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Terri Farley
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Thursday, May 03, 2018

You Don't Have to Burn A (Wild Horse) Book to Censor It

I've never laid my life on the line for a story, and it's coincidence that the most recent 
"Of course you didn't interview BLM about wild horses" remark came on World Press Freedom Day. 

The reader was talking about Wild at Heart: Mustangs and the Young People Fighting to Save Them,
my non-fiction book published by Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt. The book's credibility has been honored without BLM. It's a Junior Library Guild selection, winner of the Sterling North Heritage award for Excellence in Children's Literature and has been honored by Western Writers of America, National Science Teachers Association and American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

For nearly a year, I negotiated and nagged for interviews about BLM's wild horse and burro program. Didn't happen. But it's important to me that you see how it didn't happen. 
My last correspondence before the publication of this book is posted below. 


Tom Gorey, Senior Public Affairs Specialist                                                 July 23, 2014
Bureau of Land Management
1849 C. Street NW
Washington, D.C.  20240

Dear Tom,
As you know, I’m writing Wild at Heart: Mustangs and the Young People Fighting to Save Them for Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt. This non-fiction book for young readers will be published in Fall 2015. 
In January of this year, Lisa Ross at BLM’s Carson City office told me that all on-the-record responses must go through you. I’ve contacted many BLM staffers since then, but received no official statements.  A partial list:
1/23/14: E-mail to Tom Gorey, introducing project, asking for interview; he said he’d have to check with wild horse and burro staff.
2/3/14: E-mail to Gorey seeking update
2/4/14: E-mail from Gorey indicating response is in the works; e-mail from Jeff Krauss asking for questions in writing and “don’t hesitate to call” invitation
2/11/14: E-mail questions to Krauss
2/19/14: E-mail requesting update from Krauss
2/24/14: Melissa Farlow, photojournalist working on the project, contacts Krauss since they’ve worked together in past.  Krauss responds quickly but with no answers.
3/19/14: E-mail to Krauss requesting follow-up to written questions
4/11/14: E-mail and phone requests to Gorey and Krauss repeating offer to let them cherry-pick the questions they wish to answer.
4/25/14: Phone calls to former BLM staffers to ask about possible sources of information are met with enthusiasm. They, too, are told no current staffers are authorized to speak.
5/5/14: Phone and e-mail to Jeff Fontana, BLM California, and Lisa Reid, BLM Utah. Neither receives authorization to answer questions.  
5/5/14: Gorey e-mails that he will respond to my voicemail request for update, copies Krauss. No answers. Last contact with Gorey and Krauss
6/3-4/14: After phone conversations, Debbie Collins asks for a brief history of e-mail exchanges with BLM staff and list of questions. These are supplied. Last contact with Collins.
6/4/14:  Fontana e-mails positive BLM news story from 2006. Last contact. 
 My publisher has pushed back Wild at Heart’s  due date to give BLM more time to respond, but we’ve bent as far as we can. If I hear nothing by Aug. 1, 2014, we’ll reluctantly publish without comments from your agency.
Terri Farley

CC: Neil Kornze, Director of BLM 

Before Wild At Heart, I'd had a conflicted but cordial relationship with BLM staffers, but now it's routine for government agencies to spurn or stonewall the press and public.
That's not safe. 
Attention must be paid, even if what you hear is silence.  

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