Hello and Happy Thursday to everyone!
We have a lot of new people who have found our page and we keep getting a lot of the same questions. We thought this would be a good time to talk about Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates (CHWHA) – who we are and how we got started and also explain the current plight of the wild horses that call Theodore Roosevelt National Park home.
CHWHA advocates for the wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. There are currently 185 horses in this herd. Since these horses are in a national park, they are NOT protected under the Wild Horse & Burro Act. They are managed by the National Park Service (NPS) NOT the BLM.
Our organization was formed out of the urging from our likeminded followers along with an apparent need for transparency and accountability from Theodore Roosevelt National Park management with regards to the management of the wild horses entrusted in their care. That has not always been in line with other groups that advocate for these horses. For years, they have become content with the general feeling that “We don’t question the park” or “The park knows what they are doing.” Each organization is free to advocate in whatever way they feel is right. CHWHA chooses to advocate by definition:
· 1.a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy: “he was an untiring advocate of economic reform”
We support the horses in the park and believe that they deserve a wild horse management plan that is based on science that allows for genetic diversity. CHWHA has been fighting for that for years. We were excited to see the park initiate a wild horse management plan in March of 2022.
The park gave us 6 initial analyses to consider when the announcement of the management plan came out. In December, they came back with 3 analyses that let us know that their proposed action was total elimination of the herd.
CHWHA has been leading the fight for this iconic herd of wild horses from day 1. Because of our efforts, these horses have gained a TON of support. This includes working with our North Dakota legislators to introduce and pass Senate Concurrent Resolution SCR 4014. This resolution is a simple ask from the state of North Dakota to the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service asking that the wild horses be allowed to stay.
CHWHA has also been concerned about the aging herd along with the constant culling of the younger horses. Another concern has been the experimentation of GonaCon on our horses. Theodore Roosevelt National Park has been working with Colorado State University since 2009 perfecting the use of GonaCon as a form of birth control. GonaCon has recently gone from being called a “pesticide” to a “sterilant”. We believe this change came about (at least in part) from the years of experimentation on the TRNP wild horse herd.
A few years ago, we reached out to the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) asking for their help as the park was making very aggressive plans to remove young horses ~ AGAIN! As we shared our concerns with AWHC, and they sent out their own FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. They have finally started receiving the requested documents.
There is a blog and a newspaper article being written that discloses the information in the 400+ pages. Both should be out within the next few days. We will also be breaking down those 400+ pages into smaller digestible pieces. We start that in our blog the other day: https://chwha.org/2023/04/11/behind-the-scenes/
Today, we want to talk about the advocacy concerns by both Colorado State University and Theodore Roosevelt National Park as well as explain some of the key people you will see mentioned in the articles that are coming out.
First up is Dr. Dan Baker. The experiment at Theodore Roosevelt National Park was his “baby”. You can hear him talk about the experiment and how it came about in front of an audience of his peers at a fertility conference in 2018: (https://youtu.be/ynPF5cvfK1o) At 2:01 he expresses that his ONLY concern about starting the experimentation on the wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park were the wild horse advocates.
Take note of people who are thanked and given credit in the videos and articles we share with you. We think those will all start to make sense as you hear about the information in these FOIA documents.
Dr. Dan Baker received funding from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to conduct his research on the horses in TRNP.
Enter Paul Griffin from the BLM. The FOIA documents are filled with emails between Paul Griffin, Dan Baker, Blake McCann & Jenny Powers. Also included are handwritten notes believed to be from Paul Griffin as a summary of phone conversations and meetings he had with Dan Baker & Blake McCann. It is assumed those meetings and phone conversations took place in 2020.
Blake McCann is the Chief of Resource Management at TRNP. He came in with the title of Wildlife Biologist in 2013. He has been working with Dan Baker on the GonaCon experiment on the horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Blake got a promotion after a paper he co-authored with Dan Baker and others was released in 2018. You can read the paper here: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0200795.
Jenny Powers is also mentioned in the FOIA documents. She worked with Dan Baker on the CSU experiment. She also is employed by the National Park Service. She did a lot of work on the dart delivery system that has left horrible abscesses on our mares.
One day while I was trying to find help for these horses, I discovered NPS IACUC (International Animal Care Use Committee). I was excited to find them because part of what they do, from their website (https://home.nps.gov/orgs/1103/iacuc.htm): “Provide oversight for the humane care and use of wild, vertebrate animals in research, teaching, and training in parks.”
FINALLY! Someone to share our concerns about what appeared to be animal abuse on our mares!
When I contacted their office, I was told the ONLY person I could speak to was – are you ready?
I was shocked! Since there was NO ONE else I could talk to, I did talk to Jenny Powers. When I expressed my concerns about her ability to listen to my concerns objectively, she seemed unsure about why I doubted her ability to do so.
To be clear, I was calling to complain about the abscesses on the mares being done as a result of the dart delivery part of the CSU experiment that was being done by Jenny Powers. And the person I was told I had to complain to was the SAME Jenny Powers!
Needless to say, the NPS IACUC I was so happy to have discovered did nothing to address my concerns of the animal abuse going on in TRNP to our mares.
It is also worth noting that Jenny Powers gave a presentation at the same conference that Dan Baker did in 2018. We had a link on our website, but the video has since been scrubbed from the internet. We have even reached out to the conference sponsors without any explanation as to why ONLY Jenny Powers video has disappeared.
Here is a link to an article that was written in 2016 that will give a little bit more of the information that was being given to the public on the experimentation with GonaCon on our TRNP wild horses: https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2016/03/13/studies-north-dakota-fertility-control-mustangs/?fbclid=IwAR1XeyMc1kbkuorYheeyXO3USsNAvy68SNlTPd4evdSFPjRf5MQf_gbLj6A
Remember, these are some of the people who we are supposed to trust to write an objective Environmental Assessment about the future of this herd.
We will have more to share tomorrow, so be sure to check back.
Thank you for your support and have a great day!
Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates is committed to advocating for a wild horse management plan and protection for these unique wild horses that call Theodore Roosevelt National Park home! We are fighting for a management plan that is guided by science especially when it comes to decisions regarding the removal of horses and the administration of birth control. Many other wild horse management plans have proven to be successful with their science-based plans. We are asking for the same for this amazing group of wild horses that call Theodore Roosevelt National Park home.