Wild Horse Education

Are You For It Or Against It? (Path Forward)

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Over the last 4 years a document that represents an agreement between big corporate lobby groups representing livestock and big cash animal orgs. has been steam rolling a path to becoming reality.

WHE is adamantly against it. Are you?

This agreement puts a cart full of stuff, at taxpayer expense, ahead of the horse. (This is not a plan, it’s a deal.)

There is a big difference between words and actions (the documents in italics are links to the documents, they are worth looking at)

The plan has had two names. Early on it was called “Ten Years to AML.” It was included in the 2018 BLM Report to Congress and participants were noted by name. Many involved simply denied the existence of such an agreement to avoid any public backlash. That simple strategy worked. It was easy to get the public ire to simply vanish with a vehement social media denial, even though it was noted by name in the BLM report of 2018. It is tragic that people do not read much and a simple denial of a fact in a social media post, and paid traffic, wiped the betrayal out of the realm of reality for over a year.

In early 2019 the report had a name and format change before going public. Perhaps the inclusion in the title of the disputed AML (stocking level), that has been criticized by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), stirred up fast controversy? The new title “Path Forward” conjures images of the NAS report (A Way Forward), but included none of the science based fixes of the NAS report, just an acceleration of the causes of the collapse the NAS warns about.

What this deal does is fund a bunch of authorities (things BLM can do) and skirts the mandate of management (that requires an actual plan).

On the surface the backlash has been fierce with “oppose the Path Forward” appearing on social media memes and lead in pieces to action items simply calling for the use of one fertility control substance, PZP. But is that actually opposing any aspect of the Path Forward?

The 2021 Appropriations debate has been one of the most coordinated and expensive public relations campaigns we have ever seen in advocacy. Each arm of this “Path Forward” is nearly over the line with full funding. Be careful on social media. There is a big difference between words and actions.

Do you oppose it or support it?

How much do you really know about the plan? It is actually pretty simple if you read the document:

It is essentially an acceleration of the “status quo” with more funding for the “adoption subsidy” (that is landing more newly titled wild horses in the slaughter pipeline than in recent memory), more funding for private holding contracts, and a very large subsidy to treat up to 90% of mares on range with a population growth suppression agent (fertility control)… after low AML is reached. That means the first step is mass removal without addressing one single inequity. 

It does not take spaying off the table and accepts the current AML. It does no management planning on forage allocations, range improvements or stocking levels (Herd Management Area Plans that the BLM simply turned into the “gather plan.”)

This plan will begin the years of the largest numbers of wild horses and burros removed off the range in US history since the Act was passed to protect them and pack holding facilities beyond capacity bringing about another roundup od talks to kill the ones removed because it costs too much to feed them.

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Nothing would change at any of the roundups you are seeing now, if the current bill passes (with additional funding), it would all just accelerate.

Nothing in this plan addresses any actual management deficit that led to the edge of the entire collapse of the system. In fact, it pushes the program closer to that edge while it creates a massive impact to the herds we have left in the US. It also increases the cost to the taxpayer to shirk basic mandates and continue the political game.

Every single herd will face that massive roundup without validating any aspect of on-range practices: forage and water (critical habitat), AML, impacts from industry, and on and on.

There is no place in this “plan that isn’t a plan for management” for a public voice. Your voice is supposedly represented by those that denied involvement in the “deal” for years and by those making a different claim, opposing it, while they push one arm. In the public relations world that is called “controlling any opposition.” The core big money lobby on the document wanted PZP to be the only fertility control agent in the “deal.” But the Path Forward implies that, it could not state that. So pushing one substance (as priority) becomes “an arm… and relabeling it “humane on range management” helps create smoke for a plan that does not address a single aspect of on-range management, it just adds a new population suppression tool to roundups.  Perhaps some form of population growth suppression might be needed on specific ranges at some time… but only after all the rest is dealt with and protection of herd and habitat are clearly defined.

If you are against the actual “plan” outlined above, are you against all aspects or only one? Do you want one aspect more clearly defined or do you think the “plan” is actually not a plan, but a deal struck behind closed doors and think it deserves a RICO investigation? (We have heard multiple objections that span a variety of sentiments.)

Throughout the 2021 budget debate what have you been asking your legislators for? Did you oppose it or support it? In your thoughts and mind you may feel as if you logged opposition, but did you by your actions?

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She did not need to die. She died of thirst in an HMA WHE has been struggling to get management planning but were un over by those pushing parts of “Ten Years to AML.”  We will never forget. (here for more) 

For years WHE has been working to address the core issues: on range minimization and gutting actual stakeholder involvement in planning. In other words; the place you can fight for that “fair share.”

The Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP), prior to taking any other action, was a piece presented to this “Path Forward,” but rejected by the groups in 2016. They went to great lengths to damage the progress toward getting actual HMAPs created as a template for larger herds, as part of this “money deal.” The HMAPs we were working on required no big subsidy, addressed historic flaws and data sets, included a fertility control darting program. HMAPs could then determine any dollar figure for the “why, when, how.” But that was just not acceptable to the groups taking selfies in DC.

We did not “make up” the inclusion of the HMAP. It is in BLMs own handbook. Yet we only have 7 of them in practice, out of the 177 herds BLM has designated for management today. We have already lost entire herds that never had a management plan.

In 2018 a roundup was stopped at the Pryor Mountains (in part) because the BLM had not completed range improvements in the underlying herd management plan, and the purported degradation of the range was due in large part to the agencies failure to complete those improvements. “Blaming the horse,” when BLM had failed to do what was outlined in the planning document, was not “ok” with the courts. The underlying planning documents gave an opportunity to create a legal conversation.

For the vast majority of our herds there is no such planning document, there is no such opportunity. There is no place to present data, argue for range improvements, genetic preservation, protection of critical habitat. There is also no such document to walk into a courtroom for the vast majority of our herds to stop any roundup, where BLM has failed to provide preservation of basic needs like food and water, blames the horse, the helicopter flies.

The HMAP would also provide an accountability factor for any fertility control: what substance, when and how. The core reason fertility control on BLM herds fails, in the vast majority of situations, is the lack of any follow through (tracking, retreating). The HMAP gives the legal leg to get that follow through.

An HMAP, the site-by-site management plan, begins with a public scoping period. It does not begin by presenting the desires of a hand picked corporate lobbyist. Is a herd a good candidate for raising AML for fire fuel reduction? you can present your site specific argument in that HMAP. You can present the facts, make requests and then work on a herd-by-herd basis through planning. That is how the system is supposed to work. For decades your voice simply does not matter as agencies bend to the will of industry. There are those that see “animal welfare” as an industry and have promoted that exact phrase. Industry is not just livestock or oil and gas.

Ten Years to AML, Path Forward, whatever you call it, is a perpetuation of a system that has denied public participation in public lands management for decades. It perpetuates the manipulation of the public by big cash for profit.

“I’m against the Path Forward” is a soundbite. What do the actions represent? 

Wild horses are dropping dead in areas where BLM knows management flaws, never rectifies them, denies us the ability to create management that would address those flaws. Those wild horses will be rounded up. The only way to stop it will be intensely expensive litigation. If there was an HMAP? it would be a lot simpler and harder for BLM and the “buddy club” to manipulate any court ruling… just like at the Pryors in 2018.

Why aren’t all organizations pushing for all of our herds to have that same stakeholder opportunity as the Pryors? For the vast majority of our herds we are denied the opportunity to speak, work, assist, gain accountability to the public resource. We do not even have the opportunity to try. 

Do you want a faster way to help our wild ones and get them into an actual science based management plan that includes your voice?

Do you want a way to hold BLM accountable to the wild? 

Take our 4 step action HERE. 


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This video was made in 2011 after winning the first cases in history against abuse at roundups. Issues of abuse had to be fought on policy and public lands law.

We have been dragged backwards a decade by those looking for a  market share. By “big humane” that never even actually fought abuse at roundups. WHE is the only org in history to take abuse to court and shut down a roundup. Did you know the million dollar orgs never spent a penny on one case against abuse, even if they make a claim of “leadership” against abuse. All that was done is the progress that was made on access, and against abuse and toward fair management was sold off for the handouts represented in the path backwards.

What you are all seeing now on the roundup schedule, a relentless push with multiple roundups at the same time, is how it used to be.

Welcome to 2011… in 2021… because of the Path Backward that sold the fight for a “deal.”

To quote Velma Johnston at the time of her death, “I’m biter. YUP.” 

Categories: Wild Horse Education