Thank you to all of you that have taken action through our alerts! We have more to report on the hearings and investigations into DOI.
The Interior Department Inspector General has launched a major ethics investigation. The probe includes six top officials, including Ryan Zinke.
The probe involving ethics complaint (s) filed in February alleging the officials routinely disregarded rules requiring they recuse themselves from official meetings with former employers or lobbying clients.
Secretary Bernhardt is a former oil lobbyist who’s been accused of making at least 15 policy decisions that directly benefited former clients since he joined the agency in 2017.
Ryan Zinke, resigned in December as he faced at least 17 federal investigations into his suspected ethics violations and corruption, including a criminal probe into whether he lied to Interior Department investigators.
We are working hard. The investigation(s) into Ryan Zinke may go much further and, has real potential, to include a handful of Bureau of Land Management employees (and the wild horse program). We are working hard. The greatest obstacle to progress is long standing greed and abuse of power. It must stop.
OIG complaint 17-0707 into John Ruhs and abuse of power and misuse of tax payer funding (directly related to wild horses) is still at play in a Congressional conversation as well. Our regular readers will remember the trail of that complaint. We are working to keep it part of the discussion and not lost in the “poker games.”
Thank you! We will have an action item for you soon. These need to be specific and timing is everything. We will keep you updated.
repost from March 6, 2019
The Train Leaves the Station
On March 2, 2017 Ryan Zinke (R-MT) rides a horse (with his heels up) to his first day on the job as Secretary of Interior. Conflicting soundbites of “I’m like Teddy Roosevelt!” and “Energy First!” begin to dominate headlines as Zinke installs hunting video games, issues memos that a flag needs to be raised when he is in the building and has a revolving hat rack of cowboy hats, park service hats and hunting caps, depending on the news cycle.
On April 5, 2017 John Ruhs, as State Director of NV BLM, addressed the joint Resource Advisory Councils (Tri-RAC) in NV to say “farewell” before he heads out the door to serve as acting Deputy Director of BLM in DC. Ruhs references, in interviews and to the audience, that he had met with Secretary Zinke and the Public Lands Council, PLC (a lobby group for the livestock industry) the week before the Tri-RAC. Ruhs informs the RAC and media, “You will like what we are doing.” Zinke’s calendar, that has been under intense scrutiny, publicly discloses no such meeting.
Background: Lobbyist Ethan Lane is the Executive Director of the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. JJ Goicoechea is a Director, Eureka County Commissioner, NV Department of Ag (many advocates will remember him as the county commissioner that spearheaded litigation against fertility control at Fish Creek). The PLC feels wild horses and National Monuments are also mainline items. (Protect the Harvest, PtH, was also very involved on shutting down fertility control at Fish Creek. After the counties litigation failed to stop the project, PtH became involved using an online drama storm that resulted in death threats. A legally upheld action, fertility control of wild horses, did not move forward with John Ruhs at the helm. Instead of upholding a plan for wild horses upheld in court, and holding members of PtH accountable to flagrant legal violation, he prioritized his relations that later landed him a promotion. Ruhs headed to DC as Acting Deputy Director of BLM. You can check out a narrative “All the Pretty Horses Must Die” by Christopher Ketcham for more info HERE).
On April 11 Ryan Zinke held a meeting where wild horses were listed as the number one item, National Monuments listed as number two. The meeting was with Protect the Harvest and “affiliates” from a company called PROOF. Zinke owned small stock options in a gun company owned by Brian Kelly, the lobbyist for PROOF and, indicated by the schedule notes, representing Protect the Harvest.
The meeting is noted as a “get to know Forrest Lucas and Protect the Harvest” on the current online calendar. Zinke knows Protect the Harvest and it’s members. The former Executive Director, Brian Klippenstein, was a one man transition team for the USDA under Donald Trump and his brother, Glen, is the Board President. Dave Duquette worked with Zinke on reopening horse slaughter plants in Montana starting in 2009. As well as Zinke’s financial investment in PROOF. Lucas himself had been considered as Secretary of Interior, the chair Zinke was warming.
Huffington Post writes in February of 2018: The company’s delegation included its president and founder K.K. Jense, CEO Larry Murphy, director of research and development John Clements, and Brian Kelly of BK Strategies, the company’s registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C. But Huffington Post completely omits that in the original meeting notes in Zinke’s calendar that it was organized under Protect the Harvests agenda, only focusing on Proof. They also fail to note the disappearance of meeting notes from Zinke’s official calendar.
In documents obtained by Wild Horse Education (WHE) the number one item for the meeting is “133,000 wild horses and burros in BLM care, which is 106,000 over the limit deemed acceptable.” (These numbers combine both on and off range inflated inventory and use an arbitrary national stocking level for on range as the total for their equation). They inform Zinke that they are looking for a legislative answer to avoid the battle in appropriations to reinstate sales without limits (slaughter).
They advise Zinke on National Monuments, “You have stated publically (spelling error in document) that you are looking at all existing monuments. However because nothing has been finalized, you should only state that the President is currently exploring his authority under the Antiquities Act.”
Hand In Hand
On April 26, 2017 President Trump signed an executive order that would direct the Interior Department to review national monument designations under the 1906 Antiquities Act, exploring Presidential authority.
On May 26, 2017 Interior’s Budget request includes funding to sell wild horses without limits (slaughter) and to euthanize them after capture.
On Aug 22-24, 2017 the “Summit of the Wild Horse” was organized by a newly created entity “National Wild Horse and Burro Rangeland Coalition” that is a recycle of members of the Grass March, Protect the Harvest, Public Lands Council, Farm Bureau, etc. Many of those in attendance had all filed federal lawsuits, that lost in court demanding BLM sell wild horses for slaughter or kill them outright, to maintain grazing land for livestock. John Ruhs, as acting Deputy Director, attended the meeting held in Utah where not a single nationally recognized wild horse advocacy organization was permitted to attend or present rebuttal.
In Sept of 2017 John Ruhs, still Acting Deputy Director of the BLM, is grilled by Sen Heinrich on the “bald faced lies” in the National Monuments report submitted by Zinkes office on August 24. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljW9R_4qNoA&t=78s John Ruhs performance is abysmal and looks like he stepped off the set of an old western movie, right out of central casting.
In October John Ruhs was moved back to NV and Brian Steed became the Acting Deputy Director of BLM, with the authority of Director. Brian Steed is the former Chief of Staff of Rep Chris Stewart (R-UT) that introduced the bill containing Appropriations language to kill and sell to slaughter wild horses, while Steed worked in his office, May 2017. A memo was also drafted to officially promote permanently sterilizing herds. Brian Steed has been Deputy, with the authority of the Director, since he took his seat. To date, BLM has no Director under Trump.
Continuing resolution, after resolution, saw a defeat in the Appropriations battle to kill wild horses or resume sales to slaughter. But politics is “forever.”
On April 27, 2018 BLM releases it’s report to Congress on Wild Horses. This report is a verbatim wish list crafted by those at the “Summit of the Wild Horse.” This report is introduced to push the funding through for the 2019 budget. It fails to achieve it’s end as political maneuvers swing back to the “legislative” change mentioned in the April 11, 2017 meeting, an end run at sales to slaughter built into proposals to create reform to the Wild Horse and Burro Act itself and a renewed push in Appropriations aimed at 2020. (we will do a separate piece on this push.)
In May of 2018, published on the website in July, Interior issues a memo changing the BLM sales policy to allow for a “truckload,” 24 horses, to be purchased with title transfer immediately. (BLM does no follow up to see if wild horses have gone to slaughter). From fall of 2016 to today, BLM’s inventory of wild horses in holding dropped over 20,000, even though removals continued.
Where are they now?
Ryan Zinke has a nice cushy job in the private sector. However, the framework he created that includes an entire destabilization of federal land management agencies through “restructuring” continues. The agenda he began is simply being carried forth by David Bernhardt.
Bernhardt was just confirmed under an avalanche of scandalous headlines. Todays headline “15 times former clients got favorable rulings,” including oil and gas.
The House has asked for a plethora of documents on the current administration and “abuse of power.” Those documents include a request to the “Trump Transition.” Remember Klippenstein was a one man transition team for the USDA as he stood up from his chair at Protect the Harvest. (Let’s look at this another way. It would be like Bernie Sanders making Kierán Suckling, Executive Director for the Center for Biological Diversity, his Secretary of Interior instead of someone like Raul Grijalva, that has served in Congress for years. If Klippenstein is ok? so is someone like Suckling for another administration.) Transition Team Letter sent this week in the pdf reader at the bottom of this page.
John Ruhs, after being hidden in the shadows running Fire and Aviation, has just been made State Director of BLM Idaho. Idaho is a center of attention in the “restructure” plan begun under Zinke and a great place to slide into a Regional Director chair to ride this agenda hard in the Great Basin Region.
A hearing on National Monuments is set for next week, May 13.
A hearing on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program? One has not been set that deals with the program specifically. Yet at this juncture you should be able to see the interconnectivity.
Under, under, the headlines
For the last several years many of these organizations that take on official sounding names and spring up like quarterly newsletters, each likes to put the cowboy up as a front man. Yet each protocol, policy, agenda item benefits extractive industry the most.
Hard rock mining and oil and gas have been given the reins that control our public lands. An avalanche of new projects, and expanding projects, threaten everything.
If you understand National Monuments, and the underlying scandal behind shrinking the boundaries, you know all you need to know about what is happening with wild horses. The terminology is different, but the objectives are the same. However, the scale of the objectives are much broader and cover 10 western states.
In oil and gas lease sales, for instance, BLM NV has tried to offer multiple parcels just at Fish Creek (one HMA that was a focal point for Eureka County and Protect the Harvest). The last parcels offered have been withdrawn, a new round proposed, comments prepared and sent again by those of us at Wild Horse Education.
Three mines are in various stages of planning that will effect another, single, HMA.
We are still waiting on a decision by Interior on the changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that has massive ramifications to the ability of media, and orgs like ours, to gain critical information by an administration that prioritizes secrecy.
Sage grouse habitat is still not protected and changes in the laws that further the ability of drillers to create more damage moves fast.
Our work went into these areas. Our experience on public lands is that the cowboy is most often a frontman for much bigger things. We are expanding our engagement on the oil and gas front.
After reading this abbreviated piece you can see how wild horses are actually an integral part of all that is happening, yet left out of todays breaking headlines.
Much of this has to do with a decades old practice of placing wild horses only into an “animal welfare” subset; the roundup and the word slaughter. Many orgs that advocate for those important issues are multi species like dogs and cats, or have Directors from a multi domestic animal background. These are not public lands management orgs that address wild horses with range teams armed with habitat trend data. (WHE is the only org in history to take inhumane treatment of wild horses into a courtroom. We do not disagree that the welfare of wild horses is primary and that should be obvious. However, wild horses are, at the core, an inclusive public lands management item.)
note: WHE is not an org heavy with those involved in multi-species domestic animal issues. Our backgrounds include journalism, a former DOI employee, retired book-keeper, a certified CA fire-fighter, etc. We approach wild horses from a “wild” perspective.
This creates a “conversation” that has media, Congress and the public at large, often at a loss to see the connections to things like National Monuments (the intention of existing law is very similar as well, not just the individuals whose agenda is aimed at their destruction).
It also gives rise to advocacy being a target of efforts to discredit our information and grievances. If you need proof just visit websites like Protect the Harvests and see how we are portrayed. It makes creation of events like the “Summit of the Wild Horse” much easier, with no pushback from Congress.
You must begin to see these political cloak and dagger games as dangerous as a kill-buyer. Because these are the things that set up the wild horses you love getting stabbed to death in Mexico. This is the root of why your wild horses are always in trouble. We need to rip the weed out by the root.
As your Representatives are involved in various committees, legislation, investigations remember to point out the similarities when you make your calls. Remember to specifically ask for a serious investigation, just like they are doing for National Monuments (we will write more about the “new” report being written by BLM and what it will contain to prepare you soon. We thank all of you that pushed Congress to reject the old report).
When you see news stories on these investigations, National Monuments, oil and gas, and make your comments? write the reporters and ask nicely that they look at wild horses and point out the similarities.
Only by raising true public awareness to our wild horses as a part of public land management do we have a chance of preserving the wild horse, and the habitat he needs to survive, for future generations.
A roundup begins long before a chopper flies. We need your help to build a strong frontline.
Today, we are doing all we can. Part of that is informing you of how all of this is set to reap destruction on wild horses. Even if we expose the machiavellian reality of National Monuments will we ever come close to “cleaning the swamp” our wild horses and burros are sucked into? Can we if we fail to recognize wild horses are public lands management?
Our ground data is the key to our successful litigation, engagement in process and the basis we can stand on. Ground data gives us unadulterated fact. In many areas we have more site specific documentation than the BLM. This is the frame WHE stand on as we fight back against these massive entities.
Wild horses are the only animal in our nation legally defined by the land it stands, not what it is biologically. Why is it so hard to to include them in the real conversation of land management?
More soon. Onward.
Categories: Wild Horse Education