BLM chief: Report abuse of mustangs
RENO (AP) – The head of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Nevada is appealing to agency employees to step up and blow the whistle on any abuse of mustangs.
Amy Lueders said the best way to stop horse protection advocates from undermining the agency’s roundup policies is with video footage of the mistreatment of the animals. She said oversight would also help federal land managers win the public’s trust.
“Regardless of title, whether you are a contractor or law enforcement or public affairs, that’s everyone’s responsibility,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press.
In the past year, BLM has been taken to task by its own internal auditors, independent reviews, a U.S. district judge and camera-toting horse advocates.
A BLM task force that reviewed a roundup near the Nevada-Utah line in July found that some mustangs were whipped in the face, kicked in the head, dragged by a rope around the neck and repeatedly shocked with electrical prods.
Twice this year, BLM has issued reports or statements pledging reforms to ensure humane treatment, only to have videos of new incidents of mistreatment surface within days.
In the most recent case, this month, Ginger Kathrens was pointing her camera at wranglers who appeared to be repeatedly shocking several burros with an electric prod.
The practice, called “hot-shotting,” is used to help move them into a pen or trailer and was being employed the same day BLM chief Bob Abbey issued a report pledging more changes.
That’s where Lueders said agency workers have to do a better job.
Lueders delivered that message to several dozen employees in a video teleconference involving all of Nevada’s BLM offices last week, saying there’s no excuse for turning the other way if they get wind of any inhumane treatment of animals.
Lueders said, however, that it may be easier said than done when it comes to persuading workers to step up in what is often a controversial and emotionally charged situation.
But she said she believes her message got through.
“I made it very clear that is my expectation,” she said. “We have a lot of committed, passionate people here who care very much about the resource and the animals themselves. You can tell by that passion and professionalism that everyone takes it very seriously.”
Lisa Ross, a public affairs specialist for the BLM in Winnemucca, said Lueders’ words have been well received and will be taken seriously.
“It’s a very important message to hear,” Ross said. “It doesn’t mean that everything was wrong and now we are making it right. It’s just that it is important and everybody needs to be on the same page on this.”
About 33,000 wild horses freely roam 10 Western states – about half in Nevada. Another 41,000 are kept in government-funded facilities, including one in Herriman, Utah, that came under fire as a result of more video footage taken by horse protection advocates last spring.
Late last week, meanwhile, federal land managers agreed to postpone a precedent-setting plan to castrate hundreds of wild stallions in eastern Nevada pending a federal court’s review of the issue.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s decision came a week after a coalition of conservationists and wild-horse defenders sued the government in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to block the plan’s implementation.
Under a compromise reached by both sides and approved by the court Thursday, the agency will be allowed to begin a long-term removal of roughly 1,800 wild horses from the sprawling Pancake Complex near Ely beginning Jan. 12 as scheduled.
But the BLM agreed to put on hold until next July 1 its plan to castrate 200 wild stallions before releasing them back to the complex.