Posted 9/22/14 on RocketMiner.com…see photos and video on their website.
ROCK SPRINGS — A group of nine protestors gathered at the Bureau of Land Management's Rock Springs wild horse holding facility Monday morning with signs, a bull horn and police crime scene tape to speak against the ongoing roundup of wild horses off the checkerboard lands.
The protest was organized by Friends of Animals and brought in wild horse advocates from across Wyoming, Colorado, Connecticut and New York. Friends of Animals' campaign director Edita Birnkrant said they wanted to conduct their protest while the roundups were still occurring so the “millions” of people against the roundups could be represented.
“We wanted to be here when the crimes were being done and the horses were in prison here,” Birnkrant said.
The BLM supports the right of any person to protest any action the BLM takes, but asks that protests be done in a civil manner and within the law, which is what the group did, BLM High Desert District Public Affairs Specialist Shelley Gregory said.
“Some are very passionate about their beliefs and have every right to express,” Gregory said. “The BLM has many avenues for public input and we always encourage the public to get in touch with us and let us know how they feel about any issue.”
An endangered species?
Friends of Animals has a petition in the works to list wild horses as an endangered species, which would transfer their control to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are not involved in the lawsuit that is currently in court.
“We feel this is the last hope for wild horses,” Birnkrant said. “The BLM failed so miserably for these horses and are acting solely in the interest of ranchers. This is the state of the BLM, they betrayed the public.”
Organization of the protest began in August when Friends of Animals attended the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board biannual meeting in Riverton. The group asked for the roundup to stop so the lawsuit between the BLM and various advocacy groups could pan out and for their petition to be finalized, Friends of Animals staff attorney Jennifer Barnes said.
“Our viewpoint is the law doesn't permit them to round up the horses and they are using it (the lawsuit) as an excuse for why they are doing this,” Barnes said.
Barnes said they hope their petition is reviewed with wild horses as a wild reintroduced native species.
“The courts don't want to listen, we need to get the word out,” Green River resident and protestor Linda Herren said.
A peaceful protest
At about 11 a.m. the group marched about 150 yards from the public viewing site to the holding facility's main gate while chanting and holding banners and signs. They hung crime scene tape on the gates as a “symbolic action” since they view corral as a crime scene, Birnkrant said.
BLM staff and the Sweetwater County Sheriff's Department were at the corrals during the protest.
“There is a dysfunctional and destructive attitude in the BLM and government agencies for protecting wild horses,” Birnkrant said. “This is an emergency, the ruling for the roundups. We are risking arrest to demand change in the BLM.”
The group was exercising its right to protest and there was no need for arrests, Sweetwater County Sheriff's Department spokesman Dick Blust said.
“This group appears to be very peaceful and very orderly,” Blust said.
Birnkrant said it is uncertain what will happen next to the gathered wild horses and that slaughterhouses and neglect were a possibility.
“I am in protest of what the BLM is doing. I think it is awful,” Rock Springs resident Gina Hoogendoorn said. “It's really sad these horses aren't going to have a good life, they are going to go to slaughter.”
The gathered horses are going to short-term and long-term holding facilities to be prepared for adoption, Gregory said.
“The BLM does not send horses to slaughter,” Gregory said.
Adoptions are limited to four horses per person each year. If more than four are wanted, then a proposal needs to be submitted to the BLM's office in Washington, D.C., Gregory said.
After their initial protest at the corrals, the group grew to 13 people and went to the BLM office where they read off the names of the people who wanted to attend but were unable to, Birnkrant said. They later returned to the holding facility. No one at the office wanted to talk to the group, she said.
“I know they heard us because we were loud with the bullhorn,” Birnkrant said.
A total of 36 wild horses were gathered, 20 studs, 11 mares and five colts. This brings the total to 236 wild horses gathered so far.
The protestors were concerned about the fatality rate of the roundups. Seven horses have been euthanized during this round of gatherings due to illnesses or being lame, Gregory said.
Reasons for euthanasia were pneumonia and bad knees and ankles, causing the horses pain.
Two horses were euthanized Monday; they were 25 and 28 years old.
“When you euthanize an animal, it has been suffering a while and we are putting it out of its misery,” Gregory said.
One of Monday's euthanized horses had injuries to its front knee and right hock with severe muscle atrophy in the rump due to nerve injury from its severely arthritic spine, Gregory said.
The other horse had degenerative knees and both feet were clubbed from the knee injury, Gregory said.
“It was a mercy for them, they were in pain,” Gregory said.
One horse broke its neck in the pen during the night.
“It is always unfortunate when any animal dies, it is just an unfortunate circumstance,” Gregory said.
The afternoon protest was at about 4 p.m. No wild horses were brought to the Rock Springs corrals where the protestors were waiting. The protestors had a person stationed on the highway report seeing five horse trailers go past, Birnkrant said. They were shipped to other BLM holding facilities.
“They deserve to be free like everything else,” Rock Springs resident Bonnie Pinney said.
Comments about the roundups can be sent to the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board and comments are accepted during the BLM's environmental analysis or resource management plan periods, Gregory said.
The public may watch the wild horse roundups, but observation spots will depend on the location of the roundup, operational activity and the weather. Anyone interested in viewing may contact Gregory to be added to the notification list at 307-315-0612 or by emailing email@example.com.
To submit any comments about the wild horse roundups, the public may contact Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at 202-208-7351 or firstname.lastname@example.org.