(Please note that this article was written because multiple ant-horse factions were not reading anything we wrote, but attacking us as not credible. We simply repeated things said in previous articles and condensed it here for “simple access” hoping they would actually READ. They finally read what we have been saying prior. Although they claim a change in what we are presenting because of their badgering through social media, you can access our prior writings by simply searching “Sheldon” in the search box to see all we are doing is repeating ourselves).
Sheldon mustangs and burros are being removed from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is not managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), but is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). USFWS is a branch of the Department of Interior (DOI) just like BLM. However these horses and burros are not protected under the act (1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act).
This has led to difficulty in gaining appropriate public action toward advocating for them to stay free on the refuge and in placement of Sheldon mustangs and burros after they are removed from the range.
Administrative processes are required by the USFWS to perform any action on the refuge. The refuge is federal land just like BLM and the processes of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) apply.
Most people are familiar with “comment” forms and letters being required on BLM Environmental Assessments (EA) for wild horse or burro roundups, but most people are not aware that the terms under which an EA is “in compliance” come from a land use plan. In BLM “speak” that land use plan is called an “RMP,” or Resource Management Plan.” Think of an RMP like the frame of a house and an EA like the walls. You can not hang a wall where there is no frame. (There are some new RMPs coming that will need significant public input in the near future and we will alert you at that time, we are engaged pre-RMP to attempt to create an appropriate frame for management options. RMP’s stand for at least a decade and cover every aspect of land management).
USFWS has a similar process but the resulting document is called a Comprehensive Conservation Plan or “CCP.” It is within the pages of the CCP that the plan to remove all wild horses and burros was “approved.” USFWS began that process back in 2008 (or perhaps before). In finalizing the CCP in 2012 (it was due in 2010, but was “late”) the refuge said there was not significant enough public interest to keep wild horses or burros on the range in any form. The historic significance of these herds (that are well documented cavalry remounts) was not a factor in determining their removal (the horses were there for more than a century prior to the creation of Sheldon). This plan was intended years ago, this is NOT a drought emergency operation.
Sheldon feels the horses and burros play no significant part in the value of their mission, period. Even though we have a herd of long horn cattle protected on a refuge in another state because of their historic significance, the horses and burros do not “rate” that consideration in Sheldon.
At present once again Sheldon is caught in the dust of the cloud of confusion. Multiple social media and public statements are perpetuating inaccuracies and fueling arguments. The Sheldon mustangs are not being removed because they are starving on the range. They are not being removed because of emergency due to drought. They are not being removed because of over population. They are not being removed because of domestic livestock (Sheldon has no livestock permits in almost two decades).
Sheldon mustangs and burros are being removed because the “mission” of Sheldon is to manage an antelope sanctuary. Sheldon is literally a “hunters paradise.” Pronghorn, bighorn and sage grouse can be found. In fact you can get a permit this year to hunt sage grouse (you know the little “chicken” causing all the ruckus across the west because so many interests are fighting hard NOT to have it listed on the Endangered Species Act because it would inhibit other uses of public land). The eco-system in Sheldon is literally the last intact example of a Great Basin eco-system.
Sheldon is an extreme example of how a public that cares MUST engage process appropriately. Letters to the BLM about Sheldon were sent many times by those that wanted horses to stay in the refuge. An advocacy that is focused on BLM (and rightly so because BLM manages more wild horses and burros than all other jurisdictions combined) often failed to engage the process. Sheldon stands as a lesson to us all about the urgent need to educate the public to the “who, what, where and when” more effectively.
Many areas of Sheldon are brown and we have diminished growth of plant species because we are in the third year of drought. The current range conditions are not because of the horses. (Also please remember the new Ruby Pipeline pumping station lies directly to the south; right at the border of the BLM Calico Complex and Sheldon).
So next year when the cycle shifts and we get rain, the change in the range will not be because the horses are gone.
Right now (8/12/2014) this removal has taken 275 wild horses. Sheldon made claim there were 480 still left within their boundaries. Roundup contract survey flights indicate there may be another hundred, but not in any significant pockets, but “stragglers” left. A removal operation is taking place today at the last place where pockets of horses and burros have been noted.
This is significantly less than anticipated. Right now that is a “good thing” as we head into the “post removal” phase and try to land these horses safe outside the “system.”
This leads us now into the second “cloud of confusion” that engulfs the wild horses and burros of Sheldon; What happens AFTER removal? Stay tuned for “part two” later today that will cover the infrastructure around contracts and where YOU can adopt a sheldon mustang or burro.
Wild Horse Education is devoted to gaining protections for wild horses and burros from abuse, slaughter and extinction. Http://WildHorseEducation.org