Many of our readers are very interested in things like protocol and process. Many want to understand what the “rules and law” are of management and what it is like interacting in that framework.
What some do not understand is that there is often a different set of unwritten rules from district-to-district, or facility-to-facility, and the manner in which people are given information, actions are determined, can vary widely from state-to-state, instance-to-instance. This can be illustrated in the most simplistic terms by the way BLM runs adoptions: one person can have to jump through all official hoops and another can be given title that has no shelter and is known to have dropped wild horses at kill auctions. Management is also, often, equally contradictory based on the part of the community the individual resides in, not what the “rules and laws” state.
There was a time when BLM began working with groups like Sand Wash Basin, Fish Springs in the Pine Nuts, Onaqui, etc. Each group had distinct origins and purposes as they set frames for management. At Fish Creek we were that group. Each group faces distinct challenges that can change fast if personnel change, a state director changes, or leadership in the National office changes. Fish Creek has more than it’s fair share of distinct challenges. (So if you are a member of an organization considering such a partnership, recognize that you will face challenges that take a toll on your enthusiasm. Your interaction will not be the same as if you are a permittee or mine operator.)
A place our readers, members and supporters have significant interest in is Fish Creek. We are getting requests for details; Who put it on the schedule? Why was it put on the schedule? We thought BLM was darting at Fish Creek, why didn’t they? Are they still working on changing the AML? and so on.
The public expects there to be a straightforward reply. There should be, but there is not. We created this article to tell you “what we know so far.”
If you are new to the subject of Fish Creek, you can learn more about the layers of history at Fish Creek, click HERE.
Many of you are following the debate over the “Ten Years to AML” proposal by the alliance that includes HSUS, Return to Freedom, Public Lands Council, Cattlemen’s Ass’n, et al. What is getting ready to hit Fish Creek (removal without fixing any underlying flaws as a priority) is what that plan looks like. That plan also includes spaying, sterilized herds, more subsidies and fixes nothing. (learn more here) It all has direct ties to Fish Creek and we will write more soon.
Below is a section to answer the questions we are receiving from our readers. We still do not have complete information about why BLM is simply planning on removing 500 wild horses (decimating the existing herd when they know AML is wrong), why BLM cancelled fertility control and data plan in 2016, why BLM allowed the well to go into disrepair, why BLM has not fixed the Land Use Pan or created an alternative (HMAP) to fix the underlying flaws they are fully aware of, etc. BLM is giving no clear and clean responses. What is being hidden?
Fish Creek; what we know so far:
District said National directed a removal and National denied it was their directive.
District said National ordered a “gate cut” (every wild horse trapped is removed) to the current AML. National said they never made that directive and a treat and release could be done.
Deduction from the info we do have, about where the request to remove originated:
BLM removed a generator and allowed a well to go into disrepair (at one point trucks siphoning the tank had created a huge asbestos laden pool and we observed 50-60 antelope drinking. We asked BLM what was happening to the well and were ignored. We made requests for info over a two year period of time).
Instead of using the well this year, if needed BLM would do a water haul.
The water haul paperwork triggered the “prioritize by emergency” box and National made the space and funding available for the removal. (The district triggered the removal.)
In what can be described as “standard” when dealing with BLM decision making, BLM is now repairing the well and will bring the generator back, not hauling water to that location, to provide water.
note: Yes, BLM often approves water hauls for domestic livestock. They justify the water haul by saying that water is not sufficient in an area and the haul will better distribute populations. A water haul for livestock does not cause a decrease in the number that are turned out.
This also does not explain why Fish Creek is a priority when in Congress there are claims that there are “starving” wild horses on the range. Why prioritize, and obviously rush, an operation at Fish Creek?
Where we are in the process of gaining info on the “deals” made on waters:
We were ignored for two years. A week before the roundup was put on the public schedule we received a call. We asked about the water. We were told it was a deal made with county and state office. We asked for more info and BLM would not provide info.
We filed a FOIA. BLM said there were no documents and would not provide us info.
So we reworded the FOIA to identify the water as “outside or near” the HMA. BLM now says they have documents. We were told we would get them Sept 6th (the day the roundup begins).
note: If BLM re-designated the water (Brown Well) as “outside the HMA,” and used that as a reason to deny the first FOIA, then a new EA needs to be done before the roundup. If Brown Well is still designated as “HMA” then the denial of the first FOIA, that would have been answered prior to the roundup and allowed us to engage fully informed, is illegal. We feel that the actions of BLM from 2017-present are intentionally obstructive to informed public participation. This is not the first “FOIA GAME” at Fish Creek). In addition, due to our extensive experience with the way BLM operates, we believe the generator “going back to pump water until the roundup” is directly related to our inquiry and a way to deny “removing that water for wild horse use.”
In an email Friday from the district, we have been informed that the FOIA will be put on a “complex track” and take longer to get us documents (complex track essentially means the document will be redacted, heavily). We have yet to get a complex determination from the FOIA office.
At this juncture:
There are multiple inconsistencies, and other FOIAs related to Fish Creek BLM wont answer, (unless you count fully blacked out pages). The information in this article is to give you an idea of the terrain we are navigating as we attempt to gain any productive dialogue.
It appears BLM will make no effort to reset the 2015 frame and seemingly denying anything “new” existed in planning. It appears they are simply doing a “remove” to “get to AML.” They are calling this “phase two” without any recognition “phase two” was to be data/fertility control darting that was to begin in 2016. They are not recognizing their own data shows the flaws in HMA boundary and AML (they did recognize this from 2009-2016).
BLM still insists they do not need to issue a “Decision of NEPA Adequacy” or “DNA.” We asked if there was an equivalent document they were releasing and at this juncture, have been told “no.” We are assuming this is more “miscommunication” and will let you know if we get an acceptable answer.
We continue to look at all options. Fish Creek has many layers, many trails, and is not transparent in any activity from 2016-the present. Yes, we are discussing the multiple options; including those that address the connections to the current push in Congress, legal actions and mechanisms to salvage any hope of rectifying the serious flaws in data/mapping/equity at Fish Creek as we look into their future.
We feel it is important for the public to understand the history at Fish Creek and the process of decision making that had BLM change protocol for waters, cancel the second phase (data/fertility control) and simple move to a large scale roundup (that we know increases reproductive rates).
Fish Creek, summer 2019
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Categories: Wild Horse Education