Wild Horse Education

Information is Power (part four)

Bachelor band, Fish Creek HMA

It is critical to remember two points as you read this series:

  • Wild horses are the only animal in our nation defined by the land it stands, not what it is biologically. 
  • Wild Horses are confined to arbitrary boundary lines, the HMA. (These HMAs comprise, in acreage, less than 12% of public lands.)

Those two points make habitat preservation a critical focal point for protection of the wild, wild horse. The need for holding facilities, sanctuary, protection from slaughter, come long after we have failed to address the key flaws, and the manipulation of the flaws by political forces, on the range.

The pieces are intended to be read in order. We could have presented these as one article, or booklet. We broke them up for “easier reading.” We hope you take the time to read. If you read this series you will know “all you need to know” to understand the root of the problems and why it is so hard to address any single root causation. This series is written first person narrative, it is the most effective form for relaying detailed information according to feedback from our readers.

In a world filled with soundbites and social media bravado be a rebel, read.

Information is Power, Part One: This first segment addresses the current challenges faced as transparency has taken a massive step backwards and faces another threat. CLICK HERE.

Information is Power, Part Two: the second segment in the series discusses what FOIA is and the true power of FOIA. CLICK HERE.

Back to Basics: Essential reading before Part Three, National Academy of Sciences. CLICK HERE

Information is Power, Part Three: The story of a FOIA unanswered for 8 years CLICK HERE

There is an additional supplement titled “One HMA” that goes into detail about how one HMA, Triple B, is not managed for “thriving natural ecological balance,” it is managed for ease of profit driven enterprise and politics.

There is an action item at the bottom of each section that we urge you to continue to take.

Trespass livestock lounge at water source during a drought.

In the previous articles we discussed what the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is, statistics being hidden (or simply not kept), an investigation done primarily through FOIA that uncovered nearly 1800 wild horses sold (shipped at tax payer expense) to one kill-buyer and a FOIA that simply wont be answered that was filed 8 years ago (but, if answered, would have been confirmed by the National Academy of Sciences review of 2013).

If you are someone working to uphold the intention of law, find the areas where deficits and flaws exist, create anything that resembles accountable management, or a journalist simply trying to tell a story rooted in reality, you can already see the odds of even an “honest conversation” are pretty slim.

So you go out on a bit of a limb sometimes if your objective is finding a way to create tools for better management. During court ordered mediation on our “First Amendment case” (that brought daily access and the resumption of tours at Broken Arrow, the facility BLM now references as “Indian Lakes” after all the bad press) with former NV State Director Amy Lueders I found an opportunity to “tool build.” The NAS report had just come out and affirmed all of our allegations in another case we had that was active. Lueders opened the door to creating an avenue where we could actually address the deficits and begin to write something I like to reference as “justifiable decision making.” (I wrote a bit about that in part three)

I had built an access policy and got Broken Arrow open to tours (Broken Arrow has always been a personal heartache for me). The first humane handling policy in the history of the Act was just a breath from being added into contracts after our ground breaking, 5 year non-stop litigation run. Building a functional range program was at a critical phase; it could not take another decade to achieve as the politics in the west began to heat to a boil (Bunkerville had just happened). So I took a gamble and rolled those dice.

Fish Creek roundup 2015. There will be another one soon that never had to happen. One of the reasons the program wastes time and money is simply the “friends and family” network of BLM. That is a blatant violation of the code of ethics. The horses will pay the price for it.

For brevity if you read these three articles, and read between the lines, fast forward, you can see how all that turned out:

Fish Creek (the controversy)

Obstacles to Progress (Anniversary of Fish Creek)

Trumps Cowboy Allies Say All The Pretty Horses Must Die, in brief (C. Ketcham, Daily Beast)

Meet the Man and the Propaganda Machine Behind the Hammond Pardon (Anne Helen Petersen, Ken Bensinger, Salvador Hernandez; Buzzfeed)

Amy Lueders had been ripped out of her chair and John Ruhs was made the NV State Director. All of a sudden agreements with any environmental group were being manipulated, ignored and played like poker chips by BLM employees managing scared, under their desks, and in fear of losing their jobs. BLM became “Game of Thrones.”

So what do you do when you need to bring the truth forward because that is the only thing that will make the reality the wild horse lives every day better? One of the things you can do is utilize the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In all of this “drama queen hysteria” there was one thing that stood out that was so simple anyone could understand it, even the most addicted to a sound bite; illegal actions that held mandatory penalties under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) went unpunished. An illegal water haul, drawing horses off HMA, an illegal removal, all video taped and used on social media creating a “death threat storm.” (The targeting was intense. I was going through cancer treatment and working my fanny off. I broke no law, rule or made up on the spot stupidity. I put cancer treatment off because I could not handle all the workload, the pressure, lost my insurance as reimbursements were derailed, just to get a sane plan into reality. Yet in this episode of “Game of BLM” I was thrown out the door without even a pretense of an explanation or even “I’m sorry.” You can read some of what happened in a letter I penned to the Tri-RAC in 2017.)

Why did this “go away” and whose signature is on the documents? I sent a FOIA.

Grass March reads like a “who is who” of “Summit of the Horse.” The pro horse slaughter faction, later created the “Summit of the Wild Horse” that John Ruhs, as acting deputy director, created his report to Congress from on wild horses with barely an edit.

The path this FOIA took even included the NV FOIA office responding to me “do not ask,” and “never ask again” after checking with John Ruhs.

So where does that leave us? Our only recourse then becomes litigation. We filed litigation. (You can read all about the litigation HERE) This is the kind of litigation that the Dept of Interior is now complaining about as they try to change the regulations for FOIA.

John Ruhs had been promoted and was now acting Deputy Director of BLM. (Ruhs, after the debacle of a hearing on the report about shrinking National Monuments and the grilling by Senator Heinrich, was moved over to Fire. At that level he still keeps the boost in his pension but is less of a target. Seriously, John Ruhs looks like a villain from an old western, right out of central casting.)

If you watch the video below please realize that the report on National Monuments is as factual as BLM’s report to Congress on the Wild Horse and Burro Program (more about the challenges to creating this kind of hearing for wild horses in part 5)

While we were filing litigation and looking for help anywhere we could, the threat machine starting taking a darker tone. Throw in the layer of petty nonsense from those that can only see themselves in any equation and things got truly “walking on eggshells.”

I had given testimony to the Government Accounting Office (GAO) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on other occasions (one being the GAO report on rampant trespass livestock). The OIG began an investigation into conduct of John Ruhs while he was the state director of BLM. However now John Ruhs was the Acting Deputy Director of BLM and Ryan Zinke (more here) was the Secretary of Interior.

The OIG was advised that “it was an internal matter” and the investigation into John Ruhs was turned over to BLM. Essentially allowing Ruhs control over how deep anyone looked at himself. (Head, desk.)

But both the litigation and the initial OIG report are also in the hands of a House investigative committee.

This article is written with a purpose:

Please take action and call your legislators and tell them to stop Interior from changing the CFRs on FOIA.

  • Please stop the Department of Interior from making changes to 43 CFR Part 2, the Freedom of Information Act. 
  • The DOI must be stopped from any attempts to undermine the publics ability to gain information and participate in government as an informed citizen.
  • If the DOI wants to decrease FOIA requests they find “burdensome,” they simply need to become more transparent.  

Add this:

  • A real hearing into the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program must happen. In all of public land management there is no program more devoid of data, easily manipulated, sloppy, lazy, corrupt and used as a political pawn than this program. Any hearing into “extremism, misuse of tax payer funding, and/or violation of codes of ethical conduct” must include wild horses.
  • Please look at OIG-17-0707 and Leigh et al v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management et al 3:2017cv00294

As advocates we can not let this fall off the radar. If you want to understand the entire program just grab the threat at Fish Creek and pull, it all unravels from there. 

Find your legislator CLICK HERE. 

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Why are we writing all of this now?

One reason is that I am getting inquiries from media about this “time and space.” To me this is all a “history lesson.” For 4 years I tried to get attention to these issues as they were happening. I do not live in 2014, or 2016, I live in 2019.

The things in this series set the stage for today. But today I have to deal with the challenges of “now.” One of those challenges is a massive loss, degradation, poker game, of habitat. WHE has legal briefs, EISs, EAs, ongoing data mapping, and it all must be handled now. It is easier for me to just “send them (media) a link.”

The threats are many. But the threats that undermine appropriate actions stem from the ability to conceal inappropriate actions. The threats to NEPA (you can read some of it on the new web portal, and I know I need to update the new portal. If you can clone me or add twelve hours to each day? lemme know.) and FOIA cut at the heart of “an honest conversation.”

When so much is hidden it becomes easily exploited, by all sides, and wild horses pay the price time and again. I’m really tired of watching that play out (more in part 5).

Another issue is the very short memory of the public…

Remember what I wrote at the beginning of this piece?

It is critical to remember two points as you read this series:

  • Wild horses are the only animal in our nation defined by the land it stands, not what it is biologically. 
  • Wild Horses are confined to arbitrary boundary lines, the HMA. (These HMAs comprise less than 12% of public lands.)

Those two points make habitat preservation a critical focal point for protection of the wild, wild horse. The need for holding facilities, sanctuary, protection from slaughter, come long after we have failed to address the key flaws, and the manipulation of the flaws by political forces, on the range.

If your intention is to advocate for the wild, wild horse? You need to really understand this “Deranged War.”

In the era of social media? Be a rebel… read. 

Further reading:

The hearings in Congress in 2016 were seriously flawed and influenced by politics (all sides) https://wildhorseeducation.org/2017/05/17/posttruth-a-few-wild-facts-you-should-know-in-these-dangerous-times-part-one/

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Categories: Wild Horse Education