Public outrage is increasing as the Obama Administration proceeds with a controversial Christmas week roundup of thousands of wild Nevada mustangs despite a federal court’s suggestion last week that the action be postponed.
Today, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began the cruel wild horse capture in secret, on private lands where the public will be barred from observing the treatment of the horses. In response, In Defense of Animals (IDA) today released video of BLM chief Don Glenn, stating at a public meeting in Reno on December 7 that “All of our gathers are open to the public; the public is invited to watch all the time.” See the VIDEO.
Just a day before Glenn made that statement, the BLM completed the roundup of 217 horses on the California/Nevada border, an action that was taken illegally with no public notification. Two weeks later, the BLM denied a request by an IDA observer to witness a helicopter stampede of horses living in the Palomino Buttes area in Eastern Oregon , stating “no observers would be allowed or welcome at this roundup.”
“Directly counter to the spirit of the Obama Administration’s promise of transparency, the President is allowing the BLM to secretly begin the roundup of thousands of wild horses living peacefully on more than one-half million acres of public lands in Nevada,” said Elliot M. Katz, DVM, IDA president. “This roundup will commence out of view of the public during a holiday week when government officials are off on holiday and have been unable to address complaints and a formal Motion to Stay (stop) the roundup. This action reflects very poorly on the BLM and most of all on the Obama Administration.”
In a December 23, 2009 decision, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman said that the BLM’s plans to stockpile these horses in Midwestern holding facilities is likely illegal, and consequently suggested that BLM postpone the Calico gather. That ruling, combined with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) violations cited in IDA’s complaints to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Interior Department, should warrant President Obama’s intervention to stop this roundup immediately, IDA said.
Judge Friedman’s decision was made in response to a federal lawsuit filed by IDA, Nevada ecologist Craig Downer and noted children’s writer Terri Farley, also a Nevada resident, to halt the roundup, which involves a helicopter stampede and capture of 2,700 horses in the more than 500,000-acre Calico Mountains Complex in northwestern Nevada. The horses will be traumatized, terrorized, and many will be injured and/or killed. Foals and their mothers will be separated and horse family bands will be shattered forever
In a 2008 report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the BLM was not transparent with the public about how horses are treated under its Wild Horse and Burro management program.
“For America ’s wild horses, President Obama’s promise of change rings hollow,” said IDA president Elliot M. Katz, DVM. “His administration has continued the same secretive and destructive Bush Administration war on the wild horses of the American West.”
IDA said that wild horses are removed for the benefit of private livestock owners and other extractive users of public lands. Despite a Congressional mandate to protect wild horses in the Calico Complex, the BLM has in recent times increased the number of cattle to run on the same public lands where they are removing wild horses. The BLM ignores its federal mandate to remove livestock from federal wild horse management areas “if necessary to provide habitat for wild horses or burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros from disease, harassment or injury” (43 CFR § 4710.5).
If the Administration continues its current course, it will capture and remove nearly 12,000 wild horses a year from their native Western homes for the next three years, after which time the number of horses in Midwestern holding facilities will number more than 50,000 and far exceed those left on the range.
Suzanne Roy, Program Director, In Defense of Animals
Eric Kleiman, Research Director, In Defense of Animals