Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Double Talk and Dancing: BLM Can’t Spin Fast Enough

Straight from the Horse's Heart

OpEd by R.T. Fitch ~ Author/President of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BLM Starting to Sweat over Upcoming “Inhumane Care” Hearing

BLM's Sun-J Helicopter over horses ~ photo by Laura Leigh
On December 7th, 2011 (Pearl Harbor Day) the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a report on an internal investigation put forward to supply a response to a Federal Judge presiding over a law suit alleging inhumane care and treatment of wild horses and burros from helicopter roundups all the way to long-term holding and the one and only singular plaintiff in that case was and still is Ms. Laura Leigh, Vice President of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF).  Sitting alone in a Reno Nevada Federal courtroom with her attorney Gordon Cowen and the backing of WHFF Leigh came before the Honorable Judge McKibben and stated her case regarding the observed acts of alleged cruelty displayed by the BLM and their contractors against the country’s wild horses and burros as they were rounded up on protected public land.
Ms. Leigh had a mountain of visual documentation but the straw that broke the camel’s back was her now well-known video of the BLM contractor’s helicopter pilot actually using the skid of his aircraft to strike a very tired and disoriented wild horse.  That singular video was the spark that lit the fire that the BLM is now having difficulty putting out as the case is still active and a hearing is scheduled for late next month.
Allegations of cruelty have been made against the BLM in the past; for years tax paying American citizens have been documenting, complaining and suing the BLM over their aggressive actions and alleged violations of the law and not one thing has been done about it regardless of the integrity of the complainants or the quality of the documentation and the end result has always been the same, BLM – 7 / Horses and Burros – 0.  So what’s different with this case?  The BLM disrespected a Federal Judge.
Just as they have continually done in the past the BLM sauntered into the courtroom, looked down their noses at the lone plaintiff and proceeded to arrogantly and unequivocally brush off any wrong doing and actually pointed a finger at the horses for being at fault.  The single-minded, self-centered arrogance did not find favor with the judge; he stated that the declaration by the BLM was not what he observed in the video as he could see an exhausted animal and the pilot apparently making contact. He said he did not appreciate the “blame the horse” direction of the Defendant’s statements.
“I am deeply concerned,” Judge Mckibben stated to Eric Petersen, BLM’s legal counsel, “that declarations presented to the Court by the Agency do not address the issue, but simply deny wrong doing.”
Even though the BLM’s hand-picked investigative team was either a BLM employee or BLM friendly associate the allegations of cruel and unnecessary treatment was brought forward in the BLM’s own investigation’s final report.
The BLM has been turned so upside down by Leigh’s legal action that the agency recently had the head of their Nevada bureau, Amy Lueders , call upon all BLM employees and contractors to police each other and call out any acts of cruelty or inhumanity as the public trust has been deeply eroded by documented evidence, Leigh’s video and her ongoing litigation.  When asked if this “to little- too late” posturing of the BLM will have any improvement on conduct Laura Leigh stated,
“Without any parameters of repercussion for abuse the BLM employees that want change will feel just as hesitant as always to report it. They need a system that protects them (for doing the right thing) from repercussions from those doing the “wrong things.” They need it as badly as we do.”
Leigh holds high hopes for the outcome of her case and feels that overall it will be a win/win for the horses and burros.
“We have been fighting to get the attention of the BLM and through the watchful eye of Judge McKibben I feel that we have finally gotten it.”, said Leigh, “This could prove  to be good lesson for the advocate community as this case is valid proof that our judicial system does work; you simply have to get it right from the gitgo.”
Leigh reported that the Wild Horse Freedom Federation will soon be issuing a news release with details on not only the hearing for the “Humane Care” case but also a scheduled hearing for the much publicized and heralded “First Amendment” litigation.
“We have got their attention so now is the time to set things right for the horses”, Leigh concluded, “That’s what it always has been and always will be about; it’s simply all about the horses and the burros.”

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