On Oct 29-31 (Tuesday-Thursday) The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board will be meeting in DC.
Context of the debate stage
Since 2016 a corporate coalition has been working to change the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program. The high powered lobby groups represent primarily the livestock industry (Cattlemen’s Ass’n, Public Lands Council, etc). They were joined by corporate multi-species orgs (HSUS, ASPCA) and a former roundup contractor turned wild horse sanctuary (Return to Freedom). The plan removes 15-20K wild horses off the range for 3-4 years (collapsing the holding system and decimating wild herds), has an initial goal of 50% sterilization rate of the population left on range, runs a large chunk of the holding facility budget into the funnel of a lobby group, American Mustang Foundation. that is run by the husband of an aide in Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) office.
When the Advisory Board schedule was created, and the DC location chosen for this weeks meeting, there was expectation that the agenda noted in the previous paragraph would have already been approved through the Appropriations debate. The House and Senate bills do not match, much is still in debate, and we are under a temporary spending bill until November 21. Many expect that the budget issues (that include all government spending) will not be resolved and we will have another temporary bill through January.
The meeting is part of a crafted, well-funded, agenda. The board is hand picked by BLM, that is controlled by industry, and not one person that truly represents “the best interests of the wild horse” sits on the board.
The meeting is essentially a taxpayer funded, well casted, public relations event to push a political agenda: spaying, mass removal and sales to slaughter.
What the board will not address is more important than what it will address: habitat loss due to industry (livestock and mining), the faulty basis for the program (AML and boundary lines as a fiction) as outlined by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the impacts of a failure to control trespass livestock, etc.
As the board meeting begins tomorrow, keep in mind that two other documents, besides the spending bill, were expected to be approved and in the public sphere by this date: the spay EA and the BLM Report to Congress.
Spay experiment: currently the BLM does not have legal authority to manage sterilized herds inside Herd Management Areas (HMA). The Advisory board is used as a “legal authority,” and it is simply not, in the third EA prepared by the BLM for the proposed action. If the package represented in the BLM Report and the new funding package were adopted, BLM would then have that authority that they do not have at this time. The EA went out for public comment back in May. Following standard procedure BLM should have published the approval by the end of September and be in court now trying to defend using taxpayer funding to craft a third EA for a project they do not have authority to implement. (more here) This district is also scrambling to create a new Land Use Plan (LUP/RMP) to try to create that authority (more on that soon).
BLM Report to Congress: The BLM Report to Congress is now three months late. Massive changes to the program, through the maneuvers of corporate lobby groups, are underway. Many of you are familiar with the “Path Forward” (the path backwards) from Cattlemen, HSUS, ASPCA, Return to Freedom, Public Lands Council, et. al. Please remember how all of this was packaged in last years budget debate; first the BLM Report came out and it incorporated the lobby document. It was not adopted by Congress. This year the new strategy was to have the corporate lobby groups launch public relations campaigns and then the BLM Report would surface after public “buy-in.” There was no public buy in. Instead there was a massive public outcry as domestic animal groups claimed to speak for wild horse organizations that presented a fierce opposition.
For months we have been telling you that the report from BLM is where you need to focus. The report will ask for changes in authorities to carry out the lobby groups requests including changes to the NEPA process (BLM will no longer have to produce an EA to remove, sterilize, etc.). This BLM report is a massively corrupted document that is now 3 months late on delivery.
BLM is in process of padding the document in a massive copy/paste rush to include all the faulty data in every roundup EA as if it represents a scientific analysis. The hope is that Congress will just look at the stack of paper and not question the words.
Why is it relevant?
Can you imagine an attempt to shrink National Monuments without an agency report?
What is happening now to wild horses is exactly the same thing. A corporate lobby document is the basis for debate on funding that will create massive impact to a public resource.
The House has approved 6 million in additional funding, the Senate $35 million. These approvals were made through lobby groups and not program scrutiny through a thorough review of an agency report!
The BLM Report will reflect the corporate lobby document and push to remove avenues (like litigation on EAs) that could impede the implementation of the lobby group requests.
However, as taxpayers, the public could exert significant pressure to hold a hearing on the report and provide documentation and testimony to counter claims made in the report. When the falsehoods prove to be many, the public can exert pressure to have those involved in the report investigated for violations of law that include wasting taxpayer funding on the report, violations of ethics codes, etc.
Congress should not be providing any additional funding for the program until that report is presented and scrutinized.
Have you called your Representatives in both House and Senate and told them that? If not, you can find your reps here: http://govtrack.us
Make that call today.
Please remember, as the board meeting begins, that you are not watching a conversation that represents any effort to balance protection of a resource (wild horses) with private profit industry on public lands. What you are watching is a spectacle intended to be used as a large media event to forward the interests of corporations by an agency that has been entirely coopted by industry.
Join us and make some noise! WHE will be running a live fact check. You can join us on Twitter using the hashtag #WHBFactCheck.
Make your call to your reps. Use this week as a time to pick up the phone and be heard.
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