James Leachman is a cattle rancher and horse breeder. He went delinquent on his $2.4 million debt to the U.S. Farmers Home Association and in 2009 two of his three ranches were to be auctioned off to pay off his debt. In July 2009, James Leachman filed Chapter 12 bankruptcy within 90 minutes of the auction. This was James’ last resort in the hopes to save his ranches and businesses. Mr. Leachman’s businesses were in bad shape and with owing over 40 creditors everything was falling apart. Then in July 2010 during a Federal foreclosure sale, Leachman lost his seven-year fight to save his land. His two ranches were sold off for almost $3.2 million but if he can come up with the money within one year he can once again retain the rights to his land. Now almost a year later, the situation is only getting worse.
Some of Mr. Leachman’s auctioned land is up against the Crow Tribe’s land. At the time, the Crow Tribe allowed Mr. Leachman to lease some land for grazing his cattle and horses. Now with the selling of his land, Mr. Leachman had 14 days to get control of his horses and sell them or get them off the land. Right before selling them he decided not to due to the economy. These horses are now roaming onto the Tribal territories and destroying it in search of food. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Land Services has posted a notice that they will start to impound the horses they find. This is basically a federal code violation with these horses. The code reads that if any animal is found on tribal lands, after being investigated, will be held for five days for the owners to re-claim or the animal can be auctioned off. This means that Mr. Leachman, once cited, will only have five days to re-claim his herd of horses or they will be sold. There are estimated 500-800 horses that are roaming right now.
When this case was being investigated back in December 2010, it was found that seven horses were found in near-death conditions to where four had to be shot on site by the recommendation of veterinarian Jeff Peila of Shepherd. Due to these conditions, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Department filed horse neglect charges against him. Leachman’s jury trial is scheduled for June 3rd for animal cruelty to which he pled not guilty. Everyone was getting involved to help with the rescue efforts of feeding and tending to the horses. Some were in such remote areas that the hay was being dropped by helicopter. This is an expensive way to feed them but the only way for some of them to get food especially in the winter time. There is plenty of water for them as there are creeks and ponds but it is just the food supply they are in great need of. Most of the horses are realizing there are feeding stations and the ones that were in remote areas are now coming in towards the feeding areas. This is helping to not only feed them but monitor their health. They have called this saving grace “Operation Home Place” since Leachman’s main ranch was named Home Place.
Since the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) stated the horses as of March 1st were considered trespassing, it was deemed they would be available for sale. The Crow Tribe had over 50 horsemen helping in the gathering of these horses this past Monday and it went as planned. The horses were corralled into pens and are being guarded so no one tries to steal them. The BIA is paying the tribe $45,000 to aid in the costs to round them up and also to feed them until they can be sold. The Northern International Livestock Exposition has collected about 500 tons of hay that was donated and more than $55,000 to aid in the feeding of the horses for the past two months. The condition of the horses has improved as Jeff Peila, the veterinarian, as he only had to tend to one mare that had an abscess on her hoof. The sale of the horses will take place as soon as they are all assessed, labeled and healthy enough. The money raised for the sale will go towards any damage they may have caused while roaming and for the cost of the roundup.
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