Wild Horse Education

Sage Grouse Rebellion (What it is and what is coming)

Currently living free in Nevada

Currently living free in Nevada

UPDATE 2016: NV has now finalized it’s “sage grouse plans.” The NAS review has still not generated formal recommendations and the old paradigm of broken management for wild horses moves forward.

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 22: The Sage Grouse will NOT be listed on the Endangered Species Act, announced this morning. The multimillion dollar federal plan has been approved. The plan will create restrictions for mining and livestock. HOWEVER mechanisms are already built into the plan that will benefit industry. Both environmentalists and industry are unhappy and we will likely see massive litigation. For our wild horses? The time for site specific data has NEVER been more crucial. We must be ready to defend every blade of grass, water source and foot of ground our wild horses need to survive. (ABC story here: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/us-rejects-protections-greater-sage-grouse-west-33942768)

Please read this article and help us stay in this fight!

Do you care about wild horses and burros? Of course you do or you would not be reading our website. How many times have you heard the term “integral to the landscape” being tossed around in social media as a tag line of sorts to justify wild  horses on the range. Yet there appears to be a failure to understand the very landscape wild horses are integral too.

When we are talking “wild horses” we are talking “free roaming” horses and burros on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service (USFS) lands. Horses and burros that live in other jurisdictions like state or National Parks are not given that designation under law. The 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act created a legal designation for management as “wild” and “”integral to the landscape.” (Please note that the BLM manages more horses and burros on public land than all other jurisdictions combined. The state of Nevada contains more wild horses than all other states combined).

In many advocacy organizations we often see conflicting messaging. There is a “message” that wild horses should not be touched and are “wild animals,” yet at the same time they want them fed hay on the range as a “management” practice. This is a bit “crazy making” when you are trying to engage land use planning that creates the frame of management and all you encounter are glazed eyes when you deal with this type of mainstream messaging head on.

These conflicts in advocacy are directly related to failed management practices. If wild horses had been managed on the range, as outlined by the law, these conflicts would be minimal. For years and years the only “management tool” were extensive roundups that operated without a humane handling policy. Attempts to create such a policy were met with stonewalling and litigation (that we engaged with vigor). Any attempt to point out failed range data was met with “The advocates mean well but know nothing,” until the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report confirmed every flaw. Failures to address those flaws (over decades) has lead to wild horses suffering on badly managed rangeland and the public wanting, rightly, starving animals (of any species) to be fed.

Matters involving wild horse and burro management are diverse. Holding facilities that have no shade or national infectious disease protocol compete for attention with massive denuding of rangeland by livestock. The version of a welfare policy that was finally incorporated into contracts for roundups has still not been released to public view. Federal policy and protocol is complex and slow to act.

This leaves many advocates throwing up their hands in frustration and feeling “Why can’t the government just do the right thing!” Because there are so many layers to the government that “the right thing” simply gets corrupted in process by pressure from competing interests. As an advocacy it is our job to battle that corruption. (PLEASE take this “one call a week” challenge at the bottom of this post: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2015/09/12/state-of-disunion-wild-horses-and-a-call-to-action-part-1/)

The NAS report that was completed in 2013 is still not an “on the ground” factor in addressing flawed data components. In areas where the report was actually considered in creating a management strategy like Fish Creek, we see massive pushback from the livestock community as they attempt to cling to a monopoly over controlling the actions of federal agencies. Those efforts are simply an offshoot of a greater agenda outlined by the “Grass March” where livestock interests began a campaign of intimidation against a district that dared to restrict their ability to pound the range to dust during drought. (We have been writing about the Grass March since it began. You can read here: https://wildhorseeducation.org/?s=grass+march)

The factors outlined in the NAS report are a vital component to keeping wild horses and burros “at the table” in the most massive change coming to western range management possibly ever seen, the “Sage Grouse.” It is a tragedy of epic proportions that the agency in charge of appropriate management of wild horses did not go into high gear and mandate the NAS recommendations immediately. The tragedy is further compounded by the fact that many advocates (and so called “leaders” of organizations) do not know what is in the full report and have no understanding of the magnitude of the sage grouse. (articles on the NAS report https://wildhorseeducation.org/?s=nas)

What we are noticing is that many do not understand that the “BLM plans” are not a listing of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. The “BLM plans” are an attempt to not list the bird. By September 30th of this year the US Fish and Wildlife Service will review the BLM documents to determine if it contains enough muscle to avoid listing, if it does not, the bird will be listed.

As our federal government spent millions to create the FEIS, and is allocating millions and millions toward habitat protections, political maneuvers have been rampant to influence the document itself and where those funds will go. Vast mining interests, that could face a three mile operation buffer if the bird gets listed, have been very active. Livestock interests have increased intimidation tactics to keep a priority seat and have engaged in a massive campaign to utilize “sage grouse funds” to create more “cow chow” on the range.

Perhaps the simplest way to show how broad sweeping this will be in practice is to show you some maps.

NV Map showing defined sage grouse habitat

NV Map showing defined sage grouse habitat

BLM HMA map showing wild horse herd management areas

BLM HMA map showing wild horse herd management areas

Now that we have pulled out the maps this next map is a vital map for you to be aware of.

PEER map showing failures of the livestock industry to maintain rangeland health

PEER map showing failures of the livestock industry to maintain rangeland health

BEEF USA lauds a $211 million dollar “initiative” in partnership under the sage grouse planning 2,0. The article is worth reading just for the quote in the last paragraph, “The Endangered Species Act is outdated and has proven itself ineffective,” says NCBA President Philip Ellis, who ranches in Wyoming.

Many of you remember the tours given last year by Department of Interior Secretary Jewell and BLM Deputy Director, Steve Ellis. They praised the livestock industry to stop the listing of the bi-state subspecies of the sage grouse. Article from BEEF USA http://beefmagazine.com/environment/california-nevada-ranchers-win-esa-decision-sage-grouse

We called it “political pandering in an election year.” We were present at one of the meetings and wild horses appeared to be simply a “bonding moment” where all the other interests could agree that wild horses, was one interest they really had no interest in, other than getting off the resource. Steve Ellis even said to us that he was pushing “spay and neuter” because that was something the public understands. We responded appropriately and said that if he wants to move that “illegal concept forward he will unite the advocacy and face litigation.”

Many wild horse advocates have not paid much attention to the “Argenta” livestock controversy. This is the area that all of our writing on the “Grass March” centered around. There are no wild horses in Argenta but the process speaks volumes and directly impacts management practices in wild horse HMAs where livestock is present. We can only describe events as a political move to placate livestock interests to move the sage grouse plans forward without litigation from livestock. We also see this as bending to bully tactics and solidifying risks much greater than litigation as we have seen in the multiple threats that come from livestock that would endanger human life.

We wrote extensively on the Grass March campaign to oust BLM District Manager Doug Furtado for daring to restrict livestock use. We wrote extensively about other agendas of the Grass March that include a resumption of horse slaughter. https://wildhorseeducation.org/?s=grass+march

This summer we watched as threats of trespass, actual trespass and litigation by livestock were met with BLM sending in the National Riparian Services Team. Settlements were reached and livestock went out. We have watched as the rangeland is hammered once again. Interested parties were cut out of monitoring efforts, like Katie Fite now of WildLands Defense. We are waiting to see if BLM will take any action on the eve of the sage grouse “rebellion.”

PEER released an interactive map showing where livestock rangeland health standards are tracked. When you look at this map, (and all the other maps), read the FEIS, become aware of all of the politic factions and efforts like the Governor of NV meeting with the President you can begin to comprehend the magnitude of the impossibility of accountability.

When we take all of this back to the conversation of managing wild horses on public land we cringe. At Fish Creek we have one herd management area. We have one plan based on the best scientific recommendations. We have political maneuvering on an epic scale by livestock (that included a campaign against Wild Horse Education and founder Laura Leigh). We have a situation where BLM allowed the escalation and placated those involved in multiple apparent violations of the codes of federal regulations and placed those that engage process lawfully in harms way. (dealing to sign our action letter is Wed. Sept 16th https://wildhorseeducation.org/2015/08/19/human-safety-placed-in-jeopardy-take-action/)

We stand on the verge of the greatest storm to hit public land management in our western states while wild horses (and wild horse advocates) are seemingly a mere annoying footnote.

We view all efforts to placate livestock as ineffective and worthless. Threats are coming to litigate against the document by NV counties. Litigation will cause the bird to be listed. Livestock interests have repeatedly demonstrated that if you “give them an inch they want it all.” What we see is that if the bird is listed or not, there will be a massive increase in tension from livestock, no matter how many rules are set aside.

As conversations in public center on the fact that BLM has still not addressed simplistic measures such as shade, pour $11 million into research to surgically and permanently sterilize wild horse populations where they still fail to have any basic data for appropriate management and the range continues to be pounded to dust, we face an arduous task to elevate the conversation. Management, on the range, of wild horses is about to change dramatically. As advocates you must look at those dark clouds on the horizon.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Action Alert: EXPIRED

You must understand that the “State’s Right” agenda is one where states want control over all resource. They want the ability to sell off federal land, get rid of any “restrictive” federal authority and a resumption of US horse slaughter is a “check box” on their list. No matter how much “flag waving” they do in no way do they recognize a basic premise of that flag, that “public” means all American’s and the wishes of all. YOUR VOTE matters!

Your help is needed desperately. https://wildhorseeducation.org/2015/09/12/state-of-disunion-wild-horses-and-a-call-to-action-part-1/

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Wild Horse Education remains devoted to gaining protections for wild horses and burros from abuse, slaughter and to gain fair and equitable management.

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Categories: Wild Horse Education