As many of you know an Appropriations package is on the desks of lawmakers to continue funding the federal government. (update: the bill passed)
The current bill continues language to defund “unlimited sales” and provides an additional $5 million for BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. (The same language that has prohibited sales to slaughter since 2004. The same language we fight to maintain year after year in Appropriations and you all have seen many times. We are not going to repeat that same conversation as we respect your time.)
This is important. The legislation also asks for a “new report.” This report is to be provided no more than 180 days from the date the bill is passed.
Our readers will remember the “BLM report to Congress” released in April of 2018. The report is a gift to the pro horse slaughter “friends and family club” of land management politics. (you can read our response summary HERE and we will republish a portion of it at the bottom of this page.)
While Congress states in the latest funding package its “appreciation” for the April 2018 report, the spending legislation says that “additional analysis is needed.”
In addition to asking for more information on the wild horse program, current language of the bill does ask BLM to analyze a permanent sterilization program and sales without limits (slaughter).
In an interview with E&E Ethan Lane, paid lobbyist of the Public Lands Council and of federal lands for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association states “Their request now for additional details would seem to indicate their desire for one solution palatable to all stakeholders, rather than the hard choices” outlined in BLM’s original report to Congress, he said. “The simple fact is, resolution of this ecological and animal welfare disaster will require hard choices (and tough votes) no matter how thorough the additional report may be.”
The only “tough choice” Congress has to make is to address the larger problems of land management like the federal grazing program and deeply entrenched corrupt federal land managers. We could wave a magic wand and make all of our wild horses disappear and public lands would still be in a downward spiral of degradation and a money pit of entitlement programs.
However, a new report is the first step toward getting a full investigation and hearing onto the floor of the House. Yes, the dangers of funding being approved for sales to slaughter and sterilization after the report is reviewed exist (in the next battle for funding coming in fall) . But we have a long way to go and we are ready to fight back with facts.
We need to dismantle every premise of the 2018 report so they are not simply regurgitated in the new report.
We are working very hard. A hearing has been requested into the proposed changes to FOIA, the strange “staffing issues” of land management agencies, and more are on their way.
We thank all of our readers that are making that call. We thank all of you that took our action item and asked Congress to request a new report.
Keep calling. Your voice matters more than you know.
If we, as advocates, are not careful in this moment and chose politics over wild horses, we are going to simply end up with another mess. We might be able to get one or two herds into a PZP darting rotation and the rest facing massive removals, spaying and sales to slaughter in the future.
For background, so history does not repeat itself, please read todays installment of Information is Power (part five).
Please take the action at the link above. This new report will be the gateway to a hearing directly on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program.
But it is up to us if, and how, it happens. We can break the repetitive cycle. It begins with our own actions.
We need your support for our work aimed at the core. Together we can create change!
Our summary from April 2018.
Wild Horse Education Response Document:
BLM Report to Congress Management Options for a Sustainable Wild Horse and Burro Program (2018)
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has presented a report to Congress as required by law. Congress requested a report on the BLM wild horse and burro program. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 (Public Law 115-31), requires this compliance.
BLM manages wild horses and burros on 26.9 million acres of the 258 million surface and subsurface public lands in their jurisdiction. Wild horses exist on about 11% of BLM managed lands.
BLM makes a claim that their management goal for the Wild Horse and Burro Program (WHB Program) is to “ensure healthy wild horses and burros on thriving public rangelands.” This assertion has been nothing more than a public relations statement that is not carried out in practice. The agency repeatedly scapegoats the WHB program as land managers continue to repeat long ingrained patterns including: ignoring extreme deficits within the (much larger) livestock grazing program, diverting personnel from the WHB program to placate other concerns, prioritizing existing funding based on political pressure and not rangeland (healthy horses, healthy range) needs.
The agency continues to use the excuse that a provision in the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, as amended, is a necessity as they are repeatedly hamstrung from using the 2004 Burns Rider that allowed wild horses to be sold to slaughter. BLM continually excludes that prior to the insertion of the stealth rider that BLM employees had been caught selling wild horses to slaughter, in contravention of existing law prior to 2004. Essentially BLM personnel were violating existing law for personal gain. The provisions to deny funding for slaughter sales has only existed for 13 years, prior to that it was simply illegal. The BLM program has been repeatedly found to be an abysmal failure in data collection and analysis since 1982 by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and that finding was repeated again in the 2013 NAS review. Funding the “sales without limitation” provision of the 2004 stealth rider would simply provide BLM with a way to sweep decades of ineptitude aside, nothing more.
This report continues to make assertions instead of admitting to a lack of substantive long term trend data and the need to establish that data prior to the issuance of any “report to Congress.” Core problems are absent from this report and repetitive assertions, without providing content or context, is egregious. The common mantra; wild horses have no natural predators, reproduce at a rate of 20% (populations doubling every 4 years), claims Appropriate Management Levels (AML) is an accurate representation of the number of wild horses the land can sustain, wild horses destroy habitat for every species (not limited to 26.9 million acres as wild horses are) from sage grouse to elk. (Reminder: the NAS has repeatedly failed the BLM on data and analysis since the 1980’s and repeated that finding in 2013).
This report relies on a “summit” organized by livestock interests and many involved in the political push to shrink federal control over public resources to the extent that this report has a distinct authorship signature. Not one national advocacy organization was invited that did not have members of either interest above. The use of any recommendations from the “Summit,” while footnoting random public comments that represent no organized conference and are not in any way an inclusive representation, continue to demonstrate the prioritization of political and personal interests held by agency employees. At the time of the referenced “summit” Resource Advisory Councils (RACs) had been shut down, and the National WHB Advisory Board was also suspended, limiting any official record of public engagement, timely, to political maneuvers.
BLM’s assertions that changing land use plans would be required to achieve certain alternatives, then simply ignoring those alternatives, is another example of status quo practices that we will describe in the document. BLM has been aware of multiple deficits in existing land use plans for over a decade, diverts personnel from changing those deficits, and continues a cycle of a “set up” for failure of the WHB program.
This response document will address BLM’s report and utilize site specific examples of long term trends to refute claims made in the BLM document. (BLM report can be found at this link for comparative purposes)
In 1971 the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRH&B Act) was passed unanimously by Congress. The American public had an expectation that wild horses and burros would be protected, and their habitat preserved for their sustained use, by the federal government.
In close to 50 years the BLM has not made any concerted, reasonable, effort to fulfill that expectation.
The first removal of wild horses under the WFRH&B Act at Stone Cabin was met with litigation. BLM had not prepared any analysis and simply cited deteriorating range conditions and herd health. The state of Nevada claimed the federal government had no right to carry out the roundup and wanted custody of the 80 wild horses captured for the purposes of selling them to slaughter. The court found that the BLM had the authority but could not simply remove wild horses to create more habitat for domestic livestock and must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for any future removals.
The resentment over federal authority, the proximity of the special interests (livestock) to the federal employees in the community, has perpetuated a continuance of the identical practices present at the first roundup in 1975 with the only changes akin to simple window dressing in NEPA analysis that has been limited to impacts of removals, not management of a living species and it’s habitat.
The BLM handbook states that a Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) be created that outlines objectives for herd and habitat preservation. To date only a handful of these HMAP’s even exist. Instead the BLM has relied on a “copy/paste” mentality that has created an impression of underlying data that justifies removals in Environmental Assessments (EA) for roundup operations. The HMAP, the intention of which was to provide an underlying framework for land use planning, has been ignored. Instead of utilizing a “best practices for the public good” strategy, federal land managers have simply bandied about the word “discretion” like a broom that sweeps aside all ineptness and corruption of the intention of law.
Categories: Wild Horse Education
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