“Drought” has been the panic button in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse and burro program for the last two years. It is ironic that the BLM handbook does not consider drought an emergency situation because issues involving drought do not arise in an immediate fashion but develop over time. Yet in the wild horse and burro program drought issues are left unaddressed until “drought” can cause the same emotional response as the word “fire.”
As with all issues in the wild horse and burro program that create a crisis mode, not one of them exists in a vacuum. Currently with the lack of foresight, and failure to address multiple deficiencies in range management, too many animals have been taken from the range and we now face a serious crisis within the system of warehousing facilities utilized by the BLM. Short term facilities now brim over with horses that can literally spend years there because long term holding has run out of space. Since 2009 this broken BLM program has been run full steam to the tune of about 10,000 wild horses and burros being removed from the range every year. There is a lot of competition between Districts to get an operation onto the removal schedule , but crying “drought” is the term that can get you in the door like a password to a “Speak Easy” during prohibition.
Knowing the past history of the BLM, the agencies continued ability to omit the truth, twist and bend the rules, cater to private profiteers and fail to act proactively to address anything – the very real possibility exists that BLM will again include unjustified actions within their plans. As we saw last year at Jackson Mountain, BLM used the “drought” as an opportunity to broaden the scope of removal to include an entire HMA (without any scientific justification for the expanded scope). Yet even when court actions stopped BLM from moving forward with roundups during foaling season in an unjustified removal did we see BLM stop and think about the long term, big picture? Not for a second. Removals resumed as soon as BLM could undertake them, moving animals into an already over crowded system. These unjustified removals then inhibit other BLM Districts’ ability to be able to move forward in areas where removals to decrease pressure on ranges actually are required due to impaired range. But you must remember that the allotments in Jackson Mountain are used by powerful local families in that district and BLM often caves to local political pressure. Many animals from the Jackson Mountain removal still sit in the Palomino Valley Center (PVC) intake facility. PVC is now so overcrowded that animals removed from pending drought situations will be transported from the range, trucked out of state and “shoe horned” into whatever facility has a space. This process creates a situation where compromised animals will enter into general populations where the ability to monitor animals more susceptible to disease is practically non-existent.
The recent National Academy of Science (NAS) report which evaluated BLM wild horse and burro operations, highlights many areas where insufficient data, lack of foresight, and an absence of common sense have driven the BLM wild herd program into disaster. Yet on Wednesday when the new Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, was asked about the report during the House Natural Resource Committee hearing by Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ), she stated that the NAS report showed that the wild herds had excessive population growth, when in fact the report states that BLM was probably inflating population by their constant roundup pressure and that BLM’s statistics were not scientifically based and could not be relied upon. New leadership? No leadership there, just another puppet regurgitating that same old expected justification statement that has created the current crisis.
This type of lack of foresight that has driven the holding facility crisis, led to genetically bankrupt populations, decreased wild horse areas by millions of acres, and forced many areas on the range into a real crisis where horses may die in mass on the range. It is appalling that BLM still sits at the helm of the largest land management agency in the world. While livestock continue to exist on the range outnumbering wild horses by as many as 50 to 1.
It is an American Tragedy.
BLM just released the roundup schedule as of the writing of this article. Is it a coincidence that BLM claims that they can not do bait trapping because of lack of personnel in many areas VERY suitable to bait trapping… yet the areas under the scrutiny of the court to inhumane treatment ARE bait trap suitable and will be OFF LIMITS to public view? More coming soon.
Wild Horse Education (WHE) Assessment of ranges facing drought in BLM Battle Mountain District, Focus Tonopah West (Note: It is our hope to do ground assessments of every range if funding becomes available.)
Click Image Below to download pdf
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Categories: Wild Horse Education