready to begin equine meat packing operations as early as the following Monday, Aug. 5. Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, IA could begin horse slaughter in an old Louis Rich plant just as quickly.

New Mexico cancelled Valley Meats’ wastewater discharge permit last week, a move that will not stop the horsemeat packing from proceeding, but rather will require the more costly transporting of wastewater.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King intervened in the federal case brought by Wagman’s animal welfare groups. King claims chemicals from the treatments horses receive contaminate all horses. USDA plans post-mortem inspections to check on drug residues in horses.

The possibility of horse slaughter beginning in New Mexico also brought out Robert Redford, “The Electric Cowboy,” to campaign against it with former Gov. Bill Richardson. Redford owns property near Santa Fe and now claims residence in New Mexico after a long association with the Sundance Ranch in Utah.

If and when packing horsemeat resumes in the U.S. and it’s for human consumption, it will be only for export to the many countries around the world where human consumption of horsemeat is common. Any sold in the U.S. would be for non-human consumption, such as to zoos.

A ban on horsemeat packing lasting about 5 years was imposed during the Bush Administration, and then lifted by the Obama Administration after Congressional auditors questioned whether horses were experiencing more inhumane conditions.

USDA meat inspectors are now set to provide inspection services to qualified applicants, at least up until the moment when Congress tells them differently.

And there is a move to do just that in the budget Congress may adopt later this fall.

Click (HERE) to Comment and Food Safety News

Former Governor Bill Richardson and Robert Redford Join Fight to Stop Horse Slaughterhouses

Announce Formation of Foundation Focused on Protecting Animals and Wildlife

SANTA FE, NM- Former Governor Bill Richardson and legendary actor, director, and conservationist Robert Redford today announced they are joining the fight to stop horse slaughterhouses from reopening in the United States. The action is the first of a new foundation the two have formed to protect animals and wildlife.

The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife has filed in federal court to join as a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by animal protection organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue, to block the revival of American horse slaughter. The lawsuit claims the U.S. Department of Agriculture violated federal law by failing to conduct required reviews of the known environmental dangers caused by horse slaughterhouses, including one trying to open in Roswell, New Mexico. The Foundation and other plaintiffs are seeking an emergency injunction.

“As a lifelong horse lover, I am committed to doing whatever it takes to stop the return of horse slaughterhouses in this country and, in particular, my own state,” Governor Richardson said. “Congress was right to ban the inhumane practice years ago, and it is unfathomable that the federal government is now poised to let it resume. As a country whose rich history is so closely tied to horses, we should instead be focused on exploring new horse rescue and retirement solutions.”

“Horses have played an important part of my life, and I strongly believe they need our protection,” Mr. Redford said. “Horse slaughter has no place in our culture. It is cruel, inhumane, and perpetuates abuse and neglect of these beloved animals. We must oppose it with all of our might. We need to ensure horses have safe and kind treatment during their lives and are afforded the peaceful and dignified end they deserve.”

In addition to its opposition to horse slaughter, The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife will focus on the preservation and protection of the state’s wild mustang and burro population including seeking out appropriate alternative habitats for the animals.  Other efforts will focus on the Mexican gray wolf, bison and the reintroduction of native fish and mammal species. The foundation will also work to support New Mexico’s animal shelters and to prevent animal cruelty.

The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife is a natural extension of both former Governor Richardson’s and Mr. Redford’s decades of animal advocacy and conservation work.

As governor, Richardson spearheaded legislation and enacted polices aimed at preserving and protecting New Mexico’s wildlife and domesticated animals. He fought to ban cockfighting, increased funding for animal shelters, and enacted more humane euthanasia practices in shelters. He made natural habitat and restoration a priority and supported the reintroduction of native species, including the Mexican gray wolf. Most recently, he was instrumental in convincing the National Institutes of Health to halt medical testing on chimpanzees, many of which are housed in Southern New Mexico at the Alamogordo Primate Facility.

Mr. Redford, a part-time New Mexico resident, is a world renowned conservationist and animal advocate. For decades he has fought to protect our country’s greatest national resources. He is tireless in his efforts to bring attention to the issues that threaten our natural habitats and the wildlife that call them home. He is a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council and has received countless accolades for his efforts, including by the National Wildlife Federation.

By entering the lawsuit against the USDA, Former Governor Richardson and Mr. Redford are also standing with Native American leaders who have asserted that federal approval of horse slaughter constitutes a violation of tribal cultural values and is an insult to their age-old connection with America’s horses.

NM Gov Crawfishes on Wild Horse Sanctuary

(The News as We See It) by R.T. Fitch ~ Author/Director of HfH Advisory Council

More Bad News for the Wild Ones

James Kleinert delivering letters from Wild Horse and Burro advocates to NM governor Bill Richardson ~ Photo by Dana Waldon

The hopes of Wild Horse and Burro advocates across the country were dashed, yesterday, when New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced from abroad that he had changed his mind about developing a state funded wild horse sanctuary in the state.

While on an “Unofficial” diplomatic mission to North Korea Richardson’s office issued a statement which said that the sanctuary plan had become “unfeasible”.

Richardson had come under heavy fire for proposing to take 3.1 million dollars from federal economic-stimulus funds to buy a private ranch in an effort to expand the Cerrillos Hills State Park and establish a wild-horse sanctuary south of Santa Fe.

Instead, Richardson will use the funds to shore up the state’s shaky budget amid a projected shortfall of $400 million.

“While the purchase of the ranch was a great opportunity for the state, and would have been a big boost to tourism and the local economy of the Galisteo Basin, moving forward at this time is unfeasible,” Richardson said in a statement.

For months, the American public had been writing Richardson in praise of his proposal as the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) appears to be on a vindictive mission to strip federally protected wild horses and burros from their designated public  lands.  The concept of a state run sanctuary outside of the tainted grasp of the BLM appealed to all who view the native wild horse as an American icon.

Last month, film producer James Kleinert rode his wild horse to the Governor’s mansion to hand deliver hundreds of letters written my compassionate equine advocates from around the world.  Advocates were hopeful that the NM Sanctuary would serve as a model for other western states to use in efforts to save the Wild Mustangs from the Obama administration’s wild horse harvesting machine.

Meanwhile, Billionaire Madeleine Pickens fights on to open her WH sanctuary in Nevada’s troubled and biased welfare rancher country.  With each passing day, the extinction of this national treasure comes closer and closer to a reality.

The Vision for New Mexico’s Wild Horse Sanctuary

by Ginger Casey, an Emmy winning TV news veteran

One Small Step Forward in the Battle to Save the Wild Horses

Since March, we have been working with the State of New Mexico and the Federal government on developing a horse park and preserve for the Santa Fe area.

With more than 35-thousand horses in captivity and many in feedlot conditions, we wanted to work on a model that could bring some of these horses to permanent homes as well as showcase them on open lands that would be habitat for them to live out their lives in freedom.  We have learned that no one can do this by themselves.  The States are all broke, the Feds are struggling under the weight of their own care for the animals, and the non-profit world – blessed as they are with good-hearted people – simply does not have the funds to take on a large number of horses and burros.

Our model blends together a unique partnership between State and Federal agencies as well as the non-profit world.  Under the plan, the State will buy the property, the Federal government will bring the infrastructure and horses and a 501(c)(3) will be responsible for raising the operating funds through corporate partnerships and private donations.  It is a win-win for everyone – especially the horses.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, an avid horseman himself, saw the beauty of the plan and has been supporting its development.  The negotiations have been long and tedious, but are bearing fruit.  We have been working very closely with the Nature Conservancy, New Mexico’s State Parks director, Dave Simon, and Jim Noel, the NM Cabinet Secretary for Energy and Minerals.  They deserve a lot of credit for making this happen.  So does Phil Walker with the BLM in Washington.   He has been out to New Mexico several times and together we arranged for Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Sylvia Baca and Don Glenn of the BLM to come out to see for themselves the 12-thousand acre ranch we identified.  They loved it.  Governor Richardson then gave the go-ahead to acquire the property, which sits halfway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque on the historic scenic byway, the Turquoise Trail.  The town of Madrid is close by; a former mining town now known as an eclectic arts community.  The movie, “Wild Hogs“, was filmed there and several other western movie sets, dating back to the forties, line the road as it winds through the area.  The Ortiz Mountain ranch is a stunning parcel of land that rises up to the tallest peak in the mountain chain.  It is a striking visual point that can be seen for more than 50 miles.

What the plan envisions is a State park that is equine centered – the miles of roads and trails that are already in place on the property will welcome both hikers and those who trailer their horses to the park.  The old hacienda style house will be converted into a state of the art visitor center that will welcome school children and visitors with exhibits on the Mustangs and their historical contributions to our nation’s development.  A nearby stable will enable people to meet the horses themselves and see first-hand, the gentle methods used to successfully train the Mustangs from the wild to domestication.  These horses will then be available for adoption. Right now, if someone wants to adopt a horse, they have to drive a truck and trailer several hours to one of the existing Federal facilities, pick a dusty horse out of the crowd, somehow get it into the trailer and hope it works out when they get it home.  This only sets the horse and owner up for disaster.  Many people, not knowing how to handle wild animals, try to strong-arm them into submission.  As we know, that approach is probably the worst to take with the Mustangs.  At the New Mexico park, prospective owners will have several chances to meet and get to know their horse and learn the best ways to handle them. This will result in better adoptions for both the rider and the horses.

Most important, a separate 5-thousand acre parcel of the ranch will be set aside for a number of horses to simply run free, away from the public.  By setting up web cams near the water areas, much like they do in other Federal and State parks,  video of the wild horses will then be sent back to the visitor center, where people can watch the Mustangs and burros in their environment.

Santa Fe’s high desert climate means the number of horses the park can sustain will not be very high – the grasses are thin.  We may not be able to get more than  60 horses to run free there.   But if this model works, and we hope it will, then we can take it to other States where the grasses are more abundant, where we can then begin to talk about moving hundreds of animals out of the feed lots and onto free range.  Rather than doing the typical thing of pushing the horses farther and farther away to remote locations, we are going to bring them closer, so communities will meet and embrace them as beloved local treasures.   The benefits of Santa Fe – the crossroads of the Old West, a strong tourism economy based on its history, and a large horse-loving population, in our eyes, outweighs the negatives.  According to the Albuquerque and Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau, millions of people visit the region each year. New Mexico, where horses first entered the ‘New World’ is a perfect place to begin.

We are setting up a non-profit that will not only manage the horses at this preserve, but at several others we hope to establish under this unique State/Federal/Private model.  This non-profit, the ‘American Association of Mustang Preserves’,  will also serve as an ‘alliance umbrella’ for other preserves that seek greater political voice and buying power.  By aligning ourselves with our fellow preserves, (where everyone retains their own name and brand) we will be able to better track the needs of the horses once they leave the Federal holding facilities.  Together, we can better advocate for the animals, share best practices and hopefully effect some real change in how the Mustangs and burros are handled.

Habitat, education, adoption are the three pillars of our model, along with a vigorous campaign that will incorporate some of Hollywood’s heavy hitters and major media.  Chantal and I both come from television news.  We have a lot of contacts within the worlds of newspapers, magazines, radio, television and Hollywood.  There is a lot of support already waiting in the wings, waiting for the word that New Mexico will approve the purchase of the property.  The first part of the project is underway, but we fear the election year politics in New Mexico may destroy the work we have all been doing.  There have been misinformation campaigns regarding the actual numbers, smear tactics against the Governor, and general nastiness about the horses, the BLM and the State.

New solutions need to be found for the care of the Mustangs.  The BLM admits this.  Most of your colleagues in the horse world are painfully aware of the problems the agency has had in rounding them up and caring for them in captivity.  Your activism and the work of others to forge a political solution is an important component of making real change happen. But change from within is also important.

Chantal and I have chosen to work with the BLM and the State of New Mexico to do what we can to make a real difference to the horses already being held.  So far, they have treated us fairly.  So, we are pushing on, hoping that this first park will be the example that other States will want to follow.

We have no stake in any of this, other than trying to help the horses.  We know this is not a full solution to the problem, but it is a start.  We are doing it for free and without any promise or expectation of compensation.  The BLM will not be paying us, nor will New Mexico.   I have flown to Washington to meet with officials at the Department of the Interior at my own expense and expect nothing in return.  Well actually, I do.  I expect to be there with Chantal when the first trailer of horses arrives in New Mexico and the gates open to let them out!  When we watch them run free, I will then consider myself paid in full.

So, if you can tell your friends about the plan and the work we have been doing, hopefully we can gather up more support for the project.  The NM Board of Finance will vote on the purchase on November 16.  They need to know that people support it.  If you can get the word out to a wide audience, I would  be very grateful.

These are the names of the people on the NM Board of Finance who will be voting on the property:

John Loehr
Rhonda Dibachi
Robert Apodaca
Maria Griego-Raby
State Treasurer James Lewis
Lt. Gov. Diane Denish
Governor Bill Richardson

Emails for the board can be sent to the board administrator:  Suzanne.Romero@State.nm.usor letters here:  New Mexico State Board of Finance, 181 Bataan Memorial Building, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Editor’s Note: (James Kleinert, Director and Producer of the film “Disappointment Valley – A Modern Day Western”, and Ginger Kathrens, Emmy award winner of the “Cloud” Nature series, have teamed up to support the Governor by hand delivering, on wild horse back, 1,000 letters of appreciation to the Governor in NovemberSo please copy in your emails to Ms. Romero to ensure delivery to the Governor)

New Mexico Wild Horses Need Public Support

(The News As We See It) ~ by  R.T. Fitch, Director of HfH Advisory Council

Letters of Support Needed ASAP

James Kleinert ~ Director of "Disappointment Valley" ~ Photo by Terry Fitch

While the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sends mixed signals over the state of New Mexico’s attempt to establish a state run Wild Horse sanctuary Governor Bill Richardson stands firm in his conviction that the wild horses need proper protection.

“I love horses and I always have, any westerner does; it’s such a part of our culture.” States Governor Richardson during an interview with film director James Kleinert.  “The wild horse is synonymous with Hispanic history, with Native American History, with our Cowboy Culture.  They are free and roaming and I just want them to be protected, I just want them to get a little help, a little safety and help.”

James Kleinert, Director and Producer of the film “Disappointment Valley – A Modern Day Western”, and Ginger Kathrens, Emmy award winner of the “Cloud” Nature series, have teamed up to support the Governor by hand delivering, on wild horse back, 1,000 letters of appreciation to the Governor in November.

You can help, today, by sending Governor Bill Richardson a letter of appreciation/support either via email at or by snail mail to:

The New Mexico Board of Finance, 12 Black Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM 87508

The Board of Finance and the Governor need to hear from your letters of support, immediately, if this break away from the BLM for the wild horses is ever to occur.

Please send your letters, today.