Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New York Times Gets Antiseptic Show of “Gather” With True VIP Treatment From BLM

Horseback Magazine

August 25, 2010
By R.T. Fitch, Photo of Times Photog in Trap Area by Terry Fitch
SUSANVILLE, CA (SFTHH) – For weeks the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has kept the American public and press at extreme distances from the wild horse trapping operations at the Twin Peaks helicopter stampede, and before that at Tuscorora, Calico, and in Montana‘s Pryor Mountains. They claim they are keeping journalists and humane observers away from its helicopter stampedes for their own safety.

Each morning observers hear a law enforcement briefing by BLM Security Chief Jason Parker who states that the public will be held back from private land where the wild horse trap is located, due to safety and liability issues and should anyone not comply, “things will be escalated to the next level”.
The trap is the final destination in a helicopter driven stampede often lasting for miles over rocky ground.
Horseback Magazine has requested a taped on the record interview with Parker. BLM Washington spokesman Tom Gorey said Wednesday morning that “BLM law enforcement declines to be interviewed. BLM law enforcement maintains a presence at gathers and other BLM activities to ensure public safety and operational safety.  The number of law enforcement personnel needed at a specific BLM gather or activity is determined on a case-by-case basis.”
 Today the BLM no close access policy changed when the the federal agency allowed a New York Times photographer to not only locate himself on the private land where the horses are herded into a trap, but to be within the chute of the enclosure and exposed to both the horses and the aggressive low altitude helicopter chasing them.
Horseback Magazine photographer, Terry Fitch, unknowingly captured a fuzzy shot of the Times photographer right in the middle of the stampede while both herself and credentialed reporter Laura Leigh were held more than one half mile away and not granted access to the operations site on public land under threat of finding out directly what Parker‘s “next level“ is exactly.
The New York newspaper notified the BLM, yesterday, that they would be sending a reporter and photographer to document the operations at the Twin Peaks “gather“ Tuesday. 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 citizen observers before being whisked away by early arriving BLM officials intent on spoon feeding their version of stampedes that have resulted in the deaths and penning of hundreds of wild horses during the last year and protests from San Francisco to Washington’s Lafayette Park adjacent to the White House.
BLM management personnel were on hand to speak with and direct the activities of the visiting 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.”
The contractor, Cattoor Livestock Roundups of Utah place their traps and pens on private land and BLM then claims that property owners have insisted outsiders aren’t allowed on the land, that despite the 260 million acres of public land under BLM management.
Horseback Magazine will soon request the Cattoor federal roundup contract to determine if the contractor has the right to close its trap area to the media. In recent weeks, BLM was caught in violation of federal aviation rules when it claimed that airspace above its stampede was restricted. The FAA had denied a bureau request to close airspace saying the roundups didn’t meet it’s strict rules for closure.
Sue Cattoor, the helicopter contractor responsible for the roundup made 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 operation. It is a falsehood.
Direct observation by this reporter and others indicates that approximately 60 percent of the foals held at Litchfield display signs of serious lameness. At the Calico roundup, two foals were euthanized after shedding their hooves after running miles over rocky ground in the dead of winter. At Tuscarora, a mare was shot by contractor Dave Cattoor after most of the musculature of her forearm was stripped from her leg on sharp rocks allegedly during a stampede. A foal, with broken legs presumably belonging to the mare was also shot. The corpse of the mare was later found dead by a Nevada water official at the foot of a cliff.
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 by Fitch show the NYT photographer right within the trap zone and on the private property that the rest of the observers and credentialed media were restricted from nearing.
A complete archive of all Horseback Magazine stories on the BLM roundups may be found at

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