July 2012 Highlights


Immediate Release:

Wild horses on hillside of water source (one of vey few that do not have cattle present apparently causing horses to utilize the canyon with frequency)

Diamond Wild Horses being monitored during drought

Wild Horse Education released a preliminary range report on the Diamond Herd Management Area (HMA) today.  The organization has been monitoring several areas of Nevada currently under the effects of drought conditions.

The Battle Mountain District, where the Diamond HMA is located, signed a FONSI putting into effect several drought management strategies outlined in the Environmental Assessment completed earlier this year. The Agency is currently assessing site-specific locations that may require rapid action under the current conditions.

Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education, has been on the ground monitoring range conditions and wild horse health.

“We have several areas that are showing signs where actions need to be taken,” said Leigh “it’s plain and simple. Regardless of how we got here, we are here. “

The report from Wild Horse Education gives site-specific detail. Years of over grazing by domestic livestock in specific areas have exaggerated the effects of this year’s drought. Domestic livestock use has apparently created a movement of wild horse populations into areas that now create a significant impact on the resources. Among the specific man-made limitations on the range is a fence line that during grazing season literally cuts much of the HMA in half. The report can be read on Wild Horse Education’s website.

“Actions need to occur now to begin to reduce the impacts to the public resource,” said Leigh “but the action can not stop there. Tools need to be put into effect that begins to manage for the natural health of the environment. Management tools must include a full picture of viability of use for wild horses. Wild horses are restricted to these encapsulated spaces and other uses are not. The resources required to protect wild horses as a natural population must be set aside for that use”

Wild Horse Education will continue to monitor several areas within the state of Nevada and advocate for action plans on behalf of the wild horse populations.


Click image to go to WHE Diamond Assessment

Links of Interest:

To support the work donate at Wild Horse Education: http://wildhorseeducation.org

BLM Battle Mountain Drought FONSI:http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/field_offices/battle_mountain_field/blm_information/nepa/battle_mountain_district.Par.95981.File.dat/BMD_Drought_EA_FONSI.pdf

Cattle lounging in riparian area within a day of turnout


Doors open to BLM storage facility in Fallon, 2012


The Truth; Wild Horses and Burros, the BLM and Slaughter

Wild Horse Education, July 15th, 2012

The secretive Federal Bureau of Land Management, (BLM), has long kept the tax payers that fund the management program behind closed doors, blocking information and access to Wild Horses and Burros. Wild Horse Education, (WHE), filed a Federal lawsuit that made it to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with a “win.” This week the BLM will decide if they are going to attempt to overturn that decision at the Supreme Court.  It is time to open these doors and gain transparency and access to the Wild horses and burros in the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. The next hearing will be held in a Chamber meeting on August 9, 2012. The deadline for the BLM to attempt to overturn the ruling in the Supreme Court is July 16, 2012.

Overlapping laws and rumor surround the BLM, policies often start with “may” instead of “must” and the lack of transparency leaves many unanswered questions.  The key question here is, “what happens to our wild horses and burros after they “disappear” into the paper chain of a government agency?”

The threat of horse slaughter is a reality faced by horses and horse owners in the US daily, but our Wild Horses and Burros are supposedly protected from the slaughter pipeline by the 1971 act of Congress “Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act”. The act states that “wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death.” The prestigious job of protecting and managing our Wild Horses and Burros as outlined in the act, was handed to the BLM, under the direct supervision of the Secretary of Interior, currently Ken Salazar.

The BLM repeatedly and emphatically states: “The BLM has not been selling any Wild Horses to slaughterhouses or to “killer buyers.”

But has the American public been told the truth about Wild Horses going to slaughter?


1984;   BLM implemented a Fee Waiver Policy that allowed individuals to adopt large numbers of Wild Horses and Burros for free. 20,000 were adopted and several thousand went to glue or pet food factories. The program stopped in 1988 due to public outcry.


1987;                  A Federal District Court Judge, Howard McKibben, ordered the BLM to deny title to anyone who revealed plans to exploit adopted horses to sell them to slaughter or to a rodeo. Under the BLM’s active adoption program, a Montana rancher with 600 BLM Wild Horses in holding pens told a reporter that adopted mustangs go to slaughter. The BLM admitted to Judge McKibben that it had known beforehand that some adopters intended to sell their horses for slaughter after they took title.


1990;                  Cattoor Livestock, a long-time BLM contractor “specializing in wild horse gathers” from court documents “did knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully use an aircraft to hunt, for the purpose of capturing and killing, wild, unbranded horses, mares and colts running at large on public land”. The horses were herded by aircraft and sold and shipped by truck to a then open slaughter house to be slaughtered and processed. Cattoor plead guilty to the charge with “circumstance” the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor per the court documents in the link.  The Cattoors are still contractors for the BLM today.


1993;                    Walter Johnson, chief of law enforcement for the BLM, wrote regarding a federal investigation in New Mexico: “Through the initial phase of the investigation, it is apparent that administrative actions by some BLM wranglers and program administrators have not been in compliance with the direction and guidance provided. In many of the adoptions and group adoptions reviewed, personnel from BLM apparently promoted the adoption of horses for commercial gain.’‘


1993;                  The BLM began a crackdown on wild horse-to-slaughter operations under former Director Jim Baca. BLM investigators began compiling evidence documenting: theft of Wild Horses during BLM sponsored “gathers” or captures , “black booking” or phony double branding of horses so that duplicate branded horses could disappear without a paper trail, manipulation of wild horse adoptions where one person holds the proxies for a group of supposedly separate adopters and the horses all end up at slaughter, use of satellite ranches to hold horses for days or weeks as stopping points on the way to slaughter, fraudulent use of wild horse sanctuaries–ranches subsidized by the federal government to care for unadoptable Wild Horses deemed excess and removed from the range as fronts for commercial exploitation


1994;                  Baca’s campaign on behalf of wild horse protection, according to Baca, played a major role in his abrupt removal from office in 1994 by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. In Baca’s absence, the Department of Interior began a campaign to shut down the U.S. Attorney’s investigation although a grand jury had already been convened to hear evidence in the case. Using lawyers from the Interior Solicitor’s Office and the agency’s civil legal representatives in the Department of Justice, pressure was brought upon the U.S. Attorney to limit the scope of the investigation to the actions of low level BLM employees.  (Note that Bruce Babbitt is the son of a northern Arizona ranching family)


1995;                  Confession: BLM confessed their own investigation showed 600 of the 243,000 (0.25%) horses slaughtered were former wild horses.


1996;                  Allegations of criminal activities within the BLM, including slaughter-for-profit schemes:  Steven Sederwall, a BLM law-enforcement agent who retired in 1995 stated “The American public is being cheated out of millions of dollars a year, in 23 years as a cop, I’ve never seen anything like the depth of corruption I’ve seen in the BLM.” Mr. Sederwall and five former colleagues sent a nine-page letter to US Attorney General Janet Reno, detailing “an ever-growing list of felony criminal violations committed by the BLM.” Charges include BLM employees selling Wild Horses to slaughterhouses and rodeo circuits; falsified financial and horse inventory records; misappropriation of funds; and obstruction of justice during investigations.




1997;                  Baca’s 1993 campaign on behalf of wild horse protection was stymied and the case was closed after intervention from Washington. In DEL RIO, Texas, A federal grand jury had collected evidence that showed U.S. Government Officials allowed the slaughter of hundreds of Wild Horses taken from federal lands, falsified records and tried to prevent investigators from uncovering the truth. The chief prosecutor and grand jury foreman in the investigation wanted to bring criminal indictments against officials of the U.S. BLM, but the case was closed after federal officials in Washington, including officials outside the investigation, intervened. Prosecutor, Alia Ludlum, refused to be interviewed, but she acknowledged the authenticity of thousands of pages of grand jury documents obtained by Associated Press (AP).

According to the AP report published in 1997, AP investigations have found that thousands of the horses are eventually sold for slaughter, and that the where about of tens of thousands of adopted but never titled animals are unknown. The BLM had “lost track” of 32,000 wild horses, many or most of which may have been sold to slaughter by pet food companies, as suspected by long-standing allegations of animal rights activists.


1997;                  Approximately 36,000 Wild Horses and Burros adopted through BLM’s Adopt-A-Horse program are unaccounted for, and, BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program Director conceded that about ninety percent of rounded up horses ended up at slaughter (he later denied he said it)


1997; 57 formerly Wild Horses had ended up in western slaughterhouses, 80% of were less than 10 years old, and 25% were less than 5 years old.


1997;                  more than 200 BLM employees had adopted animals and some could not account for the animal while “others acknowledged some were sent to slaughterhouses”;


2004;                  “Sales Authority”; Senator Conrad Burns of MO, with the support Harry Reid of NV, secretly inserted into the Senate appropriations bill a rider (#142) that directs the BLM to dispose of excess Wild Horses and Burros “without limitation” including at livestock sales and public auctions. This rider allows the BLM to sell Wild Horses and Burros that meet the criteria, fully titled; which means the buyer can do whatever they want with them, including sell them to slaughter.  The rider states: “(1) In General. – Any excess animal or the remains of any excess animal shall be sold if (A) the excess animal is more than ten years of age; or (B) the excess animal has been offered unsuccessfully for adoption at least three times. (2) Method of Sale. – An excess animal that meets either of the criteria in paragraph (1) shall be made available for sale without limitation, including through auction to the highest bidder, at local sale yards or other convenient livestock selling facilities, until such time as- (A) all excess animals offered for sale are sold; or (B) the appropriate management level, as determined by the Secretary, is attained in all areas occupied by wild free-roaming horses and burros.


2008;                  BLM held secret Implementation Meetings that resulted in a 68 page document called “Alternative Management Options”. The document recommendations included selling horses of all ages without limitation directly to kill buyers and admitted that “some wild horses will go to slaughter”.  The document also recommended BLM Employees killing the mustangs themselves and gelding/sterilizing to create non-reproductive herds.


2008;                  WikiLeaks BLM Secret Reports “Federal Lands Managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service”, Issues for 110th Congress; Controversial changes to WH&B management on federal lands to provide for the sale of Wild Horses and Burros were included. Key issues included selling “without limitation,” excess animals (or their remains) that essentially are deemed too old (more than 10 years old) or otherwise unable to be adopted (offered unsuccessfully at least three times), removing the ban on the sale of Wild Horses and Burros or their remains for processing into commercial products, and removing criminal penalties for processing into commercial products the remains of a wild horse or burro, if sold under the new authority. The opposition stated the changes were potentially leading to the slaughter of healthy animals.


2010;                  BLM did a roundup of Wild Horses in the Adobe Town HMA in south-central WY. Through phone and email communication with advocates BLM stated that they had a buyer for all 255 “Sale Authority” horses. Here is what we know from the email correspondence between BLM employees and Wild Horse advocates; the BLM said this was a repeat buyer who is “beyond reproach” and he was dropping off the horses at different properties to allow property owners to claim “farm deferrals” on their properties. The question is, were these “Sale Authority” horses purchased by an agricultural buyer that was openly admitting to a government agency funded by tax dollars, plans to cheat the government out of tax dollars? Or was it possibly a kill buyer planning to profit from sale to slaughter? (This is just one example of why Wild Horse advocates are fighting so hard for transparency in Wild Horse and Burro Management)


2010;   Agricultural activist Trent Loos made a video inside a federal BLM facility “Indian Lakes” that is closed to the public. In the video Trent talks about the wild horse rounded up from Calico in the Fallon “feedlot” . He states that “We need to HARVEST these horses. (IE slaughter them)

2010;   June 2010 BLM rounds up 170 wild horses from theToano Herd Area in Elko County, Nevada an area they had previously managed and budgeted for wild horses, according to BLM 168 horses resided in this herd area in 2009.  Calling them astray domestics BLM shipped them to the Fallon Livestock Exchange for sale. Horses at this feedlot/auction house are predominately purchased by kill brokers for slaughter.  At least 150 of the 170 horses displayed all of the characteristics of wild mustangs. Rescuers had to purchase all 170 to save them from the kill buyers.




2011;                  08/05/11: Federal agents impounded 64 BLM horses at the Port of Entry in Helper Utah, on their way to the Mexican border for slaughter. The sale occurred through the National BLM Office but the paperwork was done at the Herriman facility. Gus Warr, BLM Utah Lead, red flagged the shipment and alerted authorities. The media was told the horses actually came from the BLM’s long-term holding pasture in Oklahoma; the BLM then told Wild Horse advocates the horses involved really came from one of the long-term pasture facilities in Kansas. The owner of the truck admitted they are known for buying slaughter horses. Dennis Kunz, implicated in the investigation, stated “The BLM is only trying to make him look bad, and the entire operation was a set up to make the BLM look good for future funding in the wild horse program.” (Wild Horse advocates are asking “Is the BLM taking the necessary precautions to be sure these horses do not end at slaughter? and, Who in the BLM is selling these animals without the necessary checks?)





The information provided here is not by any means a complete list of instances or conspiracies that the BLM has been involved in, accused of or outright facilitated. It is not by any means a complete history of BLM horses documented as going to slaughter. It is only a brief overview that demonstrates a long history of the BLM failing to protect our Wild Horses from death or slaughter and in some case planning for our Wild Horses to be put to death or go to slaughter.

You may wonder what all the outrage over horse slaughter is about. After all, our society in general, is a carnivorous society that accepts livestock slaughter as a part of life. Whether you are part of the vegan club, the burger club, or somewhere in between, you should know the process of horse slaughter before choosing a side on the issue! Horses are anatomically, physiologically and psychologically different than cows. The process varies from plant to plant, from a captive bolt(s) to the head, (some horses are struck many times before they are rendered unconscious, and it can wear off in a matter of minutes leaving the animal fully conscious) or stabbed repeatedly in the spine with a pontilla knife, until fully paralyzed but still conscious, they are hung upside down by the leg, alive, and bled out by the throat. Slaughter house workers have commented that the horses are fully aware they are being vivisected. The anatomy of a horse makes it extremely difficult to use a captive bolt. Horses have accurate senses that make them reflexively move to avoid the impact. The long neck of the horse (as opposed to a cow) creates a moving target that is slipping in the blood of the kill box while requiring multiple “stuns.” It is also important to know that the cruelty starts long before the kill box, in the slaughter pipeline itself; http://www.youtube.com/user/CathleenDoyle . In addition, horses are not raised for consumption purposes and are heavily medicated throughout their lives with medicines that are absolutely proven to be toxic to humans. This is fact, despite what pro-slaughter industry wants you to think. Horse Slaughter is not human euthanasia, it is not slaughter as usual, it is a cruel and violent process of terror and pain.

The BLM’s DC Public Relations head, Tom Gorey, said “the activists are resorting to dishonest scare tactics to help push their “anti-management agenda by any means possible. Their apocalypse-now, sky-is-falling rhetoric is flagrantly dishonest and is clearly aimed at preventing the BLM from gathering horses from overpopulated herds on the range.”

Tom Gorey’s remark IS an apocalypse-now, sky-is-falling statement, chock full of spun dishonest rhetoric aimed at discrediting the voice of the wild horse and burro “welfare advocates” that he refers to as “activists”. It is unprofessional, and a blatant misrepresentation of what the public is asking for and has nothing to with addressing public concerns. This is the kind of argument intended to diminish the credibility of questioning the BLM’s actions through spin, instead of addressing very valid issues.

With holding facilities bursting at the seams, and very little changes in management, the serious question of slaughter becomes very valid indeed. This situation has been brewing for a long time as an agency has spent more on public relations than on range management.

It is time to address valid questions.

“The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.”

Winston Churchill


Saved from Slaughter by Saving America’s Mustangs, Pauite reservation horses 2011


Over the course of the last three weeks Wild Horse Education has been watching the drought situations in several key areas of Nevada closely.

McCullough Spring, current area for water haul

The Battle Mountain District of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a FONSI that outlines potential courses of action after reviewing comments from the public that included wild horse advocates, livestock interests and Eureka County.

Laura Leigh, the organizations founder, has been on the ground in the district documenting range conditions and animal health.

The Fish Creek area was of concern after the agency announced they had begun to haul water out to the horses. BLM reports indicated that there were signs of animal health concerns.

“BLM took rapid action in this instance,” said Leigh “and began to haul water into the noted area of concern immediately and continued to monitor and haul water. I observed the three areas noted in the reports and can report that at this time any deterioration previously to animal health has been reversed. The animals I observed showed good body weight and no apparent signs of dehydration.”

Horses near the area of one of the water hauls

In Leigh’s preliminary report she notes that there is sufficient forage at this time a short distance from the area of greatest concern. BLM provided Leigh with wildlife camera photographs. After identifying the individuals on BLM digital photos, and in her own observations, it is noted that the horses may be beginning to move from the area of greatest impact into higher elevations where more forage and water is present.

“At this time the current situation at Fish Creek simply requires that the BLM continue to haul water and monitor movement,” said Leigh “this is an example where a timely pro-active action may very well have averted the need for more extreme measures.”

Brown Canyon trough

Several other key areas including the Diamond Herd Management Area, that is currently in the assessment phase for a winter roundup, are also experiencing the effects of this years drought.

“We are on the ground assessing the situation and so is BLM,” said Leigh “this is one of those instances where the issue is clear and the framework exists to address it. The drought FONSI that was completed before a full blown emergency existed gives an opportunity to get ahead of the situation and be proactive instead of in a scramble with ineffective protocol to address a crisis with action.”

However the overlapping uses, laws and specific conditions from range to range will require diligent observations to ensure the proper actions are taken specific to each area.

Leigh plans to continue to monitor the areas of noted concern and have a draft summary available to the public next week.

Palomino mare that had been documented by wildlife camera in potential distress showing improved condition


Links of Interest:

To support Wild Horse Education: http://wildhorseeducation.org

BLM Battle Mountain Drought FONSI:http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/field_offices/battle_mountain_field/blm_information/nepa/battle_mountain_district.Par.95981.File.dat/BMD_Drought_EA_FONSI.pdf


If Horses Could Speak…. the stories they could tell

reprint from Horseback Magazine

If Horses Could Only Speak … the stories they could tell.

On a cold day in February horses were grazing and moving toward water in the Stone Cabin Herd Management Area near Tonopah in Nevada. A helicopter quickly approached and the band started to run. They ran over the rough terrain and into a trap. From there they were loaded onto a trailer and to temporary corrals set up on the desert floor.

Stone Cabin roundup, February 2012

“This one’s a gelding,” shouted the wrangler as he had the big bay horse in the chute “and I think he likes his butt scratched.”

Shawna Richardson the Wild Horse and Burro specialist from Battle Mountain discovered the horse also liked the apples she had in her lunch. He would nervously take hem from her but seemed to calm down after a couple of days. She named him ‘Homer’, and it was determined that he had been a domestic running on the range.

Temporary Holding, Stone Cabin 2012

As a domestic horse Homer was under a differing jurisdiction than the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and fell under the ‘feral’ livestock laws of the state of Nevada. The brand inspector took charge of the skinny geldings fate. A notice would be published in the newspaper and if the horses’ former owner did not claim him Homer would ship to the Fallon Livestock auction. The Fallon auction is a place where the majority of the horses sold go to slaughter.

Richardson couldn’t get that skinny gelding off her mind and proceeded to find someone that might adopt Homer. She found a young man looking for a horse of his own in Tyler Whitesell.

Richardson then contacted the brand inspector that informed her that no one had answered the ad and if Tyler wanted Homer he had to go to Fallon and bid.

“I let him skip school,” said Tyler’s guardian “I thought this was really important.” There are some things you can’t learn in a classroom.

Very early in the morning Richardson took Tyler and his friend Ty to the auction. The three watched as animals went through the sale all day. Homer was the last to be run through the sale ring. Tyler purchased the skinny bay gelding for $180.00.

“He was really nervous until he got his halter on,” said Tyler, smiling “after that it was as if he knew things would be different.”

Homer and friend, Ty

The family said that Homer ate for seven days straight before taking a break. They have changed his feed a few times to help him put on weight. Tyler has been working with him and recently started riding him.

When asked why, given the opportunity to finally choose a horse of his own, did he pick Homer, Tyler replied, “He was going to the sale,” as if no other explanation was needed.

“If horses could only talk,” said Tyler, “I bet Homer could tell you some great stories.”

Where Homer came from we will never know. How he survived as a domestic gelding on the stark rugged landscape with the wild horses, we will never know. But this chapter of Homer’s story we do know. Homer would tell you of his gratitude to the people that did not let him fall through the cracks and helped him find a home in the heart of a great young man.

Tyler Whitesell and Homer


Writers note: I have been to many roundups and there are dozens of stories to tell. Most of those stories repeat: the stallion that vaults panels back to freedom or the stud that escapes capture and calls to his band within the trap. Homer’s story is unique in my experience and worthy of sharing. He was given the name “Homer” because it seemed like a perfect name for a skinny gelding. Yet in literature Homer is the author of one of the greatest epic sagas of all time. This Homer has his own “Odyssey.”


BLM Jackson Mountain Roundup Ends Under Continued Controversy

Jackson Mountain 2012

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has concluded operation in the Jackson Mountain removal of wild horses that began under the veil of an “emergency.”

On June 8, 2012 the operation began during BLM’s own prohibited “foaling season.” BLM prohibits the use of helicopters during roundups from March through June in all but emergent conditions. Yet the Record of Decision signed by District Manager Gene Seidlitz claimed the entire operation needed to occur regardless of the fact that the agency only justified an emergent condition in the South West quadrant of the Herd Management Area (HMA).

On June 16, 2012 Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education, filed a legal action against the roundup operation. The claim asked that the BLM be held to the parameters of their own rules, that only emergent areas constituted any action. The Judge ruled in Leigh’s favor on June 20. Judge Howard McKibben reviewed all documentation supplied by the agency and Leigh and determined that Leigh was correct.

However the agency played a word game and expanded the scope outside the quadrant that they determined the emergency to include the entire South of the HMA. At the time of the hearing more than 300 animals had been removed, including the area of concern, to relieve pressure off the stressed range and operations could have ceased entirely until July 1. The agency continued operations not justified in the EA. The hearing itself was an emergency hearing and the time required to hold this agency to any specifics of conduct was limited.

“Specific, accountable language is avoided by BLM at all costs,” said Wild Horse Education founder Laura Leigh, “a great example is the pretense of a humane care policy in the Record of Decision. In meetings prior to the start of the operation specifics of conduct were agreed to. Not one of the specifics made that document. Reassurances were given that those specifics would be followed during operation. In truth I witnessed one of the most careless, unnecessary runs I have ever seen that actually left me shaken for weeks.”

During operations other issues arose that created concern. The agency had claimed that the operation was not intended to reach Appropriate Management Level (AML) but intended as a “phased in approach.” During the first week of operation the number of foals coming off the range represented about a 14% birth rate. Mares were coming in pregnant. The agency refused to adjust numbers intended for removal.

In the assessments done to justify removal BLM asserted that there would be approximately 930 horses on the range, including the 2012 foal crop. The entire equation as to how many horses to remove was based on that estimate. Based on the number “930” a claim was made that more than 800 horses existed over what the agency determined to be a low of “appropriate,” about 680 animals above the “high” number of “appropriate.”

Yet the estimate of 930 includes a number of animals (foals) that did not yet exist.

The EA states: “The current population of wild horses within the HMA is approximately 740 adult wild horses and approximately 96 foals based on surveys conducted in early April 2012.” That means that 12.9% population increase had already hit the ground by April. (more than half of the expected number for the entire season).

Jackson Mountain, second trap site (2012)

BLM asserts that “peak foaling season” is defined by 6 weeks to either side of actual “foaling season,” that begins within their defined protocol on March 1 and ends on July 1. So in essence we are to believe that more than half the expected population has been born only two weeks into actual defined “foaling season?” Is is within the scope of reason to believe this count included animals born late season in 2011?

Please keep in mind that the justification for “population” modeling to determine numbers of animals removed is gained by a computer program called “WinEquus.” This information is included in “Appendix F” of the EA. Please also note further down on page 150 it states “Foals are not included in AML.”

The WinEquus program is only as accurate, and honest, as the data it is supplied. When the data fails to recognize the effects of the claimed degradation of the range, decreasing the likelihood of efficient reproduction and includes an inflated growth rate the justification supplied by the program becomes false.

Currently the “genetic viability” standard used is 120-150 animals. This measure references reproductive adults, as foals are not reproductive and many factors exists that determine if they will reach reproductive age. Including a foal that uses considerably less forage in it’s first year than an adult, with no reassurance that it will ever reach reproductive age, is irresponsible.

Let’s simplify the concerns surrounding the “math” used at Jackson. I claim I have an estimated population of ten horses. I then tell you I expect a 22%-27% population increase. So I then tell you the number I am going to use is 13, but I can only have 3. I take ten off, 2 of them are pregnant. What do I have left?

In Algebra at school I think we all learned that what you do on one side of the equation you do equally to the other. If a pregnant mare counts as two in the justification to remove her she counts as two when I take her off, or my math is wrong. If I say I will have a 27% increase in numbers and I see a 14% increase, I need to adjust my numbers accordingly because my initial equation has been invalidated.

BLM refused to adjust target number during operations even though they clearly stated the operation was not to remove to AML, high or low.

In Jackson there are also two populations that have very little exchange. If I leave too few in one area I have just created a situation where I have caused a high likelihood of inbreeding. BLM usually answers this concern with either “the horses move,” (without any data to support the claim) or we will just take horses from another HMA and introduce them. If a population is unique and “integral” to the land “where presently found” under law, do these responses reflect the feral livestock practices the 1971 Act was intended to curtail or the law?

Furthermore the agency claimed that horses had travelled outside the HMA boundaries into areas that were once Herd Area lines that had been redrawn into HMA lines. If you look at historic action within this HMA you see the identical excuse used to justify removal. If it is a repetitive issue it speaks more to the inaccuracy of the lines than the horses failure to adhere to the “line in the sand.” Even though the authority exists to redetermine boundaries, and the public has requested such actions be explored, time and time again the agency fails to utilize any “tool in the toolbox” but removal.

Jackson Mountain was purported to be such an urgent situation that it required running foals and heavily pregnant mares by helicopter during foaling season yet no other use was given any formal restriction. The entire HMA was going to be run, prior to the Judges decision, at the most vulnerable time of year. One user in the South voluntarily removed livestock from an area where there was little forage for them anyway. Yet the district put nothing in place to restrict any user to actually create a situation that would justify the position of “we are doing this for the health of the range.” During operations horses were repeatedly run into traps where cattle literally were in, or near, the mouth of the trap.

Jackson Mountain, cattle grazing near trap mouth as horses are run through 2012

“I watched one poor stallion try to hide his mare and foal in with the cattle and get the helicopter to chase him,” said Leigh “the majority of his band had already been captured in the run previous where he had escaped and tried to flee back home with this single mare and foal. The helicopter was focused on the mare and foal, the stallion fled back toward where he was driven from. The helicopter pushed the mare and foal from the grazing cattle and tried to drive them into the trap where the wranglers were standing upright. After refusing to go into the trap and fleeing toward observers the helicopter finally gave off chase of the mare and her new foal.”

Mare and foal escape as they head past observation area

Observation of the Jackson horses continued into holding.

According to the “gather reports” 132 foals were captured and a total of 647 animals taken. Of note is there are twelve deaths reported at the roundup location. The facility reports 633 animals received. If you add 633 to the twelve reported deaths you get 645, not 647. Of note are the number of animals that had “chronic” conditions that were able to live (and reproduce) on the range, run in extreme heat miles from a helicopter yet required euthanasia by the BLM in “non-gather” related deaths, 10 of the 12.

“In a run on the third day of operations I observed a band stallion that was obviously limping,” said Leigh “he had mares and two foals. I was under the distinct impression that the District Manager had given clear instructions that if an injured animal was noted the run would cease. This band was pushed into the trap. The following day BLM reported they euthanized two studs with what they called pre-existing conditions. Observation was severely restricted at holding where the stud pen and mares and foals could only be accurately observed on one day each week. I have not seen that stud again. A stallion that obviously was in good enough shape to keep a harem and breed, but not survive a roundup. Statistically his death will not accurately reflect reality.”

Observations at the facility confirmed that only the animals coming off the range in the first week of operations were compromised.

Observations also confirmed that births were continuing within the facility.

Jackson foals waiting as mares are processed at PVC

However the observation that has drawn the most concern is the visual discrepancy to the number of foals coming off the range. Repeated visual observation at the facility of the number of foals consistently provided information of an inadequate number within the facility compared to what was reported taken from the range. “Gather reports” claim that 132 foals were taken. The Decision of Record makes claim that mares and foals will ship immediately. The last visual observation of the facility showed about 82 foals, including those born at the facility (the end of BLM’s purported “foaling season” ). That included the number of foals in a holding area as their mares were processed. Even if a dozen foals remained at the trap for shipment the last day there still appears significant discrepancy. Is it possible that after the District Manager was made aware that numbers leaving the range did not match the projection used for removal that numbers were inflated? It seems odd that the number exactly gives you a “20%” rate. If for arguments sake we add 12 to the 82 observed and do a percentage we get 14.5%.

“When I go out to do a population growth estimate on a herd in late summer I usually end up with between a 14-16 percent average for foals born that year,” said Leigh “If you count late foals from the prior year you can creep up into the low 20 percentage ranges. When I do a foal count in July, for example, including an animal over seven months of age is an artificial and inaccurate count.”

It has been long suspected by the advocate community that BLM “double counts” to create an artificial impression of growth rates and over-population. If you are doing your population estimates from the air how do you judge foal rate? For example at Jackson Mountain a claim was made that only two weeks into actual “foaling season,” as defined by BLM, that a 12.9% growth in population had already occurred. Is it within reason to assume that count was inaccurate and included 2011 births?

“The greatest issue here is just how close to the edge of real irreversible damage the BLM is playing,” states Leigh “If the population estimate is inflated due to including foal crop of prior years and then fail to adjust procedure as you push populations dangerously low, we will loose the horses that stood integral to the land as unique symbols of history. It is not an exaggerated claim as BLM hides behind public relations ploys that paint advocates as overly emotional. You become emotional after dealing with injustice and unjustified adherence to outdated protocol.”

Further investigation into inflated growth estimates is ongoing at Jackson and several ranges in the state of Nevada.

Jackson Mountain stallion watches his mares after arrival at PVC. They will be separated here, he will go to the stud pens and they with the mares.

Links of Interest:

To support the work: http://wildhorseeducation.org

AP article on Court win against BLM’s unjustified action at Jackson Mountain: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gjerx5GrJTVx0SKRfJPrNQdS76Ew?


BLM Jackson Mountain Environmental Assessment: https://www.blm.gov/epl-front-


BLM Jackson Mountain Record of Decision: https://www.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/nepa/30004/37357/39160/Jackson_Mtns_DR_060712.pdf

Jackson Mountain stallions arrive at PVC.