Obama Administration Allows America's War Horses To Fall Into Slaughter Pipeline
Today we mark the service and sacrifice of our veterans, as well as our commitment to look out for them once they return to civilian life.
Lately we've been reminded that this commitment extends to the military's service animals, like the dogs who are now placed in good homes after being retired from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Unfortunately, one group of animal veterans has been forgotten. These are America's War Horses -- the horses who were used as cavalry mounts and who nobly served our country -- often giving their lives. Right now, the federal government is complicit in a shameful violation of our responsibility toward these historic and cultural icons.
The remote and rugged northwest corner of Nevada on the California-Oregon border is called "Mustang Country" because of the wild horses that have roamed there since the 1800s. Wild horses are deeply entrenched in the history of the area; on the backs of their ancestors, the West was won.
Wild horses captured from the lands that are now the Sheldon Refuge were captured and shipped overseas to serve in battle, including in the Spanish-American War and World War I. These historic animals -- whose presence on the Sheldon lands predates the creation of the refuge by at least half a century -- played a critical role in America's past.
The decedents of America's War Horses should be honored and protected. Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has turned its back on these horses, disregarding and literally disposing of them.
Historically, pressure from ranchers wanting to graze cattle on federal lands in and around Sheldon, led to an endless series of roundups that often ended tragically for Sheldon's mustangs. In 1971, the Congress unanimously passed the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, but it only applied to wild horses on Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service Lands. Sheldon's horses were left out in the cold.
In the early 1990s cattle grazing was eliminated from the refuge and the Sheldon range rebounded. Today, forage is lush and plentiful, the antelope population (the primary species that the refuge was created to protect) is larger than ever, and the wild horses and burros are fit, healthy and strong.
But the roundups continue. In 2012, despite thousands of Americans sending in comments urging protection of the Sheldon wild horses and burros, the FWS turned their backs on the public and America's War Horses by pushing forward with a new plan to eradicate these animals within five years.
A year later, the assault on Sheldon's wild herds began. Between September 9 to 14, a helicopter stampede captured 415 wild horses. Despite public opposition and a federal lawsuit, refuge officials proceeded to turn 252 of these horses over to a government contractor, Stan Palmer of J&S Associates in Mississippi, who is supposed to find them "quality" and "long-term" homes.
The problem is, the FWS's government contract with Palmer is vague and today the FWS is unable to verify the whereabouts of as many as 202 of 262 wild horses previously placed with Palmer between 2010 and 2012. The agency's own investigation found that "a bunch" of these horses were sold at a livestock auction, where kill buyers often purchase horses for shipment to slaughter.
As one legitimate Mississippi horse rescue person put it, "You can't even find a home for a good riding horse in Mississippi. What do you think Stan Palmer is going to do with hundreds of wild, untamed Nevada mustangs?"
The answer appeared in a Facebook post by one of Palmer's employees stating:
"we do government contacting (sic) to take in wild horses and give them homes. These are not branded or tattooed mustangs. They are simply wild horses. We are not aloud (sic) to sell them. you show up with your trailer and load em up... when they leave my house they are no longer my business."Days later, horses were hauled away by the trailer load.
It's the kind of situation that fuels cynicism about government spending and waste. Since 2010, the federal government has paid Palmer nearly $1 million in taxpayer dollars to take wild Nevada mustangs and give them away in Mississippi. This benefits the government in one way: by laundering the horses through a middleman, the FWS avoids the political heat that would result from taking them directly to a slaughter auction.
Sadly, the arrangement does not benefit American taxpayers or these defenseless horses, who just over two months ago, were roaming wild and free. Nearly 20,000 citizens have contacted Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about this travesty, and thousands have written to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has direct oversight over FWS refuges. But Washington does not seem to care.
On this Veterans Day, while Washington looks the other way, America's War Horses are literally being sent into the slaughter pipeline.
The Obama administration and Congress have turned their backs on America's War Horses despite polls that show Americans reject horse slaughter and support protecting and preserving wild horses on the western range. This Veterans Day please remember the sacrifices of all veterans, including the tens of thousands of horses who tirelessly served this country, and their descendants, who today are forgotten and literally thrown away.
Source: The Huffington Post by Suzanne Roy, Campaign Director for American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign
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
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.
MONTH / yEAR