Tuesday, October 28, 2008

By The Victors

This is the third in a four part series, which attempts to highlight two of the root issues in the long-standing war on America’s mustangs and burros and continues to be used as the hammer to prevent their rightful place in the American landscape.

Watch Mustang Medicine Video ~ Click Here

“We have an awareness, a connection, a relationship with these other species…Yet there are human beings who don’t understand this, who have not been made aware of this. But then there are some who don’t want to hear it either, this story that we say – this is what the Black Hills is. It’s a sacred place. The Forest Service knows this. We told them over and over. They won’t listen. They won’t listen about the Black Hills. And they won’t listen about the national grasslands.”

Charmaine White Face
Western Turf Wars:
The Politics of Public Lands Ranching

While the debate rages on as to whether equids are feral or native to North America, the Rainshadow Wild Horse Ecosystem referenced in the last post presented yet another issue that has received very little attention from our firmly rooted European academia.

History is always written by the victors but how accurate is it? According to various Native American tribes, including the Xeni Gwet’in that live in the Rainshadow ecosystem, wild horses never left the American continent.

The long-standing premise that wild horses arrived exclusively via Spanish explorers is supported by mainstream scholars assertions that no horse bones from the late pre-Columbian era have been found and horses are not pictured in any pre-Colombian American Indian “art.” Also the argument is used that because the Aztecs and other tribes of the Mexico region didn’t understand what a horse was, this proved that no horses inhabited the America’s.

As historians have dug through the records of the past, they have used white settlers accounts to estimate wild horse presence and distribution, timelines of arrivals and cultural specialists have illustrated how the introduction of the horse transformed many native cultures through their incorporation of riding them for hunting, exploring and war.

While it is predominately accepted that horses disappeared from North America between 8-13k years ago, only three hypothesis are embraced as to why this happened.

The first is massive climate change that caused most large mammals to die off, the second is called the overkill hypothesis, where newly migrated human populations hunted them to extinction and the third is, it was a combination of the first two.

Yet here is what Dr. Paul Haemig had to say regarding the “overkill hypothesis” in 2006 in his Evolution of Horses, Ecology Info #33;

“Although still unproven, the overkill hypothesis is a plausible explanation and should be given serious consideration. However, the reader needs to be wary of the political agenda of some of its supporters, and the dubious conclusions that they derive from it.”

“For example, the overkill hypothesis is sometimes cited as “evidence” that American Indians living in historical times, thousands of years after the extinctions, did not believe in preserving the environment…. Yet overkill proponents routinely make this dubious argument about American Indians for even longer periods of time (7,000-10,000 years).”

“The overkill hypothesis is also used by extremists to argue...Indians allegedly destroyed pristine character of these areas thousands of years ago by killing off their horses and other large mammals.”

And finally, Dr. Haemig mentions,
“Some researchers propose that North American caballine horses did not become extinct and instead persisted until historical times (Clutton-Brock 1981).”

While today, many Native American’s are actively engaged in legal entanglements that attempt to stop further resource exploitation and destruction of their environment, their actions and the philosophies that guide them provide little evidence to support cultural values that would hunt them to extinction as postulated in the “Overkill Theory” (unlike other cultures we know).

Since other large mammals also died off as well during this timeframe, the evidence suggests that climate change is the superior hypothesis and the most likely culprit in their demise. So is it then possible that some small isolated herds adapted and persisted despite the change?

Ivan T. Sanderson, once wrote: “There is a body of evidence both from the mainland of Central America and even from rock drawings in Haiti itself tending to show that the horse may have been known to man in the America’s before the coming of the Spaniards.” Science, 93, 507 (May 30, 194; p. 91).

Other Pre-Columbian evidence of wild horses still being present in North America after the climate change and before the arrival of the Spaniards includes:

*Giffin and Quimby investigated a site of horse bones found that was dated pre-2000 B.C.

*A horses skull was found buried with other Indian artifacts in a burial mound in Wisconsin dated around 700 A.D.

*Holland Hague posed an inquiry to scholars regarding documented horse bones radiocarbon dated to A.D. years prior to Columbus that was not followed up by the scholars involved.

The figure below is a view of an ancient Mound Builder carving of a white limestone horses head discovered in North Salem New York. The Mound Builder Era is estimated as occurring between 3000 AD to the 16th century A.D. (Click Here to learn more).

While the idea is still generally rejected by current scholars that horses still existed in North America prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, some Native Americans continue to insist that horses have always been here despite European based scholarly assertions.

The following quote is taken from a 1904 New York Times article titled “Fleet Little Broomtails” to help illustrate how prevalent this attitude was and continues to be. Click Here for full article.

“It is commonly understood that the broomtails are descended from American horses that escaped from the settlements: but the large number of pintos, (spotted ponies,) found in the herds would seem to indicate a strong infusion of Spanish, (mustang,) blood. Indeed, the Navajo Indians assert that wild horses have ranged the region of the Breaks since the days of the “Men-who-built-the-high-houses,” (cliff dwellers) And they ought to know how long their supply of horse steak has been available – but of course they don’t.” (Ed. Note: Cliff Dwellers have been assigned a timeline between the 11th-14th century).

In an article titled “The Nakota Always Had Horses” by Scott Bara, the author argues many points that American historians and government officials insist are the “only truths” and recounts the struggles Indigenous Peoples so often have regarding their own knowledge and history.

While many indigenous people’s recounting of history continues to be casually tossed into the garbage heap of “impossibilities”, many tribes view “our version” of history to be corrupted and exhibiting blatant disregard for the facts as they know them to be. (Click Here to learn more).

But back to the Rainshadow Wild Horse Ecosystem. This assessment was actually done as the result of the local Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government and Peoples long standing legal battles with the Canadian government to preserve their lands, way of life and culture ~ a culture they insist has always been based on the wild horses found within the area ~ as far back as their history goes.

As their cultural values and history continue to be largely ignored, the cultural and historic values of the American Mustang and Burro by our own people have now joined the ranks of institutionalized genocide, as long-term holding facilities mirror modern day versions of Reservations; cleansed from the lands they use to call home and dumped in containment areas where they will spend the rest of their days, it would seem that this historical strategy of cultural decimation continues to be used just as effectively today as it was then.

"Fleet Little Broom Tail" was accessed at American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign's Press Section, which contains a highly comprehenisve historical review of over one hundred years of wild horse headlines, press releases and news stories dating from the late 1800's through the present. Click Here to learn more.

To access the Rainshadow Wild Horse Ecosystem Conservation Assessment in full, Click Here.

Photo at top is an ancient pictograph carved on rocks near Monte Vista Colorada and appeared in The Improvement Era October 1955. These carvings are considered by experts to be ancient. From Horses and The Book of Mormon, compiled by Glen W. Chapman Nov. 1996, Published by Benjamin G. Chapman, downloaded 10/28/08.

Photo of limestone horse carving was taken from Book Saga America by Dr. Berry Fell, published in 1980, pg. 57. Taken from same as above.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The New Brand

This is the second in a four part series, which attempts to highlight two of the root issues in the long-standing war on America’s mustangs and burros, which continue to be used as the hammer to prevent their rightful place in the American landscape.

“Wildlife” means any wild mammal, wild bird, fish, reptile, amphibian, mollusk or crustacean found naturally in a wild state, whether indigenous to Nevada or not, and whether raised in captivity or not”.
Nevada Department of Wildlife

While many involved in public lands and species preservation turn a blind eye to the quite arguably native status of equines in North America, it has been repeatedly documented by those focused towards truth that politics, not science, is the big influence in land and species management.

The quotation used above is taken directly from the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) Nevada Hunt Book, 2008 Hunting and Trapping Laws and Regulation for Big Game, Furbearer, Upland and Game Waterfowl, pg. 67, and apparently applies to every species except,

A wild horse or burro…..

When BLM filed a application with the Nevada State Engineer regarding their intent to provide well water for the few remaining wild horses in the Red Rock Herd Management Area after they had been denied access to the majority of springs, NDOW filed a Protest.

According to the Protest, it was NDOW’s contention that, “The assertion that beneficial use is wholly for wildlife implies that wild (i.e. feral) horses and burros are wildlife.” They went on to say, “Clearly, in no manner have "wild" horses been classified as wildlife under Nevada Revised Statutes. Therefore, the Bureau's water application should list the beneficial use as livestock and the well development would be for stock water.” (Click Here for NDOWs Full Protest).

What makes this even more hypocritical is that NDOW is aggressively involved in supplemental water developments, not only in Nevada, but in other states too, to expand and increase available habitat for big game species even though the “thriving natural ecological balance” could not support these species or their population targets without them. Nor does NDOW reveal that these supplemental water sources are responsible for altering the natural ecological balance they insist wild horse and burro use must rigidly comply with.

Through their constant big game species introductions, increased wildlife population targets, which in turn impacts habitat and resource availability and increases competition with the free-roaming herds, their liberal water supplemental policies are often found to be at the very root of species resource conflicts that is then blamed on the “feral” herds. Check out the big game water developments on this map as of 2002.

While noting that the supplemental water would be of benefit to small wildlife species in the Red Rock HMA, the main thrust of their argument was ~ it failed to benefit mule deer or bighorn sheep. Their Protest also references the “dangers” of increased wild horse and burro use to State Protected Species, which is made all the more ironic through their referencing of Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS), as wild horses and burros are a State Protected Species through NRS 504.430 to 504.490 that continues to be ignored. (By the way, NRS Chapter 504 is titled "Management and Propagation ~ Wildlife Management Areas" and all the NRS governing "other" wildlife species come under this chapter with Wild Horse NRS's falling right between the middle of it all).

To illustrate how much has changed over the last twenty years, below is a map showing pronghorn antelope distribution in 1983 (highlighted in orange) and antelope distribution in 2002 (highlighted in yellow). Currently, just the Nevada pronghorn population target of 25k is greater than the national allowable management level set by BLM for wild horses throughout the entire West and NDOW is considering boosting it again to 28.5k. Wonder if this has anything to do with the non-stop round ups over the last eight years...

While arguments are continually lobbed at the public that the non-native wild horses and burros have few natural predators and whose unmanaged populations can spiral quickly out of control, a study done in 2004 by W.P. McCrory for the Friends of Nemaiah Valley found some very interesting results in a relatively untouched and remote area in the Brittany Triangle in Canada.

The Rainshadow Wild Horse Ecosystem’s Conservation Assessment preliminary findings revealed much of what is occurring to America’s herds is the result of manipulated management actions that have disrupted the natural ecological balance while simultaneously insisting that this manipulated system is natural - just another absurd double-standard foisted upon our wild herds.

Some statements of interest in the Rainshadow Conservation Assessment include:

“I could actually find no negative biological rationale (e.g. range damage) not to recommend this. (in reference to declaring the Rainshadow Wild Horse Ecosystem as western Canada’s first wild horse refuge.) I would caution, however, that some management issues need to be addressed as part of an overall protection package…”

“It is interesting to note, however, that the feral horse is now so far down the totem pole in the Cariboo – Chilcotin that a recent detailed “problem” analysis by B.C. Environment on grassland biodiversity in the region failed to acknowledge that the wild horses even exist and were once present in quite high numbers (Hooper and Pitt 1995).”

“As noted by Hooper and Pitt (1995), separation of feeding niches by wild ungulates is well documented on the Serengeti Plains of East Africa and that positive interactions among herbivores are commonly believed to occur in many grassland ecosystems.”

“While detailed research is needed to more carefully quantify possible over-grazing competition between feral horses, wild ungulates and domestic cattle, I saw limited evidence of over-grazing during our field surveys. The most damage I observed was being caused by cattle to riparian habitats on private land holdings in Elkin Creek.”

Perceived problems associated with the potential for over-population and over-grazing by feral horses in the Chilcotin appears to be a persistent concern that has received little documentation and study…..”

While there is no question that wild horses and burros have the potential to cause rangeland degradation through overpopulation, this fact holds true for any species.

In the Fish Creek Rangeland Health Assessment in 2005, bighorn sheep were noted as the only source of riparian degradation in Ice House Spring #3 and BLM noted elk were destroying the sole riparian area in the Rattlesnake grazing allotment since 2002 but as of 2007, nothing had yet to be done about this. (Click Here to see photos of more “native” damage to watering sites).

NDOW actually has a special fund set aside for “elk damage” in Nevada and issues checks to compensate for their destructive impacts on private land (this program is also mandated through NRS) but no record has yet been found to determine if checks are issued for damage to public lands.

Yet in today’s culture, everything is in a name, isn’t it?

Like the $700 billion dollar bailout (excuse me, the $852 billion dollar bailout) that proponents desperately tried to re-brand as a “Rescue Plan”, revenue oriented experts twist definitions to suit their agendas too.

*Wildlife bred, born and raised via human intervention are branded “introduced”. Wild horses and burros untouched by humans for generations are branded “feral”.

*Bringing wildlife to an area they haven’t lived in for decades is branded “historical re-introductions”. Removing wild horses and burros that have lived in an area for centuries is branded “returning the area to its Preferred Natural Community (PNC)”.

*Non-native species they want to keep are branded “naturalized”. Non-native species they don’t want to keep are branded “invasive”.

*Water hauling to exotic species such as cattle is branded “stock watering”. Water hauling to wildlife guzzlers is branded “habitat enhancements”.

Water hauling policies approved by the Secretary of the Interior for wild equids is only allowed until they can be removed.....

To view some of these policies in current action, Click Here to see how BLM just recently approved zeroing out 1.6 million acres of wild horse and burro habitat that just happens to be smack dab in the middle of the Lincoln County Elk Management Plan, all part of their "Partnership Projects" with NDOW. Includes a map of "habitat enhancing water developments" for big game species while limitations on water were cited as one of the major reasons behind BLMs decision to zero out the herds.

Petroglyph photo at top was taken from Proboscidian & Equine Petroglyphs? by Russell L. Kaldenberg, China Lake Area, 2005. To view Full Document, Click Here.

Photos of Big Game Water Developments and Nevada Pronghorn Antelope Map Distribution, 1983-2002 taken from Nevada's Pronghorn Antelope, Ecology, Management and Conservation by George K. Tsukamoto, 1983, First Revision Edited and Written by Greg Tanner, Game Bureau Chief, Kraig Beckstrand, Larry Gilberston, Craig Mortimore, John Himes, May 2003, Published by Nevada Division of Wildlife, Nevada's Pronghorn Antelope- Biological Bulletin No. 13.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Blessed Sixty-Six

This is the first in a four part series, which attempts to highlight two of the root issues in the long-standing war on America’s mustangs and burros and continues to be used as a hammer to prevent their rightful place in the American landscape.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that horses are unlucky creatures,
and wild horses are ill-fated.”
Animal Welfare Institute Scientific Advisor Hope Ryden,
America’s Last Wild Horses, rev. ed. 2005

From an estimated 2 million wild horses in the United States at the turn of the 19th century, their populations were believed to have been whittled down to fewer than 17k shortly before the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971, which finally granted them some measure of protection.

While millions of dollars have been poured into the Bureau of Land Managements Wild Horse and Burro Program over the last thirty-seven years, remarkably, little has been produced in the way of actual studies, research and credible data as a result of their “management” when it comes to these unique free-roaming herds.

And is it any wonder? The 1934 Taylor Grazing Act, whose legal obligations are still cited to this day as one of the foundations of BLMs “missions”, authorized the round up and slaughter of thousands of wild mustangs throughout the West and included the statement “worthless fuzz-tails were grazing unlawfully on public domain”. (1)

When the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act was passed, two distinct principles were embedded in the law as the foundation for protecting and preserving America’s wild free-roaming herds. Unfortunately, instead of these principles being combined and used to strengthen the status of wild horses and burros, they have been used to cleave the very heart of the Act through that age-old strategy of “divide and conquer”.

The first principle of preservation was built into the title itself, as both Congress and the majority of the American people acknowledged wild horses and burros as a free-roaming wildlife species and the Act included such language as “Any adjustments in forage allocations on any such lands shall take into consideration the needs of other wildlife species which inhabit such lands”.

Wild horses and burros as a wildlife species was also affirmed in the Acts first legal challenge in Kleppe v New Mexico when judges declared, “In our view the ‘complete power’ that Congress has over public lands necessarily includes the power to regulate and protect the wildlife living there”.

Yet these days, you won’t have to travel far to hear the only “real” wild horses of the modern era only exist in Mongolia, despite being extinct for over thirty years in the wild. These only “true” remaining wild horses are called the Prezwalski horses and are descendants from 12-15 captured foals from the early 1900’s kept in zoos until their first reintroduction in 1992 when 16 horses were released.

With much fanfare and while the eyes of the world watched giddy conservation teams release them, wild horses in other parts of the world continued to be shot, butchered and hunted as an invasive species, relegated to little more than biological garbage by the much of the scientific community.

As BLM has done little to document the social dynamics and ecology of the “fuzz-tails” they were grudgingly put in charge of, the ecology of the American wild horse began to be told by many who had their own agenda’s and what you will hear them say today is “wild horses are not native to North America” – anymore.

One of the key supports for Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (considered one of the backbones of modern science) rests in yet another gift of the equus species to mankind, its documented evolutionary progression through a highly extensive collection of fossils unearthed right here at home.

Since its dawning inception as the three-toed dog like Eohippus to the current Equus caballus, their history built in bones spanning 56 million years earned the North American continent the distinct honor of being hailed “The Cradle Of Equine Evolution” through one of the most extensive evolutionary fossil progressions ever recorded.

Except these “true” wild horses died out on the North American continent approximately 8,000 to 13,000 years ago (depending on which report you read) and while just a blink from an evolutionary standpoint, current biologists rarely discuss their native homeland, preferring instead to cite the non-native status of the now feral North American wild horse.

Yet in 2005, Weinstock suggested that: (2)

“….there were really only two horse species present in North America during the mid and late Pleistocene: a caballine and stilt-legged equine. Both species, they suggest showed great geographic variation in size because of adaptation to different environments.”

“…some or all of the fossils are really stilt legged equines that have been misidentified. Clearly more study is needed to determine if Asiatic wild asses ever inhabited North America.”

“A recent study of caballine fossils in the northern hemisphere reveals that those of the late Pleistocene times belonged to two clades: (1) an endemic North American group, and (2) a Holarctic group found in both North America and Eurasia (Vila et al. 2001). The familiar domestic horse of today comes from the second clade.”

Though social behaviors and ecology between the true Mongolian wild horses and the feral wild horses of the American West are barely distinguishable and the two supposedly separate species are capable of breeding fertile offspring, the wild horses of today are born “in sin”, guilty of an unforgivable crime the Mongolian wild horses can never commit….

From a biologists standpoint, the specific crime of the modern horse is sixty-four chromosomes comprise the world’s horse population, which numbers into the millions and that includes the Mustangs of the American West, while the Przewalski’s horses contain sixty-six chromosomes, a number considered sacred by the scientific community who have determined they are the only species of horse deserving of conservation efforts versus bullets.

Though their loving gaze has been reserved for the blessed sixty-six with blinders tightly secured to focus away from North America’s equid evolution, recent developments in genetics has also revealed the tidy bundle of fossil evolution so tightly embraced by the status quo has begun to unravel in a not-so-straightforward progression.

It turns out that the genus equus has a few secrets buried in all that “junk DNA” and evidence is suggesting a more diverse family tree versus the linear progression than was previously believed to be the evolutionary sacred cow.

A recent article published in the Natural History Museum magazine authored Jay Kirkpatrick Ph.D, and Patricia Fazio, Ph.D., indicates new research into variations in mitochondrial DNA has reached the conclusion that “domestic horses” are genetically equivalent to the wild horse species, E. lambei, a species academia has already acknowledged as the “last true wild horse of North America”. (Click Here and go to pg. 6).

Furthermore, in George H. Warings book titled, Horse Behaviors, (3) the author states:

“Some authors have suggested that domestic horses were derived from more than one wild type. Their aim has been to explain differences in conformation of the animals depicted in ancient cave paintings, engravings, and sculptures as well as differences noted among contemporary and ancient horses, such as in body size, temperament, and other characteristics.”

“But the multiple origin of domestic horses has not become a fulsome idea. The extensive analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of both modern and ancient horses by Vila et al. (2001) has shown that modern horses have almost as much genetic variation as did the fossil horses examined. This eliminates the possibility horses were domesticated in just one place and spread from there. If horses had been domesticated once from a limited number of ancestors, the mtDNA of all modern domesticated horses should look basically similar. The high diversity of matrilines observed among modern horses implies wild horses from a large number of populations were founders of the domestic horse.” (3)

A point to ponder regarding potential differences of wild horses formed from the same strands of mtDNA can be found in Chincoteague horses, "where 40 western mustangs were brought to the island to infuse some diversity into the southern herd, but only five survived the first year”. (4) Why? My guess is due to radically different ecosystems and salt-laden forage this “same ole horse” had extreme difficulty adapting too.

So why does this all this science matter to the average person who just knows instinctively that horses belong here just as much as other wildlife species do?

Because one of the founding principles established to protect wild horses has been eroded in the name of science but not the form of science through the singular repetitive assertion that wild horses “aren’t native” and are therefore a threat to both landscape and all the other “native” species, despite real scientific evidence to the contrary.

Photo at top of the "true" wild Prezwalski horse.

(1) Bearcroft, N. 1974. Wild horses of Canada. First published by J.A. Allen & Co., London (1966). Reprinted by the Canadian Wild Horse Society 116 pp.

(2) Weinstock J, Willerslev E, Sher A, Tong W, Ho SyW, Rubenstein D, Burns J, Martin L, Bravi C, Prieto A, Froese D, Scott E, Xulong L, Cooper A (2005) Evolution, systematics, and phylogeography of Pleistocene horses in the New World: a molecular perspective, PLOS Biology 3: 1373-1379
(3) Horse Behaviors by George H. Warings, Second Edition, 2002, can be accessed at:

(4) Grillis, A.M. 1994. Fiddling with foaling. BioScience v 44 (July/Aug. 1994):443-450

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Gathering

While the eyes of the nation stayed riveted on our teetering economy poised precariously on the brink of financial melt down, wild horse and burro advocates, leading scientists, top experts, high ranking BLM officials and concerned citizens from across the nation reached deep into their hearts (and wallets) to attend the National Wild Horse and Burro Emergency Summit held in Las Vegas, Nevada this past weekend to rally for America’s Living Legacy – the American Mustang and Burro.

The Emergency Summit was called in response to BLMs recent announcement of considering killing tens of thousands of America’s wild horses and burros now warehoused in government pens or initiating an Instant Title program (aka, selling to killer buyers for slaughter) in order to alleviate the agency’s financial woes.

Organizers Jerry Reynoldson of Wild Horses 4 Ever , President Karen Sussman of the International Society for Protection the Mustangs and Burros, and Marisa Morin* coordinated the Summit in record time in efforts to halt what many consider the “managed extinction” of America’s herds.

In an unfortunate turn of events, just days before the Summit began, Jerry Reynoldson had a riding accident on his beloved horse and was hospitalized for a concussion, two broken ribs, and a punctured lung and was unable to attend the very event he had taken a lead role in bringing to life. On a positive note, Jerry has now been released and is on the mend. Though physically absent, his presence could still be felt throughout the event and I would like to give sincere thanks for all his hard work and effort in bringing everyone together to help save America’s Mustangs and Burros!

The Summit opened on Friday night with screenings of award winning filmmaker James Kleinert’s powerful documentary “Spirit Riders-Riding to Mend The Sacred Hoop”. This short version was the companion documentary of the HBO featured film “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”, which won 7 Emmy’s, and the full version of Spirit Riders is scheduled for release this spring.

Kleinert felt it was important to begin the Emergency Summit by “reflect[ing] on our brutal American history and how it still continues with America’s Wild Horses and Burros”. This was followed by “Saving the American Wild Horse”, a stunning documentary that showcased the true majesty and travesty surrounding these iconic animals and concluded with a sneak peek at some recent footage taken of the herds in Colorado’s Disappoint Valley.

Saturday morning was the “official” kick off of the Summit, where attendees were honored by the presence and spiritual leadership of Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generational Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. Through his words of wisdom and prayer, he acknowledged all by beginning with “My relatives” and recounted the power of the horse and its spiritual guidance for humanity as well as the need for us to return to an honorable and sacred relationship with a way of life that is in harmony, respect and balance with Un-ci Ma-Ka (Grandmother Earth). With deepest respect, Chief Looking Horse, many blessings to your work and journey!

The collective knowledge and experience of all those who attended and spoke was truly amazing as lifetimes of work were condensed in intense educational formats, people struggling to both be heard and to listen, to open their hearts and minds by embracing a united vision in what can only be described as a frenzied environment - as all knew the clock was ticking with the lives and futures of thousands of America’s wild horses and burros hanging in the balance and dependent on the outcome of this collaborative effort.

Honestly, words cannot describe the power of experiencing so many who’s lives have been dedicated to the preservation and protection of these majestic icons as they came together in heartfelt determination to stop the genocide and decades of mismanagement of our wild herds and restore them to their rightful place on public lands.

Some of the highlights included:

*Michael Blake, author Dances with Wolves, both hero and champion of America’s mustangs and burros for decades, delivered a powerful message detailing history, warnings and a new vision for America’s herds.

*Madeline Pickens, wife of oil man T. Boone Pickens, made a surprise special guest appearance to announce her support for saving America’s wild horses and burros and promised to bring their message to Washington.

*BLM Deputy Director Henri Bisson spoke and gave assurances that he was personally reviewing all round up proposals and none would be implemented without his authorization, that all future round ups were being put on hold, including McCullough Peaks in Wyoming (but he did note that the Sandwash Basin herds in Colorado and Cedar Mountain herds in Utah were the exception as they are scheduled for a new fertility control study) and that he was intent on focusing all his energies on resolving the Wild horse and Burro Programs problems before he retires in January 2009.

*A comprehensive and detailed plan presented by wildlife ecologist and long time wild horse and burro advocate, Craig Downer, to restore America’s herds to their rightful place on public lands, which received a standing ovation.

*Karen Sussman of the ISPMB revealed the results of nine years of observing behaviors from three different herds at the ISPMB sanctuary. The conclusions of these observations has shown that two of the herds who had lived wild and free with no “management” before their final capture (aka, constant round ups and shattering social bonds and order through indiscriminate removals) only reproduced at a rate of 10-12% per year and demonstrated stable relationship patterns among the bands. The third herd studied, who had been subjected to the trauma of continuous round ups and removals, had a reproduction rate of 31% with little cohesiveness and stability and was classified as exhibiting a variety of “dysfunctional” and aberrant behaviors compared to the “non-managed” herds.

While these are just a few of the most powerful highlights, their was a wealth of other valuable information, presentations, insights as well as the formation of strategies for public education and awareness, political, legal and adoption strategies, short-term and long-term goals and a general consensus of the imminent threat America’s remaining herds now face. (To view the speakers, panelist, and subjects, Click Here and scroll down to Summit Program.)

At the end of the Summit, all who were in attendance joined together in a circle as Chief Arvol Looking Horse closed the event and everyone affirmed their commitment to mobilize, organize and win back the eroded rights of America’s wild horses and burros so they may continue to be preserved…now and for generations to come!

New stories covering the event include:

KLAS Channel 8
I-Team: Headway Made at Wild Horse Summit
Includes a section titled “Who’s Responsible” with contact information for Nevada’s BLM Wild Horse and Burro Lead Susie Stokke to voice your opinion on BLMs wild horse and burro management.

KVBC Channel 3:
Are Wild Horses Facing Extinction?

Las Vegas Review Journal
Government Urged to Save Wild Horses by Keith Rogers
Wild Horse Summit Slide Show by John Gurzinski and Keith Rogers

Public Radio KNPR
-on the BLM's proposal to euthanize thousands of wild horses in an effort to keep their population under control and summit organized by those opposed to that plan. Interviews include:
Karen Sussman, President of ISPMB
Jerry Reynoldson, President of Wild Horses 4 Ever
Don Glenn, Acting Division Chief of Department of Wild Horses and Burros, BLM
Tom Gorey, Public Affairs Specialist, BLM

Sante Fe Northern New Mexico News
Group Pushes For More Wild Horse Protection

Note: This article has been widely distributed from the Associative Press. AP continues to print that BLMs target populations are 27k for wild horses when the truth is, the target populations are 24.3k for wild horses and 2,915 for wild burros, a number less than the Endangered Wolf and certainly capable of qualifying for Endangered Species Status in their own right. Please consider writing AP at info@ap.org and request they accurately protray that 27k covers BOTH wild horses and burros or better yet, print the REAL numbers to help the public understand what has and is going on with our herds and why there is so much concern for their future.

*In the original post, a very important co-creator of the Summit was inadvertently missed, Marisa Morin, whom I extend my deep apologies for this oversight. Marisa was key in providing a very positive, upbeat environment throughout the event as well as presenting an astounding presentation on the Healing Power of Horses that, among many other things, provided scientific documentation and photos taken with cutting edge technology of how wild horses actually altered brain wave patterns, caused physiological body changes and had provided core fundamental healing in war veterans that suffered from post traumatic stress disorders for YEARS who were permanently transformed within a very short time just being in close proximity to wild horses. Very powerful stuff! Thank you Marisa.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


The BLM Cody Field Office in Wyoming is requesting public input regarding the drilling of up to seven new natural gas wells, three of them proposed for the McCullough Peak Herd Management Area (HMA). The proposal is listed under the title of the Rocktober Drilling Project. (Click Here)

The McCullough Peaks HMA is one of the few nationally “dedicated ranges” supposedly devoted principally to wild horses but with a current allowable management level (AML) of merely 70-140 wild horses over a 109k acre range, one would hardly know it.

The AMLs were established in 1985, re-affirmed in 1992, ruled on by the Interior Board of Land Appeals in 1993 to maintain a population of 100 adult horses and then in 2003, when the State of Wyoming took BLM to court for failing to keep wild horse populations within their allowable range, the 2003 Consent Decree stipulates the wild horse herds are to “operate at the low end of AML but keep herd viable”. (1) (Click Here to view 2003 Consent Decree).

Despite BLM stating that only wild horse “ranges” are to be devoted principally to wild horses, the current livestock allocations total 5,772 Animal Unit Months (AUMs) while wild horse maximum use is 1,680 AUMs. So much for being the primary consideration…..

According to BLM, forage production has been on the rise since most rangeland evaluations were conducted 14 years ago in 1994. Some examples include monitoring areas in the Whistle Creek Allotment went from 291 lbs per acre in 1994 to 416 in 2006, Coon Creek Pasture increased from 204 lbs per acre in 1994 to 299 lbs in 2006 and Dry Creek Pasture went from 261 lbs in 1994 to 347 lbs in 2007.

However, of significant interest is that the largest allotment in the McCullough Peak HMA, the East-West Allotment, provided no data at all regarding rangeland production even though it is authorized for the bulk of the grazing with 3,885 AUMs. Check out this map of the allotments in the HMA, the big one in the middle is the East-West Allotment.

While BLM cites forage production is up, they simultaneously state rangeland health standards are failing in “some areas” due to wild horse use. While this is certainly possible, as BLM states most livestock grazing is dramatically down due to drought and “other factors”, citing only 16% livstock use in 2007, again the East-West Allotment mysteriously failed to be included in their analysis. (2)

Another note to ponder is McCullough Peaks is located in the Bighorn Basin, cited by National Park Service as having the potential to be a National Natural Landmark due to exceptional scenery and beauty as well as containing important archaeological cites, one of which is providing the most comprehensive vertebrate fossils of any rock in the world. (Click Here)

While forage production is being cited as up in the McCulloughs Peak HMA, BLM still plans to remove wild horses some time soon because they are “excessive” in relation to population levels established over 21 years ago while BLM is simultaneously now conducting prescribed burns throughout the Bighorn Basin to reduce “flammable fuels”, aka, excessive forage. (Click Here)

Another serious concern regarding the McCullough Peak wild horses and further habitat fragmentation is due to recent advancements in determining genetic viability with the “low” AML range of merely 70 wild horses considered a high risk for inbreeding due to their isolation from other herds.

Remember the Silver Peak HMA in Nevada had cited genetic tests found possible signs of inbreeding in those wild horses and this fact was used as support for BLM opting to zero out the HMA completely. In the fall of 2006, BLM removed 143 wild horses during their last and final gather – three more than the McCullough Peak “high” allowable management level…. (3)

Of further concern is BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Specialist stated trial runs used in a computer software analysis known as Population Modeling caused the results of the first time trial runs to be questioned due to “extremely low values shown especially regarding growth rates.”

There is also the startling revelation that experimental fertility control pellets were used on most of the remaining McCullough Peak mares after the last removals in 2004 and since then, 16 of 34 mares have failed to reproduce at all. (4)

Now BLM wants to add additional oil and gas wells within the area, which may cause even more fragmentation, fencing and disturbances to this increasingly fragile and celebrated wild horse population as well as to a nationally significant landscape worthy of monument status.

If that weren’t enough, recent scandals rocking the Department of the Interior through documented abuses of rigging bids to support corrupt proposals in oil and gas leases, ethics violations, and multiple conflict of interest abuses among BLM employees and oil and gas lease applicants (Click Here) or BLMs failures to monitor excessive pollution levels for six years leading to damage of habitat and wildlife in Wyoming (Click Here) make the new drilling proposals in McCullough Peak seriously suspect of also being linked to backroom deals whose only aim was to serve corporate interests at the expense of everything else BLMs suppose to be protecting for the public and our nation.

So please consider adding your voice to support the McCullough Peak wild horse herds, sensitive wildlife species in the area such as important sage grouse nesting grounds and urge BLM to protect this extraordinary landscape from future exploitation. Once disturbed, it is believed the ecosystems within this area could take decades to recover, even with epic mitigation efforts. To learn more about what is at stake, Click Here to read this recent opinion peice by David Dominick.

Request that prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and not settle for a smaller EA, re-evaluate all previous documents associated with the Rocktober Drilling proposal that may have been tainted by corrupt DOI employees as well as BLM using this opportunity to develop plans for the McCullough Peak wild horses as the “principle consideration” as clearly stated in P.L. 92-195, The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act.

This would include re-establishing more viable populations until they are no longer at risk of inbreeding and/or crashing due to extreme or harsh weather, reducing livestock authorizations until stable herds can be assured, remove fences wherever possible, and provide appropriate plans to counteract any negative impacts new wells and their developments will have to these historical wild horses and their range if BLM ultimately approves all the wells and pipelines now proposed.

All public comments and submissions must be received by
October 10, 2008, 4:30 p.m.

Ann Perkins, Planning and Environmental Coordinator
BLM Cody Field Office
P.O. Box 518 Cody, WY 82414
Phone: 307-578-5900 Fax: 307-578-5939
Email: cody_wymail@blm.gov

Be sure to include the Rocktober Drilling Project in the title of your submissions and please be aware that all personally identifying information becomes part of the public record and may be available for public review.

(1) WY BLM Cody Field Office, EA# WY-020-EA08-86, pg. 10, September 2008
(2) WY BLM Cody Field Office, EA# WY-020-EA08-86, Figure 7, pg. 23, September 2008
(3) NV BLM, Battle Mountain District, Tonopah Field Station, Silver Peak HMA and Paymaster HMA Wild Horse Gather Plan and Environmental Assessment EA# NV065-EA06-14, pg. 8, September 2006
(4) WY BLM Cody Field Office, EA# WY-020-EA08-86, pg. 67, September 2008.

Friday, October 3, 2008

No Standing

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
United States Constitution
Bill of Rights, Article I
September 25, 1789

On September 5, 2008, the Interior Board of Land of Appeals (IBLA) dismissed all three appeals regarding BLMs new management plans for the Nevada Wild Horse Range (NWHR) wild horses, burros and their habitat based on the following three considerations. (Click Here for IBLAs Decision).

*Only those members of the public authorized within the Nevada Test and Training Range have a right to appeal,

*Despite over a year of intensive dialogue, multiple submissions of public comments regarding BLMs management and proposals as well as hundreds of pages of documents clearly illustrating both malfeasance and violations of accepted standards for humane treatment of the wild horses, IBLA ruled the appeals failed to show how I or the public was adversely affected,

*IBLA could not issue a decision on the “emergency removals” of the NWHR because only “verbal” orders were given to remove them and even though BLMs attorneys submitted evidence themselves that BLM took the wild horses and burros, according to IBLA, BLM actions could not be challenged due to lack of an “official” signature.

So just who is this Interior Board of Land of Appeals?

IBLA is a branch of Department of the Interior (DOI) with appointed judges by the DOI and set up as a quasi-legal administrative court. Officially established in 1970 under the Office of Hearings and Appeals, it was founded to provide oversight regarding legal compliance of agency actions.

It's authority began with the passage of the Administrative Procedures Act in 1946 and then expanded in 1966 through P.L. 89-554, commonly known as the Freedom of Information Act. In more bureaucratic terms, it is also known as Title 5, “Government Organization and Employees” but its umbrella also includes such diverse segments as Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, oversight of finances in relation to public resources, conflict of interests regarding government employees as well as the current hot topic of the FDIC (Federal Depositors Insurance Corporation) under 8000- FDIC Miscellaneous Statutes and Regulations, 554-Adjudications. (1)

When the Administrative Procedures Act was initially passed in 1946, Senator Pat McCarran-NV (D), hailed it as “a bill of rights for the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose affairs are controlled or regulated” by federal government agencies.

However, President Roosevelt had great reservations about its passage and commented that the practice of creating administrative agencies with the authority to perform both legislative and judicial works “threatens to develop a fourth branch of government for which there is no sanction in the Constitution.” (2)

“For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments”
Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776

When the BLM Las Vegas Field Office issued their final decisions for the wild horses held captive within the confines of the Nellis Military Base, BLM included procedures outlining the right to appeal their decisions as required by law. Yet according to IBLA, no member of the public had or has a right to appeal anything that goes on in Nellis because no one is legally allowed within the confines of the base. So if no member of the public had a right to appeal BLMs decisions here, wouldn’t their proclamation that the public can appeal their decisions be defined as fraud?

Based on the rulings of this “fourth branch of government” not beholden to Constitutional authority, these appointed employees of the Department of the Interior have legally stated that being an American citizen is not good enough to have “standing” to appeal taxpayer funded decisions with public resources (or to petition our government for grievances) and apparently, this isn’t the first time this argument has been used to slap the public down either.

Currently, the Earth Island Institute and other conservation groups have a lawsuit pending before the Supreme Court challenging the issue of “public standing”, administrative appeals, and the public’s rights to challenge administrative actions. (3)

While the initial issues that sparked this litigation have apparently been resolved, these groups felt the abuse of administrative rulings towards public rights was long overdue and ripe for challenge at the highest level.

"In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury…. ”
Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776

While the Supreme Court ponders the issues Roosevelt saw coming 50 years ago, government agencies continue to expand their authority aimed at public exclusion of public lands and resources as they increasingly operate as elite separate entities disconnected from the public at large.

In true irony, one such case is evidenced by National Park Services (NPS) recent announcement that the public is no longer “welcome” or will be allowed to view wild horse captures in Theodore Roosevelt National Park as NPS Superintendent Valerie Naylor declared public viewing has been “suspended”. (Click Here).

To learn more about the wild horses of the Badlands who somehow managed to be excluded from protection under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, despite some pretty overwhelming evidence of their historical lineage, Click Here.

Wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”