Thursday, October 27, 2011

Open Letter to BLM, Egan NV Field Office re: Proposed Pancake HMA Roundup

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, October 27, 2011 6:19 AM
Subject: Pancake Complex Gather

BLM Ely District Office
HC 33 Box 33500
Ely, NV 89301

Attn: Gary W. Medlyn, Egan Field Manager

Dear Mr. Medlyn, et al;

I am a native and third-generation resident of rural White Pine County, Nevada. I am descended from ranchers, miners, and the original "mustangers". My family includes hunters and outdoorsmen - all of whom consider our freedom to enjoy access to public lands as bordering on the sacred. As a nature photographer, my life and livelihood are vested in the land of my forefathers. Wild horses are an integral part of my pioneer heritage.

I have followed various bands of wild horses continuously over the past decade. Initially, I believed all that I had been told about wild horse and burro management. I accepted the "fact" that it was necessary to gather mustangs periodically for their own welfare, as well as for the health of the range. I did - and still do - appreciate the concerns of stockmen endeavoring to make an honest living on the land. (Not to be confused with those making their fortune from government-sponsored subsidies.)

Over the course of long-term observation, I began to notice that at least some of what I had believed about mustangs was not accurate. After several years, I came to know that there was a great deal of misinformation about wild horses, and their natural habitat in the high desert terrain of central eastern Nevada.

Reluctantly, I decided to observe a BLM "gather". My first experience was at Conger, Utah. This was an "in-house" all-BLM operation. What I witnessed was a well-organized, orderly operation. I went home believing that the helicopter-driven roundup process was marginally humane. 

During the winter of 2010-11, I had the opportunity to observe at Nevada's Antelope Complex, and this past summer, in Triple B HMA's.  These gathers completely and permanently altered my perception of standard helicopter round-ups. 

Again and again, I watched as Sun J pilot, Josh Helyer, flaunted his obvious contempt for the horses he was charged with shepherding into captivity. I observed (and photographed) this pilot over-driving and over-running horses and foals. I saw young foals driven many miles over extremely rugged terrain. I saw very old, non-reproducing horses driven to the breaking point. I saw family bands deliberately scattered. I witnessed close encounters in violation of BLM guidelines, and the laws of the State of Nevada. (These photos are available for your review, upon request.)  I know of at least two domestic horses that died as a direct result of Mr. Helyer's radical style, in Steptoe Valley.

No other animal - wild or domestic - is herded by helicopter.  The standard horse racetrack is one-quarter mile, and only horses over the age of two years are permitted to participate in these races. There are reasons for that, based upon well-founded knowledge of equine anatomy.


Furthermore, I have been utterly dismayed by the blatant misrepresentation of true conditions of the range.  For example, visiting advocates at the Butte Valley operation in August, were told that BLM had been hauling water into the area for four months.  2011 has been one of the wettest years on record. I am continually out on this range, and have documented the abundance of water throughout the year, and in years past. If someone is being paid to deliver water here, there is flagrant misappropriation of funds. Nowhere in this region have I seen ANY need for supplemental water, as perennial water sources have remained at optimum levels throughout the summer. Neither is there any shortage of forage; and there has not been, since the drought ended, years ago.

I have been shocked and appalled to learn that this district plans to geld and release 200 stallions in the Pancakes HMA.  An identical proposal was scrapped in Wyoming this past summer because it was proven to be without any merit, whatsoever.  Gelding is the most preposterous excuse for "population control" ever devised. Whomever came up with this scheme clearly has no knowledge of wild horse social structure, or natural selection. Gelding will have NO EFFECT on population growth. 

Releasing 200 non-reproducing males will create tremendous confusion in herd counts.  Implementation of this sadistic and pointless EXPERIMENT would reflect negatively on the state of Nevada. There is no plan in place to accurately monitor the "success" of this EXPERIMENT.

I deeply object to the rationalization that horse trails are detrimental to the "wilderness experience". Gentlemen!  Mustangs are an integral part of the wilderness experience. Visitors to our state are, in my opinion, as interested in seeing wild horses, as any other wildlife. It seems to me that Nevada has the last remaining truly wild horse population, as herds in other states have become socialized, and accustomed to public contact. Our wild ones can be an economic boon to tourism, given half a chance.

Existing Wild Horse and Burro Programs are in desperate need of reform! 

I support the development of volunteer programs that enlist the input of public observers in documentation of herds and range conditions. Put my name at the top of that list! When real hands-on management of herds at the local level is implemented, large-scale removal will not be necessary. The technology exists to monitor and control wild horse populations without massive roundups.

We need to: 
  • Stop stockpiling non-adoptable horses in exorbitantly expensive long-term holding facilities at the burden of taxpayers.
  • End cruel and inhumane helicopter roundups. There are better methods available.
  • Implement programs that utilize public observation and regional knowledge of wild horses, and the range they inhabit.
  • Foster public awareness in support of healthy herds based on TRUE and accurate information.

Thank you for your consideration.

Arla M. Ruggles
White Pine County, Nevada


  1. I whole-heartedly agree with Ms Ruggles.

    Susie Russell-Melendez

  2. I also agree with everything in this knowledgeable and well-written letter. I might add that,far from being detrimental,the trails made by the mustangs are used by hunters, hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders and others who enjoy our wilderness areas. Mustangs also dig out waterholes that are used by all our desert wildlife. Congress set aside land for our horses. Leave them alone.

  3. I agree with your view 100% Arla! They need to show and verify proof that the horses are starving, the range is damaged by horses, there is no water, and that they provide NO Benefit to the environment BEFORE they start stampeding horses into trapsites!