From Animal Welfare Institute: USDA Still Stonewalling on Access to Enforcement Records

” When BuzzFeed, which consulted with AWI for an April 28 story on the issue, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for records pertaining to the site scrub, the USDA provided 1,771 pages of records with every single page completely blacked out—all information redacted.” – Animal Welfare Institute

SOURCE:  Animal Welfare Institute at awionline.org

After the public outcry regarding the US Department of Agriculture’s scrubbing of inspection records and other important enforcement documents from its website, the department began to restore selected records online. These included annual reports for research facilities and inspection reports for some registrants and licensees.

The bulk of the data remains missing, however. The USDA has not posted a single enforcement record (e.g., warning letter, stipulated penalty, or complaint) since August 2016. Also remaining offline are about two-thirds of the inspection reports that the USDA says “may contain personal information implicating the privacy interests of individuals and closely-held businesses.” These pertain to thousands of regulated entities (breeders, dealers, exhibitors, and others licensed or registered under the Animal Welfare Act).

Read the rest of this article HERE.

BLM claims selling wild horses to kill buyer Tom Davis was selling them to a “good home”

by Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2017

On the Bureau of Land Management’s new website, on the Program Data page for the Wild Horse & Burro Program (under the Wild Horse and Burro Sales to Private Care tab), the BLM claims “It has been and remains the policy of the BLM, despite the unrestricted sales authority of the Burns Amendment, NOT to sell or send any wild horses or burros to slaughterhouses or to “kill buyers.”

The BLM claims “Wild Horses and Burros Sold to Good Homes” but then includes a total of 402 wild horses and burros sold in Fiscal Year 2012. (In this 402 total, 320 were horses and 82 were burros.)

BLM sale logs obtained by us in Freedom of Information Act requests indicate that in Fiscal Year 2012, the BLM sold 239 wild horses (almost 80% of the 320 horses that were sold) to kill buyer Tom Davis of La Jara, CO.  Many, if not all, of these wild horses went to slaughter in Mexico.

Does this look like a “good home” to you?

BLM states it has a policy not to sell wild horses and burros to kill buyers, but:

  1. On 1/11/12, Lester T. Duke (BLM Burns, Oregon) sent an email to BLM’s Bea Wade, regarding 50 sale authority horses, noting that a “large portion”of the mares were “possibly pregnant.” Lester asked if they should ship to long term holding or hold them at the corrals for sale. Bea responded that she forwarded the email to Sally Spencer. After a couple of more emails regarding this, Sally finally sent email on 2/23/12 that Tom Davis would purchase the horses, starting with the load of mares from Burns, Oregon. (About a week later, BLM sold Tom Davis 32 horses from the Burns, Oregon corrals.   19 of these horses were mares)
  2. On 4/19/12, Deanna Masterson, Public Affairs specialist for the BLM Colorado state office, sent an “Early Alert” email to “WO BLM/DOI Officials” (Jeff Krause, Leigh Espy, Helen Hankins, Steven Hall, Tom Gorey and Sally Spencer) that “The Colorado Department of Agriculture notified the BLM Colorado State Office of a Colorado Open Records request from David Phillips, a freelance journalist, for brand inspection and transfer paperwork for horses the BLM sold to Tom Davis of La Jara, Colorado. Phillips indicated he suspected Davis of selling these horses for slaughter to Mexico.”
  3. On 4/24/12, the BLM, alerted that Tom Davis was suspected of selling horses for slaughter, still sells 106 wild horses to Tom Davis.
  4. On 5/17/12, Sally Spencer sent out an email, marked “High” importance, to 21 people (Joe Stratton, Roger Oyler, Amy Dumas, Fran Ackley, Karen Malloy, Christopher Robbins, Jared Bybee, Robert Mitchell, Alan Shepherd, Rob Sharp, Robert Hopper, Gus Warr, June Wendlandt, Joan Guilfoyle, Mary D’Aversa, Dean Bolstadt, Jeff Krause, Tom Gorey, Debbie Collins, Lili Thomas, Bea Wade) and BLM_WO_260 WHB Communications, telling them a reporter was calling about Tom Davis. Spencer asked Joe Stratton to send out a message to all facility managers and the state leads to send a message out to all WHB Specialists that if they were asked “specifics” about a purchaser, they shouldn’t respond for privacy issues…”

If BLM personnel were so convinced that they sold the wild horses and burros to a “good home,” why all of the urgency and secrecy?

If the BLM truly believes these horses were sold to a “good home,” why isn’t Tom Davis’ photo featured on the BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program page on the BLM’s new website, instead of the photo of the young blonde girl? After all, the BLM sold Tom Davis 1,794 wild horses and burros from 2008-2012.

If the BLM thinks they’re fooling us, they’re only fooling themselves.

All documents referenced above can be seen HERE.

The Bureau of Land Management is scrubbing their trail on the internet

After NBC News wrote about the Bureau of Land Management featuring a photo of a coal bed at the top of their website, the BLM changed it… to now feature this photo of an oil & gas pipeline.

by Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation                                                                    All Rights Reserved.          Copyright 2017

The Bureau of Land Management is scrubbing most of its links off of the internet, and in doing so, erasing much of its history from public view.

Many of the blm.gov links that are still remaining on the internet at this point say “page not found,” or the links are no longer cached.

The BLM also suddenly removed state and district websites.  Instead, you will now find “landing pages” that direct you to only one main Bureau of Land Management website.  (You can look at the new BLM website HERE.)

I called a BLM Public Affairs Specialist to ask some questions about the defunct websites and links.  This person said in the past there were about 90,000 pages (and then a bit later stated that it could possibly be only about 60,000 pages) of BLM content on the internet, but that all of these pages couldn’t be maintained or updated, and weren’t centralized.  This person said the BLM’s prior content management system was outdated.

Most importantly, this person also said there were now standards to reduce the amount (of pages/content).

Who made the decision to even have a standard to reduce content available to the public on the internet?  During this website transition, who is making the decisions, and on what basis, of what data to migrate, or not to migrate, to the new BLM website?  These decisions cherry pick what information will be available to the public in the future.

Make no mistake, this “reducing the amount” of content on the internet is erasing many of this agency’s past actions, activities, and government documentation.  Many of these links had historical value.  For example, the BLM activities of BLM employees Sally Spencer and Lili Thomas over the years are now gone.  These types of links on the internet didn’t need to be “maintained” or “updated.”  They were historical in nature.

In the past, in doing a google search for Sally Spencer (a longtime BLM employee, and the Marketing Specialist famous for selling so many wild horses and burros to kill buyer Tom Davis), she was included on many, many BLM government links.  I went to the BLM’s new website and searched “Sally Spencer,” and only 3 items appeared.  When I searched “Lili Thomas” (another longtime BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program employee who oversaw the BLM’s Long Term Holding facilities for wild horses for many years), only 4 items appeared.  And when I searched “John Neill” (a longtime Palomino Valley Center manager), all that came up was “No results found.”

These individuals are BLM personnel who have been central in management issues in the BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program, as evidenced by FOIA documentation garnered by the late Dr. Patricia Haight of The Conquistador Program.

Even when I searched the new BLM website for “Dean Bolstad” (the Division Chief of the Wild Horse & Burro Program) only 2 items appeared.

(Although, luckily, thanks to In Defense of Animals, you can still go online and see this youtube video of Lili Thomas saying “working with wild horses is not a pretty sight” at a public meeting.)

What I can’t understand is, if the new content management system is bigger and better, why couldn’t the new content management system have contained all of the old data along with new data?  If this agency were truly transparent, they would add data, not reduce data, available to the public on the internet.

At first the Bureau of Land Management only removed the Directories for District offices and Field Offices, making it difficult, for example, to find out who was the Wild Horse & Burro Specialist, Hydrologist, Range Management Specialist or other personnel in any particular district or field office or to find an email address or telephone number for them.  BLM personnel frequently transfer to other offices and states, so it was already hard enough to try to keep up with who was where.  But now the public really doesn’t have a clue who is doing what or where.

You used to be able to go to the home pages of BLM state and district websites, and get a quick overview of not only roundup plans for wild horses & burros, but mining expansion plans, oil & gas lease sale plans, and other uses of our public lands in that area, all in one place.

Now, the BLM has divided these by topics or by “regions,” on their new website.   Under the “region” of Nevada (we call them states here in the U.S.A.), there isn’t a box for wild horses & burros (only oil and gas leasing, greater sage grouse, Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Information Access Center, Nevada Resource Advisory Councils & Federal Register Notices).

By scattering information all over this one “centralized” website, the BLM has made it much harder for the public to put together the pieces of information for a clear picture about the multiple uses of our public lands in any one area.

The Program Data page for the Wild Horse & Burro Program is HERE.  When I clicked on the box for Historical Program Data and Public Lands Statistics, I noticed something was missing that used to be available to the public.  It was the column on Adoptions by Locations & Date.  Information from the years 2009-2015 were previously available.

The biggest reason this data was important is because it let the public know the dates of adoption events (including internet adoptions), the locations of the events, the number of the wild horses and burros offered for adoption (until Fiscal Year 2014) and the number of wild horses and burros that were actually adopted at each event.

The BLM likely stopped reporting the number of horses & burros offered at adoption events in Fiscal Year 2014 because it didn’t want the public to know how many horses & burros were racking up “strikes” by not being adopted.  When a wild horse or burro isn’t adopted after 3 events and gets 3 “strikes” it can be sold without restriction (to slaughter), no matter how young it is.  Even this seemingly small reduction of data indicated a lack of transparency by this agency.

Another reason this data is important to the public is because it let the public see what areas of the country adopt the most (and the least) wild horses & burros.

While the new BLM website contains a lot of information, it seems we have lost much more information that was once available on the internet, but was not migrated to the new BLM website.  For example, the BLM News Release on its promised investigation into the deaths of wild horses at the Scott City feedlot is on the internet, but as of today, is not one of the 63 News Releases available to the public on the BLM’s new website.

We will never know how much, or what, the BLM has removed from the internet.  The BLM’s scrubbing of their trail on the internet has not only erased part of the history of this government agency, it is censorship, and it is the equivalent of a modern day book burning.

SEE EXAMPLES REFERENCED ABOVE HERE.

JAMES KLEINERT v BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

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Filmmaker James Kleinert had to fight to obtain requested Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) records from the Bureau of Land Management, and filed a lawsuit against them.  Kleinert’s Wild Horses & Renegades facebook page included this edited message from his attorney, Daniel J. Stotter, “Just received a nice win from the DC federal court in our FOIA case James Kleinert v BLM.   An excellent FOIA ruling, setting favorable law on our adequacy of search objection issues, and strongly admonishing the BLM for its improper FOIA withholdings and their failure to meet the legal requirements of FOIA exemptions (b)(5), (b)(6) and (b)(7)(c).   Here’s a link to the court’s decision:
KLEINERT v. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, No. 1:2014cv01506 – Document 29 (D.D.C. 2015)

SOURCE:  justia.com

Excerpts from Opinion by the Court on James Kleinert v Bureau of Land Management:
Kleinert is a documentary filmmaker whose work has focused on American wild horses.  This vocation has brought Kleinert into repeated contact with BLM, which manages public lands where wild horses live and administers the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.  Kleinert and the agency have not had an entirely cordial relationship: Kleinert has sharply criticized BLM’s treatment of wild horses.  In recent years Kleinert has come to believe that “BLM has been targeting [his] filming of wild horses on the public lands . . . by seeking to restrict [his] access to film at locations that would depict these issues.”

This targeting, he suggests, “is related to the agency’s opposition to, and disagreement with, the content of [his] films, and [his] advocacy as to these issues,” and is aimed at limiting his “ability to facilitate public oversight of the agency’s actions.”

When nearly a full year passed without the delivery of any records, Kleinert filed this suit to compel BLM to respond to his request.

It seems, though, that BLM had sent Kleinert a compilation of responsive records in January 2014, but for reasons unknown— they never showed up in Kleinert’s mail.

Kleinert cross moved for summary judgment, arguing that many of the redactions were unjustified, and also that BLM had not conducted an adequate search of its records.
Kleinert’s motion prompted BLM to take another look—which revealed that the agency had indeed failed to provide a number of responsive records.
But Kleinert contends that BLM has still not demonstrated the adequacy of its search or the propriety of many redactions, including some in the newly released materials.
The Court noted (in part):
The Court was in doubt about whether the agency conducted a reasonable search.
For the most part, BLM failed to convince the Court that their redactions were justified.
With respect to the Exemption 5 (deliberative process) redactions that Kleinert challenged, BLM failed to show that its invocation of the deliberative process privilege was justified.
BLM’s submissions did not convince the Court that some redacted materials “reflect the personal opinions of the writer rather than the policy of the agency.”
BLM’s reliance on Exemption 7(C) for the most part faltered at the first step because BLM did not convince the Court that the bulk of the redacted records were “compiled for law enforcement purposes.”
(Regarding Exemption 7), “the individuals whose names and titles have been redacted here fit none of those categories.  They are BLM employees who signed non-confidential official documents that happened to be reviewed and summarized years later by investigators examining tangentially related events.  The risk of harassment, embarrassment, or reputational damage here — if not absent entirely—seems about as close to nil as it could get.”
Given that the privacy interests here are truly de minimis, the balancing favors disclosure.  Kleinert has articulated a significant public interest behind his FOIA request: determining whether BLM is unfairly restricting his ability to film on public lands because of his views.  This inquiry of course has special significance for Kleinert, but the public generally has an interest in learning if an agency is retaliating against its media critics.
“Exemption 6 does not categorically exempt individuals’ identities.”  The absence of such a per se rule is fatal to BLM’s invocation of Exemption 6, for the agency has failed to explain with meaningful specificity why releasing the challenged information would significantly threaten anyone’s privacy.  …And the Court will certainly not accept the suggestion that the remote possibility of harassment means that every disclosure of a name implicates a significant privacy interest.

BLM keeps quiet, again

wild_at_heart_coverwww.terrifarley.com

SOURCE:  newsreview.com

By

Author Terri Farley said last week the Bureau of Land Management was unresponsive when she was writing her new book about wild horses and young people who try to protect them.

“I know people that are staffers for BLM that I’ve gotten along with great, people that I feel have some integrity, and they know what they’re doing and the care about what they’re doing,” she said.  “However, everyone who wanted to talk to me had to go through D.C.”

This everything-goes-vertical policy has long drawn complaints from reporters in the West, because it often denies them the most informed perspective, from the BLM people in the field.  The problem was especially acute during the April 2014 Bunkerville standoff.

Farley said, “And I have a stack of emails and phone messages—‘We’ll get back to you’; ‘Oh, could you put your questions in writing?’ ”

Moreover, she said that after a long period of being ignored by BLM spokespeople, once she announced on Facebook that the book was finished, they came running.

She said she pushed back the press date in hope of getting comments from BLM.  She was able to pull old quotes from her notes or use quotes from news coverage, but those were only substitutes for an on-point interview.  She did send written questions without success.

“And I really did make the book as balanced as it was possible to do without them talking to me,” she said.  “But then after I posted it on Facebook that the book was gone and no more changes could be made, I got an email answering my questions.”

Even then, she said, the answers to her questions were mostly taken from material on the BLM website.

New Federal Fracking Rules Rely on FracFocus Even as EPA Research Highlights Site’s Flaws

EPA researchers ran up against a major stumbling block in crunching numbers based on FracFocus’ data, an issue that some warn may continue to cause problems even as the Bureau of Land Management adopts FracFocus as the mechanism for tracking fracking chemicals used on federal public lands.”

Source: desmogblog.com

by Sharon Kelly

chemicals  Photo credit:”Bulk fluid shipping containers on pallets ready for shipment,” via Shutterstock.

It’s a classic case of the government’s left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Days after the Bureau of Land Management issued new federal rules for fracking on federal land, relying heavily on an industry-run site called FracFocus, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a study mainly noteworthy for the shortcomings of the site that it revealed.

More than 70 percent of the chemical disclosure statements that drillers posted on FracFocus between January 2011 and February 2013 were missing key information because drillers labeled that data “confidential business information,” the EPA reported.

On average, drillers reported using a mix of 14 different chemicals at each well site. At sites where information was withheld, an average of five chemicals were not named.

In fact, FracFocus allowed drillers to conceal the identity of more than one out of every ten chemicals whose use was “disclosed” on the site, EPAresearchers found.

This made it impossible for EPA‘s researchers, who received over 39,000 disclosure statements from FracFocus in March 2013 and published their study two years later, to definitively say what chemicals drillers used most often, how much of each chemical was injected underground, or even to simply create a list of all the chemicals used at the wells.

“The project database is an incomplete picture of all hydraulic fracturing due to … the omission of information on CBI [confidential business information] ingredients from disclosures, and invalid or erroneous information created during the development of the database or found in the original disclosures,”EPA noted in a fact sheet about the research.

All told, the EPA was able to identify 692 different chemicals — including hydrochloric acid, methanol and diesel fuel — that were used during fracking. But that number is almost certainly incomplete, EPA researchers said, in part because over 129,000 individual ingredient records were labeled secret.

The gaps immediately drew the ire of environmental groups.

The fracking industry is hiding a lot of information about the chemicals they are using in our communities,” Kate Kiely, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Bloomberg. “Even without that information, it is clear that there is widespread use of dangerous chemicals.”

Just seven days before EPA‘s results were released, the Bureau of Land Management announced new rules intended to manage fracking on over 247 million acres of public land managed by the federal government and the 700 million acres for which the government owned mineral rights as of 2013.

The BLM‘s newly-minted chemical disclosure rules are built around FracFocus, allowing drillers to make required reports through the industry-backed website.

Data, data, everywhere…

EPA researchers ran up against a major stumbling block in crunching numbers based on FracFocus’ data, an issue that some warn may continue to cause problems even as the Bureau of Land Management adopts FracFocus as the mechanism for tracking fracking chemicals used on federal public lands.

FracFocus stored the information drillers provided in separate .pdf files for each disclosure, and every .pdf form can be different if drillers decide to edit the formatting. This meant that EPA researchers needed to spend enormous amounts of time simply transferring each bit of information into a spreadsheet, and then going back and making sure that each bit of information was in the proper place.

Some open-government advocates say that the BLM‘s reliance on FracFocus runs contrary to an executive order issued by President Obama that pledged to make data from the government “easy to find, accessible, and usable” by requiring it to be “machine-readable” — essentially in a format that lets researchers access it.

“Besides the fact that this decision flouts the President’s own Executive Order #13642 on Open Data, why are we so concerned about how the government manages fracking data?” David Manthos, Communications Director of the environmental organization SkyTruth wrote in a blog posting about the BLMrules. “The reason is because this decision will deprive property and homeowners, scientists, decision-makers, emergency responders, healthcare professionals, and the general public of effective access to information that is vital to investigating the environmental, social, and public health impacts of modern oil and gas drilling.”

FracFocus has promised to upgrade its site, having already done so once since it provided EPA researchers with the raw materials for their study. But SkyTruth’s Manthos remains skeptical.

“I’m concerned that BLM is basing their decision on vague promises, and will have no leverage or authority to control the timetable, implementation, or functionality of these improvements,” he said.

For a while, Mr. Manthos’ organization tackled the tedious task of scraping data from the FracFocus site and importing it into spreadsheets so researchers could use it. But in 2013, their work came to an abrupt halt when FracFocus froze SkyTruth’s access to the site.

There was a little error message that was coming out saying, ‘Hey, you’re sending too many requests. You’re being blocked for 24 hours,’” SkyTruth’s Paul Woods explained to StateImpact last year. “Then, they block you for 48 hours and then they block you forever.”

SkyTruth is not the only organization to find fault with FracFocus. In 2013, astudy published by Harvard University’s Environmental Law Program gave the site a failing grade, noting that it “has limited quality assurance procedures” because “FracFocus staff does not review submissions” uploaded by drillers.

The BLM‘s new rules also allow drillers, not regulators, to decide when a chemical should be considered secret as they upload their disclosures to FracFocus.

“These trade secret provisions are much weaker than many states and ignore the advice of a Department of Energy advisory panel which unanimously recommended that ‘any trade secret exemptions permitted by BLM in its regulations for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands include a rigorous process of claiming trade secret exemptions and robust trade secret verification and challenge mechanisms,’” the NRDC‘s Amy Mall wrote in response to the new rules.

The relative laxity of the BLM‘s new rules has done little to deter protest from the oil and gas industry, who see the rules as chipping away at state-level oversight of the shale drilling rush.

“Under the strong environmental stewardship of state regulators, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have opened up a new era of energy security, job growth, and economic strength,” API Director Erik Milito said in a statement. “A duplicative layer of new federal regulation is unnecessary, and we urge the BLM to work carefully with the states to minimize costs and delays created by the new rule to ensure that public lands can still be a source of job creation and economic growth.”

Already, battles over the BLM‘s new rules are headed into the courthouse.

Two industry groups, the Independent Petroleum Association for America and the Western Energy Alliance, have filed lawsuits claiming that the BLM‘s rules overreach federal authority, as has the state of Wyoming. Environmental organizations have suggested that the rules could also be vulnerable to a challenge under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The bottom line is,” the NRDC‘s Amy Mall told The Dallas Morning News, “these rules fail to protect the nation’s public lands — home to our last wild places, and sources of drinking water for millions of people.”

The BLM fails to provide public records

The agency’s main Freedom of Information Act office appears incompetent or overworked.

SOURCE:  HIGH COUNTRY NEWS

by Ray Ring, a Senior Editor for High Country News

When High Country News began using the Freedom of Information Act to gather official reports of threats against federal employees in the West, we didn’t expect that the main obstacle would arise in one federal agency’s headquarters.

Our intention was positive: By examining and summarizing the incidents, we hoped to ease tensions and encourage more respect for the federal employees as they go about their duties in the field.

So we were surprised by the poor performance of the Bureau of Land Management’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office in Washington, D.C. Its response to our request for public records can only be described as dysfunctional.

We began our investigation in January by filing FOIA requests with dozens of BLM field offices around the West, because the employees on the front lines bear the brunt of the threats and harassment. Then in February, the BLM’s chief FOIA officer, Ryan Witt, urged us to “consolidate” our far-flung FOIA requests into a single request handled by Witt’s office in D.C. Witt promised that running it all through his office would be would be more efficient, but as it has worked out, it’s been the opposite.

A comparison illustrates the problem: We filed similar FOIA requests with U.S. Forest Service offices around the West, and by the end of June, that agency had provided more than 2,300 pages of records of threats targeting its employees. At that point, the BLM’s FOIA office in D.C. had provided only 123 pages of records of incidents targeting BLM employees.

For two months after that, Witt and the FOIA officer to whom he delegated our request, Ore Fashola, stopped responding to us. Finally a lawyer in Witt’s office, Mike Sarich, helped spring loose several hundred additional pages in September. At that point, Fashola promised to send a “final” release of the main BLM records by mid-September — but since then, we’ve received nothing more from that set of records.

We still don’t even have BLM’s account of the worst incident since 2010 — a shooter’s attempted murder of two BLM rangers in Arizona, the opening scene in our introductory essay. We learned of that shooting through Forest Service records, because Forest Service employees helped search for the shooter who targeted the BLM rangers.

On Oct. 14, Witt phoned to explain why his office hasn’t yet provided the BLM’s account of the Arizona shooting. He said he’d discovered that his agency has a separate set of records covering incidents in which BLM law-enforcement rangers use their guns. That set of records is bound to have the most serious BLM incidents related to our FOIA request, yet Witt’s office overlooked them until we pressed for answers. Witt has now promised that we’ll get that set of records within a month, and it will include four or five incidents in which rangers drew their weapons. Forgive us if we’re skeptical about the timeline.

Whether the problem stems from overworked BLM FOIA officers in Witt’s office, incompetence, political manipulation, or a paranoiac secrecy in the BLM’s law-enforcement leadership, we encourage the head of the BLM, Neil Kornze, and his boss, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, to fix the problems in the BLM’s FOIA office.

 

The BLM says NO photos allowed of Wyoming Checkerboard horses at Canon City wild horse adoption on November 7

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A beautiful family near Eversole Ranch days before being removed

by Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

As many of you know, I have spent the past 10 years photographing the wild horses in Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek and Great Divide Basin, and I also spent many days during the Wyoming Checkerboard Roundup witnessing and photographing from very far away as 1263 wild horses lost their freedom and their families from these three herd areas.

The public was prevented from any close views of the traps or the horses during the roundups, usually being kept from 2 – 3 miles from the trap, and even when were allowed to go to the temporary holding at the end of the day, we were kept well back and could barely see the horses through the plastic mesh.

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My very distant view at the roundup

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The mesh blocking the view of the horses at temporary holding

On one day, some of the mesh was down and I actually got a decent view of the mares.  On posting these photos I immediately had someone interested in adopting two of the mares in the photographs.

14CarolWalker002-

The mares through a gap in the fence at temporary holding

On returning home from the last day of the roundup, I immediately emailed the BLM at the Canon City, Colorado facility to request to attend the first adoption where the public would be allowed to see the horses removed during the Checkerboard Roundup.  I was very happy to hear that at least half of the horses removed had been sent to Canon City as I believe it is the best short term holding facility that the BLM has.  The employees are knowledgeable and care very much about the horses, and they take very good care of the horses.  They are also very good to work with regarding adoptions, and I found that out for myself when I adopted my mustang Mica.

I also requested to be allowed to photograph the horses so that I might be able to post photographs of the horses that are there and to help get as many of them adopted as possible, as I have many people waiting on those photographs from me.  I said that I was willing to give the BLM copies of all my photos to help them get these horses adopted.  I even mentioned that I was prepared to pay the commercial fee to be allowed to photograph there, since Canon City has special rules regarding photographing since it is at a prison.  I had been allowed to photograph in 2010 when I adopted my mustang Mica after the 2010 Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek roundups.

14CarolWalker001-

Mica and the other weanlings at Canon City in 2010

Since I am a professional photographer of horses, I am able to get high quality images that will put the horses in their best light.  I have a very large social media following and the images would go out widely.  Photos get people involved, get people interested, motivate them to take action.  If the BLM were really interested in getting these horses placed, I believe they would allow photographs of the horses to be taken.

Instead this is the email response that I received:

“In regards to your camera request for November 7, 2014, I have had numerous requests to bring in cameras to photograph the horses.  Per Department of Corrections Administrative Regulations, no cameras are allowed on grounds for security reasons.  We do make exceptions, but with so many requests for this adoption, it is not fair to the others to see some people with cameras when they were denied.

I think it is in the best interest for the BLM and CCi that we do not allow any cameras on 11/07/2014.”

Notice that nothing is said about the best interests of the horses.

And doesn’t it make sense that if so many people want to photograph these horses,  that no one be allowed to photograph them.

I truly believe that if the BLM could find a way, they would prevent me from photographing the horses in the wild as well.

Oh wait, if they remove all of them, then that is exactly what they will be doing.

 

 

 

 

BLM ships 1,770 wild horses out of Teterville Long Term Holding Pasture in Kansas

by Debbie Coffey           Copyright 2014        All Rights Reserved.

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Mares look at the public on a BLM tour of Long Term Holding pastures in Kansas. (photo by Carol Walker)

Over the course of several weeks, with no transparency (unless a member of the public happened to call to directly ask), the BLM recently shipped about 1,770 wild horses, who were supposedly “living out their lives” on the Teterville Long Term Holding Pasture in Kansas, to other long term holding pastures and to a TEMPORARY SHORT TERM HOLDING FACILITY, in feedlot like conditions.

Approximately 1,400 mare were shipped to the Temporary Short Term Holding Facility in Scott City, Kansas.

Approximately 100 geldings were shipped to Cassoday Long Term Holding in Kansas.

Approximately 100 geldings were sent to Hulah Long Term Holding in Oklahoma.

Approximately 35 geldings were shipped to Catoosa Long Term Holding in Oklahoma.

Approximately 100 geldings were shipped to Bartlesville Long Term Holding in Oklahoma.

Approximately 35 geldings were shipped to Whitehorse Long Term Holding in Oklahoma.

The so called “notification” that the BLM gave the public, (if you happened to be browsing the From the Public page of their website, was this:

Question: Does the BLM ever move animals from a long-term pasture to another holding facility? If so, why? (July 2014)

Answer: Yes, BLM moves animals from long-term pastures to other facilities if the long-term pasture can no longer accommodate the animals. Examples of when this would occur include:  
1.  If a contractor sells the ranch and the new owner does not want to manage for wild horses.
2. If a contractor has lands recovering from drought and wants to remove grazing animals or decrease their numbers to aid in drought recovery.
3. If market conditions change in the livestock sector such that the contractor identifies a more lucrative use for the land.
 
Depending on the capacity of the facility needing to relocate animals, the number of animals being relocated can range from a few hundred to a few thousand head.
 
The majority of animals that have not been adopted are held on long-term pastures.  Long-term pastures provide a free-roaming environment for the animals and it costs less for the taxpayer to house animals on long-term pastures than at short-term holding facilities.  With long-term and short-term facilities nearly filled to capacity, the BLM is currently seeking new short-term and long-term holding facilities.”
Okie dokie.  I have some comments about this:
 1) The BLM didn’t even bother to mention (notify the public) that they shipped 1,770 wild horses out of the Teterville Long Term Holding Pasture in the vague “answer” to their own generic question.
2)  The BLM, in charge of “managing” (and planning for the “care” of) the wild horses for about 42 years, didn’t have the foresight that the conditions they listed above might happen, and have another Long Term Holding Pasture on a waiting list.
3)  The public would like a tour of the TEMPORARY SHORT TERM HOLDING FACILITY in Scott City, Kansas.  We are tired of the BLM moving our wild horses onto private property, and out of sight.  The BLM needs to be accountable to the public.
4) Per BLM’s Debbie Collins, the “notification” of the horses being shipped from Teterville would be in the form of showing the numbers of additional horses at certain LTH facilities and the Temporary Short Term Holding Facility in Kansas on the BLM’s next “Off The Range” Facility Report.  Of course, this report isn’t easy to find on the BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro website.  And that really doesn’t adequately inform the public that wild horses were shipped out of Teterville Long Term Holding, does it?  Are we on a scavenger hunt for tidbits of information?
5)  The BLM has issued bids for new Long Term Holding Pastures, but it could take up to a year.  Meanwhile, 1,400 mares may have to go through a harsh winter in western Kansas in a feedlot like corrals.
6)  Debbie Collins seemed not to know, or did not want to tell me, the name of the contractor/ranch/facility for the Temporary Short Term Holding facility in Scott City.  A member of the public shouldn’t have to file a FOIA for something like this.  BLM employees, and the Wild Horse & Burro Program, are paid with public tax dollars and should answer questions.  No wonder the BLM’s FOIA office is swamped.   (Don’t worry, we’ll find out.)
7)  The BLM continues to blatantly lack transparency.