Nevada Wild Horse Herd Catches a Break

Press Release from Respect4Horses and Animal Recovery Mission

BLM Suspends Stampede

Hawthorne, NV residents fight for Wild Horses ~ photo by bonnie Rannald

Animal Recovery Mission and Respect4Horses have been working with the BLM and the Army Depot in regards to the Walker Lake Herd, a herd of approximately 104 horses living around Walker Lake in Hawthorne, Nevada on Army Depot property. On October 20th the BLM signed a Record of Decision to roundup and remove this herd by the end of November 2010.

The communities of Hawthorne and Walker Lake are deeply attached to these horses as evidenced by the hundreds of letters and petition signatures they collected. On Friday October 30th, Respect4horses, Animal Recovery Mission, and a few members of the Hawthorne and Walker Lake communities presented the Walker Lake Herd Preservation Proposal to the BLM.

The Proposal includes sensible and cost effective solutions to solve a “public safety hazard” on S95, as well as a ground breaking humane roundup plan by natural horsemanship principals in order to manage this herd humanely and stress free on the range.

In response to the Walker Lake Herd Preservation Proposal, Terri Knutson, BLM Field Office Manager, Stillwater Field Office in Carson City, has suspended the November roundup of the Walker Lake Herd. Animal Recovery Mission and Respect4Horses look forward to further work out the details of this proposal with all parties involved.

The BLM Censoring Wild Horse Roundups

Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp and Chief Photojournalist Matt Adams

Las Vegas CBS Channel 8

George Knapp Nails BLM and Dave Cattoor

LAS VEGAS — The Bureau of Land Management has suffered two defeats in federal court in recent weeks. One judge ordered BLM to make public the names of ranchers who lease public land for grazing, something BLM didn’t want to do. A second judge struck down a BLM plan to severely limit public input into how public lands are managed.

Click on Image to View Channel 8 video of David Cattor conspiring to hide killing horses from Horseback Magazine reporters, Laura Leigh, Terry Fitch and R.T. Fitch ~ Photo by Jim Wilson/NYT

BLM management has come under severe criticism from wild horse advocates who allege the agency seems to be morphing a public program into a private, off-limits undertaking.The BLM is in the middle of the most ambitious schedule of wild horse roundups in modern history, with some 10,000 mustangs from Nevada and other states in its crosshairs — meaning they will be captured and then shipped off to holding pens or long term warehousing at a cost of tens of millions of public dollars.

BLM says it values transparency, but has gone to great lengths to hide what it’s doing from the very taxpayers who foot the bill. It’s as if BLM is taking a lesson from other three-letter agencies, like CIA.

The 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act was passed with overwhelming support from the public for the preservation of wild herds on public ranges, but BLM has chafed under this edict ever since, despite P.R. statements to the contrary.

More than 20 million acres that were set aside for the herds have been zeroed out — wiped free of horses even though privately owned cattle still graze on the same acres.

BLM has apparently grown tired of being pummeled for the roundups, but when you chase wild animals with helicopters across miles of tough terrain, there will always be consequences and BLM no longer wants you to see them.

All of its most recent roundups have been headquartered on islands of private land located within the public acres. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but by putting their operations on private property, BLM managers get total control over who gets to see what they do.

At last winter’s Calico Roundup in Nevada, the bloodiest roundup in memory, observers from the public and media were invited to watch for only designated times and from a considerable distance.

Horse advocates didn’t see animals injured or killed, yet we know it happened, a lot, since more than 100 mustangs died either at the site or in holding pens later. It likewise didn’t want to see images on the evening news of the horses that keeled over dead during the Owyhee Roundup after being run for miles during the hottest month of the year.

BLM not only put roundup operations on private land, its holding pens are now private too. Horse advocates were previously able to visit the Fallon corrals to photograph the carnage, such as the colts whose hooves were literally ground off by the forced run over miles of sharp rock.

A few months ago, BLM decided it had had enough of those images, so it severely limited public access to holding facilities. It has even declared the air space off limits, a power it doesn’t have.

Horse advocates who tried to get in to see one recent roundup were threatened with arrest, even after a federal judge ordered BLM to allow them in.

What next, will they start stashing wild horses down in the bowels of Area 51, right there with the corpses of extraterrestrials? Will mustangs become the black budget equivalent of stealth drones and death rays?

The BLM doesn’t want the public to see the money shot — that is, a dead or dying horse or a cowboy kicking a colt in the head, so access is tightly controlled, you know, for our own protection.

The wild horse program isn’t part of the Pentagon’s black budget. National security is not at stake out on the range. Those are public dollars being spent on public lands by public employees. There is no room in those wide open spaces for secrecy and subterfuge.

Another roundup is set to begin this week in Nevada. BLM says it will arrange for at least one day for the public to observe the operation.

Pickens Refuge Not a Done Deal, Says BLM

by Steven Long ~ Editor/Publisher of “Horseback Magazine

BLM Crawfishs on Pickens Sterile Herds

HOUSTON, (Horseback) – A highly placed spokesman for the federal Bureau of Land Management refused to confirm that a proposed private refuge for tens of thousands of wild horses is a done deal, as claimed by billionaire Madeleine Pickens.

“We’re encouraged by recent meetings between Mrs. Pickens and BLM

Leadership,” chief Washington spokesman Tom Gorey told Horseback Magazine late Monday.

“At this time, we’re waiting for the receipt of a formal, written proposal from Mrs. Pickens before taking an official position on it,” he said.

In a note to supporters Friday, Pickens said, “Over the past three days, I have been to meetings in Sacramento and again in Washington, DC. I’ve met with BLM Director, Bob Abbey, Deputy Director, Mike Pool, along with the Wild Horse and Burro team. The BLM has officially agreed to support going forward with the development of the wild horse Eco – sanctuary for the horses in holding!”

Not quite yet, says Gorey, while highly complimentary of Pickens.

“Let me add that we appreciate Mrs. Pickens’ interest in helping our

agency deal with one of our most challenging issues – the need to care for

and maintain un-adopted and unsold wild horses, and we hope horse lovers

everywhere will consider adopting a wild horse or burro,” Gorey said.

The Texas billionaire told supporters in an email Friday she would begin with a pilot program of 1,000 wild horses placed on vast land she owns with the goal of moving all 36,000 horses BLM currently holds in captivity to an enormous 1 million acre ranch.

According to reports last year in the livestock industry trade publication, Western Livestock Journal, “Depending on the stocking capacity of the ranch and the availability of forage, she envisions the sanctuary ultimately carrying between 20,000 and 30,000 wild horses. According to the proposal, the herd will be non-reproducing.”

Such an agreement, if true, would guarantee that horses currently held in BLM captivity would go extinct leaving only the rapidly dwindling wilderness herds able to reproduce. Yet many of those herds have mares which have been treated with sterility drugs and geneticists charge that it is BLM policy to drive the American wild horse to extinction in order to make way for more grazing land for cattle.

Click (HERE) to read article in it’s entirety!


Press Release from The Equine Welfare Alliance

Half of All California Wild Horses to Be Captured In Coming Weeks

Stop the bloody roundups, NOW!!!

San Francisco, Calif

. (August 10, 2010) – Today, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion to stop the roundup of half of all California wild horses, plaintiffs in the lawsuit are joining more than 54 members of Congress who are calling on the Obama Administration to halt the government roundup. Over 2,000 wild horses and 200 burros will be removed from the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area in northeastern California by helicopter stampede scheduled to begin on Wednesday, August 11, 2010.

Last week 54 members of Congress sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar demanding a halt to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse roundups and recommending reform of “what seems to be a deeply flawed policy. . .” Representatives Barbara Lee, George Miller, Lynn Woolsey, and Mike Honda are among the members of the California Congressional delegation who signed the letter on July 30, expressing concern over the BLM’s recent helicopter roundup of 1,224 Nevada mustangs, which caused the deaths of 34 of these iconic animals, including at least eight foals.

The Twin Peaks roundup will be conducted in the heat of summer and will unnecessarily subject many old, sick, lame and vulnerable young wild horses to potential injury and death. The BLM’s current policy of mass roundups, removals and stockpiling of horses has created what Interior Secretary Salazar has called an “unsustainable” situation whereby the agency is spending tens of millions of dollars annually to stockpile more than 38,000 wild horses.

The lawsuit was filed July 16 on behalf of ecologist Dr. Chad Hanson, a researcher at the University of California at Davis and author of numerous scientific studies; Barbara Clarke, wild horse expert and director of 2,000-acre DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary in Northeastern California; Linda Hay, a local resident who has visited and enjoyed the Twin Peaks horses for the past thirty years; and In Defense of Animals, a Bay Area-based animal protection organization.

Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C., is joined as counsel in the lawsuit by the national law firm of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney and San Francisco Bay Area-based environmental attorney Rachel Fazio.

“The President must step in if this roundup is to be stopped. The Interior Department continues to disproportionately allocate public resources in order to serve the private livestock and other commercial industries and in turn scapegoats wild horses and burros deeming them overpopulated,” said Stuart G. Gross, of Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy. “In Twin Peaks, the Department authorizes four to seven times more privately-owned sheep and cattle than wild horses and burros to graze on Twin Peak’s nearly 800,000-acres – which is federally protected to serve as horse and burro areas.

“Under the Obama Administration for the first time in history, there are now more wild horses in government holding facilities than are left on the Western range. The vast majority of the captured Twin Peaks horses will join the 38,000 mustangs already stockpiled in zoo-like conditions,” said William J. Spriggs of Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney. “This scheme is not only fiscally unsustainable, it is also blatantly illegal.”

“The Department of Interior has a policy of removing mass numbers of wild horses from the range without fulfilling its obligation to establish the need for the action,” said environmental attorney Rachel Fazio.

Wild horses comprise a small fraction of grazing animals on public lands, where they are outnumbered by livestock nearly 50 to 1. The BLM has recently increased cattle grazing allotments in areas where wild horses are being removed. Currently the BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public lands of which cattle grazing is allowed on 160 million acres; wild horses are only allowed on 26.6 million acres of this land, which must be shared with cattle. The Obama Administration has accelerated the removal of wild horses and burros from public lands in the past year.

BLM Contractors and Things that go “Bump” in the Night

(In My Humble Opinion) by R.T. Fitch ~ author of “Straight from the Horse’s Heart”

I have had to take a deep breath and look around in an effort to make some sort of sense out of all the nonsense and garbage that is flying not only around us but at us; if not managed correctly it could quickly become overwhelming.  Here are just a few examples:

A California Judge just gave the BLM the thumbs up to strip 2,000 horses from Twin Peaks

To date, Judge Hicks has not said whether or not he would hear Laura Leigh’s contempt of court case over the Tuscarora fiasco

The BLM is frantically attempting to get their numbers on their web site straight full knowing that we are watching and reporting their documented errors and sloppy accounting

The BLM and Cattoors have colluded and are landing on 34 (not counting the shot mare and her foal) dead wild horses from their mess at Tuscarora

The captured survivors of the Calico massacre now have over 150 herd members dead

54 Congressmen signed a letter to Salazar calling for a moratorium on murdering wild horses and no one has heard squat

BLM helicopter stampede contractor, Sue Cattoor, wants more of the lime-light (as usual) and writes a rebuttal to Horseback Magazine

I, personally, get close to the truth and BLM’s marketing specialist calls me “rude”

…and the cattle poop just keeps on mounting up.  (I used cattle poop as a stinky example as horse poop actually smells rather pleasant, if you like horses)

Looking over the above list I believe that we will leave the roundup/court cases to the AP and the big boys as that is news on a much grander scale but down here in the trenches I feel obligated to drive a “Why Tree” all the way down to its roots and those roots are embedded firmly in the truth where the hearts and souls of the good American taxpayers reside.

So I will leave ‘s comments for another commentary as I feel addressing Mrs. Cattoor’s statement to be of a much higher priority.  It’s time for those who do not have the best interest of the American equine in mind to learn that we will respond to their rhetoric quickly, effectively and with full disclosure.  The days of the American public sitting back and watching the train wreck only to comment after the fact are over; we are proactive not reactive.

First, Sue, what can I say; you gave it your best shot, you had several weeks to think about it, massage it, rationalize it and sadly your statement fell flat on its face in front of God and your fellow countryman.  I actually believe that I heard a wet, squishy “splat”, or was it a “plop”, when reading the last line of your letter in Horseback Magazine.  In retrospect, it was sort of a nasty sound from a visceral point of view.

I won’t beleaguer your “point/counter-point” with Steven Long on the details of your “justification” and rebuttal, folks can click on the link above to read that in full, but instead I would like jump to the “statement”  (inserted <unedited> below) to which you beseeched Steven to include in his magazine.  Now that is worthy of comment.

You need to understand why I think the wild horses have to be managed and why they should not just be left alone and let nature take charge and overpopulate until they run out of food or water and die. My family and all of our wranglers really love horses and that includes wild horses and we have seen horses dying of starvation and dying of thirst and we get really upset .

Ginger Kathrens filming Sue Cattoor at Cloud's Roundup ~ Photo by R.T. Fitch

Dying of thirst is the worst – horses that starve to death have an easier time. We know we are doing the right thing by gathering wild horses and we know using the helicopter is the most humane way to do it. We know after we finish an area that some of the wild horses we have caught will maybe be adopted and some will go to pastures where there is plenty of food and water. And the ones left on the range will have enough water and feed also. Steve you just told me you were not by your computer but out feeding your horses. So you love horses too, right. What would you do if you could no longer feed your horses or if you no longer had water for them and they were slowly dying of thirst or starvation? You would feel really sad and you would do all you could to see that they did not die of thirst or did not starve to death. I know Ginger Kathrens has said just like you that she would rather let nature just take charge. But I bet if Cloud and his family were dying of thirst or starvation she would want to do all she could to save them. That is exactly what we – meaning all of us and our wranglers and the BLM are trying to do when we do roundups.”

My thoughts (Remember the First Amendment?):

1.)    With all due respect, I don’t “need” to understand what you think, we all have a pretty good idea as to what energizes your motives and it is obvious to all that the primary driver is money and money alone.  It does not have one single thing to do with love, care or consideration; it is all about the bank account and the spotlight.  If you really “cared” about the horses you might consider donating some of your millions of tax payer’s dollars to a wild horse sanctuary and put your money where you is, just like the rest of us.  In this economy there are huge numbers of Americans who are taxed without representation to pay your inflated and unwanted day rates, with one hand, while they donate to rescues, foundations, sanctuaries and are now giving additional funds to legal services trying to fight the likes of the BLM and you as their contractors with the other.  Caring Americans get screwed from all sides but then, you don’t see that do you?  Your tunnel vision is limited to your fiscal needs today and the concept of the “big picture” has yet to permeate your consciousness.  Are you not aware of the fact that you are working yourself out of a job; that your business is not sustainable as you wipe out entire herds and what horses remain, elsewhere, are no longer considered to be viable herds?  You are rapidly destroying your own sordid business and it does not appear that you have a clue.  Are you cognizant of any of that?

2.)    “horses have to be managed and why they should not just be left alone and let nature take charge and overpopulate until they run out of food or water and die” Good grief, dear lady, I pity you for the burden that you feel you are forced shoulder.  You actually believe that you hold the power of God and Mother Nature over these wild horses and it is you who decides who lives or dies.  What did those poor horses do for the hundreds and hundreds of years prior to Sue Cattoor?  How egotistical is it that you believe your intervention into the balance of nature actually helps and promotes the future for these horses?  What a load you must carry.  The American public has yet to see “proof” that the wild horses are over populated, in fact visual observations point to the contrary.  Even if there was an ounce of truth, in your statement, it would only point to the fact that the BLM has whittled away at the land that was rightfully given to the wild horses and burros and they are now encroaching and crowding them into much smaller areas.  But even then, swooping in and stampeding them into holding pens where they will never again know freedom is not the answer.  Your arrogance is stunning.

3.)    “My family and all of our wranglers really love horses”  That is all relative, Sue.  A wife abuser “loves” his wife as he beats her to death so your comment is out of scope and therefore invalid in this discussion.  But I will give you this; on the last day of the Pryor debacle, when the survivors were released from their imprisoning pens, your wranglers on horseback were very kind and gentle while guiding the horses out of what had been the trap chute.  Maybe it was because on the bluff, overlooking the operation and within ear-shot, were some of the world’s best known wild horse photographers and videotagraphers but none the less, the guys did a fine job and we waved and thanked them. (Being the cold and heartless tree-huggers that we are)  But if you really loved wild horses then why did your husband sell them to slaughter; you can’t escape that.  Why do you aid and abet an agency that wanted to sell ALL of the horses to slaughter just two short years ago.  Leopards don’t change their spots that quickly and we have memories like the horses; we don’t forget.  And how do you sleep at night knowing that the BLM accelerates the adoption process so that they can get the 3-Strikers out the door, quick and easy, and into the hands of killer buyers so they can hustle them down the road to Mexico for butchering, how do you manage Sue?  If you really loved those horses wouldn’t you do something to aide and assist their condition instead of acting as the leech that sucks the blood out of the horses until they are dead and then takes the very bread out of the mouth of American children, huh Sue?  Don’t BS us; we can see right through it.

4.)    You asked Steve, “What would you do if you could no longer feed your horses or if you no longer had water for them and they were slowly dying of thirst or starvation?”  Well, I can tell you that my good friend Steven Long would not sell his horse to slaughter like your family members have been known to do, that is for sure.  Steven would do whatever it took to ensure that his horses would be cared for, anything, you name it as no job would be too small for him to take in an effort to take care of his family because he is a man of honor with an impeccable record and because he is honest to a fault; he does not have to make excuses.  Can you say that?  Steve has something else that you may not know or understand; he has friends, a very deep and sincere following of friends that would help him and his family to ensure that no one went without sustenance. In this part of the world we call that caring, compassion and the American way.

5.)    And in closing you have to take yet another swipe at one of America’s last true pioneer women, the much respected and loved Ginger Kathrens.  Her success really gets to you doesn’t it, just eats at your core so much that you seethe with envy and anger.  It shows in public and you can’t keep it out of your comments.  Don’t worry, honey, you’ll never get there so you really need to give it up.  Ginger’s pinky finger contains more knowledge about wild horses than you will ever hope to perceive.  She has spent over a decade and half roughing it in the Pryor Mountains doing one thing and one thing only, observing the behavior of wild horses.  Her documentaries are a testament to a patient and kind soul that only exists to share the wisdom and insight into the magical life and relationships of the wild horse.  Ginger gladly imparts her knowledge to friends and foes, she does not care.  I watched her spend time with Ken McNabb’s children, at the Pryor’s, even though McNabb did his best to publicly embarrass her.  I watched her tolerate you, Sue, and your friends who made comments and continually sniped at her and the rest of our advocate contingent for over a week.  But you just can’t leave it alone, can you?  You even tried to steal our one and only happy moment with Cloud last September.  That was his release.  We were in awe watching him “snake” the tattered remnants of his herd as he wanted to stay and find his other family members; the ones the BLM had ripped from him only minutes before.  We commented on his strength and commitment to family and how it was a valid lesson to humans while you stood behind us and picked, pooh-poohed and laughed at us like an adolescent school girl.  You wanted to steal the spirit of Cloud as it once again soared and when you could not succeed, even with the help of the BLM guards, you slipped back into the shadows from whence you came as you had lost and we had won.   You will never, ever steal the spirit of the wild horse from our souls; never.

So give it all a rest, Sue, we don’t care.  No animosity on that point but its just that you are a government contractor (that we don’t want) hired by a federal agency (that is out of control) so your point of view, personal issues and business justifications mean nothing to us.  It’s bad enough that we are paying you so it only adds injury to insult when we are forced to hear you.

We would, respectfully, like to see you go away and for the care and management of our national icons to be overseen by a scientific and knowledgeable body of professional individuals who use science, experience and facts to govern their actions/decisions versus “shoot from the hip” junk science and conjecture.  Simply go home, leave our wild horses at peace and retire your shrill rhetoric to the ancient archives of “How Things Used To Be” so that the rest of us can get back to living life in the “now” versus being dragged back to the 1800’s.  Sue Cattoor, please, just go home.

Thank you.

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Were Mohammed Incarnate Today…BLM Beware!

by Sheila Shayon ~President/Founder, Third Eye Media (Live Link)

As the Prophet Mohammed‘s army marched towards Mecca in 630 to conquer it they passed a female dog with puppies. The Prophet gave orders that they should not be disturbed and posted a man to see that this was done. He said, “Verily, there is heavenly reward for every act of kindness done to a living animal.”

The Prophet forbade the practice of cutting tails and manes of horses, of branding animals at any soft spot, and of keeping horses saddled unnecessarily. (Sahih Muslim) If he saw any animal over-loaded or ill-fed he would pull up the owner and say, “Fear Allah in your treatment of animals.” (Abu Dawud, Kitab Jihad)

Wild horses and burros are being systematically destroyed in the USA by the government agency, Bureau of Land Management, (BLM) and the powers that be and the public at large are turning a blind eye. Despite the fervent and passionate work of thousands of committed animal welfare advocates, the mainstream media remains on the sidelines, mute.

The most deadly round-up to date in BLM history took place in January in the remote Calico Mountains of Nevada. In the dead of winter, over rocky terrain and rugged wilderness, the terrified animals were literally run to death trying to escape the roaring helicopters hired by the agency…the usual modus operandi in ‘gathers.’ To date, 150 horses and foals have died in the wake of this one — many in the holding pens in the Fallon Facility.

The scores of videos posted on YouTube and other online sites showing the systemic BLM abuse are not for the feint of heart. The round-ups are now being called ‘gathers’ — a more palatable term in print?

The Humane Society released a statement in July in response to a summer ‘gather’ and the deaths of seven wild horses in Elko County, Nevada: “The seven mustangs died as result of dehydration, water intoxication, and injuries sustained following the Tuscarora wild horse roundup. In this case, the BLM conducted this gather in July — the hottest month of the year for Elko County — when water is scarce and temperatures exceed 90 degrees. The probable effect of chasing stressed and dehydrated animals for miles and then offering water should have been known to BLM, and in fact, the BLM admitted it was aware of the danger of “water intoxication,” but proceeded with the roundup under extremely adverse conditions anyway.”

What many don’t know is: “The public pays for those roundups, it pays BLM salaries, and it pays for the management of the public ranges. We have every right to be out there to watch what BLM is doing with our money and with the horses. Whether you care about wild horses or not, those are your dollars being spent.” George Knapp is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS-TV Channel 8;

BLM’s footprint is enormous and covers large portions of Western states including Utah and Nevada, where the BLM manages 42 percent and 67 percent of the land, respectively.

BLM governs these areas with multiple-use” management, making decisions on land usage and distribution for conservation, recreation, mining and designated grazing.

Bob Abbey, director of the BLM recently said: “The fact is right now we have three to five times the population of wild horses that the range can sustain.”

Wild horses are unique in that they cannot legally be hunted or slaughtered and have no natural predator. The BLM says ‘gathers’ ultimately save the lives of horses.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a vocal opponent of the BLM, has cited that in 1971 when the National Wild Horse and Burro Programme was created, 54 million acres were available for wild horses and burros. As of today, half that acreage remains and more than 32,000 wild horses are being held in captivity.

“Not only is this not a safe or desirable solution for the animals, but also it is costing the American taxpayers more than $US30 million a year. There are an estimated 37,000 mustangs and burros that live in our Western states. We now have nearly that amount in custody, and the BLM plans to remove an additional 12,000 wild horses from the ranges at a cost of millions to the American taxpayer.”

Landrieu continued: “The Obama Administration should be ashamed that this is happening under its watch. It is hard to fathom that hundreds of our wild horses have died at the hands of the federal agency entrusted to protect them.”

What can you do?

The BLM is extending a public comment period on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s long-term wild horse and burro initiative from August 3 to September 3, ostensibly “to ensure the broadest public participation possible.”

Salazar’s plan is to gather/round-up thousands of mustangs now roaming freely in the West and move them to ‘preserves’ in the Midwest and East. He says this is for the protection of the wild horses and the rangelands that support them.

What will you do?

E-mail comment to: (“WHB Public Comment” in subject line)

Mail comment to:
BLM Washington Office, 1849 C Street NW, Rm. 5665, Washington, DC 20240.
BLM is also soliciting feedback online using ePlanning:

Or do nothing, but remember, “Verily, there is heavenly reward for every act of kindness done to a living animal.”

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OIG Launches Review of BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program Amid Escalating Controversy

By: American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

Now they use Helicopters as the weapon of choice

WASHINGTON, D.C. July 27, 2010 – The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), which is supported by a coalition of more than 40 public interest, historic preservation and horse advocacy organizations, today supplemented the ongoing Department of Interior Office of Inspector General (OIG) review of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s wild horse and burro program. AWHPC filed a complaint outlining the BLM’s negligence in the conduct of the Tuscarora roundup in northeastern Nevada.

At least 25 of the 822 wild horses captured to date in that roundup have perished, the majority of them from dehydration-related complications. Most of the dead are very young horses, including foals aged 2-5 months.

The OIG launched a program-wide evaluation of the BLM’s wild horse and burro management in May.

“The BLM repeatedly claimed that the Tuscarora roundup required ‘extreme diligence,’ yet the agency’s actions reflect just the opposite,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC Campaign Director. “From failing to manage conditions on the range to avert an emergency for horses, to launching a desert roundup in the heat of summer when foals are young and vulnerable, to leaving dehydrated horses unmonitored overnight with free access to water, the BLM’s conduct exemplifies the fundamental failures of this broken federal program.”

Seven horses died within the first 24 hours of the roundup from dehydration-related complications — including colic, brain swelling and “water intoxication” — after being stampeded by helicopter for eight miles in 85 degree heat into capture pens, then left unattended overnight. The BLM found the horses dead and dying when it returned to the capture site in the morning. Water intoxication occurs when dehydrated horses are given free access to water and over-drink. All of the horses who died were under age 8, including 2-5 month old foals.

After the horses died, BLM claimed that this routine removal of “excess” horses was now an emergency rescue due to allegedly extreme water shortages on the range. Ironically, Roy said, the emergency water shortage relates only to horses and not to the hundreds of cows and the wildlife that also inhabit the range and have access to water.

The AWHPC complaint included a statement by Bruce Nock, Ph.D., tenured faculty at the Washington University School of Medicine and expert on the physiological effects of stress on animals regarding the dangers of a summer roundup.

“[I]t may take less than 20 minutes of moderate exercise to raise a horse’s body temperature to dangerous levels . . . Add the sympathetic nervous system activation triggered by being chased by a helicopter in summer heat and you have the potential for real problems … deadly problems,” wrote Dr. Nock wrote. “But the high ambient temperatures of summer aren’t the only problem. The year’s crop of foals are only months old during their first summer. . . . [E]arly development is a fragile time when stress/trauma can have a devastating impact that can last a life time.”

Dr. Nock previously wrote a report for AWHPC on the traumatic effects of helicopter roundup and capture on wild horses:

The Tuscarora roundup continues. The agency intends to use helicopters to roundup 1,548 wild horses and permanently removal of 1,137-1,197 of these animals from the Owyhee, Little Humboldt and Rock Creek HMAs in Elko County, Nevada over the next several weeks.

AWHPC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.


The Legal Voice of the Amercian Equine

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Colorado Wild Horse Herd Targeted by BLM–Again

Wild Horse Advocates

Wild Horse Advocates R.T. Fitch, Elyse Gardener and Ginger Kathrens

By Alan Prendergast of Denver Westword

Despite a federal judge’s decision halting a roundup last year, the Bureau of Land Management is once again seeking to “zero out” a small herd of wild horses in Western Colorado, triggering fresh protests. The West Douglas Herd, located south of Rangely, is comprised of approximately 100 horses distinct from a larger herd to the east. BLM officials insist the area is “not suitable” for horses and has been seeking to round up the mustangs for relocation or adoption for decades.

But late last year US District Judge Rosemary Collyer halted the latest proposed roundup, ruling that the BLM had exceeded its authority and failed to prove that the herd was overpopulated or consisted of “excess” animals.

Undeterred, BLM has prepared another environmental assessment that proposes a roundup of the entire herd, possibly using helicopters as well as bait-trapping, this October. That prompted a detailed critique of the plan from the Colorado Springs-based Cloud Foundation that raises some interesting arguments concerning the herd’s viability and the cost of removing it.

Cloud Foundation director Ginger Kathrens points out that BLM’s own data shows the herd’s population has remained static for years, with even a slight decrease since 2005. Yet the environmental assessment assumes a 20 percent annual increase in population for the next five years to justify the roundup.

Although the BLM hopes to offer many of the horses for adoption, the adoption rate hasn’t kept up with the roundups. There are now nearly as many wild horses in government-maintained pastures and holding facilities as there are roaming the range.

“Please consider that the removal of a mustang costs already strapped American taxpayers over $2,000 in addition to a possible $2,098 to $4,700/year holding cost for the rest of the horse’s life if they are not adopted or sold,” Kathrens writes. “Why not apply the initial savings of over $172,0000 to range improvements, livestock and fence removals, noxious weed treatment, water improvements, and any number of projects that would improve the West Douglas area for wild horses and all other wildlife species?”

But BLM’s assessment insists that the herd’s removal is necessary “to establish, maintain and preserve a thriving ecological balance” in accordance with the 1971 law directing the agency to manage the herds.

Don’t expect the controversy to get resolved neatly anytime soon. By the time the scheduled roundup approaches this fall, the first stampede will probably be one of free-roaming attorneys, headed back to court.

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Be Heard by BLM: Urge an End to Wild Horse Roundups

by Wayne Pacelle ~ President of the Humane Society (HSUS)

Yesterday I asked you to contact Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in response to the reported plans to kill more than 150,000 geese in New York state (please do call 202-720-3631 if you haven’t done so already). Today, I need your action on another urgent concern—urging the Bureau of Land Management to stop the cruel and senseless roundups of wild horses and instead to develop humane, sustainable programs for managing the herds, such as fertility control through immunocontraception.

Over the past 10 years, the BLM has removed some 74,000 wild horses and burros from the range, and it intends to remove a total of 12,000 horses this year. The current program is costly, illogical, and has also had tragic consequences—you may have heard about the rising death toll associated with the BLM’s current Tuscarora wild horse gather in Elko County, Nev., where at least a dozen mustangs have died from dehydration, water intoxication and related complications.

The federal government has submitted a new policy proposal for wild horse management and is now accepting public comments. Please take a few minutes to make your voice heard—the deadline for comments is next Tuesday, Aug. 3, and we’ve provided instructions and guidance on our website.

I’ve asked Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife scientist with The HSUS, to elaborate on why the BLM must seriously reconsider its current policies and procedures given the program’s track record and the recent tragedy in Elko County.

So far this year, 18 wild horses rounded up by the BLM in Nevada have died. The BLM claims on its website that 16 of these horses died due to preexisting dehydration-related complications, congenital deformities or physical injuries, and that only two died as a result of “gather-related operations” (one horse was euthanized after sustaining a leg fracture in a temporary holding corral and another died from a neck injury).

Based on several factors, however, we can’t help but question the BLM’s assertion that all but two deaths were unavoidable, and that the agency was blameless and practiced due diligence prior to the gather.

First, the BLM has failed to answer the most basic, pertinent question posted in a Questions and Answers section on its informational site: “Why is the BLM using a helicopter to chase and capture wild horses in the summer’s extreme heat?”

Instead of answering the question, the agency simply describes the procedures used to conduct gathers during summer months—with no explanation for why they’re held in the hottest month of the year as opposed to the fall or winter, when the mares are not foaling and the new foals of the year are older and stronger.

For years, The HSUS has urged the BLM to use passive gather techniques, such as nutrient baits and/or water trapping (placing nutrients or water in an area where they are scarce to gradually lure horses, then building a large corral around the animals), to alleviate, to the greatest extent possible, the suffering, stress and trauma inherently associated with roundups.

In its Environmental Assessment for the Elko County gather, the BLM acknowledges that “water trapping can be very effective when water resources are scarce…”, but dismissed water trapping from detailed study for this gather because it claimed, among other factors, that the area has an abundance of public and private water sources.

Of course, we know now that at the time of the gather, water sources on the range were, in fact, scarce. So not only was water trapping a feasible option, it would have been preferable and should have been used once the BLM realized the targeted horses were suffering from dehydration due to inadequate water. The agency also knew that animals already suffering from dehydration are susceptible to toxic hydration if they drink too much water too quickly once it is made available.

Having contingency plans in place in the event of a crisis of this nature is one of the many critical changes that must be made to the BLM’s broken wild horse and burro management program. Instead of constantly defending its policies and procedures when things go wrong (and they clearly did in Tuscarora), the BLM needs to conduct a fair and objective evaluation of its procedures and make changes that will alleviate unnecessary suffering and save lives in the future.

You can help the BLM better serve the treasure it has been mandated to protect—our wild horses—by submitting comments on the agency’s recently released proposal.

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Wyoming Delegation Urges Feds to Extend the Comment Period for Wild Horses

by Jeff Gearino of the Billings Gazette

GREEN RIVER — In 2008, federal officials said they would have to consider euthanizing wild horses because of rising numbers and the high cost of caring for the animals in long-term holding facilities.

But in early 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reversed course and said the agency would instead pursue shipping horses to holding corrals and pastures in the Midwest and East.

In June, federal officials began work on a national strategy aimed at reducing wild horse roundups on public lands in the West, in part through the creation of wild horse preserves in other states.

The new, long-term strategy aims to take the Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse and burro program in a new direction, Salazar said.

The agency is currently seeking public comment on a draft strategy document that will eventually implement Salazar’s wild horse and burro initiative. The BLM is accepting comments through Aug. 3.

On Thursday, Wyoming’s congressional delegation said they urged Salazar in a letter dated July 22 to extend the comment period by 60 days to Oct. 3.

U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis said the extension would allow Wyoming’s stakeholders “more opportunity” to comment on the draft strategy document.

“The summer months are some of the busiest for key stakeholders in Wyoming, including those active in ranching, tourism, business, natural resource management and local government,” the delegation wrote. “This will ensure that the [Interior] department is able to collect the type of diverse stakeholder comment that is necessary to encourage an open, positive dialogue with the public on this matter.”

The delegation’s letter also asked Salazar to host public workshops in rural areas most affected by wild horses, specifically in southwest Wyoming where most of the state’s wild horse population resides.

The Wyoming lawmakers noted the agency scheduled only one public workshop on the draft document in Denver on June 14.

“More workshops would allow those with limited resources and time to travel … more opportunity to give input,” the delegation wrote.

The U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution partnered with the BLM to produce the detailed assessment/plan for public outreach efforts for the new wild horse and burro program initiative.

The BLM used the Institute’s report to develop the draft strategy document that is out for public review. Both documents are on the BLM’s website at

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