In light of the BLM’s continued determination to prevent citizens and journalists from observing, documenting, and photographing the thousands of wild horses that are being run off their ranges into waiting traps and ultimately, into long-term holding facilities, Grass Roots Horse is calling for the BLM to create an identification system and national database that will enable the American public to follow the fates of each horse in government custody.
It’s an idea whose time is long overdue. If the BLM refuses to create meaningful public access to the wild horses it is removing from the range, it must still be held accountable for each of the precious lives that are held within its grip.
What Grass Roots Horse envisions is that each wild horse taken from the range would have a permanent photo ID record, complete with a description of the horse’s sex, estimated age, distinguishing markings, and freeze brand number. It would list the date of the horse’s capture, and his or her original herd management area, as well as the date it was sent to a short-term holding facility, which would be named.
The BLM would then be required to track the departures of each horse, whether to adoption or to long-term holding, and to identify the ranches or new adoptive homes at which the horses will be held. Reporting of the causes and dates of death for all horses who have perished under the BLM’s auspices would be mandatory. But most importantly, all information would be available to anyone who wants to see it, through a free, publicly accessible database.
“We want access and accountability from the moment a wild horse is captured until he is brought to long-term holding,” explained Grass Roots Horse founder Maureen VanDerStad. “We want receipts, we want documents, and we want the horses’ pictures to be taken and kept on file. We want to be able to track them from birth until death. The BLM doesn’t currently provide this type of documentation and it’s questionable whether it even exists. That must change.”
Indeed, Grass Roots Horse has been asking for this type of transparency from the BLM in the lawsuits it has filed in the name of journalist Laura Leigh since last summer, particularly with regard to the 504 wild horses who were captured during the Silver King roundup held in September and October, 2010 south of Ely, Nevada. Six of those horses were later euthanized by gunshot.
In her latest filing on this matter, Laura Leigh asserted:
“The wild horses captured from Silver King remain hidden from the public. They remain in the defendants’ (BLM’s) possession. These horses have remained off limits to the Plaintiff (Leigh) and the public since the dates of their capture. The Plaintiff and others remain precluded despite repeated tries, from observing these horses (Silver King horses) and the manner in which they are handled and ‘managed.'”
The BLM’s own sketchy public records provide a perfect example of how such wild horses have been slipping into seeming oblivion. The BLM has reported that of the 504 horses who were captured during the Silver King roundup, 26 (stallions) were shipped to the Gunnison prison in Utah; 406 were transported to the Indian Lakes Road short-term holding facility near Fallon, Nevada (which remains closed to the public); and six were shot.
There is no record of what happened to the remaining 66 horses, who appear to be unaccountably missing. Under the rules of the BLM’s current slipshod “system,” we’ll never know where they went, or whether they are even still alive. And that’s just wrong.
The BLM is in the process of capturing 748 wild horses as part of the Eagle/Chokechery/Mt. Elinore “gather,” which is currently taking place in Nevada. The roundup began last week, but to-date, BLM has failed to provide any daily updates about how many horses have been captured, when they have been captured, or where they have been sent. This continued lack of accountability is unacceptable in the extreme.
Please contact Chris Hanefeld at 775-289-1842 or at [email protected] to ask him to provide daily updates, going back to the first day of the roundup, and to keep this information flowing on a continuous daily basis.