Our Wild Horse Litigation, a discussion on “where it stands,” Part One

Informal blog post: There appears to be a lot of confusion as to the current state of litigation that we are engaged in. This post is intended to make an attempt to clarify some of the misconceptions.

Paint falls over barbed wire, Owyhee. 4 other horses were witnessed getting caught at this same gate.

Paint falls over barbed wire, Owyhee. 4 other horses were witnessed getting caught at this same gate.

First Owyhee is not over. BLM created a ten year authority to remove wild horses from the Owyhee Complex, five HMA’s. The decision deals with the “Complex” in a fashion that permits authority for periodic removals within the Complex. Two initial phases, Little Owyhee and Owyhee, have been completed. Three other HMA’s have removals scheduled for as early as July 2013, with BLM returning to all areas (every couple of years) over the life of the decision record.

First misconception is what the suit addresses. The suit addresses inhumane treatment and the inaccurate determination of “excess” in the ten year plan. The suit addresses ten years of operations in the complex, not just the 50 horses removed from the Owyhee HMA.

Limp foal carried into trap after being separated from family during drive and roped

Limp foal carried into trap after being separated from family during drive and roped

After trying everything possible to address issues of handling during the first phase, including significant letters and calls from the public, the second phase of Owyhee commenced without change. The announcement was made on the third of January, that on the fourth of January, they would begin without any recognition of the significance of the issues at hand.

We crafted a complaint and filed the next morning, Friday the fourth. We then filed an Emergency Motion for aTemporary Restraining Order later that day and it was granted by Judge Miranda Du to hold the “status quo” until a hearing.

The crafting of the Complaint and TRO Motion were a non-stop, beat the clock, effort. Declarations and documents needed preparation as well as the crafting of each legal document had to be done to the best of our ability under a real time crunch. Coming back out of Owyhee I had suffered hypothermia and over Christmas my horse had impaction colic that required days of care. The tension within the advocate community was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

After the TRO was granted the more in-depth Motion for Preliminary Injunction needed to be filed prior to the hearing for the TRO. Another few days were spent crafting declarations, finding supporting declarants and crafting that Motion. It was filed at 3 am the day of the hearing for the TRO.

The TRO hearing went much longer than most of the hearings experienced in the past for a Motion like this. The court paid careful attention and allowed BLM to present Alan Shepard as a “witness,” (even though Mr. Shepard was not present at the roundup nor had he reviewed any of the video tape provided to the court).

BLM pleaded a financial hardship of $20,000 a day to simply hold 39 horses. (Think about that declared cost and then think about what it costs the tax payers to operate a roundup that carries no standard of humane care of a protected American resource?)

The court allowed the operation (that was predominantly a trap treat and release operation) to continue but was seriously concerned about humane care and issued very specific language that addressed the documentation shown to the court and granted the motion in part.

The BLM had 15 days to reply to the Preliminary Injunction motion. We have received that reply and are working on our answer. After the answer is on file the court will set a hearing date. Remember… this is to the ten year EA plan for the Complex.

The issues we are addressing are inhumane treatment and inaccuracy of determining excess (AML) within each area prior to removal. BLM clearly states they have no formal data at all on movement within the Complex. (An example of omission/lack of data is the report on BLM not “tracking” cattle impacts to public land. An issue where insignificant populations of wild horses are blamed for significant impact:¬†http://yubanet.com/usa/BLM-Says-It-Cannot-Track-Cattle-on-Its-Lands.php#.UQX9KXMzJl0)

We still have a hearing on the Preliminary Injunction and the underlying Complaint. This is NOT over.

We did not reach our funding goal to create the documents and file for Owyhee but we proceeded anyway… as we often do and scramble to “duct tape” the effort together. We have no fancy website, we have no paid staff, we have no high priced attorney (we have a horse lover, Gordon Cowan), we have no airplane flights or rental vehicles, we have no office or expensive camera equipment. We have a small dedicated group of people that give their time, blood and tears, to learn jobs they never thought they would need to do in order to protect our American Treasures, the wild horses and burros. We try very hard and we may make a mistake, now and again, but we are doing our very best.

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Exhausted horse hit with helicopter after lengthy, solitary, pursuit

In the next couple of days I will write a synopsis and update you on the activity in both the Triple B case (won a TRO and Injunctive relief and incorporates a win at Jackson Mountain toward enforcement of “foaling season”) and the “Press Freedom” case that won on Appeal in the Ninth circuit and is still active.

There has been much misinformation spread about this work.

In this day and age we have an expectation of “instant gratification.” But that expectation is

Wild horses being driven during a supposed "drought" emergency during foaling season right through private cattle on the range

Wild horses being driven during a supposed “drought” emergency during foaling season right through private cattle on the range (Jackson Mountain)

not realistic. This work is a marathon, not a sprint. The Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act took two decades to bring to fruition. In that effort the federal government took over the management of, and recognized the importance of, our wild horses and burros.

Today we are attempting to create an accountability to that recognition. We are building a new road to change.

We need your support to achieve that goal.

Help keep us in the field and the courtroom!

Help keep us in the field and the courtroom!

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11 thoughts on “Our Wild Horse Litigation, a discussion on “where it stands,” Part One

  1. It is such a marathon of cases you are so valiantly trying to maintain with so little resources. It is beyond imagination how you continue to do what you do eeking out the substantial need to continue the research, documentation, court representation, going so far out on the range to video and document the abuse and keeping up with the reports for your website and blog, it is amazing the amount of work that you (and Cowan) put into this effort. Awesome!

  2. For those who expect anything to happen quickly, they haven’t dealt with a government agency. I am so glad that the wild ones have you and Gordon on their sides.

  3. Thank you for your continual persistence in advocating for and helping the wild horses. I seriously doubt if there would be any left on the range without your efforts. It’s hard for me to understand how the abuse and poor management can be ignored when so much has been documented. With Salazar stepping down I hope and pray that the horses and burros will stand a better chance of survival and your efforts will not be in vain. There is so much at stake here even beyond the preservation of the wild horses and burros that impacts the lives of every citizen whether people realize it or not. Raising awareness of the mismanagement of not only the horses and burros and the public lands, but the mismanagement of our tax dollars to fund the misuse and abuse is tatamount. I hope every person who reads your information and is active in supporting you will spread this far and wide so that everyone will know what is happening and what is at stake. Again thank you so much for your hurculean efforts to bring some peace and safetly to our wild horses and burros and some fair use of our public lands.

  4. Thank you for clarifying Laura. This is a ton of work and only someone as dedicated as you could possibly tackle this mountain of work you have on your plate. I for one know you are doing your best with what you have and that itself is remarkable. Have no doubt and no fear you have great supporters on yours and our wild horses side. I also realize the Owyhee case can and WILL set standards on future round ups, it’s just the beginning, it’s far from over !

  5. The fact that Wild Horse Education has four successful ongoing cases in federal court that could force BLM to act humanely and allow the public access to see horses now held in secret is nothing short of a miracle. the fact that it was done on a budget that is about 1/100th of what other actions by other groups (that failed) have cost is unheard of. Wild Horse Education is David to BLM’s Goliath. This group is going where no one has gone and doing what no one can do, partly because Laura Leigh through her years on the road following, documenting and investigating BLM has established herself as a credible plaintiff. No one else can come near her credibility. Thank you Laura and Gordie for giving all the wild horse and burro lovers hope. We owe you big time.

  6. Laura and Gordon thank you for all of your tireless selfless efforts on behalf of our wild ones, I stand in awe of your resilience and fortitude and thank heavens every day that you are able to understand and pursue this work the way you do, and especially for taking the time to put it into simple layman’s terms that I can understand! Thank you again for bringing us the truth.

  7. I live in Canada…I am sickened by HorseSlaughter Houses….the inhumane treatment of wild horses must end…STOP ALL THE TRUCKERS AT THE BORDER….Canada slaughtered 82,000 horses last year….I am ashamed to be a Canadian with this barbaric practice continuing…and I say no more…these trucks should be barricaded at the border and not allowed to enter so Canada or Mexico can KILL ALL THESE BEAUTIFUL HORSES…ALL THESE MORONIC PEOPLE SHOULD BE DESTROYED…I read somewhere that the helicopter gets $ 800.00 a horse…is this true?…I have seen the wild horses run until they are in bad shape..Those BLM a-holes should be fired and treated like they treat the wild horses…DAMNATION IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER FOR YOU. Shame on all of you…the horses are trucked without food or water…YOU SAY WHY? THEY ARE JUST GOING TO SLAUGHTER ANYWAY…Once they get to Canada they are held in overcrowded stockades where I have seen dead horses on the ground for days….even a dead horse in front of the slaughter pen…swollen and stiff as a board…and the Horses jump in the slaughter pen and the bullet misses the spot and comes out the eye…DON’T ANY OF YOU ASSHOLES HAVE A CONSCIENCE…SO PEOPLE BLOCKADE THE BORDERS AND DO NOT LET THIS EVIL CONTINUE….STAND UP FOR THESE INNOCENT WILD HORSES AND SHED MORE LIGHT SO ORDINARY PEOPLE LIKE MYSELF REALIZE WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!!!

  8. Thanks for your updates, Laura! I’m sharing your blog/information far and wide and it seems more and more people are getting a clue as to what has been going on as well as STILL going on. And Carol Lynn Lucas – welcome to the club of angry humans on both sides of the US/Canadian border!! The more who know and speak up, the more change will occur!

  9. That’s so true…Jade…We are busy in Alberta trying to get our Conservative government to stop the culls…they say they want to continue with a manageable amount of free-roaming horses…I guess thats why another 216 went to slaughter last December….These horses are on Crown Land and really what harm are they doing…leave them alone…The herds can be managed without slaughter by Mother Nature and possibly taking a few of the yearlings or two year olds for sale or adoption..We would like to designate them A Heritage Species …which in truth …THEY ARE….We do have some protection for them through The Stray Animal Act…but right now there biggest enemy is our provincial government who kiss the rancher’s ass, the farmer’s ass ,and the oilpatch ass….our hunters use them for target practice..our trappers use them for bait…IS THIS WHAT WE DO TO THE ANIMALS THAT BUILT THIS COUNTRY? iT ALL BOILS DOWN TO MONEY, MONEY, MONEY…our provincial government spends so much money on themselves…Last week they told us that all us Albertans will have to tighten our belts and then they go and spend 275 Million on the Legislative Buildings in Edmonton…oops…politicians are not the ones that have to tighten their belts…as John Doe taxpayer is paying for all their needs….Anyway…ALL OUR WILDHORSES NEED PROTECTION FROM THE VERY PEOPLE THAT SHOULD REALIZE THAT THEIR HIGH PAYING JOBS RUNNING THIS COUNTRY AND PROVINCE CAME ABOUT BECAUSE OF OUR HORSES…..AND LEAVE THEM ALONE ALREADY.

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