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TMP’s Sheldon Investigation Report… Concluded October 02, 2010

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on October 2, 2010


On the morning of Sunday, September 26, 2010 I was astonished to read on R.T.’s blog that an advocate had been accosted by a contractor’s tractor trailer truck and as well by the same contractor’s helicopter while attempting to locate the Sheldon Wild Horse Gather. As I read through the series of events reported in the blog post, I became even more shocked and – naturally – outraged.

Ever the curious one – to a fault it seems – I began to try and piece all of this together in my mind. I knew the gather was taking place as I had read it a month or so ago on Sheldon’s website. The NWR had set in motion a plan that began in 2008 and will continue until 2011 with the end result being a reduced population of the wild horses who reside within the refuge boundaries.

I knew the Cattoors would be the contractor as they are most often the contractor for such gathers. I knew that this gather would be “closed to the public” as this is customary for gathers conducted on FWS lands. There would also be a veterinarian onsite whose main purpose would be to observe the welfare of the horses and to make recommendations to the FWS for areas that could be improved, just as she has done on past gathers. (See link here.) Another veterinarian whose purpose would be to monitor, treat, and provide emergency care should it be required would also be onsite at all times.

A third veterinarian from the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDoW) had requested to be onsite for the gather operations. This request was granted by FWS officials as it would be a great opportunity for the NDoW to learn firsthand what a gather of wild horses en     tailed and therefore to be more knowledgeable when making their own decisions internally regarding wild horses. (I learned just yesterday that this third veterinarian from the NDoW never showed to the gather operations, and at the time of this writing to my knowledge has not visited Sheldon’s wild horse holding facility. This is a great disappointment to both this author and to the FWS. If anyone needed to see a gather firsthand, it would be officials from the NDoW as they have historically been part of the more negative minded where wild horses are concerned.)

So I knew all of these things, and yet I still could not make the story make sense in my mind. Why would the driver of the truck try to hit Leslie? Why would the pilot try to “herd” her back to her car? What would either one of them have to gain by such stupid and idiotic actions??? And what in the world could they have been thinking!? Um, Hello?! Ever heard of something called “safety”? Of course, I knew that both the driver and the pilot knew what safety was; I just wondered if they were using that knowledge.

So I finally couldn’t stand it any longer. I called Sue Cattoor.

“Hello Sue. How are you this morning?”
“Hi Tracie Lynn, I am fine and you?”
“Sue, I gotta ask you about something.”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“Well Sue, I woke up today to a report of one of your trucks and your helicopter harassing and endangering the life of an advocate outside of Sheldon. Know anything about this?”
“Yes, I know about it.”
“Care to explain?”

I listened intently while I took notes. Keep in mind, I do not claim that these statements are the truth or facts, only that they are the statements that were made during conversations with me personally and given to me by those who have made them.

The Cattoors discussed the day’s events that evening when they arrived in Denio over dinner. It was then that the driver mentioned that “a lady had stopped in the middle of the road to take pictures.” The pilot said, “It must have been the same lady who snuck into the Sheldon facility and that was hiding in the brush when I flew in.”

The following are the actual statements of the Cattoor’s driver and pilot:

The Driver’s Written Statement:

On September 23 I was driving a semi with a 56 foot trailer and I was hauling a load of horses from a trap site on the Sheldon to their holding corrals when on a narrow back road I saw an approaching vehicle.  It stopped in the middle of the road and a lady opened her car door and stepped out with a camera.  I slowed down to approximately 25 miles an hour – moved over as far as I dared and went around her.  At no time did I try to run her over or harm her in any way.  At no time did she indicate that she wanted me to stop.

According to the driver, Leslie was out of his travel path as he passed – she was still standing at her car with the door open – and he continued on to his destination without further incident, albeit “a little shaken up by the lady’s actions.”

Further investigation revealed the following:

The road on which the incident is reported to have occurred by both the Cattoors and Leslie was SR 8A. This road has been described to me by several people at this point as being:

  • Approximately 20’ crested;
  • Gravel in foundation; and
  • “Not very easy to drive, especially with a load.”

The road was supposed to be closed at both ends by FWS Rangers to allow for only one vehicle to be on the road at a time – specifically the semi truck while he was transporting horses – to ensure the safety of any drivers but mostly the horses.

The road’s edge is not straight by any means and compensation for this causes a driver to have to move away from the edge occasionally to prevent slipping from the gravel crest of the road.

The driver did not feel it was safe to stop due to:

  • He was fully loaded at the time with wild horses from the gather; a stop in the middle of nowhere would have only increased their state of anxiety. 
  • The foundation of the road itself did not allow for a safe stop given weight of his load, the type of trailer and truck rig, and the distance between he and “the lady”. (A semi truck (18-wheeler, tractor/trailer rig) is approximately 12’ wide outside wheel well to outside wheel well.)

The Pilot’s Written Statement:

On Thursday September 23 I was returning to the Sheldon holding facility to park my helicopter for the night.  When I got there a Subaru car was parked behind a hill about 80 or 90 yards from the holding facility.  This was very suspicious – the road on which the car was hidden was a horrible road.  I turned around to check the car out and found it was left empty with a dog in it so I knew the owner was not far.  I started searching the little bushy hill overlooking the holding facility and found nothing at first so I went back towards the car to see if I could see tracks.  When I circled back around I saw a lady coming back towards the car – coming right by the two signs that say restricted area or no public access or something like that.  She must have been hiding in the bushes when I first flew over.  When she got to her car she started taking pictures of my helicopter and I started to leave to find a Sheldon employee to go talk to her but then she left in a hurry going in the wrong direction.  I turned to follow her so I could get her license number.  As soon as she seen me she stopped again jumped out and started taking pictures again – not acting at all like a frightened women.  I tried to get her plate number – got close enough to get part of the numbers and I thought it was a Nevada license.  Then I went and landed and found a Sheldon employee named Dale.  He went and talked to her.  At no time was I ever aggressive or too close to her or her vehicle to cause danger to either.  I stayed a safe distance as per FAR regulations.  I was never any closer than 50 yards unless it was when I flew over her when she was hiding in the bushes.  I was leaving my helicopter at the Sheldon facility and needed to identify any suspicious person hiding in the bushes because we have had many death threats in the past months.

I also contacted Sheldon Wildlife Refuge Project Leader Paul Steblein. Again, here are my notes from several of our conversations over the past week:

On Thursday, September 22, 2010 Leslie and Mr. Steblein spoke on the phone. Leslie was inquiring about the gather, access by the public to the gather site and to the holding facility and other gather related information in general. Mr. Steblein informed Leslie that no, she was not allowed to enter the gather site nor the holding facility without an escort from FWS. This was to ensure the safety of the both the people and the horses. However, Mr. Steblein stated, if she would meet him the following morning at 10 a.m. at the junction of SR 8A, he would take her on a tour of all gather related activities, and as well would take her on a tour of the holding facility. He stated that they would have to wait until the next day because of time constraints at the present. Leslie agreed, and their plans were made.

It was during this conversation that Mr. Steblein reports having told Leslie several times that the area of the gather, the holding facility, and the surrounding areas were all “closed” with restricted access. She would not be allowed into these areas without authorized access – access he was not granting at that time. Leslie stated she understood, and Mr. Steblein felt he had adequately explained the circumstances. It was later that same day that Mr. Steblein was contacted by Officer Smith reporting that Leslie had been stopped in a restricted area and was being questioned by Officer Smith at the time.

Mr. Steblein reports that he could not understand why Leslie had unsafely chosen to pursue a travel path into an area she knew to be restricted access only when he had already explained to her the circumstances of the closure, and why she had not waited until the following morning when she would have had authorized access and an escort. Additionally, Leslie’s actions had also placed her in violation of the law according to those restrictions to access. As a result, she was issued a warning citation.

The following morning, Mr. Steblein was to escort Leslie on a tour of the gather operations and of the holding facility, allowing both still and video photography. As a result of her actions on Thursday, Leslie became a liability for the safety of the horses and herself. Therefore, access to these areas was no longer an option. Instead, Mr. Steblein escorted Leslie to one of the nearby water springs in Sheldon for their interview.

This spring in particular was one of great concern to FWS officials as it had been greatly overused by wild horses. Mr. Steblein reported that he showed the spring to Leslie along with the damage that had been done, allowed the photography, and then allowed his interview by Leslie to be recorded by video. He also reported that the interview lasted a few hours, and was “really great; she asked some really great questions. I thought it went really well overall.”

A little more information…

I talked with Mr. Steblein several times throughout this past week. Each time I would think all of my questions had been answered, I would think of yet another question. Here are a few of those with their answers from Mr. Steblein:

Q. What are the specifics of Sheldon, like the governing legislation, the area it encompasses, and the types of wildlife it is intended to preserve?

A. The Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge is a 575,000-acre (2,330 km2) national wildlife refuge located on the northern border of the U.S. state of Nevada. A very small part extends northward into Oregon. It is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as the Nevada component of the Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which is headquartered in Lakeview, Oregon. The Sheldon Refuge is not intended to support populations of wild horses. In 1931, the refuge was established under Executive Order 5540, dated January 26, 1931 and signed by President Herbert Hoover. The executive order was to carry out three central goals:

  1.  
    1. The refuge was to provide a habitat for the pronghorn antelope, an animal whose population was in decline during the early 1900s.
    2. Conservation efforts were put forth to protect native fish, wildlife and plants.
    3. The refuge was to serve as an inviolate migratory bird sanctuary.

Then on December 21, 1936 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7522 designating the Charles Sheldon Antelope Range. Approximately 300 species of birds, mammals, amphibians, fish, and reptiles live on the refuge, including mule deer, bighorn sheep, sage grouse, kangaroo rats, mountain lions, waterfowl, and up to 3,500 pronghorn, to name a few. Wildlife populations and habitat are monitored closely to ensure that wildlife and habitat management objectives are met. Sheldon is the one of the few intact sagebrush steppe ecosystems in the Great Basin and as result hosts a variety of wildlife endemic to the unique environment. Desert fishes, greater sage-grouse, migratory birds, mule deer and the pygmy rabbit are all residents of the refuge.

Q. What are the methods of birth control being utilized at Sheldon for the horses?

A. We are using the vasectomies and overectomies.

Q. Is this done by laparoscopic surgery, or is this an open procedure?

A. No, it’s not laparoscopic. I am not sure exactly how the veterinarian gains access but the success rate has been very high.

Q. How high?

A. We’ve seen a foaling rate reduction of 50% after implementing the vasectomy procedure.

Q. A 50% reduction? That’s quite a drop! What about the genetic stability of the herds?

A. We’ve not had any problems thus far. The easy fix to any issues with genetics following the vasectomies would be to introduce another fertile stallion to breed with the mares.

Q. How long do you observe the horses before releasing them after the procedures?

A. They stay here 1 – 2 days and then are released only if they are not still bleeding or showing signs of complications. The veterinarians that have evaluated the procedure and our program here have stated that the horses are actually better off being released from holding and back to their home areas to heal because of less stress and less risk of disease transmission and infection.

Q. How many fatalities have you had as a result of this release after 1-2 days?

A. We don’t have a tallied count of these numbers, but I can say this: In 2009, we intentionally gathered from an area that was located away from where the 2008 post-vasectomy stallions were released in an effort to cover more stallions. We ended up actually recapturing 70 of the 90 stallions that had received vasectomies the year before. All of them were in great health, but more importantly they still displayed the stallion-like behaviors of a wild horse and the herd dynamics were intact.

Q. That is impressive! Have there been studies or veterinary journals written yet on your program?

A. Not as of yet, but there is talk about a write up being done this fall. We are very excited about it.

Q. You stated earlier that to deal with any genetic stability issues within a herd there would be another stallion introduced that was still fertile. What about the genetic bloodlines of the Sheldon horses; would this other stallion be of the same lines?

A. There really isn’t that much difference in the horses here on Sheldon when compared to the horses in the surrounding areas. They’ve all mixed and mingled for so many generations that they are virtually the same.

Q. I thought that the Sheldon Refuge was fenced.

A. Well, it is, but there is about a 3 mile gap in that fence on the East side of the refuge. It will be closed soon as well but it has been open for some time. And then there are the incidents of gates being opened by individuals trying to either allow the horses to leave the refuge or to let the horses from the Calico ranges come into the refuge. We’re not sure which is the real reason, and we don’t know who they are, but we try our best to keep them closed.

Mr. Steblein and I talked about the incident with Leslie as well. I am sad to say that my notes on this conversation were not as detailed as the ones above. (Note to self: Keep extra batteries with the digital recorder, not at home!) However, I will say that the conversation was a very matter-of-fact and candid exchange. There was no hesitation when answering questions as one would normally have with mistruths.

We talked about the headlines of “secret and covert gather” referencing the Sheldon gather. Mr. Steblein stated that the gather was reported on their website, and the local public was told about the restricted access to the area. Additional FWS Rangers were posted to inform any public attempting to enter but may not have been aware of the closed areas. When talking about this in particular, Mr. Steblein’s tone was one that reflected an attitude of “this is normal, everyday stuff for us; nothing new, big, or exciting, just a lands closure.” (http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/sheldon/horseburro.html)

This made me think about our own FWS lands here in Texas. I was a little ashamed that I had not thought about it before, but this really is the norm with FWS. They don’t post it in the Federal Register or put up billboards on the side of the highways. In fact, you really should call the Ranger’s office before you plan a trip just to be sure that they will open because there won’t be a notice to you beforehand. I’m not really sure why this is, I just know that this is the way it’s done. But they’re never bashful about telling you, no, not at all. They are very open and honest, to say the least.

After reading and re-reading Leslie’s declaration, and then reflecting on the conversations I had over the past week about this situation, I find myself not so much outraged, but rather feeling a bit foolish on behalf of all parties involved. Very bluntly, and naturally very straightforward, here is my assessment of the situation with the information that I have at my disposal presently. This assessment is just my own, for whatever its worth to whomever cares to take it, and is – as always – subject to change as new information is revealed.

First off, having not been able to speak with Leslie yet personally, it seems from her declaration that Leslie was not intending to cause trouble with her visit to the Sheldon area. She was intent on observing what she believed to be a gather that was not up to par, and as an advocate, rightly so.

Second, her actions of pursuing the sounds of horses may not have been the smartest decision to make where safety was concerned, nor where legality was concerned. Whether she knew beforehand that the specific area she was in at the time was closed or not, she should have realized that if she was close enough to hear the sounds of the horses, she was close enough to be in a closed area. Even the possibility of such proximity should have triggered a red flag that this may not be the best course of action to take.

Next, the driver and the pilot had just cause to be suspicious of Leslie’s actions and presence given the recent month’s events and overall disposition of the relationship between some advocates and the contractors. However, even with their justified suspicions, they both could have handled the situations a little better. The driver could have at least acknowledged her with a wave of “Sorry, can’t stop,” or something. Come on fella, this is just common courtesy to a lady. But I can also personally understand the pucker-factor that comes with driving a rig down a road that may or may not be beneath your tires if you don’t keep it there. Multiply that factor by about a million when the rig is loaded up to the hilt with horses.

The pilot as well could have taken evasive actions to remove himself from the situation. Whether Leslie was snapping away with her camera or not should have been of no consequence to him. His own safety and the safety of Leslie should have been his first thoughts. If he was suspicious of her presence, he should have made a beeline for the landing zone and notified the proper authorities post-haste. They are the ones responsible for those matters, not him. By placing himself in that role, he possibly endangered the life of an advocate. (I say “possibly” here only because I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if the danger was imminent or emotional.)

Assumptions are only good for one thing: to make an “ass” out of “u” and “me” (ass-u-me). The driver assumed that Leslie was up to no good with her camera, and therefore did not make any attempt to handle the situation differently. The pilot assumed the same and reacted a little more forcefully. What if Leslie had been stranded? What if her camera had been a way to record her would-be rescuers just in case they weren’t rescuers after all? Hell, what if she had been a member of the press from out of state or the country, unfamiliar with local customs? Or even better, what if she had been a plain clothed employee of the FWS documenting the event? (Yea, that’s a whole bunch of what ifs and yea, a few of them are a bit farfetched but they are still questions that need to be asked because anything is possible!)

And quite frankly, I am a bit miffed that Officer Smith made Leslie cry. Again, assuming that she was up to no good, Leslie’s report gave me the impression that he approached her with what can be described as no less that the “bad cop” persona with the intent to intimidate her, which apparently he did as she wound up in a puddle of tears. Maybe it’s just the Southerner in me, or maybe it’s the old school upbringing I received, but that is not the way you treat a lady. I don’t care if you suspect her of committing mass murders. You still do not treat a lady with disrespect. Even more so, if Officer Smith suspected Leslie of being ill-intended, Psychology 101 dictates that when approaching the offender, intimidation is a surefire way to a bad ending; that is, unless of course, the officer was taking the intimidation route because he feared that Leslie was going to pummel him with her massive biceps. Not likely.

Conversely, Leslie – I know you and I haven’t talked about this yet, but I gotta tell you something – and I’m just being honest here – if you hadn’t been somewhere you shouldn’t have been none of this would have happened in the first place.

To all advocates of the American Wild Mustang:

We are advocates, not vigilantes.

We want BLM and FWS to follow the laws, we had better dang well follow them too! What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

We want them to be honest with us, we better be honest with them.

We want to be a part of the gathers in the observation and recommendation capacity, we had better mind our manners when we are allowed to do so. If we are given an inch, don’t try to take a mile. History has shown us that even an inch can be yanked right back away from us faster than we can say, “But…”

Most importantly, we absolutely must realize that our actions in the name of Advocacy have very long lasting effects on the American Wild Mustang. We may be upset about the situation ourselves, maybe even have our feelings hurt or worse, but we are still safe when we lay down at night. THEY ARE NOT ALWAYS SO LUCKY. We must think before we act. We must look further ahead to the long term results of our actions, not just the here and now. Yes, some really huge things may get accomplished with our actions today, but following the trickledown effect to the end result may not justify the means.

When I first became aware of this entire situation, I was angry. I was outraged. My own husband didn’t want to talk to me at first because I was so mad. As this week has progressed and the information I have shared with you here unfolded, I became more and more angry – but not at lack of safety reported by R.T. and Leslie. I was angry at the advocates as a whole, at the FWS, at the Cattoors… Hell, I was angry at the whole situation and everyone involved, including myself.

What have we become? We use words like “secret” and “covert” where they are not applicable. The intent can only be interpreted as means to grab attention. But instead of recouping the headline’s misnomer, the report that follows continues with the melodramatic tales of the thieves of the night. Just because an individual was not aware of a situation does not mean that the situation itself was a secret or covert. All it means is that the individual didn’t know about it. There is nothing dark and sinister about a lack of knowledge.

For the record, this gather was in fact announced many times, once that I know of for sure in the Federal Register where the opportunity for public comment was announced, not to mention here on TMP on August 04, 2010 and again on September 02, 2010. Both posts contained documents related to or referencing the gather operations and information.

RETRACTION: I don’t remember when exactly I saw the information I referenced in the paragraph above, but this is the page’s address: http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/Sheldon/horseburro.html
After trying to locate it in the pdf files and on the website itself again, I’m afraid that I have to make a retraction. I cannot find the statement I saw before, and without said statement I have no proof. I do apologize.

Federal Register: May 12, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 92)
Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Lakeview, OR
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a comprehensive conservation plan and environmental impact statement; announcement of four public open house meetings; and request for comments.
[[Page 27005]]
Feral Horses and Burros: How can feral horses and burros best be managed for the long term consistent with refuge purposes? Should interim management guidelines adopted under the recent Feral Horse and Burro Management EA continue in the future?
Dated: April 14, 2008, David J. Wesley, Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon
[FR Doc. E8-10480 Filed 5-9-08; 8:45 am]

And given the past events at gathers and the actions in the name of Advocacy, can you really blame FWS for not wanting to have advocates present and “to keep things low and quiet”? Yes, we should be allowed to observe – POLITELY! When you go to someone else’s home for a visit, you are polite. That’s just good manners.

I mean no one any disrespect with my words here. I only mean to try and bring a little bit of the things some of us have forgotten back into the light. If I have offended anyone with my statements, I do apology for the offense, but I do not apologize for my words. Please take them as constructive criticism, and definitely not with any destructive criticism intended.

Tracie Lynn Thompson

Links for reference:

From the Sheldon NWR Website:

The revised final Environmental Assessment (EA) and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) can be found below:

For comparison purposes, the 2007 revised EA and FONSI can be found below. A comparison chart is located on pages 1-6 in the summary at the beginning of the April 2008 revised Environmental Assessment above:

Questions should be e-mailed to sheldon-hart@fws.gov

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48 Responses to “TMP’s Sheldon Investigation Report… Concluded October 02, 2010”

  1. sandra longley said

    lol, SINCE YOU ARE ALWAYS ANGRY AT ADVOCATES..WHAT WAS ONE TO EXPECT YOU WOULD SAY..NO SURPRISE..BUT REREAD THE TRUCKERS STATEMENT..EITHER SHE WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD WITH HER CAR OR NOT..HE WILL HAVE TO MAKE UP HIS MIND AND STICK WITH ONE STORY. enough said

    • ???

      He said she was at her car…

      • sandra longley said

        He said the car was stopped in the middle of the road..he said the car door was open and she was standing there with her camera..he said he was going 25 miles an hour the rest is speculation on your part..about unable to stop ect..most of us have seen the contractors hauling the wild horses over the bumpy roads going hellbent for town dust flying..lets not get carried away with pouring honey over vinegar..if you want to make excuses for what happened-have at it-If anyone would have seen a woman parked in the middle of the road-in the middle of the desert-they would have stopped to ask if they were all right…afraid of a woman with a camera..come on..what you got were not facts..just the other sides version of the story-and you expected them to say-what- we tried to harass and intimidate them???.Disneyland is a bit further south

        • um, hello???
          “The driver assumed that Leslie was up to no good with her camera, and therefore did not make any attempt to handle the situation differently. The pilot assumed the same and reacted a little more forcefully. What if Leslie had been stranded? What if her camera had been a way to record her would-be rescuers just in case they weren’t rescuers after all? Hell, what if she had been a member of the press from out of state or the country, unfamiliar with local customs? Or even better, what if she had been a plain clothed employee of the FWS documenting the event? (Yea, that’s a whole bunch of what ifs and yea, a few of them are a bit farfetched but they are still questions that need to be asked because anything is possible!)”
          And no, the rest was not speculation on my part. It was exactly as I stated: I do not claim that these statements are the truth or facts, only that they are the statements that were made during conversations with me personally and given to me by those who have made them.

          T.

          • sandra longley said

            still no questions as to HOW -if she was stopped in the “middle” of the narrow road as described-with her car door OPEN and her standing there..apparently on the driverside…he was able to get by her..does not seem at all possible to me- given the description given of the road-it was as he had described..given the fact that Sue disclosed to you..they all sat around the table that night and discussed this..i would say there is a 50/50 chance they came up with their own version..and as usual, when you lie-the story makes no sense..but I am sure there will be a new and improved version from Sue before its all said and done, and the last point-given the history of abuse and activities conducted on and to the Sheldon horses over these many years..including putting marbles in the uterouses of mares to see if that worked as contraception..One could hardly be expected to allow them to conduct roundups and fertility control in public trust, as these are public lands and public horses..not someones home as described.

          • sandra longley said

            I thank you for aquiring their statements and will forward your article as well as my observations to my senator when I ask for a full investigation, into the activities and misstatements given..I would also like to point out-the question was dodged as to the death rate and recovery times of spayed mares, also no mention of the cost of spaying,but then he did say he didn’t know how the surgery was done and spent the rest of the time talking about vasectomies..which is not gelding-or removal of the testes.does he know what he is talking about??

  2. sandra longley said

    Oh yes, and how close would you have to be in a helicopter to get part of a license plate number? Pretty dang close wouldn’t you say..maybe you should talk to a good forensic investigator before you conclude your perry mason investigation…

    • Um, Sandra, I never said anything about the distance he was from the car…

      • sandra longley said

        All I can see is that you berated Leslies version yet did not offer any questions as to the validity of the statements made by the other side..and there are some very obvious misstatements that don’t jive..You did try to offer excuses for them..and as to being in a puddle of tears..leslie is a long time horseshoer and spent a lifetime around horses..which I think gives one more reason to accept her story..and hey i have heard you in that puddle more than once, and never belittled you..guess you have to walk a mile in someone elses puddle to get perspective.

        • ok…

          The “puddle of tears” statement is a figure of speech, not a reflection on Leslie’s character. And in that same paragraph, I am in fact speaking against the officer, not Leslie. Yes, you have heard me torn up before, and no you didn’t belittle me. But I have walked that mile Sandra, which again brings me back to the point of I was not speaking against Leslie’s character, rather I was speaking against the officer’s lack of character.

          As to your other comments… I give up on an arguement I obviously won’t win and frankly am too tired to continue. I don’t even understand why we’re arguing in the first place. Just seems fruitless.

          T.

  3. Chrystie Mort Davis said

    Hi Tracie Lynn, I respect you – we have never met and I hope one day we do. Thank you for sharing your view point. I only see what you have done is take a situation that you are passionate about and follow through with it to find out the truth of the matter, as best you can. Kuddos for having the personal fortitude to do so, to publish your findings, and to do a great job of letting your readers know your intentions. I hear no malice in your words. If anyone does, they are not listening with an open mind and heart.

    This situation also hit me like a ton of bricks, as it just did not make sense to me either for so many reasons. I thank your husband for standing by you. My horses and animals are who stood by me when I learned of this. I am so grateful to have them in my life. Stress is not good for humans or animals – God bless personal infrastructures. If the readers walk away with anything from your article, I pray it is the knowledge and acceptance of the fact that good people are behaving poorly and doing bad things. Should the horses and burros have a snowball’s chance…we all need to work together amicably. Heck – the human race needs to treat each other with respect. Ignorance is purely a lack of knowledge and that is easily corrected. Stupidity, on the other hand, is the inability to to learn. There are so many folks on all sides of this issue who are purely ignorant, myself included. I say to you, take the time to walk in another’s shoes and learn how to communicate effectively. You’ll be surprised how much more effective you will be in your convictions and communications. You may even find yourself happier in life…I pray so;o)

    Chrystie

    • Chrystie,
      Thank you for the words of kindness. They truly are a breath of fresh air. My hubby says “yw” LOL.
      I read a quote the other day that reminds me so much of this situation… He who stands up for what he believes in usually stands alone. Standing alone will not do. As you stated, we must all work together if there is ever a chance to accomplish our goals.
      I too believe that until you have walked a mile in another’s shoes, you won’t understand the situation. I have walked what seems like too many miles at this point, but I will continue to walk because I don’t think I – or any other advocate – really has much of a choice until we know the horses are free and safe. And not just the wild ones, but all of them.
      T.

  4. Morgan Griffith said

    There are several things that I would question. Leslie states that she saw the sign stating road closed due to gather and purposely chose the OTHER road which was not marked as such. Would be nice to have photos of the area that is supposedly marked. Perhaps the use of signage was lacking? Your statement “There was no hesitation when answering questions as one would normally have with mistruths.” means nothing to me as I personally work with a lady who over 4 years time can lie at the drop of a hat without hesitation while looking you in the eye.
    I agree with your statements on the lack of discretion on the part of the driver (and my husband was a trucker for a number of years and I know other truckers none of whom would have handled this in that manner) and the copter pilot. None of these qualify as law enforcement or security and it would have been better handled by calling in and making mention of the fact that there was a motorist out there.

    “We want to be a part of the gathers in the observation and recommendation capacity, we had better mind our manners when we are allowed to do so. If we are given an inch, don’t try to take a mile. History has shown us that even an inch can be yanked right back away from us faster than we can say, “But…”” No one has given an inch in the matter of observation–in fact inches and miles have been removed from the advocates or just plain curious observer, which is why there is a court case arguing accessibility even though there is an ignoramous of a judge who doesn’t have a clue about geography or how to read filed documents. Quite frankly I’m tired of being told how to act as an advocate against agencies that make up and change the rules day to day and answer to other interests other than that of the American citizenry and the horses themselves. I also would find it easier to believe some of their account if there was not a long history of fantasy connected to any agency that has control of the fate of the wh&b.

    • Morgan,
      I know the title says “concluded” but I too still have many questions left unanswered. With my statement about “no hesitation” I only meant to convey the tone of the conversation. After 12 years in Emergency Response and Medicine, I still get amazed at the ability of some to look me dead in the face and straight up lie.
      The inch I speak of was directed at the access that has been given to advocates that was previously not given, and not trying to pick on Leslie anymore but just as an example, like the tour Mr. Steblein was to give her the next morning of the gather operations and the facility. (Promise, not trying to pick on her anymore LOL) The tour never took place – according to Mr. Steblein – because of the previous day’s events. “But…” he had told Leslie he would meet her that morning at 10 a.m. for said tour.
      I understand how you feel about being told how to act as an advocate, believe it or not. And I understand all too well the frustration that comes along with it. But, all the same, I still felt the need to bring a few points back into the light.
      T.

      • Morgan Griffith said

        T my backbone went up when you wrote “would normally have with mistruths”. To simply have noted there was no hesitation without the implied conveyance that this made his statements more likely to be true is to slant the information. I have been invited on many a BLM tour but prefer to take a tour with people who have no predisposed conclusions and can escort me to where I spontaneously request going even if it is not a part of the “planned” tour. That is why I study range management and conditions from all sides. Look at photos from all kinds of weird websites and study weather patterns. I believe NO ONE. I only wish in this instance there were more photos. Quite frankly I would probably be fearful myself in a situation of being out in the middle of nowhere by myself as a woman, esp with the Cattoor crew at hand. This is why I strongly suggest that no one go out to any outlying area by themselves. Esp without at least a satellite phone since there is generally no cell service.

        It seems there are more and more comments on how to behave as an advocate when in association with agencies not known for their candor. I was on Care2 website for many a year and finally left as there was an over abundance of people willing to tell others how to be the best advocate and inferring that they were the better more well-informed advocate. That’s just crazy talk. We each see with our own eyes, interpret with our own minds and act accordingly. I really do not see how any advocate should tell another one how to behave or how to think or interpret, short of truly violent terrorist behaviors that are felonies in any situation. No one is behaving in a way that they find is hurting the horses. If the agencies want to punish their “perceived” bad behavior perhaps they should take a look into why this is occurring. I’m 56 years old, went through the latter 60’s and 70’s protesting and writing about many an issue, some we won, some we lost. No one tried to dissuade empassioned behavior.

        • Morgan,
          Sorry for the backbone reaction LOL
          I see your point now that have explained the implication, although not intended, could be read this way. Noted and filed in my “rolodex” for future communications 🙂
          Also noted and understood are your comments on “how to be the perfect advocate”. You are correct: We each see with our own eyes, interpret with our own minds and act accordingly. Your next statement stood out to me though: No one is behaving in a way that they find is hurting the horses. It stood out because of the in a way that they find part. Yes, we all see things differently and none of us will ever see things exactly the same. (Lord, what a boring world that would be!) But what if perhaps one person sees something that another does not? (By the way, I actually mean that as a question, not rhetorical or anything.)
          T.

          • Morgan Griffith said

            I would need a more specific incident and I think the most proper way to head off any “crash” is to contact that particular person and tell them of your concerns and the reason why. In this particular Sheldon incident no one beside Leslie has provided any photos or official reports so this I would not count. This is more Leslie says vs BLM/Cattoor says. But I know there have been times when I’ve seen something coming down and knew something that they were not privy to, and I’m not talking in the horse world but life in general. I have found a way to contact that person and give them the info which would fill in their blanks. Go on the assumption that Leslie has accurately reported her experience and personal fears I would have gone down the road that was not marked closed and upon hearing a large amount of horse noises I would have walked towards it. Surprising to find there was no one watching over the horses. Now what would have been wrong would have been if Leslie had walked over and opened the gates, not that we all wouldn’t want to do that in our hearts and certainly Velma Johnson did do that. Seems many things being criticized is things that Velma Johnson DID do and she moved the wild horse issue further ahead than anyone to date.

  5. S. Allen said

    Since you don’t have to have any credentials, degree or even a certificate to be an advocate, we are ALL self-appointed advocates. As far as I’m concerned, how you choose to be an ADVOCATE is certainly the bottom line in any cause. You can choose to educate yourself in facts with researched information from educated and experienced sources, deal with the truths and reality, do some good and move forward on your position OR you can decide that your going to do what you want, when you want and to who you want without a degree of responsibility or discretion. My experience has been that there are always repercussions for those actions and it will always land you in the dumper in trying to resolve ANY situation. Listening, Learning and Acting without damaging your cause may not be as romantic but it certainly goes much further. Being undeniably credible, using common sense, not manipulating information and PUSHING the truth and facts in the right direction and to the RIGHT people that can make the decisions and have the AUTHORITY to make the changes your working for is the focus. It takes more than blind emotion and ambition to be an advocate for any idea or cause. We’ve been working on Wild Horse and Burro issues for many years. Full blown attacks ONLY served to shut down any headway made and caused our opponent to go on the defensive and cover up the very information that was wanted, causing more and further damage to the entire situation. ANY ONE OF US being a “loose cannon,” bringing any misinformation or misrepresenting themselves or the facts only causes grief for ALL and gives the opposition tremendous ammunition and the horses and burros pay the price. The changes and investigation into BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro program will ONLY come from changing laws in CONGRESS. It may not be quite as exciting and attention getting but if we REALLY want to save OUR WHB’s, THAT is exactly where the HEAT OF THE MASS OF ADVOCATES NEEDS TO BE APPLIED AND CONTINUED. In this cause and with the HISTORY of this cause, INCHES DO MATTER and we have had them YANKED back because of solo tactics and ill-conceived ideas now and in the past. In past years,the BLM hardly worked with us and for the most part wouldn’t give us the time of day. We worked through contacts, meetings, sensible communicating and solid facts and it finally came that we did have roundups open to observers and press and I’ve personally been on a few. I was never threatened or intimidated, spoke my mind and made my points, and was allowed at any holding pens and in almost all areas in and surrounding the roundup, excluding being IN the pens themselves. THAT was THEN. While we didn’t get roundups stopped all together, it had slowed and actually some counts of horses to be removed were lower in our area. The current reasons for these horrid and unnecessary roundups are not just a matter of a battle of BLM VS Advocates, it is deeply corrupted policy and the workings of greedy ass, very powerful special interest. We ALL have different ideas, sometimes totally different opinions and different paths in working for OUR Wild Horses and Burros BUT doing the same thing that has already been tried to exhaustion and with the POLITICS and DOI of the day in place, expecting a different outcome is wasting valuable time. The horses and burros DO NOT have the luxury of time in this era of such a rush for removal for political reasons. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THE PROTECTION OF THE HORSES AND BURROS AND NO OTHER ISSUES SHOULD TAKE PRIORITY FOR ANY OF US THAT ARE DEVOTED TO ENDING THESE ROUNDUPS and changing the Wild Horse and Burro Program for OUR Horses and Burros future.

  6. betty said

    thank you TMP. I can always count on you for a reasoned thought filled article. We all (advocates) love the wild horses and are trying to protect them. But like all humans we make mistakes or mis steps. The Sheldon history might have led Leslie to make a few choices she wouldn’t have made in another area,and the current “us versus them” feelings surely colored the pilot and truck driver’s decisions.

    There’s an old proverb about truth being three sided- what I saw and what you saw and what really happened.
    All that being said, I would like to know more about the bone pit-acknowledging at the start that in any round up of wild horses there are sometimes bad things that happen and that when horses die they need to be buried. I would like ot knwo if it is a recent pit or if it an historic pit where horses have been buried over several years.

    And I would like to know where the Sheldon horses are going. I contacted FWS and they told me there were no orphans at this time ( a particular interest of mine) and haven’t replied back about other horses available. Are they headed off to slaughter again like in 2005?

  7. sandra longley said

    Well according to what I have seen-very little progress has been made, in fact none over the last decades-beyond congress dening funds for the BLM to slaughter horses..There are more wild horses than nevada horses, which is your focus and specifically what appears to be a “primarily” rescue organization to clean up BLM messes, which altho I applaud..find does nothing to change the way the program is directed..under your watch over 30, 00 horses have disappeared from the land and many died or were permanantly crippled, foals that died were not counted in totals, so we do not know the real totals of dead..you can hardly pat yourself on the back with those kinds of escalations..you work with the BLM in order to be granted some concessions, that I understand..that is not a solution to the WH&B program..to be blunt..you are enablers..by cleaning up their messy business and lack of care and management..they are alowed to merrily pursue the course they are on..the wholesale removals of horses..IT is time for a new way.

    • S. Allen said

      AND YOU Sandra, are misguided and not listening to history or hearing what I said and MAYBE you haven’t seen or learned enough yet to see any progress AND YES THERE HAS BEEN A BIG BACKSLIDE from just a few years ago. What I said was we WERE making SOME progress but ill-intentioned tactics and the politics of this situation can set you back at any moment and certainly has at times all through the years. It is serious and sensitive, that is the reality. We TRIED it this way, it didn’t work then, only when we started down the path of just plain “talking” and trying to allow for ALL input did we make ANY headway.

      Blaming people that have been working on these issues down every avenue for wild horse protection as “under your watch 30,000 horses have disappeared” is quite the ignorant and arrogant statement. Madam, NO ONE on this end is patting themselves on the back, far friggin from it and alot of the people that I work with trying to produce lasting changes are hard driving, totally committed people that have “been there, done that.” We also have very new folks that are just as committed and work hard to get themselves up to speed to help make a difference. It takes every single person that is able and willing to come on board. If you want to totally discount experience and history of fact, you go right ahead. Make up your own reality and judge others that you do not know and have no experience or relationship with, so be it. You obviously missed my point again. Just because we choose to work FOR THE CARE OF ALL horses that are in jeopardy, are injured or in harms way, with WHOEVER HAS TO BE WORKED WITH certainly doesn’t make anyone “enablers” to the BLM or ANY other GOVERNMENT AGENCY. NO ONE in this group is “CLEANING UP THEIR MESSY BUSINESS or ALLOWING IT TO MERRILY PURSUE THE COURSE.” The situation is that anyone and everyone that has the horses safety and protection as their PRIMARY AND ONLY GOAL is certainly an ADVOCATE. What I am trying to point out in this discussion is, THIS IS NOT A NEW WAY, only maybe new to you because you don’t seem to want to engage in finding out what has gone before and if you actually knew what you were talking about could see that this is and will most certainly cause a serious waste of time and damage to the ENTIRE CAUSE. Until the BLM and All GOVERNMENT Wild Horse and Burro Programs have been investigated by an independent council and Congress AND completely new people and new program policy are in place we will NEVER GET ACCURATE FACTS OR VIABLE NUMBERS ON COUNTS, DEATHS OR HUMAN PRODUCED INJURY. If I had my way I’d jerk this program right out from under their butts BUT that is NOT reality either.

      There is NOTHING wrong with making an observation of a situation, stating an opinion or having a viewpoint BUT opinion without knowledge of fact or intelligence falls under the category of just plain ignorance which fails to produce ANY CONSTRUCTIVE OR LASTING CHANGES.

      AND BY THE WAY, THE “CONCESSIONS” we get from the BLM are being able to save horses, burros and babies that otherwise we would never know of and would be hurting or dead. We may not be able to stop the roundups yet and may not be able to save them all BUT I’m sure as hell not going to walk away from doing whatever can be done to help any of them survive. WE DO NOT WANT PRAISE,KUDOS OR PATS ON THE BACK but I will defend the lives that we ARE able to save no matter what ANYBODY thinks or ASSUMES.

  8. Spanish Sage Ranch said

    Hi Tracey,

    I want to impart a different point of view to you, and provide you with some information that perhaps you are unaware of.

    First, I am the Wild Horse and Burro Rep on the Southeastern OR Resources Advisory Council. The Lakeview District is part of our covered area. We had a meeting the beginning of August. I do not remember anything being reported at that meeting that a gather of the Sheldon horses was planned in September. Regardless of whether there is an obligation to report such things, by that time everyone was aware that the wild horses and their treatment and management was a sensitive issue, and that only the minimum methods were used to inform the public of this gather, in addition to the statement that they want to keep this gather quiet, does nothing to lessen the concerns of the advocates who are justifiably concerned that the treatment and ultimate destination of the horses is never revealed.

    As an aside, on the prior meeting of the RAC, it was jokingly suggested by an “environmental” representative on the RAC that maybe BLM should herd the Beatys Butte HMA horses into the adjacent Sheldon NWR (which, btw is different than the adjacent the the NWR but further south Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge)so that they could be gathered without all the regulations that govern BLM management of the wild horses. No one objected, except a stunned me, who said that if they wanted a lawsuit I am sure that would initiate one.

    Second, I am VERY VERY concerned about the ability of the mares to live through a spay surgery, especially if it is not done laproscopically, which I do not think is even possible. It is the identical surgery done on a dog or a cat. I had the opportunity to watch one of these surgeries done at a ranch when someone did not like that their show mare was always so hormonal and was not succeeding in the shows. It was done through the lateral abdomen, about halfway between her hip bone and her underside. It was long, bloody surgery, and the incision was at least a foot in length. It did not heal well. And this horse was a domestic horse,kept in a stall with wound treatment, and antibiotics. What do you think would happen to the mares in the wild? I am horrified to hear that this is what they actually do; I always thought that people must just only repeat things that are in theory what will happen, not what is done.

    Finally, if the trucker saw Leslie in the road, he apparently made a choice to put her safety below his mission to haul the horses. He should have stopped, no matter what.

    And, 25 miles an hour is actually quite fast when you are standing close to traffic. On a dirt road, that is pretty fast for even a car. You may need to add up some of the things you are told. If the road was in such horrible condition as to have them wonder why a passenger car travelled on it, how could you easily haul horses at 25 miles per hour? I suggest you travel with someone to even a well maintained Forest Service road, maybe even with a trailer of horses, and have someone drive past you at 25 mph, and see how safe you feel. Also ask the driver of the truck and trailer if they could imagine driving a semiload of shifting wild horses that fast along even a nice dirt road.

    Just another way to look at things. I think the bottom line of what you are saying is that someone is lying. There are lots of things to evaluate when you are considering whom to believe, especially when money and politics are involved.

    Best,

    Diane

    • Hey Diane!
      Glad you got to stop by and read the report. Thanks so much for all of the work you do by the way!
      Ok, so about the duty to report: The FWS should have made their intentions more clear concerning the gather of wild horses, regardless of whether they were on a NWR, on BLM public lands, or on the moon for that matter, especially given the highly charged issues surrounding the gather process itself. However, they are not required to by law, and therefore that is their shelter. No, they should not have ASSUMED that everyone would know about, know where to even begin looking to find it. I was aware of it only because I looked into the website’s pdf files and saw that they were planning to have the gathers in September of every year. I didn’t know what date specifically, but given that the Cattoors would likely be the contractor and they were on separate gathers the other weeks of September, by deduction, I reasoned that it would be in the last week. Consequently, I called Sheldon to confirm.
      No, their actions did nothing to instill any furthering of trust between advocate observers and themselves. In fact, in worsened the situation and has brought about a whirlwind of chaos, not to mention a very rattled advocate. Likewise, the actions of the Cattoor’s employees did very little to bolster their own already lacking credibility.
      The comments you mentioned that came from the meeting about gathering of horses without regulations has my hair standing on end! I definately have to give you kuddos because you handled that one a whole lot nicer than I would have. Likely, my bail-bond-savings-account would have completely been wiped clean.
      There was another mention from another advocate on the mortality and morbitity rate of the mares undergoing overectomies, and as well the lack of information included about that subject in my report. I was not given that information at the time, but rest assured, it will not be long before that subject is explored in much greater detail. Time was so short this past week that I wasn’t able to spend any further on the subject, but it struck me as odd – to say the least – that there were no reports on this.
      About the truck driver… Oh boy… My own personal opinion of this specific incident is not exactly “nice”. Yes, 25mph on a dirt road is extremely fast, and is most definitely not safe to anyone not protected by the interior of a vehicle. Most folks would be utterly amazed at the degree of damage “just 25mph” can do to a human body. Having known the firsthand as a Paramedic, just suffice it to say – It ain’t pretty!
      And yes’m, I have added up quite a few things that I have been told over the past week, and yes’m, the bottom line here is that someone is lying. It is not for me to judge who that person is, but I will say this: If there is a skunk in the hen house, you better expect some really smelly eggs!
      T.

  9. T., First, thank you for printing all comments, even those that take you to task. I have a few questions for you. You write “I knew the gather was taking place as I had read it a month or so ago on Sheldon’s website.” I have been all over the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR) website and find no mention of the round-up. If you can point me to where you read about this, I would be grateful.

    You also write “The NWR had set in motion a plan that began in 2008 and will continue until 2011 with the end result being a reduced population of the wild horses who reside within the refuge boundaries.” You know of course that management at the Refuge is seeking to remove all horses and burros from the Refuge and has included that recommendation in its Comprehensive Conservation Plan http://www.fws.gov/pacific/planning/main/docs/NV/docssheldon.htm. I think there is still time for the public to comment on the Plan, including the recommendation that all horses and burros be removed.

    I also talked with Paul Steblein last week and sent him two follow-up emails with my questions. He has, unfortunately, not responded to my emails. Mr. Steblein did ask me in our telephone conversation who I was and how I came to be interested in the horses and burros. I told him that I started out with curiosity, but that after learning more, I found myself on the side of the advocates for horses and burros. Maybe that’s why he did not respond to my follow-up emails. Or perhaps it is because I copied my U.S. Senator’s office on the second email. At any rate, I believe it should not matter who you are, or what questions you ask. These are public servants. They work for all of us, not just those of us who “use honey.” But since he is not responding to me, please ask Mr. Steblein to publish the full text of the E.O.s (not just excerpts) that established the Refuge on the Refuge website so that everyone has access to the same information.

    I would suggest that if Mr. Steblein and Cattoor Contracting want to have any credibility on their version of what happened to Leslie Peeples, the USFWS ought to conduct a proper investigation and obtain the reports from the driver and pilot under oath. Are the “actual” and “written” statements you post here verified statements? Are they published anywhere else?

    Refuge management should also take a look at the new guidelines adopted by the Department of Interior that “requires that Interior agencies document the science behind their decision-making.” Mr. Steblein is going around showing photographs from a five-year study on horse and burro use in the Refuge that is two years away from completion and has had no results published yet. I don’t think that would pass muster under the new DOI guidelines.

    Finally, you write “When you go to someone else’s home for a visit, you are polite. That’s just good manners.” I agree, but whose home is the Sheldon Refuge? Why not the horses and burros who were there before it was established by E.O. and who would qualify as “wildlife” if the Refuge management had not decided by fiat to declare them “feral?” (And, for the record, please tell Mr. Steblein that if he is going to insist on using this word to correct the Refuge website spelling from “Ferral.”) Thanks again, T.

    Eileen

    • Hey Eileen, long time no “type” LOL… Glad to see ya!
      I don’t remember when exactly I saw it, but this is the page: http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/Sheldon/horseburro.html
      And after the past few minutes of trying to locate it in the pdf files and on the website itself, I’m afraid that I have to make a retraction. I cannot find the statement I saw before, and without said statement I have no proof. I do apologize.
      Yes, I knew of the seeking to remove all wild horses through manangement plans. See https://themustangproject.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/sheldon-national-wildlife-refuge-reviewing-plans-to-remove-all-wild-horses-and-burros/
      There is an Adminstrative Review already being conducted into this incident. I asked Mr. Steblein if the results of this investigation would be made public. He responded that no, not openly, but that a FOIA request would be sufficient to obtain a copy.
      The statements from the pilot and the driver are the “actual written” statements, not “actual” and “written”. My bad, I should have been more clear on this. To my knowledge, no they are not published anywhere else. Sue Cattoor sent them to me yesterday as I was finishing up my report, and I included them.
      The comment I made about visiting someone’s home and having good manners was a metaphor, not meant in the literal sense. But if we are taking it literally, the Sheldon Refuge – by Executive Order and therefore law – is not home to the horses, but rather is home to mainly the pronghorn. Interestingly enough, when this was brought up in my research, it gave me an idea: If Obama would like to show an ounce or two of good faith to the American Wild Mustang, an Executive Order would be a good start in that cup.
      Thanks again for commenting Eileen, and don’t be such a stranger!
      T.

      • Thank you for the clarification, T.. I want to add that I did eventually receive an email response from Paul Steblein. He said that he was quite busy as he has taken a new position in Washington D.C. that he describes as “national invasive species coordinator,” that he says he will “address a number of other resource issues such as horses and mining”), and is only part-time manager of the Sheldon Refuge now. The new acting project manager is Damien Miller who has been the Deputy Project Leader.

        Mr. Steblein did not provide more information about the five-year study on horse impact in the Sheldon Refuge and did not provide me with a link to the Executive Order that established the Sheldon Refuge (anyone out there have this?), but did say his conclusion that horses and burros should be completely removed from the Refuge is based on a May 2007 assessment conducted by “approximately 15 representative biologists, resource managers and scientists from federal/state land management agencies and universities [who] met on Sheldon to tour and review the biological resources and management issues.” According to Mr. Steblein “it was the unanimous conclusion of the experts that the number one threat to wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and the establishing purpose of the refuge was horses and burros, and they should be completely removed. It was not the only threat, which also included mining, invasive species, and others.”

        Mr. Steblein’s conclusion is presented in the “2008 Sheldon Horse & Burro Management Plan, Environmental Assessment and FONSI” of which he says he “was the primary author and reviewed all available scientific reports, peer-reviewed journal articles, and locally available documentation.” He also said he “read well over 100 reports, studies and documents on effects of horses and burros, management of horses and burros, and status of ecological resources.”

        Mr. Steblien also wrote “To my knowledge, it includes the most extensive review on those topics in recent decades. As a scientist and resource manager, the evidence is overwhelming on the negative effects of horses and burros on ecological and physical resources of Sheldon Refuge. I found no articles that ascribe positive impacts to the ecosystem from horses and burros.”

        I don’t know if the 2008 documents include a bibliography of the “over 100 reports, studies and documents” that Mr. Steblein said he reviewed, or how many of those studies are from areas or time periods that also had cattle impact. I am working my way through that material now. I find it hard to believe that horses and burros could cause more damage to an ecosystem than roads and mining, but there are precious few peer-reviewed studies on horse and burro impact that are free of political influence, so we may never know. The Refuges are supposed to be “different” than other public lands–not governed by “multiple use” and “sustained yield” considerations–but even here in the “Refuge,” mining rears its ugly head.

  10. Thank you for taking the time to write this, however, I must tell you that you are completely missing the entire point of what was WRONG with this incident, as a member of the press.

    Why the helicopter pilot felt the need to investigate on his own, hover around etc. is very mysterious. He has a radio doesn’t he? Why didn’t he just call USFSW staff and have them investigate the car? But, that is really irrelevant – in fact this is not about helicopters or trucks or who did and said what when. The critical piece of this incident is all about Leslie Peeples being harassed FOR TAKING PICTURES. That’s it – this is a First Amendment issue, that is all.

    And, as far as “The following morning, Mr. Steblein was to escort Leslie on a tour of the gather operations and of the holding facility, allowing both still and video photography. As a result of her actions on Thursday, Leslie became a liability for the safety of the horses and herself. Therefore, access to these areas was no longer an option.”””

    I don’t get this part. If he was escorting her, how could she become a liability? Seems more like he was punishing her for being a bad little girl, and not doing what she was told, instead of keeping his word and doing what he had agreed to do.

    • Ms. Nell,
      First, thank you for taking the time to read my report. Coming from you, that really does mean a lot to me.
      However, I don’t feel like I missed the wrongness in this situation, only that I didn’t include the specific part about the camera, pictures, and the 1st amendment in this report. I didn’t include any of this because I was unable to find sufficient evidence to support any conclusions about this specific circumstance. Everything I was told when asking about it was nothing more than a contradiction of what the answer before had been. It’s very frustrating to ask a simple question and get 5 different answers. You would think there would be only 2, yes or no, but somehow they’ve redefined the laws of grammer and language and come up with more.
      I can’t speak for Mr. Steblein in regards to why Leslie was not given the tour other than the answer that was given to me by him and included in the report. As to whether or not this was a “pinishment”, I cannot honestly say because I was not given that answer.
      Thanks again so much for reading and commenting!
      T.

  11. What can I say? Anyone who would call a wild horse advocate a “vigilante” is not a wild horse advocate themselves.

    • LOL!!! Hello Catherine…
      I didn’t call a wild horse advocate a vigilante, I said WE are not vigilantes… We are advocates. I was speaking to all of us about the way that we conduct ourselves sometimes, and more pointedly to the rumors that have been circulating over the past several months about civil disobedience.
      I do find it funny that you have taken the statement so literally, and even more funny that you are insinuating that I am not an advocate.
      Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your comment.
      T.

  12. ://www.fws.gov/northeast/chinco/ponies.html

  13. Leslie Peeples said

    WOW!! Leslie Peeples here! First let me say that wild horses CANNOT afford to have you, the people who care about them and are working on solutions as to the best management,wasting time and energy on anything but advocating for them!! So for goodness sake people, use your time wisely!
    Most of you do not know me personally so let me tell you what I was doing there. I went to talk to the people in charge, ask questions, see the horses and make sure that they were and would continue to be OK. I had no malice and was not expecting what I got. When you see a fifty year old woman 50 miles from anywhere flag you down (with no camera!!)you might want to see if you can help. They had never seen me or talked to me at this point, they had no idea who I was, and there were no other advocates there.It is not the Cattoors job to police me on public lands.
    Furthermore while I respect the somewhat even reporting and enjoyed the opposing opinions they were not all factual, so before this was written, I should have been contacted. The deposition I submitted is the truth and your original outrage was warranted!

  14. I am really having a difficult time understanding why it is that so many people think that this report is an attack on Leslie… why it is that so many think the sole purpose of this report was to attack her as a person, an advocate, a woman, as anything! It leaves me wondering if any one of those people read the REST of the report – at all. Or did they just pick out the statements that included Leslie’s name, assume they were intended in a bad way, and run with it?
    THIS IS NOT A BASH REPORT! THIS IS A REPORT ON THE INFORMATION FOUND WHEN I ASKED QUESTIONS OF THE CATTOORS AND FWS!
    Why does something that was meant for information dissemination have to be twisted and turned into something totally different? Is because I spoke my mind? Because I have an opinion and I am not afraid to show it? Why should I refuse the information I found out to all just to spare the all-to-sensitive feelings of some? And for that matter, why can’t any of these people see that it wasn’t meant that way to begin with!?
    I have been absolutely floored these past several days by some of the unbelievable statements and comments that have been made – not just here – but on sites across the internet about this report and about me in general. While I could give a fig newton’s butt less what everyone thinks of me personally, the report itself should not be bashed simply because there were suggestions made – to Leslie AND TO FWS! – that some did not like to hear. I guess those same people must have missed the suggestions made to FWS and the Cattoors regarding their behaviors in this situation.
    TMP is still here for the same reason now that it was the day it started: to get the facts out to everyone as best we know them and to give everyone a place to have their 1st AMENDMENT RIGHTS RESPECTED and not bashed. No, we don’t like to have a bunch of squabbling and fighting. Yes, we are still here and we will be here until the last horse is safe!
    MF*T*

  15. Leslie Peeples said

    I heard you and I believe you were trying to be unbiased, but you did put in your opinion with out my facts. I appreciated hearing what the Cattoors said and P.S. of FWS but it was not true.

    • Leslie, thank you for taking the time to come by, read and comment. Glad to see you safe and sound as well.
      I did put in my opinions at the end – I don’t see any reason not to. I would also love to get your side of things now that you are home and ok. I never like to tell only one side of a story. I don’t believe anyone can make a clear decision without all of the information.
      So! If you would like to include it, please by all means give me a call and we’ll take it from there. I sincerely do hope you will.
      T.

  16. Ace said

    TMP- Thanks for taking the time to ask questions and get both sides of this Sheldon story. All too often I read websites and blogs which simply state opinion, conjecture, speculation, conspiracy theory, and outright lies. I too have talked with people involved with this particular situation and have tried to get information out on the web, but folks like Mr. RT Fitch apparently won’t publish information and facts which contradict or question his point of view.

    I feel that no matter what Leslie did or intended to do, the USFWS as a public agency has the responsibility to treat her with the same respect and courtesy as any other person. I also agree the contract pilot should not have taken it upon himself to try and handle the situation– he is not an agency employee and should just report what he saw back to the USFWS. That said–Ms. Peeples violated federal law by trespassing in a closed area after being told over the phone and passing signs indicationg the area was closed to entry. Also, I have driven the 8A road dozens of times and while gravel and narrow in places, is one of the busier and better roads in the area and I have been passed by hay trucks and more recently by trucks hauling for Ruby Pipeline constustion which were traveling in excess of 45 or even 50 mph. I have seen passenger cars and pickups on 8A traveling over 50 mph (both of which by the way are too fast for this road in my opinion, but it obviously has and can be done. My point is the speed of a semi truck traveling 25 mph on this road is not dangerous to anyone.

    Also, I encourage you to seek the truth and find out exactly how Sheldon Refuge is spaying mares, what the mortality rate is while they have the mares at the facility, and how long the Refuge is keeping track of those mares once they are turned back out. It seems that many people are speculating about this and have already formed opinions based on absolutely no information or fact. My guess is the proceedure is not the major surgury with full anesthesia, abdominal incision, and lengthy recovery most people envision.

    • Ace,
      Thanks so much for the continued support. Already started on the mare spaying issue… That’s a doozie for me too. Hoping to find that there is a less invasive way that I am just not aware of yet, but not gonna hold my breath for it either.
      Agreed wholeheartedly on the USFWS / Cattoors and their behaviors towards Leslie. Not entirely in agreeance on whether or not Leslie knew beforehand that she was in violation of the law. There are still some gray areas there that we won’t know until we get Leslie’s side of things. As I stated in the report, the behaviors of all parties involved are going on assumptions until we are able to pull all of the pieces together. It will certainly be interesting to follow how that happens.
      Thanks again for the comments and support. You guys are some of the best advocates a horse could ask for in my mind – all of you!
      T.

    • sandra longley said

      So what you are saying is that 8A is a public transportation road, correct as the ruby pipeline is using it and ranchers are using it to haul hay, therefore that suggests it is not a road that could be closed to the public..as we have found out in court, government agencies DONOT have the power to close public roads to the public, a federal judge has ruled on this posistion, ONLY in the immediate gather facilities where the horses are driven..just as we have found out..they cannot legally close airspace being used during the gather.

  17. reveil said

    The pilot and the truck driver should not take the law into their own hands. The pilot’s decision to avoid contacting authorities by radio is highly questionable. Did he contact his buddy the truck driver instead? For what reason? Did he leave his duties assigned on the job to go fly over a public road? Is he trained as a cop? He sure is behaving like one? The truck driver does not stop while seeing a single woman on the road? Did anyone check the alcohol levels in their blood? Even if they are doing everything they can to protect their paycheck, they are now acting as outlaws, making their own rules. What’s so wrong with someone taking photos on a public road?

    • Hi Rev,
      There was nothing in either of the statements nor in any of the conversation I had with Sue Cattoor that indicated the pilot called the driver.
      He was not “on duty” at the time – he was en route to land – and therefore did not leave his duties assigned on the job. The public road was in his flight path to the landing zone.
      I am not sure of what the pilot’s previous occupation was before he came to work with the Cattoors – if there even was a previous occupation.
      The driver stated he didn’t stop for several reasons. He did however let the FWS Ranger know about it when he reached the end of the road.
      There was no accident that resulted in physical bodily harm – albeit there could have been – and without an actual violation of the law by the driver and the pilot, there was no cause for criminal charges -> no reason for a blood alcohol level check.
      There is nothing wrong with taking photos on a public road, least there wasn’t the last time I checked LOL 🙂
      T.

  18. Spanish Sage Ranch said

    “Ace”, since you have not seen a spay surgery on a mare, and you do not state any basis for your belief that it is not an invasive surgery, all your comments on that are just speculation. Even IF there were a laproscopic way to “spay” a mare, they told Tracie that they were not using any laproscopic techniques. Are you aware that a spay surgery means the removal of uterus and ovaries? Otherwise, it is called at “tubal ligation” and just means the fallopian tubes are tied. How can a spay (aka Ovarohysterectomy, meaning removal of the ovaries and uterus) be done under anything but general anesthesia, unless one is not considering any humane issues. Do you really think that BLM is going to spend any money removing uteruses and ovaries in any way but the most barbaric and cheap method? That would be using IV anesthesia, cutting them open, cutting out the parts, and sewing them back up or using surgery glue, watching them heal, euthanizing the ones that get ill or infected, and then turning them loose. Do you think it would be done any other way?

    Have fun standing by semi trucks whizzing by you at 25 MPH. If you have a child, place them about a foot away and see if your pulse does not race, even for a second.

    Good day.

    • Guys! Remember…
      He said Ovariectomy, not Ovariohysterectomy . The difference being that an Ovariohysterectomy removes the ovaries and the uterus, and the Ovariectomy only removes the ovaries. The word “spay” was never mentioned in our coversations, nor in the report. That came about later in the comments on another page.
      And Remember… This is not the BLM, this is the USFWS. Please, please don’t confuse the two as they are two totally different entities with two totally different sets of laws regarding the horses <- not saying that either is better, just that they are waaaaayyyy different. Until I get better clairification on this issue, we have to go with what we know. Trust me, the curiousity alone is driving me nuts right now, not to mention the gammut of other emotions over this issue.
      As for this line of commenting… this is not what we need right now. We have got to stick together and stand united.
      Above all else, Remember this! When one individual argues and fights with another individual, a third will rejoice. Don’t be one of first two.
      All of this back and forth between us as advocates and the bickering has got to stop. We have got to stick to what we know to be the facts and the truth at this point in time and search like hell to find out more. The issue of ovariectomies versus ovariohysterectomies/spaying is a prime example of how things spin out of control.
      Please, don’t think I am trying to pick on either one of you – Ace and SSR – that is not how this is intented at all! I’m just trying to make the point that we can’t continue with the bickering and expect to have any kind of outcome even close to our ultimate goal: Saving the Horses!!!
      T.

      • sandra longley said

        Yes and lets remember ..he said “the stallions were getting “vasectomies..not being gelded..which is entirely different process..more complicated than gelding. He also said he did not “know how the surgery was done” Why anyone is quoting him as a knowledgeable expert is beyond me..The “fact” is the terminology that the BLM used was “spay”, and contrary to what is being said..the BLM and the fish boys are working together. They agreed that BLM horses migrate into and out of Sheldon from several adjoining ranges(HMAs)..which was why they announced the MEGA-PLEX combining all those into one managed unit-in order to get Laura to drop her lawsuit..and then failed to follow thru. the Roundup, harrasment and killing of wild horses is illegal-and they should be charged and prosecuted for doing so ..knowing full well there are wild horses in sheldon…they cannot proceed without the co-operation of the BLM and cannot conduct their own raid on the wild horses.

    • Ace said

      Spanish Sage Ranch– true, I have never observed a full spay on a horse. Ovariecotmies- yes (which some define as a spay, so it is good to make the distinction for this discussion). Laparoscopic ovariectomy is a fairly modern techique. A method long used and which some vets still feel is more effective and faster is removal of the ovaries with a chain loop eraseur (aka escraseur)through a small incision in the vaginal wall. Is this the “best” way to spay?– I think that depends on the circumstances and other available options given the situation so I’ll let you decide for yourself. Keep in mind, that right now the USFWS is saying their plan is to adopt as many as possible, and use fertility control for the rest– but if those are not available options they would send the remianing horses to auction. http://www.horsekeeping.com/horse_management/spayed_mare.htm
      http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=5050

      As for cost– there’ss really no comparison. When you or I call the vet we usually pay for time, travel, equipment, drugs, and supplies for one animal. When a rancher, USFWS, or BLM calls the vet it is for dozens or even hundreds of animals the per animlal proceedure cost is greatly reduced.

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