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…