Tuesday, December 25, 2007


The old gray horse sidled up to the pasture fence with little dancing steps. The place seemed familiar, yet somehow strange. The grass was greener than any grass he'd ever seen, and when he looked closely at the white paddock gate it had a kind of pearly sheen. and there was another funny thing. A big, black cloud hovered just inside the gate. The cloud wasn't up in the sky where it properly belonged. It was like a great puff of black smoke rising from the grass.

Suddenly the cloud dissolved and revealed a horse. He was a small chestnut with a blunt head and one white stocking and brownish hairs in his tail and mane. The gray horse thought he had a kind of old timely look to him.

"Hello, old gray horse," the chestnut from the black cloud said.

"Hey, that's a real good trick!" the gray horse exclaimed. "Where'd you learn it?"

The chestnut disappeared into the cloud again, but emerged immediately. "Learned it the day I was born," he replied, with a whinny that sounded like a chuckle. "You see, I was born on April Fool's Day and there was a total eclipse of the sun. So they named me Eclipse. I was always playing tricks on people too. Used to kick my rooms and try to throw my riders and I bit the auctioneer that sold me."

"My name is..." the old gray horse started to say politely, but the tricky chestnut ducked in and out of his cloud and interrupted rudely.

"Native Dancer," he said. "I ought to know you. I'm your great-great- great-great- great - I always lose count of the 'greats' - but anyway, you're a descendant of mine. almost everybody is, in fact. The Thoroughbreds, that is."

"Are you the gatekeeper?" Native Dancer asked.

"Mostly," Eclipse replied. "I'm on duty whenever one of my descendants is coming up. That's mostly so far as the Thouroughbreds go. Old Matchem has a few left and he takes over when one's due. And poor old Herod, he's posted here occasionally, but there's not many of his male line that aren't here already."

"What is this place" Native Dancer asked. "I guess I'm kind of lost."

"The Green Place," Eclipse replied. "That's what it's called. The Green Place. Most of the horses that get lost, come here. We have to send some back of course."

"Why?" the Dancer asked.

"Because they don't belong here, that's why. Long before I came up there was this fellow Bayard, for instance. He was a devil-horse. Belonged to an old necromancer named Malagigi and he did the devil's work. Helped that villain Aymon of Dordogne to triumph over Charlemagne, they say. and a wizard named Michael Scott had a big black beast who used to stomp his feet and set all the bells of Paris ringing. He even caused the towers of the palace to fall down one day. The Big Guy doesn't want that kind here. But we have Jesse James's horse, and Dick Turpin's too. The Big Guy says they did nothing wrong themselves. They were just faithful to their masters, and The Big Guy thinks that's a virtue."

"Who's the Big Guy?" Native Dancer asked.

"You'll find out!" Eclipse answered airily. He lowered his muzzle and pushed the gate open. "You might as well come in. You understand you're on probation though. The Big Guy makes his decisions about new arrivals every Christmas. Let's see, it's November 16, the way you figure things down there. So you won't have long to wait anyway."

"I'll bet The Big Guy is Man O' War" Native Dancer said as he moved inside and gazed over the emerald green expanses that seemed to stretch into infinity.

Eclipse snorted. "Don't get smart, boy" he said. Then he added maliciously, "You'd lose your bet too. The way a lot of people lost their bets on you at Churchill Downs one day.

"Native Dancer felt hurt, for his ancestor had touched a raw nerve. His lip trembled a bit as he replied defensively, "That Derby was the only race I ever lost."

"I never lost even one race," Eclipse said unsympathetically. "So don't get smart up here. The Big Guy doesn't want any smart-alecks in the Green Place. Remember that.

"Native Dancer was a sensitive sort. He felt as if his eyes were teary and he hoped Eclipse didn't notice. "I won 21 out of 22, and Man O'War only won 20 out of 21" he declared. "And my son Kauai King won the Kentucky Derby."

"My sons won three Derbys at Epsom" Eclipse said. "Young Eclipse took the second running and Saltram won the fourth and Sergeant won the fifth, and I'd have won the bloomin' race myself, only they didn't run it in my time. So quit bragging. Somebody's coming and they might overhear you and tell The Big Guy, and that would be a mark against you."

A bay horse who seemed even more old-timey than Eclipse ambled up. "Is it my time now?" he asked eagerly.

"Not yet, Herod," Eclipse answered in a kindly fashion. "Old Fig's on duty now. One of his is on the way."

"Who's Old Fig?" Native Dancer asked. "I never heard of that one."

"There's a lot of things you never heard of, boy," Eclipse replied. "His real name is Figure, but down there they called him Justin Morgan, after his owner. Here he is now."

A very small, dark bay horse with a round barrel, tiny feet, and furry fetlocks came bustling up to the gate. "OK, OK, I'll take over," he said busily. "Where is that boy? Can't stand tardiness. I've got things to do. A load to pull, a field to plough, a race to run, a trot to trot. No time to waste. Where is that boy?"

In the weeks that followed, The Dancer met hundreds, maybe thousands, of horses. Some of them were famous, and some of them were his ancestors and a few of them were his own sons and daughters.

He met a snorting white stallion named Bucephalus who had been approved for the Green Place by The Big Guy even though he was rumored by some that he was cursed by the deadly sin of pride because he had carried a conqueror named Alexander. He met another gray horse who limped because he had stepped on a rusty nail back home just before he became lost forever. His name was Traveller, and he was a war-horse too, in the days when a man named General Lee had owned him. There were other soldier steeds, two of them descendants of the bustling little stallion they called Old Fig up here. One was Phil Sheridan's black Rienzi and the other horse called both Fancy and Little Sorrel who had been the mount of Stonewall Jackson.

Native Dancer found Man O' War an amiable sort despite his proud aristocratic bearing, and he grew especially fond of a bony old fellow named Exterminator, who patiently answered all but one of his questions. He asked the question of everyone: "Who is The Big Guy?" And the answer was always the same: "Wait til Christmas."

He met Messenger and Hambletonian and Hindoo. He met horses that had dared the dreadful fences of the Grand National. He met a horse who stared blindly into the emerald darkness. His name was Lexington. He met horses who had pulled circus wagons and horses who had pulled brewers' trucks and horses who had drawn man's ploughs over the fields of earth, and he met others who had been the mounts of kings and captains.Always the answer to his question was the same: "Wait til Christmas."

Eclipse fussed over him and kept a watchful eye on his behavior and said he neighed too much and asked too many questions. Eclipse could not stand the thought of The Big Guy banishing one of his descendants from the Green Place.

And Native Dancer did not wish to leave. He doubted he could ever find his way to Maryland again if The Big Guy disapproved of him. And the Green Place was very pleasant in all respects. The grass was lush and he met so many interesting horses. Back home he had sometimes been troubled by nightmares, for a Dark Star haunted his dreams, but now he slept peacefully and rarely remembered the Derby he had lost.

He became nervous though, as the weeks went by and the stars grew brighter.

And finally it was time. On a night when the skies burned with starlight all the horses gathered as near as possible to a little hillock of the vast paddock. There were hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of them, a murmuring and expectant throng that seemed to stretch over the emerald grass beneath the diamonds in the heavens.

Eclipse was very tense. He hovered over Native Dancer, whispering, "Look your best now. Be quiet and humble. The Big Guy will be here any minute."

Suddenly the vast throng was silent as the stars themselves. The Big Guy stood on the hillock in a blinding blaze of starlight, and Native Dancer could barely contain himself. He choked back a whinny of derision and whispered to Eclipse, "Is he The Big Guy? He's so little! And he's not even a horse! What did he ever do?"

Eclipse whispered, "He's a donkey. He carried a woman heavy with child to a small town on another night when the stars were bright."

"It was a long, long time ago."

This was written by the late David Alexander, and was first published in The Thoroughbred Record in December 1967, and won the TRA award for that year's outstanding article on TB racing, the forerunner of the Eclipse Award.

This posting is compiled from gifts of dear friends sent over the holidays.

This story, A Christmas Fable and the photograph of the manger, which was a Christmas card, arrived within the same hour of each other and it seemed totally fitting that these two thoughtful and loving gifts should go together to share with everyone else as well.

This last photo was sent by a friend who wanted us all to remember how it was the donkey who carried Jesus, Mary & Joesph to safety during Herod's Massacre of the Innocents.

Each dear friend shared a little piece of themselves to show their respect and honor for the beloved burros and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for these wonderful gifts.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Big Bending The Rules....

On December 6, 2007, a recent shocking investigative report by Sterry Butcher was published in the Texas Big Bend Sentinel outlining the cold-hearted inhumane killing of centuries old wild burros in Big Bend State Park, the corruption and cover-up of animal cruelty charges of the high-ranking State Park officials that did it and retaliation against the Parks Superintendent, Luis Armenndariz, who spoke out against the killings.

For over a year, State Parks Regional Director Mike Hill and Deputy Director Dan Sholly have been shooting Big Bend State Parks wild burros, leaving their bodies to rot wherever they fell and their drive-by death toll now totals at least 71 wild burros since the shooting spree began.

Not knowing the wild burros were being killed by his superiors, Big Bend Park Superintendent and thirty-five year State Parks veteran Luis Armendariz ordered an investigation into the brutal shootings and decaying corpses that were found scattered around the Park since October of last year.

In response to Armendariz request, Robert Garcia, the original investigative officer began accumulating evidence that catalogued the extreme suffering inflicted on the Big Bend wild burros by Hill and Sholly’s callous disregard, which included photographs of wild burros not receiving a humane “kill shot” but instead being shot in the hips and belly, a documented case of one burro left to suffer for two weeks before finally dying from its mortal wound and another instance where a baby burro was found still trying to nurse the now dead mother.

Yet Texas State Park & Wildlife’s Internal Investigation report cleared Hill and Sholly of animal cruelty charges and all wrongdoing despite Garcia’s documented evidence of the abuse. Instead, officials preferred to issue a transfer to Park Superintendent Armendariz, forcing his resignation on November 30, which also led investigative officer Garcia to quit in disgust due to the magnitude of the cover up and retaliation levied against Armendariz.

Though wild burros have completely naturalized themselves within the Parks ecosystem, Park officials are issuing a long-line of regurgitated popular propaganda often used against wild burros by those who seek their habitat for bighorn sheep, the largest revenue generating hunting species in America.

The current spin includes beating the non-native, invasive, feral, exotic drum that recounts every imaginable environmental horror known to man and by the time they get through, we are forced to believe the devastating impacts of a wild burro herd are equivalent to that of an atom bomb. For a look at the desolation wreaked by the centuries of burro inhabitants on Big Bend Park, click Here to view their promotional video.

Big Bend Ranch employee, Samuel Marquez told investigators “The burros were not hurting anything” and he should know, since he’s travels the Park on a daily basis but that won’t stop big game enthusiasts posing as environmental experts from lying about their impact to promote the introduction of bighorn sheep - they hope to harvest the bighorn for big bucks in the near future.

Wild burros are not even listed on the State Parks Wildlife Nuisance Species list but you can bet that’s about to change to help cover their own asses while they kill ours!

Park officials also try to legitimize shooting the Big Bends burros by quoting an environmental organization’s “policy” as to why they are authorized to exterminate wild burros, specifically the Sierra Club’s long-standing orders that wild burros will not be tolerated due to their non-native status while supporting their “humane removals via firearms” to garner more bighorn sheep habitat.

If you would like to demand justice for the current cover up of the cruelty and suffering the burros have been subjected too, protest the retaliation against honest and ethical Park employees or show your support for the preservation and humane treatment of the Big Bend wild burros still remaining, click HERE for The Twelve Gifts of Christmas you can give to them this holiday season!

To learn more about this story, here are links to some of the articles currently published about this corrupt and heartbreaking tragedy.

Questions Raised After Burros Killed At Big Bend Ranch State Park
12/06/07 Big Bend Sentinel – Sterry Butcher

71 Wild Burros Killed – Internal Investigation Clears TPWD Officials of Cruelty
12/13/07 Big Bend Sentinel – Sterry Butcher

Wildlife Officers Cleared in Wild Burro Shootings
12/17/07 KTEN El Paso, Texas - Associated Press

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Internal Affairs Investigative Report #I07-014
"Shooting of Burros a Big Bend"
December 4, 2007
To Download Click Here

Photo of “Death of A Mojave Burro” courtesy of Kathleen Hayden – All Rights Reserved.
For complete details on how this wild burro died, visit American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Reality of Round Ups, Testimonials, California, 2005 – Death of a Mojave Burro, J & K Foster.

Friday, December 21, 2007

When The Dust Finally Settled.....

#3340 -10 year old Jack – Captured 3/18/07 Gold Butte HMA, NV

Gold Butte HMA
BLM Las Vegas Field Office

On July 8th, 2006, the BLM Las Vegas Field Office issued their standard press release in the Las Vegas Review Journal announcing their intentions to remove about 1,100 wild horses and burros in the Southern Nevada area. Though the announcement was small, it turned out BLM had big plans.

With the public focused on the removals of the wild horses and burros in the Spring Mountain Complex to the west of Las Vegas, which eventually blossomed into a failed lawsuit that attempted to protest and challenge BLMs “management” of our herds, plans for the Lake Mead removals were quietly being drawn with little public scrutiny.

The July press release didn’t even bother to mention what kind of animals were going to be removed only citing, “about sixty animals west of Lake Mead”, which by the fall grew to 186 and when spring 2007 rolled around and the dust finally settled, a total of 216 were removed with the “animals in question” turning out to be more Lake Mead wild burros.

Why more? Because the BLM had already removed 132 wild burros in March of 2006 in the Gold Butte Herd Management Area (HMA) just a few months before the July press release announced they would be removing them again.

The Gold Butte HMA is the last remaining “legal area” in the Lake Mead Complex out of the initial 659k acres of habitat set aside for their preservation, with BLM determining only 178k acres is still “appropriate" and anything more than 98 burros causes rangeland deterioration and disrupts the thriving ecological balance.

As has been too common these days, a wildfire swept through Gold Butte burning almost 50% of the HMA and as a result, in March 2006 BLM told the public it was necessary to remove 132 burros to prevent their own starvation and further degradation of rangeland resources.

They also told us they left only 36…..

Needless to say, the new July announcement caused public concern about BLMs plans to “remove 60 animals west of Lake Mead” as this was their total reported population! Would this be an “unofficial” wipe out of the last remaining Lake Mead wild burros?

However, the Gold Butte HMA followed a recent and disturbing trend in BLMs population reports; as with the Adobe Town, Salt Wells, Divided Basin, and White Mountain HMAs in Wyoming and the recent Jackson Mountain, Antelope and Antelope Valley HMAs in Nevada, hundreds of wild ones became mysteriously present, which apparently BLM had no idea were out on the range despite their “in depth monitoring of rangeland resources” that authorizes these removals.

When challenged about the severe discrepancies in Gold Buttes wild burro population, the official response was that all the Gold Butte burros scheduled for removals were actually living outside the boundaries of the HMA, which turned out to be, not 36 but 140, with BLM removing every single burro that they gathered.

Yet months later, all the burros taken from Gold Butte are listed on BLMs Internet Adoption website as taken from inside the HMA boundaries, not outside. But what’s the difference - inside/outside, give or take a hundred fifty or so burros, such tiny details in the scheme of things – it’s not like this is life or death for our burros, is it?

BLM now reports thirty-one wild burros are all that remain in the 659k acre “preservation area” after almost four decades of management.

Either way, it doesn't matter what they report as they continue to be the unquestionable authority due to their continually proven track record of “expertise” and we can all rest assured that the last of the Lake Mead wild burros are still in good hands.

1. Gold Butte Herd Management statistics available at www.blm.gov
2. Copy of the November 2006 Lake Mead Complex Preliminary Gather Plan available at:
3. Copy of the February 2007 Lake Mead Complex Final Gather Plan and Finding of No Significant Impact available at: http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/lvfo/blm_information/nepa/lake_mead_gather_ea.html
4. Copy of the December 2005 Lake Mead Complex Preliminary Gather Plan available at:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How Muddy The Mountains...

The Muddy Mountains HMA
BLM Las Vegas Field Office

The Muddy Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) is located in Southern Nevada adjacent to Lake Mead and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which is managed under National Park Service jurisdiction, part of a “Complex” in the Lake Mead area. It includes the Gold Butte and El Dorado HMAs in Nevada and the Tassi-Gold Butte Herd Area on the Arizona side and was once home to one of the largest concentration of wild burros in the Southwest.

At the time the 1971 Act was passed declaring that wild horses and burros would be preserved where “presently found”, approximately 659,000 acres were identified in the Lake Mead area to be set aside for wild horse and burro preservation. (1)

A significant portion of this, approximately 338k acres, fell under National Park Service (NPS) jurisdiction who has adopted the Sierra Clubs environmental policies over federal law of not allowing “feral burros” on a huge list of various “public lands” that includes:
Complete elimination of herds from all federal and state lands where they “pose a threat” to habitats in which rare, endangered, threatened, or endemic species of flora or fauna exist, all areas protected by the Antiquities Act, all national recreational areas where they pose a threat to rare, endangered, threatened or endemic biota, or cultural sites protected under the Antiquities Act, and key wildlife habitat, including desert bighorn habitat of the American Southwest, and from designated natural areas.”

Then came the new policy of Herd “Management” Areas in the 1980’s allowing BLM to carve the original territories into smaller areas deemed “appropriate” for management. The end results of this two-sided attack zeroed out the Tassi-Gold Butte and El Dorado areas completely by 1998, leaving only two of the four territories remaining.

The "managment" herd areas carved out of the original Herd Areas further reduced the acreage until only 257k acres remained with all lands that connected to the Lake being under NPS jurisdiction – the only significant source of water in the area.

For years, BLM and NPS had a mutual arrangement called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)(2); a common way two different agencies resolve differing “missions” under their respective jurisdictions. In this case, the MOU revolved around water usage for the burros at Lake Mead – the burros were allowed “incidental use” of the water as long as they didn’t stay in the area and moved back into their BLM managed territory once they were through drinking.

Though the MOU outlined that if wild burros did take up residence on NPS land, they would coordinate with BLM to have them humanely removed through the adoption process, many residents in the Southern Nevada area have recounted stories of NPS using the “humane disposal methods” outlined by the Sierra Club – shooting wild burros “with recommendations to donate the carcasses to government institutions” and have stated that wild burros at Lake Mead simply “disappeared”.

In April 2005, BLM and NPS renewed their MOU to allow wild burros access to Lake Mead water with the stipulation that BLM would establish the burros “Allowable Management Level” (AML) based on forage supply in the designated management area while NPS would allow them access to the water. Yet in December of 2005, BLM zeroed out the Muddy Mountain HMA by determining that a critical habitat requirement was not present – water – and therefore established the “new” AML at 0. (3)

In the meantime, the Lake Mead area is home to a large concentration of desert bighorn sheep and the Muddy Mountains is touted by Nevada Department of Wildlife as the second largest hunt unit in the state.

One of the ways this became possible is through the addition of water developments that turned a part-time seasonal bighorn habit into a year-round area allowing bighorn numbers to continue to expand. Of course, no water developments are allowed for wild horses or burros, just all wildlife and livestock.

In 2006, the desert bighorn population in the Black, Eldorado and Muddy Mountains was estimated as almost 1,000 adults with approximately 265 in the Muddy Mountain area itself where a large part of the wild burro management area existed. (4)

Big game specialists have drawn up management plans that indicate 505 bighorn can thrive in this area “based on forage availability”, the same “forage availability” that BLM was suppose to use to establish the wild burro population AML according to their signed April 2005 agreement. (5)

When BLM laid out its plans to the public for the last gather and permanent removals of the Muddy Mountain burros, they refused to release the terms of agreement with NPS citing, on written public record, “The agreement between BLM and NPS is an administrative issue internal to both agencies”. (6)

After the Muddy Mountain wild burros had been permanently removed, Nevada State Director Ron Wenker finally allowed the release of this agreement and casually tossed aside the Las Vegas Field Offices refusal to allow public access with his assurances that BLM didn’t mean to imply it was not available to the public. Director Wenker did offer the additional advice that if the public believed the BLM was “in error”, we could always request an administrative review. (7)

Considering the fact that the evidence to appeal BLMs decision was withheld until all the burros had been removed, the deadline to appeal the decision had passed before it was released and the public has not won an appeal of BLMs decision in over a decade, this was comforting advice indeed.

So in March of 2007, after decades of calling the Muddy Mountains home, we waved goodbye to the last sixty-six Muddy Mountain wild burros and said hello to the exclusive bighorn herds that will now replace them.

(1) All acreage statistics taken from BLM Herd Area Statistics, 2004 http://www.blm.gov/
(2) Memorandum of Understanding Between National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Strip Field Office, Kingman Field Office, Las Vegas Field Office For Burro Management (IA-8360-94-003) (Amendment 2), April 15, 2005.
(3) 1. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management Las Vegas Field Office, December 2005, Johnnie, Muddy Mountains and Wheeler Pass Herd Management Areas Environmental Assessment for Establishment of Appropriate Management Levels, Record of Decision and Finding of No Significant Impact, December 15, 2005 and 2. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management Las Vegas Field Office, September 2005, Johnnie, Muddy Mountains and Wheeler Pass Wild Horse and Burro Herd Management Areas Evaluation. http://budget.state.nv.us/clearinghouse/Notice/2006/E2006-153.pdf
(4) Nevada Department of Wildlife, 2005-2006 Big Game Status
(5) Muddy Mountain Draft Wilderness Management Plan, October 2006, pg. 49, #E2007-120 http://budget.state.nv.us/clearinghouse/07_notice_list.htm
(6) Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management Las Vegas Field Office, Lake Mead Complex Final Gather Plan Environmental Assessment, NV-052-2007-69, pg. 40, BLM Response to Public Comment #25, http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/lvfo/blm_information/nepa/lake_mead_gather_ea.-WidePar-49136-DownloadFile.tmp/Lake%20Mead%20Complex%20Gather%20Final%20EA%20pdf.pdf
(7) Personal Correspondence, BLM Nevada State Director Ron Wenker: 3/30/07, 4/19/07,5/21/07.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Orphans of the Desert

Wild Burro Preservation and Rescue Project located in Olancha, California is one of the only American sanctuaries dedicated to wild burros in the United States.

Surrounded by wilderness and in a remote sage brush valley adjoining the majestic high Sierra mountains, the sanctuary is home to over 200 burros, horses and mules as well as numerous rescued domestic animals.

In 1985, Diana Chontos and Founder of Wild Burro Rescue became aware of the United States government public land use policies that were threatening the survival of wild burro herds throughout the Southwest. She began her journey into wild burro preservation by spending the next four years rescuing, gentling and living with six wild burros.

In efforts to raise public awareness of the plight many wild burros herds now faced, in the summer of 1990, Diana and her burro companions departed on a two-year wilderness trek to help educate the public about issues that were threatening their very existence.

After walking 450 miles and wintering over in Northern California, Diana learned that a herd of wild burros were being held in Nevada and were awaiting slaughter. Faced with the choice of continuing her trek or rescuing the animals, she chose to save the burros and Wild Burro Rescue was born.

In 1994, Diana discovered National Parks Services “Direct Reduction Management Plan” and in real world terms, this meant shooting wild burros whenever they were found. Between 1987-1994, over 400 wild burros are documented as being killed with government approval until she and Wild Burro Rescue stepped up to the plate.

Diana began long and intense negotiations with agency officials that finally resulted in an agreement allowing her to conduct live capture removals instead of their lethal removals - just as long as WBR organizes, funds and conducts the removals themselves.

The first rescue began in February 1995 and since then, not one wild burro has been shot because of her intervention. Of course, there’s a catch – Park Service will only suspend the killings as long as she can afford the live captures when officials discover a wild burro on their land.

Proclaiming them "Orphans of the Desert", Wild Burro Rescue developed an educational video that chronicles the Death Valley rescues as well as the wild burros’ move to their new Olancha sanctuary in the year 2000. To purchase your DVD or VHS copy, click HERE.

You can also watch a short educational video offered by Channel G TV that briefly illustrates the history and work of the Wild Burro Preservation and Rescue Project.

While Diana’s courage, dedication and the personal sacrifices that pioneered these amazing rescues are an inspiration to us all, continuing to conduct the live capture rescues, providing feed, medical attention, shelter and yes, even toys to these otherwise doomed burros is no easy task and the burros can use some help.

Describing life at the ranch, Diana writes, “We eat beans by candlelight and carry our water”. Anyone else you know so dedicated that they are willing to live this way to benefit the animals instead of themselves?

While the TOP PRIORITY is raising money to provide a well for water now being hauled by truck for the burros, the onset of winter comes with its own set of problems. With many of the burros being older, having special needs and requiring special care, the WBR has also put out a call for help because they would like more sheds to protect the burros from the icy snow as they are no longer “free” to find their own shelter.

Some of the other items their WISH LIST also includes:
  • Blankets
  • Jolly Balls
  • Portable Solar Power System
  • A New Roof
  • And yes, more money.

    Please consider giving Diana and Wild Burro Rescue a hand, either through donations or you can even volunteer. WBR's door is always open to caring people wanting to get to know one of America’s Heritage Species on a one on one basis – you’ll be glad you did!

    Click Here for a virtual tour of Wild Burro Rescue so you can see for yourself where your help goes and how important it is that our wild burros are not completely abandoned or forgotten.

!Please Click Here To Donate Now!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Direct Reduction

It was the brutally cruel and inhumane treatment of wild horses through a host of barbaric “solutions” such as mustanging, poisoning water holes, driving them off cliffs, and the bloody road to slaughter that sparked public protest to end this ugly historical chapter of the American West.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horse & Burro Act was suppose to close the door on these kinds of “on the range” kills and finally allow our animal brethren the freedom to live in peace after millenniums of domestication and service.

While supporters of the Act have often rallied against the hidden illegal slaughter and treatment of our now supposedly protected equines, the killing of America’s wild burros through “direct reductions programs” have often continued unabated through government agencies armed with the exclusively reserved right to put a bullet in our burros were they stood.

Congress charged the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture with the protection and preservation of our countries wild horses and burros as a response to the public's overwhelming love and desire to end their plight.

Despite this charge, the Secretaries have served at the pleasure of those who exploit our resources, not our laws or their intent, diligently working on ways to circumvent the political process and instead, exercising their authority to “legitimize” the corruption and corrosion of these mandates.

One of the many ways this was accomplished was through the institution of separate agency “missions” place under their jurisdiction that allowed national laws to be divided, segregated and ultimately usurped.

Enter National Park Service (NPS), established through the 1916 Organic Act under the mandate “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations" - that use to cover wild horses and burros as evidenced by the honor they bestowed on the wild burros of the Grand Canyon and elsewhere across the Nation.

Yet new policies - not laws - aimed at promoting “other agendas” began to be instituted, until finally, the Secretary of the Interior successfully shirked their charge of protecting wild horses and burros and their habitat through a total reversal that allowed National Park Service and other agencies to literally shoot them by the thousands if they had the unfortunate luck to reside on the wrong side of the jurisdictional tracks.

It began, at least as far as we know of, with the National Park Services plan to shoot the 577 wild burros then living within the Grand Canyon that the Fund for Animals halted through negotiating their amazing airlift rescues.

In 1984, the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in California began to initiate a “direct reduction program” of 5,900 wild burros in the area. In the beginning, 649 wild burros were shot on the base under this management plan until their deaths were discovered by animal welfare groups who successfully lobbied again for the humane “live removals” of 864 more.

Over the course of the next four years, an additional 4,387 wild burros were then removed by “live captures” until their numbers totaled less than 200 and now “allowed the Naval Weapons Center to reintroduce the native ungulate, the Desert Bighorn Sheep.” (1)

Since 1975, the Sierra Club has also endorses the reductions of wild burros and horses and has developed an extensive policy regarding their “management” that includes: eliminating them from all national parks and monuments, all areas protected by the Antiquities Act, all federal and state lands where rare, endangered, threatened, or endemic species of flora or fauna exist, national recreation areas as well as “eliminating them from key wildlife habitat, including desert bighorn habitat of the American Southwest, from designated natural areas” and supports the “carefully regulated numbers to minimize conflict with wildlife, livestock, and other range values.”

According to Deanne Stillman’s article, The Last Burros of the Mojave Desert, from 1987 to 1994, National Park Service shot 400 burros in Death Valley, CA with plans to accelerate these direct reductions in 1994 when a status change placed Death Valley under NPS sole jurisdiction.

Even today, wild burros remain targets for “direct reductions” as only a few days ago, a news story reported at least 18 burros have recently been shot at Big Bend State Park in Texas to make room for the “native species of bighorn sheep”, who brought in almost $800k in raffle sales by those eager for a chance to hunt the horned ones now being touted as “the future” of management goals for Park.

In a scenario that has played out time and again, a thirty-five year veteran and Big Bends Park manager, Luis Armendariz, began investigations into the burro killings, which resulted in his superiors retaliating against him forcing his resignation on November 30, 2007.

For a glaring expose on what and how “direct reductions” of wild burros are being secretly carried out, visit American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Death of a Mojave National Preserve Burro by J. & K. Foster.

(1) Proceedings of the Eleventh Vertebrate Pest Conference (1984), Feral Equine Management At The Naval Weapons Center, Thomas J. McGill

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Less Than 10%

Wild burros were once considered both an icon and mascot of the American West.

The Grand Canyon in Arizona use to proudly showcase a statue of “Brighty the Burro” at its entrance in honor of the burros historic role in both pioneering and building our Nation.

Brighty, short for Bright Angel, was a real life wild burro who lived in the Canyon back at the turn of the 19th century and became the inspiration for the book Brighty: Of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry as well as the 1967 Walt Disney movie tribute of the same name.

Today, Bright Angel’s memorial has been relegated to the scrap heap.

In 1979, Cleveland Amory and The Fund for Animals learned that the National Park Service planned to kill hundreds of burros then living in the Grand Canyon.

“The burros, whose ancestors were castoffs from the gold rush era, grazed the canyon and lived as wild equines on public lands. Private cattle and sheep ranchers had long resented their presence, claiming the animals were eating food meant for their livestock. Armed with this anti-burro and pro-ranching ideology and a report from a wildlife biologist who recommended their extermination, the Park Service declared war on the burros. After unsuccessful attempts to run the burros off the trails, the next idea was to shoot the animals from a small aircraft. Amory realized that this would involve widespread wounding and suffering to a large number of burros, while the number of painless deaths would likely be few.”

The Fund filed an unsuccessful lawsuit to stop National Park Service from exterminating the burros but managed to negotiate rescue efforts - a deal that gave the Fund thirty days to rescue thirty burros and was described as “meeting with several obstacles, not the least of which was the Park rescinding its agreement.”

Due to their intial success, the Fund (with significant public support) convinced Park officials to allow rescue efforts to continue, turning the rescue into a two-year operation that airlifted 577 wild burros to safety from the Canyon walls.

California also once loved their burros so much, they declared them the state mascot and before the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act passed in 1971, wild burros were already protected from being harassed or killed under their California Fish & Game Code, protection which still stands today.....in theory.

These days, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife cites them only as “feral asses” instead of wildlife as they once did and the careful observer will note that almost all the studies provided in their feral ass description used to justify wild burros being destructive to habitat were written by the Desert Bighorn Council…..imagine that.

At the time the California Desert Conservation Area Plan passed in 1980, protected burro habitat through the BLM totaled over 3.5 million acres with over 2,700 wild burros approved to maintain the thriving ecological balance.

This same area today has less than 300k acres of habitat remaining and only 229 or less wild burros are now considered appropriate – a 90% reduction in both habitat and population despite their supposed federal and state "protected status".

Now.....California has 3 wild burro herds remaining - only 345 wild burros are allowed statewide on public lands before they are considered “excessive”, a threat to the habitat and consequently removed.

To learn more about Brighty's history and the terrible tragedies wild burros have since endured, read "They Also Served - So Long,Mojave Burros" by author Deanne Stillman at American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.

The photo used is of a baby wild burro found within the Spring Mountain Complex in Southern Nevada taken before 572 wild burros were removed in January 2007.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Critically Endangered

Burro is the Spanish word for donkey and donkey is the English word for a domesticated wild ass.

The Wild Ass belongs to the Class Mammalia, Order Perissodactyla, Family Equidae, Genus Equus Asinus and there are two main species of wild asses recognized today.

The first is the Asian Wild Ass (equus hermionus) with six known subspecies; the Tibetan Wild Ass-Kiang (Equus kiang), the Persian Wild Ass-Onager (Equus hemionus onager), the Indian Wild Ass-Khur (Equus hemionus khur), two species of the Mongolian Wild Ass, Khulan (Equus hemionus hemionus), Gobi kulan (equus hemionus luteus) and the Syrian Wild Ass (equus hemionus hemippus) listed as extinct since 1927.

The second is the African Wild Ass (equus africanus), believed to be the ancestor of the modern domestic ass, with two recognized subspecies; the Somalian Wild Ass (equus africanus somaliensis) and the Nubian Wild Ass (E. africanus africanus), which is believed to be extinct in the wild.

While this may seem a little boring to those of us who merely love wild burros, its vital to understand the critical crisis wild asses face throughout the world today as all of the species cited above have been in some way listed as either Vulnerable, Threatened, Critically Endangered or possibly Extinct.

One of these photos is of an African Wild Ass
and one is of an American Wild Burro.

Can you tell which one is which?

The African Wild Ass is cited as one of the rarest animals in the world (ICUN, 2003)

The African Wild Ass (equus africanus) was listed on June 2, 1970 as Critically Endangered and wild populations are currently estimated at only a few hundred remaining or possibly already extinct.

Despite this endangered status for over 37 years, no studies, recovery plans, agreements or progress has been made toward the preservation of this ancestor of our wild burros.

One of the only modern comprehensive sources of information available on the ass species is Equids: Zebras, Asses, and Horses: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan by Patricia Moehlman, P.D. (2002) and the Equid Specialist Group of IUCN.

While the BLM has been “managing” wild burro herds for over three decades, almost no studies have been compiled on wild burros in general or of their individual herds – they are just “lumped in” with wild horses on every level.

What limited historical data and studies has been done regarding wild burros has primarily been compiled by those interested in promoting big game species such as bighorn sheep who flourish in similar habitats as our own wild asses.

Needless to say, these “authoritative opinions” always finds wild burros a great threat to any species and habitat; no matter how many centuries wild burro herds have been documented in the area, totally naturalized and co-existing in harmony within those ecosystems.

In July 2000, Patricia Moehlman, Chairwoman of the Species Survival Commission and Equid Specialist for the World Conservation Union appealed to BLM to initiate more studies of our American wild asses in efforts to obtain relevant information for critically endangered asses throughout the world.

However, the BLM had just released their “Strategy to Achieve and Manage Wild Burros at Appropriate Management Levels” in June of 2000, which authorized wild burro populations to be slashed nationally by at least 66%, despite their “federally protected status” - Dr. Moehlmans appeal for help was ignored. (1)

The first census done by BLM in 1971 reported approximately 8,045 wild burros on public lands. This census was done by driving around in vehicles and counting burros when they saw them. In 1974, the first census was done using aircraft; BLM reported a wild burro population estimated at 14,374.

In February 2007, BLM estimated the remaining national burro population was merely 2,874 burros with 369 more wild burros removed since the February estimates.

While studies on wild asses stated their reproduction rate was only 4% in good years, the BLM has applied their “wild horse reproduction rate” of 20% per year (also in serious question) to wild burros as well.

For a complete overview of the current crisis facing our wild burros and their habitat, visit American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Studies in Mismanagement, Wild Burros of the American West, A Critical Analysis of the National Status of Wild Burros on Public Lands – 2006.

The African Wild Ass is the right photo and one of the only photographs in existence of this species. It was altered from the original photo copyrighted by Brent Huffman
www.ultimateungulate.com for educational purposes only.
(1) 66% reduction in wild populations was based on the 1971 census. Based on the 1974 census results, wild burro populations have been gutted by over 80%.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


American Herds is devoting the month of December to the American Wild Burro, a species in significant decline whose populations under “federal protection” have continued to plummet to near Endangered Species status.

While much of the public’s attention has been centered around their love and passion for the preservation of the American wild horse, our wild burros have often been forgotten and treated as little more than an after thought.

Advocates would be wise to realize that wild burros, their stories, their treatment, and their decimated habitats and herds potentially hold the key to saving what’s left of our wild horses – nothing better illustrates the cumulative impact of what managed extinction looks like under the auspices of federal protection than the American Wild Burro.

For many that have had a wild burro touch their heart, their life has been transformed by their magical presence and the passionate devotion that these special beings have inspired has caused their advocates more heartbreak and tears than can be imagined as they have had to bear witness to these precious and unique herds being systematically destroyed.

In effort to honor those that have been irrevocably lost, to increase awareness of what little herds still remain and to those few individuals who have chosen the lonely path of trying to preserve and protect them, American Herds presents Decemburro as tribute - in rememburroance and in love.

Wild burro from Johnnie Herd Management Area, NV captured in January 2007 and found on July 18, 2007 at BLMs Wisconsin Rehabilitation Facilities for struggling WH&Bs - downloaded from BLM Internet Adoption Site www.blm.gov

Thursday, November 29, 2007


It was New Mexico law enforcement agents that began investigating the selling of wild horses to slaughter in 1992. This investigation centered around the direct participation of BLM employees and contractors selling wild horses for slaughter with both the knowledge and approval of BLM managers. Their scheme involved the use of satellite ranches and horse sanctuaries to hide the horses for profit operation. (1)

The Grand Jury investigation into illegal wild horse slaughter began with two BLM employees: Mr. Galloway and Mr. Sharp, both working under the direction of Steve Henke, currently still employed by BLM as a District Manager in Farmington, New Mexico.

In 1995, the Grand Jury issued subpoenas intending to inventory more than 1,200 horses at a BLM sanctuary in Bartlesville, OK but a Department of the Interior lawyer in New Mexico, Grant Vaughn, wrote a letter telling the prosecutor that his agency could not comply with the subpoenas and efforts to access any information about these facilities was successfully thwarted. (2)

Over ten years later, a different investigative report has just been released by Valerie James Patton, which includes some serious questions surrounding BLM sanctuaries in Bartlesville, OK and the more than 8,000 geldings these sanctuaries now hold.

Ms. Patton’s Investigative Report centers around an anomaly of exclusive gelding exports from the Santa Teresa Livestock Port of Entry between New Mexico to Mexico, where USDA export records indicate record breaking levels of geldings have been, and are still being sent to Mexico under a “non-slaughter status”. The current total of these non-slaughter geldings shipped into Mexico has now reached over 3,000 for this year alone.

Her report on the possible illegal shipment of these horses compares the Texas export numbers of non-slaughter geldings with the Santa Teresa Port’s export numbers, notes that Santa Teresa does not send any other kind of horse through their port under a non-slaughter status and asks hard questions about what Mexico is doing with these geldings that are now numbering into the thousands, as they are obviously not for breeding purposes.

Furthermore, her report states that the only currently known source for such a continuous supply of geldings is BLM sanctuaries. The report gives significant treatment to statistics, numbers, locations, interviews, newspaper articles, government connections between U.S. and Mexican officials, and as the evidence mounts, a powerful case is presented which demands an official investigation into the both the source and the destination of these non-slaughter geldings.

Except it looks like that is going to be very difficult…..

Her report also includes the results of a recent on-site investigation by Animals’ Angels investigators who were denied access to Santa Teresa’s facilities and what little information New Mexico officials offered turned out to be false - these officials included USDA employees. Yes, this is the same USDA that flipped Congress the finger when they voted to withdraw funding for horsemeat inspections in efforts to shut down the American horse slaughter trade in 2006.

In another AP news article by Martha Mendoza published in 1997, Trail’s End for Horses: Slaughter, over 200 BLM employees were cited as adopting wild horses and burros with most unaccounted for and some employees acknowledging they were sent to slaughter while Pascal Derde, the proprietor of Cavel West Slaughterhouse in Redmond, OR, reportedly "displayed a sheaf of BLM certificates for horses he recently butchered".

Gabriel Paone, a Department of the Interior ethics official was quoted as saying there was nothing wrong with BLM employees adopting wild horses and then selling them for profit. "They’re not doing this as public officials." Paone said. "They’re doing this as private citizens."

In an article by American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Story Behind The Burns Amendment, a plan is outlined showing which way American wild horses were headed. “A few years ago, a Montana rancher proposed to send 10,000 wild horses to Mexico, the second largest horse meat supplier in the world, for his private enterprise craftily dubbed the "Sonora Wild Horse Repatriation Project."

Apparently, the boldness of this proposal created so much opposition it was ultimately defeated - perhaps an even craftier enterprise was needed to move our horses into Mexico.

The political consequences of openly killing wild horses and burros was foreseen during the July 1998 Field Hearing held in Reno, NV (see Year of the Horse II) as John Balliette, Contractual Natural Resource Manager, Eureka County, NV stated, “I also urge you to be cautious with euthanasia, especially for large reductions. Personally, I would view putting thousands of horses down as a terrible waste of a resource. I also believe the first time several hundred horses are euthanized in one spot, a political firestorm will follow”.

Needless to say, Mr. Balliette was correct but it didn’t take several hundred to do it.

In November 2004, the Burns Amendment was “slipped in” and became a reality for our wild horses and burros in 2005. Forty-one wild horses were slaughtered in an Illinois slaughter plant, some of the first sold under this new For Sale Authority and public outrage caused BLM to temporarily suspend sales between April 25 thru May 19, 2005.

BLM also rewrote and strengthened the adoption contracts before resuming sales but considering past historical violations, even by the agency itself, as well as no true legal consequences to those who violate these contracts due to Congress continuing to give BLM the authority to sell them “unconditionally”, there is little hope that violators will actually be prosecuted if our horses and burros end up hanging from a hook.

According to Ms. Patton’s investigative report, the shipment of unusually high numbers of non-slaughter geldings sent through Santa Teresa, New Mexico to Mexico began on August 16th, 2005 – just three months after BLM resumed selling our wild heritage to sealed bidders.

Advocate and watch dog groups have been requesting details about the For Sale Program but meaningful answers have not been forthcoming and the BLM only publicly provides a running total of the wild horses and burros that they “sell”.

So here we sit…..

Unprecedented numbers of wild horses and burros have been swept off public lands authorized by completely absurd assessments, BLM cut adoption events over the last few years during a time when they needed this outlet most, the cost of capturing and holding our wild horses and burros in these mysterious sanctuaries continues to skyrocket and suddenly we find New Mexico in the news - again!

Yet Congress sits stalled – refusing to investigate the Wild Horse & Burro Program or demand accountability, refusing to repeal the Burns Amendment, and refusing to open an investigation into these non-slaughter geldings being exported from New Mexico at record levels.

Some speculate these geldings are being shipped to Mexico as unwilling participants in a popular form of Mexican entertainment called Horse Tripping, as illustrated in the header photo. Even so, most horses used for these events end up in Mexican slaughterhouses once the ropes have cut their flesh too deeply or their legs finally brutally break.

The Humane Society of the United States has recently released a video on the reality of Mexican Horse Slaughter, often performed by repeatedly stabbing a knife into the horse’s spinal cord until it is paralyzed, though not unconscious for its slaughter. There is little question the final destination of the majority of these “non-slaughter” geldings will share the same fate of those so graphically depicted in this video.

In 1998, Mr. Balliette also recommended a sale authority that would be “sunsetted” once the numbers on the range and in the adoption pipeline were brought down to manageable numbers before more “politically correct” population control methods were again employed.

Maybe Congress is waiting, as Mr. Balliette suggested, until a sufficient amount of America’s wild horses and burros have been “disposed of” before bringing the vote to the floor…. or maybe they will never repeal it - after all, it’s only the majority of the American people who so passionately love wild horses and burros and have showed their overwhelming support time and time again for mandating their protection – but does anyone in Washington care?

Tell Congress to stop stalling and protect

Non-Slaughter Geldings To Mexico

In efforts to bring awareness to the weekly shipments of these Non-Slaughter Geldings being sent to Mexico from New Mexico for over two years now, the American Herds Hot News Section will now display their weekly exported totals until -we pray -these shipments are investigated and finally brought to a halt.

(1) Horses to Slaughter - Anatomy of a Cover Up with the BLM (1997-04-01) http://www.peer.org/pubs/whitepapers_id.php?row_id=14
(2) Mendoza, Wild Horses Criminal Case Shut Down, http://igha.org/BLM12.html

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Closing The Deal

The government’s continued lackadaisical attitude toward the mustangs makes it necessary for private conservation groups to constantly remain alert and follow the administration and enforcement of the law. Otherwise, the horses’ traditional enemies will succeed in slowly but surely eliminating them.” -The Politics of Extinction by Lewis Regenstein, 1975.

So how long have a handful of individuals been trying to eliminate wild horses and burros from the American scene? As far back as their American history goes……

In fact, there is so much available evidence clearly showing inappropriate and often illegal activities against wild horses and burros, only the illiterate could be convinced otherwise.

In his book, Wild Horses: Living Symbols of Freedom, wildlife ecologist and author, Craig C. Downer states how it began, “It was the White life style which caused the mustang’s demise, along with that of the buffalo….The horse allowed the Indian to withstand the White settlers and, so, the horse came to be regarded as part of the whole Indian “problem”. A prejudice against wild horses has remained as a part of the tradition to this very day among ranchers and farmers as well as others in the West.”

Mr. Downer asserts the 18th century saw the pinnacle of wild horse populations, estimated then at nearly 10 million strong but by the turn of the 19th century, their numbers had been reduced to 2 million and in the late 1950s, when Wild Horse Annie began creating public awareness for the plight of the wild horse, it was estimated their numbers had been gutted to a paltry 25,000 throughout the West. (1)

When public love and outcry sparked Congress to pass the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971, those still prejudice against the wild ones have been seeking to overturn their federally protected status ever since.

In 1973, legal proceedings were initiated by a New Mexico cattleman who unsuccessfully tried to overturn their federal protection in Kleppe vs New Mexico (June 17, 1976).

Betsy A. Cody, Specialist in Natural Resources produced a report for the Congressional Research Service on Wild Horse and Burro Management, which stated, “In 1984, BLM started to allow individuals to adopt large numbers of animals for free. Approximately 20,000 horses were adopted while this fee-waiver program was in effect and several thousand of these animals reportedly ended up in glue or pet-food factories.(2) The program was stopped in 1988 due to public outcry.”

Karen Sussman, President of the International Society for the Preservation of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB) submitted a Report to the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands June 5, 1998, that stated, “Regulation changes proposed in 1984… allowed BLM to gather an unprecedented number of wild horses during the two year period that the rule changes were pending.”

Another 1984 regulation was implemented known as fee-waivers/mass adoptions which allowed 100 or plus horses to be given to adopters. Ranchers adopted them and turned around and sold many to slaughter after title passed.”

“During these years, with BLMs approval, several attempts were made to allow BLM to sell “unadoptable” horses for slaughter by initiating language, which never got out of committee in Congress. The Range Omnibus bill which included the slaughter provision made it to the floor of Congress but was defeated.”

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) released their audit and report in August 1990 of the BLMs Wild Horse and Burro Program titled, Rangeland Management, Improvements Needed in the Federal Wild Horse Program, which included scathing indictments of wild horses being regularly sent to slaughter and unfair treatment by BLM.

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign provides a Link to a 1997 report released by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Horse Slaughter -Anatomy of a Cover-Up, which explicitly details BLM abuses, wild horses and burros going to slaughter and a complete lack of accountability in the wild horse and burro program that many believe still continues today.

The PEER Horse Slaughter Report states: “BLM has tolerated and in some instances facilitated the routine and illegal trafficking of wild horses to slaughter. The agency has obstructed efforts by its own law enforcement officers to expose commercial theft of wild horses, fraudulent adoption schemes and fictitious "sanctuary" herds not only to avoid embarrassment but also to maintain the flow of horses off the range.”

The BLM began a crackdown on wild horse-to-slaughter operations in 1993 under former Director Jim Baca. BLM investigators began compiling evidence documenting:”

  • theft of wild horses during BLM sponsored "gathers" or captures;
  • "black booking" or phony double branding of horses so that duplicate branded horses could disappear without a paper trail;
  • manipulation of wild horse adoptions where one person holds the proxies for a group of supposedly separate adopters and the horses all end up at slaughter;
  • use of satellite ranches to hold horses for days or weeks as stopping points on the way to slaughter;
  • fraudulent use of wild horse sanctuaries--ranches subsidized by the federal government to care for unadoptable wild horses deemed excess and removed from the range--as fronts for commercial exploitation.
Lawyers from the Department of Justice also urged that the case be dropped because the tolerance within BLM for the horse to slaughter trade was so widespread that it would be unfair to single out any one person for prosecution.”

Associated Press reporter, Martha Mendoza also did a series of articles on the travesty occurring, such as Wild Horse Criminal Case Shut Down, which involved additional investigative reporting that found a long-standing history of cover ups, abuses and wild horses and burros being sold for slaughter.

Bill Sharp, who worked for the BLM before retiring in 1994 was quoted as saying, "If I really was worried about intent then I probably wouldn't have adopted out any horses, because I believe 90 percent of these horses go to slaughter."

While evidence piled up that indeed, America’s wild horses and burros were routinely being sent to slaughter with many BLM employees actively participating, looking the other way or being too afraid to speak out, the Grand Jury Investigation was successfully slammed shut in 1996 without any of the hard won evidence ever being heard.

Congress responded by turning a blind eye – to this day, they have failed to demand any investigation or accountability of these allegations and have failed to require BLM to submit biannual reports on the Wild Horse and Burro Program, as required by law, since 1997.

    In July 1998 Congressional Subcommittee Hearing in Reno, Nevada (see last post, Year of the Horse II), the Honorable Delegate from the Territory of American Samoa, Eni Faleomavaega, continued to press for answers; “…there are allegations that thousands of horses are being slaughtered and there are further allegations that BLM could not even account for some 32,000 adopted animals, and that even BLM employees may have been participants and may even have profited in the slaughter of thousands of wild horses.”

    His questions, and ours, have never significantly been addressed.

    The prosecuting attorney for the derailed Grand Jury investigation, Alia Ludlum, stated, "I believe that my investigation was obstructed all along by persons within the BLM…..I think there is a terrible problem with the program and with government agents placing themselves above the law."

    And so, with improprieties, abuses, and illegal activities against wild horses and burros being sanctioned and covered up at the highest levels, Larry Johnson, Director of Nevada Bighorns Unlimited and currently serving on the 2007 Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, stepped up to the plate.

    In March 2000, Mr. Johnson submitted statements in concert with BLM under a Wild Horse Attachment to a Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources to urge their support for “The Restoration of Threatened Watersheds”, citing wild horses and burros, not livestock, were one of the major threats to both watershed health and wildlife and as such, funding was needed to drastically reduce their populations across the West.

    The Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses was also cited by jubilant anti-wild horse supporters as being the key factor in convincing Congress that their removals were truly a necessity in Nevadas 2000 Public Land Policy Update (pg.17).

    In October 2001, armed with Congressional approval and funding, BLM proceeded to launch the most aggressive removal campaign ever implemented, rounding up over 70,000 of our wild horses and burros over the last six years.

    With the Sales Authority waiting in the wings, BLM officials successfully escaping federal indictments, prosecution or any accountability at all, years of frustrated efforts to strip federal protection of America’s wild horses and burros was finally rewarded - our Land Lords just sat back to wait…..

    Photo taken from BLM Internet Adoption Website http://www.blm.gov/
    #9259 – Two Year Old Mare - Captured 1/17/06 – Sand Springs East HMA, NV

    (1) Report prepared by the ISPMB, Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, June 5, 1998.
    (2) GAO RCED-90-110 Rangeland Management, Improvements Needed In Federal Wild Horse Program, pg. 31

    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Year Of The Horse II

    The second big event that happened in 1998 was a Congressional Subcommittee Hearing of National Parks and Public Lands held in Reno, Nevada on July 13th titled, Field Hearing on Range Issues and Problems with the Wild Horse and Burro Act and Its Implementation.

    It was here that a handful of men began laying the groundwork to amend the Wild Free-Roaming Horse & Burro Act to include a “Sales Authority” clause to allow them to be slaughtered as well as exploring all possibilities for disposing of America's “excess” wild horses and burros.

    The need to grant BLM the authority to slaughter America’s wild horses and burros was openly discussed by many with testimony citing them as merely feral “like alley cats” and that BLM needs to be able to manage them as livestock, a position supported by then BLM Director, Pat Shea.

    Nevada rancher, Demar Dahl, offered this practical insight by stating, “We eat them. The horse is a resource….I love good horses, but there are a lot of horses that are just to be eaten and that is their best use…..And I can tell you right now, there are a lot of wild horses, BLM—horses with a BLM freeze iron under the brand, that go through the sales to the killer plants today. And any horse sales that you want to go to where they put killer horses through, you will find a number of wild horses….So it is happening already, we just need to recognize it.”

    John Balliette, Contractual Natural Resource Manager from Eureka County, Nevada stated,“Some real double standards exist when it comes to sale authority. Each year our country sells thousands of privately owned horses for slaughter. But the mere mention of sale authority of ''wild'' horses with the possibility of slaughter is offensive to some. Horses are the only large ungulate on Federal lands that are not harvested for consumptive purposes. If harvesting one large ungulate is acceptable, why is harvesting horses unacceptable? Horses must be viewed as are other large ungulates on Federal lands, a renewable resource that can be effectively managed by harvesting excess numbers.”

    Senator Dean Rhoads, Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee for the Nevada Legislature and a rancher himself led the charge to implement a Sales Authority with such statements as, “I usually do not go to the sales yard so I have no idea who buys them, but I assume that some of them are bought by people that take them home and break them. Others are probably bought that ends up in the slaughterhouse. But that is just the thing that we have been doing for centuries.

    Nevada Lincoln County Commissioner Rey Flake reminded everyone that “Ranching on public lands is also a legacy of the west” and presented this vision to Congressional representatives for his model of what the Wild Horse & Burro Program should look like, “We need to consider the idea of having one or two herds of horses in each state.”

    Senator Rhoads supported Commissioner Flakes statement by affirming the idea for a few public-viewing centers citing “…we would probably put up some vistas and interpretive centers and so forth” then also added, “Then you could remove all the other horses from the west on much of our grazing lands.

    The following individuals all testified and supported a need to introduce legislation to allow BLM to sell “excess and unadoptable” wild horses and burros or explore all means to dispose of or destroy them:
    Utah Congressional Representative James Hansen, Nevada Congressional Representative Jim Gibbons (now Nevada Governor), NV Legislative Senator Dean Rhoads, NV Assemblyman John Carpenter, NV Elko County Commissioner Anthony Lesperance, Ph.D, NV Lincoln County Commissioner Rey Flake, NV Eureka County Natural Resources Manager John Balliette, National Wild Horse Association Field Director David C.J. Tattam, Arizona Game & Fish Department Director Duane L. Shroufe, and NV Rancher Demar Dahl.

    Current Nevada Senator John Ensign, who introduced S. 1915, a bill to amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes, was also present as a Congressional Representative at this 1998 Field Hearing.

    Representative Ensign made no comment throughout the proceedings regarding the selling of America’s wild horses and burros for slaughter. His statements were limited to,“How much of the policy is actually being directed based on pure emotionalism? How much of the policy is being directed on what is truly best for the environment, best for the animals in the long-run for the overall part of the population, and truly how are we getting to where we are going….?”

    As politicians and cattleman lined up to testify against the wild horses with arguments that ranged from how their “excessive numbers” destroy the range and riparian areas, strip the forage for their livestock, and threaten true wildlife species such as bighorn sheep, they never failed to grind the ever popular axe of wild horse and burro management costing the taxpayer a fortune by being nothing more than a “Federal welfare case” - (Representative Jim Gibbons).

    Utah Representative James Hansen stated, “If any public land program could be called a subsidy, this would be it.”

    While these cattleman were arguing against the costs of the Wild Horse & Burro program and how public land is really their land, USDA Records shows in 1998, almost $2.7 million dollars was handed out in federal subsidies in Nevada and exceeded $62 million dollars between 1995 and 2005 for Nevada ranchers and farmers alone. This does not take into account that a rancher is currently paying less than $1.35 per month per cow to graze them on public lands -1/10th the cost of private grazing fees.

    USDA federal subsidies records also shows NV Senator Dean Rhoads of Rhoads Trust Dean & Sharon have personally received $500,875 dollars between 1995 and 2005.

    This Field Hearing was conducted one month before the Nevada Draft Management Plan for Wild Horses was introduced (see last post, Year of the Horse I).

    During this field hearing, Cathy Barcomb, Administrator for the Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses reported to these Congressional Committee members that the Draft Management Plan for Wild Horses for Nevada was due out in August adding, “..a lot of people that are in this room helped us write the plan and I think it is a good compilation from Nevada.”

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    Year Of The Horse - Part I

    The year 1998 was a big one for our wild horses and burros -two major events happened that laid the groundwork for the most stunning change in wild horse and burro policy since the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act.

    Of course, this change would be the Unconditional Sale of our herds commonly known as the Burns Amendment and now carried out by BLM under the term “Sale Authority”.

    However, as is commonly believed, there was nothing “stealth” about it – selling our wild heritage was well planned and coordinated long before it was “slipped in” the day before the Thanksgiving break.

    In August of 1998, Nevada Ecological Consulting, Inc. presented the Draft Nevada Wild Horse Management Plan for Federal Lands to the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources/Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses in response to Bill 211, enacted by the Nevada Legislature in 1997 requiring the Commission to develop a plan for managing wild horses in Nevada.

    There were sixty-five participants that provided input for this plan as well as nine public meetings held throughout the state.

    The Plan discussed a large array of issues on wild horse and burro management but almost none of the solutions presented to maintain wild horses and burros as integral components of public lands have gone any further than the drawing board. The emphasis seemed to be on what to do with the wild horses and burros once they had been removed from the range, not providing the critical habitat requirements necessary to keep them from being removed.

    Here are exact quotes from this Draft Management Plan:

    Section 5.82 - Strategy:
  • By the year 2005, reach AML on all delineated HMAs by removal of unadoptable wild horses (as a last resort), either by euthanasia methods preferably on home range, or by sales authority granted to BLM with all sale receipts earmarked to defray program costs.

    Section 5.83 - Actions:
  • BLM and Congress should abide by the provisions of the ACT allowing euthanasia as a humane method of removal of excess numbers of unadoptable wild horses, and that the euthanasia prohibition in the annual Congressional Appropriations Act for funding of the wild horse program be rescinded.
  • Congress should consider amending the ACT to allow sales authority to BLM for placement of unadoptable wild horses where a reasonable number of adoption attempts have failed to place the animals. All sale receipts from such placement to be earmarked to the state of origin to defray costs of program.
  • BLM should consider initiating studies on time delay “Sunset”* euthanasia drugs which would allow humane death of known unadoptable wild horses on home range to spare the animals the stress of shipping and corral storage and to eliminate these program handling costs. (*A Sunset Drug is a drug that would be administered allowing the wild horses and burros to be killed slowly.)

    Appendix B, Page 11
  • 1) Amendment to the Wild Horse & Burro Act of 1971 is needed to include a sales authority clause to remove excessive numbers of unadoptable animals with sale proceeds earmarked to defray program costs.

    Appendix C, Synopsis of Public Forum, Page 5
  • 3 strikes and you're out by either sale or euthanasia.

    Here is the law that was enacted six years later, initially reported as having been co-sponsored by Nevada Senator Harry Reid, which our Congress has still failed to repeal-

    Fiscal Year 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Act
    Public Law 108-447, Division E, Section 142

    SEC. 142. SALE OF WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSES AND BURROS. (a) IN GENERAL- Section 3 of Public Law 92-195 (16 U.S.C. 1333) is amended--

    (1) in subsection (d)(5), by striking `this section' and all that follows through the period at the end and inserting `this section.'; and

    (2) by adding at the end the following:


    `(1) IN GENERAL- Any excess animal or the remains of an excess animal shall be sold if--

    `(A) the excess animal is more than 10 years of age; or

    `(B) the excess animal has been offered unsuccessfully for adoption at least 3 times.

    `(2) METHOD OF SALE- An excess animal that meets either of the criteria in paragraph (1) shall be made available for sale without limitation, including through auction to the highest bidder, at local sale yards or other convenient livestock selling facilities, until such time as--

    `(A) all excess animals offered for sale are sold; or

    `(B) the appropriate management level, as determined by the Secretary, is attained in all areas occupied by wild free-roaming horses and burros.

    `(3) DISPOSITION OF FUNDS- Funds generated from the sale of excess animals under this subsection shall be--

    `(A) credited as an offsetting collection to the Management of Lands and Resources appropriation for the Bureau of Land Management; and

    `(B) used for the costs relating to the adoption of wild free-roaming horses and burros, including the costs of marketing such adoption.

    `(4) EFFECT OF SALE- Any excess animal sold under this provision shall no longer be considered to be a wild free-roaming horse or burro for purposes of this Act.'.

  • Photo of wild horse being roped downloaded from BLM State Field Office Website http://www.blm.gov/

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    A Good Plan

    The Commissioners statements in the NVCPWH April 2005 Meeting Minutes* can only leave us wondering….

    Why would BLM cut adoption events or refuse to supply wild horses and burros to events where “all they had to do was collect the money” when holding pens were bursting at the seams?

    In 2001, when BLM launched the most aggressive wild horse and burro removal campaign they had ever undertaken, didn’t they know what would happen?

    Did they have a plan on how to deal with tens of thousands of wild horses and burros now crammed in government pens at taxpayers expense?

    The Plan
    The plan developed by BLM was to escalate removals to balance public lands and achieve AML (Allowable Management Level). At the same time the Fleishman-Hillard study had introduced some very innovative changes to the adoption program.”

    The whole concept was introduced to Congress to bring public lands down to AML. BLM asked Congress for an additional 36 million dollars over 4 years to implement their new plan because they knew they would be taking approximately 12 thousand wild horses off of public lands per year, BLM knew they could average 7,000 horses per year in the adoption program, they knew there would be approximately 5,000 horses in excess each year.”

    “They knew it and planned for it. They knew that by the fourth and fifth years that they would have 20,000 horses in holding, that’s what the extra funds were for. The concept was that after BLM got to AML that only 3,500 to 4,000 horses per year would be removed from public lands and with a demand of over 7,000, the BLM would then start removing them from the sanctuaries and place them in the adoption program.”

    “The whole plan was to balance itself and greatly reduced the costs because you would then be lowering the costs of holding horses in sanctuaries, you would only be removing 1/3 the number of horses on public lands and reducing that cost drastically, and you wouldn’t be holding or processing as many horses because they would be adopted. The whole plan was a good one, Congress endorsed it, and now, we are there, we are within one year, they got all the horses in the sanctuaries, as planned, and then voted into slaughter all of them.”

    “I feel it was somewhat of a setup, we were betrayed. We all bought into the plan and supported it, only to be turned on once the horses came off the lands.”

    Cathy Barcomb, Administrator
    Nevada Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses
    April 7, 2005

    So what happened?

    *See last post, "Doing Everything We Can"

    Photo taken from BLM Internet Adoption Site http://www.blm.gov/
    Captured Wild Burro from California Slate Range 2007