Wild Horse Education

Clock Keeps Ticking: BLM Report to Congress

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Where is that report?

Background:

Funding: Funding for programs and projects is tied to a fiscal year calendar. Congress funds federal programs through a bill called “Appropriations.” Appropriations funds the government from October through September (example: fiscal 2020 began Oct 2019 and ends at the start of Oct 2020).

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.

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The Report That Was Not: 

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. Yes, the alliance group was noted in the report released in 2018, but did not become a topic of conversation until 2019 (the groups denied involvement even though they are mentioned by name).

The report (shopping list) for 2019 fiscal year funding 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.

The debate for the 2020 spending bill did not begin with BLM releasing the report, but with a political alliance group releasing press releases. The “Ten Years to AML” groups, later dubbed “Path Forward” to try to gain credibility by mimicking wording of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), sat down and played political poker and played the media.

The 2021 debate has begun. There is still no report.

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The 2020 Spending Bill:

The 2020 spending bill was passed with an additional $21 million awarded to the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program.

However, the $21 million would not be released until BLM met the (logical) requirement of providing a detailed report about how the funding would be used and why that additional funding is required.

Reports requested by Congress to fund a program have a due date tagged to the final signing of the full bill of the previous year, not the start of a fiscal budget debate.

The BLM Report to Congress should have been public late in the fiscal debate, the last week of August 2019.

The 2021 debate is in gear, with an additional $21 million requested to amp up removals and to begin sterilization. There is still no report to Congress.

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Moving Into The Next Round:

The BLM report to Congress, that is a requirement written directly into the Appropriations bill, is more than overdue. The bill states that the additional funding will not be released until a review period of 60 days is concluded.

The report that should have been made public in August of 2019 is still not available. During that timeframe BLM has approved plans that have removed wild horses, allowed ming, oil and gas into wild horse habitat, changed rules and approved “flexible” grazing for livestock operators, put up more fences cutting wild horses off of critical habitat. BLM has prioritized everything except creating a document that would provide an opportunity for scrutiny of the wild horse program.

At the end of the winter helicopter roundup season (roundups run from the first day of July through the last day of February) BLM added the Eagle roundup to the schedule with 3 days notice. The massive, and massively expensive, operation removed 1704 (762 Studs, 937 Mares, 5 Foals)  and 23 died during operations (BLM has not released facility reports to reveal deaths post operation). These wild horses were in the way of a livestock permittees expanding operations and a water grab for a now abandoned pipeline.

During the operation at Eagle BLM made it clear that they were confident that the additional funding would be released so they could continue to amp up removals in July. Several of the removals planned for the “summer/fall” schedule include large components of sterilization (example: Twin Peaks).

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Today:

Wild Horse Education has not made any secret concerning our preparations to address the new report as we address the last one. BLM’s “report” was 25 pages long; our response was 268 pages. (HERE)

If BLM released the report Monday? that leaves only 65 days before the start of the July roundup schedule. Usually, BLM releases the July schedule after funding is approved for distribution. That process includes award to contractors and usually starts around the beginning of June.

If BLM released the report today, May 8th, there are only 54 days until the start of helicopter roundup season.

At this time we are hearing “through the grapevine” that BLM intends to use the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse for not producing the report and is lining up political players, like Chris Stewart (R-UT)  and Mark Amodei (R-NV), to help Acting BLM Chief William Perry Pendley push through the additional funding his former clients want to accelerate removals (and sterilization) of wild horses and burros.

It is more than obvious that BLM has not taken the issue of oversight and public scrutiny very seriously. The original due date on the report was almost one year ago, the national health crisis began when BLM was already 7 months late. BLM prioritized the “friends and family club” and politics with no issue fulfilling any and all requests made by industry.

The delay has absolutely nothing to do with the current health crisis.

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The debate for Appropriations for the fiscal year 2021 has already begun.

BLM continues to request additional funding to decimate our herds as they do absolutely nothing to protect the resources wild horses need to survive. Wild horses only live on about 12% of public lands and are crowded out every time a profit driven private entity wants to make a buck off public resources.

The BLM has not fulfilled oversight requirements for funding in the 2020 bill. How can we be debating continuing to fund a program that has failed to meet a deadline for scrutiny since August of 2019? Would you continue to purchase and product or service where you requested an itemized bill and justification for the work and did not receive one? Why are we funding this program and not threatening to stop paying at all unless they fulfill a basic requirement of a report?

BLM is skirting oversight and scrutiny delaying this report, nothing more.

Our teams are busy engaging Congress. We are requesting that the addition $21 million for fiscal 2020 be denied. We are requesting that Congress pull funding for 2021, except for the care and feeding of wild horses and burros already captive, until BLM provides a detailed report and an opportunity for public scrutiny.

You can add your name to our effort at the bottom of this page. We will use your names to demonstrate that others are concerned about this situation as we meet with Congressional staffers. You will also get our alert if we need you to write directly to your reps.

We expect to hear from BLM on this issue some time in the coming week.

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Categories: Wild Horse Education