Our founder Laura Leigh comes from the world of media; books, magazines, photojournalism and journalism. She came to the West a decade ago to tell the story of the wild horse. The opposition she was met with by federal land managers, and the cruelty she witnessed, turned her from journalist to advocate and led to the birth of Wild Horse Education.
A program wrapped in secrecy run for the convenience of profit driven interests on the tax payer dime is simply not “ok.” Core to the work of WHE is creating an avenue for transparency and factual debate. Without it public land and wild horses are can never be managed for the “public good” only the “good ol’ boys” that have an invitation to the party.
Following public outrage after a winter roundup that resulted in a large number of miscarriages and deaths in the Broken Arrow BLM holding facility BLM closed the doors.
The deaths included this foal born in the facility to a captive mare. The foal literally starved until being euthanized. The condition of the foal was not discovered by employees, it was discovered by the public pointing to serious deficits simply monitoring animal health at the facility.
At a winter roundup the following year the death rate at the facility rose to the highest in our country.
Our litigation reopened the facility to public tours.
Access to wild horses held captive is critical for creating accountability to their care and forwarding adoption efforts.
BLM planned to run newborn foals during what they reported was the worst disaster in history, 70% of the herd would be dead in 3 days (never happened), without allowing any public observation.
BLM closed 27,000 acres of public lands and offered no guided observation.
Our litigation won against closure of public land and BLM reassured the court they would do “everything” to provide viewing opportunity.
Instead, we were chased around the desert and threatened with arrest.
BLM then offered our founder “exclusive access” but she had to leave other members of the public behind.
She refused. Instead she filed more litigation to provide daily access to all.
The Silver King First Amendment case lasted nearly 5 years and went up and down the court system. Today daily access is allowed to wild horse captures.
Part of the process of winning daily access included a massive, landmark, Ninth Circuit court ruling. That ruling is used in civil rights cases nationwide. The ruling has even laid a foundation that was used to stop a dangerous spaying experiment on wild horses in 2017.
“This case reads like a weird biography of my life. This ruling is perhaps the most important in my advocacy career. This case lays a clear foundation that wild horses are public horses and that the public has a right to know what the government does. I’m so proud of team WHE!” ~ Laura Leigh, founder.
In 2016 and 2017 we took legal steps to maintain facilities open to the public after they are used for intake.
In 2017 we had to engage a legal team to stop a contractor from harassing and threatening observers.
In 2017 we continued our fight for transparency by taking the BLM to court over hiding critical information that addresses public safety. In 2015 BLM began an investigation into apparent harassment of BLM employees and members of the public by a livestock permittee that was found in trespass (illegal use of the range), had engaged in no authorized activities that escalated and included the removal of a wild horse from the range. Those activities include mandatory repercussions.
Instead the BLM gave no consequence, hid their decision records and cancelled an agreement with a WHE volunteer that was essentially doing BLM’s job for free (writing documents, gathering data and waiting to dart wild horses with fertility control). The volunteer broke no law, rule or regulation and suffered severe harassment.
BLM refused to release information pertinent to personal safety.
The litigation was turned over to a House investigative team and the OIG.
BLM can not be allowed to put members of the public in physical jeopardy and not release information relevant to maintaining personal safety.
This effort is ongoing.