Herd Watch Director Continues Fight for First Amendment Rights
RENO, Nev. (July 23, 2010) — Laura Leigh, Herd-Watch Director for the Cloud Foundation and journalist, filed a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in Nevada Federal District Court today to halt the Rock Creek Roundup and prevent a repeat fatal summer roundup and the shutting out of the public and plaintiff from observing wild horse roundups.
“We’re talking about a matter of public interest,” explained Leigh’s attorney Gordon Cowan. “This is a hot button issue here in Nevada. To prevent the public and press from observing the government in action on public lands is shameful.”
Leigh is asking the court for the following:
1.) Immediate cessation of all horse gather activity in the Rock Creek and Little Humboldt Horse Management Areas in northwestern Elko County, to maintain the status quo until the matter may be heard by the court. There is no purported emergency or pressing urgency to remove horses from purported drought conditions as was contended by Defendants, in Owyhee;
2.) A Temporary Restraining Order enjoining the government Defendants from conducting helicopter wild horse gathers during summer months and so close to the foaling season. There are many foals three months in age or less, running alongside the hips of their moms. If removal of some of these horses is necessary, in that event the Defendants can reschedule and complete this process in the Fall season or at the end of Summer when temperatures are more mild and foals are more mature and better adept at withstand the gather. To gather at this date is inhumane and directly contradictory to provisions of the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971;
3.) A Temporary Restraining Order that at this point requires the Defendants in no uncertain terms to include and accommodate members of the public, the press and journalists including Ms. Leigh and others who are not hand-picked by the Defendants, to view every step of the process of gathering horses from public lands, such that the Defendants’ gather method and process becomes open and transparent from beginning to end, rather than secretive and hidden from the public as it is currently; and such that the method of protecting the health and safety of the public during these gathers is not used as the excuse to restrict, limit or otherwise offend First Amendment speech and press concerns but instead, ensures independence in observing and reporting the Defendants’ gather activities in a method encouraging liberal access and safe accommodation to the public including Ms. Leigh, to observe and record these gathers;
4.) To require the Defendants to conduct such gathers on public lands should private land owners not be willing or able to accommodate members of the public, the press, journalists or other interested persons including Ms. Leigh, in their observation of these gathers.
In his decision issued on July 16, Nevada District court Judge Larry Hicks recognized that the Owyhee complex roundups consist of three distinct and separate actions. Although BLM presented to the court claims that an unexpected and unprecedented emergency existed in the Owyhee herd management area, no emergency either claimed or proven exists in Rock Creek were BLM is currently rounding up horses. The public was permitted to observe the roundup for a short time only today.
“We hope the TRO will be granted and the case can be heard before all the horses are gone from Rock Creek and Little Humboldt herd management areas,” stated Leigh.
According to the TRO the BLM used the “private property” tactic to strike fear among those seeking to observe the Defendants’ gather operation. Members of the public were threatened with immediate, on-the-spot arrest should they “trespass,” intentionally or not, onto the very land the Defendants chose to set their horse traps to complete the Owyhee gather.
Nearly two-dozen wild horses, including many foals, have already died as a result of the BLM’s Tuscarora roundups from which the agency plans to remove 1,100 wild horses and leave only 440.
Contrary to the BLM’s spin that the Owyhee horses were dying due to lack of water in their environment—a so called “emergency”, veterinarian Nina Windand goes on the record to explain the wild horses died due to the lack of proper care after being rounded up and stressed in desert heat.
“The lack of controlled reintroduction of water to these dehydrated, overheated recently stressed horses and the failure to use commonsense horsemanship by letting them drink ad lib under these conditioned caused unnecessary deaths by water intoxication,” states Nina Windand, DVM. “It is my opinion that this constitutes negligent management and that had expert or even common sense management prevailed a plan for gradual rehydration would have been instituted before the gather was in progress, not after the initial wave of deaths. I further believe that leaving animals in this condition without overnight monitoring was a lapse of professional judgment.”
Dr. Windand condemns the Owyhee roundup saying, “The uncontroverted fact remains that nearly all horses who reportedly perished, did so during the process of gather itself or immediately thereafter while the horses were in the custody of the BLM, but not before”.
BLM continues to ignore both the public’s first amendment rights and wild horse welfare. Advocates are outraged that BLM continues forward, at rapid speed, with their multi-million dollar roundups as the agency strives to remove more than 6,000 wild horses and burros in the next three months.
Source: The Cloud Foundation Press Release