Personal message for the “blog”

Jackson Mountain stallion watches his mares after arrival at PVC. They will be separated here, he will go to the stud pens and they with the mares.

Jackson Mountain stallion watches his mares after arrival at PVC. They will be separated here, he will go to the stud pens and they with the mares.

from the desk of Laura Leigh, President of Wild Horse Education (follow ongoing work at wild horse education website)

It is very hard to describe the personal experience of the current state of the issues that Wild Horse Education is addressing for our herds.

On one hand this has been an extraordinary physical marathon of range work, in all kinds of weather, under all kinds of physical extremes. Dust, mud, blistering heat and frigid temperatures take a toll on equipment and ones physical body. Files are massive and the quantity of documentation fills drive after drive and causes laptops to choke. The vehicle makes new sounds every time it is shaken, bounced, bumped and run in sub freezing temperatures or high heat, your physical body begins to mirror the creaks and groans. The very real need to expand this aspect of the work is apparent. This aspect of the work is what gives us the ability to demonstrate a first hand knowledge of the range and present accurate information toward gaining real changes as we try to bring an honest conversation to the management of wild horses and burros to the agency itself, the public, legislature and if needed, the Federal courts. You make this part of the journey looking like a character out of “Mad Max,” or other post apocalyptic film, half the time. You forget to brush your hair, have no time to clean your clothes and your equipment is a mishmash of devices pieced together that looks like it shouldn’t even run but is a powerful editing tool.

On the other hand this work requires diligent research and organization. Thousands of hours of video footage, hundreds of thousands of still photographs, assessment documents and grids, reference material and the hundreds of documents filed in court. You have to focus, wear the right glasses to read,  remember to shower, and raise your vocabulary above the guttural sounds that your dog finds acceptable as conversation on the road.

Then there is another aspect, communication with the public. Somewhere between being a “range rat” and an “accountant” you need to remember the social skills to engage the public in a conversation that relays what you “gained” on the range, digested in the “library,” in a manner that speaks to the daily lives of “normal.”

Many of you have written wondering what it is like to do this work… the best way I can describe it… it is like carrying a bag filled with “hats.” Some of the hats you have worn before and they fit well, others don’t fit quite right but when you wear them in enough storms they shrink and mold and become familiar.

Today I sit at the computer organizing three active cases against the Federal government. Two of them speak to the objective of gaining a humane handling policy for wild horses and burros, one of them speaks to access to animals from range “through ultimate disposition, adoption, sale or death.” I am organizing depositions, documents and editing video footage for various purposes.

High Rock, 10-30 (Leigh) 6 escape the trap

High Rock, 10-30 (Leigh) 6 escape the trap

I wanted to “touch base” with the followers of the blog and say “whew” as we gain the first step in the conversation at Owyhee toward gaining a “humane” objective in the ten year plan and “where’s the #@*! coffee?” as we start to compile and hone the effort on access. The work we are doing on land use plans and investigations such as the slaughter issue are also still in progress AND I have to get back out on the range.

Yes, there is an extraordinary amount of work that needs done YESTERDAY. There are tools that as an advocacy we do not have and must literally build. But this is not without hope… we are building the tools and creating the language for conversations based on first hand observation… we are gaining a conversation that can lead to changes… that can grow to more changes. It IS movement.

As a MOVEMENT we must recognize that fact and gain momentum. If there is an opportunity, no matter how small, if it is not seized the moment passes. The road to change leads to change as the road of apathy leads to apathy, the road of depression leads to depression. We are on the road to change…. it may be a two track in the dessert but eventually (even if you have to travel off-road a bit) it leads to a highway.

Best to you.

Laura

Guilfoyle speaks at Conference in DC today

Today in DC the new head of the Wild Horse and Burro Program, Joan Guilfoyle, will speak at the International Conference for Equine Welfare.

She has committed to speak for ten minutes to introduce herself. She will answer no questions from the public, nor participate in any dialogue. She has agreed to speak to address her willingness to “dialogue” with the public.

Sounds like the same old contradictions.

As Guilfoyle prepares to speak the last horses of the roundup  were removed from Barren Valley in Oregon. Only two runs of the pilot were documented. Almost a week allowed no documentation at all.

This video is of the last two groups taken.

Please help support the work if you can.: http://wildhorseeducation.org/mission-statement/donate/

On the Road… a repost for 9/11

I come from a long line of people that felt service to country was an honor.

My Grandad served in both World Wars. In the second WW his eldest sons went with him. Uncles served in Korea. My dad was too young and became a police officer and volunteer fireman. Many family members still live in the New York area. We had a family member missing that day as his office was in the Trade Center… he was ok but it was a very frightening time.

I am reposting an article I wrote that was published in a few venues over the winter… it just strikes me as appropriate for this weekend.

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.

"Hope" died of hoof slough, Calico Complex 2010

Triple B, Do we stand for this?

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:

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.

Sanctuary

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: http://SavingAmericasMustangs.org

Trapped

Note: I have been notified that many people are trying to post and are not being allowed. It appears that emails are bouncing and videos are also not playing. I will check to see if anyone has accessed my computer and screwed with settings. This may take a day or so, sorry for the issue.
 
 
 

Trap site from Antelope

I have been on a data collection mission. Checking out new issues and tracking down the old. But I had to revisit… I had to go sit at the old trap sites from this past winter.

Sitting there I felt like a Vietnam veteran that had returned home… to be criticized… and left with the private memories from hell to deal with alone. I could still hear the chopper blades and the horses calling to each other.

The trampled and broken sage marked each trap clearly. The evidence of the unnatural occurance. The evidence of the violent removal in such a beautiful serene place… and not a horse to be seen at any of the sites. The horse sign old… weathered.

As Elvis (my dog) and I traveled the highway from place to place I saw two horses. They were pacing the fenceline… one on either side of the highway separated by barbed wire run along the highway of our “public land.” I stopped to photograph them. They looked at me… and nature took it’s course… they were together last night.

I got back into my truck and began to shake. I couldn’t stop. I was not crying… I was not “emotional.” But the tremors that took my body had me find a hotel room and not spend another night on the range.

It is morning and I am going back “on the road.”

So much to do. So much information to get into hands that are more powerful than mine. More legal documents to prep… more prayers to say.

Romeo

Juliet

http://wildhorseeducation.org

Phoenix, Forward

What can I say? It was another Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting. I went. Not because I feel that the board has any meaning except to act as an illusion of public participation in process. The Board sleeps half the time and has no real legal authority… and NOTHING REAL every comes out of the meetings… from the Board. However I did attend as another voice and “warm body” to represent our herds.

Many other wonderful people were there. I am not going to start naming because I will miss someone and end up editing this entry for days. I do not have time to create a slideshow or edit video but I am posting a few pics to share.

Do not, for one second, believe there is no funding for summer. Do not, for one second, believe this is “time off.”

Funding will be pulled from another agency or program. The “balls to the wall” pace of the last year will continue. The agenda has not changed no matter what words are printed, spoken or drawn in the sand. The actions on the range, in holding, hidden in closed facilities remains unchanged.

There is no “New Direction” until the train is a hundred miles down track no one has even laid yet.

I’m back out… and the pace will pick up not slack off. This IS NOT “time off.” It is time to reload…

WE need a Congressional investigation into this program… no NAS study with parameters given to them by BLM, no internal investigation into contractor actions, no “observers” provided by a 501 that may very well be illegally operated and a conflict of interest for an Advisory Board Member… no more.

We need something tangible from Abbey now.

For starters let’s try transparency of actions…   OPEN closed facilities to the public, approve sanctuaries that give something back to the tax payer, start making lease holders actually pay for the cost of their leases and stop running an entitlement program on public land… AND adhere to the most basic premise of the act and start treating these animals in a humane fashion according to today’s standards and NOT some 1800′s cowboy mentality.

Am I really asking too much in a supposedly civilized nation?

RT, Ginger, Madeleine at Press Conference

Protest outside

Elyse taping press conference

Maureen VanDerStad streaming the vigil to home viewers...

 

Vigil

the "Bored" meeting

another "Bored" member

protest outside

Outside the meeting

AMEN!

"good" cookies!

"family" gathering... and an adult beverage

New Life... March 13, 2011: Nevada

Back to work….

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 employess themselves are seriously uninformed.

There is currently a lawsuit that has been patiently waiting to actually be heard within the judicial system. A synopsis of the case can (and should) be read at http://www.rcfp.org/newsitems/index.php?i=11713 this is an article written by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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 ommisions 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 suposedly 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 consequense 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 acheiving 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.”

1/31/2011

2/6/2011

2/9/2011 (horses dying from pneumonia from treatment similiar)

1/29/2011

2/2/2011 Antelope Roundup

As photos get out access gets worse. I have not been able to get a respiration rate in over a year.

Can you see condition of any horses from here?

*******note: posts containing certain uses of profanity go into a folder that WordPress set up as a filter. Any posts that are profane attacks and not an attempt at dialogue go into a spam folder. Also be aware that if you posts alot of links you also get tagged as spam by WordPress………

Faces of PVC October 2010

Editing tons of footage and reviewing still images.

What sticks in my mind this am are the thousands of faces in holding I have seen. These are just a few from one day at Palomino Valley. Horses are from Tuscarora and Twin Peaks…

Second video of Tonopah and videos from Silver King coming soon… heading out to check on some horses first…

Edited to Add stills from today

Stallion PVC

Stallion (Big Pen)

Twin Peaks Stallion (Broken Family)

Twin Peaks Stallion

Mares (PVC)

Mares (PVC)

"Why?"

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

 

 

 

Message from Rob Pliskin

 Advocate Rob Pliskin sent this update on his “One man Silent Vigil for our horses” for me to share.

Thanks, Rob.

Rob Pliskin with Duster and Mel (Tracy Gantz)

Silent Vigil Update – Stand On Up, Sir!

Monday August 9, 2010 – Cleveland, Federal Building Plaza.  Hot and humid.  People going in and out still stopping for info and flyers!  The keynote for today was laid on me by a government employee who I had met and given literature to before.  On his way across the plaza for lunch with a group, he gave me a smile and a nod, a genuine fist pump and a “Stand On Up, Sir!” loud enough for everyone to hear. 

First one to take a flyer was the Federal Protection Officer who was my first contact months ago.  He stayed for half an hour and took literature. 

Then there was the disabled U.S. Navy sailor, with wrapped legs, who came and talked for half an hour, and showed me the check he had already cut for 500 dollars to WWF.  A kindred spirit.  He first hesitated but later wanted literature.

Next, another serviceman with relatives in NV who wanted to know what was going on, because he knew about the horses from his relatives.  They all needed their eyes opened, and truly cared.

More people came, a couple doing business in the building, another employee, all interested.  One employee said she would contact one of the local TV stations. Another employee who had rescued a horse, and another who just wanted to know. 

Not one disagreeable person among them all.  

Many want to know what I’m doing out there, holding a lead rope and open halter, my literature under a saddle blanket.  Many come up with a little quip, which I smile at.  Something like, “Lost your horse?”  They are really just interested, not mean.  It’s perfect, because it allows me to deliver the needed straight line about the roundups. 

And how it bothers me to be so real, and so timely, to have to deliver it, that it is necessary to say, yes, and they are getting ready to start another one this Wednesday….

The People want to know folks.  Find some way of telling them.  Be sure there will be someone telling you , Stand On Up!   And many more glad you did. 
  Loading…

A poem by Rob Pliskin

Sharing a poem by Rob Pliskin I received as I have morning coffee….

No More Lost and Found

BLM’s killing horses just tryin to be free

Runnin them from Rock Creek, Little Humboldt and Owyhee

Towards a tragic future of captivity or death

While most Americans don’t even know and others hold their breath

And some unlikely heroes save 174

Pay for them in Fallon and help them find the door

Because this weekend they’d been in The Killer’s Lost and Found

Where they were just wild horses who went for 20 cents a pound

They said The Seven died because the tank was nearly dry

I’d say check the fences because fences never lie

Cattle drink and come to water to me it don’t make sense

When horses end up dying on the wrong side of the fence

And eyes like satin stars on coats of red white blue and brown

Don’t make no difference to blind men paying 19 cents a pound

All we’re trying to provide’s a simple place to stand

Where all creatures live in balance but it takes a gentle hand

With all of us on every side good neighbors we can be

Its good neighbors make good fences, that means us, yes, you and me

Cause we no longer want to hear that high and lonely sound

Of ghosts of horses whinnying at 19 cents a pound

So if you’ve got mettle in your heart and basically agree

That if cows and oilmen can wander horses too can wander free

Put it in your boots and go do something good today

We can help the horses all together find the way

If you have that extra penny stick it under your hat band

Screw your hat down on your head go out and make your stand.


Because G-d’s writing in the tally book and needs help getting it all down

That wild horses’ weight is gold, not 19 cents a pound.

— Rob Pliskin

Silent Vigil (Rob Pliskin)

Today a friend and wild horse advocate will make a solitary, silent stand for our wild ones.

Rob Pliskin will begin a silent vigil in his current home town.

His idea is born of frustration. This frustration is shared by so many that I have been speaking with. This frustration has given rise to this statement.

This week, despite thousands of comments and requests by Americans throughout the country and pleas by informed and concerned wildlife scientists, the BLM in its “Summer Season of Discontent” is rounding up and removing American wild horses from their home ranges.  Horses the BLM is ironically mandated to protect, including foals days or weeks old, will be killed or injured.  Family bands scattered.  Herds decimated.

The horses have no voice, no say in this.  There will be hooves striking rocks, sweat flying off summer coats, and wide eyes seeking escape.  Heads will be hung in the desolation of capture and captivity.  But there will be no voices.

As a 12 year volunteer for the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program, and as an American, I can no longer abide this.   With a degree in Natural Resources and the heart of a citizen, I believe it is unjust.  I believe the arbitrary use of “Appropriate Management Level” as it stands now is just one of the cowardly acts perpetrated on the horses and on all Americans.

So I am standing up for all these horses.   I am beginning a Silent Vigil, outside the Federal Building closest to my home in Cleveland, Ohio.  Silent, because the horses have no voice.   Close to home, because today Americans can stay close to home and have a strong voice.  America’s wild horses can’t.

Because the horses have no voice, for the horses,

Rob Pliskin

Join him. Go to your school, place of work or federal building. Ask for a permit to have a silent vigil.

Stand with a lantern or candle as a beacon to guide those in power to the truth… as a beacon to guide those loosing their freedom to safety… as a beacon of peaceful resolution.

Rob made these flyers to hand to people. Use them as a template if you like.

2010PliskinVigil

Wild Baby 2010

Hang in there… don’t give up.

End of Visitation

photos by me unless otherwise noted on this site

Today is the day the doors close at the BLM facility, “The Broken Arrow,” in Fallon, NV.

Because the BLM privately contracted the facility the public will no longer be able to bear witness to the lives within those walls.

Row of mares that have babies at the Broken Arrow

Personally I find this distressing.

The intellectual in me finds it outrageous.

A contract by a government agency that manages American horses in trust for the people did not make arrangements (as it awarded a lucrative no-bid contract to, I am told, a personal friend) to allow visitation by the public. That contract (in my opinion) by it’s very nature should have included the stipulation that public visitation be standard in operation as it made it’s monetary “reward.” “Services rendered” at that facility should include the public the agency is tasked to serve.

Mare and foal Broken Arrow

The human being in me is literally in pain.

I have seen these horses run free.

Peaceful Freedom

General and his band captured (True is with him)

Actions of Salazar's BLM

Actions of Salazar's BLM

Soldier Meadows temporary holding

I watched them loose their freedom in a gather that looked like a gushing wound as band after band poured down those mountains. I looked into confused eyes as they stood in those pens after gather. I walked the hospital pens and agonized over little Hope… I looked in his pain filled eyes, too… helpless to help him as he died of hoof slough most likely due to roundup trauma (noted in the BLM, incomplete, vet report).

Calico Foal

Hope Springs Eternal

I saw them standing in the bitter cold in January at the Broken Arrow. A facility that was still under construction as almost 2000 horses entered it’s gates. Almost 3000 was the projected number for that facility. I shudder to think of 1000 more horses in that incomplete facility as this administration runs full steam ahead furthering an agenda instead of putting the breaks on as it claims a “new direction.”

Scar face Mare Broken Arrow January 2010

Youngsters January 2010

I got to know so many of those horses as individuals that have left a lasting imprint on my soul. The sense of responsibility to these amazing beings has grown… it is incomprehensible to me the lack of recognition these animals have as individual beings. They are not just “inventory.”

Calico Filly (photo Elyse Gardner)

Calico Filly (photo Elyse Gardner

My last visit to the facility brought instant recognition of many of these horses. Not only did I remember them… but I know some remember me. So many of the younger ones have grown into young adults, smart and curious. The older horses attempting to adjust to a life that will never resemble anything they were born to be. Many of them will now be shipped out of sight to die in long term holding, also off limits to public view.

Huge old stallion at Broken Arrow

Mare and foals Broken Arrow 2010

Medicine Hat

Young Sabino

Mare and foal Broken Arrow

My heart aches… just aches.

Instead of recognizing the value of the free, volunteer eyes at it’s disposal the BLM claims the observers place a “burden” on staff as the public is offered a tour comprising a few hours each Sunday. Each Sunday it seems the observers point out apparently overlooked issues within the facility. Orphaned foals, the Pigeon Fever/not pigeon fever abscesses still appearing in the population, injuries and the critical condition of the foal we now know as “Sorro,” are all issues brought to the attention of “staff” by the “burden” of public eyes.

Perhaps in this “dialogue of new direction,” and all the supposed areas for cooperative effort, perhaps the public actually needs to be involved? What a concept…

Sorro euthanized at the Broken Arrow

This “new direction” is a public relations campaign. The 2010 gather schedule stands. The “dispute resolution firm” is a hired gun to create a support document for placation of the public. Salazar’s plan to decimate our wild herds runs pedal to the floor. The “new direction” is just a short cut to “Salazoo.”

5/31 Wild Horses

Free Wild Horses

Free band stallion

My heart aches… just aches.

More about the foal “Sorro”

Going to add a quick post to give y’all some more info on the foal that died at the Broken Arrow last weekend.

Examiner Article Here

I’m out collecting range data… I will report on those findings soon.

“Sorro,” as Elyse named the baby, was overlooked at the Broken Arrow. We were told by Dean Bolstad that the vet is out daily.

A “triage” of sorts was done and three foals given to a wild horse group. The foals given to that group all came from the pen that the weekend observers raised a stink about the weeks prior.

Sorro was not in that pen.

Sorro was in the pen at the rear of the facility. The last pens you see as you go on the tour.

No determination of intervention had been made on that mare/foal pair, none. (After supposedly witnessing that foal for days). The vet came to treat that foal AFTER advocates left that day. By that time it was too late to do anything.

When asked if the vet noted any anomalies (after death) that could have led to the issue, ie. parrot mouth or  other dental or structural issue Dean replied… “I don’t think so, nothing in the memo.” But he was unsure if anything was even looked for.

I’m sure he will answer questions on Sunday.

Discussing the issues at the Broken Arrow is not distraction from the main issue. The main issue is competent management of our wild herds… top to bottom. Any agency or piece of the protocol that fails in that mandate should fall under scrutiny. Just because a horse leaves the range does not decrease the scrutiny needed by the advocate community toward the welfare of that life.

I see faulty practices top to bottom.

A massive gather was done in the harshest portion of the winter. Almost 2000 horses were then trucked to a facility that was still under construction. Hospital pens in January and February did not have wind breaks.

A reported 300 births now brings that total to over 2000 horses. Wooden barriers have been placed to keep the hay near the pens. A piece of wood that forms a 45 degree angle is inserted to keep the hay close to the pen after we were told the abscesses were due to pushing against the fence in order to get hay.

However the 45 degree angle piece that keep that hay close to the animals is missing from the pens that contain the animals with the greatest nutritional needs. No slanted pieces are in place for the mares nursing foals…. but the stallion pen that holds the horses the advocates have named…. has one.

So what exactly is motivating change over there? It is not a “thinking” toward the horses. It is a reactionary response to the “aggravation” of actually allowing the public an opportunity to react to what they see.

If they want to dismiss it by calling it “daily snivel” it shows the continued use of dismissive, derogatory dialogue.

Think back to grammar school… a bully locks a nerd in the locker. When the kid is found by the janitor crying the bully makes fun of him. But the bully is wrong.

Issues that deal with health of the range, viability of herds, numbers of lease holders, adherence to law…. and the life of an overlooked foal… ALL OF IT MATTERS.

Not only the continued smoke screen of “multiple use.” The BLM manages over 262 million acres of land. Horses currently occupy about 10% of that land…. by definition that IS multiple use.

I’m sure when we flood the faxes in DC they have a cute derogatory term for it, too.

And if that means we turn the “daily snivel” into a tidal wave…. good. Maybe then the concept of how much American’s care about EACH LIFE  that is born of a wild horse will finally sink in.

The Bright Side

I’m in the field so updates are slow in coming.

I want to take just a minute to address more things beginning to circulate on the internet.

Folks… breathe. Keep the faith.

In my inbox are several emails that border on “panic” that address that the advocates are “not focused.”

Let me take a minute to address a few things here…

In Defense of Animal’s has created Action alerts that are well thought out responses that allow for personalization in a click and send format that create an easy way to comment on policy. Many of the alerts have created larger than normal response to issues that have allowed for little response time.

The magnitude of the Calico Complex gather has increased public awareness. The Pryor mountain round-up galvanized the wild horse groups and the anti-slaughter camps into one. Calico has gotten the attention of an even larger segment of the American public.

Out of this event an opportunity to educate through the outstanding reports created by George Knapp’s I-Team, coverage by CNN and what appears to be a willingness on the part of more mainstream journalists to approach this issue a bit differently has occurred.

March for Mustangs and the protests on American soil from NYC to LA have crossed the ocean to Europe.

Internet sites devoted to the preservation of our horses increase in volume and traffic.

The next Advisory Board meeting in Denver includes a “workshop.” Changes in the way the public participates have been long overdue.

The Tr-state Megaplex and the process in which protocol is being determined within that structure also indicate change.

Herd watch run through the Cloud Foundation is a massive national effort to create a database that will stand up to scrutiny.

AWHPC has been active in creating valuable reports that have gone to many that are beginning to listen.

So many… so many groups are working together.

Please take a minute to concentrate on the areas where progress is occurring and build on that. To allow yourselves to feel as if a disjointed misdirected effort is occurring, as we all give so much to this effort, will make you feel defeated. We are not defeated… we are not “misinformed.”

The advocates are more informed than ever before.

We have a lot of work to do no doubt. Areas to improve communication and the speed at which information is shared is seeing improvement. The wealth of diversity among the advocates is creating possibilities that did not exist in the past. From that diversity we will continue to grow…

This summer we have a lot of work to do. Many areas will need to be handled in unison. If the Moratorium remains unanswered many areas, many herds, will need us to continue to unite our voices.

Hang in there. Focus on the areas where we are making strides. And keep going…

“Keep speaking the truth from your heart,” Craig Downer.

Gotta Run…. more later.

Herd Watch questions

I have been receiving questions regarding the Herd Watch project.

Many of them are duplicate questions so I am going to combine them and respond in this post. I hope it helps.

I am currently in the field and creating necessary documents for this project.

_____________
If one volunteers, how much time would be involved?

We send out an application where volunteers list skill sets.

Information provided to us in the applications will be verified.

Volunteers can let us know how much time they can give to the project (assignments have differing levels of involvement).

This gives us the info we need for appropriate placement.

How will areas be chosen?

Areas are given priority based on current policy.

All areas will be included within the data base that contain (or have contained) equid populations.

The word “area” implies BLM. Just a reminder, herds exist in many jurisdictions.

How often would a person go to the herd area?

It depends on each Team and need.

Many areas have larger teams so visits can be divided up among members.

Are permits needed, if so who secures them?

Permits are usually only required on public land when individuals decide to camp there.

If individuals decide they want to spend more than a day on public land they will have been provided with all the contact info ahead of time (as well as notified the Team leader of their plans to stay).

If the individual is collecting data at a holding facility (for example) that requires an appointment, it is the responsibility of the volunteer to make the appointment as a private citizen.

Herd watch is a volunteer effort where individuals participate by providing information they gain as individual citizens through observation.

This is NOT a protest.

What kind of training will be provided?

It depends on the duty requirement.

Data entry and file management are a large part of this project.

Manuals and conference calls (or on site if required) will be provided as needed for each specific task.

Will “pro’s” be included to gain credibility with the BLM?

Horses and burros don’t only exist on BLM land.

The integrity of the database is not limited to gaining credibility with a single branch of the Department of Interior.

The integrity of the database is the first concern of Herd Watch. All protocol is designed with this in mind.

Can my teenagers participate?

There will be many opportunities geared specifically for teens and projects for younger children. Those opportunities currently do not include collecting field data.

If you want your teen to accompany you as you collect data you will be required to fill out the same contract of conduct and liability forms you fill out for yourself. As a parent you are responsible for the conduct of yourself and your children in any effort you participate in. Most volunteer opportunities, including those at your local animal shelter, have the same requirements as Herd Watch.

You may be advised that a specific assignment is not appropriate for teens.

Will the database be available for public use?

The database will contain information that will be made available to the public through a website that is under construction.

The website will contain general information as well as any areas that require public response. The database will host an archived section of historical data and a synopsis of current information.

The database itself will be made available for research specific projects (education) that may require data review through a case by case application.

In college I assisted a biology teacher in a research project. Is that what this will be like?

In many respects that is exactly what this project will resemble.

A Team Leader that has a background in the discipline required to complete the specifications of each project will be assigned. Each participant will operate much like an “intern.”

If I can’t participate but want to support the project through a donation can I send you money or equipment?

The only place to donate for Herd Watch is through the Cloud Foundation website. HERE.

If you would like to donate computers, cameras, gas cards, gift cards, vehicles, etc. please call Makendra at The Cloud Foundation, 719-633-3842 to make specific arrangements.

Read About Herd Watch and it’s mission at The Cloud Foundation.

I thank you all for the interest in this project.

Advocate

I am working on many projects and have a lot to share with all of you.

But because of current undertones and accusations I feel the need to state a personal distinction with all of you.

Death threats appear to be increasing to the members of organizations that manage wild horses and burros. Attacks on the character of other advocates is also on the rise, against myself included.

Certain advocate groups have put out statements asking for folks to deal with the BLM in a “civilized” manner. I am making the same plea… but my plea includes our dealings with each other.

I do recognize the absolute outrage. I do recognize the truth of the heart-break. I do recognize the feeling of helplessness against a “machine” that operates without apparent flexibility or apparent awareness of the emotional and physical wounds it inflicts.

But within that frustration exists a destructive way of being that will feed on itself and hurt advocates. It creates a reactiveness that acts without complete information and has the potential to inflict as much damage as the “machine.”

If the current “plea” that has been sent out makes your inbox, I am asking you to take the same logic put forth and apply it to the “advocates” themselves. If there is a “willingness” demonstrated to overlook differences and see “positive” places for dialogue (as some express in statements that ask “attacks cease against those on the ground” and focus on a legislative battle. And some subtly, and not so subtly, point fingers at other advocates) take a moment to think.

Let it be a seed that grows compassionate understanding everywhere.

We have all been drawn here because we care. It is a truth I have observed. But we are all different. Simply because someone comes from a “city” or a background that does not include ever gentling a wild horse does not make their viewpoint irrelevant. In many ways they offer a unique perspective that has unique value.

Statements made about “personal gain” sound like the claims Sue Wallis’ camp makes in the horse slaughter struggle as she accuses advocates of making money “hand over fist.” The majority of advocates, many of them high-profile, devote a great amount of personal resource to engage in this effort. Any funding they receive does not cover the costs incurred.

Yes, there are large organizations that exist in a business capacity that make a living from advocacy, but that is not the majority. It is also not inherently wrong.

Yes, there are many that have figured out how to exist funded as entities that gentle and find homes for horses… but most of them exist on budgets that make it month-to-month.

I have heard accusations that certain advocates really advocate for the BLM. I have heard accusations that certain advocates are in it for personal “glory.” I have heard accusation after accusation that in the big picture create a “drama” that ultimately hurts horses.

Each advocate has something to offer this effort. Each voice speaks a language that is vital to reach the ears needed to create change.

Take a minute to breath… please.

If there is a willingness to recognize the value of recognizing the “humaneness” of those that manage wild horses and burros… please recognize the tremendous value of the wealth of diversity among the advocates themselves.

OK… gonna step off the soap box. But I want to leave you with a few definitions of words courtesy of dictionary online. Y’all know language is a topic I am very interested in.

Be very aware of the interactions we all have with each other. Be very aware of your behavior and how it pertains to constructive action.

ad·vo·cate

   [v. ad-vuh-keyt; n. ad-vuh-kit, -keyt]  Show IPA verb,-cat·ed, -cat·ing, noun
–verb (used with object)

1.

to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly: He advocated higher salaries for teachers.
-noun

2.

a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc. (usually fol. by of): an advocate of peace.

3.
a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor.
4.

a person who pleads the cause of another in a court of law.

ac·tiv·ist

   [ak-tuh-vist]  Show IPA
–noun

1.

an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, esp. a political cause.
-adjective

2.

of or pertaining to activism or activists: an activist organization for environmental concern.
3.

advocating or opposing a cause or issue vigorously, esp. a political cause: Activist opponents of the President picketed the White House.
Added by request from Anne:

pac·i·fism
Pronunciation: \ˈpa-sə-ˌfi-zəm\
Function: noun
Etymology: French pacifisme, from pacifique pacific
Date: 1902
1 : opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes; specifically : refusal to bear arms on moral or religious grounds
2 : an attitude or policy of nonresistance

ter·ror·ist

   [ter-er-ist]  Show IPA
1.

a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism.
2.
a person who terrorizes or frightens others.

ter·ror·ism

   [ter-uh-riz-uhm]  Show IPA
1.

the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2.
the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
3.
a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
~~~~~~~~
This issue is filled with passionate people. That passion stems from a core belief that is expressed in many unique ways. Not one person… not a single one… can carry the change needed to make a difference for our wild herds. This change will only come as each hand learns how to drop the stones they hold in order to be able to grab the hand of their neighbor.
That goes for both sides. So does the referencing of the definitions of words.
~~~~~~
Now to end with a quote from Hill Street Blues:
Sergeant Phil Esterhaus: Hey, let’s be careful out there.

Herd Watch is official!

I have been getting things organized and am back on the road so be patient with me …

Herd Watch is now “official.”

Here is the press release from The Cloud Foundation.

If you have already volunteered shoot me a quick e-mail at:

CalicoHorses@gmail.com

and let me know who you sent yor inquiry to and if you have recieved an application.

You will be receiving volunteer forms and assignment info soon!

For Immediate Release

The Cloud Foundation Takes Action with Herd-Watch: Public Eyes for Public Horses

47% of wild horse and burro herds have been zeroed out by BLM since 1971

Colorado Springs, CO (April 29, 2010)—Today the Cloud Foundation launches Herd-Watch, an innovative volunteer program to monitor wild horse and burro herds as well as roundups across the West. The iconic horses and burros are currently being managed to virtual extinction, contrary to the. From this day on, Herd-Watch will: watchdog America’s wild horses and burros, provide increased public visibility, monitor the range conditions and the mustang, burro and livestock numbers as well as keep tabs on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plans for “management” of each treasured American Herd.
“The more the public knows about our wild herds, the more deeply they will care about their preservation. Through Herd-Watch we will educate and inform the public while protecting an American treasure,” explains Project Manager Laura Leigh of Nevada. “Herd-Watch is an exciting and interactive new development facilitating improved protections for our wild herds and, we hope, an improved dialogue with both the BLM and Forest Service.”
A central database will keep tabs on each of America’s remaining 180 herds on public lands in ten Western States and their ranges. According to BLM, in 1971 339 wild herds were designated for protection. Since then the BLM and Forest Service have zeroed out 159 herds, including 12 in Nevada just last year. Volunteer teams will log and catalog data, photos and information following their visits to the range. The Cloud Foundation hopes that BLM and Forest Service officials will welcome the increased interest and monitoring of wild herds at no cost to taxpayers.
Interested members of the public are encouraged to visit www.thecloudfoundation.org to volunteer, donate and learn more.
“Herd-Watch will remove our wild herds from the ranks of the anonymous. Through the work of dedicated volunteers, the public will learn about each amazing herd of wild horses and burros and what can be done to preserve them for all time, as the Wild Horse and Burro Act intended,” states Ginger Kathrens, Cloud Foundation Executive Director and Emmy award-winning producer whose Cloud documentaries have educated a world public about the rich lives of wild horses.

The Hands and Heart of an Adopter

I have a couple of stories to bring to you about adoptions of Wild Horses.

I’ll start with an article Rob Pliskin sent to me.


In Memory of Tobey, A Wild Horse:

and in Honor of Robert Denlinger and Cher Eastep

by Rob Pliskin

Rob Pliskin with Duster and Mel (Tracy Gantz)

I have been a volunteer in the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program for 12 years.  During that time I worked two stints at Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue, a gracious way station and sometimes end of the line for horses and burros in the High Desert of southern California.

I have seen horses and burros come and go, from weanlings just off the range who wanted to walk up under your elbow, to adults bouncing off the panels to escape.   What I’ve seen in these 12 years runs the gamut, from blessed unions between animals and adopters, to hard rescues of the abused and neglected in dire, deadly straits.

The first strong truth which stands out for me in every case is this:  These horses and burros, against their will, have been delivered into the hands and ultimately the hearts of the people who will come in contact with them for the rest of their lives.

Nearly all of these animals (that is, a number far more than any “vast majority” you could name) were living good lives meant for them in the wild before their capture.  They lived in family bands and herds in a way which guaranteed them the biggest shot at thriving nature could provide.  At the exact moment of their capture, this freedom was replaced by a complete and lifelong dependence on the hands and hearts of humans.

Even in the best of cases, I question whether that is a fair trade.  And in the worst, we all know it is not.  Who among us would not bounce off steel corral panels in their place?   We, who can never fully imagine the freedom of their wild, or the deadly fear of their captivity, would still know it for what it is.  And we too would undoubtedly resist.

Regarding this captivity then, the second equally strong truth which stands out for me is knowing the importance of the hands and the heart of the wild horse and burro adopter.

And when I try to describe these hands and hearts, too many words just flat get in the way.  So let me choose a few, and then introduce you to two people, Robert and Cher,  and a wild horse named Tobey:  two sets of human hands and indeed, three linked hearts.  The story of the Hands and Heart of an Adopter is really told in the text of the email below, sent by Robert Denlinger of Denstar Farms, one of Tobey’s first rescuers, to Tobey’s second rescuer, Cheryl Eastep  of Freedom Ranch, who provided a lifelong home for Tobey until his passing this week.

I met Cher in 1998 and Robert in 1999, when the Adoption Program began co-sponsoring weeklong gentling clinics across the country, providing hands-on education for anyone who wanted to learn to do their best with the captive wild horses and burros in the Program.

With an adoption at the beginning of the week and one at the end, many animals had an improved chance of a good adoption, having received some decent experience with human beings.  Many of the public participants during the week also had good experience with the horses and burros, and many took home an animal they could meet in the corrals for a week first at the workshop.

Robert was one of the teachers.  Cher was another, and co-directed the weeklong activities in the clinics for years, in addition to founding Freedom Ranch, a non-profit facility for abused and neglected wild horses and burros.   While many of the teachers like Robert and Cher were handy and adept with the animals, many of the participants had a lot of that to learn.

But here is the key:  Getting handy, good with your hands and your feet, your arms and your legs, your ropes and things, is something you can do – it just takes practice.  Lots of practice.  And the wonderful thing about the horses and burros is, they like it when you practice, and they are forgiving for the most part when you make a mistake.  Because both of those things when put together mean you care about themAnd it is in a horse’s and burro’s nature, in their own unique way, to care back.

THIS to me is the most important part of an adopter’s profile.   Experienced hands and a cold or cruel heart do not make a good adoption.  But inexperienced hands and a kind heart do.   The horses and burros know this, and again and again, all they try to do every day is wait their best for you to get better at both.  Obviously, it is far easier for them to wait for your hands and not your heart.  But they will even wait for that, and sadly for some, even to their starvation, injury, or death.

This, in Tobey’s case, is what makes them horses.  And this, ultimately, is the third and strongest truth of this essay.   They will wait for you, but do not tarry.  It is in the heart of a wild horse and burro.  It is why they followed us for centuries, and still do, helping us build this country.  Reach in and  match the bigness of your heart with the bigness of theirs, in some way, your way.  Then,  reveal it to them, every day, day in, and day out.  That is the Hands and Heart of an Adopter. Find them here, in the email from Robert to Cher.   And take them with you into the corral, wherever and whenever you go.  Because these animals, no matter what they look like or what they do, are bringing theirs to you.

(Note:  Cher at Freedom Ranch is www.freedomranch.net .  Robert’s Denstar Farm website can be found in the link in his email below.)


Oh Cheryl I cry with you I am afraid. Tobey came here beaten and
bedraggled by humans. He had three ropes from lariats embedded in the
poll area and maggots crawling out everywhere. He had snaggle teeth on
one side of the jaw from being beaten with boards. He had burn marks on
his back from cigarettes. He had the definite outline of white hair
across his back from being hit so very hard one time with a 2×4.

That was the Tobey I met .. his head hung a little lower than normal,
when he stepped out of that trailer.

When no one was around a little later, I asked him if he’d let me remove
the ropes; spray it with water and put wound dressings on it. He looked
suspiciously at me. So I promised I wouldn’t go beyond certain zones, in
front of the ears nor farther down the neck-line. He agreed and lowered
his head and I knew I was communicating with him. This was Tobey, always
ready to try and believe in someone. Yet he was also always ready to
defend himself in a serious manner.

After 45 minutes, Tobey had patiently let me cut the ropes out and spray
it all off as well as put dressing on the area.

The first picture on this page was taken by Mary just a while after he
got here. I had the spray-wound-dressing in my left hand:

http://www.denstarfarm.us/Denstar%20Web/Trash/Horse/Tobey.html

Tobey (photo courtesy DenstarFarm)

Tobey was so very intelligent and so very regal. When he met Cheryl, we
all could see he knew he’d gone to heaven. At Cheryl’s place in Colorado
Tobey would proudly demonstrate the things he new would get him a
“Click” and a treat.

I loved listening to Tobey ;;; He just really liked to chortle. Chortle
a greeting; chortle that a sheep was in his stall; chortle that he
wanted Cheryl to turn on his favorite country-western radio station.

What a guy he was! That stout chest .. and when he had to demonstrate to
a miscreant horse exactly *WHO* was king, Tobey would sit back on his
butt and punch with two front feet!! It was quite an awesome thing to watch.

Tobey let me ride him, though no one was ever around to take a picture.
He did let Mary watch a few times. I suppose I am the only one who ever
got on his back. I am truly honored to have met him and been allowed to
be his friend.

We are all lucky that Cheryl drove all the way out here to give him a
life long home. I knew I’d lost a buddy but I knew he’d been in the
absolute best care he could ever have. Tobey ate well when Cheryl had
hard times and had to cut back for herself.

Well, I guess I’ll tell Mary about this. I can promise you that there
isn’t a week go by, since he left here, that the splendid guy isn’t
mentioned as a reference to this or that subject.

Long live Tobey’s memory!

Rob Pliskin

I first met Rob Pliskin at the Society for Range Management Conference in Reno a few months back.

Rob Pliskin with Duster and Mel (photo Tracy Gantz)

The conference is supposedly a dialogue toward solutions to issues surrounding the management of public range land. The conference provides continuing education credits for Bureau of Land Management employees. If you have the extra money order a copy of the event, it is pretty interesting. It has little gems on it that include Bud Cribley (last minute substitute for Bob Abbey) of the BLM admitting that the Salazar plan was created because of fear of ROAM. Repeatedly they express a lack of confidence in any Congressional legislation… often to laughter from the audience. A priceless statement to the credibility of the event, Sue Wallis was the Ethics speaker at the conference (OK, stop choking). But I’m getting off track.

I was told to look for Rob that he might have some questions. He sat next to me for the entire second day. (Three day conference). I watched Rob become increasingly vocal and passionate.

Rob Pliskin is a volunteer for the BLM. You may differ in opinion on some of his positions, you may not. In truth we all have subtle differences that in the big picture wont amount to anything if current protocol does not stop now.

I asked Rob if he would send me a copy of his speech from DC and a photo.

These are Rob’s words….

Rob Pliskin (photo by Mom and Tom)

(First, let me say, don’t ever introduce yourself as “just a volunteer.”  Like “hi, I’m Rob Pliskin, I’m just a volunteer for….”  You people who volunteered to come here are the most important horse people in the world today.)

(Now, look behind me.  What do you see?  I see the powerful flanks of the horse that General Lafayette rode in on, helping to bring a positive change to a new America that needed some help.  Remember that, because in a few minutes I am going to ask you a question about the horse we Americans rode in on.)

Since 1998  I have had the privilege of my life. To be a volunteer for the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Program, gentling wild horses and burros at BLM corrals, in adoption events around the west, and in workshops that teach the public about gentling them. Here is my BLM Volunteer I.D. badge right here.  I am wearing it throughout our events.   I say this is the privilege of my life, because on one level or another, every one of these horses let me meet them where they live, and some of them despite their superior size, strength, speed, agility, and brains, even trust me enough to put their heart in my hands.

Ironically to some people, this privilege came to me from President Richard Nixon in 1971 when he signed the Wild Horse Annie act into law, protecting our American wild horses and burros.  It’s he, and all the good BLMers I know, because there are some, who I can thank for this badge.  It’s hard for me to tell you this right now, I used to wear this badge proudly, but today I just can’t.  I can no longer look at this badge, without seeing that it is terribly tarnished.

Today, while I still wear it, and these horses still courageously give me their hearts, the BLM lets men and women with steel and dollar signs in their eyes and blood in their throats remove wild horses from their own federally protected lands.  And we pay the BLM to do it with our tax dollars.   Some of these same men and women will tell you, you know, out on our western lands, we have a real horse problem.  Right there is where I stop listening.  Because in my experience, a lot of what you learn in horsemanship from the horses, you can apply to the rest of life.  And you know what?  People don’t have horse problems. Oh no.  Horses have people problems.  And our wild horses have people problems too, with the govt. that is supposed to protect them.

We can ask important data based questions about this.  Like, why did the BLM take away over 19 million acres of wild horse areas and let even more cows and sheep back on some of them, but no horses?   Or, why did our BLM management team have to kill 79 wild horses and cause 39 mares to abort their foals in the recent Calico Complex roundup, and pay a contractor over 697 thousand dollars to help them do it?  If you had a nice big ranch and 118 of your horses were killed by your own crew in just a few weeks of work, would your manager still be working for you?  Would you have paid them 697 thousand dollars and just gone on business as usual?  Or would you be saying hold everything, we need to take a serious look at how we do things around here, and nothing moves until we do.

Make no mistake, Federally protected lands in the Great Basin are YOUR ranch, the wild horses that live there are YOUR horses, and YOU pay the BLM with YOUR dollars to do what they do with YOUR horses every day.

There are too many questions like these whose answers the BLM offers just make this badge dirtier and dirtier.  They betray the horses they are supposed to protect and they betray the American people.  Doesn’t a horse just want a leader who is honest, kind, and effective?  BLM, if you want to lead, then you need to start telling the truth.

Let me close now with that one question I told you to remember I was going to ask.  In the words of Deanne Stillman, author of Mustang, why are we, a cowboy nation, destroying the horse we rode in on?   President Obama, I ask you why?  Secretary Salazar, BLM Director Abbey, Wild Horse and Burro Program Director Glenn, why are we killing our horses and removing them from their own ranges when we are supposed to be protecting them?   And what’s the name of the agency charged with this duty to protect?  The U.S. Bureau of Land Management.  And what does U. S. spell?  It spells US.  It is up to us, all of us, to protect our horses.  It always has been up to us.

Richard Nixon described wild horses as America’s living legacy, which deserved protection “historically.”  Instead, the history our president, our Congress, and the BLM write today takes wild horses away to the tune of millions of our dollars every year.  So I ask you, in closing, please, pray for the wisdom we need to write a different history.  I ask you as a citizen or a leader to act with that wisdom, and protect our horses.  If in your native language,  you have a horse song, I ask you to sing it for the horses.  So that they may be protected.  So that we may all act rightly.  So that one day, this badge – this badge – will be redeemed.  If you believe in Change for America, then believe in Change for America’s Wild Horses.  Thank you very much.

P.S. Rob just sent me this:

Tonight is Erev Pesach, the Eve of Passover — an old festival celebrating freedom from captivity.  Tonight, let’s remember the wild horses and burros.  We can’t celebrate freedom with them yet.  So we continue to work towards their modern day exodus, repairing the world in their name, until we can. They can’t say Let My People Go, so we will say it for them.
Here is the March 29 reading from Joyce Sequichie Hifler’s A Cherokee Feast of Days. Imagine that it was written for the horses and burros and us as their voice this night. (Stanzas mine)
Nothing ever quite remains the same –
But a time comes when we have to
Follow new guidelines and think new thoughts
And do new things.
It does not take a superhuman,
But it does take a believer –
A worker with ears to hear and eyes to see –
Not just the physical but the spiritual.
We cannot take for granted that any other human
Can have accurate perception and spell things out
For us.
The miracles are not all in other heads, other hands,
Other methods.
There must be a burst of inner fire that sparks a miracle,
That opens a door to a greater life,
A greater calm.
We are never so blind as when we close ourselves off
By our critical views, our hardened hearts, our failure
To perceive the greatness of gentle things.
O friend, look away from lack and need and pain.
Alter your vision and it will alter life.
O, great blue sky; see me roaming here.  I trust in you,
protect me!
PAWNEE
As if they could talk, and all of us could listen,
Rob Pliskin

Then the “Cavalry” rode in…

I have spent the day attempting to construct a way to convey to you all that happened in DC.

There is so much to share. The meetings, James Kleinert’s film Desperation Valley, more meetings, the rally, more meetings… and so many wonderful people.

So many wonderful moments.

Hope Ryden and Ginger Kathrens (photo Laura Leigh)

Like when Hope Ryden took to the podium with a small box in her hands. I wondered if they were letters she had saved from children during the fight years ago that helped inspire our legislators to action in 1971? Then Hope passionately removed the contents from the box, held it up and pounded it on the podium. It was a mustang hoof! “You could pound nails with this!” she exclaimed as she extolled the virtues of our mustangs. (I have to admit I did not see that one coming). It was something I wont forget.

So many wonderful people, some I have known for years but never met. I often refer to Vicki Tobin as “the best friend I never met,” I can’t say that anymore.

But there is a single event that best sums up the “feeling” I have after DC. There is a real sense that our voices are beginning to be heard. A real sense that if we continue to raise our voices and unify as a group… we will see change.

I had meetings to attend the morning of the rally. The day was hectic and there was not even time to change clothes. Un-tucked my shirt, grabbed my cowboy hat and headed down the street, 10 minutes late, to meet the others already walking to Lafayette park.

We listened to amazing speaker after speaker as the crowd continued to grow.

Then we marched to the Department of Interior to hand deliver a letter to Secretary Salazar. The crowd stretched for blocks as we made our way through the streets of our capitol. When we reached our destination we chanted, held up our signs and delivered that letter.

And then it happened….

Coming down the street toward our group were four members of the mounted patrol. Aboard mighty steeds the officers moved in and took their position across the street.

The "cavalry" arrives! (photo by Vicki Tobin)

What a beautiful sight they were. This symbol of what the horse means to our country and to the history of the entire world of man. Those horses represented every horse that stood in battle with us, plowed our fields, carried our burdens and inspired us.

Our group cheered and gathered around the horses.

(photo Vicki Tobin)

In an excerpt taken from an article by John Holland from Horseback Online:

I told him that if they were looking to intimidate us, they picked the wrong crowd! I said I face three times that many horses every morning for their feed. He said “We are not here to intimidate you.”

Perhaps they were there to support us? Because that is what they did.

Our “cavalry,” our symbol, our horses stood there as we raised our voices with words they can’t speak. But their presence is something we can never truly express, only allude to.

So they came and stood with us. They spoke as only they can.

Louder than words (photo by Mom and Tom)

I have a renewed sense of Hope.

I was also able to use the example the next day in my meetings at the Capitol. Horses have always been an integral part of our history… and they still play an essential role in our present. This is an important issue for us as a country. At a time of restructuring our economy, health care… our country, the symbols of what it means to be “American” can aide and inspire us to become a greater nation.

March for Mustangs (photo Vicki Tobin)

Video by RT and Terry Fitch to the amazing voice of Maria Danes.

March for Mustangs 2010

The Horses at Heart

I’d like to take some time to share with you another “voice.”

The other day I shared an essay by Monica (Monika) Courtney with you. Monika and I have been buddies through the web for some time now. I admire her bravery and commitment.

I have shared a story about Craig Downer and an amazing stallion of the Calico Complex.

Here is my story about two more amazing people that raise their voices with “horses at the heart.”

The Horses at Heart, RT and Terry Fitch

One very snowy day in Nevada the Bureau of Land Management held one of their Advisory Board Meetings. Meetings that claim to be a component of “public process.” The truth is that these meetings are simply a show. The public is told the “what is” according to “BLM Math” and convoluted logic. The advocates are given just minutes, timed, to read their pre-submitted comments into record. A record that goes into the untold gulf of comments deemed “of no significant impact.”

A winter storm had raged the night before. It dumped feet of snow. The icy roads and continued snowfall created significant, almost impossible, driving conditions. Flights were canceled and airlines were turning back many that were waiting to land.

One woman made her journey from Texas. But the need to add her voice was so important the soft-spoken woman braved that journey, alone. Her name is Terry Fitch.

It was my first time meeting Terry “face-to-face.”

When the time came to speak she was sitting behind my chair. She expressed how nervous she was and that speaking in public was not something she did often. Yet she rose as her name was called and made her way to the front of the room.

She added her voice. Her papers shook. Her voice cracked and filled with emotion. She spoke from her heart.

When she took her seat she expressed that she was afraid that her emotion got the best of her and had a negative impact on her words. It is such an odd feeling to be criticized by those that oppose the advocates that we are “emotional.” When an issue is so outrageous and dwells within the areas of your heart that truly care, of course there is emotion. The real truth of her voice showed how this gentle soul truly spoke with the integrity of who she is and the love of horses that beats in her heart.

A couple of days ago I had the honor of being welcomed into the home of that woman. Her husband, R.T. Fitch, treated me to BBQ and “Texas hospitality.”

As I drove up I actually wondered if there were a servants entrance to park my old truck.

But there was a man standing in the driveway waving me in. The man was wearing an old straw cowboy hat, shorts and muck boots. A very familiar fashion statement.

RT and Harley by Terry Fitch 2010

I pulled my truck into the drive. The man leaned in and said “Does it leak oil?” and then he laughed. The laughter was deep and pure.

We shook hands. “Hi R.T.”

He led me over to Terry who was out with their horses. I was greeted by their dogs. I met Harley, Apache, Pele and Bart. I felt truly at “home.”

The entire afternoon the feeling never changed.We shared laughter, love, and really good BBQ. The genuine nature of these two people and the love they have for their world, animals and each other truly lives at that little ranch.

When I returned home I shot a quick e-mail off to let RT know that my old truck had returned me safely to my keyboard. He answered “could have used more time.”

I shared the sentiment, but know there will be more.

Our hearts truly join together as we move past the constraints that our lives place upon us and come together in this place of “horse.” That heartbeat grows stronger and pumps all the nutrients needed to wash away the toxins of man’s world. It cleanses our lives. Our voice grows strong.

Please join that beating “heart of the horse” and raise your voice on March 25. Even if you can not make the trip to DC. Contact your local media. Set up a table outside the local grocery store, your school, your front yard and educate the public to what is happening to our wild horses.

Speak with “Horses at Heart.”

United We Stand

Outrage Over Wild Horse and Burro Removals Crosses the Pond

CHICAGO, (EWA) – The outrage over the round-up of America’s wild horses and burros has spread internationally. Groups in the United Kingdom will be holding a rally in front of the American Embassy in London on March 25. On the same day, Americans will be holding a rally across from the White House in Lafayette Park that will conclude in front of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices.

United We Stand (photo:Elyse Gardner)

The London Protest was organized by Jane Bravery, Mary Alice Pollard of Cornwall’s Voice for Animals (CVFA), Maria Daines, singer/songwriter and board member of Saving America’s Horses and international actress, Melita Morgan. The rally is cosponsored by the Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA) and The Cloud Foundation (TCF).

Maria Daines commented, “If we do not stand as one on issues that affect all species whose purpose is to live wild and free, we cannot expect our own species to evolve in a compassionate and considerate way towards each other. Wild horses deserve their time and place, they deserve our protection and we must exist peacefully with these glorious creatures or risk losing them forever.

Mary Alice Pollard adds, “Cornwalls Voice for Animals represents seven thousand supporters worldwide and stands united in ending wild horse round-ups and seeing the wild horses being born free and living wild and free.”

The Washington DC rally and press conference is hosted by Friends of Animals and is cosponsored by EWA, TCF, and In Defense of Animals. A screening of James Kleinert’s documentary, Disappointment Valley will be held the night prior to the protest. Celebrities, advocates and organization members from across the country are expected to attend the two day event.

There is a groundswell of support for the preservation of America’s Mustangs. The BLM would like the public to believe this is just a minor uprising but this is a major international movement.” ~Ginger Kathrens, volunteer executive director, TCF.

The recent deadly round-up at the Calico Complex in Nevada has added to the tremendous support for a moratorium on round-ups. To date, 113 wild horses have lost their lives as a result of the round-up. At least two foals literally had their hooves run off.

“Our wild horses don’t have the luxury of time to waste while we grapple with bad policy. We must not allow special interests to methodically eliminate these horses from public land or our future generations will be robbed of their natural heritage.” ~Mariana Tosca, Actor and Social Activist/Animal Activist

CVFA, EWA and TCF urge the public to attend these rallies and ask that President Obama issue an immediate moratorium on round-ups and reject BLM plans to relocate wild horses to the East and Midwest until current range studies and independent population counts are available.

EWA’s John Holland notes, “The United Call for a Moratorium originally sent to President Obama and the Department of Interior in November, remains unanswered.”

The Equine Welfare Alliance is a dues free, umbrella organization with over 100 member organizations. The organization focuses its efforts on the welfare of all equines and the preservation of wild equids.

www.equinewelfarealliance.org

www.cornwallsvoiceforanimals.org

Monica’s Voice

There are so many amazing people I have come to know that have opened their hearts and raised their voices for the voiceless.

I spoke to an advocate that may not be able to attend the rally in DC. Her name is Monica Courtney. Monica was at the Pryor Mountain round-up. She sent me this piece she wrote that was originally posted on “Straight From The Horses Heart.”

I’m sharing her voice with you today. Please raise yours…

Freedom Lost

by Monica Courtney

In this land of wide open spaces, lush forests and mystic canyon lands… war has begun.

Where once peace and serenity were our inspiration to appreciate the sacred gifts who live in these lands… a battle of destruction has intruded, a merciless aircraft has caused a panic mode and havoc to set in, the peace is shattered, the strength of family bonds destroyed.

An operation has begun, under the false facade and guise of a propaganda called management. A merciless hunt that reflects the greed of a corrupt government is at work again. This calls any freedom-loving American to duty now. The very freedom of our legacy, the American Mustang, is stolen as I type this. The symbol of Freedom is hunted under aircraft, pushed off their homes, separated from their bands, forced down the mountain range for 12 miles to exhaustion…to the point of no return, where a Judas horse, symbolically called this for betrayal, is sent out by BLM to lead the confused, exhausted and terrified mustangs into their dead end corrals… the trap.

The sound of despair fills the air. The clouds of dust from panicked horses settles, yet the spirit does not. The mustangs desperately whinny for their band, their families, their security, their instinct to protect them from harm…. the aircraft is still hovering, the noisy darkness has overshadowed the victims of the hunt…. trapped by an agency who deceives not only the public with false statements, lies and misleading information… but the very ones they were ordered to protect many years ago. The wild mustangs.

The BLM is not the agency body to protect the West anymore. They have risen above their own law to destruct what is rightfully ours, what is rightfully the horses’…. our future generations might never see a wild horse again as the master plan of BLM is to wipe them out. The spirit of America is stolen, caged up and sold off at auction.

The viability of herds is seriously at risk and the BLM’s statements of their “management” plan untrue, full of lies hiding an ulterior motive. Despite all common sense and evidence presented, our government chooses to ignore the public’s outcry and more pressure is needed NOW.

Wild mustangs… dispatched into unknown futures, ripped away from their homes and families, stolen off the range that is legally theirs… forced into corrals,  getting marked with numbered collars, strained by devastation and fear…. degraded to objects in pens, to be adopted out as stolen property of the American public.

The prospect of losing freedom is unimaginable to Americans. Yet this dark movement conducted by an agency with a plan of destruction is guaranteed the future of the wild mustangs to be lost, and to become an exhibit in the wax museum for your grandchildren to see, an only reminder of what once was and should have been preserved.

America, Land of lost Freedom. We defend our freedom. At any cost. We must rise above tolerating such heinous acts inflicted by our very own government agency, BLM. We must fight the battle right here in our own backyard…. to protect the very ones whose lives, spirits, families, and existence has been stolen.

This is a call to anyone with a sense of duty and responsibility to preserve this American Icon. I am reaching out to your conscience to speak up and represent what America is supposed to be, for all: A Land of the Free, where the mustangs roam – let’s prevent the BLM from gathering more trophies for their morally depraved and sick plan – This is much deeper than a love affair for horses….. It is about defending Freedom.

With my own eyes I saw the theft of freedom, inflicted on innocents on the Pryor Range. The dead spirit, confused and hurt minds, the betrayed look in their eyes…the panicked cries…  is something I will never forget.

Stories always end. May those be cut down that inflict this unforgiving harm to our legacy and heritage of Cloud’s herd and other wild horses doomed by BLM in this land.

Exploit me not. I was once a horse on the Pryor Mt. Range in Montana.

This is my tale. What can be worse than freedom lost ?

You decide!

Lightening and a man named Downer

Once upon a time I left my world to head off to follow the wild horses. I went straight to an area many refer to as “where the horse turns.” That phrase is used to compare the area to the drama contained in soap operas. Not only because of the concentration of horses that inhabit the area, but because of the political climate. This climate encompasses not only the government, but the advocates as well.

Let’s just say the term is an understatement.

When I first became involved with this issue, some time ago, it was difficult to find cohesive action among the advocate groups. This issue is so large that communication was often splintered into selective focus out of necessity. Gaining information in a timely manner proved to be a challenge, with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions was a man named Craig Downer.

Where's Craig?

From the moment of our initial contact involving the horses at Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Downer sent me volumes to sift through. He said take what you need and “run” with it. He gave no direction, advise, nor gossip.

Before I ever met Downer I heard things about him that ranged from “He’s a man of God,” to “If you expect him to have your back you better have your butterfly net handy. He can fly off into the stratosphere!”

I finally met Downer face-to-face at the Society for Range Management conference in Reno. Soft spoken and shy, he was a perfect caricature of the “absent minded professor.” He said to me, “Laura, we have the truth on our side.  Keep speaking it and we will win.”

He spoke with a conviction so pure it was like that of a child. It made me painfully aware of my own cynicism. He had a way of being that we all held in some distant memory that has been buried by the constraints “life” has imposed on us. That ability to believe that “truth, justice and the American way,” meant the things you thought they did when you were first taught the “pledge of allegiance” in school was alive and well in Mr.Downer.

His words galvanized me with a new purpose. Not only did we need to win this for the horses, but for Downer, and to fan that flame of belief deep inside of all of us.

Craig Downer

Since then Downer and I have shared information, collaborated on a few projects and gone to see the horses still free.

While Craig was in court trying to protect the horses at the Calico Complex from the threat of the BLM round up, I made a slideshow from some of his photos. It was my way of supporting his effort. It was my “prayer.”

One of the horses in the video is a magnificent stallion Craig named Lightening. Lightening is the palomino with the lightening bolt marking.

After the slideshow was posted on You Tube I received several e-mails that commented directly on the beauty of that stallion. The slideshow did not show any starving horses living on a degraded range as the BLM claimed. It shows healthy, thriving horses free on their range to be what they are.

Recently I received a phone call from Elyse Gardner. She was calling to soften a blow. She wanted to let me know that she was writing on her blog that Lightening had been seen again, in his holding cell at Fallon. We shared our grief and mourned his loss of freedom. She has written her account of the day she and Downer found Lightening again on her blog.

I was grateful for the call.

Downer said to me, “Laura, we have the truth on our side.  Keep speaking it and we will win.”

I will try to keep my cynicism in check.

Lightening by Elyse Gardner, 2010