Our southern California TCF Board Member, Anni Williams, attended the Twin Peaks hearing yesterday. Here is her summary of the proceedings. As an aside, Anni was with me when Cloud tottered out of the trees when he was just a few hours old! I’m so glad she was able to attend this important event.
Anni just added in our most recent phone conversation about the hearing, that there were Native Americans present in full tribal dress supporting the wild horses.
Report from Anni Williams, TCF Board Member:
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals listened on Thursday, August 29th, to arguments regarding the Twin Peaks lawsuit … and the hearing was well worth attending! Over 65 wild horse advocates jammed the small courtroom to hear IDA/DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary attorney, Rachel Fazio, challenge BLM actions in the recent gather of 1500 wild horses and 160 burros from the Twin Peaks range. I was proud to sit among the impressive group of advocates who showed tremendous restraint as the BLM attorney offered weak arguments in defense of the “criteria” or lack thereof for removal. When one of the three judges on the bench asked the BLM attorney, “Who pays for holding the horses after roundups?” advocates audibly snickered and were cautioned not to interrupt the speaker again. We were biting our tongues during the entire BLM presentation in light of seemingly poor preparation and complete lack of supporting evidence. (Two men argued the BLM case but I was unable to hear the names of the speakers.)
While all three judges appeared to be limited in their knowledge of BLM history or even current responsibilities and actions, two judges out of the three asked some very probing and relevant questions of both parties. The BLM attorney implied but did not provide evidence that “riparian damage” and damage to Indian artifacts justified the removals.
One judge repeatedly questioned the BLM’s definition of “excess” and standards for determining AML’s, asking whether AML’s should be tied to the Act. “Shouldn’t removals be tied to the standard of the Act -- maintaining a “thriving ecological balance?” “And if there currently is a balance, how can the BLM justify removal?” The BLM attorney argued that projections into the future are necessary in order to prevent degradation of the environment, whereupon the judge promptly inquired, “But isn’t that speculation?” The BLM attorney proceeded feebly to discuss sampling methods in area tests and referred to a 150-page EA, prompting the judge to ask where in the EA does it show wild horses and burros are responsible for the effects claimed by the BLM? (The silent snickers could be heard a mile away.)
Many other issues were addressed during the hour and one-half session, including euthanasia and who authorizes it and on what basis, and what remedies are sought by the plaintiff. I suggest reviewing the transcript, if we can obtain a copy, to get the full story. It should be an entertaining and even compelling read.
Our attorney said it might take a month or more for the judges to render an opinion. We can’t necessarily tell anything by the questions judges asked; more by other influences. It was suggested that we all rally together by contacting our congressional leaders, write op-ed pieces to the area newspapers, and consider introducing major legislation that would likely get the BLM to make concessions on various smaller matters.
As for me, I’m proud to be a part of this movement – sharing the moment with advocates who came to California all the way from Texas and beyond, showing solidarity in the cause and love for these precious animals. Our collective passion and dedication did not go unnoticed by the appellate judges this Thursday, August 29th, 2013.
- Anni Williams
You can read more on IDA's hearing from the Pasadena Star-News.
View an exclusive report on an independent Herd Management Area Survey of the Twin Peaks herd from August 2013 here.