Sunday, August 16, 2009

Issue: Pending horse gather at Sheldon Wildlife Refuge


Situation Report Summary

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Sheldon (Nevada - Oregon) has claimed responsibility for managing some estimated 2,500 free roaming horses and a few hundred free-roaming burros that inhabit the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northern Nevada and Souteastern Oregon. These animals are not protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Past Sheldon gathers have been models of chaos and mistreatment of the animals. Contractors are paid $300.00 per head to haul the horses away and many have simply disappeared from the radar, presumably sold to slaughter.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gather plans are typically faulty and in some instances rely on the roundups' single source contractors to provide input to justify the methods used.

Preparations are underway to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's authority to conduct the roundup and disposal of these horses as planned in light of recent legislation.

Sheldon Pictorial

Our Sheldon Horses - How Did This Happen?

The Unkindest Cuts

My Wild Horse Education
(Please contact the webmaster if you or your group wishes to contribute a story link for this section.)

Wild horse gathers are scary events in the best of circumstances. Large animals are chased into small spaces where they are sorted and then transported in stock trucks. This is not an activity for amateurs as even with the most well designed gathers using the most skilled crews, accidents do happen.

The horses and burros at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge are not presently covered under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The Sheldon Wildlife Refuge is not bound by any of the requirements and safety standards as apply to BLM's horse operations. Sheldon can turn the horses over to anyone, including kill buyers. In fact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been paying "select" contractors $300.00 per head to take horses. A truck load of horses can net a contractor a quick $12,000.00, not counting what can be made when the horses are dumped at a livestock sale.

Fairly recent legislation raises legitimate questions as to whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the authority to conduct the gathers and disposals of horses as they are presently doing. A well founded theory is that since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't actually own these horses, but rather considers them an "invasive species," the horses and burros are thus subject to protections and policies provided under certain "feral horse" statutes.

The recent West Douglas (Colorado) court decision showed that the courts are willing to declare that Federal agencies have exceeded their authority when valid evidence to that effect has been presented.

The Sheldon challenge has yet to be brought to court and the horse advocates are ready to test the validity of these statutes. It appears that this year is the appropriate time to have the court rule on the status of the horses and burros at Sheldon.

The advocates further hope that Congress will take notice of the issues surrounding "amatuer" Federal agencies tasked with managing free-roaming horses and burros, and include all free-roaming horses and burros found on Federal lands under the new Restore Our American Mustangs bill presently in the Senate.

The allied groups are presently raising funds to cover the legal costs involved in this effort, and due to the eminent nature of the upcoming roundup, these funds have to be raised quickly.

Lacy J. Dalton's Let 'Em Run Foundation has agreed to hold the funds for this effort. Let 'Em Run will not deduct "overhead" or administrative fees from these contributions. All funds will go to pay expenses related to the legal effort to protect these horses. If it turns out that a formal legal challenge is not needed or is somehow not appropriate, the donations will not be accepted. If any residual funds remain after legal expenses have been paid, those funds will cover any costs needed to ensure that the decision by the court is complied with.

The wild horse issue is now before the Senate. Concerned citizens can speak out and tell their Senators that the wild horse and burro program has to be straightened out and to urge them to support S.1579, the Restore Our American Mustangs Act.

What you can do.

Learn the facts about the Sheldon horses and tell your friends and those interested in the preservation and humane treatment of all of America's free-roaming horses and burros. Share the links to information provided on Page One in the Sheldon Situation Report.

Contact your Senators, express your views as to the conditions and treatment of horses at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, and encourage them to utilize S.1579 as a means to bring some coherent direction to the management of America's wild horses and burros. An analysis of S. 1579 and talking points can be viewed here. Information on how to reach your Senators can be found here.

Contribute to the Legal Fund so that the courts can make a determination as to the actual status of the horses and burros in Sheldon, and so that advocates can present a case that recent legislation that prescribes policies and procedures involving free-roaming horses in Nevada applies to them. You can find a link to contribute on the Let 'Em Run Foundation's Sheldon Page, or you can mail a check to Let 'Em Run Foundation, c/o Betty Retzer, 11625 US 50 W., Stagecoach, NV 89429. (If you clearly mark "Sheldon Horses" on your check, your donation will only be used for that purpose, or your check returned if not needed.)
Throughout recent history America's wild free-roaming horses and burros have been "rescued" from eradication by special interests through a grass roots movement of the American people. Once again the situation requires our intervention. We have an opportunity to make a difference. Get involved!

Images courtesy of The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.