Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife
This is not the first go around on this issue but we need to act fast as permits have already been sold.
This is not the first go around on this issue but we need to act fast as permits have already been sold.
The writer of the article below claims “There’s a wild horse problem in New Mexico…” however, this person apparently didn’t bother to look up any data to back up her claims, since even according to the Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse population estimates, there are only 168 wild horses in the entire state of New Mexico. (Although, to be fair, the program data is not on the BLM’s main Wild Horse & Burro Program website page, you really have to search for it to find it. Understandably, the BLM doesn’t want the public to find out that there are so few wild horses & burros on so many acres of public lands.)
One of the many, many concerns about the information in this article is the delivery of microchips into wild horses for RFID technology. This would be in violation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burros Act of 1971, which states that “All management activities shall be at the minimal feasible level…” – Debbie
Roch Hart is a third-generation New Mexican with a deep, genuine appreciation for the land and its expansive mountains, desert and scrub, and the petroglyphs that adorn far reaches of the private, 20,000-acre ranch he manages. Hart recognizes that preservation is the key to maintaining New Mexico’s land heritage.
As a retired police officer, former plant manager, tour guide operator and photographer, Hart maintains that he became a rancher almost by accident. It is through this position that he’s used entrepreneurial thinking to to identify a problem at his workplace, in this case a 20,000 acre ranch, and develop a solution for a costly situation.
There’s a wild horse problem in New Mexico, as well as all of the arid west, and the general public is in the dark about the issue. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Land Management spends an astonishing $80 million dollars per year on the capture and care of overpopulated wild horses, also known as feral horses. Hart worries that the public won’t react until the more inhumane options of mass roundups and euthanasia become visible and routine.
His company, Wildlife Protection Management, developed an innovative, scalable and humane option. It is a feeding station for wild horses that is equipped with the capability for remote injection of contraceptives. This patent-pending method is conducted with remote delivery. After the horse has placed itself in the proper position, an operator nearly 300 miles away is able to dispatch the injection via video surveillance and controls.
Hart is a graduate of Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University’s AgSprint program, a five-month accelerator for innovation in agriculture, funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and New Mexico Gas Company.
Wild horses are merely startled, not hurt, and return almost immediately to graze at the feed station. In addition to the contraceptive, and in anticipation of Radio-Frequency Identification technology, the system has the capability to deliver a microchip so that horses can be monitored for health and behavior. The system has been proven to fire at least two darts at once, which could include a combination of contraceptive, RFID chip and/or vaccination.
READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.
Unedited Report from The Taos News
“A Senate Joint Memorial wants the U.S. Department of Interior to better manage a growing wild horse population even if that means euthanasia and unrestricted sales to people who might haul the animals off to meat-packing plants in Mexico…”
The memorial is sponsored by Sen. Pat Wood, a Republican from Broadview, New Mexico, who represents Curry, Quay and Union counties.
More than 50,000 wild horses now roam public lands, and too few people exist to adopt them all, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.
The memorial asks the federal government to “follow the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and utilize all of the management tools provided in that act, including unrestricted sales and euthanasia, to achieve ecologically sustainable wild horse and burro populations. Additionally, this memorial encourages Congress to restore funding to that department to facilitate those activities.”
The memorial will be heard first in the Senate Rules Committee, but with barely a week left in the legislative session, not much time is left for the bill to wend its way to a final vote from both houses.
Carson National Forest has one band of wild horses on the El Rito Ranger District.
State attorneys for the New Mexico Livestock Board have asked District Judge Dan Bryant to order the Wild Horse Observers Association to name all of its members in Lincoln County.
The Board’s lawyers say they need the list of names to support the argument they intend to make in the Alto wild horse case that WHOA may not have had the legal right to sue the Board in the 12th Judicial District over its seizure last year of a small herd of free-roaming horses.
“Plaintiff’s membership, particularly in Lincoln County, likely has a bearing on Plaintiff’s standing to sue, and therefore information (and/or records) about Plaintiff’s membership is an appropriate area of inquiry in discovery,” the Board’s attorney, Asst. Atty. Gen. Ari Biernoff, said in a “motion to compel” filed in the case last week.
The motion was aimed at forcing WHOA to comply with a number of document requests the Board made as part of its discovery demands in the wild horse case.
WHOA had earlier responded to the Board’s member list demand that its “members are not matters of public record and are entitled to confidentiality. Further the information is not relevant and is not likely to lead to relevant information concerning this lawsuit.”
But Biernoff pointed out in his motion that discovery demands don’t have to be limited to information that is “public record” and can extend to “anything of relevance to the claims and defenses in this action.”
The Board had also asked for all documents WHOA has about the wild horse herd or any other “wild, feral or estray horses” around Alto or Ruidoso. WHOA responded that the demand was “very broad and it is impossible to know what is requested.”
Biernoff said in last week’s motion that there was “nothing overly broad or confusing” about its demand, and Bryant should overrule WHOA’s objection.
WHOA also said it should not be required to furnish records relating to its officers or directors because they aren’t parties individually to the lawsuit. The Board’s motion insisted that discovery documents aren’t limited to those of named parties to the suit, and WHOA’s officers or directors may have acted on WHOA’s behalf on matters related to the case.
The Board also asked Bryant to reject WHOA’s argument that it shouldn’t be required to provide copies of WHOA’s communications about the case on social media just because they’re public and the Board can review those for itself.
“Undersigned counsel does not have a Facebook account, and so at least some portions of WHOA’s Facebook page are in fact unavailable absent discovery,” Biernoff wrote.
In addition to requiring WHOA to promptly turn over the documents he asked for, Biernoff asked Bryant to order the organization to pay the Board’s attorney’s fees for preparing and filing the motion to compel.
“Wild Horse Advocates fear new provisions could lead to the elimination of wild herds…”
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.”
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)
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
““Per the judge’s encouragement, they have agreed to release the horses to someone in Ruidoso…”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.