Almost 200,000 miles ago… Owyhee then and now

BLM map of the Owyhee Complex


The Owyhee roundup of wild horses by the Bureau of Land Management begins today, November 26, 2012. The Record of Decision (ROD) was signed on October 18.

The ROD states: “The Owyhee Complex consists of approximately 1,055,023 total acres, but the gather area consists of approximately 2,047,281 acres, which encompasses additional lands where wild horses are residing outside of the Owyhee Complex.”

Currently the BLM roundup schedule is a bit of a moving target. Space in holding is extremely limited and districts had to compete for a place on the schedule. Snowstorm (HMA), part of this Complex, has been “cancelled” saying that animals were not in declining condition. However Little Owyhee has a roundup of 858 horses with a removal of 544 and Owyhee lists 141 with removal of 50.

How many will BLM actually remove?

It is hard to say. Just a couple of weeks ago the Wassuk roundup was completed. They targeted 500 with 250 to be released and the agency claimed conditions were too bad on the range and released none.

This removal operation begins in just a few hours.

Yet for me Owyhee began in June of 2010, almost 200,000 miles ago.

The Owyhee desert is a vast arid place of sheer classic desert beauty. In the spring and summer months new foals hit the ground. BLM planned a removal operation in the middle of a secluded desert, with a trap situated on private property, closing public land… to begin July 1, 2010.

I had already looked into the eyes of an eight month old Calico colt as he suffered hoof slough (feet falling off) and I was terrified for the babies in that desert.

We filed a lawsuit.

The Judge granted a TRO and we had a hearing. BLM claimed that 75% of the horses would die in three days if the Judge granted my motion to stop the roundup and hear the merits of a foaling season claim. The ink was wet on the document, the first to claim a water emergency, as the day of the hearing.

The Judge on that case allowed BLM to proceed with the roundup but said the land closure was unconstitutional and that BLM needed to do all it could to provide access to document.

A crazy cat and mouse game ensued. In an unprecedented, alleged, emergency situation in the history of the wild horse and burro program, BLM allowed not a single horse to be seen taken from the range. Not one horse was witnessed by the public being driven, trapped or held at Owyhee, not one.

BLM claimed there was no water animals could access in the South fork, a lie. BLM failed to tell the public that it shot horses on the range until the bodies were discovered. BLM failed to tell the Judge their alleged emergency was only in a minute area of the HMA. BLM used a single trap site to roundup the entire HMA, over 30 miles at one point to the trap.

But that location allowed total secrecy. They even went so far as to stop us at a road block to keep us from viewing temporary holding.

What were they hiding?

This video was shown to me as we prepared for court. Is it that far off from the truth? Watch both videos and compare.

I was offered “red carpet” access to roundups. However, I could not bring any other org or individual. I turned the offer down.

Instead, I went on to craft another case addressing that issue and we won in the Ninth Circuit and the issue of transparency is very much alive today in Federal Court.

BLM only allowed two days of observation in Rock Creek (South Owyhee/Tuscarora). On one day the claimed route, for 75 horses, was over 25 miles and through two fences. A feat they accomplished in one run under 45 minutes

I don’t know what to expect this time…. so you can imagine what is going through my mind.

We are also starting operations on the Winnemucca side. Winnemucca is where Jackson Mountain was this past summer… where again the agency attempted to use a small emergent situation to remove horses, this time during June, throughout the entire HMA.

Jackson Mountain 2012 had an ineffective Appendix added to the Record of Decision for humane handling, lawsuit filed (and won by WHE) to hold the agency accountable to it’s own policy on foaling season

That roundup was horrible. Watching those tiny babies run was heartbreaking knowing that no special protocol was in place to even set boundaries to attempt to ensure their safety.

But this time was different, we stopped them in court and held them to only the portion of actual issue. We had to hold BLM to their own policy.

Owyhee begins again today…. yet for me it began over two years ago….


Excerpt from “Art and Horses,” the old blog I used to keep.

originally posted on August 2, 2010

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.

Is what the field manager describing to me possible in less than 30 minutes time? Check the map below and 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.

Map of Rock Creek (Compare to map in video)

Categories: Owyhee, Roundups, Uncategorized