For Immediate Release
BLM Helicopter Roundup To Begin Despite Presence of Vulnerable Young Foals
BLM starts dangerous roundup, violating their own protocol designed to protect wild horse babies
Elko, NV (July 8, 2010)- Over 1,400 federally-protected wild mustangs are to be rounded up beginning tomorrow, July 9, in the Tuscarora area of Elko County Nevada during the hottest month of the year. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is violating their own set-protocol for waiting six weeks after the main foaling season, defined as March 1-June 30, so that young foals can escape the inherent danger of a high-heat summer roundup. BLM will dispatch privately contracted choppers to run the Tuscarora mustangs over miles of rugged terrain in a taxpayer-funded roundup expected to last three weeks and result in the removal of some 1,100 mustangs. Only last month, Oregon BLM wild horse managers postponed a planned roundup that would have started the day after foaling season-opting to begin instead in mid-August for the horses' safety.
"If allowed to go forward this will be a massacre," states Anne-Marie Pinter who rode the Pony Express Race through the area on her Spanish Mustang and saw small foals. "It is covered with razor-sharp, volcanic rock that will rip up the feet of these poor foals. Before riding the area, our event veterinarian strongly recommended that we put thick rubber boots over the metal shoes of our horses-the rocks are that treacherous. We experienced triple digit temperatures and had to constantly work at keeping our horses hydrated. I can't even imagine the toll on terrified small foals and even the adult animals at the hottest time of the year. This amounts to horrible animal cruelty and no one will know what is going on because BLM has closed the area, even the roads."
Last winter, during the deadliest BLM roundup in memory in the Calico Mountains of Northwestern Nevada, at least two 6-9 month foals suffered a horrible death. Their hooves literally separated from their leg bones after running over similar terrain. Yet, BLM justified the dead-of-winter roundup by stating in their Environment Assessment: "Fall and winter time-frames are much less stressful to foals than summer gathers. Not only are young foals in summer months more prone to dehydration and complications from heat stress, the handling, sorting and transport is a stress to the young animals and increases the chance for them to be rejected by their mothers. By gathering wild horses during the winter, stress associated with summer gathers can be avoided."
"Let's be honest. What is driving these roundups has very little to do with concern for vulnerable foals and everything to do with contractor availability and using up taxpayer money before the end of fiscal year 2010," states Cloud Foundation Director, Ginger Kathrens, who has spent over 16 years documenting the lives of wild horse families. "With only two helicopter contractors available to round up the horses, scheduling becomes tricky, especially when the goal is the removal of 6,000 wild horses before the end of September. So, the rush to rid the land of mustangs trumps humane treatment. Disgusting."
The Cloud Foundation is asking that humane observers and the public be allowed to document the roundup and any injuries and deaths which occur. Currently BLM has arranged for a near total lockdown of roundup activities, including a widespread closure of public roads around the area. Access will be extremely limited despite promises made by top BLM officials to the contrary.
"Having a 'media day' during the operation is certainly not the same as having humane observers on site at all times during the operation," says Elyse Gardner, who has documented the Pryor and Calico roundups. "A sanitized version of BLM activities is not transparency in dealing with the public's horses. If anything, rather than transparency, BLM is closing the door on public observation because of what our cameras have already revealed about these roundups."
If allowed to proceed, the Tuscarora roundup will decimate three herds, Owyhee, Little Humboldt and Rock Creek, living in a vast 455,000-acre area about 90 miles northwest of Elko, Nevada. Over 4,000 cattle are allowed to graze on the Tuscarora designated wild horse herd management area while only 337-561 mustangs are welcome. In 1990 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report underscored that wild horse removals did not significantly improve range conditions and pointed to cattle as the culprit for public lands damage. Despite GAO noting the lack of data provided by BLM back 20 years ago, the public has seen no improvement in the piecemeal management of an agency that favors welfare cattle over legally protected mustangs and burros. Herd areas containing 10 to 30 times more livestock than horses are the norm rather than the exception.
"Damage to livestock fences is cited as a reason to remove the horses in Tuscarora. Give me a break," states Craig Downer, wildlife ecologist, former BLM employee, and 3rd generation Nevadan. "How about removing the fences, reducing the number of cattle and starting to manage wild horses as principal members of their ecosystems, as well as celebrated symbols of the American West? BLM's habit of operating behind a veil of enforced secrecy is completely unacceptable."
The Cloud Foundation opposes the further manipulation of the Tuscarora mustangs through the use of experimental infertility drugs in combination with skewed sex ratios. The result will be increased turmoil among the highly social wild horse family bands. Given the disastrous management and the lack of accurate range censuses and the presence of over 37,000 wild horses in government holding at enormous taxpayer expense, advocates continue to call for an immediate freeze on the costly roundups. Congressional hearings are needed to discuss the shortcomings of an out-of-control program that threaten the future existence of wild horses and burros on lands set aside for their use.
"BLM has responded with its classic bunker mentality, abandoning any transparency efforts and placing at risk the lives of these small foals that have never even had a chance at life with their families," states Kathrens. "We pray that BLM will show some compassion and ground the helicopters. With all the uncontrollable disasters in the world, why is BLM determined to create one in Tuscarora?"