By: American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC)
DENIO, Nev. Sept. 5, 2014 - A national wild horse advocacy coalition– joined by thousands of American citizens – is making a last-minute plea to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to rein in her Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which plans to launch a massive roundup of wild horses on the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Nevada on Monday. According to a letter sent to Jewell by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, the roundup is Phase 1 of the FWS' plan to eradicate wild horses and burros from Sheldon Refuge lands, despite their historic and cultural significance to the area.
"These are America's War Horses – their ancestors were cavalry mounts who fought our overseas battles through World War I," said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC director. "The Fish and Wildlife Service plan to wipe out these historic and publicly-cherished animals is a travesty, and the agency's intent to dump hundreds of wild horses into a pipeline that leads to slaughter is unacceptable. Secretary Jewell must act immediately to stop this atrocity."
Of particular concern is the FWS decision to pay over $1000 per horse to an "adoption" contractor that cannot account for at least 200 of the 262 captured Sheldon horses placed with him between 2010 and 2012. According to the FWS' own investigation, "a bunch" of these horses were sold at a livestock auction. Most were likely sold for slaughter.
Faxes from outraged citizens have been pouring in to Secretary Jewel's office over the past two days, urging her to halt the roundup. Jewell has received 10,000 faxes in less than 48 hours urging her immediate intervention.
The latest federal wild horse controversy comes just weeks after the U.S. Forest Service withdrew from a similar plan to roundup horses from public and tribal lands to the east of the Sheldon Refuge and ship them to a livestock auction. As with the Forest Service, the FWS is looking the other way as hundreds of wild horses are removed from federal lands and placed in jeopardy of being sold for slaughter. These actions by federal agencies directly contradict the Obama Administration's stated position against the cruel practice of horse slaughter.
The Sheldon wild horses are descendants of military mounts and cavalry stock that fought in overseas wars through World War I. Their presence on the land in question pre-dates the 1931 creation of the Sheldon Refuge by over half a century. Despite public support for these horses and their historic significance, earlier this year, the FWS adopted a "Comprehensive Conservation Plan" that calls for elimination of all wild horses and burros from refuge lands over the next five years. This summer, the Refuge announced that it would get rid of all horses and burros within two years.
"The Sheldon Refuge plans to dump 400 wild horses per year onto an adoption market that is already saturated, in full knowledge that many of these horses will end up sold for slaughter," said Neda DeMayo, President of Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary, the AWHPC's founding organization. "On behalf of the entire AWHPC coalition, we call on Secretary Jewell to halt this misguided, inhumane and irresponsible plan. The historic wild horses and burros of the Sheldon Refuge should be protected and preserved on their rangelands. At minimum, these populations should be phased out over time to allow older, unadoptable horses and burros the chance to live out their lives wild and free on the lands of their birth."
In another action, Reno attorney Gordon M. Cowan has sent a letter to Sheldon Refuge officials on behalf of Laura Leigh, president of Wild Horse Education warning that litigation will result if FWS officials do not address issues of transparency and adoption security related to the proposed roundup. Specifically, Leigh seeks to exercise her First Amendment right to observe any wild horse and burro roundups conducted at the Refuge, something that has previously been denied to the public, and objects to the FWS plan to use J&S Associates as an "adoption" contractor in light of past contractual violations. Leigh seeks assurance that "no Sheldon horses are sent to contractors that cannot appropriately account for animals shipped to them in the past."
"We stand ready to do anything and everything we can to prevent these amazing horses from landing in a sale yard," stated Leigh "it would be a tremendous American tragedy if we as a nation forget the contribution these animals played in our history and betrayed them, again."
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, founded in 2004 by Return to Freedom, is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.
Return to Freedom is dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity and habitat of America's wild horses through sanctuary, education and conservation, while enriching the human spirit through direct experience with the natural world. Return to Freedom provides a safe haven to 400 wild horses and burros at its sanctuary in Santa Barbara, California.
Wild Horse Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting America's wild herds from roundup, slaughter and extinction.
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