Wild Horse Education

It’s Personal


Julia, a wild mare from Fish Creek that was set to be released after the 2015 roundup. After fighting in courts, the pilot program was upheld by the courts and the release went forward. Julia never saw freedom, she became a casualty. Many lost their lives waiting for freedom. Their sacrifice meant nothing…. BLM cancelled the program without any reason. Her herd will now be hit, again, with a large scale removal, BLM has had options, does have options. They just don’t follow through in an environment where politics rules and science has no voice.

A personal editorial; from our founder, Laura Leigh

I’m not a machine, I’m a human being. That revelation startles me sometimes. I spend so much time in the “what is, where does it fit, track the politics” places. Occasionally, the “feeling human” pushes the “thinking human” aside and…. this is one of those moments.

The big lobby effort, that has made its way into Congress, and will be part of the BLM internal report presented to Congress, did not happen overnight. This effort began in 2015, was in secretive meetings in 2016, was incorporated into the BLM report to Congress last year, and finally hit the larger public sphere this year. (HSUS, ASPCA, RTF, Cattlemen’s Ass’n, Public Lands council, et al. Read more HERE)

Advocates are outraged, and they should be. This is a power and money grab by those that already have power and money. The majority of advocates see this for what it is; a paper pusher agenda that solves nothing, destroys the wild ones, and creates more subsidies. I know most of you feel betrayed since last year, while during the budget debate in 2018 (for 2019) you were lied to by those claiming to represent your interest; ie “We did not agree to spaying!” when the document presented by BLM noted them in full agreement on sterilization.

This really would be the same as an environmental org agreeing with the shrinking of Bears Ears, and oil and gas permits being issued, and calling it a “bold path forward.”

As someone on ground, designing protocols, litigating to obtain a humane policy and open access to roundups, working through the intensity of the factors in the real world, I have been dismayed at the lack of concrete action, and even obstruction, by corporate “orgs.”

One of the first times I truly “bumped heads” was as I was litigating inhumane treatment (not one of those million dollar orgs ever spent one dollar on a single case) there was an instance when they got directly in the way. It was actually stated that simply supporting the fact that “running a foal to death was wrong” (in an official statement) was something they could not do, because it could get in the way of the sales of fertility control. Needless to say my response was more than stern. They supplied the statement in support, but I was labelled “a problem.” (I’d rather be a problem to a corporate agenda than a problem for our wild ones.)

Projects like the one at Fish Creek, had years invested just to create the opportunity and get all the pre-work done in planning. The protocol at Fish Creek was the first step in demonstrating that data collection and darting could be done in the few large HMAs we have left, with diligent preplanning, and actually create a fix for the historically flawed framework. BLM needed no new authority, no new tools, no millions more in subsidies and the authority to carry it out was upheld in court.

Instead of helping to ensure this protocol actualized, they joined the opposition. At the same time they made promises and deals behind the scenes. If I go into all that was said and done, I’ll simply sob because it was all so very wrong.

Reading all their press releases now, that make outrageous claims, that they send through paid media outlets and mailers is disgusting; “We are the only ones proposing solutions,” and “we took a brave step.”

Nancy Perry (ASPCA), Gillian Lyons (HSUS), Neda DeMayo (Return to Freedom), how dare you call what you did “brave?” Brave would have been to hold the ground for the wild. Brave would have been to stand firm on the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review and not budge on the number one item, the program is not based on data and is severely flawed. Brave is not agreeing to the largest removals in history, sterilization, based on some absurd “national” AML (stocking level). What exactly was brave about what you did? (note to Gillian: Is that why you cancelled our debate on NPR? because you knew I would ask you this very question?)

I can only speak from the ground work I do, personally. I do know other orgs and individuals whose work began to erode under the wave of politics, I am not the only one that saw years of work evaporate. We have been dragged backward at least a decade already, and the threat now in Congress can pull wild horses into dangers that compare to any they have ever faced.

Your voice, our voice, has already been undercut! Changes to NEPA have already happened (those changes need litigation, we are working on creating that framework. It is not cheap and finding a lawyer that can take it on, not easy. It is also worth noting the multi-million dollar orgs are not litigating the changes to those policies). This has happened due to the empowerment of the opposition by this unholy alliance. The “system” has become even more exclusive. “Pay to play” should be a new sign on the door at Interior.

We are getting ready to witness the consequences, again, of political paper pushers.

The consequences are not just the loss of a completed protocol, but the loss of lives. The chance for a real science based approach to rectifying the past, and moving soundly into the future, vanished at Fish Creek. The sacrifices of those that lost freedom, and their lives, in the “phase one” in 2015 were in vain. We will witness a large scale roundup that never had to happen. Politics are the cause of this roundup.

The consequences will be witnessed in the eyes of the wild horses at Devils Garden, Fish Creek, Onaqui…. all beginning in the span of 7 days. The consequences will be seen in the eyes of 15-20K removed each and every year, the eyes of mares suffering from spaying, the thousands that will land in kill pens through rushed (heavily subsidized) placements. 

Each roundup you will see in the coming days is labelled “a step toward AML.” Both Onaqui and Fish Creek will have some token temporary fertility control. You are being given a window to see what “Ten Years to AML,” handed to the opposition, starts to look like in practice. If half of each herd targeted in the coming weeks faced surgical sterilization, you would have a full preview of the future.

Consequences will not be witnessed by the paper pushers, lobbyists, six-figure salary holders. They never are.

The frustration, the anger, the pain, all originates in the very personal knowledge of all that has happened, will happen, and why. I know what we are about to see, I have seen it tens of thousands of times.

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I think of Sarge and all he went through. That should have been the last large removal at Fish Creek. If the data/darting had begun in 2016, as it should have? the population growth would be stabilized, waters could have been addressed, and historic flaws could be in the “repair” stages. If there was a removal due to political pressure it could have been fewer than 100 wild horses, as the last time we saw more than a handful captured. Instead we will see 550 lose freedom in another roundup that will cost the tax-payer hundreds of thousands of dollars, and lives will be lost. (Sarge, a poster child for all that is wrong).

As the roundups of Devils Garden, Fish Creek and Onaqui come into the public sphere, each and every person that loves our wild ones will feel anger, pain and fear. I ask that you show respect and kindness to each other. I ask that you use that energy and call Congress.

The decision on the spay EA in Oregon is expected very soon. This is the third time BLM has used tax payer funding just to prepare a document they know they will use tax payer funding to defend in court, and lose. BLM does not have the authority, the protocol in CAWP, and more, to be able to legally undertake this political agenda. They do not have it yet, but they might very soon.

The Report to Congress, the final push for this political agenda, will hit. This is where your voice still matters to law makers. There are advocacy organizations, WHE is one of them, that will be on ground giving public oversight and fighting for accountability at the roundups. There are organizations that have laid a framework to fight the spay experiment, WHE is one of them. There are organizations fighting the BLM Report to Congress, WHE is one of them.

But we need you.

Please pick up the phone. Even if you have signed a dozen petitions  your legislators need to hear from the people that vote in their districts.

Call your Senators:

“The House version of the Appropriations bill for the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program must be rejected. The program must be frozen to current authorities and budget constraints, including a prohibition on sales without limits (slaughter). 

The BLM Report to Congress requires a serious investigation into multiple ethics infractions. BLM employees, including two Deputy Directors (John Ruhs and Brian Steed), were involved in lobby efforts. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is the chairwoman of the panel and her chief clerk is Emy Lesofski, who is married to Drew Lesofski, head of the American Mustang Foundation that actively lobbied and will receive a significant financial windfall in the proposal. 

The document is based on information that is false, including false testimony given to Congress in 2016. BLM is aware of the inaccuracy and intimidation was used internally to keep the record flawed.

Please freeze the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program and investigate misconduct.” 

Find your Senators at http://govtrack.us

Please pick up the phone, it helps more than you know.

Today I am haunted by the faces I have seen. The baby I watched run until his hooves literally began to fall off. The stallions whose eyes continue to be poked out by a latch BLM wont require be padded. The foals electric shocked in the face. The ones run through barbed wire. The babies run to collapse. So many faces…

The consequences those behind this pending disaster never see.

It’s personal.



Our roundup team is ready to go. We have an attorney ready to address inhumane treatment and changes to policy on NEPA. Our outreach team is working hard to prepare to address, site-by-site, the BLM Report to Congress. 

Important reading:

Congressional testimony in 2016; two hearings you need to understand: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2017/05/17/posttruth-a-few-wild-facts-you-should-know-in-these-dangerous-times-part-one/

Report Countdown: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2019/08/16/report-countdown-part-one/

You can help keep us in this fight.






Categories: Wild Horse Education