Reposted from Laura Leigh’s Blog
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
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 Grass Roots council Gordon Cowan, “Our country is based on very sound principals that ensure democracy continues and our case will be heard.”
by Gordon Cowan, Nevada lawyer, 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:
Work to do…
So much work to do.
The Contempt case filed in reference to the events that occured at Owyhee is still sitting on the Judges desk awaiting a response from the BLM. But I’m not sitting still. Even more information is coming to light and it is being readied for presentation.
But the case still needs support and the attorney is still spending “billable hours.”
General and the Boyz are in the care of Return to Freedom and we should have an update from them soon. http://www.ReturnToFreedom.org
Calico Mares updates will come through Elyse Gardner and Dream Catchers (her project) and from what I understand there is a new baby in that group.
Me….? I’m researching and putting thousands more miles under me. Working on many fronts…
Yes, the last two months have been hectic but productive. The effects of the concussion are finally wearing off…. but I still have a lump on my face that may never go away. At least it’s not another big scar.
Say a prayer that the Judge will actually allow this case to hit the coutroom.
The time is way overdue for a forum for accountability.
Hang on… if you thought the ride got bumpy this last week, just wait… buckle up!
Soap Opera part II
This one picks up after Miller stops in the first video…
oh and there will be more. Here is part II…
Video footage by Elyse. Edit by Laura.
I don’t know if you can see the number of times I bite my lip… for many reasons. There had been a lot of conversations over the previous days that covered an awful lot of information that needs to be repeated and repeated.
There is no way I believe the assertions that came forth in court, no way. But if they were true they actually created an even greater desire to bring info to the public. I was completely precluded from bringing any information except that they were willing to go through an awful lot of trouble to keep advocate eyes out of a place they never expected them.
Much more to come…
On top of the bruises we drove all night the day after Court to get out there. I’m surprised I’m coherent! (OK, so I’m entitled to complain a bit).
If you like Soap Opera…
The right side of my face and right eye are really swollen and bruised (ok, I’m entitled to a “vanity” moment every now and then).
But listen to this if you like soap opera tales. Struggling with editing on a PC with very little umph… bear with me.
First Episode in “How Many government employees does it take to stop three women in the desert from seeing a single wild horse gathered in Owyhee? Part 1,” or “Can you believe this cr*p?”
Call Congress, call the President, call your local media.
This needs to STOP now.
I am still waiting to see if the Judge is going to listen…
You all know the story out in Owyhee.
Two years to plan a gather. Last year grazing leases were reissued and a round up called off.
This year they declare an emergency after a court case was filed. They were out there in May and never declared any such emergency. The day of court they create a document claiming 75% of horses would be dead if the judge granted my order.
Yet they did not tell the judge the alleged emergency was finite.
They then played a cat and mouse game with my First Amendment rights. Not a single horse from the Owyhee HMA was witnessed.
Then they played a game using the same two observation days planned pre-lawsuit to say they were complying with the court.
I saw less than 100 horses rounded up from the 1400 (that’s the number Ken Miller testified to in front of the state Legislature on Friday in Ely).
Here is the first day of activity:
I apologize for the camera shake but I had to shoot through the jute and many of the “observers” were rather inconsiderate of those with cameras and the jute was often pulled on.
If you tube doesn’t work I’ll check bugs later. I have to run……. more work to do.
I forgot to add this map. (too much to do)
Anyway, note fences. Is it possible that the BLM misleads? Or just doesn’t have the information? The guy in the video that says he “hasn’t been up there,” is the field offfice manager.
Trying my best.
I have spent over a week trying to get access to any of the activity in Tuscarora. Owyhee is over and went without witness. Little Humboldt is over with one day of observation (sort of). Rock Creek is under way, so far one day of any type of observation. Much less than in the past.
There are many rumors out there including folks claiming they are in on the case. Any “donate” button on their website linked to a legal fund will not go to the appropriate place. Grass Roots Horse is the only place to assist that effort.
I will write up what I have seen, and the convoluted way I came to see it, soon.
In the meantime know I am trying…
Hang in there…
Hang in there…
I’m trying my best to deal with the convoluted path we all know so well when dealing with this agency known as the Bureau of Land Management.
We all know too well the lack of avenues that are clear to hold this system to any standard of accountability for their actions. But I’m trying…
This country was based on principles to safeguard right of “the people,” not just the “rich” people.
As we fight for the voiceless, our amazing wild horses that stand as a symbol of that bravery and freedom, we create our own voice.
Please keep calling the White House hotline:
Call your Senators and Congressional representatives. Call the media… talk to people and tell them what is happening to Our public land.
The adoption event now has a coordinator to deal with the extra hoops we need to jump. She is dealng with those issues and we will have info later tonight.
and a prayer can’t hurt.