Tag Archives: Wild Horses

Roaming Wild: New Mustang Movie Brings Issue into 21st Century

Sylvia Johnson’s movie, Roaming Wild, screened at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale, Colorado Wednesday, March 19th, to an SRO crowd. The first-time feature film director worked on the project for several years and has put together a refreshing look at the wild horse management scenario in the American West. Featuring three people who represent three important issues facing the mustangs and the BLM, Johnson approaches ranching/grazing, the specter of slaughter, and one man’s tireless efforts to use fertility-control drugs to protect a New Mexico herd. The film also takes a look at a little known Utah herd, whose ancestors were Pony Express horses. It’s a must-see for mustang fans and those unfamiliar with the issue.

Johnson joined From Western Colorado ‘s Amy Hadden Marsh on KDNK Community Radio’s Valley Voices for a conversation about the film.

NOTE: The file below took a few seconds to download so please wait for it.

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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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Pryor Mountain Round-Up Begins

Dateline: Lovell,WY

Judge Emmett Sullivan ruled yesterday against the temporary restraining order filed by the Cloud Foundation and Front Range Equine Rescue last week to stop the round-up of the Pryor Mountain herd.  At the time of this post, about a dozen horses have been gathered into the Britton Springs Corrals just outside Lovell, WY.  The horses were from the lower, Dryhead region of the Pryor Mountain range and included at least one foal.  No horses were hurt during operations.

Prior to the round-up, about a dozen men and women from around the country stood at the entrance to the Britton Springs corrals, calling for a halt to what they consider cruel and unneccesary management practices. 

Horses gathered from the Dryhead area over the next few days as well as those rounded up from other areas deep within the Pryor Mountain range and in the Custer National Forest will remain in the Britton Springs corrals until September 26th, when some will be available for adoption. 

Ginger Kathrens, director of the Cloud Foundation still hopes to put a stop to the round-up before more horses are captured.  

Stay tuned…

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Crow Elder Howard Boggess Speaks Out for Pryor Mountain Herd on YouTube

NOTE: The link to this video  has been repaired. If you are not directed to Howard Boggess, please leave a comment and we’ll get right on it. 

Crow elder, Howard Boggess, spoke with the Cloud Foundation on Sunday, August 30th, about the connection between the Crow Nation and the Pryor Mountain mustangs.  The Pryor Mountain herd area is on traditional Crow territory.

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Pryor Mountain Mustangs Get Temporary Reprieve

Dateline: Lovell, WY

The mustangs in Montana’s Pryor Mountains won’t be rounded up today, as originally planned by the Bureau of Land Management. The Cloud Foundation and Front Range Equine Rescue filed a lawsuit on Friday, August 28, and the BLM agreed to delay the round-up for two days until the suit is heard in Washington DC.

BLM spokesperson, Greg Albright, confirmed today that the agency is waiting for a decision from the Court before moving forward with plans to round up the historic herd.  “If we prevail, we’ll start the round-up,” said Albright. “If we don’t, we won’t.” 

Ginger Kathrens, director of the Cloud Foundation, along with filmmaker, James Kleinert, and others held a ceremonial ride into the Pryor Mountain wild horse range on Saturday, culminating in a Native American ceremony to protect the horses.  Kleinert said, “Despite all of the facts and documentation that has been presented to the BLM, the Secretary of the Interior, Congress, and Senators, the brutal round-ups continue. Over 33,000 wild horses are in government holding facilities; more than remain in the wild. The desecration of our wild horses and public lands is appalling. The BLM is destroying a valuable, beautiful, and prfound part of our American heritage. The majority of the American people have spoken out and we want this to stop.” 

Kleinert was referring to over 8,000 signatures on a petition calling on Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, to stop the round-up as well as calls, faxes, and emails that have been pouring into BLM offices from Montana to Washington DC over the past week.   According to the BLM’s National Call Center, over 300 calls came in on Friday, August 28th.  Albright put public response to the round-up at close to 1,000 calls or emails. 

Judge Emmet Sullivan will hear the injunction on Wednesday, September 2, in Washington DC.

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Pryor Mountain Wild Horses

The countdown has begun for the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse herd.  Despite protests, (BLM head, Bob Abbey has stopped taking calls due to the overwhelming amount), BLM has decided to move forward with a round-up scheduled for next week.  The entire herd is to be rounded-up and 70 are to be removed from the range. 

The Cloud Foundation filed an appeal to the Department of Interior based on BLM’s environmental assessment issued earlier this summer but details about further legal action based on the current decision notice are not available. 

Native Americans from the Northern Cheyenne, Lakota, and Crow Nations will gather this weekend for a Freedom Ride and ceremony for the horses.  Stay tuned for more information and photos from that event…

And, thanks for listening…


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Wild Horse Annie Is Rolling In Her Grave

     Does BLM want to completely eradicate wild horses from the western range?  Since its existing wild horse and burro management program costs upwards of $27M annually and maintaining the 33,000 horses currently in captivity or “holding facilities” eats up 74% of that budget, BLM is sadly shaking its head and wringing its hands about the very real possibility of euthanizing said 33,000 horses.  Yet, BLM continues to trot out (pun intended) its outdated, expensive, and obviously unsuccessful round-up and adoption program, making the holding facilities mere staging grounds for wild horse slaughter.  Why doesn’t BLM just shoot the horses on the range?  Oh, I forgot.  It can’t or else it’d be violating the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, originally created  to stop ranchers and others from slaughtering wild horses.  (Does anyone feel dizzy yet?)

     Slaughter is a brutal, shocking, and socially unacceptable word when it comes to horses but let’s call a spade a spade. We can say “put the animal down” or “humanely euthanize” or “harvest” but as Ed Abbey’s mother once said (From Fool’s Progress), “You don’t harvest living creatures. What a disgusting word. You’re killing them for personal profit.”  Ed’s ma was referring to hunting and BLM hasn’t sold wild horses for profit for a few years. But, even if the Agency hasn’t declared open season on wild horses, it may as well.  There isn’t much difference between shooting a wild horse on the range and rounding it up and “humanely euthanizing” the animal afterwards.

     What’s all the fuss over?  The Government Accountability Office released its report on the BLM’s treatment of wild horses on October 9th, 2008 but made it public earlier this week. Wild horse advocates, such as Ginger Kathrens of the Cloud Foundation and Karen Sussman of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, say that one of the GAO report recommendations gives the nod to slaughter of most of the horses now in captivity in the US. Kathrens also says that BLM round ups are going on right now in Utah. If those taken from the Utah range are over 10 years old or are not adopted after three tries, they can, according to the 2004 Burns Amendment, be sold for slaughter. Attempts to repeal the Burns Amendment have failed. And now, it appears, the BLM will get its way.

   The GAO recommendation in question reads: 

To address BLM’s noncompliance with the act, as amended, the Secretary of the Interior should direct BLM to discuss with Congress and other stakeholders how best to comply with the act or amend it so that BLM would be able to comply. As part of this discussion, BLM should inform Congress of its concerns with (1) the act’s requirement for the humane destruction of excess animals and (2) the possible slaughter of healthy horses if excess animals are sold without limitation, under certain circumstances, as the act requires (italics added).

     What does it mean to “amend [the act] so that BLM would be able to comply”? I’m not sure, but it could mean that wild horse advocates have another shot at the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. This is what would repeal the Burns Amendment thereby forcing BLM to discontinue efforts to kill the horses.  Once that’s in place, then solutions such as increasing range size, natural predation, and releasing the captive horses can begin to enjoy real discussion.  If not, all the work of Wild Horse Annie will have been in vain.     

Stay tuned and…thanks for listening.

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More Wild Horses

     As an addendum to the first post about Ginger Kathrens, I thought I’d offer a link to one of my stories about the Little Book Cliffs herd in Western Colorado – a few miles northeast of Grand Junction.  A little over a year ago, I attended one of the BLM’s round-ups of this herd.  BLM prefers to call it a “gather” but a round-up is a round-up as far as I’m concerned.

     This piece was added to the late, great PRX/NPR Station Showcase in November, 2007.  In June, 2008, BLM announced the possible euthanization of thousands of horses that have been taken off the range and placed in holding facilities in the US.  While BLM has since postponed that decision, the message of my story remains relevant.  Here’s where you can find it.  Thanks for listening…

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