January 2012 Highlights


We went back into Court to attempt to address the issues of a lack of humane care standard in the BLM’s wild horse and burro program. Although the door is open to bring the next challenge (and we are preparing to hit the road) it is time to “clog the FAX.”

Judge Howard McKibben could not address the “program wide” issue and pointed out that “is the job of Congress.”

Let’s see if we can wake Congress. Clog the FAX.

FREE Internet FAX: http://faxzero.com/

Find your Reps: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/findyourreps.xpd

Directory of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/representatives/

Another guide: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

Also Bob Abbey:
E-mail: Director@blm.gov

click to download postcard
click to download sample FAX


We have just come through the hearing in the Ninth Circuit to address the issue of access to document.


The case for Humane handling is coming up fast on the 26th. Documents are being prepared for the hearing. A venue is being looked into for a “moving forward” meeting to be held after the hearing on the 26th with the issue of water and public lands (wild horses) being heard in Carson City the following day.

RAC subcommittees are meeting to send recommendations for the National Academies study (NAS) on the wild horse program and a webinar is being planned for the 19th (As well as a meeting in Spokane WA of the NAS).

Roundups are ongoing with Pancake starting today and Flanigan beginning on Monday.

Please donate to keep this effort alive.


Wild Horses and Burros Get a Day in Court

SAN FRANCISCO (Jan. 10, 2012) – Lawyers for plaintiff Laura Leigh, argued before the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday, in a case that strikes at the heart of the press’ access to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conduct which Leigh has alleged is both illegal and inhumane, and in violation of the federal law intended to protect wild horses on public lands.  A federal judge in a different case had earlier ruled that the BLM’s exclusion of Leigh was a violation of her First Amendment newsgathering rights, but the issue continues to arise each time Leigh tries to document the BLM’s activity.  The appellate court yesterday seemed interested in considering a new standard to gauge press access to such situations.  If the court adopts a new rule, it may enable the press — and the public, which relies on it — to properly observe the tragic elimination of the wild horse from the range, as well as the horses’ ultimate disposition: adoption, sale or death.

The BLM has seized over 130,000 wild horses in its campaign to clear the public lands of these symbols of the American spirit and instead sell grazing and oil and gas rights to commercial interests to use the land which is the wild horses’ historic homeland.  The BLM claims its right under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and Leigh seeks to document its actions so that all Americans can see what is happening to these living icons of freedom.  Because of the BLM’s restrictions on her ability to document and observe roundups, the conditions of horses in long-term holding, and the records of bulk sales that might land horses in the slaughter pipeline, Leigh brought this suit.

“It’s plain and simple,” said Leigh.  “The BLM is operating in a manner that the public finds unacceptable, and it is not okay to hide it.  This is an area of extreme public interest and the public has a right to the information so that it can reach its own opinion.”

Leigh’s suit has attracted national attention from press and First Amendment groups who have actively supported her position and filed briefs with the court urging that she be given full access to document the removal of the wild horses.

The BLM now holds over 45,000+ captured wild horses in long-term holding corrals, and sells others who may end up in rendering plants or slaughtered for human consumption abroad.  Leigh’s suit seeks to establish her ability as a member of the press corps to expose the inherent cruelty and instances of illegality in this federal program.

The suit is Laura Leigh v. Ken Salazar, No. 11-16088


Calico 1-4-2012

Business as Usual for Agency Despite Rhetoric

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is demonstrating that the New Year of 2012 mirrors 2011 for the hundreds of wild horses that are currently being extracted from public lands. Despite recurring declarations made by the Agency toward reform, no changes are apparent as the BLM recently resumed helicopter driven wild horse roundups after taking a brief break from operations over the holidays.

Laura Leigh of  Wild Horse Education (WHE) stated after observing the Calico Complex roundup yesterday January 4th,

“I felt like I was standing at the Antelope Complex roundup of last January 2011, watching the pilot demonstrate the exact same reckless behavior as he, again, flew dangerously close to the ground, very close to the horses and these maneuvers were repeated not once but continually throughout the day.”

In recent months the BLM has made several statements and recommendations in regards to the “humane handling” of the horses and burros in the agency’s care. These statements came after a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was issued by the Honorable Judge Howard McKibben in Federal District Court on behalf of Leigh’s case in response to video documentation of a BLM contractor helicopter allegedly making contact with an exhausted wild horse during pursuit. This ruling is part of a lawsuit against the agency alleging multiple instances of inhumane handling and care.

The issues were brought into the Courtroom for Leigh’s organization through attorney Gordon Cowan of Reno.

“It is troubling,” said attorney Cowan “that even with the case awaiting hearing for Injunctive Relief at months end, and the many public statements made by the agency toward addressing this very issue, that these incidents are still occurring.

Several instances happened during the Calico roundup on January 4th that may have led to injury including an instance where a horse caught its leg in the trailer and was down on the floor.

“We were so far away that even with a powerful zoom I had no ability to assess the injuries,” stated Leigh, “There was no opportunity given to the public to observe animals in holding as the BLM placed the corrals on private property and barred access.”

The BLM contractor made arrangements to place the corrals on private property excluding the public and press from a reasonable distance to observe even though a permanent government facility for holding horses exists in close proximity.

Located at Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge a permanent structure exists to house and treat wild horses and burros. The Sheldon Refuge is part of the newly designated “Tri-state” Calico Complex where this roundup is currently being conducted. The Sheldon facility would accommodate both horses and the public in a more efficient and transparent fashion.

The issue of access to document the horses and their treatment in the governments care has also become a matter in the Court system. A “Freedom of the Press” lawsuit has made its way into the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and will be heard on Monday, January 9 2012.

“This is not a matter of national security,” said Leigh “it’s simply about doing what’s right for our wild horses and burros that are protected by law and the public’s right to know.  If the treatment and handling were humane and appropriate, it would be wide open to observation. Until clear and defined humane standards and protocol are created and implemented in the field and consequences are in place for violations, nothing is new.”

edited to add notes on video:

note at 5:50 onward the wrangler focusing on making sure we can’t see by moving tarp, repeatedly

at 6:32 they put a rope around the horses neck and bang his head against the trailer as they try to pull him to his feet

Please note hotshot used to get injured horse to rise at 7:46

What would it have hurt to slow it down and let the just run, captured, torn from protection of family, improperly loaded, then injured horse rest?