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Laura Leigh loves horses. They have held a special place in her heart since childhood. Laura has been involved in anti-slaughter issues for more than two decades. Leigh has attended more roundups than any other observer including government personnel in the last four years. Her videography has been seen on CNN, NBC, BBC, PBS and her photography in many print venues, she holds press credentials through Horseback Magazine. Wild Horse Education was created to gain protections from abuse, slaughter and extinction for our beloved wild horses and burros.

BLM sends wild horses to kill-buyer

Secretary of the Interior threatens reporter “I’m gonna punch you out,” as press freedoms case readies for hearing

Yesterday evening a Colorado 9News aired audio tape of the Secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI), Ken Salazar, threatening journalist Dave Philipps, representing the Colorado Springs Gazette at the event, with violence.

“You know what, you can never do that. This is the Obama… you know what, if you do that again, I’m going to punch you out,” Salazar is heard telling reporter Dave Philipps in an audio recording released by the Gazette Tuesday.

Dave Philipps recently broke a story about an investigation into the Bureau of Land Management’s(an agency under the DOI) wild horse and burro program. The investigation showed that despite the agencies denial that they ship horses to slaughter more than 1,700 were sold to kill-buyer that has a personal relationship with the Secretaries family.

The article published by Philipps includes information about the kill-buyer, Tom Davis, and his relationship with Salazar. “When my dad was alive we farmed their land,” Davis said of the Salazar family. “I like them. I do business with them. I do quite a bit of trucking for Ken.”

Philipps had been trying to gain a response from the Secretary on the wild horse and burro program for months.

Photo taken during the only highly controlled hour and a half of public visitation allowed at Broken Arrow in the last year (2011)

Wild Horse Education (WHE) assisted journalist Philips in the investigation that led to the piece first published in ProPublica.

Last month A Federal Judge set a hearing date for a “press freedoms” case brought against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for February 19, 2013. That case won a landmark “win” for journalists and wild horse advocates last February in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as the stated the Court stated “The free press is the guardian of the public interest, and the independent judiciary is the guardian of the free press.”

The Plaintiff in the case, Laura Leigh founder of Wild Horse Education and special projects journalist for Horseback Magazine, began to address the issues of access to handling and caring for wild horses by the agency after her photographs garnered the agency public criticism and they began to restrict her access. Access was restricted physically to photograph wild horses and information about their whereabouts in the system. The case addresses the access to horses and burros from “capture through ultimate disposition;” wether that be adoption, sale authority or death.

“Attempts at gaining access to animals marked for ‘sale authority’ and vulnerable to slaughter was almost impossible,” stated Plaintiff Leigh, “facilities were kept off limits and any attempt made to document individual animals throughout the process of government housing were impeded or refused. Attempts to assess animals at roundup sites has become akin to a ‘cat and mouse game.”

Leigh spends all of her time researching and following animals on the range and in facilities. She met Philipps at a roundup in the remote regions of the Nevada desert last February and the relationship began. Leigh says the attention gained in the public eye as a result of the investigation is “encouraging.” Her organization is asking that the public demand a full investigation into the practices of BLM.

“This agency can not be allowed to hide the truth of their actions and must be held accountable,” states Leigh “from sale authority to range management, BLM must be transparent and accountable to the American public and to Congress.”

Tom Davis, the kill-buyer, is now the subject of a federal investigation being handled by the U.S. Department of Interior Office of Inspector General.

Officials with the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Brand Inspection Division have turned the case involving Tom Davis over to the district attorney in Alamosa for prosecution.

“I guess we need to wait and see if the investigation will actually address the disease and not just a symptom,” said Leigh “The American public deserves to see those in BLM that are responsible held accountable and our President needs to deal with ‘transparency’ and Salazar. It’s time.”

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These cases, investigations and supporting documentation, are supported solely by Wild Horse Education, a registered Nevada non-profit.  http://wildhorseeducation.org

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