Nevada Rancher Gets Bill For Livestock Trespass in Wild Horse Area
(EUREKA,NV) For the last four years Wild Horse Education has been active on the range. In the course of documenting impacts to wild horses managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from drought, we encountered areas where livestock permittees were pushing back against any restrictions.
In the Fish Creek Herd Management Area (HMA) we documented ongoing violations of permit parameters throughout 2014. We engaged in correspondence and discussion with BLM. Cattle were turned out in areas where livestock were not permitted and/or at times of year outside any permitted use. During drought these impacts were not only detrimental to the overall health of the range, but impacted wild horse behavior as tension grew at available water sources. Our documentation showed cattle camped out at water sources and salt blocks placed in these areas for livestock. (please note that wild horses legally occupy only 11% of public land and on average receive less than 16% of the available forage in those areas, the vast majority going to privately owned livestock).
BLM followed up with multiple field visits and correspondence with the rancher. Borba Land and Cattle LLC has been sent a Proposed Decision and Demand For Payment in the amount of $29,410.62. The Permittees response to previous correspondence was first to deny all trespass and then attempt to justify the trespass in the Antelope Valley and Eight Mile Seeding areas of the Fish Creek allotment.
If the permittee fails to make payment for willful trespass 43 CFR 4150.3 (e) states that violators shall not be authorized to make grazing on the public lands administered by the BLM.
“The documented trespass is not one of a short window where a few cattle may have evaded removal,” stated Laura Leigh, President of Wild Horse Education, “this permittee was found in trespass from April through almost the date of his next permitted turnout in November. It makes you wonder how widespread this type of conduct actually is. The BLM budget to keep eyes on the range is constantly hamstrung by Congress. Makes you wonder how those sitting in cushy offices think any accountability could even be a remote possibility, or if a lack of accountability is the actual objective?”
Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV) spearheaded a move to avoid the listing of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), “We have told them specifically that if they are holding all the private stakeholders to a standard (for habitat preservation) and they are ignoring it themselves,” he said. “The idea is to do the right thing by the resource so it doesn’t get listed,” Amodei said to the Las Vegas Review Journal in a recent article.
Katie Fite with Wild Lands Defense states, “The damage being done by cattle and sheep men to NV public land is shocking. They are the front men for all the profiteers trampling sage grouse habitat to dust. If Congressman Amodei wants to save sage grouse the number one mission should be reining in public land ranching greed and holding them accountable.”
“With permittees such as what we have documented ignoring the most basic of restrictions during a severe drought, can there be any credibility given to a plan that requires cooperation from stakeholders to protect the range?” said Leigh.
An active federal court action against wild horses sits awaiting a ruling for dismissal in Reno. The case was brought by livestock interests through the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) and the Nevada Farm Bureau. Wild Horse Education’s founder Leigh is an Intervenor in the case.
The “NACO” case is primarily focused on blaming BLM for inappropriate management of wild horses statewide. The suit asks for broad scale removals and even the destruction of wild horses in holding. Only one area is mentioned specifically in the suit, the Diamond Complex, where drought restrictions against livestock caused outrage among private interests and wild horses were blamed. “NACO” claims wild horse are destroying our western rangeland and cites a report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) saying BLM simply undercounts the wild horses.
The NAS study is a broad scale document that does not point to wild horses as a primary factor in range degradation. The report essentially says that BLM has no actual data to define excess wild horses on the range or manage them in any scientific fashion.
“We see the NACO suit as a desperate attempt at a resource grab,” said Leigh, “as drought and pending sage grouse restrictions loom large on the horizon the NACO case simply hits the little guy, wild horses, because the livestock industry has always been the bully on the range. If livestock is out when it should not be, and we can prove it, how can any attempt to make themselves look “good” be seen as credible? If the livestock industry as a whole can not appear to be ‘law abiding’ in issues involving wild horses how can there be any expectation that they will comply with larger restrictions from sage grouse?”
“The era of scapegoating must end if we are to ever see wild horses existing on healthy rangelands,” said Leigh.
A wild horse operation is scheduled later this winter in the Fish Creek HMA. That operation will remove a portion of the population and birth control treat and release a large segment of the remaining population. Leigh and her organization are urging BLM to create a strong “post op” plan to track the wild horses in the area to create a management plan that protects the historic components of the herd and the habitat they rely on.
We will continue to monitor our western ranges as wild horses and burros face multiple challenges to their continued protection from impending drought, sage grouse, extraction and livestock.
To help protect the wild horses of Fish Creek from retaliation (like we saw at Diamond) please sign our letter on the Draft EA for the planned winter removal here: http://wildhorseeducation.org/2014/12/24/fish-creek-hma-public-comments-due-january-23/
Help Keep “Boots on the Ground” to create accountability http://WildHorseEducation.org/donate We need your help to keep the work going.