Clearing the confusion.. as quick as I can

OK… gotten a couple of emails that express some confusion about the new “Wild Horse Freedom Federation.”

Best way to explain the concept:

eedom Federation is a literal Federation to make legal action more efficient. It also simplifies funding for the work of Wild Horse Education. It allows me Freedom to speak more directly toward “reporting” to the public.

Funding for the lawsuit will be driven through the Federation. It keeps “conflict” out of the picture.
A “think tank” Advisory Board will be formed toward brainstorming and information collection with the sole purpose of litigation.
We have two directions that can actually “meet in the middle” of this battlefield…. one on either flank.
Through the stones laid in these cases they can build a path…
It is about creating a more effective mechanism that learns from each other instead of the “status quo.”
Wild Horse Education is STILL alive. But it will be a way to support the documentation and reports.
It allows me to clarify purpose and focus each task more efficiently.
I hope this makes sense.
I need to shut off the internet and slam the books on the reply brief right now… best to you all.

Solidify and Simplify

Wild Horse Advocates Combine Legal Might to Protect National Icons

Recognized Advocates launch Wild Horse Freedom Federation

HOUSTON, (WHFF) – Noted equine author and wild horse advocate R.T. Fitch and his wife, award winning wild horse photographer Terry, have combined their legal forces with journalist/videographer Laura Leigh to form a unified wild horse legal advocate organization whose mission is to “place people between wild horses and extinction”.

Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF) is a registered non-profit organization, 501c3 pending, that brings together a consortium of major animal welfare organizations, as both plaintiffs and advisors, for the sole purpose of legally challenging the federal, state and local governmental agencies who’s inappropriate agendas include harassing, capturing and removing wild horses and burros from U.S. public lands.

While the Fitch’s legal actions, personally funded with assistance from Front Range Equine Rescue, the ASPCA and private donations, bring forth the issue of bad data utilized to zero out wild horse herds, Ms. Leigh’s filings, supported entirely by public donations and assistance from Wild Horse Education, address the issue of First Amendment rights and appropriate access.  Both can claim incremental victories as all of their cases are ongoing and in the spotlight of the global equine advocacy community.

Yet now these actions sit within one umbrella organization.

“Our mission is simple”, states R.T. Fitch president and co-founder of WHFF, “we are now working together  to find the chink in the armor of the government agencies that hold themselves above the law and reproach of the American people and then concentrate on this weakness.  We are not a horse rescue, sanctuary or anything of the sort, but instead a consortium of equine welfare organizations and private citizens who feel that our last recourse in stopping this Wild Horse Harvesting Machine is in the courts of the United States Judicial System.”

“We have always been totally aligned and on parallel paths,” explained Laura Leigh VP of WHFF, “but now we will pull our legal pursuits together. This will unify the advocate community structure with more effective communication toward accountability to law and the American public.”

Equine photographer Terry Fitch adds, “We just need this nonsense to stop.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the government’s facts and numbers are skewed against the wild horses and burros.  There needs to be a moratorium on these useless and costly wild horse stampedes while we take the time to accurately account for how many wild horses and burros are still left free roaming on their designated public lands.”

Wild Horse Freedom Federation’s current list of plaintiffs include the ASPCA, Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition, the Cloud Foundation, Front Range Equine Rescue, Habitat for Horses and private citizens Dr. Don and Toni Moore and journalist Laura Leigh.


Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF) is a registered, Texas non-profit corporation with 501c3 status pending.  WHFF puts people between America’s wild equids and extinction through targeted litigation against governmental agencies whose documented agendas include the eradication of wild horse and burros from public, federal and state lands.


This Can’t Be Happening

Article from “This can’t be happening” online:

Killing the Old West: The BLM’s Strange Way of ‘Protecting’ America’s Wild Horses
Mon, 06/27/2011 – 21:36 — Anonymous
Laura Leigh

You learn many interesting things traveling on public lands following the wild horse issue in the American West.

You learn that after standing in sub-zero temperatures, attempting to document winter roundups, that returning to the relative warmth of your parked vehicle can make your glasses crack. You learn that chemical toe warmers are good as wrist, neck and “slip into your coveralls attach to your underwear” warmers as well. You learn that rattlesnakes don’t always rattle.

You learn the maneuvers the federal government will attempt to hide their actions when “managing” America’s wild herds: Maneuvers that range from lying about facility contracts to a roadblock on a remote dirt road operated by armed men who stop three woman from seeing the wild horses being captured.

On June 19, 1971 both houses of Congress passed the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro, act without a single dissenting vote. That act read:
§ 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.

Somehow though, somewhere in the implementation of the Act, something went terribly wrong. In its findings, Congress declared, “These horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene.” However the agency tasked by Congress to protect and preserve these disappearing horses became transformed into a machine that removes more horses from public lands than any other force or man or nature in modern history.

As a journalist and photojournalist, this issue has become my life’s passion. Yet the pursuit of the story has now taken me to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to protect my First Amendment right to document and report the actions of our government in this issue of great public interest.

If there is nothing to hide, why go through such lengths to hide what is being done? This is hardly a matter of national security, after all.

Read full article here:

Calico Foal

Hope (feet literally began to fall off, died) Calico Jan. 2010

Edited to add: Article is being picked up by several venues!

Beat goes on…

Received BLM reply… working on reply… documenting… driving…

At night when I close my eyes sometimes I just see white lines fly by.

Maria Daines sent a new audio clip… so I took a moment and added a few new pics and better audio to the video:

Gearing up for roundup season.

If you can support the work it is appreciated. Without you I can’t get all of this done. It’s plain and simple.

It’s hard to believe the new “roundup season” begins again… and with so many new “ugly” undertones.

If there was anyone that ever doubted that genetic bankruptcy and eradication through sterilization was NOT the agenda… well… we are standing right on that edge. Last year was the year the push needed to be made to try to save the program and each HMA. This year the advocate community needs to become a unified voice, solution based…. or we will loose this symbol of the West in all but the “showcase,” handful of herds.

I battle all the same things you do. The depression, fatigue and outrage… need to find my balance… we need to find balance.

Going to have another cup of coffee… and the beat goes on.





Is it Bad Enough for You?

I sit here as the clock turns midnight. Today is the fortieth anniversary of the unanimous passage of the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act.

§ 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.

Forty years later it appears that “mustanging” has simply become a government enterprise. Instead of humane management of herds in the wild, we now have a system where the government simply chooses the profiteers.

A complex system of mostly private contractors warehouse our National Treasure at public expense, yet off limits to public scrutiny. Roundups that occur without any meaningful access to assess the condition or actions of the contractors, at public expense. Policy that is so outrageous and contrary to the Act carried out on a daily basis.

“Have you commented on the EA(Environmental Assessment?” is a common response from BLM (Bureau of Land Management).

Well I don’t know about you, but hundreds of thousands of comments that disagree with policy are considered “of no significance.” After a while you feel like your voice as an American means nothing to the current administration.

It also appears neither does the law.

There are several lawsuits that are pushing that issue within the Judicial system. In Twin Peaks we still have a case very much alive holding feet to the fire on accountability to protocol. The West Douglas herd was saved for yet another year through litigation. The First Amendment violations very becoming very clear to a vast majority of the media as a dangerous precedent to documenting the actions of government in a “Democratic society.”

We are forced to take our government to the Courts to demand accountability within the government that supposedly holds our Constitution as it’s blueprint.

The absurdity is mind boggling.

As advocates we are now fighting to stop the spread of wild mares being given hysterectomies in the field. This is not new. It has occurred under the oversight of the Department of Interior through Fish and Wildlife. Now this butchery is attempting to make it’s way into “protocol.”

Let’s paint a clear picture. BLM manages about 252 million acres (and that depends on which website you check). Within that only about 10% are “managed” for wild equid populations. Some of those areas have AML’s (Appropriate Management Level) set ridiculously low. We even have an HMA (Herd Management Area) with an AML of 3.

Genetic bankruptcy is very real. It is happening with an animal that Congress passed an entire Act to protect. The Multiple Use Mandate has truly become “Multiple Ruse.”

We are truly in an age of Industrialization of your public land. The biggest pocket is calling the shots in the way your resources are being used. Your public resources are putting cash into the pockets of large corporations (often foreign owned). The entities that operate on public land often do so subsidized. Yes, in America we run a “welfare” program on the taxpayers back to make the rich, well, rich.

Roundups will begin again July 1 during foaling season. Just because an entity that behaves like a sociopath says something is the truth does not make it so. July 1 IS foaling season. Newborn babies and pregnant mares will be stampeded without a care for their true welfare. The concern is for convenient scheduling and budgets. The concern is to clear the land of horses, not manage the land for horses.

I will lay a flower on Velma Johnston’s grave. Known as “Wild Horse Annie” she was instrumental in passing Legislation to protect our wild herds. I wonder if she knows that what she fought for has not come to reality?

But we go on. We are getting faster. we are not reporting what happened yesterday, but we are uncovering what is planned for tomorrow. We are also getting better at the tools we have: litigation, media and the great mover of mountains, public pressure.

Stay strong, stay smart and watch the “dark side, Luke.”

After 40 years it’s long overdue to have our wild herds protected in the spirit of the Act.

Many of the horses in this video died. I can’t show you those mages because documentation is not allowed. Music Courtesy of the Amazing Maria Daines:

Clearing the desk

Finished the video on the Release at Mustang Monument in Wells.

Finished two articles for other publications.

The Reporters Committee was just cleared by the Ninth and the Amicus brief’s have been accepted for official filing!

Still tracking horses, still doing field work… still trying to find time to shower!

Please go to to stay abreast of the case. I loaded the pages of exactly what I am asking for in Injunctive Relief in the reading room.

Please help support the work if you can. Roundups around the corner and I’m trying to get as much done before I leave “civilization” as possible.

The anniversary of the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act is this Sunday… light a candle.

Enjoy the video:

Dignity Returned

As I followed a semi-load of wild horses on Route 80 we made the familiar turn off into Wells, Nevada. As we passed the Loves gas station, where we met the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) in the bitter cold of dawn during the Antelope roundup, I was flooded with memories of all that was seen. Each trap site with it’s intricacies of “access no access,”  each conversation, each band that was fractured, each face came back to me in detail.

The cargo

The semi turned down a dusty dirt road. This time the driver came to a slow stop. I could hear the animals settle. He then proceeded down the graded dirt path at a crawl, mindful of the precious load he carried. I began to cry.

My experience has been to drive roads in much worse shape at speeds that make you hold your breath for the safety of the lives inside the container.

Yet the horses onboard were headed to Mustang Monument, Madeleine Picken’s Mustang Sanctuary run through her organization Saving America’s Mustangs.

That sanctuary has raised no less controversy than the Wild Horse issue itself. But that was not what today was “all about.”

This face says so much...

For the last two weeks I rose in the middle of the night to meet the driver at a “feedlot turned way station” in Fallon. Each dawn I documented the loading of animals that had been saved from certain death. My lens captured the faces of the mares and their babies as they left the confines of that dusty old feedlot and boarded the truck.

The faces belonged to Pauite horses that had gone to a slaughter auction last Christmas. If wild horses are prejudicially referred to as “desert rats,” the Pauite horses are considered no more than fleas on those rats. These reservation horses are regularly sent to kill with little to no hope. They are not managed under the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, but are legally shipped off under the jurisdiction of tribal authority.

Wearing the auction tag

The truck slowly backed up to a chute at the makeshift roundpen of hay bales.

An excited woman met me and crawled with me to the top of the pen to document the off loading of these horses headed home.

The woman was Madeleine Pickens. In her hand she held a small camcorder. She observed the offloading of each horse that warily left that metal container. Her voice into her camera demonstrated concern as she made sure that each mare matched up with each foal. Foals that had been born in a dusty feedlot that would soon run in the open range for the first time.

Madeleine Pickens documents her horses

The last few horses were reluctant to leave the container. The others began to munch on the bales of hay that made up the pen. Laughter and pleasant conversation filled the air and joined the sounds of the horses calling to those already home in the field beyond the gate.

Where am I?

The moment had arrived. The moment of “Freedom.” The moment the “fleas on rats” are given the greatest kindness a human could show them. A chance to run in the open range. A chance to live as bands. A chance to live and die with freedom and dignity in the normal course of what they are.

Ranch manager, Clay Nannini, walked to the gate and removed the chain. The gates opened…

It took but a brief moment for the horses to recognize the opportunity.

I cannot describe in words the sensation of “wrong turned right” that flooded my senses. The emaciated, abused, disregarded souls ran to join the others. The babies that I had seen born in that feedlot ran free. The beautiful Spruce Mountain in the background bore witness with us of what I can only describe as “dignity returned.”

Ms. Pickens climbed the rail, opened her arms and declared “I own you now, no one will ever hurt you again.”

That familiar promise. How many horse owners have made that promise as they bring home a horse from auction or one they found in a bad situation? The scale was much bigger, yet the promise hung in the air with undeniable truth.


After checking in to the roadside Motel I laid down on the bed, still in my clothing. My life still an uncertain path, roundups beginning again in mere days. The Court case still dominating my life. The issues surrounding our horses still unresolved. But I slept.

I slept like I haven’t slept in months.

Beyond words....

To learn more about Mustang Monument go to: