Though a reasonably useful and successful local newspaper in many respects, the Signpost consistently misleads their readership regarding wild horses.
The Sandoval Signpost is in a very tiny minority in Placitas NM, which has zero respect for the rule of NM State Wild Horse Protection law, passed in 2007 by WHOA(1) . The Signpost has hid this Wild Horse Protection legislation, as they literally twisted every aspect of the law and twisted even the recent federal BLM(2) public notice of livestock roundup in Placitas, while also giving out a road map to incite private citizens to break this state law protecting wild horses, and in doing so they themselves would be breaking many other state and federal laws.
Importantly the Signpost also consistently hides their own illegal pro-slaughter actions of 2014, while also deceptively discussing state kill bill legislation as if it is pro-wild horse. The Signpost did not even touch on the fact that the BLM has no jurisdiction over our Placitas Wild Horses as determined in federal Court in WHOA v Jewell in 2013.
I. The Law of 2007 Passed by WHOA – The Signpost Hides
In 2007, WHOA’s Protective Legislation(3) for NM state’s Wild Horses was passed unanimously minus 1 by Senator Steve Komadina MD (Republican) and signed into law as NMSA 77-18-5 by Governor Bill Richardson (Democrat) in 2007. This law referred to as The Wild Horse Act, has been repeatedly upheld in the NM Appellate Court(4) , the NM Supreme Court(5) and the 12th District Court(6) in two cases of WHOA v NMLB(7) . It is also illegal to incite one’s readership to commit crimes.
II. Signpost’s Inciting Crime and Violence is Illegal(8) – (Illegal Round-ups as Livestock, Illegal Gelding and Illegal Slaughter)
The Sandoval County Signpost published by Belknap Publishing Inc. a Placitas based corporation has published an: “immediate roadmap for violence” (9) against state’s property, the protected NM State’s Wild Horses of Placitas, and the people, in their August 2021 edition(10).
– “. . . If a landowner corrals a non-livestock horse, it instantly becomes livestock if the landowner takes ownership of it.” Here the Signpost’s Bill Divens quotes an “anonymous” attorney(11) literally talking about a “magic corral”!
– “left the Livestock Board with little to do beyond checking for signs of ownership if landowners corralled any on their private property” . . . Here Bill Divens gives the deceptive appearance that since the NMLB can no longer “protect” the wild horses selling them at public auction after 5 days, the citizens are then not breaking the law.
This is a “roadmap for violence” against a state resource/property and includes inciting specific illegal round-ups of the Placitas Wild Horses by private citizens on private land as unprotected livestock, contrary to the legislation passed in 2007 by WHOA which disallows round-ups of states wild horses by private citizens on any lands. (See NMSA 77-18-5 and footnotes 4-6)
Moreover, any veterinarian who works on a state’s wild horse is subject to the open records act(12) whether they geld a stallion for a private citizen breaking the law or whether they assist a wild horse as a legal humanitarian effort in any way. Notably, a stallion must be gelded before it is allowed over the Mexican border for slaughter.
III. Illegal and Collusion – Private citizen round up on private property.
The recent ruling of the 12 District court in WHOA v NMLB found that pursuant to NMSA 77-18-5, the NMLB and the private citizen were in collusion when she illegally rounded up the family members of the beloved iconic stallion known as Blaze (in Lincoln County, NM) who then ran the area literally screaming while searching for his family per witness testimony.
During ~2 years of court, WHOA literally gained split custody of Blaze’s family with the NMLB, though WHOA paid for most all of their feed and rent (from kind donations). WHOA later won a court order to release them right back into their Enchanted Forest home of Alto! Alto is a rural mountain community like Placitas, where over 90% of the residents signed a petition to the court, to allow Blaze’s family to be released right back on any of each of their private properties or on any of their neighbor’s private properties in the Enchanted Forest Sub Division.
WHOA then contracted Placitas Animal Rescue to trailer Blaze’s family and two other stallions (later taken by the NMLB during litigation!) right back home to the Enchanted Forest.
IV. Belknap Publishing Inc. Illegal Round-up, and Undeclared Conflict of Interest.
WHOA believes the readership has the right to know the public information regarding this corporation’s apparent conflict of interest regarding the stallion Ghost’s family in 2014.
Sandoval County Sheriff’s police report case no. 11- 1147 of 7/3/14 shows that Mr. Belknap himself rounded up these wild horses in his neighborhood.
The Sandoval Signpost states on their front page that they are an “Independent Local Newspaper”. Though a great community paper, with apparently two awards, (see page 3), this paper has not given fair or honest coverage (putting it lightly) to this community which has been overwhelmingly united for the wildlife corridor and its wild horses through time as proven by multiple community polls including one done by the Signpost in 2002(13) and many others through time including the independent poll commissioned by WHOA as requested by a donor in 2014.
The owner of Belknap Publishing Inc. Mr. John T. Belknap certainly has the right to any personal opinions. However, for journalistic integrity, WHOA has requested their conflict of interest(14) be declared among other requests.
However, the Signpost impartiality remains non-existent on the wild horse issue as well as some others (correspondence available).
WHOA has of course sent only respectful correspondence (available upon request) to Mr. Diven asking the Signpost for improvements in fairness and/or to please openly declare their conflict of interest to their readership(15) . WHOA believes the inaccurate and misleading coverage and criminal incitements in this issue, if not through time, are bordering on legal issues which WHOA believes are not protected by the first amendment.
V. Misleading Coverage of BLM’s July 9th Post Re: Unauthorized Livestock, with Apparent Intent.
The title of the article is “Free-roaming horses on Federal land subject to removal from Placitas”
The most important question to the BLM from this paper should arguably have been to ask the BLM if their notice regarding unauthorized livestock posted at the US Post Office in Placitas was referring to a round-up of the horses, (which both the lower and highest courts of NM agree are state’s wild horses are not livestock) or, referring to cattle. However, horses were certainly implied by the Signpost in this article on page 4 and 5, but the BLM was in fact not asked and did not answer this question hence, this is not clarified in this article which is literally about this issue per the inaccurate and misleading title “Free-roaming horses on Federal land subject to removal from Placitas”.
The Signpost however has someone else speculate “It is believed this implies the free roaming horses of Placitas.” On page 23. Emphasis added. One can certainly only speculate their purpose in this omission in their “reporting”.
VI. Misleading Bills (16) Kill-Bill Legislation by Our Own New “Placitas” NM Senator Brenda McKenna (Democrat) & Long Time NM State Senator, Pat Woods(17)(Republican).
There is the very strong appearance and history that our state government now including: Senator Brenda McKenna, Senator Pat Woods, supporting groups including: APNM /APV(21), and the media: including the Signpost, and others, are working to ensure that we also lose our few remaining wild horses in New Mexico due to their trickily writing, editing, and supporting of these kill bills (4 of them so far and one other) to LOOK LIKE they are pro-horse, so that both legislature and the Governor have pro-animal named groups to hide their pro-horse slaughter votes behind.
Given that Governor’s Martinez and Grisham Lujan(22) are both attorneys, they could not claim ignorance if they were to pass a kill bill masquerading as a Faux Protection Bill. Neither will the legislators which are tasked with actually understanding what they vote for as well as it being very clear now after 5 trick bills.
These tricky Kill Bills deceitfully touted as protection bills, is Tantamount to Conspiracy(18) against the New Mexico Open Meetings Act(19) and more.
This August 2021 issue of the Signpost as usual tout’s deceptive kill bill legislation as good for the wild horses and shows other local groups in support (who may be anti-wild horse or ignorant of the subterfuge) through time. The Signpost does not interview WHOA or print their opinions on these kills bills, however, WHOA and the citizenry have defeated them all (5 so far from 2017 to date.)
VII. Anatomy of Trick Bills which Strip Protections of Already Protected Wild Horses – DETAILS
Each faux bill by Senator Pat Woods hides the way in which it would send wild horses to slaughter, including this year’s with Senator Brenda McKenna.
This years sneak kill bill Senate Bill SB 368 by Senator Brenda McKenna (who hails as Deb Haaland’s former Congressional Field Rep (2020/21) ) and Senator Pat Woods would have specifically stripped the wild horses of their fence-out law protections. This would have allowed many people to round them up. The fence out law protection against round ups on private or other property was already afforded them through WHOA’s 2007 Wild Horse Protection Act and was upheld in court.
Each kill bill brought since WHOA’s court win of 2015 upholding their protective 2007 legislation would have also dangerously removed the NMLB’s requirement to perform DNA tests (costs only $100). The DNA test is there to largely to ensure the NMLB/Governor are not emptying New Mexico of wild equines (with unique lineages) as estray livestock as per their continued history of ignoring both federal and state laws in order to do so.
For example, many of the wild horses in New Mexico stem from the horses brought back to North America where they evolved for 55 million years (see DNA results of Placitas Wild Horses https://whoanm.org/wordpress/?p=326 ) by the Spanish. DNA tests are supposed to be conducted by NMLB anytime that they pick up a horse as estray livestock to ensure they are not stealing our wild equines and auctioning them as livestock. The University of New Mexico (UNM) is also supposed to test or have tested, their DNA in order to protect the lineage/genetic viability of our wild horses. The DNA tests would also allow the state to chart the relationships among the horses and create family trees that can be used to track family groups and manage responsible management programs as required by the 2007 Act.
Fake/Faux “Protection” Bill (Short Video) of 2017 (see link): SB126: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg6ata_bvc8
The first two fake protection bills SB126 and SB158(20) would have made it almost impossible for a wild horse to be legally determined to be a wild horse thereby causing them to be categorized as livestock and put up for auction. Hence our wild horses would LOSE THE PROECTIONS THEY ALREADY HAVE.
NEW MEXICO’s WIPE OUT PATTERN: Our Governors through their board the NMLB continue to STEAL our wild equines, both state and federal through time. They have no respect for the rule of law in this area and are continuously in court wasting our tax dollars, losing while they lawlessly continue to plow out rather than manage, our few remaining wild equines (both sides of the aisle – as FARM BILL Kickbacks rule).
For example: The NMLB (Our NM Governor’s Board) already wiped out our federally Wild Donkeys in Lincoln County in 1974 even though they lost in the US Supreme Court in Kleppe vs New Mexico in 1976. Justice Thurgood Marshall told them then, that they had to follow the federal Wild Horse and Burro Act, however they still illegally evaded releasing the stolen Wild Donkeys of Lincoln County. This is why we now have only Donkey statues in the streets, sidewalks, and on the buildings in Carrizozo, NM however, zero legally wild Donkeys alive in Lincoln Co NM (or anywhere else in NM). This is their goal for our wild horses as well.
When will New Mexico’s “representatives” and “our” governors STOP intentionally and illegally clandestinely misrepresenting the overwhelming majority on this issue, our iconic and majestic wildlife, our very neighbors.
Please donate to the WHOA legal fund at https://whoanm.org/wordpress/?page_id=43
if you like our legislative work for good bills and against trick kill bills in order to uphold our good legislation of 2007 in court as needed. Other bills we have also offered include:
1. to outlaw horse dumping in NM, (protects both domestic and wild horses)
2. To close the state to horse slaughter traffic, thereby effectively close the border to horse slaughter
3. To make domestic horses subject to the animal cruelty laws of the state (WHOA has already passed this for our wild horses) and much more.
4. We have also formed a 501 c4 non-profit.
Our successful legislative work is largely unreported and denied by the media including the Signpost or other area papers like Alb. Journal as they do not want WHOA’s work publicized as with publicity comes donations for legal funds which they apparently do not want. This due to kick back $$$ to both parties from the huge and bipartisan “Factory” Farm Bill.
100% of your donation goes to the wild horse’s cause. There are absolutely no Board salaries.
WHOA is a 501 c3 non-profit since 2004.