Standoff Obstructs Pioneering Effort For Wild Horses


Colt being pushed by helicopter after being separated from its family

Note to our readers: The last several days have been intense. As newborn foals and very pregnant mares were run, we watched as the UC Davis CAWP (Comprehensive Animal Welfare) team began to try to find a mechanism to monitor humane care. While they were busy trying to “figure that out,” we immediately engaged the BLM on the ground (district and state) and they agreed to call the roundup short of the target goal of 500 wild horses for humane reasons (other factors were discussed) and the roundup was ended.

Newborn separated from it's family

Newborn separated from its family

The contractor attempted to confront Laura Leigh during a visit to holding. Leigh refused to engage and walked away.  As horses were literally getting ready to be released back to the wild, the County of Eureka filed an IBLA Appeal in concert with trespass rancher Kevin Borba.  Borba has an allotment that overlaps the HMA.

The Appeal to the EA, by the ranchers and county, is asking that all horses captured be removed permanently from the range. The claim parrots the NACO suit ( filed by the Nevada Association of Counties and the Nevada Farm Bureau that demands wild horses be removed and even destroyed. 

WHE will be filing against their Appeal. 

Trespass rancher Kevin Borba showed up at holding with support from the county and confronted a BLM ranger, saying “You are not shipping horses today,” (meaning returning them to the range). As the contractor chatted with ranching pals that also showed up at holding, BLM Rangers stood between them and the horses at the holding corrals, and the contractor trucks that would have released horses were no where in sight (coordinated much?). 

The contractor has claimed that allowing the press to photograph wild horses in capture and holding pens is too dangerous for the horses. However, the contractor once again allowed discriminatory access and allowed a ranching rag, and a member of the ranching public, to approach and even photograph wild horses through the snow fencing.

BLM is preparing to address the Appeal by the ranching community. Wild horses apparently must be removed from the contractors corrals. However BLM does not want to complete the release plan until an IBLA Judge rules.

Wild horses, studs and mares treated with a fertility vaccine, were shipped to BLM holding facilities today. Instead of humanely holding the horses where they were, they were loaded onto a semi to await the court ruling. It appears that the conversations with the contractor and BLM somehow came up with this as being “safe.”

Borba in trespass 2014

Borba in trespass 2014

We have been trying to inform the public about the brewing conditions on the range. Pressure from sage grouse and drought has created an atmosphere where public land ranchers, that have traditionally been the “spoiled children” of our public land policy, have been trying to position themselves to maintain that control. Wild horses have always been a favorite scapegoat. In this area where we have a rancher with a 4 month permit that ran cattle all year long… we are seriously wondering if the livestock industry really wants this rancher to become this year’s “poster child” for public land ranchers. Think about it.

At Fish Creek, BLM was actually trying to do the “right thing” and comply with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and gather data to create justified management strategies (HMAP) and create a real “AML” (based on genetics and hard data) while slowing population growth.

This is the type of push back we can expect against anything that might begin to drag an ancient system into this century by those that are used to being catered to or else they resort to bully tactics (with help from local and state politicians). The line was very clear out there. The Battle Mountain district of the BLM was trying to do the “right thing” and the “black hats” all lined up once again to “blame the horses.”

We are preparing our next action. Stay tuned….  


Trespass Permittee Kevin Borba telling a BLM Ranger, “You are not releasing horses today.”

Stand off in the Sagebrush Obstructs Pioneering Efforts for Wild Horses

PESS RELEASE (Eureka, NV, February 21, 2015)  On February 13, 2015, the wild horse roundup began on the Fish Creek Herd Management Area in Eureka, Nevada. After six days, 424 horses were captured. Plans to release 186 wild horses back onto their range Saturday morning are being blocked in a stand off on Highway 50.

Eureka County Commission has filed an IBLA appeal (Interior Board of Land Appeals) on behalf of livestock rancher Kevin Borba. Borba has a grazing permit on the Herd Management Area (HMA). Eureka County Commission is demanding that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ship all the horses to the government holding facility in Palomino Valley, Nevada. BLM’s intent is to proceed with their gather plan as published which includes the release of the horses.

For now, 197 horses await an uncertain fate pending a review of the appeal filed by Eureka County with the IBLA.

The result of a 2013 national public survey revealed that seventy –two percent of Americans want wild horses protected as living symbols of our western heritage.

Borba, a fairly recent transplant from California, is not new to media attention. In April 2014, he was a very vocal supporter of “trespass cattle rancher” Cliven Bundy. Borba, also in trespass by grazing his cattle without paying his grazing lease fees, rallied supporters for Bundy on guerilla media, while claiming to be a victim of the federal government himself.

The groundbreaking Fish Creek Management Plan, now in jeopardy, calls for the release of 186 horses back onto their range with 104 of the mares now treated with a non-hormonal contraceptive vaccine. The Fish Creek Management Plan is designed around recommendations released in 2013 by the National Academy of Sciences after a two-year study commissioned by the National BLM Program Office for over $1 million and funded by the American taxpayer. The progressive management plan is the result of a ten-year management strategy. The plan was forged to support fiscally responsible humane and effective methods to minimize the unsustainable capture and warehousing of wild horses. The plan also incorporates data collection as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences findings, such as identifying genetic health, seasonal movement, impact to herd structure, and range-use patterns.

The unique environment at the Fish Creek Herd Management Area encompasses 230,000 square acres and will be the largest area for native PZP contraception to be used as part of an on-going study in on-the-range management. The herd is an extremely healthy and diverse population of wild horses, including the largest population of rare Curlys, which make up 16% of the herd. The horses are caught in the middle of the ongoing historic battle between the federal government and public land ranchers. Borba and his fellow public land ranchers dismiss the impact of the four-year drought when faced with livestock grazing restrictions dictated by the federal government.

Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education, a supporter of the Fish Creek Management Plan, has been on site throughout the roundup and will volunteer to help with the adoption of the 232 younger horses removed from the range. “I have been documenting the Fish Creek range and this herd for years, as well as the trespass cattle here. We finally have a fair and sane management plan that makes sense for today. To lose ground in a stand off reminiscent of an old Western movie will be a giant step backwards,” Leigh said.

Tragically, as drought continues to impact rangelands and wilderness areas across the west, ranchers target the wild horses for removal even when they are outnumbered by livestock an average of thirty-five to one. Ironically, the public land rancher clings to a sense of ownership of our public lands, rooted in a culture that is disappearing along with our wild horses. BLM estimates 45 million acres of Nevada’s public land is available for livestock grazing.

An estimated 25,000 wild horses and burros currently exist on under 16 million acres of Nevada’s public lands, which they share with between 240,000 – 480,000 livestock. The systematic removals of wild horses and burros currently accounts for 48,000 wild horses and burros in government holding facilities, costing taxpayers almost $70 million annually.

Wild Horse Education (WHE) educates the public about the plight of wild horses and burros and works to end the inhumane treatment of these heritage animals through a scientifically based management strategy in the wild.

~~~~ Wild Horse Education will continue to monitor the situation, track horses into holding and report on other issues arising with our wild horses and burros in the West. Please help us stay in this fight. If action is required by the public we will immediately inform you. At this time we are looking into all options and preparing a strategy.

Categories: BLM, Lead, Roundup Reality