NM Senate Committee Passes Horse as Livestock Bill

Dianne L Stallings , Ruidoso News

“Wild Horse Advocates fear new provisions could lead to the elimination of wild herds…”

Members of the wild herd rounded up last year were photographed crossing at their designated point on the highway leading into Alto and Ruidoso.(Photo: Courtesy/Melissa Babcock)

Members of the wild herd rounded up last year were photographed crossing at their designated point on the highway leading into Alto and Ruidoso.(Photo: Courtesy/Melissa Babcock)

Local advocates for wild horse herds in New Mexico piled into a bus at 3:30 a.m. Thursday and headed to Santa Fe to voice their views on an amended version of a state senate bill they feared would lead to the elimination of wild horse herds that roam the Alto area north of Ruidoso.

Despite the efforts of advocates, they reported that members of the Senate Conservation Committee passed the bill in less than five minutes. A series of hearings led to modifications of the original bill submitted by State Sen. Pat Woods, a Republican from Quay County, that eliminates the classification of domesticated horse.

While under the amended version horses still would be lumped into the broad definition for livestock that fall under the jurisdiction of the New Mexico Livestock Board, specific exceptions were included for Spanish colonial horses and for a “wild horse” defined as an “unclaimed horse without obvious brands or other evidence of private ownership that is determined by the board to originate from public land or federal land or to be part of or descended from a herd that lives on or originates from public land; but does not include horses that are subject to the jurisdiction of the federal government pursuant to the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.”

Public land does not include federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service or state trust land.

Under the amended version, a wild horse captured on private land in New Mexico at the discretion of the livestock board “shall be” humanely captured and relocated to state public land or to a public or private horse preserve; adopted by a qualified person (for an adoption fee); or humanely euthanized provided the option is the last resort when the horse is determined by a licensed veterinarian to be crippled or otherwise unhealthy or cannot be relocated to a public or private wild horse preserve or adopted.

A new section throws in another wrinkle for the future of “wild horses” such as the herds in Alto. That section in the amended bill provides when requested by the board to determine the viability of a specific New Mexico wild horse herd on the range they occupy, the range improvement task force of New Mexico State University will evaluate the range conditions to determine the number of wild horses that the range can support while maintaining its ecological health.

The task force will report the results of the evaluation to the board. “If required, the board may cause control of the New Mexico wild horse herd population through the use of birth control and may cause excess horses to be humanely captured” and relocated, adopted or euthanized…(CONTINUED)

http://www.ruidosonews.com/story/news/local/2017/02/09/senate-committee-passes-horse-livestock-bill/97712106/

Restraining Order Extended in NM Wild Horse Case

Ruidoso News report

The judge in the Alto wild horse case has extended the temporary restraining order that bars the state Livestock Board from selling or separating the dozen mares and foals they seized in August.

altowildhorsesThe extension has little practical effect, since the Board long since shipped the herd back to Lincoln County where they are being looked after by volunteers under court supervision.

The order signed this week by 12th District Judge Dan Bryant said that “the temporary restraining order issued by the Court on Sept. 23, 2016, shall be extended and shall remain in full force and effect until such time a trial on the matter is heard before the Court or unless otherwise stipulated or orderd by the Court.”

It also said that “the persons who have undertaken the responsibilities to take possession of and care for the horses that are the subject matter of this cause of action, shall continue to maintain the care and custody of those horses at the previously agreed location during the pendency of this action.”

The Livestock Board seized the herd under state law that allows it to take custody of “estray livestock” and either return such animals to their owners or sell, relocate or otherwise dispose of them.

The Wild Horse Observers Association with the backing of local wild horse enthusiasts sued the Board, arguing that the dozen horses are wild horses under state law and recent appellate court decisions and the Board has no jurisdiction over them.

Alto Wild Horse Herd Comes Home

by Dianne L Stallings, Ruidoso News

“My biggest advice to the community is that our stance is that these horses are wild,”

The Alto “wild” horse herd was delivered quietly back to Lincoln County Tuesday, ending a month’s battle between herd advocates and officials with the New Mexico Livestock Board.

A truck pulled into the Fort Stanton Road property with members of the Alto herd.(Photo: Courtesy/Teeatta Lippert)

A truck pulled into the Fort Stanton Road property with members of the Alto herd.(Photo: Courtesy/Teeatta Lippert)

The return of the horses to pens prepared on land owned by Shelley McAlister was arranged Monday, but advocates said the livestock board didn’t want a crowd waiting for the equines. They were told that the noise and commotion might upset the steeds, advocate Teeatta Lippert said.

“They called me 20 minutes before they got here and said I needed to get here, they were ready to pull into the driveway,” Lippert said.

McAlister said her notice wasn’t from board officials.

“Someone in Carrizozo saw the truck and asked if they were the horses going back to Alto,” she said. “They told a woman, who called me. We just happened to be here working on the security cameras and packing up the house.”

“I am really grateful for the way it worked out,” Lippert said. “Trying to sort them with people hollering or calling names or screaming would have made our job a lot harder and would have stressed them out.”

Unloading went swiftly over a 10 minute to 20-minute period, she said. None of the adult horses acted up, but some of the foals were frisky. The foals now are in pens with their mothers and one even began nursing immediately, she said.

“My biggest advice to the community is that our stance is that these horses are wild,” Lippert said. “They were born wild. They are wild, so we must keep our distance. If we brush them and pet them, and get them use to us, then our standing in court that they are wild goes out the window, because they are officially domesticated. And it would be inhumane at that point to release them back in the wild.”

The battle won’t really be over until a district judge decides whether the horses fall under a definition of wild or are estray livestock under the jurisdiction of the livestock board. Working under the latter assumption, board officials hauled away the 12 mares and foals after they were penned by a property owner as nuisances. The action spurred rallies and community meetings, as well as litigation by the Wild Horse Observers Association asking for a restraining order on the sale of the horses by the livestock board. The order was granted and while the court drama plays out, an agreement was reached to allow the horses to come back to Alto as the responsibility of nine volunteers. The horses must stay in isolation for 21 days and then, if the case remains undecided, could be transferred to larger secure pastures.

Lippert said she was impressed with how the community handled the issue in a peaceful manner.

“We achieved more than shootings and riots and bombings and fires,” she said. “And our children can see that a small town can make a difference. I was raised to have hope and that if you send it out there and you stand your ground and pray, it if it is meant to be, Jesus will answer you.”

But the executive director of the livestock board said not everyone exhibited stellar behavior. “I’d like to thank the staff of the New Mexico Livestock Board for their professionalism during this emotional issue,” William Bunce said Tuesday. “Their courtesy extended to others, while being maligned for holding to the letter of the law, is exemplary.  Chapter 77 of the livestock code as well as the applicable Lincoln County Ordinances spell out very clearly that a legal process must take place. Those who expect this agency to operate otherwise, will continue to be disappointed. The vulgarity, insults and accusations thrown at our employees via telephone, email and various social media venues is nothing short of reprehensible.  As this issue is currently in litigation, any further discussion should be limited to the legal counsels representing both sides.”

With Aspenfest parade scheduled for Saturday, Lippert and several others said they hope to celebrate the return of the horses with a banner.

http://www.ruidosonews.com/story/news/local/2016/09/27/alto-wild-horse-herd-comes-home/91188924/

News analysis: Lawyers to debate what makes a wild horse wild

By Dave Tomlin / Ruidoso News, N.M. (TNS) as published in the Albuquerque Journal

“How does the Livestock Board distinguish this herd from the Placitas herd in the Court of Appeals case?”

photo courtesy of wildhorsesofalto.blogspot.com

photo courtesy of wildhorsesofalto.blogspot.com

As the lawyer for the New Mexico Livestock Board stood before him last week, District Judge Dan Bryant asked what is sure to be a key question if the lawsuit over the future of the wild horses of Alto goes to trial.

“How does the Livestock Board distinguish this herd from the Placitas herd in the Court of Appeals case?” Bryant asked Asst. Atty. Gen. Ari Biernoff.

The judge was referring to a case in which the appellate court ruled last year that the Board shouldn’t have treated a free-roaming herd of wild horses near Placitas as if they were “estray” livestock, just as they tried to do with the Alto herd.

To those who love Lincoln County’s free-roaming horses, the answer is self-evident. There’s no difference at all between the Alto horses and the Placitas horses, and the Livestock Board is wrong again.

The horse advocates may be exactly right. But that doesn’t mean lawyers won’t find plenty to argue about as they belabor what may look to equine-loving eyes like the obvious, if and when Bryant takes the bench to preside over Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) v. New Mexico Livestock Board.

Here are some of the legal and factual points a trial may raise:

1. The Court of Appeals opinion accepted WHOA’s claim that the Board “took the auctioned Placitas horses directly from public land before auctioning them.” But the Alto herd was penned up by a private landowner who summoned the Livestock Board to collect them.

We’ll discuss later why it might matter a lot where the Board picked up the horses. But one side, or maybe both, may argue that the Court of Appeals was misinformed about where the Placitas herd was picked up and by whom.

Corrales attorney David G. Reynolds, an attorney for one of the private landowners who intervened in the Placitas case on the Livestock Board’s side, told the News last month that the herd was actually captured on private property just like the Alto herd.

The point was never hashed out in court because 2nd District Court Judge Valerie Huling dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals sent it back to her for trial, but last week Huling dismissed it again because the Placitas horses are all gone and there’s no longer any herd to argue over. As lawyers say, the case is “moot.”

But since Bryant may have to decide whether the Court of Appeals ruling controls the outcome of the Alto case, he might hear arguments or evidence that the relevance of the appellate court opinion should be discounted because it was based on incorrect facts.

2. The New Mexico Livestock Code defines a wild horse as “an unclaimed horse on public land that is not an estray.”

The wording of this statute is the reason it might matter where the Board picks up any given group of unclaimed horses. The Court of Appeals ruling never says what an unclaimed horse on private land might be, because it presumed the Placitas herd was on public land as the statute appears to require.

Biernoff told Bryant last week that this is a “critical” difference between the Placitas and Alto cases. But even if the facts show that both herds were actually taken by the Board from private land, the Board may still argue that the Court of Appeals ruling doesn’t apply to the Alto herd.

Bryant could end up scratching his head over how much the extensive reasoning in the Court of Appeals decision depends on where the horses happened to be picked up.

He also may be asked to consider whether the legislature really intended to say that a wild horse suddenly stops being wild whenever it strays or is lured or led from public land onto private land.

Reynolds told the News a wild horse on public land turns instantly into “a large packrat” on private land in the eyes of the law. Since neither the statute nor the Court of Appeals ruling says anything about a free-roaming unclaimed horse on private land, he said, such a beast has no more legal standing or protection than a varmint.

But Albuquerque attorney Steven K. Sanders, who has represented WHOA in both cases, told the News last week before the hearing that this would be “a travesty” and could not have been what the legislature meant the law to say.

3.The Livestock Code says “public land” does not include federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service or state trust land controlled by the state land office.

When you take all that away, plus all private property, an awful lot of Lincoln County is off the table as the kind of land on which a free-ranging horse can be considered legally wild, if the statute means exactly what it says.

Bryant ruminated aloud about that in court last Friday, even though nobody had asked him to. He seemed to conclude that in dealing with this case he will have to decide whether the Alto herd could have spent significant time on “public land” as the Livestock Code defines it.

It’s hard to say how important that will be to the case. But if Bryant was already thinking about it on his own in a preliminary hearing, a smart lawyer would probably have to consider it very important.

4. The only other definition in state law of a “wild horse” besides the one in the Livestock Code doesn’t seem to fit the Placitas and Alto herds.

The Court of Appeals opinion cited a New Mexico Administrative Code section that said a wild horse is a feral horse in an “untamed state having returned to a wild state from domestication.”

That doesn’t describe the wild horses in these cases, which everyone seems to agree have never been owned by anyone in their lives.

But it’s still possible the code section may come into play anyway. Read on.

5. State law defines livestock as “domestic or domesticated animals.” WHOA says that means the Placitas and Alto herds can’t be livestock. The Livestock Board begs to differ.

Biernoff indicated in last week’s hearing that the Board may try to portray the Alto herd as domesticated.

“We’ll have testimony about how this herd was living,” Biernoff told the judge. “We believe that the horses were being fed, having social interaction with people. We might need more evidence on this.”

Biernoff questioned some of Sanders’s witnesses about the Alto horses’ docile behavior. Then he called Caroline McCoy to the stand. McCoy is the property owner who penned up the 12 Alto mares and foals for the Livestock Board to take away. She described how she led them easily into an enclosure while riding her all-terrain vehicle.

Finally Biernoff called a Lincoln County rancher named Ashley Ivins to testify. His main goal with Ivins seemed to be to have her describe her familiarity with the kind of mustangs found on federal Bureau of Land Management ranges and how different they are from the Alto horses.

“They’re true wild horses,” Ivins said. “They’re mean and wild. They won’t eat out of your hand or be near people.”

So the definition of “domesticated” may be among the points Bryant will be asked to consider. And even if he agrees with the Board that the Alto horses have displayed domesticated behavior, he would have to weigh that against the fact that they’re also unclaimed and free-roaming.

Not many cases give a district judge the chance to address important gaps in the law left by both the state’s legislature and its second highest court. The novelty of the judicial opportunity could have been one reason Bryant put a stop to the Livestock Board’s attempt to auction the Alto herd.

But the judge was clearly troubled by the possibility that the Livestock Board is finding it easier to win wild horse cases on the auction block than in the courtroom, especially after the Placitas judge concluded that if the herd is gone, the case goes away too.

Bryant asked Biernoff during the hearing how a court could ever get a chance to review the Livestock Board’s actions and decide the legal issues surrounding New Mexico’s unclaimed, free-roaming horses if the Board were allowed to keep selling them off as soon as it gets its hands on them.

Biernoff uttered some words in reply to the judge’s question, but they didn’t contain a good answer. That’s because there probably isn’t any.

Update: Alto horse herd talks move forward, public meeting planned

Dianne L Stallings, Ruidoso News

““Per the judge’s encouragement, they have agreed to release the horses to someone in Ruidoso…”

Wild horses were feeling frisky on a fall afternoon.(Photo: Courtesy/Kristen Kandros)

Wild horses were feeling frisky on a fall afternoon.(Photo: Courtesy/Kristen Kandros)

A discussion about returning 12 members of the wild horse herd of Alto is underway between officials with the New Mexico Livestock Board and members of a group that has spearheaded efforts to bring home the mares and foals penned by a landowner and hauled to Santa Fe by board employees last month.

A meeting to update supporters of the wild horse herd of Alto is planned for Tuesday. Details about time and place will be updated online as they become available.

District Court Judge Dan Bryant last week issued a temporary restraining order to stop the sale of the horses and urged a return of the herd to Lincoln County pending the outcome of a lawsuit to determine their status as estray or wild.

“With Judge Bryant’s ruling, the bid process has stopped,” William Bunce, livestock board executive director, said Monday. “The horses are fine, and discussions regarding acceptance of the horses by others are occurring.”

“We didn’t know if they would make contact with us directly or through attorneys, but he called Shelley McAlister,” Melissa Babcock said Monday. The two women were among the first to organize efforts to save the horses and to focus attention on providing a safe refuge for them, if needed. “Per the judge’s encouragement, they have agreed to release the horses to someone in Ruidoso. There are some stipulations to that agreement, which is kind of what we said at the beginning of the (public) meeting (Aug. 29). They have to be kept together per the judge’s order. But the livestock board’s conditions are obviously, we can’t just let them loose.

“They have to remained penned. There is a quarantine period of 15 days, I believe. They are supposed to be faxing us the conditions, but one is a quarantine. What we were wanting to do was let everyone know that, and that the livestock board has asked people to stop calling. We want to let people know that’s kind of where we are until it goes through court.”

Group members find themselves almost at the point they were with the horses and livestock board on Aug. 29, when livestock board officials indicated McAlister or some other landowner with appropriate property could take custody of the horses, she said.

“We want people to feel the decision is everyone’s decision,” Babcock said. “Shelley has 10 acres, but wherever we put them first, they definitely have to stay for the quarantine period. Then if there is someone else in the community with more land, but keep in mind, it is not just a matter of saying you can use my land. You have to take legal responsibility for them and it is a huge deal. One of the conditions from the livestock board is that it can’t just be someone with land, it has to be someone with land and experience with horses.”

Babcock and McAlister want to brief supporters and see who may step forward with an offer of land, she said.

“Shelley is fine with them staying there, but she doesn’t want people to think she’s the one who gets to make that decision,” Babcock said. “We don’t want anyone to think it was just the committee of six that was making all the decisions. We want to make sure people feel like they have a say and opinion. There are some things we can’t change and their opinion wouldn’t change, such as (the horses) must be kept. They cannot be turned loose.”

Money still is being raised to cover veterinary bills, food and other upkeep of the herd until the court renders a decision. The livestock board didn’t mention a minimum acreage size, she said.

“We’re open for people to make suggestions,” she said. “Forty acres would be nice, because we need as much secure space as possible to keep them in an environment that feels wild, so when we win this, they will be ready to bring them back to where they were picked up or close by and release them.”

Herd advocates don’t want to foster dependence on humans any more than absolutely necessary, she said.

One of the advantages of staying on McAlister’s 10 acres is that it is in Alto and there’s a possibility the stallion, Big Boss, may find his mares, Babcock said. “We’ve had (offers of land) from Nogal and all over,” she said. “That’s great, but being somewhat close would be nice for feeding.”

http://www.ruidosonews.com/story/news/local/2016/09/12/alto-horse-herd-talks-move-forward-public-meeting-planned/90283650/

One Woman’s Complaint Leads to Roundup of NM Alto Wild Horses

By Dianne L. Stallings as published on The Santa Fe New Mexican

“n 2014, a horse from the herd labeled as a nuisance was sold at auction for $42.59 by a business already charged with several counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Documents indicate he probably was sent to slaughter.”

photo courtesy of wildhorsesofalto.blogspot.com

photo courtesy of wildhorsesofalto.blogspot.com

ALTO — About a dozen free-roaming mares and their foals were hauled away from the Southern New Mexico community of Alto on Friday in response to a complaint lodged by a resident who contended they were a nuisance, posed a danger to traffic and were damaging property.

Caroline McCoy’s efforts to corral the horses upset neighbors and advocates for the herd, who gathered to try to work out a solution and halt the herd’s removal.

Many people in the area also called the state Livestock Board and the Governor’s Office to lodge complaints. They questioned why the feral herd is not protected by federal law, like the mustangs and burros roaming on Bureau of Land Management property. These horses, which state officials say probably wandered off the Mescalero Apache Reservation 20 to 30 years ago, are treated as stray animals rather than a part of Western heritage.

The horses taken from the Alto area will never run wild again, said New Mexico Livestock Board Executive Director Ray Baca, who was on hand Friday.

The stallion of the herd was not among the horses corralled and removed, because McCoy was unable to secure him on her property, a requirement of the removal process. Those watching the effort said the stallion was “going crazy” nearby as his mares and foals were loaded and hauled away.

The horses will be confined for at least five days for examination by a veterinarian, checked for brands, microchips and other signs of ownership, then put up for auction on the livestock board’s web page dealing with lost, found and estray horses.

“I think the biggest thing I am looking at right now is that we examine these horses for tattoos or brands, or microchips or such to make sure they don’t belong to a rightful owner,” Baca said. “And if an owner comes forward, they have a right to them, of course, by providing proof of ownership.

“We’re going to take them to a facility where we can work with them closely and have our veterinarian look at them, as well as our inspectors,” he said.

Baca estimated about a dozen horses were involved.

“We will publicize them for five days and people can come forward and bid on them at that point,” he said. “The public bid is held on our website.”

The exact location where the horses will be confined until they are bought had not been designated when they left, but later in the day, the destination was pinpointed as Santa Fe. A herd advocate said Mendoza said photographs of the horses will be posted on the board’s website Monday.

“The major concern and problem now is that we find a safe place for the horses that has adequate care and facility for them,” Baca said.

McCoy, 77, said she and her husband have been dealing with the horses since they moved to the area from nearby Nogal a year ago. When they arrived, fences had been broken down, and she repaired and improved the arrangement.

“I’m an older person riding my mare, and she becomes so upset with all of these horses,” McCoy said. “When I’m riding and come across them or my mare is in heat and there is a stud out there, it’s dangerous for me.”

The horses also eat her flowers and put hoof prints in damp ground, she said.

“But more than that, these are not wild horses, not the romantic mustang,” McCoy said. “These are abandoned horses just turned loose in the mountains. … Unfortunately, many residents treat [the removed herd] like deer, which is really illegal to feed, and put out grain. They say they will eat out of their hands, which they will. But when we were working with them this morning, these are not horses that are gentle by any means. If someone didn’t know what they were doing, they could get hurt.”

There are also dangers to drivers, she said. “I’ve seen people hit one of the mares once.”

By being rounded up, the horses will have a chance for a good home, McCoy said. “We talked about that immediately, and they will be advertised, and they are legally bound to do that,” she said of the Livestock Board. “I know people ready to bid on them.”

But a positive ending for the horses isn’t guaranteed. In 2014, a horse from the herd labeled as a nuisance was sold at auction for $42.59 by a business already charged with several counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Documents indicate he probably was sent to slaughter.

Alto resident Russell Perrin said his family enjoyed having the herd in the area and watching horses that he didn’t have to feed. They didn’t eat the flowers like the elk and deer, he said. They just trimmed the grass.

Comment directly at: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/woman-s-complaint-leads-to-roundup-of-alto-horses/article_6ef061a1-ac8e-51c1-8d31-38f8fe104ed7.html

Good News Sunday: New Mexico succeeds in legal fight to bar horse slaughter

Source:  Albuquerque Journal

By Susan Montoya Bryan / The Associated Press

dh010314a/a-sec-metro/01032014---Sue Carter (CQ) left, and Donna DiBanco (CQ) protest horse slaughter outside the Steve Herrera Judicial complex in Santa Fe, photographed on Friday January 3, 2014. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Sue Carter, left, and Donna DiBanco protest horse slaughter in Santa Fe in January 2014. A court decision Thursday finalizes a settlement that will prevent a horse slaughter operation in New Mexico. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

A court decision will prevent a horse slaughter operation from opening in New Mexico after the state’s lengthy legal battle.

A state district judge in Santa Fe granted an order late Thursday that makes final a settlement reached with the Attorney General’s Office, animal advocates, Valley Meat Co. and other associated businesses.

Valley Meat had sought to convert its cattle processing plant in Roswell to the slaughtering of horses, but the state sued in 2013 in an effort to stop those plans, saying such an operation would violate New Mexico’s environmental and food safety laws.

The order and previous rulings from the judge effectively end any chance of a horse slaughter operation opening in New Mexico, said Bruce Wagman, an attorney for the horse advocacy group Front Range Equine Rescue.

“This is the end. It can’t happen here in New Mexico,” Wagman said Friday.

This April 2013 photo shows the Valley Meat Co., which had been sitting idle for more than a year waiting for approval of its plans to slaughter horses. the associated press

This April 2013 photo shows the Valley Meat Co., which had been sitting idle for more than a year waiting for approval of its plans to slaughter horses. (The Associated Press)

Blair Dunn, an attorney for Valley Meat, said the closure of the case means his clients will no longer be harassed by the Attorney General’s Office and the others who joined the fight.

During the legal wrangling, proponents had argued that domestic slaughter was the most humane way to deal with a rising number of abused and abandoned horses. Now, unwanted horses are shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

The last domestic horse slaughterhouses closed in 2007, a year after Congress initially withheld funding for the required federal inspections of the slaughtering process. After the money was restored in 2011, plants in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa began trying to start horse slaughtering.

The efforts were again derailed in 2014 when President Barack Obama signed a budget measure that withheld the funding for inspections.

The lawsuit by the state, the horse rescue group and others was meant as a possible insurance plan in the event the federal government authorized funding for inspections in the future.

The order issued Thursday by Judge Francis Mathew makes permanent an injunction granted by Judge Matthew Wilson in January 2014 to prohibit the Roswell company from moving forward with its plans.

After receiving the order, state Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement, “There is no place for horse slaughter in the state of New Mexico.”

Read the rest of this story here.

 

 

 

Mine spill stirs concerns about New Mexico’s old mines

Instead of the BLM wasting money to round up wild horses and burros, they should spend this money cleaning up abandoned mines.  Which “use” has the greater potential to harm a “thriving ecological balance?”   Which “use” could contaminate huge amounts of water, which present and future generations need to survive?  Take a look at the BLM’s Abandoned Mine Lands Inventory HERE.  The wild horses and burros are only “the canary in the coal mine.”  –  Debbie

20150807__animas-river-pollution-colorado~p1

Polluted water flows down the Animas River on August 7, 2015. (photo: Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

“And so the question is, ‘Who’s going to pay for that in the future?’” Dronkers said. “It’s basically like we haven’t learned anything from Gold King, and we’re going to continue to build mines that have that same fundamental problem. But we’re going to build them thousands of times larger.”

SOURCEAlbuquerque Journal

SANTA FE — The ongoing fallout in New Mexico from last month’s Colorado mine spill is a stark reminder that the “Land of Enchantment” has its own dangerous mines.

While public officials continue to measure the damage wrought by the Gold King Mine spill, some say it’s a wake-up call to the staggering number of abandoned mines in New Mexico. The Bureau of Land Management so far has identified more than 13,000 abandoned mines in or around public land in the state, according to bureau records. Nearly 9,000 of them need to be analyzed, federal officials said.

Bill Auby, the head of the abandoned mines program for the BLM in New Mexico, said it will take a great deal of time to track these sites.

“It’s going to be a long process to get to all the mining districts and wander the hills and find these things and identify them,” Auby said.

He acknowledged that mines that have yet to be analyzed represent potential threats. The mines could have pits and standing water that have contamination from heavy metals.

Todd Brown, who operates a mining museum in Cerrillos, said he sees waste rock piles that have been piling up for decades. Abandoned mine sites are “a major problem in the West,” according to Brown. And few people knew what restoring a mine site entailed.

“In the old days . they didn’t even know what reclamation meant,” Brown said. “And people die, and people move and people sell. That’s why nothing ever got cleaned up.”

An analysis of BLM data by the Santa Fe New Mexican (http://bit.ly/1EKuIVl ) found that 90 percent of the mines identified in New Mexico — or 11,750 — have not been remediated. According to the agency’s reports, BLM officials found waste rock and tailings in 260 mines, including 20 in the Cerrillos Hills Mining District. The highest concentrated number of mines was found in the Hillsboro Mining District.

Some officials, however, say the state’s arid environment lessens the possibility of pressurized water pushing out old mining waste like it did in the Colorado spill Aug. 5. The EPA accidentally unleased 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater while inspecting the idled Gold King Mine. As a result, toxic sludge made its way into the San Juan and Animas rivers.

Gov. Susana Martinez has promised at least $750,000 toward addressing the impact of the mine spill. Meanwhile, experts say there is not enough money to address the issue of the abandoned mines that New Mexico has.

Pete Dronkers, of the environmental nonprofit Earthworks, has been following hard-rock mining issues in the Southwest states. He said new mines that are vastly larger than the Gold King Mine are being built despite the risk of water-treatment liabilities and acidic runoff for years to come.

“And so the question is, ‘Who’s going to pay for that in the future?’” Dronkers said. “It’s basically like we haven’t learned anything from Gold King, and we’re going to continue to build mines that have that same fundamental problem. But we’re going to build them thousands of times larger.”

 

NM Court: Placitas Horse Herd could be Wild

By as published in the Albuquerque Journal

“We reject the argument that all horses anywhere in New Mexico are livestock”

The New Mexico Court of Appeals has ruled that a herd of horses living in the Placitas area cannot be considered livestock if it is made up of wild horses. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

The New Mexico Court of Appeals has ruled that a herd of horses living in the Placitas area cannot be considered livestock if it is made up of wild horses. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

An appellate court has revived a lawsuit that sought to have a Placitas horse herd declared wild under state law, a ruling described by an advocacy group as a “huge victory” that would allow the animals to continue to roam freely and stop their roundups and sale.

“We reject the argument that all horses anywhere in New Mexico are livestock” simply because some horses are considered livestock, the court said.

The opinion by the New Mexico Court of Appeals interprets the Livestock Code and provisions involving “estrays” – the legal term for unclaimed domestic animals – as “pertain(ing) only to domesticated horses rather than wild, free-roaming horses.” It says the body of animal-related laws in the code requires the New Mexico Livestock Board to DNA test and relocate wild horses. And it sends the case back to the lower court for proceedings consistent with the decision.

The Wild Horse Observers Association, which brought the suit in February 2014, has advocated for the horses to continue roaming freely, while some Placitas residents have argued the horses have damaged the land and are a safety hazard.

The opinion last week by Appeals Court Judge Jonathan Sutin, joined by Judges Michael Bustamante and Cynthia Fry, reversed a trial court in Albuquerque.

Second Judicial District Judge Valerie Huling of Albuquerque had dismissed the lawsuit in July 2014 at the request of the state Livestock Board and a group of individual interveners who live in Placitas.

Wild Horse Observers, in its initial complaint, said the horses have never been owned or claimed by any private landowner, rancher, horse rescue group or Indian tribe. The unbranded horses – 40 at the time of filing – have roamed on public land near Placitas since at least 1965, according to the association.

About 25 of the horses were impounded and auctioned by the Livestock Board, which contended the horses were not wild and that carving out a wild horse exception to livestock laws would mean they weren’t subject to transportation, inspection and anti-cruelty laws.

The Court of Appeals said the board is required by statute to search for the owners of stray livestock for the benefit of the legal owner. State law requires that a wild horse captured on public land to have its DNA tested, and if it tests positive as a Spanish colonial, to be relocated to a state or private wild horse reserve. If it isn’t a Spanish colonial, it must be returned to public land or put up for adoption by the agency on whose land it was captured – in this case, the 560-acre Placitas Open Space managed by the City of Albuquerque’s Open Space Division.

Livestock Board executive Director William Bunch said, “Essentially, this appeal is trying to force regulation based on an incomplete genetic foundation. So it’s going to be hard to enforce. Certainly we will try to comply.”

Wild Horse Observers Association hailed the ruling said on its website as “a huge victory.”

“This appellate court decision has far-reaching ramifications for the historic and beloved wild horses of Placitas on further roundups, auctions and sale, use of PZP contraception for herd management, DNA testing and more,” the statement said.

New Company Eyes Horse Slaughter in New Mexico

SOURCE:  koat.com

Company has ties to Valley Meat, AG says

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ROSWELL, N.M. —Processing horse meat for human consumption may still happen in New Mexico, but state officials are fighting to stop that.

For years a Roswell company called Valley Meat tried to slaughter horses in New Mexico and ship the meat overseas for people to eat. The company gave up the fight after years of court battles and a judge’s decision forcing it to stop.

Now a new company is trying to do the same thing, and the Attorney General is trying to stop it.

“Many of the same people who were behind Valley Meat are behind this new enterprise,” said Assistant Attorney General Ari Biernoff.

The AG argues the new company, called D’Allende Meats, is using the same plant and is proposing the same plan. Officials said the judge’s decision to stop the old company should stop the new one.

The attorney representing D’Allende Meats said none of the accusations by the AG’s office are true, and the new meat company has a right to go through its own process.

The attorney said this new company doesn’t have that history. He believes dirty politics, not the law, are driving this new fight.

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The AG’s office is asking a judge to quickly make a decision. The state’s Environment Department said the new meat company has requested a permit and is now in the normal review process.