The Silence of the Foals and Journalists

 

Gordon Cowan (photo by Melinda Cowan)

RENO, – The BLM is escalating removal of wild horses from western rangelands in epic numbers. Thirteen thousand horses will be removed just this year. Flawed data and ulterior motive drive their purpose. Blanket closures, deception and restrictions hide their brutal enterprise.

With journalists excluded, their public relations prowess spins favorable accounts from horrendous failures.

It’s called the “Owyhee Slaughter.” Thirty-four wild horses perished in northeastern Nevada this July in a BLM roundup. The BLM blamed dry range conditions.

It started when the BLM told a federal judge if his injunction against the roundup continued, 75 percent of the Owyhee herd would die for lack of water. This bleak testimony formed the basis for the judge to lift the injunction.

But, something was awry. The BLM managed the area exclusively. They planned the roundup months in advance while never forecasting this emergency.

When the BLM vacated Owyhee after the roundup concluded, independent range experts were eager to see firsthand what caused the emergency. Contrary to BLM court testimony, they found water and lots of it.

It’s a disturbing process. The BLM uses helicopters to push herds several miles. Horses are panic driven over difficult terrain in midsummer heat. New foals, their moms and pregnant mares are among those pursued. Oftentimes they don’t survive. Resultantly, the BLM excludes journalists to discourage their reporting to the public of what transpires behind closed doors.

When Congress in 1971 proclaimed their protected status, wild horses became America’s newest native citizens. When Congress entrusted their welfare in part to the BLM, the assignment posed a conflict where the BLM’s role as “property manager” competes with the horses’ best interests.

The BLM caters to private interests who use considerable areas of public land to extract non-renewable resources. To make room for these private concerns the BLM eliminates wild horses from the landscape, giving little credence to their iconic and protected status.

Despite massive land holdings the BLM chooses slivers of private property on which to capture horses. They contend private property is safer than public lands for horse roundups. With traps on private property, the BLM engages local authorities who threaten arrest should citizens trespass to sneak a peek. This allows the BLM to conduct their brutal enterprise under a blanket of secrecy.

How far did the BLM go to prevent public observation of the Owyhee Slaughter? In July horse journalist Laura Leigh and two friends sought to document the BLM’s herd removal. Anxious moments prevailed as BLM officials converged on the women before they reached the trap zone.

Three BLM officials and a sheriff’s deputy stood ground in a desolate region on the dirt road. Reminiscent of the Clantons and Earps, the women were blocked from traveling further. The men said don’t trespass. The women inquired. The men drew the figurative “private property” line in the sand. The women held cameras. The men packed guns. Tensions peaked when a BLM official shoved back a camera lens.

The women retreated, fearful of arrest from venturing beyond undefined property boundaries. It all occurred on public lands on a public road in violation of a judge’s order prohibiting closures.

Earlier, Ms. Leigh sought judicial help to postpone the BLM’s helicopter roundup to a time when foals were more sturdy and when temperatures cooled. She asserted First Amendment notions because the BLM’s land closure was a censorship of her right to observe and report government activity.

When the entourage of Washington, D.C. lawyers descended on Reno to defend Leigh’s claims, her counsel offered to forego suit if the BLM would postpone the roundups and allow public access. The BLM refused. The case proceeded.

Two federal judges agreed with Leigh’s right to observe government in action. Judge Hicks dissolved the BLM’s blanket closure, labeling it a First Amendment “prior restraint,” meaning, “censorship” of a free press. The second, a noted jurist, conveyed this:

“The Press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people.” Hugo Black, 1971

 
What’s next? The BLM is back to “business as usual,” playing the “shell game” with roundup dates, closing public lands, censoring speech and killing good horses. If they can’t be stopped, America should be prepared to say goodbye to the last living symbol of the spirit of the west, the wild, free-roaming horse.

Author Bio:  Gordon Cowan is a veteran civil litigator in Nevada who challenged the Interior Department’s news blackout of the brutal Owyhee roundup. Mr. Cowan raises horses, works with cattle, is a cutting horse enthusiast and a past president of a top rodeo in North America.  His work on the ongoing issues of the First Amendment are supported by Wild Horse Education, Ms. Leigh Nevada non-profit.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Cowan successfully won the right in federal court for press and public to observe BLM activies on public land. Since that time the agency has flagrantly violated the court order. He is now attempting to get BLM held in contempt.

Personal note: I’d like you all to meet my attorney.

If you can support our effort go to:

If you can support our effort go to:

http://wildhorseeducation.org

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “The Silence of the Foals and Journalists

  1. I just read this on Horseback, and I certainly recognized his name. Excellent article too. So on we go – chug-a, chug-a.

    Has everyone seen this? Witness To the Moriah Herd. If this is typical of “in house” roundups, the BLM should allow the in house people to do all of them. Very different from what we’ve been seeing with the “national” crew and their joined-at-the-hip buddies, the Cattoors.

    Still do NOT agree with all the roundups, but if they were all like this, it would help – a LOT. The vet was actually THERE the ENTIRE TIME!

  2. LOUIE COCROFT says:

    What we need is NO round-ups

  3. LOUIE COCROFT says:

    There HAS to be a change to an “in the wild” management program. Our Herd Watch people and our Humane Observers are paving the way for OUR PILOT PROGRAM. Money spent on helicopters can be much better placed.

  4. laura leigh says:

    we are trying… we need to build the road brick by brick…
    working on a few things.
    : )

  5. LOUIE COCROFT says:

    You sure are, Laura and those bricks must get awfully heavy.

  6. LOUIE COCROFT says:

    THANK YOU to Mr. Cowan. A victory that was a longtime in coming.

  7. Honor Hannon says:

    Three cheers for an intellegent,articulate,knowledge-wise and compassionate lawyer who can actually win a case against a corrupt government agency!
    Thank you Mr Cowen.

  8. Anna says:

    The BLM uses helicopters to push herds several miles. Horses are panic driven over difficult terrain in midsummer heat. New foals, their moms and pregnant mares are among those pursued. Oftentimes they don’t survive…
    Comment: Of these 28 Wild Mustangs “destroyed”; 11 of them were Foals under the age of 6 months…Anne

    Owyhee HMA, Gather Mortality Log July 2010

    (all euthanasia performed by gunshot and all carcasses buried near temporary holding corral)
    Saturday, 7/10/10

    1) 5 year old, grey mare, complete open fracture of the right distal tibia, likely caught in panel, just above the hock, euthanized by contractor, gather related
    Sunday, 7/11/10
    2) 3 year old black stud, found dead in pen, necropsy #1, cause of death water starvation/dehydration, non-gather related
    3) 2 month old, bay colt, found dead in pen, presumed cause of death weakness and water starvation/dehydration, non-gather related
    4) 6 year old dark bay mare, found dead in pen, necropsy #2, cause of death water starvation/dehydration, non-gather related
    5) 2 year old palomino stud, bleeding from mouth, head injury, severe neurologic deficits, probable water intoxication, euthanized by APHIS veterinarian, non-gather related
    6) 5 month old black stud colt, down unable to rise, weakness attributed to water starvation/dehydration, no response to treatment, euthanized by APHIS veterinarian, non-gather related
    7) 8 year old grey mare, down unable to rise, colic attributed to water starvation/dehydration, no response to treatment, euthanized by APHIS veterinarian, non-gather related
    8) 6 year old roan mare, fell, seizure and died suddenly during sorting, necropsy #3, cause of death water intoxication, non-gather related
    Monday, 7/12/10
    9) 4 year old dark bay stud, found dead in pen, piled up in corner near chute panels, necropsy #4, cause of death water intoxication, non-gather related
     
    10) 4 year old bay stud, colic and neurologic deficits 24 hours duration, euthanized by APHIS veterinarian due to hopeless prognosis for recovery, necropsy #5, cause of death water intoxication, non-gather related
    11) 4 month old, bay leppy colt, died following treatment and supplemental feeding, cause of death complications related to water starvation, chronic abscessed tooth, non-gather related
    12) 3 year old, smoky palomino stud, colic and complications related to water starvation, euthanized by APHIS veterinarian as an act of mercy due to incurable condition, non-gather related
    Thursday, 7/15/10
    13) 3YO black stud, neurologic signs, overall condition deteriorating over time (dull, weak, unresponsive, proprioceptive deficits and hypermetria), euthanized by contractor due to the incurable nature of the condition, sequelae to water intoxication following water starvation, non-gather related
    Saturday, 7/17/10
    14) 5 MO bay colt, found dead in pen, was treated on 7/16/10 was weak, dull, depressed. Hand fed and watered but did not respond to treatment. Cause of death water starvation and starvation, non-gather related.
    15) 25+ YO grey stud horse. Euthanized by contractor for serious physical defects, that were severely broken and missing teeth. One eye missing, pre-existing, and the remaining eye was only partially visual, non-gather related.
    16) 3MO sorrel colt. Euthanized by contractor for serious physical defect that was severely bowed front legs, non-gather related.
    17)3MO sorrel colt. Euthanized by contractor for serious physical defect that was severe LF angular limb deformity (carpus valgus) and moderate RF rotational deformity (toed out) non-gather related.
    Sunday, 7/18/10
    18) 4.5 YO black stud. Died from cervical spinal cord injury. Hit a panel during sorting yesterday, appeared stable but his condition deteriorated and during sorting today he fell and died, gather related.
    Monday, 7/19/10
    19) 4.5 YO grey mare. Hit a panel with her head down during loading. While recumbent she was treated (banamine and dexamethasone) but her condition was rapidly deteriorating and she was euthanized by the APHIS veterinarian on site for this serious and incurable injury, gather related.
    Tuesday, 7/20/10
    20) 25YO sorrel mare, was euthanized for a pre-existing condition that was a severe LF lameness attributable to a poorly heeled old fracture injury, non-gather related.
    21) 18YO bay stud was euthanized for a pre-existing condition that was severe enlargement of the RF fetlock producing a chronic and incurable lameness, non-gather related.
    This concludes the log for the Owyhee portion of the Tuscarora Gather, approximately 640 horses gathered.
    Rock Creek/Outside HMA Gather Mortality Log
    July/August 2010
    Thursday, July 22, 2010
    1) Black foal 4 months – Flexoral limb deformity, Non-gather related.
    Tuesday, July 27, 2010
    2) 18 year bay mare, Henneke 4, was euthanized for a pre-existing condition resultant in a severe right front lameness due to previous comminuted fracture of the radius, Non-gather related.
    Friday, July 30, 2010
    3) Black 3 month old colt, was having difficulty keeping up and was brought into gather site; arrived standing but resting RH leg. Chronic muscle atrophy over croup, hock grossly enlarged, colt was euthanized for chronic preexisting injury to right hock and lameness, non-gather related.
    Saturday, July 31, 2010
    4) 5 month old chestnut filly, BCS of 5 found dead in the corral upon arrival at holding facility at 5:00 am. No external abrasions or abnormalities observed. This filly had arrived at gather site yesterday, tired and stiffness of gait was noted. She was treated with an anti-inflammatory at the holding facility and drank water offered to her. She was observed over the next hour and was standing quietly. Necropsy was performed; death was due to systemic shock, specific underlying cause of death unknown, but suspected to be secondary to rhabdomyolysis/”capture myopathy”; gather related.
    5) 3 month old black colt euthanized for serious physical defect of right angular limb deformity (carpus valgus), non-gather related.
    6) 3 month old bay filly euthanized for serious physical defect of right angular limb deformity (carpus valgus), non-gather related.
    7) 4 year old strawberry roan mare euthanized for pre-existing serious physical defect of missing right eye.

  9. […] an injunction in Owyhee after telling him 75% of the herd could die because of a lack of water.  (https://artandhorseslauraleigh.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/the-silence-of-the-foals-and-journalists/ )  Interestingly, the EPA fined Kinross DeLamar Mining Co. for violations of the Clean Water Act […]

  10. […] an injunction in Owyhee after telling him 75% of the herd could die because of a lack of water.  (https://artandhorseslauraleigh.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/the-silence-of-the-foals-and-journalists/ )  Interestingly, the EPA fined Kinross DeLamar Mining Co. for violations of the Clean Water Act […]

  11. […] an injunction in Owyhee after telling him 75% of the herd could die because of a lack of water.  (https://artandhorseslauraleigh.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/the-silence-of-the-foals-and-journalists/ )  Interestingly, the EPA fined Kinross DeLamar Mining Co. for violations of the Clean Water Act […]

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