Breaking! Taking a Stand at Stone Cabin (On File)

Wild Horse Education has taken a stand at Stone Cabin. The first roundup of briefs are on file.

Large removals and another cocktail of multiple fertility control methods/substances (including some vaguely identified that may be available in the future) have been finalized by BLM that will slam populations of wild horses on about 1.3 million acres repeatedly for ten-years.

The Stone Cabin HMA is located approximately 30 miles east of Tonopah in Nye County directly off Highway 6, both north and south. Saulsbury is just to the West, a couple of miles off the highway both north and south. The Monitor USFS WHT is located inbetween the Saulsbury and Stone Cabin HMAs (and it is worth noting that no studies have been done to show which populations spend more time on BLM or USFS land denoting jurisdiction for removal or population growth suppression tools). The total approved target area represents 542,724 acres within the Stone Cabin Complex HMAs, and 343,457 acres outside of designated HMAs, in areas primarily adjacent to HMAs where wild horses have moved or may move to during gather activities. (If you note the observation about the Monitor WHT, this language also means wild horses that call USFS Monitor “Home Range” and may flee back home. The Monitor WHT is 380,000 acres (and we known USFS has not done much monitoring out there for 50 years, instead relying on BLM to remove Monitor horses each time a Stone Cabin roundup takes place.) BLM notes that any gather inside Monitor would require a decision from USFS… but we know from documenting roundups at Stone Cabin for over a decade, that this is not “how the chopper flies.”

Not only are there clear multi jurisdictional issues with this approved plan, there are serious deficits involving a lack of actual data, failures to follow-through on underlying approved plans and so much more.

WHE is on file. 

Why do we write long articles explaining some of what is going on with all the cases we file? Because we want you to understand why we took action and to help you understand so that it helps you in your advocacy journey.

Monitor wild horse

WHE have filed the fist round of legal briefs to try to stop this historically important area from being placed on the roundup schedule. We promise to stay in this fight for the long haul. 

The wild horses in this area are so special to all of us at WHE, but they hold an important piece of the history of wild horses in the West and the Wild Horse and Burro Act itself. None of the history of this herd is ever considered by the agency when dolling out permits for mining (and road expansion), oil and gas, and many of the permittees in the area (some of which have held sway over BLM since BLM was formed in 1946).

The first official roundup under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act happened at Stone Cabin. With it, came the first litigation.

The State of NV and livestock interests wanted to claim the horses and sell them to slaughter. The case affirmed federal jurisdiction under the law and the horses could not be sold off.

The last moments of freedom before the first roundup under the Act; submitted by Michael Huber and used by permission, copyright laws apply

Advocates made a stand as well.

Velma Johnston was present and through her efforts, the precursor of todays Adoption program was born. Through the “foster system” a horse or burro retained it’s “wild status” under law and protections from slaughter were maintained for a lifetime (until the Burns Amendment of 2004 and a “title of ownership” was transferred turning the once wild horse into a domestic under law).

The American Horse Protection Association also filed litigation. This extremely important case set precedent that BLM had to include wild horses and burros into the standard process of approving any proposed action (or the newly passed National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA process). “This Court is not saying that the BLM is free to round up wild horses whenever a particular range has an overgrazing problem. Nor is the Court saying that every time the removal of wild horses will have a limited, slightly positive effect on the environment of the range, the BLM can proceed to remove a certain number of those horses. BLM officials admit that more round-ups of wild horses may be necessary in the future. This Court decides only that the Stone Cabin Valley round up currently underway may continue as an interim measure to preserve the range until the EIS required by Judge Flannery is filed in 1977. This Court presumes that future round ups will be undertaken only after the data contained in the 1977 EIS has been evaluated and all other alternative actions have been considered, as required by NEPA. In other words, this opinion should not be read as giving the BLM a blank check to order the removal of wild horses without filing an impact statement whenever it determines that a range is overgrazed.”

Velma at Stone Cabin inspecting horses and watching for inhumane treatment

After the court case BLM began to formalize regulations (codify the new Wild Horse and Burro Act). Each year they had to report to Congress on how management planning (Herd Management Area Plans, HMAP) were shaping up. BLM needed a management plan, not just “removal of a number,” to create some equity in the system wild horses and burro were a part of.

At Stone Cabin BLM created one of the first HMAPs. However, none of the actual data sets and objectives of that HMAP were followed through on (migration patterns, exchange with Monitor, water improvements, etc.). In fact, simple “windshield” monitoring (when you drive around) was sporadic, at best, for the next 40 years. Even keeping a Wild Horse and Burro Specialist in that district for more than a couple of years seemed a daunting task for BLM.

For a short time BLM accepted help to begin to address the deficits and upgrade the HMAP… until the pressure to find partners. only interested in population growth suppression hit (and “buddy club” games ensued) and the HMAP was tossed aside and another “remove to a number” plan was created with long term denigration of the herd through various forms of sterilization/vaccination. (For over a decade we know from first-hand experience that one of the objectives of land managers in the area was to turn over capture/vaccination to one of the permittees. More on that later.)

The public has never had any opportunity to engage any actual management plan to protect this historically important herd and habitat. BLM simply releases another “remove and experiment on wild horses gather plan” saying they can do the actual management plan later… 

BLM has had over 40 years to get it together. “Later” cannot be allowed to have no end date. 

There are so many stories we can tell about Stone Cabin wild horses. In fact, one story involves being onsite and trying to see the roundup on the same day (Feb. 14, 2012) that the Ninth Circuit decision came through affirming the right to observe and report. 

There are so many stories we can tell about the absolute shoddy monitoring and jaw-dropping lack of knowledge that has plagued that district.

We have only just begun to tell that tale in the courts. 

We need your support. 

Help keep us in the fight!

Last week WHE began the legal fight at Robert’s Mountain. 

Other battles, like the ones at Pancake and Blue Wing, are coming into the home stretch.

We have taken on favoritism of livestock. 

Thank you for keeping us in this fight! 


Back issue of WHE Magazine: Stone Cabin. https://viewer.joomag.com/stone-cabin-anniversary-issue/0392798001524161006



Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education