Since the 2022 roundup operation at the Pancake Complex much has happened. Before the roundup, a lot had happened as well. But it took a colt breaking a leg on the first day of the removal operation to bring attention to one of the last places a large herd could still exist, the 1.1 million acre complex where habitat resources are rapidly being lost to mining and livestock. Our legal action was able to jump into fed court with help from others and then legislation was introduced to stop helicopter captures and provide a transparent review.
Our team searched for the captives and faced many challenges in a system of expanding off-limits to the public facilities that prohibit any welfare checks and searches for adoptions. BLM will often make exceptions for the handful of herds that have a large public presence on the range (a lot of tourism or partner groups). But horses from herds like Pancake that are hard to travel and more remote, shuffling them into a black hole where they become an unknown is extremely commonplace.
The lawsuit is still active and the battle to gain actual management of our wild ones continues. We were successful in gaining the first tour of the off-limits facility in Sutherland, Utah. Unfortunately, more than half the Pancake wild horses shipped to that facility were already gone. The “just a bay” yearling we were looking for had shipped to one of a half dozen adoption events that had already, or were in process of, completing.
Our teams have been out to Pancake as well, searching for those we know that may still be on the range. It is gut-wrenching to see the fragments left and how fast that range is changing as mining moves in and new waters for cows are approved. (In one instance we were able to get 3 offspring of the Old Man Medicine Hat reunited and safe… and found their father on the range.)
We know wild horses are resilient survivors when left wild; “the living symbol of the pioneer spirit” was not added to the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act without reason. However, we know that each one of us must continue the fight to save their home, families and keep them on-range to continue the truly American legacy of public horses on public lands.
It can feel daunting. Don’t give up. We are all links in a chain. One moment in time can create a ripple that opens possibilities. We have seen it again and again. One moment in time created the beginning (the first lawsuit against abuse) of the CAWP program that you can now access and is included in roundup contracts to support further litigation.
One person, one moment, created a ripple.
Don’t give up. Our wild ones need all of us. Every layer of advocacy from on-range and roundup, through facilities, adoption and sanctuary, every call to lawmakers… matters.
As our roundup team gears up for helicopter season, read the words of one volunteer below.
Warning: Video is graphic.
This opinion column by Colette Kaluza, a volunteer for Nevada-based Wild Horse Education. (You can see the pice at the RGJ HERE)
Pancake wild horse roundup: the colt, the video and a new chance
Struggling to get out there, watching through a camera lens and trying to hold it together while half the time the government is trying to block me is a window into what it is like to be an observer. I shot the video of the young colt being chased by a low-flying helicopter, causing its leg to snap at the infamous Pancake Complex wild horse roundup in Nevada, which has been viewed by millions through multiple news stories.
One person can feel helpless. But don’t give up. Change throughout history has come from creating a ripple, and you never know how far it will travel. Out of this has come legislation and litigation.
Congresswoman Dina Titus saw the incident, took it to heart and gave homage to the colt in the introduced HR 6635, the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act of 2022. It calls for the outrageous and large helicopter roundups across the West to stop and for the Government Accountability Office to look into alternatives and create a report.
A good alternative and place to start would be for the government to start doing its job. It is grossly failing to follow the requirement mandated in the Code of Federal Regulations: Herd management area plans “shall” be prepared for all areas where wild horses are allowed to live. In Nevada, for example, of the 83 areas, 82 do not have a herd management area plan.
These mandated management plans would be a lifeline for wild horses. Plans would have directives to start protecting the range they depend on to survive, start protecting their critical habitat so they stop losing it to industry, and start protecting their genetics. The effect of not having these plans is these outrageous and large helicopter roundups. The byproduct of not preparing these plans means the public is not being given a chance to comment on how these animals are being treated and managed, which violates the National Environmental Policy Act.
Events I shot that day are now part of a lawsuit pending in Reno Federal District Court alleging violations by the Bureau of Land Management of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Defendants failed to prepare a herd management area plan as required for Pancake. “Round up and remove” is not a herd management area plan.
Imagine the sight of wild horses so strong and stunningly beautiful with unique characteristics from a genetic pool created over generations. My thoughts were how tragic that my fellow Americans will never see these wild horses. More than 2,000 were rounded up and removed from the Pancake Complex. Most were sent to facilities off-limits to the public, never to be seen again, their fate unknown. These beauties were sterilized, their genetics lost forever.
The colt was chased by a helicopter so it fell back from its family, slipped and snapped its leg, and in obvious distress and all alone was roped, loaded onto a trailer, and while struggling to stand, traveled over a bumpy road for a half hour to a temporary holding corral and was killed.
I am one human being who volunteered for those who fought for our First Amendment right for the access to view roundups and fought against abuse. Being there on the ground, watching and documenting, has given us a new chance, momentum, and a window of opportunity.
It is in the best interests of the public and wild horses to have herd management area plans to start protecting areas of our public lands from industry encroachment — livestock, oil, gas and mining. Once our land is gone, it’s gone.
Tell Congress to spend taxpayer funds on herd management area plans, not helicopter roundups.
Gratitude to Rep. Titus for introducing Bill HR 6635 and we hope people support it.
Colette Kaluza is a volunteer for Nevada-based Wild Horse Education.
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Categories: Wild Horse Education