Laura Leigh

Sheldon NWR Allows “Observation Day”

Sheldon horses awaiting shipment from Virgin Valley

Sheldon horses awaiting shipment from Virgin Valley

(Denio, NV) October 24, 2013 Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge (managed under the United States Fish and Wildlife Service) allowed “observation” of the approximately 100 horses held in Virgin Valley. Approximately 415 horses were removed from the range in early September in a highly controversial roundup that removed half the population with eradication of the herds planned in 2014. (Exact numbers were not offered as “litigation” is now used to withhold information. Note that litigation does not interfere with BLM, it is actually creating inroads to dialogue).

The original tour had been cancelled due to the government shutdown. Horses continued to ship to contractors during that time. It is believed that there are three loads left to ship, but which contractors would receive the horses still at the facility was unknown by the tour giver. (It is “assumed” that the two loads of mares will go to Carr’s in Tennessee and the load of geldings will go to J&S Associates of Mississippi).

Photo taken on the Sheldon Refuge during the roundup. Where will he end up?

Photo taken on the Sheldon Refuge during the roundup. Where will he end up?

Sheldon sits to the North, South and East of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. In 2010 Sheldon entered into an agreement for wild horse management with the BLM in what was called the “Tri-State Calico Complex.” At the time it was hailed by then Director of Sheldon Paul Steblien and BLM Winnemucca district manager Gene Seidlitz as a breakthrough to managing horses “across the landscape.”

Next year Sheldon plans to remove all of the horses from the refuge. When asked what would be done when horses cross in from BLM land (after Sheldon removes all of their horses), “Would Sheldon round them up or BLM?” the answer was that “had not been determined.”

This begs a serious question as to the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) announced this past spring as actually being “comprehensive.” It also brings into question the exact nature of the “Tri-state” Complex beyond it creating a more complicated system of creating an answer to any question. If the horses are removed from Sheldon then it is logical to assume that the horses would then be BLM horses and afforded at least minimal protection under law.

The observation day came after litigation was filed against Sheldon NWR for lack of access and for sending horses to a contractor (J&S Associates of Mississippi) that had shown to place horses in jeopardy of slaughter (this information came after a member of the public notified Sheldon of the issues and then the majority of the concerns were confirmed by Sheldon’s own investigation). The Temporary Restraining Order was denied by the court. However mentioned in the court order was Sheldon’s “observation day.” The denial also stated that historic access was not shown as “adopters and volunteers” were not deemed “public.” The case itself is still active.

“I saw less than 25% of the horses captured from the range,” stated Leigh “the area where I was allowed to observe from easily could have been afforded immediately after capture, during sorting or loading. All I can assess is that horses were eating and drinking on October 24th. If this type of observation were allowed after capture there would be a lot less questions left over about how Sheldon handles horses and many of the horses would have been seen by the public already assisting contractors with adoptions. It is a real shame that such limited access was afforded when it does not have to be such a fight. If what we are all concerned about is appropriate care and placement, then why is there so little transparency?”


Please note the distribution of horses leaving Sheldon: 120 to Carr’s of Tennessee (a contractor for more than a decade), Strecker 40 (under MOU with no payment),  J&S Associates 252 (will receive $293,000 in payment)

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