Reprint from Horseback Magazine
all photos copyright Laura Leigh
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held a “public tour” at the Indian Lakes (Broken Arrow) short-term holding facility in Fallon. Unlike other short-term facilities this facility is “off-limits” to the public except for a couple of days a year.
After the Calico Roundup of 2009/2010 the BLM ceased public tours claiming that the facility was privately contracted and they did not have to open the doors to public scrutiny. Investigation into the closure of the facility did reveal the contract did have weekly public tours as part of the signed, completed contract. The real reason the facility was closed was revealed in email records of the written request to close the facility as “damage being done to the reputation” of BLM staff.
Images published after the weekly tours revealed serious issues at the facility. Each week images portrayed injuries, design flaws and even a foal that was born at the facility that apparently starved to death.
Throughout the winter of 2010/2011 the facility was utilized as intake for animals from various roundups including the Eagle HMA in Ely Nevada.
The Eagle roundup was particularly brutal. Temperatures, as operations began in the morning, went as low as 12 degrees below zero. Freezing fog was often present at dawn. A young horse was seen to stumble three times as its family was driven to the trap.
That horse was sent to Indian Lakes (Broken Arrow). After following the truck from the range to the facility access was denied to observe the horse at Broken Arrow. Inquiries to the BLM insisted that the animal was fine yet that week 4 horses of a similar age died of injury and others of respiratory distress.
After Calico the entire time the facility was used for intake of horses from the range the facility remained off-limits to view.
After Litigation was filed in an attempt to gain access to report to the public about the hands-on care and disposition of animals the BLM offered a public tour last summer. The tour this year was done in the same fashion.
The public was “checked in and briefed.” John Neil (manager of Palomino Valley Center and BLM manager of Indian Lakes) and Heather Emmons (BLM public affairs) were the personnel that were in the cab of the pick up truck that pulled the wagon that held the public.
The members of the public in attendance were varied. Two journalists, two advocates, a family that came to “see the wild horses” and a young girl participating in the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s youth challenge (she had her father and two friends with her. (An additional story will be filed on this young girl’s story).
Horses from roundups from the last two years and three different states are stored at the facility. Animals from the 2009/2010 Calico roundup were present. Also at the facility were animals from Triple B, Owyhee, Callaghan, Eagle, Silver King, Twin Peaks and several other HMA’s. Many of these animals have been housed at this facility for over two years. As the facility is off-limits to public view there are no adoptions.
During the tour Neil did inform the public that the facility will no longer be used as intake for animals taken from the range. This does not represent a policy and could change if space is required. Palomino Valley Center in Sparks will be used for intake and after a few months animals will be sent to Indian Lakes as an overflow facility. This option allows the public a couple of brief months to see animals after they come off the range toward generating interest in the sagging adoption program.
The facility held approximately 2,500 animals. The majority of animals appeared in good weight and coat.
Hoof care is done in a rotational fashion. Serious overgrowth in the row that was next on the schedule was noted. As the public is severely restricted access there is no way to know if this is a “one time” occurrence or status quo.
Hospital pens were off limits just as they were during the two tour days offered last year.
BLM staff was pleasant and frequently interacted with the public.
If you want to attend the public tour BLM is offering another opportunity on April 27.
From the BLM website:
April 27 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The tours can each accommodate up to 30 people and will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. The public can sign up to attend and get driving directions to the facility by calling the BLM at (775) 475-2222. There will be 2 tours per day offered for 1 ½ hours each: one at 11 a.m. and one at 12:30 p.m. Each tour can hold a maximum of 15 people.