Our documentation is a key piece of the work as a baseline for all we do; identifying issues, creating legal standing and exhibits, etc., as well as reporting to the most important (and neglected) people involved in public lands management, the public.
In 2020, our founder wrote a journal style piece from the road. Leigh wrote: “Each image I take has a visceral history behind it; a reality of smell, taste, touch that carries a knowledge of the actual fight to save that range, that herd, that horse from being hit by a helicopter.”
In 2022, we have written over 100 articles, released multiple research reports, are in the midst of legal battles; working hard to address the wild horse and burro program and the deficits in management that keep the program broken and our wild ones at risk.
Yet photojournalism, the illustration of “what happened,” produces a way to share an experience to a larger audience that cannot travel to be onsite. Each image also carries a moment in time etched into the individual memory of the person carrying the camera. These experiences often have a context that becomes hard to fully convey; a moment can be a solitary moment of peace or one ripe with contention coming at you from all sides.
As part of our end-of-year traditions, we honor moments in time experienced by WHE and shared with you. Below, we share just a few moments in advocacy 2022 as we work hard to push active action into 2023. Nothing more than glimpses, but ones etched into out hearts.
Video below may be disturbing to viewers, discretion advised.
Writing for the Reno Gazette Journal WHE volunteer Colette Kaluza describes her experience at the Pancake winter roundup of 2022.
“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.”
You can read the rest of her OpEd HERE.
Find my horse? This is a request WHE gets from people that are looking to adopt a horse seen captured or have adopted a wild horse or burro they want to know more about. Every year WHE spends countless hours looking through images, scouring holding facilities and, even, fighting to get into “off-limits” facilities to find “your horse” and do welfare checks.
It is impossible to describe the visceral feeling of scouring through tens of thousands of images we have to enlarge (at a roundup we are often pushed far away and take as many as 2000 images a day), searching through holding pens to see those we once knew wild, or desperately fighting (even in the courts) to just get through the door. There are rare days we have time. A few we can find… and far too many we never see again.
We wish BLM would take pictures of capture (and share them with adopters) and allow us the access to better serve the public good. We will continue that fight. (More in Find My Horse, HERE)
Sometimes frustration can be the overriding feeling. Our founder, LLeigh, had to head out to a roundup while working long into the night (many nights) to get documents crafted to file in court for another. WHE volunteers were being harassed by BLM and by other members of the public. Media had shown up and it seemed the story was pre-written and the same stale inadequate story: interview a rancher (not in that HMA), go see a fertility control program (not in that range) and poor BLM dealing with a mess. No interest in the expanding mine and energy transmission lines planned for the exact valley they were looking at; no interest in the history of failed management planning for the horses being chased by the helicopter. The roundup was nothing more than a chance to get pictures for a story that had nothing to do with what they were looking at.
A sleep deprived advocate then went back to her desk, edited video of a foal she knew roped, and penned a very long piece to “get it all out.” (A frustrated advocate, HERE)
Our founder began the fight to gain and enforce a welfare policy for wild horses and burros over a decade ago. That fight has had many victories but still has a long way to go. The stress of animal welfare work can negatively affect morale and ultimately lead to people quitting. It can also lead others to dig in deeper and recommit; but sometimes they do need to vent.
The way this small family kept their composure to ensure the safety of their tiny foal during the Bible Springs roundup touched many of you deeply. We had numerous requests to find this family that had been sent into off-limits holding so they could be placed in sanctuary; requests that were denied by BLM.
What you may not know is that WHE sent our broken-hearted observer at Blue Wing over to Bible Springs. She had gone to Blue Wing to see burros and was obstructed and denied. The burros were then sent to off-limits holding where she was denied access to check on their welfare. As a volunteer, Laurie joined WHE to fulfill her passion to protect wild burros and feel useful. Even the name of the photographs of her first experience with WHE honor the name of a beloved burro. Although her experience is now part of active litigation to highlight burros, the extent to which BLM hides their actions and fails to use any science in planning, her human heart was in pain. WHE sent her to Bible Springs (where we knew there would be access to document handling).
Like many volunteers that become a “good fit” for WHE, Laurie has dug deeper into the fight penning invaluable articles on burros and is in a trial period on our appeals team.
While searching holding facilities in NV and Utah for specific wild horses people wanted to adopt (and doing welfare checks) long-time WHE volunteer Cathy Ceci documented this injured newborn along with our founder. Leigh was able to get an immediate response (on a holiday weekend) from facility staff who came to help the foal. They informed us that they found no break and it appeared to be a “wrenched shoulder” and would keep an eye on the mare/baby. They were removed from the large pen the next day and placed in internal pens for care.
“After searching through all of these facilities, as I have done with WHE for 8 years, driving the range is a tonic for the soul. We took a trip out to Onaqui to have an easy day finding horses. It is something I recommend to anyone feeling the weight of advocacy.” ~ Cathy.
Sometimes we can help reunite pieces of a family. The medicine hat horses of Pancake have been documented and enjoyed by WHE team (including a staff meeting at Pancake) for a very long time. Watching their home fragmented for livestock and mining has been excruciating. The winter roundup was brutal (and jumped our legal action from land use court to federal court).
Working to reunite these magical 3 (we believe the older mare is in foal) helped heal the hurt enough to keep fighting. These 3 are being slowly introduced to a herd that runs wild and the acclimation will continue this winter. By spring, they will be as free as they can be after losing their wild home. (more HERE)
It is impossible to convey a year in the life of an active advocate. It is even more difficult to convey the collective life-experience of the journey of WHE. We could republish every article written this year and comment on the backstory… but even that would not be sufficient.
Like a roller-coaster that runs from dark lows, to elated highs, one thing is for sure… there is never a dull moment.
Our thanks to our readers and supporters for sharing 2022 with us, for riding the last decade from range to court and back again.
2023 promises to be a pivotal year for wild horses and burros and the public lands they call home. We have a lot of ground to cover together… hang on.
Help keep us in the fight.
Categories: Wild Horse Education