Sunday August 5, 2018
Last week was another ride on the political roller coaster of public land management. Multiple bills, including spending bills, moved through Congress; some can maintain a status quo and some lose dangerous ground. Emergency removals with drought underpinnings are being added to the regular BLM schedule. Wildfires continue to rage as we just enter “wildfire season.” Mining and livestock use continue unabated and expand. Public land itself is in serious trouble.
Drought is being used as a serious propaganda tool to forward a number of peripheral agendas.
In 93 days the US will have it’s midterm elections. The Republican party took control of the House in 2014, control of the Senate since 2015. In the November election in 2016 one party won control over the Presidency, House and Senate. It is important that you look up your elected representatives and know their voting record on issues that matter to you. It is important that you know who is running against them and where they stand on issues that matter to you. This election may be one of the most important in US history for the survival of our natural environment, public lands and our wild horses. You can check a “scored rating” on environmental issues on the League of Conservation voters website by clicking your state: http://scorecard.lcv.org/
Last week the Senate voted on the “minibus” spending bill to avoid a government shutdown in October. That bill maintains the status quo against selling our wild horses to slaughter or shooting them outright. The bill protects against mass sterilization of wild horses. However the House bill contains language that will allow mass, unjustified, sterilization procedures on wild horses. The bill goes into committee for rectification. If you remember the timeline of last years Appropriations? Senate and House bills disagreed and needed rectification. We are at that same juncture this week.
Trying to speed up development (destruction) of our last wild places, last Tuesday this administration said it would no longer require oil drillers, miners and other industries to compensate for damage they cause to public lands. Our readers will remember that “planning 2.0,” the Greater Sage Grouse plans, was one of the first things to go under this current regime back in 2017. 2.0 had flaws, extreme flaws for wild horses as it ignored the National Academy of Sciences report of 2013, but the doorways to litigate those flaws were clearly defined. One of the mechanisms in 2.0 was “mitigation of damages” that were expanded from the 2008 policy. This new bit of politics cuts at the limited avenues available in the “mitigation game.”
Now, more than ever, it is important to get far ahead of these massive projects striking at the heart of wild horse country at a speed never before seen. (We will have an extended article about our work in that arena later this week).
As a baseline for understanding the importance of the BLM report to Congress on the Wild Horse and Burro Program we want to turn your attention to National Monuments and Ryan Zinke. A report was prepared for Congress on the review of National Monuments that was intentionally manipulated to forward the political agenda. Many environmental groups are currently scrambling to remove that review and set aside the decisions at places like Bear’s Ears.
Ryan Zinke is the appointed Secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI) that oversees agencies like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). At midterm the BLM has no director. Half way through an administration the BLM is operating with one Deputy Director and one Acting Deputy. BLM Deputy director is Brian Steed, a former chief of staff for Chris Stewart (yes, the same Stewart that keeps coming after wild horses). BLM is destabilized from within. Political agenda as well as the local “friends and family” club management style of the BLM has always been an issue, now? there is absolutely no pressure to impede it.
Ryan Zinke may be the most scandal ridden Secretary of Interior we have ever had. For those of us in “wild horses” we hope that journalists begin to dig into Ryan Zinke’s relationship with pro-horse slaughter front groups and stop leaving them off the list. Good article on Zinke scandals: https://newrepublic.com/article/150255/case-ryan-zinke
Last week Chris Stewart (Brian Steed’s old boss) held a closed door summit on wild horses and announced that some agreement was reached to remove 90,000 wild horses (we do not have 90,000 wild horses at this time so we can only assume he means over the next decade(?)) from the range. Three organizations were there that supposedly represent “wild horse organizations,” (ASPCA, HSUS and Return to Freedom). None of those organizations have any extensive field experience and do not represent wild horse advocacy in general terms. However it is our understanding that the only agreement was that there needs to be discussion, not on any action that needs to be taken. But we really do not know, because we were not in the room. We do know that politics and personal agenda are pervasive.
Stewart used this to forward an impression with the public (perhaps to satisfy his voter base pre-midterm?). What could benefit someone like Stewart more than creating a press opportunity to speak his agenda as well as create some more “infighting” in a wild horse advocacy prone to “take that bait” every single time? Yes, we wish we were actually in the room to address propaganda as it is spoken and not simply on “the backside” afterwards in conversation with others. But this meeting has no legal authority; it’s a stunt for Congress and media.
WHE was on the receiving end of a lot of that in 2015/16 when advocacy was trolled, manipulated and the petty “look at me” crew was triggered by pro-slaughter. This ran the gamut of lies and accusations that flowed from political maneuvers all the way to those just wanting a Facebook like. We were the target of a massive political machine and advocacy itself was manipulated, masterfully, by social media and rumor and lie. (Were any of you approached by people with connections to the Reno Futurity, Reno social circles like gambling or destructive PM? be careful out there.)
BLM has two areas in Utah (Stewarts home base) on the regular wild horse removal schedule, Onaqui and Sulpher. Another was added to the emergency list, Muddy Creek. At Sulpher/Bible Springs 123 were captured and 3 have died.
The number of mustangs showing up in kill pen auctions has been increasing since 2017. BLM press releases noted a sharp decline in holding numbers (over 60,000 in 2016 and 45,000 in 2017). In May of 2018 BLM officially changed the “sales policy” to allow an increase in the number of wild horses a single individual could take and have title transfer immediately. BLM oversight of the sales program is abysmal. BLM oversight of adoptions is equally deficient. It appears that the BLM has resorted to trucking wild horses around the country, removing statistics from online, refusing to answer relevant Freedom of Information Act requests to empty holding facilities to satisfy the political need to ramp up removals.
After the scandal broke in 2012 that uncovered just how lax the BLM sales program actually is, that it affords absolutely no tracking or enforcement of breaches of intention, the Office of The Inspector General (OIG) crafted a report that proved every allegation against the program was the truth.
Like everything “wild horse” it is important to know what the terms mean. There is a huge distinction between “adoption and sale. BLM wild horses “three strikes,” adoption and sale programs.
In a move that shows just how far the efforts to cover up corruption, and to obstruct anyone in Ryan Zinke’s BLM being held accountable goes, the Department of Interior Inspector General has been financially hamstrung. Every effort is being made to push an agenda forward with no avenue, no matter how small, left open to create accountability to the law.
The debates continue with lawmakers in Congress that will have far reaching consequence to our wild horses. These debates include some intense pushes to exploit the land. Without the land itself everything dies.
The Sulpher/Bible Springs roundup continues.
The roundup of nearly 3,000 wild horses in Wyoming’s Red Desert Complex, that comprises 5 HMAs, begins.
Mining projects continue to come at wild horse country at an alarming rate.
Wild fire continues to burn.
What you can do:
Call your Congressman and say that making any change to the law, funding or protocol for the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program should not be allowed until Ryan Zinke hands Congress more than a 25 page shopping list. A real report on the program that contains substantive data must be created before any funding is released that allows dangerous experimentation (spaying) or any further change to a sales policy.
Remind your representative of the National Monument review and warn them that the same omissions, fabrications and games are being played in the report on wild horses and burros. We must have a full reporting. We must have accountability. We also need to know where the wild horses in holding have gone from 2016-present; is BLM even tracking the increase in wild horses in the hands of kill buyers?
Ask for a full investigation into the wild horse program in Congress.
Find your representative here: http://govtrack.us
As always…. remember to reject the need to react to social media clickbait; read, learn, dig before it’s too late. The game of “advocacy via FB likes” is not effective.
Be careful out there.
Can you help us?
This is “big picture” time.