Federal Judge orders BLM to answer questions regarding roundup and removal of Kiger Mustangs

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Famed Oregon wild horses still surrounded by controversy

PORTLAND, Ore. (November 22, 2011) – The Cloud Foundation (TCF) and Craig Downer, plaintiffs in a case brought against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), are encouraged to learn that Federal Court Judge, Patricia Sullivan, issued a ruling ordering defendant, the BLM, to provide the court with answers to questions regarding the roundup, removal, adoption and warehousing of mustangs from the famed Kiger and Riddle Mountain herds of southeastern Oregon. Georgie Duckler, counsel for the plaintiffs, and client, Kathleen Lewis, requested that the BLM reveal the number of wild horses removed, their locations, condition, deaths, adoptions, and relocations. The BLM has until December 12, 2011 to respond.

    “We’re encouraged that the judge is concerned about these famous mustangs and how they’re faring,” states Cloud Foundation Director, Ginger Kathrens. “The Kiger and Riddle herds are some of the most famous and most Spanish of our western wild horse herds, yet they are being managed to extinction by an out-of-control agency charged with protecting them.”

Advocates are hoping that the concerns expressed by Judge Sullivan will translate into a ruling that orders the return of un-adopted Kiger and Riddle wild horses back to the range in order to shore up the genetic viability of these seriously under-populated wild herds. The BLM removed all but 21 horses on the Kiger range and all but 26 in Riddle Mountain during a July 2011 helicopter roundup, insuring inbreeding and the potential for a complete die-out of these herds. A herd population size of 150-200 adult animals is generally accepted as the minimum to maintain genetic viability.

    “The numbers of wild horses left in these two herds, even combined, will result in inbreeding over time,” states E. Gus Cothran, PhD, the most respected equine geneticist in the U.S. who has been studying the genetics of western wild horse herds for over 20 years. “It’s a situation you want to avoid if possible. I don’t understand BLM’s reasoning on this.”

The BLM reported that they received no responses to their Environmental Assessment (EA) calling for the drastic reduction of the Kiger and Riddle Mountain Wild Horse herds; however, advocates claim that no one they know received the EA, not even the local Oregon Resource Advisory Council (RAC) member for wild horses, Diane Pinney. “There is something very irregular about this whole process,” stated Pinney. “There is absolutely no possibility that not one person would have commented on the roundup of some of the most popular wild horses in the country, if given the opportunity, especially given the Kiger community’s concern over the past two roundups which reduced genetic diversity, increasing the chances of inbreeding in this small breeding population.”

Ironically, the BLM’s website touts the unique qualities of the two herds saying: “The BLM manages two special areas in southeastern Oregon for wild horses with Spanish Mustang characteristics… the Kiger and Riddle Mountain Herd Management Areas. Seeing the beauty of the Kiger Mustangs in the wild with their classic coloration and markings will add much to your enjoyment of our western heritage. It is an experience you won’t soon forget.”

    “If this is what managing for ‘special areas’ means, I’d rather be a wild horse living almost anywhere else,” says Kathleen Lewis of Portland, a wild horse advocate who brought forth the suit against the BLM. “It is absolutely devastating that the BLM has no regard for our western history and culture, and their mandate to manage for sustainable wild horse herds.”

    “The BLM is so hypocritical. The Wild Horse and Burro Act intended for these animals to be the principle users on their legally designated ranges, yet they are at the bottom of the totem pole,” says wildlife ecologist and author, Craig Downer. “BLM thumbs its nose at the true intent of a unanimously passed Act of Congress and completely disregards the will of the American public. It is truly disgusting that they have destroyed these unique populations in Oregon.”

Some wild horses from the two herds remain in short-term holding and could be returned to the range if the plaintiffs are successful with their challenge to BLM management. TCF and Downer brought suit against the BLM in July, seeking to stop the roundup and removal of the famed Oregon mustangs. The judge denied their temporary restraining order and the roundup continued with two reported deaths and a total of 165 animals permanently removed.

11 thoughts on “Federal Judge orders BLM to answer questions regarding roundup and removal of Kiger Mustangs”

  1. The BLM has been zeroing out herds and mismanaging others (including the Sulphur HMA whose herds that exist on the northern section in what is called the Mountain Home Range are genetically proven to be old Iberian horses and whose history ties them to that of Old California which means that they are a very recent introduction and the last of the breeding practices of the Spaniards that settled the territory of California for Spain) to their ruin. I am not surprised at this action from the BLM. I am sure that in 20-30 years that wild horse herds will be so rare that there will be an area set aside for them and people can go in and catch glimpses of the horses (that will soon go from being wild to plowing you over for food as people can’t seem to help themselves in feeding wild animals…).


  2. Shouldn’t this be a matter of public record since they are suing tax payer money and performing these cruel unnecessary round-ups on public land?


  3. Time for a new “Profiles In Courage” in this millimenum ! Lots of canadates who are Wild Horse Activists and the few legislators and judges who support the concept of transparency in government and oppose decisions made from greed.


  4. Like I have said before most of these judges get a phone call from someone at BLM and are told
    how they want the lawsuit handled. Judge Sullivan seems to be one of the few that can’t be bought off.


  5. Thanks Craig, Ginger and the Cloud Foundation for keeping the pressure on and demanding transparency from this traitorous Federal agency. Law students everywhere watch closely to see if justice will be served or fall yet again to the BLM’s ignorance and greed.


  6. Even if BLM can respond to the judge by Dec. 12, their words will have no truth and no meaning– a positive future for the few remaining herds is in the hands of the advocates and a strong court. BLM is on a mission of extinction–either through removal or lack of genetic diversity. We support you, Ginger and Craig. This is another trail of tears.


  7. It is time for the Court Jufges that their lies arent going work with them, come on Judges lower the axe on the lieing cheating criminal murderers , Tell them just who in the hell do you think you are release Americas Mustangs back to the Wild Immediately !!!!!!!!


  8. http://rtfitch.wordpress.com/2011/07/page/7/
    Click (HERE) to read Laura’s Day One Report
    PORTLAND, Ore. —The Cloud Foundation is outraged at the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) lack of transparency and avoidance of public input pertaining to the Kiger/Riddle Mountain roundup happening now outside of Burns, Oregon. The herds are famous for their Spanish Conquistador ancestry as well as Disney’s hit movie, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. The Foundation asks Congress to stop the illegal roundup now in order to save these herds from being destroyed. BLM’s plan would reduce the two herds to grossly non-viable populations of less than 50 animals each.
    To the Foundation’s knowledge, no pro-wild horse interested parties received the Environmental Assessment (EA) within the allotted 30-day comment period. The only public notification appears to be a March 16, 2011 blurb in the local Burns Times Herald newspaper saying “the proposed action will begin in September, 2011.”
    “I was shocked to learn that the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herds were going to be rounded up in early July,” states Diane Pinney, Kiger wild horse adopter and Wild Horse and Burro Representative, Southeast Oregon’s Resource Advisory Council (RAC). “I never received the EA or a notice that it was available, and I can’t find anyone else who did.”
    BLM typically receives thousands of comments from concerned members of the public protesting their wild horse removal actions. Despite this, BLM Three Rivers Field Manager, Richard Roy, indicated the agency received “no public comments pertaining to the EA.”
    As soon as The Cloud Foundation realized they had not received the EA, nor had anyone they knew, they alerted Portland Attorney, Geordie Duckler. He quickly filed a request for a temporary restraining order. It was denied by District Judge Hernandez and this denial allowed the roundup to begin today.
    “This is one of the sleaziest BLM tactics I’ve seen in 16 years of documenting wild horses and dealing with the agency,” states Ginger Kathrens, EMMY Award-winning filmmaker and Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “BLM’s actions appear to be a carefully designed strategy to keep the public in the dark and subvert the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process which promotes public involvement.”
    “If BLM succeeds in flying under the radar, the wild horses and American taxpayers will pay the price,” explains Kathrens. “We want this roundup to be put on hold right now so we can have at least 30 days for public comment.”


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