Leadership (what next?)

Many of you are emailing us and asking “what the implications are for wild horses and burros from the elections?”

Public lands are driven by political agenda, like it or not. “Wild horses and burros” have historically been either severely neglected, or targeted mercilessly, by the politics that rule public lands. For 50 years the fight for a fair share, fair voice and against abuses has been necessary no matter who sits in a seat of power in DC.

Your concerns are valid. We will try to answer your questions as accurately as we can with so much still uncertain. 

Things that wont change:

  • The roundup schedule that includes the beginning of a 10 year plan to spay 50% of the mares in the Confusion HMA. The operation is set to begin Nov. 28. Any election results wont change the start date, but could eventually address some underlying factors (we will do an extended piece on this operation soon).
  • Active comment periods on oil and gas, hard rock mining, livestock.
  • Projects already approved that are devastating wild horse habitat.

A budget bill will still need to pass. Government activities are being run through Dec 11 after passage of a temporary bill. We are hearing that there will be attempts to push through a full funding bill but that it is likely to fail and instead another temporary bill will move through. You can continue to push for actual management planning as a caveat to available funding.

We have been told that next session inserting language that pushes fiscal responsibility and responsibility to the resource and public process (what WHE advocates) has a good chance, in the next round, for the 2022 bill. We have also done some leg work with potential new heads of departments to begin to up accountability, transparency and to stop changes in the NEPA process and FOIA backlog.

Under a new administration there is a “transition of power time” as one administration briefs the other, transitional leadership of cabinet positions assigned, etc. If you want to see the guide you can access it HERE.

You can view a rundown on federal agency leadership that oversees public lands (wild horses) here. We highly suggest you scan the article as it is a handy tool in the days to come.

Some of your questions:

“So with a new President then Bernhardt and Pendley are gone?” Yes.

David Bernhardt, current Secretary of Interior, served on the Trump transition team when the last administration handed over power as the incoming advisory for the Department of Interior. In that position he gave recommendations for incoming positions such as the appointment of Ryan Zinke. He then served as the Deputy Secretary before moving over to fill the top slot after Zinkes departure.  (you can view the entire transition team from 2016 HERE)

Senior leadership of the Department of Interior (DOI) and the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be immediately effected under a new administration. This includes Directors and Deputy Directors of agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). We could also see a reorganization that can extend to state directors (many reassignments occurred under the last transition, many of them had a “punitive” flavor as agendas changed).

Under the current administration we have not had a confirmed Director of the BLM, not one. We have had a bunch of individuals sitting in Deputy chairs with acting authority of the Director. Each one of them with previous ties to anti-wild hose factions, those tied to extremist actions on public lands and one, Brian Steed, that helped consolidate the “Ten Years to AML” agreement as he worked as Chief of Staff for Chris Stewart (Congressman, Utah).

Judge Morris ruled William Perry Pendleys tenure as acting director was illegal. Pendley still runs the department policy and programs division as deputy. Under a new administration he will immediately lose his job.

But what about all the questionable policies that he ran (Pendley) for his former law clients?

That answer gets complicated. We certainly wish there was a magic wand to stop the push to spay wild horses and all the roundups based on backdoor deals, internal changes in NEPA (the long term EAs that BLM is not supplementing after changes in the physical environment), the masses of unanswered FOIA requests, etc.

Much of the pain, suffering and damage done to the public resource, and public trust, by Bernhardt (Zinke before him), Pendley (Steed, Ruhs, etc. before him) will never be undone. Unwinding the dirty deals will take a long time and will require a real vested interest by new management. No matter what administration we have in place influence peddlers usually ensure wild horses get the short end and anything marketed as an improvement will stop at the doors of what “big industries” will accept. Our job does not end.

Will the OIG complaints be investigated? 

If you check the leadership structure, we linked above and again here, you will see that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for each agency sit under the direction of department they oversee. Over the last few years more than one complaint to the OIG was turned over, literally, to the exact person named in the complaint for review and then dismissed. To track down all of the wrongdoing in each agency, potential illegal activities, rectify the layers of wrongdoing, would be a labor intensive project akin to peeling a rotten onion.

A potential action, under a new administration, would be an immediate call to investigate the Interior OIG and review of any complaint dismissed. We are preparing an action item to launch once things settle down and we can get an individual to send your concerns to.

Perhaps employees of federal agencies that have been “managing from under their desks,” that placed a paycheck above the actual job they vowed to do for the public, will begin to speak out, cancel “buddy club” practices that excluded a vast majority of the public, and take responsibility for the shady activities they themselves directed?

Unlikely. Many of them will just continue to hold onto a seat until they retire so they can take a retirement on the taxpayer tab, without a controversial spotlight. The job of exposing the destruction will still fall on the private sector; a big job ahead. Big industry (including the advocate industry as seen in “Ten Years to AML”) will still hold the keys to public lands through lobbyists. Public lands get complicated and an educated advocacy is vital.

Will FOIA requests be answered? 

Not for some time to come. Our teams have over a dozen outstanding FOIA requests. Our FOIA team is actually really busy today.

We know you have many questions. We will answer you as fast as we can find accurate information.

The fight for wild horses and burros will always continue as industry is rapidly destroying the land our wild things need to survive. For 50 years our wild horses have taken the brunt of politics. No matter who sits in leadership we must never stop fighting for the wild.

We will update you as we know more.


Help us stay in the fight. 


Categories: Lead, Legal