RENO, Nev. — The Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press says the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is using safety concerns as an excuse to limit media access to wild horse roundups across the West in violation of the First Amendment.
The National Press Photographers Association and more than a dozen newspaper companies joined the committee in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals late Monday to back an advocacy group waging a series of legal battles over mustang roundups in Nevada.
Horseback Magazine photographer Laura Leigh and others “have a right to see what happens” during the roundups, the media groups said, urging the court to be “highly skeptical of assertions by the BLM that restrictions placed on media access were done for administrative convenience and/or to satisfy safety concerns.”
“People in an open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing,” they said.
The 9th Circuit sent the case brought by Leigh’s advocacy group, Wild Horse Education, back to U.S. Judge Larry Hicks in Reno last year to determine if the BLM limits are constitutional.
Hicks ruled in 2011 that a balancing of the interests of the agency and public access to a roundup in Nevada didn’t warrant granting an injunction to block the gathers. But a three-judge panel of the appellate court ruled he failed to determine whether those restrictions violated First Amendment protections.
“When the government announces it is excluding the press for reasons such as administrative convenience, preservation of evidence, or protection of reporters’ safety, its real motive may be to prevent the gathering of information about government abuses or incompetence,” Appellate Judge Milan Smith Jr. wrote in the 18-page opinion in February 2012.
BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said Tuesday that the agency had no comment on the latest filing.
Agency officials testified at a hearing earlier this year that they do their best to provide public access to the roundups and temporary holding of the animals and denied Leigh’s claims she was singled out to be kept away from the mustangs.
The National Press Club, Nevada Press Association, Reno-Gazette Journal, The Seattle Times Company, the Las Vegas-Review Journal’s owner Stephens Media and others joined in the new brief arguing that journalists routinely face far more dangerous assignments, especially at war. They say reporters should have the same unrestricted access to public rangeland as they do to battlefields.
BLM’s concerns are “speculative at best and at worst are overly broad and ambiguous, often arbitrarily and capriciously chilling visual journalists’ ability to cover matters of public concern,” they said.
“If they are willing to assume such risks in a warzone, it should certainly be considered that such safety concerns by the government are nothing but mere pretext when it comes to horse gathers ... BLM land is more akin to an open park than a battlefield, and a horse gather is less dangerous than open combat or fires, floods, explosions and other calamities where safety concerns are at stake.”
Hicks said during a hearing earlier this year that he recognizes it’s an issue that “strikes deeply in people’s emotions and interests.”
The holiest plant of the Christmas season may be a raggedy shrub with peeling bark that seems to grow best in a dusty backyard in Tempe, Ariz. This is Boswellia sacra, better known as the frankincense tree. The shrub’s gum resin is one of the three biblical gifts that the wise men bestowed on the infant Jesus. Until recently, Americans who wished to cultivate their…
FRESNO, Calif. — Federal law now allows visitors to carry guns in national parks, but you can’t just slip a loaded pistol into your backpack and take a hike. Pay attention, because this is a little complicated. You will need a concealed weapons permit to carry the loaded gun in the backpack. But you don’t need any kind of permit if you just want to…
Q: Why do some vegetables, such as cooked diced carrots, spark when I reheat them in the microwave?A: Microwaves work by sending out electromagnetic waves that vibrate the water, fat and sugar molecules in food, creating heat. The microwave generates an electric field, but the intensity of the electricity varies throughout the microwave. When you cut a carrot into small pieces and heat them in…
Q: The daylight/nighttime sensor system of my 2000 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is locked on the nighttime setting, which keeps the headlights on during daylight and also keeps instruments and digital clock/radio lights dim. Would this most likely be a defective sensor? Can the sensor be replaced without dismantling the dashboard? I tried cleaning the sensor but that didn’t change anything. — Stan BurnettA: Stan, it…
’Tis the night before Halloween at the Des Chutes Historical Center, and if any creatures are stirring, The Ghost Seekers Paranormal Research Group is on the job. Well, not “job,” exactly. Investigating strange occurrences is more of an avocation for these five teenagers and one middle-aged homemaker. Generally, the group members don’t charge for investigations into the unknown, but if a client attempts to hoax…