Wild Horse Education

Owyhee (Agency Fails Public Interest)

Due to weather the choppers did not fly today at the ongoing roundup at the Owyhee Complex.

Yesterday, the BLM captured 39 (18 Stallions, 15 Mares, and 6 Foals) wild horses as they push the 4th day capturing from the same trap. The agency has stated they will only be using this one trap in the 719 square mile HMA because (absurdly) “there is no other place to set a trap.”

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Our on-site observer has “suited up and shown up” every day of operation, regardless of the limitations being placed on her to suit an apparent agreement the agency made with the permittee. We asked for a copy of the agreement to infringe on the First Amendment Rights of the public BLM has with the permittee. BLM said it is just a verbal agreement.

The BLM placed both temporary holding and the trap on small pieces of private land that are surrounded by acres and acres of public lands. They entered a private agreement with the permittee to impose restrictions on the First Amendment Rights of the public interest. They further restricted access to view because the permittee did not like where the only public observer was standing, where BLM told her to stand, during loading at temporary. 

video below: As close as we can zoom and then enlarge. The video was taken on Thursday, the last day she has been allowed at trap because of an agreement with the permittee. After that, the permittee told BLM he will only allow her there one day a week. She is sitting on public land, but a small stretch of road is a private road. Trap is on private land. She offered to walk to the observation site and was refused.

It is pretty outrageous that the BLM has chosen to allow this trap (with the dangers to the horses with a  maze of barbed wire) to be the only trap used in this HMA with the added outrage of a private agreement with the permittee that infringes on the publics rights. Who does BLM work for? 

Because the permittee did not like where she was standing, she is now being told that she can only observe capture on Tuesdays, one day a week. She is being told that if the release of horses treated with PZP-22 back to public lands happens on a day other than Tuesday, she can not go. (Unless BLM changes course from 2018 and picks a different route into public lands to do the release that does not cross this small stretch controlled by the permittee.)

There is a small stretch of road the agency is choosing to use that is a private road. There are dozens of roads and two tracks that lead into the HMA where the agency could set holding, trap and release horses. In fact, there were hunters on the other side of this trap complaining on social media that the chopper scattered the elk as it drove in wild horses. (The hunters can drive in there on other roads but BLM knows of no other road?)

We would like to remind the public that these wild horses, once captured, are being sent to an off-limits-to-the-public facility 8 hours away in Sutherland, Utah. No observation at trap (except Tuesday), not really at holding, and not after capture.

It seems everyone can exercise their rights on public lands and be accommodated by the BLM. But apparently BLM will not find a way to set trap or holding in any other location on 719 square miles of public lands in this one HMA in this complex.

Below: The trap BLM is using is at the SE side of the HMA. The NW border of the HMA is 40+ miles away. This area is a maze of barbed wire. In order to get horses to the trap multiple gates are being crossed into multiple grazing pastures on public lands, prior to reaching this area. The public has a right to witness.

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Our legal team has sent another letter to BLM addressing access issues. 

Yes, there is a daily access policy after our rights were affirmed by the courts (in a 6 year court battle that created precedent for civil rights issues nationwide).

Excerpt from our First Amendment win in 2012

However, because we have rights and court wins does not mean there will not be someone trying to infringe on those rights. We have laws against all kinds of conduct in this country, it does not mean that people are not breaking those laws.

The First Amendment was not written for one person or to be used only when convenient. The courts are very clear on the rights of those engaged in independent documentation. Our ruling in 2012 was referenced as a “gold standard” on First Amendment law in his order protecting the press at protests. Access matters. Access for all matters.

Below: Today, our observer documented wild horses being loaded in the rain to be trucked off to the off-limits-to-public-view facility, 8 hours away, in Sutherland, Utah.

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We will update you from “our observer standing in the rain” to our legal team addressing issues at Owyhee and bracing to take another stand for the rights of all. 

You can see ongoing reports from the roundup HERE.

A Trip Back to the Ninth Circuit, throwback


Help keep us in field and in the courts. We are up against well-funded corporations and the lobbyists playing “let’s make a deal.” Help us fight back.

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Categories: Wild Horse Education