Part 2 – Betrayal, Backstabbing, Backroom Deals

Our Battle with ESRD – Part 2

Betrayal, Backstabbing, Backroom Deals

Part 2-1
I had hoped to report that progress had been made in our battle with the Alberta Government’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, (ESRD), in our attempts to safeguard our wild horses in Alberta and prevent further culls. At times, it seemed like we were all moving forward, but recent developments now show otherwise. A proposal for a more humane management plan for dealing with our wildies was put forward to ESRD by WHOAS and Dr. Judith Samson-French. It involved a contraception program using PZP, which would target and track 18 mares for 3 years. (It has been suggested that the trial program will now be 5 years, but that is so far, unconfirmed). Help Alberta Wildies, or HAW as it is known to the wildie supporters, introduced Dr. Samson-French to WHOAS Bob Henderson, in the hopes that a united partnership between the two groups, would convince ESRD to finally deal humanely with our Alberta wildies. HAW, and our local Jann Arden, also a good friend of Dr. Samson-French, hosted a fund raising program to raise money for the PZP vaccine. HAW’s poster read as follows: “We will be working independently from WHOAS, but with their full support, in preparing our Contraceptive PZP Program under the direction of Dr. Judith Samson-French for our presentation to and evaluation by AESRD.”

We all thought a rock solid proposal, entirely privately funded, and put to ESRD would, once and for all, protect and preserve our wildies on our Public Lands. WHOAS and Dr. Samson-French met with ESRD in March, 2014, and put forward their combined proposal, backed by 25 years of research, and were met with negativity and opposition by ESRD, who stated, “It was experimental”. Well, ESRD is well known for making jaw-dropping, bang your forehead, sigh in disgust statements, so none of us were really that surprised by this information. In the past, ESRD has made such other statements as, “the wildies have no natural predators”, “their numbers are ballooning out of control”, “they are eating all the grass intended for cattle”, etc. We all took it in our stride and continued our mail and telephone campaigns, advising ESRD that we, the General Public, would not allow another cull with our wildies being sent to slaughter. We would be out once again, in even greater numbers, and with the support of followers from other countries around the world, to prevent the decimation of our wildies.

To give you some idea of the pressure HAW was putting on ESRD, I’ll tell you of a healthy debate that took place on HAW’s Facebook Page between HAW supporters and an opponent of the wildies. This string of conversation received more than 30,000 views in a little over 2 hours. We have always been aware that ESRD monitors HAW’s page, and it seemed quite likely this person was sent to test the waters to see if we had changed our stance, or were getting tired of the fight. We are happy to report ESRD received the message of, leave our wildies alone, loud and clear!


Part 2-2
A meeting took place one night, consisting of a small core group, and from that meeting, Bob Henderson of WHOAS and Darrell Glover of HAW, decided to join forces against ESRD. WHOAS’ role would be that of “good cop” and HAW’s role would be that of “bad cop”. I use these terms, as Bob is a retired Calgary Police Officer, and it is a defense commonly used in the Police Force to crack hardened criminals, but I also feel it is most appropriate to the situation. HAW’s role was to keep pressure on ESRD to accept a more humane management program for our wildies, and WHOAS’ role was to be the quiet, receptive, voice of reason for the embattled ESRD. There was an understanding between the two men that WHOAS and HAW would continue to partner together in the management of our wildies for years to come. Talks were continuing regarding the contraception program, with two steps forward, one step back over the next few months. Rumors were floating around that an agreement had been reached with a Memorandum of Understanding about to be signed, agreeing to a 3 (5?) year trial of the contraception program headed by Dr. Samson-French. Volunteer assistance would be provided by WHOAS, HAW would provide data on the herds in the Williams Creek area, and photographs with GPS information documenting the target herds would be provided by Duane Starr Photography. Scientific data was to be compiled with results presented at a later date.

Finally, this announcement* was issued by WHOAS:

…….”Today we are thrilled to announce that, as a result of WHOAS continued diligence over the past 13 years in working with the ESRD and other agencies as a voice for the Wild Horse’s and in our years of educational ventures with the general public, and combined with the more recent efforts of additional Social Media groups, we are currently in very serious talks with the ESRD
regarding a future management plan for the horses. A plan which WHOAS will have significant input.”……….

The announcement went on to give WHOAS most of the credit for saving the wildies and, in fact, did not even mention or acknowledge the huge efforts put forward by HAW and its supporters, Dr. Samson-French or Duane Starr, except to classify them as “efforts of additional Social Media groups.”


Part 2-3
At this point, I would like everyone to know that for the 13 years WHOAS has worked with ESRD, very little progress was made to save or protect our wildies. WHOAS was the only voice on the Advisory Committee advocating in favor of such a plan, and for 13 years WHOAS was basically ignored, and regular culls were issued with thousands of our wild horses being captured, and most of them sent to slaughter. It wasn’t until WHOAS and HAW agreed to partner, with HAW putting extreme pressure on ESRD with organized protests, extensive media coverage, and a constant bombardment of emails, letters and telephone calls, that ESRD was finally forced to start listening. We all thought WHOAS’ announcement was decidedly lacking, and within the next day it became clear why.

HAW’s constant pressure on ESRD had been such a success, that the beleaguered ESRD wanted nothing more to do with them, or their supporters. WHOAS/Henderson decided to strike another deal with ESRD to abandon HAW, and WHOAS would, at all times, side with and support ESRD. In doing so, WHOAS/Henderson also lost Dr. Samson-French and Duane Starr.

All past slights to WHOAS/Henderson by ESRD over the last 13 years were forgiven, and the friendship and working partnerships between HAW, Dr. Samson-French and Duane Starr were severed, with a Memorandum of Understanding being signed between ESRD and WHOAS. A vet other than Dr. Samson-French was sought out to be in control of the PZP program. This is another one of those jaw-dropping, bang your forehead, sigh in disgust kind of statements.

WHOAS would single-handedly champion the wildies, and they would be forever safe under their protection, earned entirely by the sweat off their brows……NOT!!!!!

ESRD has been caught in lies before, so we are well aware they have no problem double dealing or manipulating situations to play one against the other. Here was yet another example. We are not at all surprised by ESRD’s conduct, as we’ve seen it before. We are however, extremely disappointed at the actions taken by WHOAS/Henderson to completely dismiss and abandon their agreement with HAW. All the months of hard work that had already been put into this combined endeavor with HAW, Dr. Samson-French and Duane Starr, were tossed aside without a second thought.


Part 2-4
I give credit to WHOAS/Henderson for their efforts to save the wildies for 13 years. They encouraged everyone to write and call ESRD to try and stop the culls. They have a good adoption and training program, but they have never, and would never, stand up and do what is really necessary to protect the wildies from capture and slaughter. It took HAW and the many supporters and other groups, who physically put themselves between our wildies and ESRD and the Capture Permit Holders, to do that.

The wildies are now in the control of WHOAS/Henderson who, in turn, is in the control of ESRD. That can never be a good thing.

We’ve lost Dr. Samson-French, the expert in Canada on PZP. She donated her time, knowledge and expertise to help save and preserve our wild horses.

The best case scenario for our wildies was HAW and supporters defending and keeping ESRD honest, Dr. Samson-French in control of the PZP Program, backed up by Duane Starr’s photographic documentation, and WHOAS/Henderson providing the adoption and training programs. Due to some last minute treachery, that is gone.

So, there it is.

HAW has hung up its “Gone Fishing” sign so please don’t bother emailing that Page.

You can email WHOAS/Henderson and ESRD and ask them anything you want.

Do you think the wildies are going to be protected under WHOAS management, given their track record over the last 13 years?

Do you feel confident using a vet other than Dr. Samson-French, who has many years experience with PZP?

Did you donate your money to HAW for Dr. Samson-French’s PZP Program, or to WHOAS and their new vet’s Program? I donated to HAW and Dr. Samson-French, and I do not agree to transfer it to WHOAS. How about you?

It’s up to you now.

Contact Information:


Minister Shannon Phillips
323 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-2391
Deputy Minister Bill Werry
Environment and Sustainable
Resource Development
915 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2G8
Phone (780) 427-1799
Shannon Flint, Assistant
Deputy Minister Policy Div.
Environment and Sustainable
Resource Development
11th Fl. Petroleum Plaza St.
9915 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2G8
Phone: (780) 422-8463
Helen Newsham Section Head
Rangeland Integration Section
Environment and Sustainable
Resource Development
4th Fl. Great West Life Bldg.
9920 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2M4
Phone: (780) 427-4764


A copy of WHOAS complete announcement follows.


*As most of our followers are aware, WHOAS has been in existence since the year 2001, when Bob Henderson and a small group of other people interested in the preservation of Alberta’s Wild Horses got together to form a society bent on working to keep the horses a part of our western landscape. In that time, this small group of volunteers have given of their time and spirit to work with the horses and with the ESRD who, whether folks choose to like it or not, is the governing body with the ultimate power to decide what does or does not happen to these horses. Over those 13 years, WHOAS and its founding members have experienced great heartbreak directly because of how man and government have affected these beautiful animals. We have all experienced the disappointment again and again with decisions made in the past by government and government agencies concerning our horses, and many volunteers over the years have dropped out of the cause, unable to carry on through the heartbreak and disappointment.
But we have also experienced great joy in being able to save, gentle and rehome horses that have been rescued, and in still being able to go out to the west country and witness the various bands in their natural state.
During the cull of 2014, a huge amount of awareness was achieved by other groups and individuals who, realizing WHOAS cause, jumped on the bandwagon forming their own Social Media sites to help spread the word. Their were also demonstrations and petitions started, helping to make people from all over the world aware of Alberta’s situation with our Wild Horses, and for that we are so, so grateful. We hope to continue a symbiotic relationship with these groups as we move forward.
Today we are thrilled to announce that, as a result of WHOAS continued diligence over the past 13 years in working with the ESRD and other agencies as a voice for the Wild Horse’s and in our years of educational ventures with the general public, and combined with the more recent efforts of additional Social Media groups, we are currently in very serious talks with the ESRD regarding a future management plan for the horses. A plan which WHOAS will have significant input. This is a huge accomplishment and will effectively mean the end of open trapping seasons resulting in some captured wild horses being sent to slaughter. It will also mean much more official counts will be conducted that will indicate not only numbers of horses but also, more importantly, herd dynamics. These counts will determine if and when management, in the form of herd reduction, is even required.
We hope that you as our followers will join us in celebrating this accomplishment! As more details become available of the agreement with ESRD concerning the future of the Wild Horses, we will most certainly keep you all informed. We want to thank everyone who has supported WHOAS throughout the years and we ask for your continued support as we move forward. I would also like to send special thanks out to WHOAS founder Bob Henderson, and two of his closest sidekicks – Jack Nichol and Dan MacIntyre for all they have done and all they continue to do. Thanks guys – we love ya!

September 8, 2014