Sunday, August 9, 2009

Killing Em With Kindness


Yes, gathers, gathers, everywhere. It’s for their own good, you know. To prevent them from starving and dying and destroying the range and oh yes, just plain being EXCESSIVE!

It’s much safer and more humane than letting them starve, as the drumbeat goes, and BLM publicly reports only a mere fraction of deaths and injuries result from this controlled chaos.

But like everything else in the Wild Horse & Burro Program, the closely guarded facts and statistics often fail to add up or support BLMs claims as they continue to lean almost exclusively on what amounts to little more than a public relations campaign in order to hide its darker reality.

In case you are wondering what a “gather” looks like, check out this new video of last years round up of the Sandwash wild horses in Colorado created by professionally wildlife photographer Carol Walker of Living Images and Wild Hoofbeats-America's Vanishing Horses blog.

While snapping photos of piled up bodies, witnesses usually find experts claiming what their photos reveal have been fabricated, exaggerated or sometimes, they even go so far to suggest it never happened at all. Apparently, in today’s world, a picture is NOT worth a thousand words as the thousand words used to describe them by those overseeing the operations focus solely on convincing everyone “Everything is A-O.K.!”, no matter what your eyes may be telling you!

As noted in this graphic pictorial report, The Use of Helicopters to Remove Wild Horses & Burros from Public Lands”, in response to BLMs continual assurances of achieving such low mortality rates during round ups, American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign was quick to point out that, “BLM conveniently omits injury statistics and is able to issue such low mortality rates because almost no deaths are deemed by officials a “result” of the removal operations. Many injuries/deaths sustained during round-ups are conveniently attributed to natural causes. Reports of horses that later have to be euthanized due to injuries sustained during capture are common.”

Here is one such example….

BLM removed wild burros in Nevadas Gold Butte Herd Management Area twice in one year; once in March of 2006 and again in March of 2007.

According to a 2007 Wild Horse & Burro Capture Status Report obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by American Horse Defense Fund, 12% of the burros rounded up in March of 2007 were dead within six months of the gather. That’s a far cry from the 1-2% BLM is so fond of sharing with the public.

With BLM providing little to no answers about continuing public concerns regarding maximum running distances, miscarriages and spontaneous abortions, hoof wear, lung tear, capture mypopathy or impacts from helicopter driving on various age classes with respect to wild horses, what hope is there of getting any answers to these same questions when it comes to the little burros?

Oh by the way, the 12% mortality rate wasn’t the only interesting statistic to be found regarding BLMs record keeping of the Gold Butte burros.

According to BLMs 2006 Gather Schedule, only 132 burros were reported to the public as having been removed. Yet, according to the FOIA’s Capture Status records, 152 wild burros were found listed as removed instead – 20 more burros than the Gather Schedule was reporting. When it came to the 2007 round-up records, things got a whole lot messier still…..

* The 2007 Gather Schedule reported 149 burros were captured and removed.

* The Las Vegas Field Office Post-Gather Report reported 140 burros were captured and removed.

* In the Wild Horse & Burro Capture Status Records, only 135 burros could be accounted for, either through adoption, sales, holding or death.

Furthermore, the Las Vegas Field Office reported zero deaths on the Post-Gather Report while the Capture Status records reported one burro died during the gather that apparently has “disappeared” from the Las Vegas Field Office’s records.

And the deaths didn’t stop there….Fifteen more were found in the Capture Status records to have either died or were euthanized at BLM CA Holding Facilities between April 10 and April 22 – less than one month after being driven by the helicopters to the capture pens.

Currently, BLM has scheduled a legally required Public Hearing on the Use of Helicopters to continue driving California’s pitiful handful of “excessive” burros to the capture pens as well.

California was once home to the largest wild burro population in America. Through a long progression of rotating DOI Secretaries charged by Congress to protect our wild horses and burros and the critical habitat they need to survive, they have allowed, approved, authorized, overseen and officiated over what was often a brutal demise instead.

Turning a blind eye to “direct reduction programs”, (a.k.a., shooting these federally protected animals unless advocates could intervene) of once protected burros implemented by National Park Service or military installations, they have sat silently by as authorized officers fenced water sources or designed land use plans that removed habitat from Herd Management Areas containing critical water sources (such as the recently approved land use plans in Arizona, which removed all the land around the Colorado River from the HMAs – a stunt they learned from managers who yanked all the acreage around Lake Mead from its Herd Management status as well). Of course, these are just steps leading toward the final goal of “zeroing out” the herds completely.

Anyone remember when former DOI Secretary Kempthorn just rolled his eyes and walked away from those begging for his intercession to allow volunteers to install a fully paid for water line to preserve one of Southern California’s last burro herds - and not just any herd either! Genetic tests revealed the Clark Mountain burros contained the most unique and “rare” genetic variants of any herd found throughout the West.

But what did it matter to BLM or Secretary Kempthorne that they were the rarest herd on record or that a free water system was being offered off the backs of the American public in efforts pick up their slack and preserve what they are legally charged with protecting anyway?

Today, the maximum burro population allowed on California public lands is “officially” 476 burros. I say officially because, as is so often the case with BLMs numbers, they are deceptive and misleading.

While this is the official tally, BLM continues to report California’s AMLs as 98 burros higher than it really is due to the fact that two HMAs, Lee Flat and Piper Mountain, haven’t publicly reported a burro living there for years. So when you subtract the padded numbers from the real numbers, the actual number of true, allowed, maximum, “non-excessive” wild burros is merely 378 throughout the entire state.

Then, if we add in the fact that BLM usually reduces this “maximum” population by at least 60% after the round ups (according to BLM, this is to allow for population expansion between removals), when the dust finally settles, the public can realistically expect about 150 burros to still be “free-roaming” on the range by the time BLM gets through with the round ups - that's for the entire state of California!

While Carol Walkers video of the Sandwash round-up shows a behind the scenes glimpse of what happens to wild horses being driven to the pens, when it comes to burros, they too have had witnesses leak stories of what is really going on during the helicopter round ups. Some examples include:

* In Nevada’s Spring Mountain Complex round up, local news reporters at the scene confirmed wild burros being run straight down the chutes directly into the trailers – no sorting pen necessary. Film footage also captured a wrangler incessantly kicking a burro trying to turn around and escape the chaotic pile up of burros, as here again, too many burros were being jammed too fast down the chutes.

* In the last California Clark Mountain burro gather, L.A. news crews filmed a helicopter flying so low, its skids clipped its target; one lone burro moving at a dead run that was sent sprawling to the ground in a cloud of dust and debris.

* American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign was able to obtain a single photo slipped through by a concerned citizen revealing yet another accounting of brutal round up practices in their shocking expose, “Death of a Mojave Burro”.

Here, an eyewitness exposed how yet another lone burro was run for miles via helicopter until it collapsed. If this weren’t enough, contractors then proceeded to jump up and down on the helpless burros rib cage and belly, grabbed its ears and repeatedly slammed its head into the ground until, finally satisfied, walked away to leave the burro to die a long and agonizing death. Click Here to learn more.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BLMs Press Release announcing the removal of the California wild burros is vague and obscure at best. Legally, public hearings are required to obtain public input and comments in order for “public servants and stewards” to work together with the community in order to address concerns regarding official proposals.

Public hearings on the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles to remove wild horses and burros are required by law, mainly due to the fact that there has never been a time when those who monitor the effects of helicopter driving on wild horses and burros have not expressed some very serious and real concerns about its humane results. But again we find BLM stretching the very limits of what is “legal”.

This time, BLM carefully words the announcement by telling the public its only about what they have to tell you, not what you may want to tell them. If you have any questions, they are to be funneled through PR Specialists but don’t try to voice your concerns via mail, fax or email because, well, there’s no addresses provided!

The meeting will be held on Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 at the BLM Barstow Field Office located at 2601 Barstow Road (California Route 247) in Barstow, California at 6:00 p.m. BLM burro specialists will explain BLMs plans to gather the burros as well as answer public questions. The planned gathers will also be available exclusively at the Barstow meeting, so everyone get their plane tickets in order and try to head out early from work to be there!

If you want more information or have questions, contact:

BLM Ridgecrest Field Office (760) 384-5434 or,

Public Affairs Specialist
David Briery (951) 697-5220 or Stephen Razo (951) 697-5217
(Think they are down the hall from each other?)

For those of you who would like to respond in writing so that your comments and concerns will be included in the public record rather than have them disappear through one ear and out the other of the PR guys now in charge, here’s some additional contact information you can use.

BLM Ridgecrest Field Office
300 S. Richmond
Ridgecrest, CA 93555
Fax: (760) 384-5499

They also have a webmail form you can use by Clicking Here.

Finally, in case you are worried the webmail form is also designed to have your comments and concerns disappear into oblivion, you may also contact:

BLMs California Wild Horse & Burro Specialist
Amy Dumas at


Barry said...

This is completely disgusting. Unbelievable that they can get away with such brutality.

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