Lawsuit: Update

Hospital Area Broken Arrow (Indian Lakes) Calico Complex Horses 1/2010 (Leigh)

The battle to see our horses continues, as horses continue to die behind closed doors

Wild Horse Education is continuing the legal battle for transparency against the Department of Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Because the public is continually denied consistent access to roundups and holding facilities that house the American public’s wild horses, taken from public land with public funds, this action is gaining increasing importance.

On February 14, 2011 Plaintiff Laura Leigh filed for permission to appeal her First Amendment Rights case against the BLM to the Ninth Circuit Court. Her plea was based on the fact that there had been no ruling by the Federal Court in Reno to her request for Emergency Injunctive Relief in a case she had filed five months previous. Her request cited that “no action” in a case requiring emergency relief was an essential denial of her motion.

Judge Larry Hicks of the Federal District Court in Reno has now denied Leigh’s motion as “moot.” However in his ruling he does allow written testimony to stand in the record that had been objected to by the BLM.

“Basically this is good news,” said Leigh “What the Judge has now given me is an opportunity to present this case without first going through the process of gaining the Court’s permission. He has also ruled that the entire record of the case remains intact and that is vital to demonstrate the repetitive behavior that has precedent in higher Courts as not moot.”

Leigh has spent the last year observing more roundups than any government personnel and bringing the public daily reports. The suit she brought earlier last year, to the same Court over closure of public land and a roundup during the heat of summer for the Owyhee Herd Management Area, bore fruit for public observers. That suit found that closure of public land was a prior restraint to First Amendment Rights, creating the beginning of a daily observation platform for the public.

“The current suit is NOT about observing a single roundup,” Leigh stated “The emergency relief requested extends to the repetitive battle for observation. We have a right to know how our money is spent in the hands-on management of our horses throughout the process. From roundup through holding and their ultimate disposition, wherever that may be, it is our right to see it.”

This winter horses from the Eagle Complex joined those named in Leigh’s suit from the Silver King Herd Management Area behind the locked doors of the BLM Indian Lakes (Broken Arrow) facility in Fallon Nevada. Horses continue to die and suffer disease out of sight of public scrutiny. Horses in that facility continue to die at an alarming rate as indicated in the weekly reports.

Last spring the BLM closed the doors of the facility, which had previously offered weekly public tours, because of the intensity of public outrage. In an email from Dean Bolstad, of the Nevada state office in Reno to his superiors, dated May 25 of last year he writes: “The impact of stopping the tours pales in comparison to the impact to our employees and BLM’s image.”

Is this a reason to deny the public basic rights guaranteed in the Constitution? Or is this a reason to “clean up your act?”

The full Appeal is expected to be filed by Leigh and her attorney Gordon Cowan of Reno soon.

The legal efforts are supported solely by Wild Horse Education, a registered non-profit in the state of Nevada.


Laura Leigh

 Personal Note: This suit has been a tremendous effort. You can ask anyone that has travelled with me how many hours I spend researching and crafting documents. Researching and collecting evidence and data in the field daily. The “concept of law” in this country is a complex process and the learning curve is steep.

Yet historically the evidence points to the fact that documentation and exposure changed practices that occured in the past. Documentation is creating a broader base of exposure throughout the world for what America is doing to it’s own symbol of Freedom.

We need to push this program into the light. The closed door facilities need to open. Meaningful observation MUST be allowed at roundups and facilities.

But I need your help. Support this action that benefits YOUR right to know.


A New Year?

It’s a New Year?

Another HMA awaiting roundup. Many HMA’s awaiting roundup as “Multiple Ruse” continues.

Clan Alpine scheduled for February

Sanctuary proposals never answered by BLM. Significant public interest in wild herds on public land continually overlooked and minimized.

A so-called “Summit” to discuss with “multiple public interests” the welfare of American Equines begins in Vegas tomorrow. Yet missing from the table is any representation of actual equine welfare. A farce, a circus, an abomination of dialogue is given the label of “public forum.” A forum where even audience members (that have to pay significant cash) are denied access by the king and queen of slaughter-world. It is disgusting that members of a branch of our government are slated to not only attend, but speak. As no advocate voice sits as a speaker… not one.

The BLM ran a “public forum” for dialogue on wild herds in Denver last year. The king and queen of slaughter were significantly out numbered and out documented. Not a single concrete outcome from that workshop. Each advocate that attended was asked if they would volunteer for solution based action… not a single one of us has been contacted.

Yet Bob Abbey, the head honcho at the BLM, is slated to speak at this (cough, gag) public forum. 

However last year he was slated to speak at the Society for Range Management “summit” that was another push by the “red handed” to reinstitute the slaughter of wild horses. He bailed ten minutes before showtime. The objective of that show was to give BLM employees continuing education credits (I’m not kidding) and endorse Salazars proposal.

That “fun time” included the panel (including Bud Cribley, BLM) making fun of Congress, blaming wild horses for decrease in Salmon populations (I swear to you) and Sue Wallis, their Ethics speaker, regurgitating her “poetry.”

Needless to say I aint going to this one.

Instead I will go and sit yet again on the range and see no activity of our governments contractor at the trap. I will again be denied access to watch horses captured. I will yet again be denied the ability to view the horses in holding facilities where they are shipped.

"Silver King" HMA

I sat in Silver King today… where Galahad fought for his family, Silver King and so many others lost their Freedom, and Braveheart broke his neck. Where all activity at the moment of capture and any significant ability to observe the condition of our horses was obstructed. I saw no horses today.

Yesterday I sat with the Silver King horses that Return to Freedom is trying to reunite with their families… I sat with Bravehearts mare and youngster… it hurt.

Galahad and Mare

Single horse chased at Silver King

Single horse... just one

 We have two suits right now in Federal court. From what I understand Bob claims not to know about anything that has been happening out here and when he was told said “we need to change that.” Months ago… that conversation actually did occur with an advocate… in a closed meeting… months ago.

But this week will be the same old same old… the “Summit” will be the same old same old…

Hey Salazar… do you and Bob know what “New Direction” means?

And for all of you that asked about General and Crew…

General... I love that old man

Ranger and Commander

True.... kept getting too close for camera

Oh yeah… one year ago…  the only “new direction” is that they try to stop us from seeing it.

I saw him…

Silver King

It was dark when he offloaded from the trailer with his companion Galahad after their long journey back to Nevada from Gunnison prison in Utah. I could see him but not capture any clear photos. It had been months since that day we followed him from the range in Nevada to Utah. Months since I left all my cameras and phone (and everything else) to go see him at Gunnison. I have thought about him every day since…

But he has now joined the others in Return to Freedom’s effort to establish a National Wild Horse Preserve in Calico.

September 30th at Dawn

December 29th at Dawn

I don’t know if words can do the emotion justice? I laughed and cried. I talked to him and he responded just as he did when I met him… I think he likes my voice.

His companion on his trip was Galahad. The stallion that fought for his mare in that alley for five hours. His mare was the one that had her face ripped open during the roundup. His mare and son have been at temporary with Braveheart’s family.

Galahad’s son is a doll baby. He is beautiful and curious. He is strong and healthy… and did I mention curious? He followed me around the pen as we waited for the stallions to come down the alley to meet the Calico boys.

Galahad's baby ( by Deniz Bolbol)

Galahad’s mare recognized him right away. From their pens they can see each other again. They are surprisingly calm…. almost as if they know it’s going to be ok and they will be together soon.

After the initial posturing the stallions settled in… I can’t tell you how it felt.

I know many of you are concerned that I spent Christmas and now New Year “alone.” I am not alone. You are all with me always… and so are these horses. The gift I carry in my heart every time I see General and Commander and the beautiful three year old True… and now these wonderful Silver King horses… I remember our small “miracles” in this convoluted mess…. it gives me “Hope.”

Maybe we will hear from Judge Hicks soon and the doors to the facilities that house our horses will finally open? Each life matters…

Happy New Year.

Tomahawk and True give King the "sniff" test

The Calico bunch +2

Silver King and Galahad

A roll in the "boy" pen

They have not joined the "missing"

Another day in Court

Judge Hicks has finally set a date for hearing on the emergency TRO filed over a month ago for access to the hands on management of our wild herds. The Contempt motion will also be heard on the same day.

 Say a prayer for Democracy

Two important lawsuits will be heard by Judge Larry Hicks in Reno, Nevada on November 16, 2010.One of the hearings will be on the Motion for Temporary and Injunctive Relief in the Silver King, NV wild horse round up filed by the Plaintiff, Laura Leigh against the Bureau of Land Management, Interior Dept. and the Nevada State Director of the BLM. The Plaintiff‟s Response to the court on BLM‟s responses to the Motion was filed on October 12, 2010.
This lawsuit is based 100% on violations to First Amendment rights. It directly challenges, the Defendants‟ unconstitutional prior restraints on the Plaintiff‟s First Amendment rights by denying her reasonable access to wild horse roundups and related activities, to observe and report on all activities from capture, removal, processing, shipping, transportation, housing, and ultimate disposition of wild horses taken during the Silver King wild horse roundup operations (which the BLM euphemistically refers to as “gathers”). Laura Leigh, is a journalist and videographer whose work on wild horse issues has garnered her international attention.
“All I am trying to do is bring to the public a comprehensive story on the hands-on management of this National Treasure,” says Leigh “The difficulties I have had are absurd in a Democratic society.”

The government is basically controlling the content of what information reaches the public by precluding journalists who may portray them in an unflattering light.

The Second hearing will be on the (filed) August 11, 2010 Motion on Contempt of Court charges levied against the BLM which cites evidence of the Defendants‟ violation of the court‟s previous order to uphold the plaintiff‟s First Amendment Rights to observe and report on the Bureau of Land Management in regard to the “gather” and removal of wild horses in Owyhee Herd Management Area. When Laura Leigh arrived in Owyhee, accompanied by two individuals, they were barred entrance to the roundup site, stopped by armed personnel on public land, and given the literal run around.

The Contempt of Court Motion also addresses the Defendants‟ sworn testimony in open court that a „water emergency‟ existed and that an „emergency‟ roundup had to happen immediately, or horses would die. This testimony resulted in Judge Larry Hicks lifting the Temporary Restraining Order he had put in place to halt the Owyhee gather until he could hear legal arguments in the case.

Photos and documentation of the area have been filed showing that in fact the range appears exactly the same as it normally does this time of year, and nothing out of the ordinary was found by independent observation.

“Federal Judges have a tough job and a tight schedule,” said  council Gordon Cowan, “Our country is based on very sound principals that ensure democracy continues and our case will be heard.”


BraveHearts Last Stand

Repost from AWHPC

by Suzanne Roy, American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

In the early morning of Wednesday, October 6, 2010, amid the vast landscape of the Silver King Herd Management Area in southeastern Nevada, a mustang family lost everything in a BLM helicopter roundup.

I looked down from a hill above the entrance to the capture site to see a striking white mare, running at full speed, with her young foal at her heels. Galloping just ahead of the helicopter was a beautiful sorrel stallion, forehead lined with a wide white blaze. He lagged behind his family, torn between making a run for freedom and protecting his mare and foal, even if that meant following them into the jaws of the trap. The stallion, who we have named Braveheart, chose family over freedom, and it cost him his life.

Not long after his decision, Braveheart charged the bars of the trap pen, defending his mare and foal against an enemy he recognized: another horse. Though the BLM contractor clearly observed that his saddle horse was causing Braveheart’s agitation, he tied his mount just outside the stallion’s pen. To Braveheart, the saddle horse appeared to be within striking range. Braveheart didn’t know know men and their metal fences wouldn’t give way to his charge. And, slamming himself against the metal fences, he went down.

BLM often claims that horses with broken necks die instantly. They don’t.

Braveheart fell down after sustaining a mortal injury, but then he struggled to his feet. Head hanging down, he searched for his family. Could he see them nearby? Could he hear or smell them as he lifted his great red-gold head one final time?

As Braveheart lay dying or dead, the BLM wranglers loaded his white mare into a trailer. Dazed by defeat, she no longer struggled. Her stallion was dead, her foal forcibly taken from her.

Next the wranglers dragged the stallion’s body, covered by a tarp, onto the same trailer, forcing the pale mare to stand over her dead mate.

An endless 40 minutes later, the truck drove off, leaving the small foal, who looked just like his father, alone in the trap pen, never to see his mother or sire again.

At the holding site, dirt was piled atop the stallion next to mounds containing the bodies of numerous other victims of this roundup. Our requests to film the body were denied; when we filmed the backhoe and the stallion’s body awaiting burial from the distance, the government-contracted wrangler drove the truck and trailer around to block our view.

Ben Noyes, the BLM wild horse and burro specialist, refused our request to speak to him to get information about Braveheart’s death. Throughout the two days that we attended the roundup, Mr. Noyes refused to speak with the public and answer questions. The PR person charged with being the spokesperson often was unable to answer basic questions about the Silver King capture operation.

My colleague Deniz Bolbol and I captured the whole scene on video, despite the best efforts of the BLM to prevent us from doing so. We participated in two days of “public observation” at Silver King, during which the BLM’s main objective was to prevent us from capturing and exposing the images that convey the anguish, the trauma and the suffering wild horses endure in the BLM roundups.

BLM observation rules prevented us from observing and videotaping all aspects of the roundup including when the horses enter the trap. That is the moment they realize there is no escape, and the full impact of their capture is visible as they struggle mightily to kick down or climb fences. BLM also prevented us from filming the actual sorting of horses, when foals are wrenched from their mothers, and mares are taken from their stallions.

In previous roundups advocates have been allowed to get close enough to the trap and holding facility so that wounds could be seen – now the BLM keeps the public at such a distance that makes observation nearly impossible. It was only because we stood firm on our rights to travel the public roads in this public lands complex that we captured Braveheart’s final moments.

Sadly, this rainbow, which greeted us as we arrived at the trap site on Tuesday morning, brought no luck to the Silver King mustangs. Our wild horses aren’t looking for a pot of gold; they just want their freedom. It’s up to us to be their rainbow.

Braveheart standing guard over his mare moments before he broke his neck by charging the fence.

In Braveheart’s memory, we will continue the fight. Meanwhile, we have told BLM that we would like to adopt Braveheart’s mare and foal. After this ordeal, this pair must be reunited. It’s the least we and the BLM can do for these brave survivors.

Note: Return to Freedom is taking this mare and foal and attempting to reunite Silver King with his family. Visit Return to Freedom for more info.

Wont forget you

Just a little taste of “expert”

I warned the BLM that the gap in the trailer could lead to mishap when I saw these foals offloaded.

Re-loading for shipment into the black hole of “no access.”

What's this?

Can I get back to my daddy?

Long way down...

Hips momentarily caught

Where's my daddy?

Back in the pen

Back in the pen

But what do I know…  

I’m not a BLM “Wild Horse and Burro Specialist” or a LIVESTOCK roundup contractor.