September  4,  2013     Interior  Secretary  Sally  Jewell   Via  Facsimile:  202-208-6956     Fish  and  Wildlife  Service

 Director  Daniel  Ashe   Via  Facsimile:  202-­‐208-­‐6817     Dear  Secretary  Jewell  and  Director  Ashe:     The  American  Wild  Horse  Preservation  Campaign  is  a  national  coalition  of  more  than  50   horse  advocacy,  conservation  and  historic  preservation  organizations.  We  write  today  to   urge  your  immediate  intervention  to  prevent  the  Fish  and  Wildlife  Service  (FWS)  from   rounding  up  a  historic  population  of  wild  horses  from  the  Sheldon  National  Wildlife  Refuge   and  sending  many  of  them  on  a  back  door  route  to  slaughter.       The  helicopter  roundup  is  scheduled  to  begin  on  the  Sheldon  Refuge,  located  on  the   Nevada/Oregon  border,  on  September  9,  2013,  just  weeks  after  the  Forest  Service   withdrew  from  a  similar  plan  to  roundup  horses  from  public  and  tribal  lands  to  the  east  of   Sheldon  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  mustangs  are  America’s  War  Horses;  their  ancestors  fought  our  battles  in   World  War  I  and  other  overseas  conflicts.  The  Sheldon  Refuge’s  plan  to  eradicate  the   unique  and  living  history  embodied  by  these  horses  is  being  undertaken  with  an  egregious   lack  of  public  transparency  and  gross  irresponsibility,  as  evidenced  by  the  decision  to  turn   scores  of  captured  horses  over  to  a  contractor  who  has  previously  been  a  third  party  route   to  the  slaughter  auction  for  many  Sheldon  horses.     We  urge  your  immediate  intervention  to  halt  the  roundup  at  Sheldon  until  the  issues  below   are  adequately  addressed.     I.  America's War Horses: History of the Sheldon Mustangs   The wild horses on the Sheldon Refuge are descendants of cavalry stock and breeds that helped develop the area in the 1800’s prior to the land being sold to the federal government. At the turn of the century, the Boer War in South Africa and later the Spanish-American War created a large demand for military mounts. Many wild horses from the area that is now the Sheldon Refuge

American  Wild  Horse  Preservation  Campaign,  PO  Box  1048,  Hillsborough,  NC  27278  

AWHPC  Letter  to  Interior  Secretary  Jewel  and  FWS  Director  Ashe   September  4,  2013   Page  2  

were rounded up and shipped overseas as cavalry remounts. During World War I, a rancher named Harry Wilson went into business with the federal government. The horses Miller provided for the Army ran from High Rock Canyon north to the Oregon border, across all of what is now the Sheldon Refuge. The presence of wild horses and burros on the land pre-dates the 1931 creation of the Sheldon Refuge by over a half century. The Sheldon horses are part of a lager wild horse population in the tri-state area (California-Oregon-Nevada), which is known as “mustang country.” The area includes the Bureau of Land Management’s Calico and High Rock Complexes. The wild horses and burros of the Sheldon Refuge were present at the time the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed in 1971. But the Act applies only to wild horses and burros living on Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service lands. As a result, the wild horses and burros of the Sheldon Refuge have been denied federal protection, despite their historic significance to the American West. The FWS could seek special legislation to protect the wild horses and burros on the Sheldon Refuge in recognition of their historic and cultural significance to the area. Instead of doing so, however, the FWS has chosen to destroy this living historic legacy and to sentence these noble descendants of America’s equine war veterans to a life of captivity – or worse, slaughter. It’s important to note that the wild horses and burros of the Sheldon Refuge are supported and enjoyed by the public, and considered an important and integral part of this national wildlife refuge. This support is evidenced by the thousands of public comments received by the FWS in support of maintaining these historic herds on refuge lands. (Please see below.) II. Sheldon Fast-Tracks Plan to Eradicate Historic Mustangs from Refuge Last year, the FWS issued a “Comprehensive Conservation Plan” (CCP) calling for the elimination of wild horses and burros from the Sheldon Refuge in five years. The FWS rejected a more humane alternative to phase out wild horses and burros over 15 years utilizing fertility control, an option that would allow the older, unadoptable animals to remain wild and live out their lives on the lands of their birth. (The CCP can be found at this link: http://www.fws.gov/pacific/planning/main/docs/NV/docssheldon.htm) Worse, the refuge now plans to roundup all of the wild horses and burros in just two years, instead of the five-year option designated in the CCP. As a result, Sheldon will dump 400 horses and an undetermined number of burros into an already saturated adoption market. While going through the motions of locating contractors to 'adopt out" the captured horses, refuge officials know full well that the slaughter auction awaits many of these historic horses in the likely event that adoptive homes are not found:

AWHPC  Letter  to  Interior  Secretary  Jewel  and  FWS  Director  Ashe   September  4,  2013   Page  3  

Unless the Service and contract agents can find more people willing to provide long-term homes for more than 900 horses and burros from Sheldon Refuge within the next two years, the only practical option will be sale at auction. To ensure successful implementation of the Service’s decision to remove all feral horses and burros, the option to auction animals must be available. (August 2013 Questions and Answers: http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/Sheldon/pdf/Sheldon Horse and Burro Q&A_Ver 3_082713.pdf). In fact, Sheldon is knowingly using a contractor who has been documented to be a third-party route to the slaughter auction for dozens of wild horses captured from Sheldon over the last several years. This is confirmed by the FWS August 2013 announcement of its intent to roundup 400 of Sheldon’s estimated 830 wild horses via helicopter roundup beginning on September 9, 2013. (Sheldon’s announcement of the roundup can be found at this link: http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/sheldon/pdf/2013 Sheldon Refuge Feral Horse Gather Public Announcement_ver2.pdf) III. Sheldon Ignores Violations of “Adoption” Contractor J&S Associates A minimum of 90 of the Sheldon horses captured in the 2013 roundup will be delivered to J&S Associates, operated by Stan Palmer. Palmer will be paid more than $1,000 per horse to “adopt out” these horses, despite the fact that he cannot account for the whereabouts of as many as 202 of the 262 horses received under a previous contract with Sheldon between 2010 and 2012. All horses are microchipped by Sheldon before transport to adoption contractors to facilitate accountability, registration and tracking of horses. After a complaint, the FWS investigated J&S Associates and was able to verify legitimate adoptions for a maximum of 29 of the 262 horses sent to this contractor. In addition, the FWS found that Palmer: • • Gave 82 horses to an Alabama man who no longer had the horses and admitted to selling “a bunch” at a livestock auction. Could not produce adoption information for 65 horses. (Palmer said that 30 of these horses were sent to unspecified “adopters” in two trailer loads with only the driver’s name for adoption information; 15 additional horses were supposedly “held by Rodney” but no name or location ever provided.) Gave 25 horses to Sunshine Rodeo, which no longer has a working telephone number. Sheldon officials drove by pastures of Sunshine Farm and saw horses, but have no idea whether the 25 Sheldon horses given to this farm were present in the pastures at the time of the drive by. Gave 30 horses to a man who claimed that he still had the horses in pastures “north and south of Vicksburg.” The man drove FWS officials by three pastures with horses in them, but FWS had no way to verify whether these were Sheldon horses (the man did not have microchip information for them), how many of the horses in the pastures were Sheldon horses, or even how many horses were in the pastures they drove by.

AWHPC  Letter  to  Interior  Secretary  Jewel  and  FWS  Director  Ashe   September  4,  2013   Page  4  

The FWS investigation also raised questions about the adequacy of care provided by J & S, particularly with regard to foals: “At least 10 foals deteriorated in condition from September to November 2012. The failure of these foals to gain weight was likely the result of J&S not taking the time and steps to provide individual care following weaning.” The Performance Work Statement for Sheldon adoption contractors prohibits the contractor from “send(ing) any animals to auction or slaughter.” It also requires contractors to provide “safe and humane care” to horses prior to adoption, "to secure safe, humane good adoptive placements," and to annually supply the FWS with a list of all adopters. The FWS’ own investigation confirms that Palmer/J&S have violated multiple provisions of the adoption contract. Yet despite this, Sheldon officials intend to again contract with J&S for the placement of at least 90 wild horses to be captured during the 2013 roundup. IV. Lack of Transparency As in previous years, the 2013 Sheldon Refuge wild horse and burro roundups are being conducted out of the public eye and with an egregious lack of transparency. • The terms of public observation of the wild horse roundup scheduled to begin September 9 are unclear at this time. According to the Q &A “qualified media representatives and reporters” may be allowed to observe and document gather operations, “as staffing allows.” As in previous years, a restriction on public observation of a federal government operation violates the First Amendment. AWHPC Communications Director Deniz Bolbol was informed yesterday through her attorney that Sheldon would provide public observation of the roundup, however the terms of the observation remain unclear at this point. The BLM routinely allows public observation of wild horse roundups conducted by Cattoor Livestock Roundup, Inc., the same helicopter wranglers that will Sheldon will contract with to conduct the September 9 roundup. • Sheldon secretly removed 50 burros from the refuge this summer without any public observation or notification. This was confirmed to AWHPC by Megan Nagel, FWS Public Relations officer. • Sheldon refuses to disclose the number of public comments it received on the Comprehensive Conservation Plan and how many members of the public wrote to the refuge in support of maintaining the historic herds of wild horses and burros on these federal lands, or in the alternative, phasing out the population out over 15 years.

AWHPC  Letter  to  Interior  Secretary  Jewel  and  FWS  Director  Ashe   September  4,  2013   Page  5  

V. Sheldon History of Wild Horses and Slaughter The Sheldon Refuge has a long and sordid history of using questionable “adoption agents” that have wittingly or unwittingly sent Sheldon horses to slaughter. At least 40 horses “adopted” out by a Sheldon contractor were rescued in 2005 from the kill pens at a Texas slaughter house. Another Sheldon “adoption” contractor had the same physical address as a stockyard in New Mexico that was in the business of delivering horses to Texas slaughterhouses that operated at the time. In addition, the FWS has a terrible record of inhumane treatment of horses during roundups. Please see eyewitness report from 2006 wild horse roundup at Sheldon at this link: http://wildhorsepreservation.org/eyewitness-report-2006-sheldon-roundup. Please also see memorandum from Marla Bennett, FWS biologist to Paul Steblein, former manager of the Hart Mountain-Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge Complex at this link: http://wildhorsepreservation.org/bennett-memo VI. Conclusion AWHPC and our coalition partners are extremely disappointed that the federal government has chosen to eradicate the historic populations of wild horses and burros from the Sheldon Refuge. We are further troubled by the FWS’ decision to eliminate the horses and burros in just two years, instead of the more humane option of phasing them out over time. Equally as troubling is the FWS’s willingness to look the other way as captured wild horses are placed in jeopardy of being sold for slaughter through a contractor who cannot account for the vast majority of Sheldon horses previously sent to him over the past three years. Finally, the total lack of transparency with which this operation is being undertaken – from ignoring of thousands of public comments, to the secret removal of burros, to the lack of clear protocols for public observation of the upcoming helicopter roundup – is simply unacceptable. As a result, we urge your immediate intervention to halt the pending roundup while issues of transparency, humane treatment and adoption security are addressed. Under no circumstances should the FWS contract with Stan Palmer of J&S Associates for adoption of Sheldon horses. These historic and publicly cherished animals must be protected from the cruel fate of slaughter. It is simply unacceptable for these magnificent animals to be wrenched from their home on the range, laundered through a third party and sold for slaughter, after which they will be crammed onto trailers, sent on a grueling journey to slaughterhouses outside our borders, where they will be brutally killed and turned into meat for foreign consumption. America is not a horse-eating nation; the descendants of our equine veterans of war deserve better than this horrific end.

AWHPC  Letter  to  Interior  Secretary  Jewel  and  FWS  Director  Ashe   September  4,  2013   Page  6  

In addition, there is tremendous public support for maintaining these historic wild horses and burros on the refuge. If the FWS continues to ignore the public will -- as evidenced by thousands of public comments -- and intends to eradicate these herds, then the only responsible and humane course is to phase them out over time through fertility control and/or permanent sterilization, allowing these animals to live out their lives and die on the range. Sincerely,

Suzanne  Roy,  Director   sroy@wildhorsepreservation.org   919-­‐697-­‐9389