Court challenge to “total press blackout” over roundup


wild-Diamond_LeighThe wild horse and burro advocacy group, Wild Horse Education, filed papers on Monday in Reno federal court to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from hiding their actions from the public during a removal operation in Western Nevada that could begin any day.

The group’s founder and president Laura Leigh, who travels the western rangelands monitoring bureau-managed roundups, has an ongoing case in federal court against alleged inhumane conduct by the bureau toward wild horses in the Triple B Complex – the very area from which the bureau now intends to remove horses.

Leigh says the roundup is set to go ahead “in what can only be described as a total press blackout and prohibition of public observation”.

In the ongoing case against the bureau over the Triple B roundup, the bureau is refusing to disclose documents requested by Leigh’s attorney, Gordon Cowan, of Reno, that show exact numbers of animal deaths (including foals), veterinary reports on injuries, reports on disposition of animals, and documents associated with bureau’s own internal review.

Wild horses in Nevada.
Wild horses in Nevada. © BLM

“Now, the BLM plans to hide all capture, handling and transport of wild horses, in an unprecedented bait-and-water trap operation in the Triple B Complex,” Leigh says.

“Furthermore, the BLM has added the Antelope Valley to the operation where the BLM removed animals in winter 2011 and fall of 2012.

“This area is intended to be part of an ‘eco sanctuary’ project, and the BLM has not even completed public review of this area.

“The BLM cannot be allowed to avoid public scrutiny in an area that is already under intense scrutiny by stripping the public’s First Amendment rights. This is an absolute outrage.”

In addition to the lack of public observation, the bureau’s own personnel are expected to view only 25 percent of all operations.

Despite this, the bureau continues to maintain that humane care and transparency are a priority for their program, Leigh says.

Leigh’s latest filing includes a request for a temporary restraining order that asks the court to halt activities in the area until the underlying case, that has already been in the courts for two years, can be heard.

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