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Documentation, the most valuable conversation with the Bureau of Livestock and Mining

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Documenting wild horses

The stakes are really high right now as the ‘Bureau of Land Management” has become, in truth, the “Bureau of Livestock and Mining.” Not only do we have Ryan Zinke as the head of the Department of Interior (DOI), a man that carried horse slaughter bills in Montana, but we have two more at the helm of BLM in the national office that spell out the agenda clearly. Mike Nedd, a career BLM employee who previously held the position of Assistant Director for Energy, Minerals, and Realty Management, is now the acting director of BLM. John Ruhs is now the acting Deputy Director, the man that sat as the BLM Nevada State Director for two years as we went back in time twenty years on environmental concerns and who has a long history of traveling the West creating prioritization for livestock interest. “BLM” truly stands for the Bureau of Livestock and Mining now.

As wild horse advocates things have gone to a “whole new level.” Those of you that attended roundups from 2009-2011 will recognize that phrase. That is the phrase said to wild horse advocates that wanted to take pictures at roundups by BLM Rangers in the morning briefing. If we got out of line, we would be arrested.

“Life teaches us all lessons. Over and over in my life I have found myself faced with those in power that create fictions to perpetuate their image, pocketbook or simply because they really enjoy abusing the power they have. In every single instance, even long before I entered the world of wild horses, I have found documenting the truth to be more powerful than any other held in human hands. The documentation does not need to scream louder, stomp it’s feet or be wrapped in a big pink bow, it simply needs to show itself at the right moment, to the right eyes in all it’s simple truth.”

“I always like to use our fight for a humane handling policy as an example that is obvious to understand. For years I would see one or two images of captures of wild horses surface in the news, although I knew it was an almost daily occurrence from July through February. The images I would see were gut wrenching, like a stallion kicking back at the chopper during a helicopter pursuit taken by Elisa Kline, in 2008 I think. I wanted to see the truth.

The truth I saw was life changing for me. Not the images, but the behavior of those in power. I knew that behavior well. Create a fiction and then present it from a position of authority, belittle the knowledge of those that challenge you and walk away wrapped in a comfortable bureaucratic bubble wrap. But bubble wrap can be popped, I had done it before, all it takes is patience and documentation.

The issues during capture were not something that patience was particularly suited for. The documentation became relentless. Conversations failed so litigation became relentless.

I remember Judge McKibben’s words after he reviewed my documentation, read the court declarations from those in their bubble wrap. He said, speaking to the BLM, “I have read and looked at all the information in front of me. You tell me there was nothing wrong? I can see with my own eyes what happened,” He then went on to tell them if they had come in and said that mistakes were made and that they were working to rectify it and showed proof, he would not rule in my favor. He called their documentation and declaration a “blame the horse affront.” The gavel came down as he, from the bench, stopped the roundup.

Our rag tag crew of unpaid, overworked, out of their league, human beings popped the bubble wrap. We won the first court orders in history against cruelty at roundups.

Of course we continued to play “now you see it, now you don’t” as I won cases against conduct and had to move the legal action on First Amendment forward. But it was the relentless documentation that kept winning, not screaming or fancy pink ribbons.

We now have a humane handling policy and access. That doesn’t mean we wont need to litigate again as conversations fail. But the record in those conversations in court is invaluable and creates a documentation record of it’s own. Another Judge, Honorable Larry Hicks, called me the most knowledgeable documentarian on wild horse captures in the world. That statement is invaluable as we move things forward.

The conversation of range management was one we could show some patience for, after all it is a rather convoluted and power driven trail of historic prejudice and nonsense. But never once, did documentation cease. Relegated to an inferior position in the conversation once more, we watched and documented.

The issues surrounding the safety of our wild ones on the range are escalating. If an honest conversation where historic belittling and prejudice continues to create a ‘blame the horse affront,’ the rag tag crew is ready once more.”

The above is a journal entry from Laura Leigh our founder, 4/17/2017. The last few weeks we have been compiling, reviewing and getting the documentation into other hands. We have continued to document.

On April 13 Leigh did KNPR radio. She was invited because the BLM declined. https://wildhorseeducation.org/2017/04/13/knpr-will-the-wild-horses-be-dragged-away/

“I think that statement can define all of my advocacy, ‘BLM declined.’ They decline from creating a human handling policy and giving the public meaningful access. They decline from gathering data. They decline from utilizing the tools at hand. They decline treating people that don’t represent big money with integrity as they create intimate relationship with others that line their pockets or stroke their egos. They still can’t say ‘sorry, we made a mistake’ and continue the blame the horse, and advocate, affront. That about sums up my advocacy.”

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Nevada wild horse near Eureka. Click image to learn more about Nevada, the state with more wild horses than all others combined.

The stakes are really high right now as the ‘Bureau of Land Management” has become, in truth, the “Bureau of Livestock and Mining.” Not only do we have Ryan Zinke as the head of the Department of Interior (DOI), a man that carried horse slaughter bills in Montana, but we have two more at the helm of BLM in the national office that spell out the agenda clearly. Mike Nedd, a career BLM employee who previously held position of Assistant Director for Energy, Minerals, and Realty Management, is now the acting director of BLM. John Ruhs is now the acting Deputy Director, the man that sat as the BLM Nevada State Director for two years as we went back in time twenty years on environmental concerns and who has a long history of traveling the West creating prioritization for livestock interest. “BLM” truly stands for the Bureau of Livestock and Mining now, bubble wrap.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review was complete in June of 2013. That document validated every statement made by engaged advocacy. Instead of looking at the entire document, phrases that perpetuate the old paradigm were cherry picked from the 400 page review that failed the BLM, program wide, on factual data to base decisions.

As the very real threat of the agency killing wild horses in holding looms on the horizon the threat that in it’s ‘budget cuts’ we see the entire wild horse program become simply another avenue to placate livestock grow. In his last address to the State Legislature in Nevada John Ruhs talked about a “pilot program” that simply turns management of wild horses over, in a high dollar contract bid, HMA by HMA. In the “deregulation” conversation we may see the entire program turned over to states, it’s what they want. We have Congressmen like Mark Amodei creating bills that sound good, like removal of invasive species off public land in a bill that sounds like he means invasive grass, but we know what he thinks is invasive in Nevada.

The “conversation” of range management is about to look just like the conversation had to gain a humane handling policy. The conversation is not as simple, the bubble wrap is a lot thicker.

An educated advocacy is needed more than ever.

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Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education