It has been a long time since we filed litigation primarily addressing serious welfare issues at roundups. The last time was to drive the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to create some programmatic “tool” that could be used to comply with the most basic tenet of the law: treat wild horses and burros humanely. These cases take a heck of a lot of time, energy and resources.
When those other cases filed (and the protocols that resulted were first implemented) pressure on our people in the field went through the roof. Not simply pressure to create accurate and extensive documentation (we do that anyway), but pressure from agency personnel and staff that go into what we can only describe as “retribution mode.” If you think of government agencies in a hierarchy (like parents or teachers at the top and kids underneath), it can feel like the bullies on the playground have no supervision and are trying really hard to set up the kid that “told on them” for punishment.
It is in full swing out here.
We will update you on the litigation we filed as soon as the attorney clears us to. We can tell you the litigation we filed is a last-ditch attempt to try to find some sanity and a long-term solution. We are pretty fed up with engaging every single process, being ignored and seeing things get worse. We know you are, too.
We took a screenshot of the BLM daily update.
You can see BLM took the time to add an extensive note attempting to justify why observers cannot see at one trap and, they did do what we feared, they set a second trap no one is allowed to see. That second trap is less than 9 miles from the other. Our observer always wants to go to temporary (even if she is the only observer that wants to each day… BLM took her and then put her under “pressure”).
You should also take note that when (BLM) people in the field are trying to prepare for court (or answer to higher ups) they will take the time to add a note about why they are not letting anyone see…
… but still won’t comply with daily update requirements where they need to document injury and death and provide substantive information.
What the public has not yet grasped, is that the deaths BLM reports on a “daily” are ONLY the deaths that happen (and they record) by the time they have evening briefing. There was a “no fly day” on the 26th. We would not expect to see a death unless they logged any catastrophic injuries. Deaths of “blind in one eye,” etc. would not be reported until the following day. So you cannot track a specific death rate from a specific trap by looking at the “daily” when that trap operated. In this case, observers are 1.5 miles away and cannot even see trap configuration or even how the pilot is bringing horses in.
Using 2 traps within 9 miles of each other in the same grazing allotment where there is only one truly stable water (and limited additional seasonal sources) for the horses? Who approved this madness?
During the last intense heat index rise, the second during this operation, we published a piece titled “Where Are The Babies?” The notations in that article referencing “mare to foal ratio” apply to yesterday. If it is no longer foaling season (as BLM claims) why is the number of foals so low? If foaling season had ended (as they claim), where are the babies?
In reviewing the video from trap, about 6 trailers went out and then there was a lapse of about 3 hours. Observers wanted to leave but there was no communication between trap and public affairs so observers waited and waited.
It does beg the question (if BLM says they were still loading), does BLM have enough personnel to appropriately man each trap and temporary holding? Did personnel from the trap observers could simply monitor when trailers came and left from, go to the other trap? From the numbers of trailers seen leaving, about 2/3 of the horses captured yesterday were from the unseen trap (located behind the Mustang Monument resort).
BLM has stopped giving us information like “who is in charge of each trap?” and “what is your name?” They are claiming they no longer need to provide that info because we are in litigation. That is false. Protocol with the public should not change. If you change it and deny access to information, that is retaliatory (that would apply to any case, anywhere).
Of the 3,107 wild horses targeted at the Antelope Complex (1.4 million acres) 1,863 have been captured.
21 have been reported dead. 7 have been reported as orphaned.
It is important to note the word “reported.” In FOIAs we have done it appears that BLM may not report deaths or change the descriptions published.
The Wild Horse and Burro program is an example of why public trust in the entire agency is non-existent.
BLM spends more time creating excuses, drama and trying to shift blame than they do on fixing basic issues involving decency and transparency.
We NEVER wanted to ever get to this juncture again. But there was simply no other option than to file litigation, again.
It is worth another mention on the spending bill passing out of the House and Senate committees… nothing is different. It is NOT change.
UPFRONT: The spending bill that passed out of the Senate Committee being lauded today as “change” by many organizations but is actually word-smithing representing exactly what you have now. Since 2020, many have created these “victory” messages when the language they are lauding creates no change, it just rewords what already exists. BLM already is supposed to “triage” funding for roundups based on need (escalating issues reports). BLM is already supposed to be handling horses humanely (in existing law and why we were able to stop roundups in court in the past; CAWP is a policy gained after that litigation AND budget language last year already says they need to adhere to it). BLM already has grants for “monitoring and fertility control” that anyone, including veterans, can apply for (where feds are required to prioritize Veterans, like when they hire employees). BLM has been required to set aside “$11 million for fertility control” for years now and consider alternatives to choppers (bait trap, fertility control, etc.)
You can laud this bill for not sliding back things like the prohibition against opens sales for slaughter and killing healthy wild horses outright (the sales program and Adoption Incentive Program, AIP, stay in place). You can laud it (if you want) for keeping the same grants and funding for fertility control. But do NOT laud this as change.
We need a hard look at the program from government oversight agencies such as the Government Accounting Office (GAO) and the Department of Interior Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
Before the BLM is allowed to move a fully funded strategy forward, for the 5th straight year, the public deserves an analysis from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The last NAS review was in 2013.
Our team is working really hard in the field and behind the scenes.
We are also working on issues in other HMAs in NV, NM, ID, OR, CO, CA, UT and WY.
More from our team as soon as we come up for air.
Thank you for keeping us in the fight!
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Categories: Wild Horse Education