WHE History

WHE History

Wild Horse Education was founded on the premise that an educated advocacy is the best defense our wild horses and burros can have in a propaganda driven world. When we go into the field, roundup, legislative office or courtroom we explain to you what we have done, why we have done it and follow through each action by keeping you informed. This keeps you in the loop and it lets you know what WHE is. “Truth, Transparency, Accountability” are not just what we ask of land managers and legislators, we live by it.

This body of work represents the organization and work created by our founder, Laura Leigh. The organization has grown with new volunteers and they bring their life experiences to form todays WHE. The work is evolving along with the urgent issues we face in wild horse country. Leigh has worked, generously, sharing information with the public and multiple organizations. The work itself is carried, and financially supported, by her organization, Wild Horse Education.

What we see every day in our work on public land for our public horses is the consequence of intense competition, lack of public information, entrenched propaganda and the need to forward those interests by whatever means necessary. Our wild ones pay the price each time.

This is a short history of WHE. We have worked hard as a small organization devoted to creating real change. We carve a path that can be travelled for real change. Dollar for dollar we lead that path. ~ Thank you for your support and interest in our public horses and public lands.

Humane Care

“We do not just take pictures and scream, we act.” Our groundbreaking work as the only organization in history to take the BLM to task over inhumane treatment in a courtroom has led to policy change.

That policy makes actions much easier to take if we need to take this issue back to court.

Our work here is not finished.

Transparency

Our precedent setting work on the First Amendment is used in civil rights cases nationwide.

Our work opened up access to daily roundups, closed door facilities and set a framework that stopped experimental spaying from happening behind closed doors. 

Our important work to gain transparent actions has not finished.

The Land

Without healthy and protected public lands we lose our wild horses.

Our public lands are a series of fenced grazing pastures for private livestock to graze public lands.

Our wild places are being carved up by an extractive industry faster than at any time in history.

The status of our work in this area is critical. 


Highlights of WHE, a “short resume” 

This page will be updated with more in-depth information and is intended as an overview of our work history. It is not a comprehensive list.

2018 (to date)

  • Education campaigns on the acceleration of mining creating extreme habitat loss for wild horses.
  • Launched a portal for children interested in wild horses at WHEKids.com
  • Documented multiple roundups including Muddy Creek, Owyhee and Eagle, where a mare was run as she aborted or gave birth. We are creating a legal framework to bring litigation back into the fray on humane handling to build on our precedent setting record. WHE is the only org to ever take issues of abuse at roundups into a courtroom. Status” ongoing
  • Triple B roundup investigation: Oversight agencies including Department of Interior Inspector General (OIG). Areas of concern: political prioritization of limited funding, handling of animals, operation and ethics protocol violations. Status: ongoing
  • Entered into multiple, formal, working agreements for field data operations with various existing environmental/public lands watchdog groups. This work includes the NEPA project coalition (simple) to other agreements that involve on ground strategies. Status: ongoing
  • Kill pen investigation: initial findings tie the increased number of branded mustangs to recently sold wild horses.  Status: ongoing
  • Continued legal action to maintain access to BLM “private” holding facilities if they are used as intake for wild horses from the range. Status: specific incident successful 
  • Intensive field monitoring for educational purposes for legislators engaged in debate on policy changes that would include spaying and/or killing of wild horses. Reports include matters that fall under the heading of “extremism on public lands.” Status: ongoing
  • Site specific habitat protections: Multiple mining projects are running fast and furious over public lands. We will have an update soon. Status: URGENT 

2017

  • Litigation: FOIA  addressing cronyism, threats, misuse of funding. Case turned over to House team. 
  • Legal Actions to maintain access to wild horse captures, stop harassment to observers at Reveille and Owyhee. Status: Completed/Success
  • Intensive field monitoring for educational purposes for legislators engaged in debate on policy changes that would include spaying and/or killing of wild horses. Reports include matters that fall under the heading of “extremism on public lands.” Status: ongoing
  • Legal Action: Gold Bar. addressing existing and recognized flaws in BLM HMA boundary lines as habitat impacts from mining threaten to increase pressure on herds. Litigation created a pathway for continued action should wild horses be targeted for removal.
  • Testimony: House Investigative team, OIG: Intensive engagement on escalating extremism on public lands.
  • Roundup monitoring. 

2016

  • Our teams are formally educated through classes that cover everything from grass species in the West to range recovery after wildfire. Multiple team members undergo training in application of temporary fertility control and our specific range program for monitoring larger herds in larger HMAs. FAA drone certification is gained by our team. Field work is the foundation all else is built upon. 
  • WHE begins our webinar classes for the public covering escalating political issues including killing and spaying to how the NEPA process works and where the public has opportunities to engage. 
  • Testimony: Government Accounting Office (GAO). Livestock Trespass.
  • Legal: Owyhee. Our legal teams engage as BLM attempts to shut down access and allows contractor to threaten observers.
  • Intensive work on volunteer efforts assisting with monitoring, organizing, creating long term management options. Status: Suspended
  • Roundup monitoring” team trained in the new CAWP protocol. 

2015

  • Litigation: Fish Creek. Counties and Cattleman file litigation to stop fertility control/data program and wild horses shipped by BLM to holding facility instead of released. WON, wild horses returned to the range. (Fish Creek saga continued with death threats, harassment and social media storm. Program shut down by BLM with no legal reason and the entire investment lost. We expect a removal operation to be announced next year at Fish Creek).
  • Litigation: Argenta. Even though no wild horses are present in the area issues of range degradation by livestock and “closed door meetings” are occurring to keep livestock on the range in severe drought. Over $1 million in tax payer money was spent on this one issue by the federal government. WHE joined WildLands Defense in legal action.
  • Legal: McDermitt. BLM enters back into an agreement with USFWS and tribal authorities and a removal is scheduled that will send hundreds of wild horses to slaughter. Our field work, including aerial surveys, was used in our legal efforts. We showed that this was not justified and the horses in the target zone were in fact federally protected wild horses. The operation was cancelled. 
  • Legal: Pershing County. A programmatic legal action was filed against BLM to remove wild horses. Our range documentation was the basis for a legal action to intervene.
  • Legal: Our litigation and continued efforts toward gaining a humane handling bear fruit. A policy is included in all roundup contracts nationwide and enters into a two year beta test phase. 
  • Engagement: Our range monitoring intensifies with drought. We attend multiple meetings on sweeping policy change under Sage Grouse and present monitoring data to multiple boards, groups and BLM. 
  • WHE continue attempts to work with BLM on designing fertility control, data and cooperative opportunities. 
  • WHE begins lecturing at colleges and primary schools. 
  • Roundup coverage by WHE is extensive. 

2014

  • Litigation: NACO, NV counties file suit against BLM NV to remove and even kill wild horses. In less than 30 days WHE were on file to stop them. WON, case was illegal under law as it was a programmatic challenge and not a challenge to a specific action. 
  • Background: Tensions in public land management issues escalate and threats to public safety, and government employees, become commonplace. 
  • Litigation: Sheldon moves into last phase of zeroing out. Won removal of known kill-buyers from the roster.
  • Litigation: Ninth Circuit court ordered mediation opens closed facility to tours and creates a daily access policy to roundups. This policy was created as tensions rose on public land. The intention was to begin to address issues before they arose in lacks of data, access and any other event that might challenge the WHB program. 
  • Litigation: Owyhee. TheJudge allowed WHE to strengthen our case against a lack of data in the BLM WHB program based on the validation of our claims by the National Academy of Sciences. BLM state office agreed to create an avenue that WHE could work to change those deficits. (This agreement was later ignored by a new State Director, John Ruhs. To this day BLM will not release documents addressing the conduct of John Ruhs that allowed those that broke the law to shut down the agreement with WHE, that broke no law. We file litigation on this matter in 2017 and then turn it over to a House investigative team).
  • Legal: Legal representation engaged BLM to enforce access agreement at Caliente.
  • Legal: Teams engaged to enforce BLM policy on trespass livestock in wild horse HMA. 
  • Engagement: WHE organizes presentations for Resource Advisory Council to begin to address the deficits in data, adoptions and the use of temporary fertility control as a tool to relieve the stress on the range and financial stress on the program.
  • WHE begins to address issues of fertility control and a lack of data in multiple HMAs with approval of the State Director pending formalization of process. 
  • WHE continue extensive roundup coverage. 

2013

  • Litigation: Owyhee Complex. Inhumane treatment and unjustified removal. Won specific language that led to actualization of a humane handling policy.
  • First “humane handling Memorandum” issued by BLM to district offices.
  • Personal: WHE founder diagnosed with breast cancer and begins a 3 year, personal battle, on the road.
  • Litigation: Snowstorm. Unjustified removal stopped.
  • Litigation: First Amendment back in Reno district court. WHE take it back to the Ninth Circuit with 15 news organizations nationwide filing a supporting brief. Judge grants our founder, Laura Leigh, expert witness status to testify to roundup protocol as she has witnessed more days of roundups in the last decade than any other single observer, government or public. 
  • Litigation: Ninth Circuit orders WHE president into mediation with BLM on access to wild horse roundups and facilities. 
  • Litigation: Triple B. Bait trap operation with no public access. Won access to observe.
  • Litigation: McDermitt Roundup. WHE files two actions; One against BLM showing many of the horses are Owyhee horses caught in the tribal roundup. The other action was part of a group effort to stop unbranded horses from being sold at auction for slaughter alleging the agreement with the federal agencies and the tribe was not valid. Won a withdrawal of USFS and BLM from the agreement and unbranded horses were rescued. 
  • Litigation: Sheldon USFWS. Litigation filed to hols USFWS accountable to America’s War Horse, the Sheldon. USFWS paid known kill buyers to take Sheldon horses. Won and removed notorious kill buyer Stan Palmer from the roster. 
  • Engaged: National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and provided information at multiple meetings from our range work. NAS report released confirming all of our allegations of a lack of substantive data in decision making. The findings confirmed our case at the Owyhee Complex.
  • Roundup and range coverage by WHE 110,000 road miles.
  • Media coverage includes the Travel Chanel, NBC Today show as well as multiple print venues around the country.

2012

  • Litigation: Jackson Mountain. Won against BLM using a small scale emergency, like drought in a small section of an HMA, to force a large scale operation throughout an HMA. 
  • Litigation: First Amendment. Won in the Ninth Circuit a massive precedent setting ruling that became a published opinion (placed into law books, not all cases make this level of importance). 
  • Litigation: Triple B. Won Preliminary injunction against inappropriate conduct.
  • Litigation: Humane treatment. Won against the “mootness doctrine” that stopped past litigation against BLM roundups to move beyond the end of an operation; proving underlying issues and conduct was likely to repeat.
  • Investigation: WHE assisted investigation appears in ProPublica. Dave Philipps, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. breaks the story of nearly 1800 wild horses sold by BLM to Tom Davis, a family friend of former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar.
  • Cooperation: Assisted BLM with trap site adoptions. Participated in post roundup reviews with BLM to attempt to improve communications, animal handling and data based decision making. 
  • Litigation: BLM denied in motions in the Ninth Circuit to re-hear Fist Amendment.
  • Range: WHE’s data base to create a trend map of rangeland health in wild horse areas begins. Reports sent to BLM that outline management deficits that will lead to long term issues. (WHE now has nearly 6 years of trend information in over 16 HMAs and long term observational information in more than 30)
  • Monitoring of Sheldon uncovers roundups occurring without public notice and wild horses shipping direct to kill buyers. 
  • Roundup and range coverage 112,000 road miles. 

2011

  • Litigation: Triple B (humane care case). First court orders in history against inhumane treatment at roundups including a Temporary Restraining Order and a Preliminary Injunction.
  • BLM report on Triple B released to the public as WHE takes he case beyond the scope of a single operation. BLM admits all allegations are true but claims no wrongdoing after hot shotting foals in the face, kicking wild horses in the head and hitting with helicopter skids.
  • Litigation: WHE move Silver King into the Appeals court. 15 news organizations nationwide join WHE on Ninth Circuit First Amendment case.

2010

  • Litigation: Tuscarora. Won against closure of public lands during capture of wild horses.
  • Litigation: Silver King case addressing First Amendment violations. Case lasted 5 years and brought landmark rulings used in civil rights, and wild horse, cases nationwide. Opened roundups to daily observation. 
  • Extensive roundup coverage. Roundup documentation spurs investigation into conduct at the Antelope roundup. 
  • Range coverage expands to 90,000 road miles, 6 states, 32 HMAs.
  • Participation in BLM “A New Way” summit in Denver Colorado organized by Director Bob Abbey at a cost of over $1 million dollars. The agency said the meeting would have follow up on increasing public participation. No follow up meetings were scheduled.
  • Media coverage including BBC/ITV series by Martin Clunes “Horsepower,” CNN, New York Times and ABC.
  • BLM closes the doors to Indian Lakes (Broken Arrow) facility after public outrage over treatment of wild horses. 

2009

  • Litigation to expose the slaughter pipeline connection to the Sheldon wild horses managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
  • National recognition and an award for the article “My Wild Horse Education,” published in multiple venues. 
  • Formal roundup documentation begins.