September 2012 Highlights


Stone Cabin 2/10

Wild Horse Education has been assisting reporter Dave Philips with his research into the question of BLM sale authority horses going to slaughter. Laura Leigh, founder of WHE, spent considerable time with journalist Philips at the Stone Cabin roundup this last winter. Philips is not a “wild horse advocate,” but a journalist interested in the “bigger picture story.” He became intrigued and Leigh and Philips kept in touch. The following is the first section of Philips piece published today in “Propublica.”

Wild horse education needs your assistance to continue their investigations, Court actions and field work. Please help us keep our work alive. Without you we can’t continue. 

BLM storage facility in Fallon, 2012

Full article here:

The Bureau of Land Management faced a crisis this spring.

All the Missing Horses: What Happened to the Wild Horses Tom Davis bought from the Gov’t?

The agency protects and manages herds of wild horses that still roam the American West, rounding up thousands of them each year to keep populations stable.

But by March, government pens and pastures were nearly full. Efforts to find new storage space had fallen flat. So had most attempts to persuade members of the public to adopt horses. Without a way to relieve the pressure, the agency faced a gridlock that would invite lawsuits and potentially cause long-term damage to the range.

So the BLM did something it has done increasingly over the last few years. It turned to a little-known Colorado livestock hauler named Tom Davis who was willing to buy hundreds of horses at a time, sight unseen, for $10 a head.

The BLM has sold Davis at least 1,700 wild horses and burros since 2009, agency records show – 70 percent of the animals purchased through its sale program.

Like all buyers, Davis signs contracts promising that animals bought from the program will not be slaughtered and insists he finds them good homes.

But Davis is a longtime advocate of horse slaughter. By his own account, he has ducked Colorado law to move animals across state lines and will not say where they end up. He continues to buy wild horses for slaughter from Indian reservations, which are not protected by the same laws. And since 2010, he has been seeking investors for a slaughterhouse of his own.

“Hell, some of the finest meat you will ever eat is a fat yearling colt,” he said. “What is wrong with taking all those BLM horses they got all fat and shiny and setting up a kill plant?”

Animal welfare advocates fear that horses bought by Davis are being sent to the killing floor.

“The BLM says it protects wild horses,” said Laura Leigh, founder of the Nevada-based advocacy group Wild Horse Education, “but when they are selling to a guy like this you have to wonder.”

BLM officials say they carefully screen buyers and are adamant that no wild horses ever go to slaughter.

“We don’t feel compelled to sell to anybody we don’t feel good about,” agency spokesman Tom Gorey said. “We want the horses to be protected.”

Sally Spencer, who runs the wild horse sales program, said the agency has had no indication of problems with Davis and it would be unfair for the BLM to look more closely at him based on the volume of his purchases.

“It is no good to just stir up rumors,” she said. “We have never heard of him not being able to find homes. So people are innocent until proven guilty in the United States.”

Some BLM employees say privately that wild horse program officials may not want to look too closely at Davis. The agency has more wild horses than it knows what to do with, they say, and Davis has become a relief valve for a federal program plagued by conflict and cost over-runs.

“They are under a lot of pressure in Washington to make numbers,” said a BLM corral manager who did not want his name used because he feared retribution from the agency’s national office. “Maybe that is what this is about. They probably don’t want to look too careful at this guy.”

Stone Cabin roundup, 2012


Please join us and write BLM as they finalize plans for 2013 roundups… we will stand for this no more!

As BLM finalizes the 2013 roundup schedule (fiscal 2013 begins October 1) please join us in calling for BLM to adopt a significant Humane handling policy with ramifications for violations. As you send in comments on draft EA’s and the eco-sanctuary proposal please take the time to add this letter to your list. Our litigation is still active and we will update when there is news. We need your support to continue the case and investigations ~ thank you.

Below is a sample letter (short and simple) and suggested recipients.

Mike Pool, acting National Director:

Amy Lueders, Nevada State Director at:

Gus Warr, Utah lead wh&b program:

Amy Dumas, California wh&b lead:

Fran Ackley, Colorado state wh&b lead:

Donald Simpson, Wyoming state director:

Mike Mottice, Oregon assistant director:

Steven Ellis, Idaho state director:

Ray Suazo, Arizona state director:

Jamie Connell, Montana state director:

Dean Bolstad: National wild horse and burro management specialist:

As the 2013 fiscal year “gather” schedule is finalized to remove wild horses and burros from public land I implore you to adopt a standard of humane care for operations and processing facilities.

In spite of public outrage, litigation and BLM’s own admission of inappropriate conduct documented in the Triple B team review the agency has failed to create humane handling policy for America’s Heritage species. Supposedly protected by an Act of Congress these animals are removed without an enforceable policy to ensure that all practices follow a humane guideline.

At the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting that took place in April of this year, Dean Bolstad gave a report stating that such a policy would be in place by July 2012.

It is unfathomable that an agency tasked with the protection of wild horses and burros on public land fails to operate without any standard for humane handling in place. No matter how you feel about wild horses and burros being on our rangelands one thing most people seem to be in agreement about is that they need to be handled in a humane fashion.

As a new schedule is announced I strongly urge you to adopt a humane care standard with clear parameters of operation and a clear policy to handle violations. Leaving these standards to be defined “on the ground” is clearly not working.


 (your name and contact info here)


Today Wild Horse Education began a new feature “Questions and Answers.” In the menu bar we will add pages that answer questions we receive from the public. If you scroll over “Questions and Answers” in the menu bar a drop down should appear. We have begun this feature with “Big Energy and wild horses.” We will try to update the feature as time allows.

Today BLM sent out a press release (and appeared in Google) to remove the Piceance-East Douglas area this month. It was a glitch and the removal was scheduled for 2011 with no current action)

We were working on the piece it was noticed that the area was actually a good example to illustrate the question. So we added a section specific to that area. “Big Energy and wild horses” can be found by clicking on the text or going to the menu bar.

READ the entire feature

Big Energy and Wild horses

In addition BLM announced removals in Colorado:

Wild Horse areas included in the White River Field office (BLM map)

BLM press release:

Release Date: 09/17/12 (this is/was glitch in the BLM web system, the release date was in 2011. This “glitch” even caused the page to show up on google)

This is the Piceance Basin. This discussion is about natural gas, not other projects.

Please note there is an active oil and gas EIS for Piceance Basin, with comments due by 12/14/2012)

Maps of the area and other open comments, for other projects in that area, can be found here:

Wild Horse areas included in the White River Field office (BLM map)


Here is an article Titled “Understanding the Geology of Piceance Basin Natural Gas

The first paragraph of the above linked piece by Richard Dayvault in July of 2011:

“We’ve all seen the large drilling rigs along the I-70 corridor from Parachute to Silt that have sprung up over the past eight years or so. Their presence is particularly striking when you’re driving at night. In case you didn’t already know, energy companies like EnCana, Williams Energy, Bill Barrett Corporation, ExxonMobil, and Chevron are drilling for natural gas — not oil. The existence of this large gas field has been known for more than 50 years, but the economics and technology that make this a viable resource are only recent developments. Demands for Rocky Mountain gas increased, in part, because of the brown-outs that California suffered in 2001.”

Map of oil and shale (

Now let’s look at a page titled “BLM on the Right Track with Piceance plan.”

In the right hand column of the page is a series of videos. I am going to imbed the first couple in order so that you can see the connection between them as simply as possible.

The first video is of the Piceance Roundup that took place in 2011. It is a BLM produced video.

The next video in this series is titled “Melanie Haynes Narration Voiceover-Chevron Piceance Basin Project. It is a corporate produced piece but if you watch it you can see the area and understand the project scope for extraction of natural gas.

The next video listed: “Oil Shale Development in the Piceance Basin: Why Coloradans are at risk.” Although wild horses are not specifically discussed if uses that rely on the environment like hunter and human drinking water are at risk, so are horses.

For those of you that feel a bit more adventurous the next video is about the process of identifying nature fractures in the area to increase production. The map at 0:29 is of use to illustrate the actual scope of the basin.

The next video in the series is a “pre-gather” video of the Piceance herd. You can go to the link and watch the videos of  “BLM on the right track for Piceance Basin” for more “food for thought.”

Just yesterday, 9/16/2012, BLM announced approval for a 95 mile pipeline to remove the natural gas from the Piceance Basin:

“The Bureau of Land Management recently approved a 95-mile pipeline in Western Colorado and eastern Utah. The natural gas pipeline will help move more natural gas liquids out of the Piceance Basin.”

Here is some information about the Piceance-East Douglas horses.

Release Date: 09/17/12 (DATE 9/11) Glitch in BLM system had the release dates 9/11)

contacts: David Boyd, Public Affairs Specialist, (970) 876-9008

Vanessa Delgado, Public Affairs Specialist, (303) 239-3681

BLM to gather Piceance-East Douglas wild horses in September

MEEKER, Colo. – The Bureau of Land Management is planning a wild horse gather next month to return the wild horse population southwest of Meeker to an appropriate level that keeps the horses and the range healthy.

“We are committed to maintaining a thriving natural ecological balance, which includes managing for a healthy wild horse herd in the White River Field Office that’s in balance with other uses,” said BLM White River Field Manager Kent Walter.

Beginning Sept. 20, BLM will gather wild horses within the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area, which is a 190,000-acre area optimal for wild horses which BLM manages for a healthy wild horse herd that is in balance with other resources and uses. The gather will be completed by Sept. 30.

“Wild horses are not native wildlife and have no effective natural predators, so these gathers are needed periodically to keep the wild horse herd at a level that the range can sustain,” Walter said. “Since 1980, we have gathered wild horses within this area more than a dozen times, which has kept this wild horse herd and the range healthy.”

The appropriate management level identified for the population in this Herd Management Area is a range of 135 to 235 wild horses. Wild horse populations grow about 20 percent annually, typically doubling in about four years if unchecked.

BLM signed a decision today to reduce the estimated population of 382 wild horses within the 190,000-acre Herd Management Area to 135. To help reduce the growth rate of the herd, mares released back on to the range will be given a treatment that delays fertility, and BLM will adjust sex ratios of the herd to 60 percent studs and 40 percent mares. This should help decrease the frequency the area needs to be gathered.

Additionally, the estimated 78 wild horses that have moved outside the boundaries of the Herd Management Area and are east of State Highway 139 will be gathered and removed. Last October BLM gathered and removed 73 wild horses from outside of the Herd Management Area. Wild horses to the west of State Highway 139 in an area called the West Douglas Herd Area will not be gathered this year.

Wild horses removed will be taken to BLM’s wild horse facility in Canon City. The majority will be available for adoption. The wild horses not adopted will be placed in long-term pastures.

More information is available at, or by contacting the White River Field Office, (970) 878-3800.

Under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, BLM manages, protects, and controls wild horses and burros as part of its overall multiple-use mission.

BLM encourages those who are interested in providing good homes to wild horses or burros to visit for information about adoptions or sales.

NOTE: ( A removal took place in 2011, see Final EA here)

If you can view public land management as a web the intricacies become easier to visualize. Each strand effects the next.

So the answer to the question “Does Big Energy effect wild horses?” is absolutely. But making keeping track of just what strand will break the next becomes difficult as the ability to simply track projects that are active is difficult.


Antelope Complex roundup (copyright Laura Leigh 2011, all rights reserved)


Today a heated controversy swirls around the management of wild horses and burros in the United States. Issues ranging from creation of “eco-resorts,” birth control, sales that leave animals vulnerable to the slaughter trade and inhumane treatment generate increasing interest to the American public.

In the last week proposed removals, eco-sanctuary and other projects have been placed in queue for public comment. The National Academy of Science continues it’s review of the Bureau of Land management (BLM) and is open to public input. The Nevada Department of Agriculture created a recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior requesting a removal of horses, not livestock, during drought situations and the public can respond with comment. Issues involving humane care have still not been addressed and are a subject of public concern where the public feels frustration as their comments go unaddressed.

Often the public is perplexed about how to engage this process.

In 1971, during an election year, President Nixon signed the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act into law.

§ 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.

The implementation of the law was placed into the hands of the  BLM, with Forest Service (USFS) tasked with cooperative management. Yet this left pockets of horses without Federal “protection.”

The agency most people think of when they hear “wild horses” is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), yet several other jurisdictions manage populations of wild horses and burros. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) manages horses and burros; such as the Sheldon Refuge that they intend to remove entirely from the range. Forest Service (USFS) supposedly manages in conjunction with BLM yet controversy still exists such as the current issues surrounding the Salt River horses of Arizona. Virginia Range horses in the state of Nevada go almost immediately to auction, as there is no real infrastructure for adoption. The state of Texas actively shot burros last year.

These issue generate an outpour of emotion and desire to engage the process. Yet the public is often at a loss of where to begin as the entities that “manage” do not “educate” the public to appropriate process. Often the public is put off and seen as “overly emotional” and disregarded.

This attitude is seen clearly after two pro-slaughter members were appointed to the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. The Advisory Board was created to represent an “interested” public participation panel to create recommendations to the agency on management of wild horses on public land. Yet this board is made up of a multitude of individuals, that may well represent a conflict of interest, in participation on these recommendations such as Boyd Spratling that also serves on the Nevada Department of Agriculture representing state livestock interests.

In an AP article by Scott Sonner on the above mentioned appointments BLM responded to public concern with this:

“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,” BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The BLM is not `managing for extinction.’ There is no conspiracy to put down healthy horses that are in off-the-range holding facilities.”

The agency tasked with managing more wild horses and burros than any other (BLM) does have a new webpage for wild horses. Yet nowhere on that page is there a listing of active documents for comment. Nowhere on that page is there any information as to the structure of how these documents impact management practices. The webpage does however have a link to CAWP, or “Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program,” as the agency still has no standard of care in place and is involved in active litigation on this very issue and under a Federal Court Injunction to pilot conduct.

Is it any wonder the public lacks trust and feels frustration in it’s attempts to engage the process?

Recently we have seen an exception. The BLM actively engaged the public during a “scoping period on eco-sanctuary.” Meetings were scheduled, prior to alternatives for the project being crafted. Information was given to the public and questions were addressed. This type of outreach on an area of management that effects wild herds is an exception, not a rule.

If the agencies tasked with management took more time to address educating the public to each jurisdictions practices, and how the public can appropriately engage, wouldn’t we be closer to creating a conversation that actually engages the concerns of an informed public? If the agencies want informed public participation wouldn’t transparency of actions and information actually be paramount? The more complex a situation the greater the need to clearly outline the structures for participation and provide all information. Wouldn’t that save time and reduce the frustration that fuels public outrage?

When the agency tasked with managing more horses than any other fails to implement a standard of humane care, when the need for one is more than evident, is it any wonder the public has grave concern over every action that agency takes? This is an area of concern that is shared by almost everyone involved no matter how they feel about wild horses occupying public land, why has no care standard been created?

In the United States of America, in the year 2012, can’t we do better than this? Can’t we begin to recognize the need for clear information and communicate issues and facts toward pro-active problem solving? Can’t we do better in how we treat a symbol of American heritage and freedom?

This editorial was written as I pour through emails filled with questions involving jurisdictional issues and frustration expressed by the public. The public is seriously uniformed by the agencies tasked with management of horses and burros as to protocol, process and how to engage the system.

Original link to editorial here:


Barren Valley 9/2011 (copyright Laura Leigh)

This date is marked in the souls of so many Americans. It speaks directly to the core of our National Identity. Wrapped in our history is our relationship to the American Mustang, symbol of a resilient survivor. We are wrapped up in Court cases to protect our American “Right to know” protected by the First Amendment. We are wrapped up in the fight for a Humane Care Standard. We are desperately trying to gain the field data needed to present current, site specific data to fight for fair use plans. But we need your help. Every dollar helps to keep this effort alive. Thank you.

Repost from WHE 9/11/2011

First Group… Full report later. We need your help to support the ACTIVE case to conduct.

Donations can be made to the field work at the above link or click on the donate button. This case is ACTIVE and needs your support.

First Group, 9/11 Barren Valley (copyright Laura Leigh)

Repost from Laura Leigh’s blog 9/11/2011

What Does America Stand For?

Our founding fathers made an incredibly brave stand and wrote the Declaration of Independence. They knew by making a stand for what they believed in that they would not win an across the board popularity contest.

Next came the great Constitution of the United States.

The premises within that document began to build the consciousness of a nation. When I walk through the law libraries and touch the pages (yes, I feel books give a sense that the electronic age desensitizes) you literally feel the development of the identity of this nation.

Case law that demonstrates the evolution of the premises within the Constitution can literally remind you of the pride that is “America.” Sometimes it appears this occurs in spite of ourselves. Civil and human rights cases exist that when you read the cases themselves there is shame that what seems like a “no brainer” in current times was actually an issue that had to be decided within the judicial system. The pages are filled with “bad children” being given rules filtered through the guidelines our “founding fathers” left for us.

Within the Bill of Rights a concept was so important to our “fathers” that it was listed first. (The right to bear arms was second).

“The founding fathers gave the press the mission to inform the people and promote the free flow of facts and ideas, however untimely or challenging or disagreeable those facts and ideas may be.” — Katharine Graham, publisher, The Washington Post, 1973

The concept of a free press is to allow the public an opportunity to investigate and report on the activities of it’s government without fear of reprisal and censorship. The intention is that the true power of decision making in a Democratic society comes from an educated public conveying ideas to a representative that then advocates those positions in debate within a Senate and House toward shaping our nation.

Within the dialogue of “Wild Horse and Burro Program” implemented by the BLM we have a serious breakdown of this process. Plain and simple the public, Congress and often BLM employees themselves are seriously uninformed.

There is currently a lawsuit that has been patiently waiting to actually be heard within the judicial system.That case has been joined in an Amicus brief by the Reporters Committee for a Free Press and the National Press Photographers Association. (This case is also one I am Plaintiff).

Congress asks for information and the BLM will chose an “independent” organization (read “pro-slaughter”) to do an investigation or an investigation occurs in house. The reports are continually bias or outright filled with omissions and inaccuracies. Would we allow the tobacco industry to self-police? Would we make an appointment before showing up to do a search of a crime scene with a suspected perpetrator?

It appears yet again that an “independent” review is being prepared for the BLM by those chosen by the BLM. Those doing the review were supposedly on site Wednesday and Thursday of last week. I was not given the same access to the trap that they were. Activity at holding was very different when the government observers showed up with BLM public relations.

Last week Representative Burton made these statements to the House as a proposal to cut the BLM’s budget in a “slap on the wrist” gesture was made: “It seems to me that we ought to be frugal with the public’s money. We ought to cut the Bureau of Land Management’s budget so that we can save the money and save the mustangs.”

The wild horse advocate community has expressed sincere gratitude toward Burton. He has demonstrated bravery displayed by our founding fathers in bringing this dialogue into a forum that has the power to effect the change needed.

But in all honesty how can any dialogue be effective if that dialogue addresses symptoms of a long standing problem without taking the time to look for the root cause? Any symptomatic reaction has the potential to create a reality that has consequence worse than the current situation. A full investigation of the program and the consequence of placing the implementation of the 1971 Legislation into the hands of an agency with an apparent conflict of interest and often literally “inbred” with those that perpetrated the actions that spurred the need to pass the 71 Act in the first place is sorely absent. Why would any “change” be expected to be implemented any differently? It’s like changing the product you put in a meat grinder… it still comes out in the same fashion.

Until a dialogue actually begins to exist that addresses the root causes, arbitrary boundaries and policy that caters to special interests, the change needed to protect the “living symbol of the pioneer spirit of the west” will not happen.

If the information about the hands on care being done “humanely,” the most basic premise of the 71 Act, remains in the realm of “content control” … how can dialogue in any real fashion exist?

The first step in achieving that dialogue are independent observations that can only occur when the rights of the public to investigate and formulate opinion is protected. The closed door facilities must be open. Records must be made available in a timely manner for review without the need to file Freedom of Information Act requests. The ability to independently observe the hands on actions of contractors and government employees must occur on an extended basis and not in “periodic windows” at the discretion of those under scrutiny.

“I have taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States more times than I can count,” said attorney Gordon Cowan, “that’s what this case is all about.”

What is happening behind closded doors?
No Kidding.
2/.26 Antelope Complex
“Hope” died of hoof slough, Calico Complex 2010
Triple B, Do we stand for this?