Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wild horse roundup plan sparks controversy

Straight from the Horse's Heart


By Paul Joncich, of Las Vegas Channel 8 News

“We have got a phenomenal tourist attraction…”

Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation photographing members of the Cold Creek Herd, Sept. 2012 ~ photo by R.T. Fitch









of 
photographing members 
of the Cold Creek Herd, 
Sept. 2012 ~ 
photo by R.T. Fitch
LAS VEGAS — Those who live in Cold Creek know how majestic and friendly southern Nevada’s wild horses can be.
But the majority of the wild horses left here are on the schedule to end up in federal holding pens. They are mostly in two spots Cold Creek, which is about 50 minutes north of Las Vegas off highway 95 and the west flank of the mountain just northeast of Pahrump.
The Bureau of Land Management plans to roundup 80 percent of the horses in the winter. One group of wild horse advocates showed up at Thursday’s BLM advisory meeting in Las Vegas to oppose the idea.
They think the government is missing a big opportunity, if they go forward with the roundup.
Right now, there are between 500 and 600 horses in the Spring Mountains. This winter the BLM plans to only leave 63 to 93 of them there.
“We have got a phenomenal tourist attraction. And if Las Vegas learned anything in 2008, we need to diversify our tourist draw,” President of the Spring Mountain Alliance Arelene Gawne said.
Gawne wants to gather and sterilize most of the horses then release them back.
Advocates want the BLM to use them as a potential tourist attraction, creating trail rides and backpack trips for tourists.
“A half-day trip, to see wild horses and burros behaving naturally,” Gawne said.
Members of the Spring Mountain Alliance said people from as far away as Japan and Europe come to see the horses. They think making it an official eco-tourism draw would bring tourists from places like China as well.
The proposed roundup would leave just one horse for every 10,000 acres.
“I have talked with many of the big tourist companies like Pink Jeeps. They will not invest the tens of thousands it will cost to have tour guides etc. unless they know those horses will remain intact on the range naturally,” Gawne said.
In June of last year, wild horse advocates showed up in droves at Cold Creek to tell the government they want the wild horses to stay.
The Spring Mountain Alliance’s plan would require the BLM to engage in an experimental management program…(CONTINUED)
The roundup would cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. For more information, go to springmountainalliance.org/the-state-of-nevadas-wild-horses

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Day One Checkerboard Wild Horse Roundup

Straight from the Horse's Heart

On-Site Report by Carol Walker ~ Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“It is just stunning and disheartening that a special interest group with only 50 members, the Rock Springs Grazing Association, has more influence on the BLM, the state of Wyoming and the courts than the tens of thousands of American people who want to see these horses remain free.”

Photography by Carol Walker, Music by Opus
As I was driving behind the BLM vehicles this morning on Bitter Creek Road I thought of the last time I was doing this, in December of last year on the coldest day of the year. I am so very tired of following the BLM out to trap sites where our beautiful, majestic wild horses are driven by helicopters into traps, separated from their families, and sent to holding pens to live out their lives. I am just sick of it, just sick.
This time, even the courts provided no remedy, even though the BLM has broken piles of rules and laws.
All I could do was to be there to witness it, once again.
It cannot be stated enough that the BLM has nowhere to put these wild horses yet they are determined to remove from their homes and their freedom. As of October 6 the Gunnison, UT facility is no longer home to 1100 wild horses.
It is just stunning and disheartening that a special interest group with only 50 members, the Rock Springs Grazing Association, has more influence on the BLM, the state of Wyoming and the courts than the tens of thousands of American people who want to see these horses remain free.
I will be updating as I can, cell service permitting.
I am at the trap site in Salt Wells Creek or should I say 1/2 mile from the trap site. The trap site is on private land, and we are placed on public land. There is a group standing right over the trap on the rocks, a fabulous view point, and I can only assume it is the landowner and family. Even my very long lens is having a hard time getting any sort of a decent shot of the horses coming in.
They are starting here in this location in Salt Wells Creek for only 20 horses, then moving the whole operation tomorrow to Great Divide Basin. No doubt a very influential land owner demanded they start here first.
The first group of wild horses driven in by helicopter today was led by spectacular and proud black and white pinto stallion who did not want to go into the trap. We heard the helicopter circling around and moving the horses for over an hour before they made it into the trap. The horses looked so tired, heads hanging low, sides heaving. Then immediately the Cattoors pushed them into a trailer, and the stallions are fighting furiously. There is dust spilling out the sides of the trailer and I see the black and white stallion go down, and get trampled in the close quarters. Why on earth did they shove them all in there together? He finally gets up.
The next group has a week old baby foal running gamely in the middle, through the dust to the trap. The whole family runs into the trap, and then they flag the baby to separate it out so he will not get trampled in the trailer. Of course he is terrified and his mother is whinnying.
The last horse they tried to bring in today was a gorgeous black stallion with a bald white face – I called him Baldy – he bumped into the Judas horse, was very clearly surprised, jumped back and decided that he wanted no part of the trap – they tried to bring him back around 3x then let him go after he faced the helicopter. Jay D’Ewart, Wild Horse and Burro Expert for Rock Springs radioed and said “let him go.” Still wild and free! We all cheered.
This day has left such a sad bitter taste in my mouth that I decide to go see some wild horses in Salt Wells Creek. The beautiful families that are simply resting together on this gorgeous fall day lift my spirits. This is the only way I or anyone else should see wild horses.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ex-BLM Officials Indicted in Elaborate Fraud Scheme

Straight from the Horse's Heart

From Illegally Rounding up Wild Horses in Wyoming to obvious corruption within their ranks the BLM just can’t shake the image being a “Criminal Agency”

"I LOVE Horses and Burros, and I am here to help!!!"
“I LOVE Horses and Burros, and I am here to help!!!”
as published in the Billings Gazette
Two former high-level federal Bureau of Land Management officials who worked in Virginia, including a deputy state director from Montana, have denied criminal charges accusing them of defrauding the government in an employment scheme.
A federal indictment filed in U.S. District Courtin Great Falls accuses Larry Ray Denny, 66, of Box Elder, and John Grimson Lyon, 60, of Clifton, Va., of devising a scheme in which Denny continued to receive his $112,224 annual salary and benefits as a BLM deputy state director even though he left and never returned to his job.
Rather, Denny relocated to Montana where he contracted with the Chippewa Cree Tribe for drilling and consulting work.
Prosecutors also allege Denny claimed sick leave and regular pay while gone from his BLM job but that bank records showed he visited various golf courses and traveled to Las Vegas, Arizona and around Montana.
Denny, who was deputy state director for natural resources for the BLM’s Eastern States Office in Springfield, Va., pleaded not guilty to four counts during a Sept. 4 arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong in Great Falls.
Denny’s attorney, Penny Strong of Billings, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Lyon, who was the BLM state director for the Eastern States in Springfield, Va., pleaded not guilty to three counts during an Aug. 19 arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Holter. The indictment was filed in July and unsealed with Lyon’s appearance.
Lyon is represented by Evangelo Arvanetes, an assistant federal defender in Great Falls. Arvanetes could not be reached for comment. Holter ordered Lyon to pay $300 a month for attorney fees.
Laura Weiss, a spokeswoman and prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, could not be reached for comment.
The BLM fraud case is the latest in a series of indictments that have come from investigations by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General into fraud and corruption on Rocky Boy’s Reservation.
The investigations already have led to convictions of former state Rep. Tony Belcourt and several contractors who provided kickbacks on federal contracts.
The indictment charges Denny and Lyon with wire fraud, false claims and theft of government property. Denny also faces a count of federal false statements regarding outside income.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Weldon said in the indictment that under the scheme, Denny left his BLM post “with the knowledge and approval” of Lyon, his supervisor, to relocate to Montana to pursue other business interests as a consultant with the Chippewa Cree Tribe and “for all intents and purposes” abandoned his federal job “without relinquishing payment” as an employee.
Lyon is accused of perpetuating Denny’s fraudulent wage claims by approving and submitting false information to the BLM.
The scheme began in about June or July 2012, the indictment said, when Denny told Lyon he needed to return to Montana to “overcome health-related issues.” Denny left BLM’s Springfield office in July 2012 and never returned.
But from July 2012 until March 23, 2013, Denny was paid for 550 hours of regular work, 461 hours of sick leave, 389 hours of annual leave and 72 hours for federal holidays, the indictment said. During that time, bank account activity showed Denny went to golf courses and traveled to Las Vegas, Arizona and in and around Montana.
In a 2012 job appraisal, Lyon rated Denny’s performance as “exceptional,” which led to Denny getting a $3,262 cash award in November 2012, the indictment said.
When BLM employees asked about Denny’s status for business reasons, Lyon refused to provide any information, claiming federal laws about releasing health information prohibited him from disclosing such information, the indictment said.
Meanwhile, in January 2012, the Chippewa Cree Tribe, located on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation in north central Montana, contracted with Denny Technical Services for drilling-related services, including exploration, energy use projects, research on mineral lease agreements, development of drilling programs and communication with relevant agencies.
Denny negotiated the contract with the tribe, while his daughter, Misty Ann Denny, also known as Misty Brooks, executed the agreement, the indictment said.
For a year beginning in March 2012, Denny received about $67,243 from the tribe in addition to his BLM salary and benefits, the indictment said. Of the amount from the tribe, Denny received about $49,000 during 2012 and did not report it on a federal confidential financial disclosure report, the indictment said.
The indictment also includes forfeiture allegations seeking a money judgment of $112,302 and other property that may be traced to the alleged crimes.
If convicted, Denny and Lyon face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the wire fraud charge.
Both men were released pending trial. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls.

Click (HERE) to comment directly at the Billings Gazette

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Steven Spielberg and ‘The horse the Germans could not kill’

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Source: CNN

“Warrior is an extraordinary example of the resilience, strength, and profound contribution that horses made to the Great War,”

Steven Spielberg, director of Oscar-nominated film "Warhorse" paid tribute to Warrior.
Steven Spielberg, director of Oscar-nominated film “Warhorse” paid tribute to Warrior.
(CNN) — Hailed as the horse “the Germans could not kill” after surviving machine gun attacks and falling shells, one of World War I’s most famous animals has been honored with its own version of Britain’s most prestigious medal the Victoria Cross.
Warrior, who arrived on the Western Front on August 11, 1914, with his owner and rider General Jack Seely endured the horrors of the Battle of the Somme and was rescued twice at Passchendaele after becoming trapped in his stables.
After suffering a number of injuries, Warrior returned home to the Isle of Wight in 1918 where he lived until he passed away at the age of 33, and the horse has now been honored by being awarded an Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal.
Warrior’s life has been used as an inspiration by the likes of film director Steven Spielberg, whose film Warhorse won critical acclaim and was nominated for an Oscar.
“Warrior is an extraordinary example of the resilience, strength, and profound contribution that horses made to the Great War,” Spielberg said.
“Recognizing him with an Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal is a fitting and poignant tribute not only to this remarkable animal, but to all animals that served.”
The film, which was based on the 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo, is one of the most famous of its kind as it tells the tale of Joey, a horse which serves in WW1.
It’s the first time that the PDSA Dickin Medal has been awarded to an animal who served on the front line during conflict in the veterinary charity’s 97-year history.
The medal was accepted by Seely’s grandson, Brough Scott, who is a horse racing journalist and broadcaster.
Queen Mary and Warrior
Queen Mary and Warrior
The ceremony was held at London’s Imperial War Museum where the horse was honored 100 years after he began his journey into war.
“Warrior’s story – which I grew up hearing at my mothers’ knee — was lost in time to the wider world. But now he rides again 100 years later, thanks to PDSA,” said Scott.
“My family and I are more than honored that Warrior has been given this award on behalf of all animals that also served; we are truly humbled. I only wish Jack Seely were here today to witness Warrior receiving the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.”
Warrior is the 66th winner of the medal from the PDSA but is the first to receive an honorary award and the first to have done so having been involved in WW1.
Since its introduction, 65 Dickin Medals have been awarded to 29 dogs, 32 Pigeons who flew in World War II, three horses and a cat.
The most recent recipient was Sasha, a military dog, who died while on patrol in Afghanistan.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Gunnison Prison Wild Horse Program Suspended

Straight from the Horse's Heart 

“We are not able to sustain the program without losing money…”

In this 2007 file photo, an inmate works with "Norton" in the round pen with part of the herd in the background as part of the wild horse program at the Gunnison State Prison in Gunnison. Tom Smart, Deseret News
In this 2007 file photo, an inmate works with “Norton” in the round pen with part of the herd in the background as part of the wild horse program at the Gunnison State Prison in Gunnison.
Tom Smart, Deseret News
GUNNISON — Disagreement over the costs associated with a wild horse gentling program at the Gunnison prison has led to its suspension, and efforts are underway to find a place for 1,500 horses.
The program’s cessation means the Bureau of Land Management will move about 90 percent of the animals to out-of-state facilities, with a prison-imposed deadline to have that accomplished by Oct. 6.
“The BLM’s Utah State Office has valued our relationship with the Utah Department of Corrections and regret that it has decided to terminate the Wild Horse Inmate Program at Gunnison,” said Tom Gorey, acting spokesman for the BLM in Utah. “This program has aided in the rehabilitation of inmates and has, through the gentling of horses, helped place animals into good, private care.”
Gorey added that the state agency decision to end the program will complicate national efforts to make sure there is enough off-range holding capacity for wild horses and burros that are removed off public ranges.
Mike Haddon, deputy director of the Utah Department of Corrections, said the program was losing money and had very little inmate participation. The BLM was informed of the agency’s decision on Friday.
“We are not able to sustain the program without losing money,” he said. “The program was not cost-effective, and we do not know if it was effective in reducing recidivism. We do know it was not serving a lot of inmates.”
Since its inception in 2007, the program had 175 inmates who gentled horses for the public to adopt through BLM-managed programs. Of those 175 graduates, Haddon said only 82 of them had been released from prison — too small a number to effectively judge if the program had any viable, lasting impacts.
Haddon said the differences over money arose in 2012 when the initial five-year contract was renegotiated from a per-head, per day rate to another model of reimbursement.
“There was a discrepancy and dispute between what the BLM believes the department should be reimbursed and what the department believes it should be reimbursed,” he said.
An audit by the Office of Inspector General released last year shows a more than million-dollar discrepancy between the two entities that raised questions over the costs.
The Utah Correctional Industries under which the program operated reported costs of a little more than $5.3 million for the five-year contract period, of which auditors said $1 million was “questioned” —or not allowable under the terms of the agreement.
Of that million dollars, $928,000 was deemed “unsupported,” meaning documentation related to the costs was insufficient, the report said…(CONTINUED)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Judge Sides with BLM’s Quest to Destroy Last of Wyoming’s Wild Horses & Burros

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Source: Mulitple

Dispite Evidence that BLM Violated Environmental Laws the Deadly Roundup Will Proceed

BLM Captives; Freedom Lost ~ by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
BLM Captives; Freedom Lost ~ by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A federal judge has denied a well aruged request from wild horse and burro advocates to block the federal government’s plan to round up  800 wild horses in Wyoming and virtually “zeroing-out” several very significant herds.
Judge Nancy Freudenthal in Cheyenne on Thursday denied the group’s request for an injunction. The groups responded by filing an appeal with a federal appeals court in Denver.
The groups are challenging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s plans to remove horses from the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas in southern Wyoming areas starting next month.
The groups claim the federal agency failed to follow environmental laws in planning the action.
The state of Wyoming has inappropriatly intervened in the lawsuit, saying wild horses must not be allowed to damage the lands or conflict with private property rights, even though private cattle and sheep outnumber the horses over 100 to 1.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Who is the contractor for BLM’s Scott City, KS “Emergency Short Term Holding facility?”

Straight from the Horse's Heart


by Debbie Coffey, V.P., Wild Horse Freedom Federation                 Copyright 2014                    All Rights Reserved.

75 wild mares died in a very short amount of time at BLM’s emergency short term holding facility in Scott City, Kansas.

12LTH1_26_of_161_ (1)
Mares look at the public on a BLM tour of Long Term Holding pastures in Kansas. (photo by Carol Walker)
The BLM awarded the contract for an emergency short term holding facility to Phil Jennings, who has the contract for the BLM’s Pauls Valley facility in Oklahoma.  Jennings has had contracts with BLM since 2005 for Pauls Valley, and the obligation amounts seemed to be mostly in about the $100,000 to $300,000 range.
The BLM Scott City, KS emergency short term holding facility contract was signed 6/4/2014, and the obligation amount is $2,030,000. Yep, that’s a jump to over $2 million dollars.
But Jennings is in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma.  That’s about a 400 mile drive to Scott City, Kansas.  It seems Jennings may have LEASED the feedlot run by Beef Belt, LLC in Scott City, KS.  So, in essence, BLM’s contractor hired a subcontractor.
(Does that seem to make Jennings a very well paid middleman?)
If a contractor leases a feedlot from what is in essence a subcontractor, then the subcontractor has no direct contract with instructions and obligations to the BLM, does it?  Did any BLM personnel give written instructions and obligations to Beef Belt, LLC, which was formed in 10/1/13 (just 9 months prior to getting this windfall of business)?  Or.was it only after 70 horses died, that the BLM finally seemed to get concerned or involved, and give instructions about the feed?
“The manager of the corral, Steven Landgraf, one of the owners of Lakin Feed Yard, which specializes in corrals just like the one in Scott County, denied any wrongdoing on the part of the staff at the corral.
“We did our best to take care of them.  It is not like we did not do our job,” Landgraf said.  “As animals get older, they die.  The animals that have died have all been between 19 and 20 years old.  It is a fact of life; how do you say this without being cruel?”
Landgraf explained further that the organization has cows and buffaloes that die there frequently.
“It is normal to have 4 percent or 5 percent of deaths with cattle, so this does not really count as out of the ordinary,” he said. “There were 1,490 of them that came in, and, if these few died, it shouldn’t be such a big deal.”
(He also added “I have a cow herd. When the cattle get to be this old, we sell them so they can be turned into hamburger.”)
Well, Mr. Landgraf, you may not have noticed yet, but this is a REALLY BIG DEAL to the American public.
And about all the buffalo and cattle that Mr. Landgraf mentioned that died on the feedlot, doesn’t it make you wonder about the condition of the soil and any possible toxins?  Did the BLM even do any soil tests or an Environmental Assessment for this feedlotbefore putting wild horses on it?
The hutchtimes.com article also included quotes from Paul McGuire, BLM’s public affairs specialist.  It stated “According to McGuire, it is part of the contractual arrangement that if there are deaths on these private holdings, they must be reported immediately.”
But how long after the deaths was it before the BLM notified the public?  The BLM buried this vague “notification” in their “From the Public” page on the Wild Horse & Burro Program website:
Question: Does the BLM ever move animals from a long-term pasture to another holding facility? If so, why? (July 2014)
Answer: Yes, BLM moves animals from long-term pastures to other facilities if the long-term pasture can no longer accommodate the animals. Examples of when this would occur include:  
1.  If a contractor sells the ranch and the new owner does not want to manage for wild    horses.
2. If a contractor has lands recovering from drought and wants to remove grazing animals or decrease their numbers to aid in drought recovery.
3. If market conditions change in the livestock sector such that the contractor identifies a more lucrative use for the land.
Depending on the capacity of the facility needing to relocate animals, the number of animals being relocated can range from a few hundred to a few thousand head.
The majority of animals that have not been adopted are held on long-term pastures. Long-term pastures provide a free-roaming environment for the animals and it costs less for the taxpayer to house animals on long-term pastures than at short-term holding facilities. With long-term and short-term facilities nearly filled to capacity, the BLM is currently seeking new short-term and long-term holding facilities.”
Uh, this didn’t mention that even one wild mare died at Scott City, did it?  And how many of you comb the From the Public” page on the BLM’s WH & B website on a daily basis?
Finally, on 8/15/14, the BLM posted a news release on their “News & Information” page of the WH & B Program website.
The BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program website  “From the Public” page is also where the BLM seems to have buried the last “update” on the ongoing investigation into Spur Livestock selling wild horses to kill buyer Joe Simon by stating:
Question:  What is the BLM’s response to allegations regarding wild horse sales to a South Dakota long-term pasture contractor, known as Spur Livestock, in 2008?
Answer: The BLM cares deeply about the well-being of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range, and takes seriously all accusations of the slaughter of wild horses or burros.  These accusations have been forwarded to BLM Law Enforcement, which is investigating.  The BLM will share the findings of the investigation once it is complete.
And also, about the ongoing investigation of Tom Davis, prolific buyer of truckloads of wild horses that went who knows where:
Question:  What is the BLM’s reaction to allegations regarding horse sales to Tom Davis of Colorado, as reported by Pro Publica?
Answer: The BLM condemns any sale of wild horses for slaughter.  We care deeply about the well-being of wild horses, both on and off the range, and it has been (and remains) the policy of the BLM not to sell or send wild horses or burros to slaughter.  We take seriously all accusations of the slaughter of wild horses or burros.  The Office of the Inspector General at the Department of the Interior has initiated an investigation into the situation and will work in conjunction with the State of Colorado throughout its investigation.  We look forward to the results of that inquiry.  Anybody that is found to have violated the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act should be held accountable.
We’re still looking forward to results of this inquiry, too.  And we have been for a long time now.  May we all live into our 100’s, so we can finally find out the results.
Bottom line, if the BLM had left these wild horses on their (supposedly) “federally protected” Herd Management Areas where they belong, the wild horses, especially older, more vulnerable ones, wouldn’t be getting shipped all over the country, stressed out, and having to adjust to different feed.