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#post-truth BLM, Rearranging the Chairs on the Titanic (big picture)

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Recent removal in “sage grouse habitat.”

Post-truth (part 2)

We began our conversation on “post-truth” as advocates for wild horses and “the land they now stand” last week.

The publishers of the renowned Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press chose “post-truth” as its word of the year for 2016. Post-truth refers to the phenomenon of emotional appeal playing a more important role in the shaping of private and public opinion than demonstrable fact. In 2016 alone the use of the phrase increased by 2000 per cent in tracked print. The creation of the word, and it’s increase in use, began long before it was recognized as “word of the year” and placed in the dictionary.

What are the implications to advocating for a living species (wild horses and burros) in the complex physical and political environment?

Arguments are geared to create stronger emotion than the facts on which the arguments are based, if the argument is even based on fact. It is done with intention. The absurd is winning over simple fact. It creates an absurd world. READ MORE HERE: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2017/01/07/advocacy-in-a-post-truth-world/

We now continue the conversation by discussing management. The best phrase we could come up with to describe the landscape over the last four years is “rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.” In other words the pieces moving do nothing to change the outcome, and the outcome wont be a good one.

This piece is what we can reference as “vomiting through the keyboard.” We will clarify in future articles. We hope you bear with  us. WE are currently dealing with a temper tantrum left over from a recent roundup by someone the BLM can’t seem to control. More on that soon.

The chairs on the deck take many forms. But in this post-truth era some of them are not even chairs, but fabrications of chairs.

Let’s start simple.

BLM announces a roundup and puts out the paperwork to the public. Often the paperwork has holes. Sometimes those holes are large enough to drive a truck through and sometimes subtle. Sometimes the flaws in the paper trail are significant to the outcome and sometimes they are meaningless, simply sloppy.

An advocacy org files litigation. The litigation usually has multiple prongs, you have to pay all the fees anyway, and getting a “hit” from a judge on one prong could help move other arguments forward. Usually a press release, or public disclosure of the litigation, will make an assertion to one prong that is over simplified.

A favorable ruling on an underlying flaw in paperwork will have a “follow up” that includes a new post-truth, a belief that the organization won against whatever they asserted in a press release, not what they actually won on.

The flaw in the paperwork are addressed by the BLM and then the action moves forward. The public either does not connect the dots back to the org that made the claim and ask “huh?” or they simply feel “nothing works.”

But all that happened was a “rearranging,” or rework of the image of the operation and the paperwork. The reality from the horses perspective didn’t change.

That’s because the rearranging of the chairs did nothing to effect the outcome, no matter how much press it received or how many donations it generated. Another tragic by product is that the subject in the press release, on a case that won a judgement on a completely different prong, leads to a belief that the assertion by the organization is the real one.

A good example is the Pine Nut “legal action against fertility control.” That case won on a flaw in the paperwork. The EA outlined an operation that was smaller than the planned action. The win was against something referenced as “scope and intensity,” it had absolutely nothing to do with a “win against fertility control.”

How many of you believe that efforts to spay wild horses were completely stopped in litigation? There is a brand new EA on a Pershing county Nevada Complex that has spaying in two of the considered alternatives. Pershing county? that is another story about litigation entered, but the outcome never publicized, because it ended in a settlement where the horses county wide would be targeted the following year.

The only way to cut through all of this is to not only read the complaints that get filed but the responses and then the judgements. But how many people have that kind of time or access to filings?

So now let’s make it complicated.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a regulatory agency. Laws build a blueprint (often vague and with a lot of wiggle room). These trickle down from DC to state then district and finally field office. But when you talk to someone in DC they have the ability quickly remove themselves from any action in the field office, “I don’t have anything to do with actions on the ground.” At the same time at the field level you get, “My hands are tied by DC.” If you ever have the absolute audacity to include field, state and DC in one email chain? Depending on how twisted your sense of humor is, deciphering the chain of command is like listening to Abbot and Costello discussing “Who’s on First?”

Add to that the layers of national and local political agendas? You need to have the mental reflexes of a nuclear physicist, a soap opera writer and a professional video gamer rolled into one. Or maybe you just have to be a “simple man?” The moment people fall into the “you need to understand” lingo, when they know darn well you do understand and that is creating a problem for them? You lose interest in excuses because all you see is right and wrong.

Let’s look at “sage grouse.”

Over the last few years land use planning has gone through major revamping through sage grouse. “List or not to list?” is actually still the name of this game regardless of how many “Final Decisions” get signed on the various desks of bureaucrats up and down the food chain. The chairs on the deck of the Titanic simply get arranged and rearranged.

This entire “plan” is set in motion to avoid the listing of the Greater Sage Grouse under the parameters of the current Endangered Species Act (ESA). This would essentially have the effect that the Spotted Owl had on the Pacific Northwest; regulation, limitations or cessation for industry. After the signing in DC in 2015 “to not list” the plan will go through reevaluation in 2020 and we will have the “list/don’t list” conversation again, that is if we even have an Endangered Species List in five years. Just at least peek … https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/09/22/fewer-than-500000-sage-grouse-are-left-the-obama-administration-says-they-dont-merit-federal-protection/?utm_term=.b75cfcc69162

Simplistically the language of the game is “avoid any restrictions to profit driven interest while we make a new game out of the pretense of preserving the environment.” Or “How many areas can we destroy while we placate environmentalists with as small an effort as we can possibly make.” Or “Let’s try to make this about jobs for the little guy and our environment is simply a necessary casualty.”

YET this 2.0 creates some restrictions and a plan to engage stake holders. EVEN these minimal restrictions are resented! (EDITED TO ADD: since the writing of this piece legislation has been introduced to remove 2.0 . That is how much these minimal restrictions are resented. Removing 2.0 essentially is like taking the “finger out of the dyke.” 2.0 falls and the end comes through for all that lives and breathes on public land! https://wildhorseeducation.org/2017/02/19/actionderangedwar-tools-strategies-and-tactics-factweek-part-one/)

Who suffers the most if the environment falters? It’s the guy that can’t afford the great health plan, bottled water or to move out of town. That worker might have had a couple of great summers laying a pipeline, but he’s out of work when that job is done. Yet the “2%’s” are raking it in.

Big interests ruled the table during the initial phases of restructuring. As the “trickle down” to individual states occurred the larger political players ruled that table. No “little guy” or environmentalist was running any of these “gaming tables” no matter what the politician, BLM official or media guy tells you. (WHE even tried to get a SIMPLE conversation about the flawed language for wild horses. The old paradigm that simply represents flawed variables, pointed out by the National Academy of Sciences almost four years ago, is simply inserted. We were given a chain of command to follow and that chain was too busy on trips paid for by livestock to ever talk to us. Decision finalized without a thought to the necessity of including all voices in conversation, the “little guy” was sent to the realm of a tomorrow that never came).

We have “Final Decisions” signed. Then the players start removing millions of acres from any “protection” to suit mining and other interests. There are too many maneuvers to list here. BUT the plan is still resented!

In practice? We see mining running full force and spreading as fast as ever. We see the same cows out (many skinny this winter) in the same areas as always.

Takeover of public land

In one single day of the new Congress, one day, the pathway to takeover of public land by profit driven interests was streamlined. No cash, no comment and what was once public can now be private. Not kidding.

We have watched as every environmental group, hunting club and even ATV users write about it. Wild horse advocacy? Haven’t seen anything yet.Here’s an action alert on the Trout Unlimited blog http://www.tu.org/blog-posts/it-only-took-one-day

In every Western State politicians are adding bill after bill into the game designating more and more of your public land for this transfer pipeline. State’s wont manage it, they don’t have the infrastructure to do it. States sell it off to the highest bidder or simply a member of the “good old boy” network.

Why should you care?

Wild horses are only protected on federal land. Horses managed on state land (like in Nevada) go to slaughter. They are not protected no matter what misleading press release you might have read or how big your donation was to the organization that sent it to you.

States want the resumption of mustanging, the sale of wild horses to the kill buyer for profit. You remember right? The 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was created to give the federal government jurisdiction… to stop mustanging. That Act has been resented since it was passed.

The federal government controlling public resource like mineral, grassland and wild horses? Profit driven enterprise resents regulation.

Endangered Species Act in Danger

In Western states the drought had certain lawmakers asking that the Act be suspended, to stop regulation. http://www.npr.org/2015/06/15/414616299/endangered-species-protections-at-center-of-drought-debate

Right now State’s Right headmen like Rob Bishop (Utah, R) want the ESA completely gone, simply gone. THIS IS A MUST READ http://www.cortezjournal.com/article/20170104/NEWS01/170109940/0/FRONTPAGE/House-Republicans-want-to-repeal-the-ESA

From the above link: In 2015, for instance, the Fish and Wildlife Service decided that the greater sage grouse, with habitat across millions of acres in the West, didn’t need to be listed, in part due to voluntary conservation efforts at the state and local level. 

Those voluntary conservation efforts? A handful of them represent what could be called “fair effort.” The vast majority of them are gamesmanship with one of the new “big” words, “collaboration,” thrown like a carpet to hide the dirt.

The “collaborative”processes even include studies that say livestock benefits western sage brush ecosystems. Over one hundred years of documentation that demonstrate that domestic livestock are the single most destructive force of surface habitat are simply ignored. One of these studies was done by a man whose lectures to students include such wonderful one liners as “Do little, talk a lot and make money.”

Essentially one of these pieces makes the assertion that cows are good for sage grouse habitat and wild horses are bad. For DECADES wild horse advocates have been trying to get a piece of information into the management cycle; wild horses evolved in the ecosystem and the fact that they are a non-ruminant (single stomach) is designed to benefit and perpetuate a healthy environment. When native grasses go to seed and a horse eats it? A little “mulch pod” envelopes the seed and hold moisture to it. No one EVER wanted to recognize that fact brought to the table by the “little guy.” NOW? that fact is being recognized but in a NEGATIVE. Because our ranges have been bashed so badly by things like European cattle that have absolutely no genetic claim to this continent and we have invasive grasses everywhere we can, one more time, blame the horse. “Remove them so we don’t spread the stuff the bad thing (cows) created.” (Add to that the recent GAO report about trespass livestock grazing? oh yeah, collaboration at work).

Simplistic terms; we are rewarding the kids that vandalized the house and are punishing the kid that didn’t. We will discuss this in more detail soon with photos and video. We wish we had “smell-a-vision” when we get to the distinction of horses and cows n the range. Think about water quality with a ruminant (cow or sheep) that poops in the water? Think about a non ruminant near water?

Now if we remove all the smoke and mirrors, and words that appear to have no meaning unless you are a person raping the resource like “collaboration” does, what are we left with?

Rearranged chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

Wild horses are a resource, not a use. The voices that represent resources are not heard. The few times they are? Everybody goes off the rails!

Recently a District Manager in Nevada during a contentious roundup said to us, “The livestock industry doesn’t feel like we hear their voice.”

This was said to a wild horse advocate that spent 4.5 years in court to gain access to roundups and the manager’s people were denying any meaningful access. This was said to a wild horse advocate that spent years and held countless court wins against inappropriate treatment at roundups. This was said to a wild horse advocate that had multiple agreements on access, care and processes of management in the “spirit of collaboration.” This was said to a wild horse advocate that wanted simple definitions added to terminology used in sage grouse and was ignored while she witnessed BLM personnel practically genuflect to the livestock industry.

At the roundup it is SIMPLE. We fought for a humane handling policy and access and we WON. The policy requires access to engage process.

Excuse us… what voice is not being heard? If we follow the road map set by the “ruminant” trail access and humane care will only become a mainline item when we have pushed the horses into distress. Then access to witness won’t be an issue so we can say “look at all the starving horses, we are doing this for their own good.”

This boat will sink. In 4 years, the next evaluation on sage grouse, will be a rearranging of chairs to attempt to present a different picture on a scale we have never seen before.

Unfortunately the first chair to be moved (or removed) will be wild horses. Under sage grouse the easiest thing to “check a box” is the removal of wild horses… in the old broken paradigm as we ignore the heart of the NAS report (information) so we can keep horses as a placation tool, not a protected resource.

Will any of that matter if the federal government no longer manages the land?

We can see the news release coming off the desk of NV Congressmen like Mark Amodei now… “Applaud me because I created new jobs, Mustangers  needed to clear the land before we sell it to the mine.”

Titanic sunk.

Main website: http://WildHorseEducation.org

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We will be announcing our webinar classroom series for advocates soon. There are things we can do. We will teach you how.