The BLM Report to Congress has the potential to gut the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act. It is important that you understand where, what, how, why and when this report becomes part of the debate.
Report Watch (part one)
This is a very busy time in the world of wild horses. The end of the fiscal year 2019 is in swing and plans for the next fiscal year, that begins in October, are being made.
One of the obvious fiscal calendars is the roundup schedule. BLM National divides funding to state offices based on requests each year. Each state divides that funding to districts based on requests from each district. These requests are seen in the roundup schedule. Helicopter removals take place from July 1 through the end of February. The difference between a “fiscal year” and “calendar year” can be seen clearly in the schedule. BLM fiscal 2019 is ending, fiscal 2020 will begin soon. (you can see the current update on the roundup schedule, that can change rapidly as priorities shift)
The other obvious distinction is the Appropriations debate.
Appropriations is the process the federal government uses to fund programs. The process involves Appropriations bills that move through both houses of Congress (House and Senate) and if approved in one package are called an “Omnibus bill.” If approved in distinct sections covering only specific agencies (Interior, Defense, Education) are called “Minibus bills.” All of the phases and terminology can get a bit confusing to the average American that has job(s) and family.
Part of this years confusion lies in the distinction between steps in House and Senate that are wrapped up in a so-called “agreement package” brought to the floor of the House by Chris Stewart (R-UT). The House has passed a version of a spending bill through committee and the Senate sub-committee has a version. In other words, there is still time to effect changes.
In 2018 (for the 2019 fiscal year debate) Congress requested a report from BLM on the Wild Horse and Burro Program. On April 27 0f 2019 BLM released a report to Congress. The report, on the entire program, was shorter than an assessment document for a single roundup operation. It was essentially a “copy/paste” of the talking points that came from the “Summit of the Wild Horse,” (a gathering of pro-slaughter groups in Utah) and incorporated the “Ten Years to AML” document from HSUS, ASPCA and Return to Freedom. But to see the so-called advocate you had to read the report. Wild horses are not dogs and cats, they are covered in the books on public land law. In truth no real on range wild horse org was involved).
The report was not adopted by Congress (we thank all of you that took our action and called your reps asking that they reject the report). Congress requested that BLM create a new report.
Last year was not “normal” in the way our government passes spending bills and the full package was not signed into law until the end of February 2019. (Usually a bill is passed prior to the end of a calendar year, usually October or November.)
Reports requested by Congress on a program have a due date tagged to the final signing of the full bill. Unfortunately the date is not tagged to the beginning of the fiscal debate. The BLM Report to Congress will be public late in the fiscal debate, the last week of August.
Instead of the BLM report launching Appropriations debates, the “alliance” incorporated into last years report went public. That public relations campaign by these lobby groups sparked outrage in the advocacy community. However, as opposed to last years debate where the BLM Report sparked outrage, the ones behind the document stepped into the limelight for all to see this year. This has created some transparency in the public understanding of how million dollar lobby organizations work, yet it has created some confusion and there is a danger that the connection to the BLM Report will be lost in all the “name changes” the lobby document has undergone.
The easiest way to understand is to think of the lobby document like a grocery shopping list; all the things you want. Think of the BLM Report has the “how we will get” all the things on the list.
The lobby document asks for 15-20K wild horses to be removed each year, increased “fertility control” that is intentionally vague to include everything from temporary measures to managing entire herds of spayed or gelded animals, new subsidies for livestock improvement projects (fencing, etc) and more. The shopping list does not include anything that will “fix” the broken and mismanaged program, it runs the broken program faster than ever before.
The BLM Report will incorporate the shopping list, a reiteration of the lobby document, but it will claim that in order to carry out the shopping order they need changes to the law. (you can read a breakdown of last years report here.)
BLM, and their lobby partners, want changes to the “authority” of BLM to include mechanisms that will allow BLM to carry out the lobbyists wishes with as little interference from the public as possible. One of those changes is to the NEPA process that would further limit areas BLM must analyze actions and allow public comment. Another area is to allow management of sterilized herds (ie the spay experiment in Oregon and the gelded herd plan for Saylor Creek in Idaho).
This move is much like the changes to the original Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 after the shenanigans of Conrad Burns (R-MT) in the Omnibus debate of 2003 where a last minute rider created sale authority (sales to slaughter) and the transfer of title so wild horses lost legal protections built into the law in 2004. (Burns Amendment.)
Just as we saw BLM utilizing tax payer funding to repeatedly prepare the spay experiment in Oregon (that is waiting for a final decision after being withdrawn several times) we are seeing other areas where BLM is skirting NEPA requirements. BLM is behaving as if the report, that is not released yet, has already changed the law to exclude the need for analysis and public process.
It is vital that you understand the involvement of BLM employees in the lobby document and how that document has essentially driven the BLM Report to Congress that will be released in about ten days. BLM working to change law is akin to lobbying Congress, and that is (still) illegal. BLM is simply a public service regulatory agency, not a law making branch of government. Lines that were once clear have become more than simply blurred, they have been obliterated.
Congress should not simply reject the pending BLM Report, they should demand a deep and thorough probe into every hand that was involved in the documents creation. The probe needs to begin with an ethics investigation into both Deputy Directors (acting with authority of Director) that were both involved in the creation of the document prior to taking their chairs in DC; John Ruhs and Brian Steed. Both men appear to have violated multiple codes of ethics in their official capacities.
You can find your representatives here: http://govtrack.us
The BLM Report to Congress on the Wild Horse Program expected in ten days, should be rejected and investigation for violations of law. As a tax-payer you find the activities of BLM, influenced by lobby groups and employees themselves engaged in lobbying, an outrage.
The BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program should be frozen to the current budgetary allotment and no new authorities given until a full and complete probe into corruption has been completed.
We will bring you more info in our “Report Watch” on the what, why, when and how of the pending Report, and a full analysis when it drops.
Our teams are hard at work educating key members of Congress to the reality of the range, federal land management and the mechanism behind the pending BLM Report.
You can help keep us in this fight.
Additional reading: OIG Complaint Filed Against BLM Deputy Director
Categories: Wild Horse Education