Citizen Report: Wild Horses Notably Absent from California Herd Area After BLM Roundup and Fire

BLM wants to go back and totally eradicate native wild horses and burros

Twin Peaks Post Fire Survey

May 18th and 19th 2013


Twin Peaks Wild Horse and Burro Herd Management Area


Three experienced wildlife observers with binoculars: Jesica Johnston, Carrisa Johnston, and Kathy Gregg

91 miles traveled in 11 hours – we drove slowly with many stops to look for animals

1 horse and 8 burros found

Vegetation in burn area in very good condition with many wild flowers, low grasses, a lot of cheat grass and what appears to be some Russian/Siberian crested wheatgrass (non-native).

Many juniper trees burned beyond survival but many were not burned or will survive the fire damage.  Sage areas clearly show the patchwork pattern of the fire, with many areas completely unburned within the Rush Fire perimeter.

Saw some bitterbrush drill seeding along Rye Patch Road.  Very little black burned grass noticeable now compared with last fall immediately following the Rush fire (see Rush fire report and now most of the burned area is covered with spring vegetative growth.

Most notable was the lack of any animal trailing that can usually be seen and would have been very obvious with the new carpet of forage – believe this is because #1 no livestock on the public land and #2 very few wild horses and burros left on the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area. Also noticeable was the lack of horse and burro tracks and manure on the HMA.

Other animals observed: one coyote, two golden eagles, vultures, crows/ravens, two rabbits, birds, ducks and geese at Horne Ranch reservoir, 2 deer, ~ 20 antelope, two curlew, small fish in the Robbers Roost pond and some burrowing ground squirrels and pika.

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were taken by Jesica Johnston and Carrisa Johnston.

[side note: BLM Litchfield Wild horses and burros facility approx. 200-300 animals maximum]Saturday 5/18/2013

Smoke Creek Road

42 miles on HMA – 4 hours

Very few signs of any Wild horses and burros in this area (trailing/tracks/manure)

1 adult brown burro 8 miles east of Hwy 395 and 1 adult dark brown burro 15 miles east of Hwy 395

    Wild Burro- Smoke Creek Road

Wild Burro- Smoke Creek Road

Turned around at Smoke Creek Ranch owned by Bright-Holland Corporation – gate locked with no trespassing signs and 150+ cattle visible and lush green fields all fenced off.

Rye Patch Road

10 miles on HMA – 2 hours

One set of fresh horse tracks on road and few manure piles but not stud pile (mare or only one horse?)  In the past (pre-fire) numerous manure piles and eight horses seen in this area.

We saw one old wild horse stud pile at Spanish Springs trough – new looking barbed wire strewn in pathway (very dangerous for any animal – we moved it)  No recent signs of horse.

Horne Ranch Road

26 miles approximately half in twin Peaks – 2 hours at dusk

Sunday 5/19/2013

Shinn Ranch Road

13 miles– 3 hours

6 Burros (5 adults and 1 yearling) north side of road about ¼ mile east of Highway 395


In our two days of observation we saw very few signs of any wild horses or burros and only saw one dark horse about a mile south of Shinn Ranch Road about 4 miles in from Hwy 395 – it was far off but 99% sure it was a horse in the far canyon and the only wild horse we saw on this trip.

Advocates Say Scientific Wild Horse Panel is Pro-Livestock

Story by Scott Sonnor, first previewed in the Santa Cruz Sentential

Glaring Conflict of Interests Alarms Wild Horse Community

RENO, Nev.—A panel of experts chosen to spend two years generating the definitive study on wild horse management in the West is kicking up controversy before it even gets out of the chute.

Mustang protection advocates contend the committee charged with solving a conundrum that has eluded consensus for decades is stacked with allies of the livestock industry who won’t give the horses a fair shake.

The panel’s 14 members were picked by the National Academy of Sciences, an independent organization chartered by Congress to advise the government on science. Their first meeting is set for Thursday in Reno.

The American Wild Horse Protection Campaign, Cloud Foundation and others say several of the appointees are outspoken defenders of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management‘s current management strategy that relies on “mass wild horse roundups and removals at the expense of on-the-range management strategies.'”

“The heart of the controversy surrounding the wild horse issue is the conflict between private livestock and wild horses on the 11 percent of BLM land that is designated as wild horse habitat,” said Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Protection Campaign, a coalition of environmental, public interest and animal rights organizations.

The public’s need for an accurate, objective review of the government’s controversial wild-horse management program will not be served unless the National Academy of Sciences corrects the panel’s “imbalances,” Roy said.

Academy spokesman Bill Kearney said the organization’s staff and legal counsel will investigate any concerns about conflicts and consider disqualifying members or adding new ones to provide additional expertise.

The BLM asked the academy earlier this year to assemble the panel of wildlife biologists, rangeland ecologists and others to review the program at an estimated cost of $1.2 million, after prodding from members of Congress critical of the roundups. The agency, which plans to round up another 6,000 horses in the coming months, argues the gathers are necessary to ease ecological damage on the range.

Opponents maintain the horse numbers are much lower than historical highs and that the roundups are intended to appease ranchers who don’t want the mustangs competing with their cattle and sheep for limited forage on arid rangeland.

The committee is tasked with producing a comprehensive study that addresses, among other things, total herd populations, genetic diversity, appropriate management levels, and population control options including immunocontraception and “managing a portion of a population as non-reproducing,” according to the academy’s website.

Committee members under fire include Dr. David Thain, former Nevada state veterinarian who is an assistant professor in the Department of Agriculture, Nutrition and Veterinary Sciences at the University of Nevada Reno.

Thain is a member of the Nevada Livestock Association—a “clear conflict of interest,” said Ginger Kathrens, executive director of the Colorado-based Cloud Foundation.

Thain also has published research on two drugs used to control horse fertility that some horse advocates dislike for fear of side effects, Roy said. He has a “vested academic interest in promoting specific fertility control agents” and therefore is not an objective committee member, she said.

Thain told The Associated Press he was familiar with the criticisms but felt it was best not to respond.

Other panel members targeted by critics include Erik Beever, a research landscape ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center in Bozeman, Mont., and Paul Krausman, a wildlife biologist in the University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation in Missoula.

Beever is a member and Krausman the president-elect of the Wildlife Society, a national professional scientific group that Roy said has taken an advocacy role in defending BLM roundups.

Beever declined to comment directly on the groups’ criticism. He said he didn’t know the majority of the panel members but felt the ones he did know would be impartial. He said he got the impression that concern about the possible appearance of a conflict was the reason the BLM asked the academy to do the review as an “independent, impartial, scientific institution.”

“In inquiries to me, it seemed that they were seeking to achieve as much balance in terms of the disciplinary expertise as they possibly could,” he said Friday in an email to AP.

Krausman referred questions to academy staff.

Nevada has roughly half of the 33,000 wild horses that freely roam 10 Western states. Another 40,000 horses are being housed in short- and long-term holding facilities in the West and Midwest—a costly practice that has helped force the new search for solutions.

Over the 2010 fiscal year, holding costs accounted for $36.9 million, or 57 percent, of the BLM wild horse and burro program’s $63.9 million budget.

BLM spokesman Tom Gory said the agency has taken a “hands-off” approach to the committee’s review.

“We don’t have any control over any selections,” he said.

At the panel’s first meeting Thursday, members will listen to presentations from a number of experts then take public comment.

On Friday, the committee will hold an executive-session meeting, which will be closed to the public. The session will include a discussion about “conflict of interest and bias” and whether the committee is appropriately balanced from a scientific perspective, said Kearney, the academy spokesman.

“It’s not unusual after the first meeting to add a member or two for balance, or find additional expertise in an area where committee members may be lacking,” Kearney said.

For Additional Information to Attend First Meeting Click (HERE)

Ninth Circuit Grants Wild Horse TRO in Wake of BLM Ruling

Story by Steven Long ~ Editor/Publisher Horseback Magazine

Where is the BLM Press Release on THIS News?!?

Click (HERE) to Download Injuctive Order

BLM already attacked the Antelope herd earlier this year ~ photo by Terry Fitch

HOUSTON, (Horseback) – Within hours of an adverse ruling for wild horse advocates attempting to halt a Navade “gather” and stampede in the heat of summer, a federal appellate court has granted a temporary restraining order. The federal Bureau of Land Management will be unable to proceed with it’s planned roundup, according to the Chicago based Equine Welfare Alliance, a consortium of more than 800 horse advocates and scores of equine welfare organizations.

“Rachel Fazio, attorney for plaintiffs, The Cloud Foundation, Craig Downer and Lorna Moffatt, went to the Ninth Circuit Court with an emergency motion immediately after getting the negative ruling today at 4 PM by U.S. District Court Judge McKibben in Reno,” said Vicki Tobin, EWA vice president and director. ” The Ninth Circuit has granted a temporary injunction while they review the merits of the motion. So, the wild horses of the planned Triple B roundup will have a brief reprieve. The hope is that the three Judges who look at the case will stop the roundup until the Appeal has been heard in August.”

The court stated in its ruling late Friday, “To allow for further consideration on the merits of the emergency motion, the court grants temporary injunctive relief. Appellees are enjoined from the round-up of wild horses in the HMAs and Triple B Complex areas until further order of the court.”

Shady Tactics Surround Obama’s BLM Roundup of Famous Kiger Wild Horses

Information supplied by The Cloud Foundation

Typical Underhanded Operations Still the Main Theme of BLM

Using Multiple Stampede Choppers on Day 1 at Kiger ~ Photo by Laura Leigh WHE/WHFF

Click (HERE) to read Laura’s Day One Report

PORTLAND, Ore. —The Cloud Foundation is outraged at the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) lack of transparency and avoidance of public input pertaining to the Kiger/Riddle Mountain roundup happening now outside of Burns, Oregon. The herds are famous for their Spanish Conquistador ancestry as well as Disney’s hit movie, Spirit: Stallion of the CimarronThe Foundation asks Congress to stop the illegal roundup now in order to save these herds from being destroyed. BLM’s plan would reduce the two herds to grossly non-viable populations of less than 50 animals each.

To the Foundation’s knowledge, no pro-wild horse interested parties received the Environmental Assessment (EA) within the allotted 30-day comment period. The only public notification appears to be a March 16, 2011 blurb in the local Burns Times Herald newspaper saying “the proposed action will begin in September, 2011.”

“I was shocked to learn that the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herds were going to be rounded up in early July,” states Diane Pinney, Kiger wild horse adopter and Wild Horse and Burro Representative, Southeast Oregon’s Resource Advisory Council (RAC). “I never received the EA or a notice that it was available, and I can’t find anyone else who did.”

BLM typically receives thousands of comments from concerned members of the public protesting their wild horse removal actions. Despite this, BLM Three Rivers Field Manager, Richard Roy, indicated the agency received “no public comments pertaining to the EA.”

As soon as The Cloud Foundation realized they had not received the EA, nor had anyone they knew, they alerted Portland Attorney, Geordie Duckler. He quickly filed a request for a temporary restraining order. It was denied by District Judge Hernandez and this denial allowed the roundup to begin today.

“This is one of the sleaziest BLM tactics I’ve seen in 16 years of documenting wild horses and dealing with the agency,” states Ginger Kathrens, EMMY Award-winning filmmaker and Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “BLM’s actions appear to be a carefully designed strategy to keep the public in the dark and subvert the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process which promotes public involvement.”

“If BLM succeeds in flying under the radar, the wild horses and American taxpayers will pay the price,” explains Kathrens. “We want this roundup to be put on hold right now so we can have at least 30 days for public comment.”

The Cloud Foundation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation, Equine Welfare Alliance and many other reputable equine advocacy groups believe that BLM’s actions are a violation of the public trust and they vow to continue to fight for the rights of America’s wild horses and burros to roam freely on their legally designated ranges. They encourage members of the public to contact their U.S senators and representatives and request intervention on behalf of our nation’s wild horses and burros before they are managed into oblivion.

Click on Image to View Laura’s Day One Report ~ photo by Laura Leigh

Obama’s BLM Announces Wild Horse and Burro Stampede and Abuse Schedule for Summer 2011

Unedited BLM News Release and Propaganda Communication

“Let the Death and Destruction Begin”

More terror for the horses to be relased by the Obaman Administration, soon.

The Bureau of Land Management announced today its tentative summer schedule for gathering wild horses and burros from overpopulated herds on Western public rangelands.  The gathers are needed to bring herd sizes into balance with other rangeland resources and uses, as required by Federal law and approved land-use plans.

“With the new gather season starting in July, we must carry out these gathers in a fully transparent manner,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey.  “That includes taking full ownership of what we do and by sharing both the positive and negative news with our various publics, whatever criticism may come our way.”

Abbey added, “Our work on a forthcoming new strategy for managing wild horses and burros is part of our commitment to a ‘new normal’ of doing business.  Among other things, the strategy calls for greater reliance on population-suppression techniques, including increased application of the fertility-control vaccine known as PZP.”

The goal will be to treat more than 1,200 mares per year (over the current level of about 900 in FY 2011) through implementation of “catch, treat, and release” gathers.  These gathers will be principally aimed at applying the fertility-control vaccine porcine zona pellucida (PZP) to mares.  In some herds, the BLM will adjust sex ratios in favor of males to reduce the number of on-the-range pregnancies or potentially manage non-reproducing herds (such as geldings) in some Herd Management Areas.

The public and media are invited to observe the gathers.  Observation points will be determined by the BLM in a manner that recognizes the need for good viewing sites, along with the need to ensure viewer and animal safety.

Click (HERE) for dates of when the Feds begin killing and maiming wild horses and burros

Video: Not Ready to Say Goodbye to Our Wild Horses

Video produced by Madeleine Pickens

Madeleine’s Message to Oprah, but remember, it’s not just celebrities who care!!!

Obama’s BLM to Return 10 Wild Horses after Stealing 1,700

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

Too Little Too Late

BLM Security at Twin Peaks to guard against 2 female reporters and one male ~ photo by Terry Fitch

SUSANVILLE – (SFTHH)  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced that it plans to release this week a very small number of wild horses and mules into the Twin Peaks area, where over 1,700 of the federally protected animals were cruelly and unlawfully removed last year.

Returning 10 horses, 11 mules and a burro to the range northeast of Susanville California is part of the agency’s work to maintain “a sustainable population with desirable animal characteristics,” said Jeff Fontana, a BLM spokesman in Susanville.  In reality it is little more than a joke and a slap in the face of concerned taxpaying Americans.

The Twin Peaks wild horse management area was the site of a controversial late summer roundup that attracted national attention and lead to the exposure of the BLM’s inequitable and unlawful violation of the public’s first amendment rights.  Witnesses at Twin Peaks documented that the inhumane helicopter stampedes left virtually no wild horses on the range while thousands of privately owned cattle and sheep remained.

In February, during another controversial and inhumane BLM helicopter stampede, BLM Director Bob Abbey repeated that the agency would increase fertility controls and reduce the number of horses it removes from the range for at least the next two years while the Obama Wild Horse Harvesting Machine will continue to consume thousands of federally protected wild horses and burros from their rightful land based on junk science, arbitrary numbers and bad math.

All of the mares scheduled for release in the nearly 800,000-acre area, which extends into northwestern Nevada, have been treated with a fertility control drug, Fontana said, which ensures that the herd will not survive.  The mare release will achieve the agency’s target of 60 percent stallions and 40 percent mares, said Ken Collum, manager of the BLM Eagle Lake Field Office which adds to the BLM’s target of zero herd population growth.

The stallions selected for release have the horse conformation and size to maintain the characteristics of the Twin Peaks wild herd, he said, yet with the released mares unable to conceive it seems unlikely that this statement makes any sense.

The mules and burro are being released because they are over adoption age. They will not contribute to population growth, Fontana said, just as the released horses won’t, either.

The wild horse releases are open to the public. Those interested should meet at 8:30 a.m. at the BLM corrals, 21 miles near Litchfield on Highway 395 east of Susanville. A high-clearance four wheel drive vehicle is required along with a good understanding of BLM double-talk.

Bad weather will postpone the release, Fontana said, and, as usual, BLM security will be present to intimidate and threaten the public

Video Shows BLM Contractor Targeting Pregnant Wild Horses

Media and Commentary by R.T. Fitch ~ Author/Director of HfH Advisory Council

Full Term Mares Easy Catch for BLM Contractor

Run for miles, sweating in below freezing temps a pregnant wild horses singled out by BLM stampede contractor ~ photo by Terry Fitch

During the much contested roundup of 1,400 wild horses in Northern Nevada’s Antelope complex many disturbing videos and photos came to the public’s attention, to no avail.  There was the filmed case of a mare that was run to exhaustion and finally collapsed on the ground, where the helicopter continued to harass her, and the multiple photos of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) flying stampede contractor, Sun-J, using their aircraft as a weapon and physically assaulting lone and defenseless horses.  Likewise, Terry and I witnessed other atrocities while we spent time with Laura Leigh until the early conclusion of this tragic debacle.

But overall, what stands out the most in our mind’s eye was the reckless shattering of families as the cruel chopper pilot concentrated on the slower pregnant mares and foals while the stallions got a way.  Almost full term mares, many run down by themselves, so that the contractor could collect that $350.00 a horse that you, the American taxpayer, so willing and graciously allows the BLM to give to these inhumane handlers that are stripping the American west of all living and breathing wild horses and burros.

That is what Terry and I can bring to you and that’s what we tender for your outraged disapproval, here.  Pregnant mares chased for miles in below freezing temperatures to be carted off to BLM concentration camps where the deaths will continue in the way of spontaneous miscarriages.

A travesty that has become the way the BLM does business as the Wild Horse Harvesting Machine continues to roar, unfettered, across our public lands.

Special thanks to Maria Daines for the use of her heartfelt and timely song, “I just wanna be free”

BLM Mantra: Private Cattle On, Wild Horses Off

(In My Most Outraged Opinion) by R.T. Fitch ~ Author/Director of HfH Advisory Council

“Welfare” Ranching is the Great BLM Lie

Giant BLM Bovine Mowing Machine ~ photo by Terry Fitch

During the final days of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “scorched earth” wild horse eradication program on Northern Nevada’s public lands private cattle were being quickly herded onto the same range that native, wild horses were cruelly removed from just hours before.

On Thursday, Feb 25th, one day prior to the abrupt cessation of the BLM’s assault upon the Antelope Complex’s wild horses, my wife Terry, Laura Leigh and I had left the mean wild horse trap site in an effort to locate a cell signal suitable to call in, as journalists, to the disappointing press conference by the BLM’s Director, Bob Abbey.  As we raced across the HMA we crested a bluff only to run smack dab into one of the biggest cattle driving operation any of us had ever witnessed.  Only a few short days before we had stopped on this very same road to shoot photos of distant wild horses living out their lives on their rightful land only to find those same horses being rapidly replaced by environmentally damaging private cattle, while the roundup was STILL going on.

The wranglers stopped us and wanted to know what we were doing out on “their” range as it was so isolated they rarely saw civilians during this time of the year.  When told of the unlawful roundup of federally protected wild horses we were met with the singular comment, “Good”.  Considering the safety of my passengers and the ratio of cattle wranglers to advocates the issue was not pressed in normal fashion.

Now let’s be totally clear, here.  I have nothing against cattle or cattle ranchers.  Here in Texas my fine neighbors ARE cattle ranchers but they buy their land, pay taxes on that land, maintain the land and are not given a federal government handout as are the “welfare” ranchers of America’s west.  Does this disparity go unnoticed by our neighbors?  Most certainly NOT!

One day we have taxpaying American citizens on public land enjoying and photographing the natural beauty of the true wild west, horses included, and the next day the same ground is covered, littered and picked clean by private cattle who are allowed to destroy the range for the meager price of $1.35 a month per head.  At that rate, I could afford to be one the largest cattle rancher in all of Nevada…it just is not right.

Probably what stung the most was to spend days listening, in person, to BLM PR personnel stating that the Antelope Complex was NOT a grazing complex and that the horses HAD to be removed because there were five times more horses on the land than the land could sustain.  1.3 million acres, 1,400 horses removed and in one quick afternoon 300 private cattle introduced.  Only the Lord knows how many cows have been added since.  The system is seriously broken.

I cannot help but hear the haunting words of Mr. Myagi in the movie, “The Karate Kid” as he taught Daniel how to put wax on the car with his left hand moving in one direction while he took it off with his right moving in the other direction, “Wax on, Wax off”.

The BLM sticks it to the American tax payer with their left hand while distorting and abusing the law with their right;

“Private Cattle On, Wild Horses Off”…it’s enough to turn your stomach.

Obama’s BLM Wild Horse Harvesting Machine Continues at Full Throttle in Nevada

Eye witness report by R.T. Fitch ~ Author/Director of HfH Advisory Council

A Few Moments in the Day of a Wild Horse Stampede Observer

A last cry for his family ~ photo by Terry Fitch

The day goes something like this: we hear the distant sound of helicopter rotors.  Across the valley we see a small cloud of dust as a family band of wild horses runs to escape an overhead helicopter.  The cold, frozen wind roars in our ears as we watch the seven horses run one way and then another trying to escape the noise of the pursuing chopper.

Dozens tick by and watch the small group of horses grow larger as the run for their lives.  They disappear behind a bluff but we can still see the chopper hovering over their position.  But one lone head breaks over the bluff running for his life while the chopper stays on the bulk of the herd.  The escapee stops on top of the bluff, turns to his family and screams but no one can hear him over the roar of the deadly chopper blades.  He turns, runs and then calls again.  Frantic, he runs towards us but behind the lurking trap.  Down across the gully floor then up on top of our observation bluff.  He turns, looks at us, cries and runs away towards the trees as the chopper stalks his family.

Wet in below freezing temps with family destroyed ~ photo by Terry Fitch

We continue to watch the chopper move towards the mouth of the gully, unable to see the remnants of the family beneath him.  Once near the entrance to the gully we see the chopper twist and dive, it attacks to the left and then dive bombs to the right out of site as another ridge blocks our view.  We see three horses break over the edge of the ridge and head to the south, the chopper lunges like a combat aircraft and attempts to cut them off, they are having none of it.  Lost, the inexperienced pilot turns off to the north and repeatedly dives at the remaining unseen horses.  Moment’s later three lathered horses appear in the mean holding pen as we cannot see the approach to ugly trap or even the trap itself.  One tries to climb the fencing, they all scream.

The horses are met with plastic bags tied to short whips and are beaten into the end of the holding cell.  An open slat trailer is backed up to the pen.  The screaming horses are smacked in the face until they are caught in a small area only a few feet wide behind the trailer.  Over and over again they are hit, they lurch forward and they fall and trample each other while the contractors converge on our side of the pen to obstruct our view and camera lenses.

A final, failed break for freedom ~ photo by Terry Fitch

Loud bangs and the sound of hooves on unmated slippery floors echoes across the gully and the trailer is quickly pulled away down a dusty, rough back road for 45 minutes then an hour trip down the high way at 70 mph for more cruel handling at processing an hour down the road.  The ambient temperature is 28 degress, the wind is blowing 30 miles an hour, standing still the wind chill is below zero, the horses are wet.

Meanwhile, the survivors are scattered, terrified, lost, soaked and exhausted yet still running for their lives.  Then we hear the sound of a helicopter across the valley and the destruction of yet another family begins.  The cycle of terror continues all day, and day after day after day.

The wild horses of the Antelope Complex in Nevada are no more, they are finished.