Our supporters are increasingly upset by the flood of letters from politicians in the West calling for a repeat of the past, large scale removals of wild horses from public land. The most recent letter came from Governor Sandoval of Nevada asking for relaxed restrictions to livestock producers and removals of wild horses. To our supporters, we heard you.
(Reno, NV) Today Wild Horse Education (WHE), a Nevada based wild horse advocacy organization, sent a letter to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Division Chief, Dean Bolstad, in the National office asking that they deny a request for funds for large scale removals in the state and instead require the state to immediately implement data collection and aggressive use of temporary fertility control.
In recent days every political figure from the Nevada Governor’s office to Congressional Representatives have sent letters demanding wild horses be removed, but livestock restrictions from the drought be lifted. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Nevada State Director John Ruhs has asked the National office for emergency funding to complete broad scale removals of wild horses. Ruhs made that request after writing a letter to livestock permittees claiming they would need to reduce livestock grazing, citing degraded rangeland health due to livestock and wild horses in Elko county, Nevada. No county wide official restrictions or closures to livestock have been implemented since the letter was written.
Over the last four years political figureheads representing Nevada’s livestock interests have repeatedly denied the drought ever existed, when it came to livestock restrictions. These same politicians sent letters, and supported efforts, that repeatedly thwarted any attempt to restrict livestock during the drought. Livestock use of public land was never restricted as it should have been during the last four years due to pressure on the BLM from political figureheads. The same politicians even put pressure on BLM to reduce fines for ranchers that ignored restrictions and ran illegally, or in trespass. Our western rangelands suffered as a consequence.
The historic scapegoat for poor range management has always been the wild horse. Wild horses are a legally designated resource, not a permitted use for profit. The agency has repeatedly failed to make that distinction as they allocate more than 80% of available forage to private profiteers. The “remove and stockpile” management of wild horses to satisfy livestock producers has led to tragic consequence for the wild horse and to our rangeland.
In 2013 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) failed the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program across the board. The report essentially stated that BLM has no data to justify any decision making process. Additionally the report cited that large scale removals of wild horses increase reproductive rates rendering the program fiscally insolvent. The NAS recommended the use of temporary fertility control and aggressive data collection to appropriately manage wild horses. ZonaStatH, or PZP, has been used on Assateague Island successfully since 1988.
Since 2012 the state of Nevada, and our entire western landscape, has experienced drought. Livestock producers that found themselves subject to restrictions not only could apply for government relief but created tension throughout the state that even included threats of violence. The livestock industry on public land has cost the American taxpayer over 1 billion dollars just in the last decade alone according to a study done by the Center for Biological Diversity. The study does not cover the continued cost as healthy rangeland is fast becoming a myth. Congress continues to allow grazing permits to be renewed without rangeland health assessments.
In fiscal 2015 the BLM treated 400 wild horses with the PZP vaccine. In fiscal 2016 the number rose to an expected 496 nationwide. About 25% of all the wild horses treated with the vaccine in 2015 were in an area called Fish Creek in Nevada. Livestock interests filed legal action to stop the release of treated horses. The legal action failed, yet the program was shut down presumably because of politics. The State of Nevada manages more wild horses than all other states combined yet currently has no ongoing use of fertility control. (The state has one program that it calls a “pilot” study using a GnRH inhibitor, GonaCon, on a herd of less than 40 animals).
“Instead of managing our rangeland and resources according to any pretense of science we manage them according to politics,” said Laura Leigh, Founder of WHE, “Nevada is the only state in the West without any ongoing use of a proven fertility control vaccine, PZP. You have to begin to wonder if the volatility is a choice, not an accident.”
“Doing the same thing over and over again is the definition of insanity, and the exchange of letters from politicians and BLM figureheads fits that description,” Leigh continued. “This fall we could literally treat thousands of wild horses with fertility control and begin a data base for actual management. We need leadership that can carry us into a better tomorrow, not perpetuate the past.”
“BLM wonders why the public does not trust them? Maybe it is because a child could see just how crazy this is. We can not keep repeating the cycles of the past.”
The letter sent by WHE to BLM national accompanies a letter urging BLM to begin to use temporary fertility control to manage wild horses and gather data to manage our rangelands effectively signed by wild horse advocacy groups nationwide.
Nationwide wild horses only legally exist on 12% of public land.
Nevada manages more wild horses than all other states combined. Livestock in Nevada is managed on 45 million acres of public land while wild horses are restricted to 14 million acres.
Center For Biological Diversity study on the cost of Livestock https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2015/grazing-01-28-2015.html
Wild Horse Education http://WildHorseEducation.org
We MUST find a better way.
TEXT of letter to Dean Bolstad, WHB Division Chief
Dean Bolstad, Acting Division Chief
Division of Wild Horses and Burros
20 M Street, S.E.
Washington, DC 20003
May 31, 2016
Dear Mr Bolstad,
We are writing to you deeply concerned over the recent flurry of correspondence between the Nevada State Office Director John Ruhs and multiple political figures representing the livestock interests in the state. These letters target wild horses, yet do not address the previous deficits in public land management. It is more than alarming that historic practices of politics are being sent to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a belligerent challenge to continue to erode the already volatile human environment.
We are all painfully aware of the deficits in the multiple agency programs. It is offensive that a new public relations tagline of a “billion dollar problem” has been added to the wild horses in a purely hypothetical projection into the future when the livestock industry has already cost the tax payer in excess of a billion dollars in the last decade alone. A sense of integrity and perspective is clearly lacking.
In 2013 the National Academy of Sciences report urged broad scale temporary fertility control and data collection to address multiple deficits in the wild horse program. The state of Nevada is the only state that has not a single ongoing program utilizing ZonaStatH or PZP. The largest fertility control program in the nation at Fish Creek (nearly 25% of all horses treated nationwide in fiscal 2015) has been essentially shut down. The program is not shut down because of a legal win. To the contrary the IBLA ruled that BLM has the authority to carry out the program. The flagrant disregard for the Code of Federal Regulations by the permittee has gone unaddressed. The program was halted because of political reasons, not for any logical or legal one.
Multiple Herd Management Areas (HMA) in Nevada are candidates for the use of fertility control and others have subset populations that could be treated. No mandate has come from the state office to utilize this inexpensive method to gather data and control population growth. Inaction because of politics is simply not acceptable.
It is even more disconcerting that this same political gamesmanship was utilized to subvert valid restrictions to livestock during drought. Political figures put pressure on the state office to overide closures that were held up under legal scrutiny. Willful trespass grazing was minimized and fines reduced further eroding the political climate. Documented violations of multiple aspects of the Code of Federal Regulations by a trespass permittee, in the very same area that fertility control of wild horses has been suspended, have been swept under the rug.
Instead of proactive action we simply see request for funds to do large scale removals of wild horses in the state? We know large scale removals will increase reproduction and push the program further into insolvency. Surrendering to the barrage of outdated demands will keep the program stuck in the same cycle that created the issues.
We beg you to deny funds for large scale removals, in all but emergency situations, and mandate that the state of Nevada become proactive in its approach to managing wild horses and the rangeland they depend on. We ask you to demand that every district in the state have at least three (3) areas identified for ongoing use of PZP, and implementation begun, by the beginning of the next fiscal year.
If BLM were proactive we could have thousands of wild horses treated in this state by fall. We could begin to control population growth and limit extremely expensive removals to numbers more suitable for adoption.
As always Wild Horse Education stands ready to assist in any way possible to gather the data as we control population growth.
Laura Leigh, Founder
Representing members of Wild Horse Education
Footnote from Leigh:
I have witnessed more wild horses removed from the range in the last 6 years than any other observer, public or government. I have seen tens of thousands removed by helicopter roundup that disappear into a system of government funded holding facilities with my own eyes. These facilities offer precious few the hope that they will be adopted and go to good homes. The vast majority disappear from public view and land on the tax payer tab. (WHE has the largest single documented record of wild horse removals that exists in the world over the last 6 years. It is not something that anyone should ever document again).
I document range conditions and have been working diligently to address escalating issues that have reached a crisis point. Those issues revolve around drought and overgrazing by domestic livestock. The issues of degraded range land are not “blame the horse.” If they were we would have healthy range where we have no wild horses and we do not. The process to address this long standing disease in outdated management is painfully slow.
Our wild horses and burros must be managed humanely and integral to the landscape. That statement is a legal fact. Utilizing fertility control as a tool is humane and keeps wild horses on the range and integral to the landscape. ZonaStat is reversible and when utilized in conjunction with a strong, vigorous data collection component is a safe, smart tool to achieve a basis to create real equitable management.
Categories: Wild Horse Education