Saturday, February 6, 2010

Craig Downer Interview

Posted by MarkRobison at 2/4/2010 2:38 PM PST

A rally aimed at halting current wild horse roundups will be from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday Feb. 20 in front of the Legislative Building in Carson City.

It’s being promoted by an alliance of wild horse advocates that say 69 horses have been killed so far in the roundup of horses in the Calico complex north of Reno -- including four today (see the BLM's daily reports here). This includes 39 adult horses and 30 spontaneous late-term abortions that the advocates say were caused by chasing horses already taxed by the winter over long miles by helicopter.

Below you can watch videos of a roundup and life at the holding facilities in Fallon, as well as use links to sign a petition and to get info on contacting representatives.

But first, I spoke with Craig Downer, a fourth generation Nevadan who lives in Minden and has been observing the roundups. (The top photo of the straining horse was taken by Craig, as well as the second photo of a mare who just had a spontaneous abortion in the Fallon holding area. The third photo, by Laura Leigh, shows a horse who was killed after he was run till his hooves fell off.)

Mark Robison: What have you been seeing?

Craig Downer: I have been going out there [to the Calico complex] since late December and going to the Fallon holding facility where the contractor is keeping the horses taken off the range.

Mark Robison: What’s the health of the horses?

Craig Downer: Most of them are quite fit for this time of year. There are some thin ones, particularly in the Warm Springs area. You have to look at what’s behind that [thinness]: if they’re being kept away from certain water sources or being restricted by fences. There are some who might not have made it through the winter, but all the ones I saw were healthy. And you’ve got to look at the stress from the helicopter roundups which is really taxing. Quite a few of the young ones were having trouble from the roundup.

I also saw a black stallion with a white diamond on his forehead escape from the Paiute Meadows ranch. He jumped a six foot fence and then a barbed wire fence and took off to the open range. It was really inspiring and showed a lot of ability.

Mark Robison: What’s your main worry with the wild horses?

Craig Downer: Not just in the Calico complex but in the Eagle complex, they’re thinning out herd areas, they’re cutting them down to such small numbers that they’re not genetically viable. They’re just undermining these remnant herds. These roundups are in a vast area where they’re not overpopulated. They say 3,000 horses on 550,000 acres. The law says they shall be the principle species, and it’s not being followed. I think a lot of interests ganged up against them that don’t value them and I think the general public is being ignored and I hate to see that. Special interests are trying to eliminate them and that’s where we count on our government not to have the law and the people’s will subverted.

Mark Robison: How do the wild horses fit in on the range?

Craig Downer: They have a lot of positive benefits. We have to allow them to fill their niche and see the positive benefits that accrue such as improving soil with their manure and spreading seed. It’s the modern horse species that evolved here 2 million years ago and if they did go out (extinct) about 7,000 years ago, they went out with a lot of other animals, but there’s plenty of niche space that was left for these animals to refill. And if people love the wild horses as they demonstrate they do, then the public servants should uphold the law to protect them.  


Mark Robison: What do you think will be the first compromise that can be reached with BLM?

Craig Downer: I don’t think they should take this many horses and I don’t think they should be zeroing out area after area. I think we could reach a fairer number, a management level number, a sustainable number. They could still say they’re doing their job but we wouldn’t have these excessive roundups. For example, in the Eagle herd, they want to leave 1 wild horse for every 7,000 acres -- an acre is the size of a football field. Meanwhile, they’ll plow under sagebrush and put down seed for livestock. They’re ignoring all of these thousands and thousands of people who love the wild horses. We’re just asking for fairness.

Mark Robison: How did you get interested in wild horses?

Craig Downer: I have always loved wild horses since I was a boy and went out on my father’s survey crew and would see them in the Pine Nut Range. Right after I got my master's at UNR, I wrote a book called “Wild Horses: Living Symbols of Freedom.”


Click here to read the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. This is an excerpt:
Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.

Click here to sign a petition calling for a moratorium to the roundups, and click here for information on contacting representatives about how you feel regarding the wild horse roundups.

Saturday, February 20, 2010
12:00 – 3:00 pm
Carson City, Nevada (State Capitol) in front of the Legislative Building

For information on the rally, call:


Below are two videos. The first is by Elyse Gardner and shows a roundup on Feb. 1 in the Granite Range of the Calico complex. She writes on her blog that the horses do not appear close to starving and have been running for miles by the time this footage starts. The second video shows the holding area where the formerly wild horses are being held in Fallon. It was taken by Deniz Bolbol on Jan. 26.

USE CAUTION WHEN WATCHING THESE VIDEOS. Some are difficult to watch.... Barb



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