SUSANVILLE, CA (SFTHH) – For weeks the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has kept the American public and concerned citizens at extreme distances from the wild horse trapping operations at the Twin Peaks helicopter stampede. Each morning observers must tolerate a law enforcement briefing by BLM Security Chief Jason Parker who clearly states that the public will be held back from the private land, where the trap is located, due to safety and liability issues and should anyone not comply, “things will be escalated to the next level”. Today that changed when the BLM allowed a New York Times photographer to not only locate himself on the private land but to be within the chute of the trap and exposed to both the horses and the aggressive, low altitude helicopter.

Blown up Shot of NYT Photographer inside BLM Wild Horse Trap Chute on "Private Land" ~ Photo by Terry Fitch

Horseback Magazine photographer, Terry Fitch, unknowingly captured a shot of the New York Times photographer right in the middle of the stampede while both herself and press credentialed reporter Laura Leigh, who’s credintials are recognized by a Federal Judge, were held at arm’s length over one half mile away and not granted access to the operations site on public land.

The New York Times notified the BLM, yesterday, that they would be sending a reporter and photographer to document the operations at the stampede, today. Before sunrise the reporter was on hand at BLM’s Litchfield holding facility just north of Susanville, CA. The reporter took down names and information from several citizens before being whisked away by early arriving BLM officials.

Unlike in days past, multiple numbers of BLM officials and management personnel were on hand to speak with and direct the activities of the visiting NYT reporter and photographer. After the first helicopter stampede where the horse were run at breakneck speed the NYT team was allowed to enter the operations area while other credentialed professionals were restricted to the distant observation location. When local BLM officials were asked why the observations area was so distant from the trap and subsequent activities the standard BLM reply was repeated “Contractors request”.

NYT Photographer, on left, prior to being allowed out into trap area ~ Photo by Terry Fitch

Helicopter stampede contractor, Sue Cattoor, did make a surprise visit to the remote observation area to “dispel” rumors that there have been no injured or lame foals suffering since the beginning of the ill planed stampede. This “news” flies in the face of the direct observation by this reporter that approximately 60% of the foals held at the Litchfield wild horse holding facility display signs of serious lameness.

Later during the day, another round of stampeded horses raced their way into the basin which lay before the Cattoor’s jute and fence “funnel” into their trap. Skillfully, for the sake of the NYT team, the chopper slowed the horses to a slow trot as they were pressed into the trap, this is where the photos of Fitch show the NYT photographer right within the trap zone and on the “private property” that the rest of the taxpaying observers were restricted from nearing.

While the handful of citizens stood almost a mile away, the BLM violated all of the rules and guidelines stated prior to any and/or all stampedes that the public has been allowed to observe. The dance of influence and power continues as the BLM makes up new rules as they see fit and customize to suit their purpose.