Saturday, June 19, 2010


©Photography by Elyse Gardner (Click once on photographs to enlarge them)
Lest we forget what it's all about...
        Advocates descended upon Denver, Colorado, in response to the Bureau of Land Management's invitation to a "workshop" where, for the first time in many years, the BLM received input from the public.  Most present, but not all, were wild horse advocates.
        The format allowing this discussion was conceived by BLM's recently hired professional mediator, J. Michael Harty.  He appears to have been retained to moderate, help keep BLM's public image from continuing in its deteriorating orbit, and navigate the Salazar plan into fruition (BLM doesn't put it exactly that way, but he is viewed that way nevertheless).
                                    ©Photo by Elyse Gardner    
Mediator  J. Michael Harty, J.D.
      For those who may not know,  Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is promoting his plan, which is to create or support a few "treasured herds" (Cloud's herd would be one), which would be micromanaged.  BLM would round up and move most of the rest of our wild horses to seven "preserves" initially intended to be in the midwest.  He wanted $42 million  to purchase the first of these "preserves." 
     Before I proceed to briefly talk about the Denver pow-wow of the wild horse world, a noteworthy decision took shape:  Each one of the members of the Advisory Board disagreed with the concept of the federal government purchasing private land on which to house horses:  Secretary Salazar's plan starts out with a big thumbs down right out of the gate. 
    Also, the "treasured herds" didn't go over well with anyone.  Advocates were concerned with the fate of the "nontreasured" herds.  Special interests were concerned about the elevated status the treasured herds would receive.   
                  ©Photo by Elyse Gardner  
     Michael Harty designed a successful forum for discussion.  It required the public to confine its comments to the points outlined in the agenda, i.e., if I had something to say, I needed to state to which aspect of the agenda it pertained.  
    United we stand.  Advocates had a brief meeting on Sunday night.  
    What a tremendous cast of characters.  Wild horse advocates are a group of intelligent, compassionate, sensitive people.  Most are highly educated and successful in their fields.  We are a law-abiding bunch.  The wild horses and burros are magnets for pulling together some of the most stellar humans I have personally met.  What a privilege to be among these people.
                Calico complex wild horses being rounded up, January 2010
    JULY 1 ROUNDUPS BEGIN.  Moriah HA, 55,000 acres of Herd Area in Ely, Nevada, is scheduled to be zeroed out.  Twin Peaks is scheduled to have 1855 wild horses and 117 burros removed.  The range data that could prove how unnecessary this is or, conversely, the data that could begin to justify this drastic assault on the wild horse and burro population does not yet exist.
     So we are hoping for a close follow-up, as Ginger Kathrens suggested, and most all agreed, with two-day workshops focusing on each of the specific areas instead of trying to cover so much ground.  We truly hope this was the first of many such workshops.  It was a very good first step.
     BLM made a real effort to listen, and I applaud them.  However, we have yet to see what will become of these two days' exchanges.  They asked for feedback and real suggestions, and they got them.  From both days:

© Photo by Elyse Gardner       Karen Sussman, President of ISPMB 
Karen is the President of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros.  She maintains and studies three wild horse herds in North Dakota.  She spoke of "herd wisdom," notably retained and passed on by the older horses, and warned of the catastrophic consequences of removing the older stallions and lead mares and ignoring herd dynamics in all areas of the wild horse program.  Wild Horse Annie was the first President of ISPMB, and Karen worked with her.

©Photo by Elyse Gardner        Dr. Cassandra Nunez (click on link for CV)
Dr. Nunez is working with Karen Sussman.  She urged the BLM and Board to make maintaining the herd dynamics and social structure of the wild horses a priority in all phases of captivity, be it short- or longterm holding, or otherwise.  Her comments are based on years of study of wild horses and their family structure.

©6/14/10  Photography by Elyse Gardner   Madeleine Pickens reiterating her plan 
     Madeleine Pickens is ready to implement her ground-breaking design for our captured wild horses currently in longterm holding.  Her preserve would make them accessible to the public, stop the hemorrhaging of tax dollars through significant savings, and include education for our children about wild horses, all of which BLM's current program lacks.  Entrusting America's wild horses to an educated next generation is vital.  More information is available at

©6/14/10  Photography by Elyse Gardner     Neda DeMayo, Return to Freedom
Neda gave valuable insight based on years of observing wild horses at Return to Freedom.  Neda is proposing the Soldier Meadows plan which would return over 1000 Calico complex horses to one step removed from freedom on their home range.   The horses would be living within a Herd Management Area until they can be released to the range.
      I want to be very clear:  There is no either/or here.  BLM doesn't need to "choose" Madeleine's or Neda's plan, one over the other.  Their plans address different needs, and both are necessary and would benefit our wild horses.  There are other proposals on the table, as well, such as the Winecup/Gamble.  Does BLM have the will to try to make these work?

©6/14/10  Photography by Elyse Gardner         
 Ginger Kathrens, Volunteer CEO of The Cloud Foundation
Ginger urged more topic-specific workshops of this nature, pointing out we have a great deal to discuss.  She called this a good beginning.
©1/6/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner
L to R Ginger Kathrens, the Cloud Foundation; Karen Sussman, President of 
the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros; Neda DeMayo, 
Return to Freedom
        Do I detect a hint of hope amidst the sceptism on the faces of these vetted wild horse advocates?

©1/6/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner
 Deniz Bolbol of In Defense of Animals
Deniz challenged BLM to true transparency.  Her organizational contributions to the advocates during this event are acknowledged and appreciated by all.  Thank you, Deniz.

©Photo by Elyse Gardner      
                             Willis Lamm, Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates/LRTC 
"Least Resistance Training Concepts," active in Nevada in training, rescuing, and advocating for wild horses in all juridictions in Nevada. 

©Photo by Elyse Gardner         Carol Walker, Equine Photographer and lecturer
Carol's stunning photographic book, Wild Hoofbeats, showcases the Adobe Town herd in Colorado.  She also knows very well the McCullough Peaks herd in Wyoming, which I had the privilege to visit with her in August 2009.  She is dedicated to photographing wild herds in Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana.

©1/6/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner     Katie Fite, M.S., Western Watersheds Project Biodiversity Director
Katie's work has helped win habitat and keep horses on the range.  The audio was inconsistent on the live feed when she spoke, but the Board heard her clearly.

 ©1/6/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner         Craig C. Downer, Wildlife Ecologist
Craig talked about Reserve Design and the need to protect and manage the wild horses and burros in the wild.
©1/6/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner     Valerie Stanley, Attorney at Law
 Valerie was the winning trial attorney in the successful West Douglas decision where BLM was found to overstep their boundaries of authority.  She talked about animal welfare and presented the Board with a research paper on animal welfare issues.  She will be following up.  

 ©Photo by Elyse Gardner   
                        Suzanne Roy of AWHPC (American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign)
Suzanne Roy recognizes the value of this process as a good
 first step and asserted a need for more workshops and dialog.

 ©Photo by Elyse Gardner
 Andrea Lococo of AWI (Animal Welfare Institute)
Andrea made the point that in the last 20 years, the same goals have been put forth by BLM. She recommended BLM post these documents on their website so the public can see what has (or has not) been accomplished.  She also called for the Secretary to establish a new body to protect and manage our wild horses, thereby relieving BLM of this responsibility since it always points out it is a land management agency, thus creating a potential conflict of interest.     

©1/6/10 Photo by Elyse Gardner   Laura Leigh, Herd-watch Project Manager
 Laura is also Subject Matter Expert/Research, for Equine Welfare Alliance.  She pointed out that leaseholders of our public lands do not pay enough to cover costs of assessing the effects of their land use (i.e., for grazing livestock).  Taxpayers are subsidizing ranchers' leases in this way, and wild horses are blamed for any damage but without scientific evidence, as the Government Accounting Office (GAO) has pointed out in several reports.

       Another notable figure that was present was Sue Wallis,  slaughter proponent and Republican representative from Recluse, Wyoming.  Sue eats horses and thinks they should be on the school menu.  She had a few supporters with her.

©Photography by Elyse Gardner
More photos:
©Photo by Elyse Gardner

   Board Members Dr. J. Wayne Burkhardt, and Larry Johnson
Larry Johnson holds the Wildlife Management position on the Advisory Board.  His term expired November 2008, which is why Makendra Silverman of The Cloud Foundation voiced what most advocates feel:  Time to step down.  There have been vacancies on this Board for a long time due to the slow application approval process, including the position of Humane Advocacy.  
          I don't have a photo of me at this event, but I talked about the value of video cameras on helicopters and on pens in the holding facility; I urged BLM to demonstrate good faith and good will by turning loose some of the older stallions -- Lightning, Tomahawk, Redman, General, Commander, to name a few, and some of the older mares.  I pressed the BLM and Board to open up long-term holding so you and I can see for ourselves what is happening there.
          Just a reminder about ROAM:   Secretary Salazar's plan is the DOI (Department of Interior) and ranching interest's answer to the ROAM Act (Restore Our American Mustang), which passed the House resoundingly in July 2009 but remains stuck in a Senate subcommittee.  BLM is very concerned about ROAM and was quick to try to push through an alternative because, for one thing, it actually defines "thriving ecological balance" and converts "may" into "must": for example, "may review scientific methods" becomes "must review scientific methods" all the way through every aspect of evaluation and management.
      ROAM authorizes BLM to obtain more land for wild, free-roaming wild horses; it requires BLM to implement fertility control; it charges BLM with the responsibility of undertaking all practical options for maintaining ecological balance while maintaining wild horses on the range.  It requires BLM to provide information about its management practices, i.e., requires true transparency," available for public inspection."  
      Deniz Bolbol of In Defense of Animals spoke about transparency.  (Click twice in the view box to watch larger on Youtube).

 (Click on this link to view the WORKSHOP AND ADVISORY BOARD MEETINGS video that was livestreamed.) 

        A new day for the wild horses has dawned because they have advocates who are standing together like never before.  I want to add my apology to those whose photos and statements I have not showcased here.  The room was replete with dedicated, talented people who've been showing up for the wild horses for decades.  I am so privileged to be among you all.
        The adoption event, the internet auctioning of the Calico horses, begins on July 14.  If BLM wants to demonstrate its good will intentions, a decision on the Soldier Meadows plan, which would deliver many of these horses back into their home range in relative freedom, should be forthcoming soon.  Delay is just more business as usual.
        Let's see what you've got, BLM.
For the wild horses, captive and free, and their humble burro friends,
Elyse Gardner


  1. NO NO NO to treasured herds. The law stipulates that the wild horses are treasured already--- all of them, not just Cloud's herd! This designation must not be allowed to go forward.

  2. A lot of great advocates for the wild horses, wonderfull. Thank you all so much! (not you Sue Wallis, please go away, you're not getting your hands on horses. period)

    Thank you so much for suggesting directly a few very good and not hard moves for the BLM to do. A lot of good will would be generated if they would do these few things suggested, ASAP!

    " I don't have a photo of me at this event, but I talked about the value of video cameras on helicopters and on pens in the holding facility; I urged BLM to demonstrate good faith and good will by turning loose some of the older stallions -- Lightning, Tomahawk, Redman, General, Commander, to name a few, and some of the older mares. I pressed the BLM and Board to open up long-term holding so you and I can see for ourselves what is happening there."""

    Laura Houston

  3. Thank you for the update. I really appreciate it since I was not able to go.
    " A new day for the wild horses has dawned because they have advocates who are standing together like never before." I truly believe that statement and I like to keep aware and know of any way that I can help.

  4. Thank you so much, Elyse, for the excellent information you always provide.

    I just hope the BLM will give us SOMETHING and soon, because so far, WE have done all the compromising.

  5. Fabulous informative post, Elyse. Even trying to watch the streaming event, it was so difficult to really get a feel for what was being said by advocates. Your summary here is so reassuring and reaffirming, to know these advocates and their strong, logical position statements better is a blessing. The streaming made the observer mostly feel like another business as usual dog and pony show where they completely controlled everything to the detriment of the advocates speaking. With your post, it becomes crystal clear the strength and wisdom that was laid out on behalf of our horses. Now, the ball is in BLM's court and we shall see what kind of transparency and bending they are willing to take on....

  6. Thank you for your hard and dedicated work on this. Now if they would only listen and find it in their hearts to work with Neda on the option that was laid out before them. HOW could they not !?! More transparency, well with the recent castrating of stallions and the count of heads with no humane observer such as you... I wonder if they even understand the word "transparent".
    Elyse, keep up this fight for our voiceless equine hostages and thanks for sharing all this info with everyone.

  7. I know Larry Johnson is opposed to ROAM. I remember watching him on web cam...BLM Advisory Board Meeting last year when ROAM looked like it was a "GO."

    With such disdain, he wanted the whole thing, ROAM, thrown out. NO ROAM. Apparently he got what he wanted, just about, as ROAM is sitting somewhere in DC. This man should never have been with BLM. He HATES wild horses and is a sicko.

  8. Sue Wallis is out of her element and should not be included in any discussions that will help the wild equines continue on. She is pro slaughter and should be working with the other pro slaughter supporters.
    All she did was take up space and air at the:
    NEW STRENGTH FOR THE WILD HORSES: ADVOCATES UNITE IN DENVER, COLORADO; and ADOPTION EVENT, no where in this headline do I see anything that she would support or offer any viable ways to help. She just wants them gone. I would love to see her tax return, I bet her pockets are full of alot of blood money.

  9. What a shame that the current Trump administration is proposing a disastrous plan for America's remaining wild horses and burros that pretty much allows their enemies to have 100% of their way with them. It nearly totally ignores the rights of these wonderful returned native species to viable habitat and population sizes. Reserve Design is the answer and now nearly 10 years later I am persisting with this because I know it is the right and respectful also legal approach true to the real purpose of the WFHBA! You can contribute to this at and read my latest very revealing article about where we are now at