At Wild Horse Education (WHE) we are known for our documentation of wild horse roundups. Our founder Laura Leigh was the first to bring daily observation of removals into the public eye (even before the government began using social media). Leigh’s work has appeared in many media venues including Travel Chanel, NBC, CNN and multiple news sources online and in print. This documentation was also used to create multiple court orders against inhumane conduct. In fact those court orders are the first, and only orders, against inhumane treatment in the history of the Act. WHE has the largest single collection of first hand documentation in the world of wild horse removals over the last five years. The arduous task of following literally tens of thousands of wild horses during capture, in the weather extremes of the desert, has proven it’s value time and time again. (Some of the articles on the fight to gain a humane care policy can be found here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/?s=humane)
However WHE does much more than take pictures at roundups (and take action on addressing issues uncovered through that documentation). WHE continually documents the ranges where wild horses and burros live and the various herds that occupy those ranges. Our “mode of operation” is the same when we document on the range, “We don’t just take pictures, we act.”
When dealing with wild horses on the range we are dealing with the very heart of the wild horse and burro program. Every issue that our our treasured wild ones are embroiled in traces back to issues of “on the range management.” Overcrowded holding facilities and the multiple issues of care within them. An adoption program that fails to promote wild horses as the treasures they are and can not keep up with the pace of removal. Policies that favor special interest groups like livestock and mining that fail to recognize the needs of preserving wild horses as intended under law. All of these issues go back to a lack of specific data required to manage wild horses appropriately on the range.
Our work in this area tends to be an abstract for the public to grasp. Wild horses and burros exist in a multiple layered public lands protocol that has been manipulated for decades to suit the needs of other uses, but not protection of wild horses and burros. The conversations become mired in layers of political plays and government “speak” that can leave a “horse loving public” frustrated.
However there have been victories that simply illustrate why this work is vital.
When we can afford to get out to the range and create documentation we have opportunity to engage the system through conversation or the courtroom. Armed with site specific information we can work towards gaining a “best outcome” for the preservation of wild herds in the wild.
Snowstorm: A part of an over 1 million acre wild horse management complex in northern Nevada our documentation proved vital. A removal was proposed and initiated. We attempted to engage conversations using our information. The conversations broke down so we filed in court. The removal was immediately cancelled. If you look back at that event you can see how our ability to engage, and create sound recommendation, kept the wild horses of Snowstorm free on the range. However we expect this conversation to continue and become more complex in the coming year. We must be able to continue to engage with the same type of data we had in the past. (Info on the cancelled removal here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/snowstorm-owyhee/)
Diamond: The Diamond Complex was “ground zero” for the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) legal action against wild horses. After livestock restrictions began in 2012 due to drought the suit was born in what can only be called retaliation. The suit has been defeated at the federal district level. However the counties and Farm Bureau are now appealing the Judges ruling into the Ninth Circuit. Being “on the ground” has given us the unique opportunity to address the claims in this suit to destroy wild horses. Our documentation is a record of the pounding our public land has taken from domestic livestock and the cost to wild horses. We must be able to continue that work. (Some info on NACO can be found here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/?s=NACO)
Jackson Mountain: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) declared an emergency removal at Jackson Mountain in June, during foaling season. Our documentation won an important precedent in court at Jackson. Not only issues of conduct that failed to take measures into account to protect newborn foals were at issue, so was the basis for a Herd Management Area (HMA) wide removal. The court held that BLM could not use a small area of “emergency” to justify a broad scale removal. That victory may very well become a crucial one as we move into a fourth year of drought with increasing pressure to remove wild horses in a broad scale from the livestock industry. If we had not been “on the ground” we could not have won this vital building block. (some links to issues surrounding the fight at Jackson Mountain: http://wildhorseeducation.org/?s=Jackson+Mountain)
Trespass Livestock: When on the range we document everything. The basic existence of wild horses and burros on the range relies on the “land they now stand” as outlined by the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Forage, water and the accountability to sustaining those resources is vital. Public land livestock producers are given an outrageous allocation of public resource to the tune of about 80% of all forage even if the allotments overlap areas where wild horses are to be protected. As we work toward a more equitable equation we must begin to hold these “permittees” to the few restrictions they face under law. At Fish Creek our ability to be “on the ground” allowed us to do just that. Borba Livestock LLC had a four month permit. They ran cows all year and even created agreements to allow other livestock producers to run outside their permit terms. Now this “trespasser” has joined with Eureka county to fight the release of 183 wild horses back to the range. We are engaged in the fight to return the horses and must be able to continue this work. (Some info on trespass here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/?s=Trespass+livestock and additional info on Fish Creek here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/?s=Fish+Creek)
In April of 2015 we were able to show that the BLM criteria for determine wild horses from tribal was inadequate and stopped a repeat of wild horses going to slaughter in the “McDermitt” cooperative between BLM/FS and the tribe.
We hope the few examples above, of a much larger picture, give you a glimpse into the very real need to not only document roundups, but the range. What happens long before the sound of the helicopter blade is the most vital aspect of our ongoing work at WHE and the hardest for use to gain support for. The complexities of public land management, and the “crisis mode” of traditional media, make this the hardest aspect of what we do to educate and inform the public to it’s necessity.
We are in process of creating an itinerary of escalating issues that we must address. Please help us in our effort to create as complete a record as possible. We do not want to drop a single area from the list. As issues of drought and political maneuvering increase, we must increase our documentation base to prepare to fight.
To make a one time, or ongoing pledge, go here: http://WildHorseEducation.org/donate
We will bring you updates from the very dusty trail.
We are out on the range now in 2016. We are documenting range and herd health and addressing multiple escalating issues. Multiple planning processes are in the works that include sage grouse “per playing” with sums of money intended to go into resource preservation and we are watching them used to create “cow chow.” Issues such as surgical sterilization as BLM balks at the amount of work needed to treat populations with temporary fertility control and gather the data required to create real herd preservation plans.
We need the onsite data to engage. We can stay on the job as long as there is gas in the tank and funds to fight with.