Independent Observers at Wild Horse Round-ups a Possibility

     California resident Elyse Gardner may have made BLM history at the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting in Washington DC on September 28th with her comments about the need for “humane observers” at round-ups.  The meeting followed close on the heels of the Pryor Mountain round-up and National Wild Horse Adoption Day.  Gardner became a sort of accidental humane observer during the round-up in the Pryors.  It was her first experience with that kind of work and inspired her to become more involved with protecting wild herds.  

     In a recent interview, she said her comments to the Advisory Board could have focused on what went wrong in the Pryors but she felt that building a bridge between the public and the agency was more important.  “[Round-ups] are not as sanitized as BLM makes it sound”,  she added.  ” But, I wanted BLM to know that we want to work ultimately with them to make it better for the horses.”

     Gardner was instrumental in bringing BLM and wild horse advocates to the table in early September for an impromtu meeting at Britton Springs corrals near Lovell, Wyoming, just before the Pryor Mountain round-up.  Some of the people at that meeting were fresh from the Challis, ID round-up in August and were angry about BLM treatment of the horses as well as people who lived nearby.  The meeting was tense at best but Gardner managed to convince BLM to allow her to act as humane observer for the first few days of the round-up. While Gardner says she wasn’t afforded a close view of the horses in the chutes, she managed to get a few photos and document as much as she could. 

     Armed with this experience, she hopped on a plane to DC and presented her findings as well as recommendations to Don Glenn, head of BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Program, and other BLM officials.   Glenn said in an interview on Tuesday, “I thought she was going to tear us a new one but I was very pleased with [her] comments. They were respectful and helpful.”  

     BLM has no protocol for independent observers, a term that Glenn prefers.  “The word “humane” is a value judgment,” he added.  “People have different definitions of it.”  But, he said, BLM will now pursue the idea.  “We have been accused of being secretive”, he remarked. “I don’t believe we are that way. The more transparency, the better.”  Glenn says don’t look for independent observers at round-ups this fall because BLM still needs to figure out how this is going to work.  Nevertheless, the results of Gardner’s efforts could signal a shift in a decades-long contention between the agency and the advocates.  

Stay tuned…and thanks for listening…

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Filed under Current Events, Wild Horses

3 responses to “Independent Observers at Wild Horse Round-ups a Possibility

  1. Wild Horses – Mustangs on the Hill

    Last Tuesday September 29th, wild horse supporters from all over the country converged on the Hill in Washington D.C. to support wild horses and the ROAM Act, now S.1579. The ROAM Act has passed the House and is now in the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in the Senate. We concentrated our efforts in getting meetings with Senators on that Committee. The day started out with a Press Conference and Briefing at Longworth House. Ginger Kathrens introduced all the speakers. We started with a slideshow of the disastrous Sand Wash roundup last fall, then Ginger spoke about the Pryor Mountain Roundup two weeks ago.

    The next speaker was Hope Ryden, who is the author of America’s Last Wild Horses and was instrumental in the passage of the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act. Next, Congressman Raul Grijalva spoke to us. He has been championing the wild horse cause and along with Congressman Rahall was successful in having it passed in the House. The last speaker of the morning was Howard Boggess, elder of the Crow Nation, who grew up alongside the horses of the Pryor Mountains and who speaks of his deep love for the horses and the land. Then Chris Heyde of Animal Welfare Institute gave us some pointers and armed us with packets of information.

    My first meeting was at Senator Mark Udall’s office since I am from Colorado. Ginger Kathrens and several other Coloradans attended, and we had a good meeting, and Hope Rydan joined us and talked about her work with Mark Udall’s uncle, Stuart Udall, at the time of the passage of the 1971 Act. My next meeting was at Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington’s office, and then the last meeting was when I went along with the California contingent to Senator Barbara Boxer’s office. All of the meetings I attended were with aides, not the Senators, but were very productive, and we had some spirited discussions. Many other people had meetings in other Committee members’ offices but the one we were all most excited to hear about was Ginger’s meeting with Senator Mary Landrieu of Lousiana, who has promised to make the wild horse issue her priority. She had just championed a tough new bill in the Senate that requires the BLM to come up with a new plan for managing wild horses and will not allow BLM funds to be used for the destruction of wild horses.

    This was my first time on the Hill and a huge learning experience. I was inspired by all of my fellow wild horse supporters who all bring different strengths and knowledge to the table. The fight to get the ROAM Act passed in the Senate has just begun, but it is off to a great start! The non- profit Cloud Foundation is dedicated to preventing the extinction of Cloud’s herd through education, media events and programming, and public involvement. The Foundation is also determined to protect other wild horse herds on public lands, especially isolated herds with unique characteristics and historical significance.

    • amyhaddenmarsh

      Just to clarify, Senator Landrieu has not introduced a new bill. She added language to the 2010 DOI Appropriations Bill that would prohibit allocations for the destruction of wild horses and burros. The bill has passed both the House and Senate but is in conference committee to hammer out compromises. If it passes this committee with Landrieu’s language intact and is signed into law by President Obama, it will essentially nullify the Burns Amendment for fiscal year 2010. The Burns Rider amended the actual 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act so cannot be overturned by anything less than another act of Congress; however, the denial of fiscal appropriations can render it sort of null and void year by year.

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