Wild Horse Education

UTAH: Not Above The Law?

US Attorney’s Office charges 5 people, including a Utah County Commissioner, Phil Lyman.

Reuters article By Jennifer Dobner

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors in Utah filed criminal charges on Wednesday against five men who allegedly organized and led an all-terrain vehicle protest ride into a red-rock desert canyon closed to motorized use by federal land managers.

About 300 protesters participated in the May ride through Recapture Canyon, where officials are trying to protect numerous Native American archaeological sites including ancient rock art, dwellings and other artifacts.

The demonstration near the southeastern Utah community of Blanding was part of a push-back by protesters against federal control of public lands across the West.

To read the rest of the article and to read comments go here: http://news.yahoo.com/five-face-federal-charges-over-ride-protected-utah-225548274.html

So why is a wild horse advocacy organization interested in this article? Because wild horses and burros exist on public land where it is shared with multiple interests and many of those interests literally “want it all.” As we advocate for the preservation of wild horses and burros, knowing context can be very important as we are flooded with propaganda everywhere we look.

Utah Sulpher stallion in BLM holding after capture

Utah Sulpher stallion in BLM holding after capture

Flag waving and chest beating run rampant in the West. This past year there has hardly been a week where news media has failed to run one story or another giving the impression that there is an “uprising” in the west. From where we sit here on the range it looks a lot more like a temper tantrum.

In coming months we hope to see more “consequence” and evidence of erosion to more than just our rangelands, but to those who caused it.

Livestock has been an historic prioritized use on public land. The political connections to things like county commissioners, state legislators and federal representatives are often literally through the “bloodline.” Much has been written about the historic and current degradation of public land by livestock. You can access some of these articles at links in the following commentary: http://wildhorseeducation.org/2014/02/14/rangeland-under-fire-under-fire-editorial/

Let us start the current tantrum timeline at April of 2014 with the “Bundy” circus in Nevada near the Utah border: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/the-irony-of-cliven-bundys-unconstitutional-stand/360587/ (note: The article incorrectly states “militia” support came after a stun gun “incident.”  Militia support was being called for by extremist groups as soon as the impound notice wet out from BLM, not after the “stun gun” incident. Calls went out all over social media with a mindset that this might be the chance to start the next “American Revolution.” With the added tag of BYOG, bring your own gun, went out amid quotes from various founding fathers… a favorite being Thomas Jefferson). Very few articles actually address in any significant detail the saga of Bundy’s trespass, that includes court orders and environmental groups pushing for enforcement of the order to “get the cows off.”

Next we have Utah Congressmen Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart, completely ignoring that Bundy broke the law and had a federal court order against him, coming out in support. Of course they determine Bundy is in the right because the federal government needs to turn over control of all land to the state to protect the interests of those that live in the area. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/57905371-82/bundy-chaffetz-stewart-utah.html.csp

In an election year you can’t forget the “little guys.” Iron County in Utah also came out in support of Bundy (by attacking BLMs wild horse program) in news articles. When questioned about that support (that garnered bigger news headlines by speaking in support of Bundy) Iron county commissioner Dave Miller made several statements showing a real lack of understanding about wild horses and the BLM. You can read our interview with Miller here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/2014/04/10/wild-horses-targeted-today-in-iron-county-utah/ Livestock ranchers in these particular counties had been asked to reduce their livestock on public land during drought. The historic target of public land ranchers is to attack wild horses. The Bundy issue gave the county an opportunity to appear in “solidarity” in the media and create a huge push against the BLM through media and political pressure to fast track the removal of wild horses while pushing an agenda for states to take control of federal land. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57881862-78/horses-wild-blm-utah.html.csp

Next we have Utah officials again protesting federal authority over your public lands, wanting state control instead. San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman promoted a May 2014 ride through Recapture Canyon, a sensitive area of  historic value,  that he said was to “assert the county’s right to access federal lands, while prompting the Bureau of Land Management to reopen it to off-highway vehicles.” You can read an Op-ed by Lyman in the Desert independent in which he quotes Thoreau and Thomas Payne, and even mentions King Solomon here: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865600723/Community-space-Recaptured.html?pg=all   pictures from the rally can be seen here: http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2014/05/10/jek-ohv-riders-militia-gather-protest-blm/#.VBuWh3PC8ms

The US Attorney’s Office, as we mentioned earlier,  five people have been charged in connection with the above described “Recapture ride,” including Phil Lyman. Each count carries a potential sentence of up to one year in jail and $100,000. fine. Those charged will face U.S. Magistrate Judge Evelyn Furse October 17th.

As wild horse and burro advocates the introduction of HR 5058, the bill to completely ignore the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, should have been a clear sign that those pushing this agenda in no way recognize anything but their own interests. Representative Chris Stewart (R-Utah) introduced this bill after hearing from many who support the actions of Utah commissioners, multiple factions in Nevada and many others. You can read about 5058 and take action against it here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/2014/07/15/stop-hr-5058-now/

Some people have found a lot of this confusing. In multiple venues right now context and continuity are missing in the provocative images and statements flying around. Plain and simple this is an attempt in an election year to regain perceived power lost and to gain control over public resources managed by the federal government. But in no way does this “tantrum” represent a “movement” that is a “just cause” seeking to protect the interests of all American’s.

Unfortunately consequences rarely get the same attention as the provocative actions that caused them. We expect to see more consequences coming soon. An interesting “consequence” is an increasing awareness of American’s to the huge impact that livestock production takes on public land, all while significantly subsidized by the American tax-payer.

As wild horse and burro advocates we are often accused of being “emotional, well meaning, but uniformed.” We are accused of being sensationalistic and without all the facts. How many times have we heard livestock interests, and even BLMs PR lead in DC, attempt to discredit those advocating for fair and humane management of wild horses and burros? It is is very interesting  to have many of our assertions backed up by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). BLM is currently reviewing the NAS report and crafting a series of recommendations.

In the background on all of this? The Greater Sage Grouse. As multiple interests engage in bureaucratic gymnastics to avoid the listing of this “prairie chicken” on the endangered species list, livestock producers are repeatedly demonstrating that any effort to curtail their historic monopoly of our rangeland is likely to be an effort in frustration and futility. The plans to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list will change management practices. If the sage grouse is actually listed because the efforts fail? It will change the face of the west completely. With current emotional displays and disregard for the law and the rights of others… it makes you wonder if the “organized and well funded” livestock industry is as “organized” as was once perceived.

The playing field is changing… who is the credible force armed with real data of the range, and who is the emotional sensationalist? 

We are not looking for a headline in a newspaper… we are looking to change public land management and protect wild horses and burros … genetically viable… and with the appropriate resources to keep them wild and free.

Keep The Faith…


Wild Horse Education is devoted to gaining protections for wild horses and burros from abuse, slaughter and extinction.



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