Burros are among my favorite of the animals residing at our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, with their long ears and friendly stares. We have a couple hundred of rescued burros there, and visitors seem to have a special fascination with them, too. As with all of the animals at the ranch, they've landed there because of some tale of woe - in most instances, because the burros have gotten a raw deal from the federal government, which manages, or mismanages, their populations on the vast reaches of public lands in the West.
Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the federal government, through the Bureau of Land Management, is mandated to maintain populations of wild horses and burros in the 11 western states where they live. There are only about 40,000 wild horses and only 8,000 burros, and three quarters of the horses are in just two states - Nevada and Wyoming. The remaining states have relatively small populations, typically with 3,000 or fewer animals. There are millions of cattle and sheep on those federal lands, yet ranchers complain of too many wild equids.
The government has been rounding up and removing horses and burros, ostensibly to control these wild populations and minimize their ecological impact. In the process, the feds have been building a captive equine population now in the tens of thousands, at short-term and long-term holding facilities. Just last week, the BLM released new information that its personnel and contractors would round up nearly 2,400 more wild horses and burros this year. The cost of the round ups and housing and feeding the animals is now cannibalizing about two-thirds of the budget for the program, which has been widely regarded through the years as a case study of mismanagement.
For years, we have pressed the Bureau of Land Management, which runs the program, to focus instead on fertility programs to manage populations - a solution that the National Academy of Sciences also recommended in a report commissioned by the BLM. The BLM has been slow to implement the recommendations of the NAS.
Now, in what can only be described as a case example of poor decision-making, BLM is undertaking a pilot program with the Department of Defense and Heifer International and intends to allow the transport of 100 burros to residents in Guatemala, for use as working animals. While burros have been traditionally used for this purpose, this use is at odds with the provisions of WFHBA, which requires that the BLM's first priority has to be the humane treatment of wild burros in their care.
We are not insensitive to the difficult and challenging lives of people and animals in Guatemala and other developing countries, and we acknowledge the value and importance of working animals worldwide. Through Humane Society International (HSI) and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Program (HSVMA) affiliates, we have a robust and proactive assistance program that helps provide veterinary care and other resources in these countries. But Guatemala has burros of its own, and does not need shipments of burros compliments of the BLM - a practice that simply relieves pressure on BLM to revamp its program and protect our nation's heritage of responsibly managing wild horses and burros.
We do work with BLM, through our Platero Project, to adopt out burros to suitable owners. So far this year we have placed 190 burros and we remain committed to getting more burros placed in good, local homes. Ultimately though, the solution must be on-the-ground management through fertility control, to obviate the costly and dangerous round-ups and removals and to prevent the population boom of horses and burros in captive holding facilities.
Source: The Humane Society of the United States
TAKE ACTION >>> Guatemala has burros of its own and does not need shipments of burros from the United States. Contact BLM now to keep our nation's wild burros on American soil.
RENO, Nev. — The Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press says the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is using safety concerns as an excuse to limit media access to wild horse roundups across the West in violation of the First Amendment.
The National Press Photographers Association and more than a dozen newspaper companies joined the committee in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals late Monday to back an advocacy group waging a series of legal battles over mustang roundups in Nevada.
Horseback Magazine photographer Laura Leigh and others “have a right to see what happens" during the roundups, the media groups said, urging the court to be “highly skeptical of assertions by the BLM that restrictions placed on media access were done for administrative convenience and/or to satisfy safety concerns."
“People in an open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing," they said.
The 9th Circuit sent the case brought by Leigh’s advocacy group, Wild Horse Education, back to U.S. Judge Larry Hicks in Reno last year to determine if the BLM limits are constitutional.
Hicks ruled in 2011 that a balancing of the interests of the agency and public access to a roundup in Nevada didn’t warrant granting an injunction to block the gathers. But a three-judge panel of the appellate court ruled he failed to determine whether those restrictions violated First Amendment protections.
“When the government announces it is excluding the press for reasons such as administrative convenience, preservation of evidence, or protection of reporters’ safety, its real motive may be to prevent the gathering of information about government abuses or incompetence," Appellate Judge Milan Smith Jr. wrote in the 18-page opinion in February 2012.
BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said Tuesday that the agency had no comment on the latest filing.
Agency officials testified at a hearing earlier this year that they do their best to provide public access to the roundups and temporary holding of the animals and denied Leigh’s claims she was singled out to be kept away from the mustangs.
The National Press Club, Nevada Press Association, Reno-Gazette Journal, The Seattle Times Company, the Las Vegas-Review Journal’s owner Stephens Media and others joined in the new brief arguing that journalists routinely face far more
dangerous assignments, especially at war. They say reporters should have the same unrestricted access to public rangeland as they do to battlefields.
BLM’s concerns are “speculative at best and at worst are overly broad and ambiguous, often arbitrarily and capriciously chilling visual journalists’ ability to cover matters of public concern," they said.
“If they are willing to assume such risks in a warzone, it should certainly be considered that such safety concerns by the government are nothing but mere pretext when it comes to horse gathers ... BLM land is more akin to an open park than a battlefield, and a horse gather is less dangerous than open combat or fires, floods, explosions and other calamities where safety concerns are at stake."
Hicks said during a hearing earlier this year that he recognizes it’s an issue that “strikes deeply in people’s emotions and interests."
Source: Bend Bulletin by Scott Sonner
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is seeking a Wild Horse and Burro Program Director for its Wildlife Protection department.
The main responsibility of this position is to promote and advance the protection, humane treatment and management of wild horses and burros on private, state and federal lands. Other duties include, but are not limited to: manage and direct existing staff working on wild and burro work; develop and implement a public information campaign for wild horse and burro advocates, concerned citizens and others to educate interested parties on the program and the HSUS’s vision for wild horse and burro management in the U.S.; organize, coordinate, and lead wild horse and burro protection coalitions, working groups, etc., in which HSUS is involved; provide guidance to HSUS staff on HSUS policy, strategy and rationale on various wild horse and burro related issues; seek out media opportunities; initiate and respond to media requests relating to legislation, cruelty and other wild horse and burro protection issues; assist in efforts to develop membership and funding potential for the wild horse and burro protection program.
Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in related field along with five years of experience, and demonstrated interest in, wild horse and burro protection and related federal, state and local laws and policies is highly desired. Strong knowledge of equine issues and immunocontraception preferred. Must have excellent written and verbal communication skills including public speaking and writing for diverse audiences. This position requires extensive travel.
Please submit a cover letter and resume using this form or fax to 301-548-7701. This position is located in Gaithersburg, Md, and allows for telecommuting.
Comments for the Bureau of Land Management public scoping period to address wild horse and burro management are due Sept. 27. The wild horse and burro analysis is part of the Rock Springs Resource Management Plan, though it addresses wild horse herding areas close to Rawlins, such as the Great Divide Basin Herd Management Area.
Serena Baker, public affairs specialist for the BLM High Desert District, said two records of decision will be released in 2016 — one for Rock Springs and one for Rawlins.
In 2011, the Rock Springs Grazing Association filed a lawsuit against the BLM to get the BLM to remove all wild horses from private land within the “checkerboard” pattern of mixed land ownership. To settle the lawsuit, on April 3 this year the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming approved a consent decree, which outlines specific wild horse management analyses the BLM must perform.
The four herd areas affected by the analysis will be the Salt Wells Creek, Adobe Town Complex, Great Divide Basin and White Mountain, according to the consent decree. There are 610-800 horses in Adobe Town, 205-300 in White Mountain, 250-365 in Salt Wells Creek and 415-600 in Great Divide Basin, said Ben Smith, wild horse specialist, who attended an open house meeting about the analysis on Thursday.
The consent decree states that the BLM analyze three of the four herd areas and change their designations from herd management area to simply herd area, which means the BLM would not manage any wild horse herds on that land, Smith said.
The White Mountain herd would be managed as a non-reproducing herd, which means the BLM would spay or geld every horse in the herd, Smith said. Other horses that were also spayed or gelded would be rotated into the herd as the number of horses began to dwindle.
Though the BLM has agreed to remove wild horses from the checkerboard private land areas, the consent decree only dictates that the BLM perform an analysis on the herd management areas.
Comments may be emailed to RockSpringsRMP_WY@blm.gov (include “Wild Horse Scoping” in the subject line), faxed to (307) 352-0329, or mailed to the Bureau of Land Management, Rock Springs Field Office, Wild Horse Scoping, 280 Highway 191 North, Rock Springs, WY 82901.
Source: Rawlins Times by Kate Snyder
The Bureau of Land Management wants to be prepared if U.S. horse slaughterhouses open for business, a key BLM staffer said. "They may never open. They may open. But if they do open, we are ready," said Joan Guilfoyle, BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program division chief.
Speaking at a three-day meeting this week of the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board in suburban Washington, D.C., Guilfoyle said her team has drafted letters to send if slaughterhouses reopen to warn owners that BLM-protected horses cannot be processed. In the past, she said, plant owners had agreed to work with BLM if there were questions about a horse's status.
She would reinstate such agreements, she said, if new slaughter plants came online. For the first time since 2007, horse slaughter plants are poised to reopen domestically. Congress had banned funding for Department of Agriculture inspections of horse slaughter plants, effectively shutting down the industry, but the ban was eliminated a year ago. A few slaughter plants had aimed to start operations this summer, but a lawsuit from animal welfare groups stalled their plans.
Meanwhile, Guilfoyle said that the investigation of Tom Davis, who was accused of taking BLM-acquired horses to slaughterhouses across the border, was taken over by the agency's Office of the Inspector General.
"They told us then that we could get a report back in two weeks, or we could get a report back from them in two years," she said.
The advisory board was meeting to respond to a sweeping report this summer from the National Academy of Sciences that found that BLM was underestimating herd sizes -- and exacerbating the problem by removing horses.
The board highlighted other recommendations from the report: that BLM develop a standard for how frequently to conduct surveys of the population and that the bureau should make that data more available to the public. It also found that BLM's method for keeping tabs on its wild horse population isn't in line with current science.
"As we have found in the report itself, I think we have to agree that there are some gaps there," said Boyd Spratling, a veterinarian and co-chairman of the advisory board.
Researchers and board members alike acknowledged budgetary constraints the bureau faces as it works to control its wild horses. Guilfoyle said BLM has more than 50,000 horses in holding at eco-sanctuaries, short-term corrals and long-term pastures. And she said that 65 percent of the bureau's current wild horse budget goes toward caring and feeding for the
Source: Greenwire by Whitney Blair Wyckoff
Raul Grijalva Will Headline Sept. 4 Press Conference at BLM Horse Facility Near Reno to Call for Wild Horse & Burro Management Reforms
Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, will tour and hold a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at the Palomino Valley National Adoption Center to discuss the current state and future of the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program.
Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, the BLM is responsible for managing and preserving wild horses and burros around the country. Over the past few decades, BLM has used a number of controversial management techniques to meet herd quotas required by the law. Approximately 39,000 wild horses and burros roam land managed by the BLM and another 40,000 more are held in BLM facilities like Palomino Valley – the largest holding facility managed by the federal government.
The BLM program currently prioritizes roundups over alternatives that reduce the need for expensive stockpiling. More than half of BLM’s wild horse management budget is spent to provide care for animals in long-term holding facilities.
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently released‘Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward,’which found that federal efforts waste taxpayer money and need major reforms. You can read the full report at
“I’ve been asking for changes for years, and NAS has confirmed that we can save taxpayer money and horses’ lives at the same time by improving this program,” Grijalva said. “We have the information we need. Now it’s time to do something with it.”Congressman Grijalva will be joined by Neda DeMayo, CEO of Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary, and Emmy-nominated actress and advocate Wendie Malick. Ahead of the Sept. 9 meeting of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board in Washington DC, the speakers will discuss the need to implement the findings of the NAS study and the future of the Restore Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act.
BLM to test 3 shade options for wild horses at Palomino Valley facility
The Bureau of Land Management's Palomino Valley National Wild Horse and Burro Center will begin testing three different shade options for wild horses and burros over the next two months.
The decision comes after BLM officials met with citizens who were concerned about the animals when the temperature climbs.
The BLM will install the structures as soon as materials arrive at the center on Pyramid Highway, some 20 miles northeast of Reno.
Eric Reid, Acting PVC Facility Manager, is coordinating with the National Mustang Association, of Utah, The Humane Society of the United States and the Northern Nevada Correctional Center to obtain the materials.
As new information is available on the progress of the shade structures, BLM will post updates to www.blm.gov/whb
Order could delay tomorrow’s sale of nearly 500 horses at Fallon Livestock Exchange
A federal court judge in Reno, NV has granted a coalition of wild horse advocacy and conservation groups a Temporary Restraining Order to block the sale of unbranded horses at a slaughter auction tomorrow in Fallon, Nevada. The groups sued to stop the sale of unbranded horses who were captured last weekend on public and tribal lands in northern Nevada, alleging that unbranded horses were likely federally-protected wild horses originating from the nearby Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Little Owyhee Herd Management Area.
The order throws into question tomorrow’s auction at the Fallon Livestock Exchange, where nearly 500 horses are sitting in pens awaiting their fate. The horses in question were rounded up by the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone tribe with approval of the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM. In response to the lawsuit filed by the public interest firm Meyer, Gltizenstein
& Crystal with local counsel Gordon B. Cowan on behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, its founding organization Return to Freedom, The Cloud Foundation, the Western Watersheds Project and advocate Laura Leigh, U.S.
District Court Judge Miranda M. Du found:
“Plaintiffs have shown serious questions that wild horses were improperly rounded up during the gather from August 11-13, 2013. Plaintiffs have demonstrated an immediate threat of irreparable harm if the status quo is not maintained, that is the sale of wild horses and their possible slaughter. The public interest is served when the Court maintains the status quo to
ensure wild horses are not improperly removed and auctioned for sale to potentially be slaughtered because of an agency action.”
Du's TRO prohibits the sale of all unbranded horses at tomorrow's slaughter auction until the hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, August 21, 2013.
“Judge Du has stepped in to do what the federal government refused to do: act to prevent federally protected wild horses from being sold at a slaughter auction,” said Suzanne Roy, Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. “We are grateful for this federal court decision, but remain outraged by the federal government’s complicity in this dirty operation that has sentenced hundreds of horses to horrific deaths at slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico.”
“Like the nearly 170 horses that I rescued from this livestock auction three years ago, many of these horses are wild horses who were removed from federal lands. They were denied federal protection under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and the judge has taken a stand for all those mares, foals, yearlings and mature stallions who are a day away from being sold to kill buyers and sent to slaughter,” said Ellie Phipps Price, AWHPC supporter and owner of the renowned Durell Vineyard in Sonoma, California. “The tribes and the U.S. government need to choose birth control for wild horses over roundup and slaughter.”
"We want to get to the bottom of this and understand how wild horses may have been compromised through stealth negotiations between the federal government and the tribe,” said Neda DeMayo, President of Return to Freedom. “It is the legal
responsibility of the Forest Service and the BLM to preserve and protect wild horses on our public lands. When wild horses roam outside of their designated Herd Management Areas, it should be the concern of these agencies to return them to their rangelands- not support covert horse trading deals sending wild horses to auction and slaughter.”
"I wish we could save them all," states Ginger Kathrens, noted wildlife filmmaker and Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. "I hope this ruling sends a message to the Forest Service --business as usual is a thing of the past. I'd like to thank my caring colleagues and our our attorneys for their tireless work to save our wild horses."
Photographs of the horses show hundreds of mares and foals, along with yearlings and adults crammed into pens at the stockyard.
For more information, please see:
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, founded in 2004 by Return toFreedom, is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.
Return to Freedom is dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity and habitat of America’s wild horses through sanctuary, education and conservation, while enriching the human spirit through direct experience with the natural world. Return to Freedom provides a safe haven to over 300 wild horses and burros at its sanctuary in Santa Barbara, California and in Nevada where the group is planning to create a larger wild horse preserve.
The Cloud Foundation, Inc., a 501c(3) charity named for the wild stallion, Cloud, is dedicated to the preservation of wild horses and burros on public lands with special emphasis on isolated, genetically unique herds like Cloud’s in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.
Western Watersheds Project is a non-profit conservation group dedicated to protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation. The group works to influence and improve public lands management in 8 western states with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250,000,000 acres of western public lands.
Laura Leigh is the founder of Wild Horse Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting America’s wild herds
from roundup, slaughter and extinction.
The Obama Administration has said repeatedly that it opposes horse slaughter. But actions speak louder than words. What’s happening now in Nevada suggests that the Administration — through its federal agencies — is actually complicit in sending horses to a slaughter auction.
This notice of a livestock auction — which is frequented by kill buyers
who purchase horses and transport them to slaughterhouses in Canada or Mexico — tipped us off that the Feds were up to something. 700 horses don’t just appear out of nowhere, so we did some digging.
And we discovered this back room deal between the U.S. Forest Service and
an Indian tribe to spend our tax dollars to capture wild horses and deliver them to the slaughter auction despite the stated opposition of the Administration to horse slaughter.
Under this arrangement, there is no way to distinguish between unbranded horses owned by the tribe from unbranded horses who are wild and protected under federal law.
The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have a legal responsibility under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act to ensure that protected wild horses on federal lands do not end up being slaughtered. In this case, the feds have admitted that horses were herded off public lands (green and light brown above) and due to the close proximity of the capture area to a BLM Herd Management Area, we believe that many of the captured horses are federally protected wild horses.
What they didn’t tell us was that the tribe executed the roundup anyways! Now there are 417 wild horses awaiting their fate at the slaughter auction. Kill buyers are already lining up to purchase these horses and truck them to slaughterhouses in Canada or Mexico.
>>> Click Here to Read More.
The National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley
The public is invited to join the Wild Horse and Burro Program to brainstorm possible strategies for the increased comfort of wild horses and burros at the BLM's Palomino Valley National Wild Horse and Burro Center preparation and adoption facility. The workshop will be held in Reno, Nev., and as a webinar.
Date: August 6, 2013
Time: 5:30 - 9:00 p.m. PST
Location: Reno City Council Chamber
Address: 1 East First Street, Reno, Nev. 89501
Webinar link: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/412191850
>>.Click here for the Agenda
>> Click here for the Workshop Materials
Tours of the Palomino Valley Center facility will be conducted on Aug. 6, prior to the workshop from 2-4 p.m. for 30 minutes starting on the half hour. For more information, including directions, click here.