The good news is there were two BLM public relations officers on hand during last week’s round-up in northwestern Colorado. The bad news is they were ill-prepared to handle the press. The agency is currently removing mustangs from outside the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area. Last week’s operations focused on areas southeast of the HMA and in the “Doughnut Hole”, between the HMA and the North Piceance Herd Area. Normally, these horses would be gathered along with those within the boundaries of the herd management area but BLM decided to postpone gathering the Piceance-East Douglas herd pending further studies. Litigation has also compromised gather operations, forcing logistical changes. These details are important for a complete understanding of current gather operations. local BLM management pracitces, and impacts on the herds.
On Wednesday and Thursday, a temporary trap site was set up on Magnolia Bench, southeast of the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area. Security was tight and observers were supervised by employees from outside the region. PR specialists Heather Tiel-Nelson from the Twin Falls, ID field office and Denver’s Vanessa Delgado were on-hand to answer questions. Tiel-Nelson has covered round-ups in the past and was fresh from one in Nevada but this was Delgado’s first. Both were cheerful, intelligent, and likeable; however, neither knew about the area, local herds, or the impacts of current litigation on gather operations. Questions about anything other than logistics or the agency’s mission were referred to someone else, namely, David Boyd, public relations specialist for northwestern Colorado. But the go-to guy was not on-site. Boyd has been available by phone and email and was on-site over the weekend; however, the White River Field Office is trying something new this time that demands knowledgable PR on-site at all times.
Usually, BLM holds a “media day” for observers and press at a pre-selected location for optimal round-up viewing and photo opportunities. Everybody is escorted to the site and a PR specialist is there to answer questions. It’s a one-day deal but for this round-up, the public can observe any and all days, 7 days a week. To its credit, the White River Field Office is attempting to provide more insight into round-up operations; however, if transparency is the goal, why were the available PR specialists so uninformed?
From Western Colorado wants your two cents on how BLM should handle PR during a round-up. Should imported PR specialsts be briefed about local issues? Should an employee from the local field office be on-hand at all times? How about having a briefing with the wild horse specialist for 15 minutes? Or, is it okay to be referred to someone else for detailed information? Let us know what you think.
Poll is open until midnight, December 31st.