IS IT BAD ENOUGH FOR YOU?
From the Desk of Laura Leigh:
I sit here as the clock turns midnight. Today is the fortieth anniversary of the unanimous passage of the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act.
§ 1331. Congressional findings and declaration of policy
Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.
Forty years later it appears that “mustanging” has simply become a government enterprise. Instead of humane management of herds in the wild, we now have a system where the government simply chooses the profiteers.
A complex system of mostly private contractors warehouse our National Treasure at public expense, yet off limits to public scrutiny. Roundups that occur without any meaningful access to assess the condition or actions of the contractors, at public expense. Policy that is so outrageous and contrary to the Act carried out on a daily basis.
“Have you commented on the EA(Environmental Assessment?” is a common response from BLM (Bureau of Land Management).
Well I don’t know about you, but hundreds of thousands of comments that disagree with policy are considered “of no significance.” After a while you feel like your voice as an American means nothing to the current administration.
It also appears neither does the law.
There are several lawsuits that are pushing that issue within the Judicial system. In Twin Peaks we still have a case very much alive holding feet to the fire on accountability to protocol. The West Douglas herd was saved for yet another year through litigation. The First Amendment violations very becoming very clear to a vast majority of the media as a dangerous precedent to documenting the actions of government in a “Democratic society.”
We are forced to take our government to the Courts to demand accountability within the government that supposedly holds our Constitution as it’s blueprint.
The absurdity is mind boggling.
As advocates we are now fighting to stop the spread of wild mares being given hysterectomies in the field. This is not new. It has occurred under the oversight of the Department of Interior through Fish and Wildlife. Now this butchery is attempting to make it’s way into “protocol.”
Let’s paint a clear picture. BLM manages about 252 million acres (and that depends on which website you check). Within that only about 10% are “managed” for wild equid populations. Some of those areas have AML’s (Appropriate Management Level) set ridiculously low. We even have an HMA (Herd Management Area) with an AML of 3.
Genetic bankruptcy is very real. It is happening with an animal that Congress passed an entire Act to protect. The Multiple Use Mandate has truly become “Multiple Ruse.”
We are truly in an age of Industrialization of your public land. The biggest pocket is calling the shots in the way your resources are being used. Your public resources are putting cash into the pockets of large corporations (often foreign owned). The entities that operate on public land often do so subsidized. Yes, in America we run a “welfare” program on the taxpayers back to make the rich, well, rich.
Roundups will begin again July 1 during foaling season. Just because an entity that behaves like a sociopath says something is the truth does not make it so. July 1 IS foaling season. Newborn babies and pregnant mares will be stampeded without a care for their true welfare. The concern is for convenient scheduling and budgets. The concern is to clear the land of horses, not manage the land for horses.
I will lay a flower on Velma Johnston’s grave. Known as “Wild Horse Annie” she was instrumental in passing Legislation to protect our wild herds. I wonder if she knows that what she fought for has not come to reality?
But we go on. We are getting faster. we are not reporting what happened yesterday, but we are uncovering what is planned for tomorrow. We are also getting better at the tools we have: litigation, media and the great mover of mountains, public pressure.
Stay strong, stay smart and watch the “dark side, Luke.”
After 40 years it’s long overdue to have our wild herds protected in the spirit of the Act.
Music Courtesy of Maria Daines:
AMICUS BRIEFS FILED TO SUPPORT LAURA LEIGH’S ACTION IN THE NINTH
Full brief filed by Gordon Cowan available in Wild Horse Educations Newsletter:
Horse roundup site must be accessible, Reporters Committee argues
For Immediate Release: June 3, 2011
Joined by the National Press Photographer’s Association, the Reporters Committee told the U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Cir.) in the case of Leigh v. Salazar argues that rules established by the Bureau of Land Management, which operates under the authority of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, amount to an unconstitutional restriction of the right to gather news on government property.Washington, D.C. – The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press urged a federal appeals court this week to order a federal trial court to reconsider its decision that a photographer’s First Amendment rights were not violated when she was not allowed to photograph the roundup of wild horses on federal land in Nevada.
Photojournalist Leigh sought access to witness the BLM Silver King wild horse gather in Nevada, in which wranglers round up excess wild horses on government land. Hearing reports that horses had been mistreated, Leigh sought to photograph the gather but was allowed only limited access. The district court denied Leigh’s motion to gain additional access to the roundup, ruling the action moot as it had already occurred and that Leigh was unlikely to succeed on the merits of her claim.
“The First Amendment protects the people’s right to access and gather information,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “Any government attempt to prevent people from witnessing public events on public land has to meet a high and limited bar, which the district court did not require the BLM to meet in this case.”
The friend of the court brief argues that the issue is far from moot, as the likelihood of future horse gathers on government land necessitates a decision regarding the First Amendment issues raised, including the right to gather news of public interest and the right of access to events on government property.
“The evidence that [Leigh] and other members of the public were prevented from viewing significant portions of the horse gather raises serious doubts as to whether the restrictions were justified in light of the First Amendment right at issue,” the brief argues.
The Reporters Committee and NPPA urge the appeals court to send the case back to the district court to not only reconsider its ruling that the issue is moot, but also to weigh the First Amendment rights at issue against the government’s restrictions on access and newsgathering.
The Reporters Committee-NPPA brief is available online.
Founded in 1970 to combat an increase in subpoenas seeking reporters’ confidential sources, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to more than 2,000 working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee sets up special event reporters’ hotlines, is a party inamicus briefs and statements of support, and it offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists year-round. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.
On June 3, 2011 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gave the public an hour and a half wagon ride through the Broken Arrow (aka Indian Lakes facility) in Fallon Nevada. Closed for about a year, this is the first glimpse the public has had behind these walls since the BLM claimed the facility was never intended to be open to the public. Then they closed the doors after public outrage over images taken at the facility caused an influx of calls and emails.
In an email dated 5/25/2011 requesting that the doors of the facility be closed to the public Dean Bolstad of the BLM Reno office writes:
“We now have a favorable Calico Court decision and we need to seriously consider the toll that these tours are taking on our employees,our resources and the damage that is being done to BLM‘s image as a result of the tours.”
The facility was not closed because it can not be open to the public. The facility was closed because they did not like the publics response. Further investigation also has revealed that the contract for the facility actually allows for weekly public tours.
This past winter horses died in that facility. Horses continue to die. Respiratory infection ran rampant in the facility this past winter as horses were stockpiled behind the iron bars out of sight of a public that would have seen the results of roundups that occur in sub-zero temperatures.
During the tour you saw a facility that was well prepared for the “tour.” A wagon pulled by a pick-up truck where a representative of the BLM sat in the cab, available only at brief intervals for questions. Hospital pens were off limits. Horses from various roundups were mixed and no individuals could be identified as the tour did not stop long enough and visitors were not allowed to walk through the facility.
“Content control” was an effective, if illegal, tool to keep the public uneducated about the realities of the mis-management of America’s National Treasure.
A lawsuit filed by Plaintiff Laura Leigh has gone to the Ninth Circuit Court. The suit filed by attorney Gordon Cowan of Reno deals with the issues of “content control” as a violation of First Amendment Rights guaranteed by the Constitution of The United States. The suit directly deals with this issue in the management of wild herds from range through their ultimate disposition.
The suit is supported by Wild Horse Education, a registered non-profit in the state of Nevada. All documents mentioned are viewable on the website: http://WildHorseEducation.org