June 2012 Highlights


Pilot Conduct Triple B

Permanent Injunction to Pilot Conduct Ordered against BLM

On June 22, 2012 the Honorable Judge Howard J. McKibben issued an Injunction to pilot conduct in the Triple B Complex case that was amended following a decision in the Ninth Circuit on another matter by the same Plaintiff and attorney that changed underlying case law.

In August of 2011 Plaintiff Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education, gained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that shut down the Bureau of Land Management’ (BLM) Triple B roundup in Eastern Nevada. The TRO was granted directly related to the pilot flying “dangerously or unreasonably close” to wild horses during roundup operations. Specifically Leigh’s camera caught a pilot apparently striking and exhausted animal. During the hearing the Judge referenced the agencies attempt at justification a:  “blame the horse affront.”

Following a victory in the Ninth Circuit on Freedom of the Press issues involving wild horses Leigh’s attorney, Gordon Cowan of Reno, amended the Complaint to address the new case law.

The new ruling makes the parameters of the TRO permanent through the life of the Environmental Assessment, or 2013.

“With each new case that wins you create a new vocabulary of sorts within the conversation of law,” says Cowan, “If you spend time in a law library reading cases you can see the evolution of the conscience of our nation. “

“Rulings like these help to validate the marathon of documentation and creating a chain of information,” said Leigh, “This has been a grueling process lasting years. It is extremely encouraging to see that the ‘faces of the voiceless’ are being heard.”

The originally ruling and pending Amended Complaint were instrumental in spurring the BLM’s investigation that lead to the Triple B review that admitted much of the alleged conduct had occurred. That document promised a policy on the ground to address the issues of humane care. To date no policy has been issued by the agency.

The legal action and documentation can be supported through contributions to Wild Horse Educationhttp://wildhorseeducation.org

Links of interest:

Wild Horse Education: http://WildHorseEducation.org

Seattle PI piece on Jackson Roundup: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Congressman-criticizes-Nevada-wild-horse-roundup-3622153.php

WHE analysis of BLM’s Triple B Review:http://wildhorseeducation.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/analysis_blm_revtb_2011_whe1.pdf


On June 20,2012 in Federal District Court in Reno, Hon. Judge Howard J. McKibben granted part of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) sought against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

A roundup began June 8, 2012 under the management of BLM’s Winnemucca District manager Gene Seidlitz. Within the supporting documents justification process BLM cited a water emergency in the south west portion of the area and utilized that to begin a removal operation in the entire area of wild horses during foaling season as defined by the agency. The agency prohibits this activity during foaling season within BLM’s own protocol in all but emergent situations.

“The ruling reflects that Judge McKibben understands that the agency justified an action and then broadened their discretion to take actions that they had not justified,” said Gordon Cowan, Reno based attorney for Plaintiff Laura Leigh, after the hearing, “there is a clear distinction under law and the Courts ruling was a clear reflection of that distinction.”

“I understand the positive importance of the ruling and recognition of distinct language in the system to begin to attain any accountability within the agency but I am still gravely concerned,” stated Leigh the Founder of Wild Horse Education, “ This agency is well known for pushing boundaries and the very real potential exists that they will continue to push at Jackson until they create another imbalance that can lead to further inappropriate action.”

Leigh is referring to the fact that the agency is limited to using helicopters to roundup wild horses to the scope of the documented emergency in the south of Jackson.

“The agency has targeted 630 animals for removal,” stated Leigh “If they push in the south they will imbalance an area. The right thing to do would be to stop for now as more than 315 horses have been removed from the South and monitor to see if enough pressure has been removed from the range. But is that what we can expect?”

Currently there are no formal use restrictions anywhere within the Jackson Mountain Herd area for any users. The area had livestock grazing and considerable extractive industry.

“If the concept here, according to the law is fair and equitable use,” Leigh said, “How can there be an emergency of such magnitude that it requires running newborn foals in the desert heat during the most fragile time of their lives, if no other use has a restriction?”

Follow (and support) the case and other issues at Wild Horse Education http://wildhorseeducation.org

Map of population survey Jackson MTN. BLM: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blmnevada/7345498354/


Mare and foal that were run twice in one day only to be left without their band at Jackson Mountain

Jackson Mountain Wild Horse Roundup Gathers Lawsuit

On June 8, 2012 the Bureau of Land Management began a helicopter roundup of wild horses in the Jackson Mountain area in Northern Nevada. This roundup is occurring during foaling season. The BLM handbook on wild horse and burro management prohibits such activity.

The handbook states in part: “The capture of wild horses by using a helicopter to herd the animals is prohibited during the foaling season, which is defined as six weeks on either side of the peak foaling to assure that young foals are mature enough to be able to remain with their band during gather activities.”

Plaintiff Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education, has been attempting to dialogue with the Agency prior to the start of the operation and on a daily basis to resolve issues. Attorney Gordon Cowan of Reno Nevada filed the suit yesterday.

“It is with a sad heart that this lawsuit is filed,” states Leigh “the idea that this is foaling season and that extreme care must be taken does not seem to be understood. I saw one of the most egregious unnecessary runs I have ever seen at any roundup occur at Jackson Mountain and the urgency for change in behavior is still not comprehended on the ground.”

Leigh brought suit to last years BLM roundup of the Triple B complex that resulted in the Courts taking action and shutting down the operation. The BLM then did a review of the roundup and found that the alleged misconduct had occurred and they would take corrective action. The agency has to date not implemented any standard of humane care for handling animals.

Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva the ranking member of the House subcommittee of National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, in an interview with the Seattle PI, maintains the agency is conducting the roundup “under cover of an emergency,” but the situation facing horses around the Jackson Mountains does not meet the BLM’s own criteria for an emergency.

“All attempts to gain appropriate action through conversation are met with the statement that we are making baby steps,” said Leigh “but baby steps are not acceptable as the lives of these babies are continually placed in jeopardy.”


The legal action and documentation can be supported through contributions to Wild Horse Educationhttp://wildhorseeducation.org

Links of interest:

Wild Horse Education: http://WildHorseEducation.org

Seattle PI piece on Jackson Roundup: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Congressman-criticizes-Nevada-wild-horse-roundup-3622153.php

New Zealand Horsetalk interview with Leigh on site: http://horsetalk.co.nz/2012/06/12/watching-these-babies-run-horrifying/

WHE analysis of BLM’s Triple B Review:http://wildhorseeducation.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/analysis_blm_revtb_2011_whe1.pdf


Stallion, mare and foal run from chopper through grazing cattle. These three were part of a band that was broken, partially driven in, and these three fled back home. The chopper then went back and got them.. Only to have them evade and be broken up as well. 16 horses were chased on the 7th day of the roundup. These three for more than ten miles. Only 3 adults and one foal were captured. We are out of the “imminent danger” zone of the HMA.

Much is going on and reports are being crafted. News soon.

To respond to request for some photos we published a fast slideshow. Detailed videos coming soon with daily observation notes about the battle to get any real standard of humane care.


Triple B roundup in July… foaling season

Jackson Mountain Decision, the same old BLM?

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Winnemucca District has issued a Final Record of Decision on the Jackson Mountain wild horse Herd Management Area (HMA). http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/field_offices/winnemucca_field_office/nepa/wild_horse_and_burros/0.Par.53090.File.dat/Jackson Mtns DR 060712.pdf

After days of conferencing with Gene Seidlitz, District manager, certain objectives were sought by Laura Leigh, Wild Horse Education, as well as by other advocates nation wide through calls and letters to the office.

The objectives that were sought:

  1. Bait and Water trapping be utilized as a first line of any removal operation.
  2. Formal restrictions to an over grazed range, not voluntary, by permitees. (Including the cattle still occupying the HMA to the North of the most severely effected area that are still on the range)
  3. Roundup parameters be extended to reflect an emergency situation and that obtaining “AML” not be a first line but simply a removal geared at reducing immediate stress to the environment.
  4. Formal parameters written into the Record on humane handling protocol specific to the nature of the drought and foaling season. (Handling and monitoring specifics were included in the conversation)
  5. Birth Control (PZP) use would not be effective this time of year and should not be utilized. Gelding or other permanent sterilization was not appropriate.

On June 7, 2012 a final Decision was released.

Instead of publishing the Record of Decision first the agency opted to publish a “Q & A” that does not appear to reflect any of the points of discussion except in peripheral fashion.

Bait and water trapping has been refused.

There is no note of Livestock restrictions throughout the HMA.

The roundup objective is “within AML.”

The notes on humane handling appear to be the identical claims made in the past when horrific conduct was documented.

However PZP and Gelding will not be utilized.

As the record of decision has now been published it appears that the conversations engaged in were either not understood clearly by BLM or that the operation continuing without any change is an immovable priority.

They will restrict the livestock voluntarily removed from the South but the permitee that still has cattle directly to the North will not be restricted. As the claim is that animals are moving off HMA to find resource why is it so hard to comprehend that the resource within the HMA must be preserved? If there is an effected wild horse population in the South why is it so hard to understand that they must move the cattle to the North off the HMA in order to encourage movement by the horses into the North?

They did put a “handling protocol” into the decision record. At least that gives an intention that the importance of a protocol is necessary. However the points listed will encompass the justification for unacceptable handling we have seen in the past. Not one of the specifics requested appears in the document in the language requested. A three mile distance was discussed (even though one half a mile will be enough to cause irreversible damage to foals) and the Decision record goes to seven.

“At the moment it is all I can do to contain my disappointment and get my gas tank filled,” said Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education, “There are two open cases, one to conduct. If these postings by BLM are any reflection of the efficiency and care to be taken during a “foaling season” roundup I will be very busy gearing up for Court.”


Please support our efforts in the field. The cases are open in Federal Court and the documentation must be made daily.

An active case to Humane Care is solely supported at this time by donations to Wild Horse Education.

THIS is what occurred under the “discretion” of the EXACT same people doing this operation. The so called “humane parameters” listed in the Decision Record would allow identical conduct.

WILL this agency EVER have a soul. conscience or backbone enough to create a REAL standard and ENFORCE it?


Notes from the Roundup, Leigh_ June 8,2012

BLM began the emergency roundup at Jackson Mountain today. The operation began in the area where water has been hauled, literally. The stock tank was located within the wings of the trap.

Temperatures today were unseasonable cool.

The range is in serious compromise. Very little, to no, new growth was noted.

Driving was aprox 2 plus hours to the trap location from Winnemucca. As the roundup progresses distances are expected to increase.

Four runs were made today, two prior to arrival. Meeting time may move to 5am.

The first run witnessed was the largest run of the day. However observation vantage was poor. Two animals broke from the trap and were pursued. After the animals disappeared from site the helicopter was called off.

Vantage point was changed for the last run. 4 animals, body scores of 3/4 came into sight. (Note at no time today could the trap mouth be observed and other observation days should facilitate the ability to assess in further notes).

One of the mares tripped as she ran through a gulley and went down. BLM and contractor staff immediately responded and mare was held quiet on the ground as assessed. After a few moments the mare rose on her own with no flagging, prodding or dragging and was lead into the panel area. I was able to assess mare in panels and she appeared to settle well and was not moving with any visible sign off the fall.

Total number of animals taken today is estimated at around 20 as the first runs were not witnessed and numbers were not provided. Three yearlings and two younger foals were noted. (Numbers will be provided to the public daily at the holding site beginning tomorrow).

At holding water consumption is currently being monitored closely to facilitate continuos supply at a rate appropriate to the current situation.

More detailed report soon. Please excuse the “bare bones” nature of this report as I drove into town this am and went immediately to trap. In 48 hours I have had a total of 6 hours sleep.


First Observation Area

First observed run

Second group observed

Mare Goes Down

Mare rose on her own, lead in (Leigh)

During loading mare separated to load in divided compartment for assessment

Temporary Holding

Mare and foal at holding

Video will be made available as time allows

Please keep the reports coming by putting gas in the tank with your donations.~~ Thank you


BLM chases newborn foals during emergency roundup

Foal that escaped trap being roped by BLM on the third day of emergency roundup

On June 8, 2012 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began an emergency roundup of wild horses in the Jackson Mountain area of the Winnemucca District in Nevada. June is peak foaling season in the area and BLM failed to take proactive measures to address the situation requiring the extremely dangerous operation.

The impending situation was not a surprise. BLM noted these issues in March. The area is compromised due to years of over grazing and a lack of precipitation last winter. The wild horses on the range demonstrate body condition that could lead to the same disaster we saw in the region in 2007. Animals died off in high numbers due to similar conditions.

“This operation is an outrage no matter how you look at it” said Leslie Peeples, co Director of Wild Horse Education “BLM failed to address the issues creating a horrible situation and the chosen cure is a horrible one.”

After negotiations with BLM failed to address the situation and stop the helicopter stampede a standard for humane treatment was placed in the Record of Decision issued by the agency.

“We asked for specific parameters and they were not granted,” said Laura Leigh, Founder of Wild Horse Education and photojournalist, “However for the first time BLM felt the concept was important enough to put it in writing.”

Leigh has been observing the removal operation since it began and continuing to attempt to work with the BLM to try to attain a compromise.

“I have seen some minor improvements,” said Leigh “but there are some major issues that need to be addressed. Running these tiny babies is an outrage. It is a situation that requires the utmost care and not simply improvements to normal operation. These animals are compromised. These babies are facing permanent damage from being stampeded by helicopter. This agency is tasked with protecting these animals and it has failed in it’s duty on so many levels.”

An active case sits in Reno Federal Court that shut down roundup because of inhumane care last summer. This issue is ongoing in the Courts and can be carried forward if conduct warrants such action.


Please donate if you can to help us keep the documentation happening and the Court actions alive. This work is supported solely by your donations to Wild Horse Education. We need your help!


Note from Laura:

I am going to make a few brief statement about the “handling statement” in the Decision Record on Jackson Mountain.

AS we discussed specific parameters and not one specific except the CFR’s (that are already specific and continually violated) and not ONE of them made the document my feelings are as follows:

The lack of any specific simply gives the distinct impression that they know they are not going to “do it right” and are afraid of the ramification of getting caught.

The language in this attachment demonstrates (in my opinion) that the idea of the appearance of a policy is important but any specific action, besides kicking an animal in the head or hitting with a helicopter, is up to the “discretion” of those that fail in that capacity.

I have tried all options open to me to create a productive discussion that leads to ANYTHING that gives a specific outcome that can create accountable ACTION. I am instead holding a document that does not restrict the livestock (that has resources outside the HMA) while horses forced off the HMA will be RUN BY HELICOPTER during foaling season. I am holding a document that in no way reflects any comprehension of the consequence of that action.

SEVEN miles as a parameter to run a newborn foal? We discussed, and there appeared to be agreement, that three miles was the upper limit and any band with a foal that lagged would be dropped from pursuit immediately. We discussed, and there appeared to be agreement, that NO single animal would be pushed by helicopter. We discussed, and there appeared to be agreement, that if wet mares came in with no foal that a search would be conducted immediately for a left behind facilitated by GPS coordinates immediately relayed when a band was spotted. We discussed so may things that are NOT reflected in this document.

My expectation is that access to observe will be highly restricted with fictitious justification to stop documentation. We are in it for the duration… and we will catch it.

Maybe I need to bring Q-tips to the next meeting and require that they clean their ears before we speak?


Jackson Mountain Gather June 7, 2012

Agency Expectations

To Ensure Safe and Humane Handling of All Gathered Wild Horses

Based on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) experience with previous wild horse/burro gathers and the need to adapt some gather practices to specific local conditions, the following information will be discussed with all gather personnel before gather operations begin. This discussion will serve as a reminder that the humane handling of wild horses and burros (WH/B) during gather operation is always a primary concern. The Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) will address any actions or issues that seem inhumane promptly and within contract specifications. Some guidelines include the following:

  1. The helicopter will not be operated in a manner where internal or external forces could cause it to come into contact with an animal. Hovering by the helicopter over the WH/B is acceptable so long as there is no risk of contact.
  2. Handling aids (including body position, voice, flags, paddles, electric prods will be used in a manner that is consistent with domestic livestock handling procedures. Flags and paddles will be used as signaling and noise making devices first with only light contact of the flag or paddle end allowed. Animals will not be whipped or beaten.
  3. Flagging and paddles will be used strategically to guard against desensitizing the WH/B.
  4. Kicking or hitting of WH/B is not acceptable.
  5. Electric prods (hotshots) will not be used routinely on WH/B. Electric prods will only be used to shock animals, not to tap or hit animals. Electric prods will not be applied to sensitive areas such as the face, head, genitals or anus. Electric prods may only be used when WH/B or human safety is in jeopardy or other handling aids have been tried and are not working.
  6. Gates and doors will not be deliberately slammed or shut on WH/B. Gates can be used to push WH/B but will not be used in a manner that may catch legs.
  7. Pursuing single WH/B should be a rare event and not standard practice. Only the COTR will identify and request the contractor to pursue single WH/B.
  8. The contractor will make every effort to ensure that foals are not left behind or orphaned in the field. If a foal has to be dropped from a group being brought to the trap because it is getting too tired or cannot keep up for any reason, the contractor/pilot will document the location of the foal and the description of the mare to facilitate “pairing- up” at temporary holding. In this case, the contractor will provide trucks/trailers and saddlehorses for the retrieval of the young foal(s), and transport the foal(s) to the gather site or temporary holding. The method of capture will be authorized or requested by the COTR.
  1. If during the gather any wild horses being brought in by helicopter (including foals or horses that may be aged, lame, injured or otherwise appear weak or debilitated) appear to be having difficulty keeping up with the group being brought in, the contractor will slow down to accommodate the individuals having difficulty, pause to allow those animals to rest before proceeding, drop those individuals from the group or drop the entire group. It is expected that animals may be tired, sweaty and breathing hard on arrival at a trap, but they will not be brought in by the helicopter in a manner that results in exhaustion, collapse or distress.
  2. The need to rope specific WH/B will be determined by the COTR on a case by case basis. The COTR will identify what WH/B need to be roped.
  3. While gathering, there may be WH/B which escape or evade the gather site while being moved with the helicopter. In these cases there may be multiple attempts to recapture and push the WH/B to the gather site. In these instances, animal condition and fatigue will be evaluated on a case by case basis to determine the number of attempts that can be made to capture/recapture. Animals will not be pursued to a point of exhaustion.
  4. Any foals that are not weaned and have been maintained with their mares at the gather temporary holding corral will be transported to the BLM preparation facilities as soon as practical. Mares with dependent foals will be separated from other animals and moved to a designated mare/foal pen until they can be shipped to the BLM preparation facility.
  5. All sorting, loading, or unloading of WH/B will be performed during daylight hours.
  6. Screening on panels will be provided where loading operations occur as a visual barrier and to block holes, gaps, or openings where WH/B could attempt to escape or be injured.
  7. As determined by the COTR, appropriate dust control measures will be implemented as noted in the gather contract.
  8. When possible, the contractor will have the trailer floor at ground level to ease the loading of WH/B at the gather site.
  9. If the pilot is moving WH/B and observes an animal that is clearly injured or suffering, the animal should be left on the range and its location noted. The BLM COTR or Project Inspector with APHIS veterinary assistance if necessary will then go to the area to determine the condition of the WH/B and the appropriate actions necessary to address the welfare of the animal including euthanasia if needed.
  10. All gather personnel; including contractors will be monitored for fatigue.
  1. Injuries that required veterinary examination or treatment, deaths, and spontaneous abortions that may occur will be noted in gather reports and statistics kept by the COTR.
  2. At the discretion of the COR, if an wild horse or foal is injured during gather operations, gather operations may be temporarily suspended if necessary to provide care for the animal and safe transportation to the temporary holding corrals or BLM preparation facility as indicated.
  3. The contractor, per the gather contract, shall provide animals held in the gather corrals and/or holding facilities with a continuous supply of fresh clean water at a minimum rate of 10 gallons per animal per day. Animals held for 10 hours or more in the gather corrals or holding facilities shall be provided good quality hay (grass hay) at a rate of not less than two pounds of hay per 100 pounds of estimated body weight per day. Hay will be distributed around the pens such that each animal can eat at one time without overcrowding.
  4. When extreme environmental conditions exist (temperature) during this gather, the overall health and well-being of the animals will be monitored and the COR will adjust gather operations as necessary to protect the animals from climatic and gather related health issues. There may be days when gather operations cease based on temperatures.
  5. The success of gathering and safely and humanely caring for or handling WH/B will be based on contractor and BLM staff’s patience, expertise and experience.
  6. The IC, COR and contractor will ensure that the distance animals are brought to the gather site is based on the terrain, environmental conditions, and animal health. With foals, pregnant mares, or horses that are weakened by body condition, age or poor health the appropriate trailing/gather distance will be determined on a case by case basis considering the weakest or smallest animal in the group and the range and environmental conditions present. The maximum gather distance will depend on the specific animal and environmental conditions on the day of the gather, and direct dialogue with the pilot/contractor and COR/PI will take place for each ‘run” to provide important information as to numbers, number of foals, locations distance and/or overall animal and/or environmental conditions. Ten miles will typically be the upper limit for gather distances under normal conditions. Under the current conditions anticipated in the southern part of the Jackson Mountains (young foals and animals potentially weakened by drought) 5-7 miles will be the goal for the upper limit. The trap locations will be moved closer to horse locations as much as possible to ensure the humane treatment of the animals.