The two worst stretches of drought came in 2003 and 2013 — but what is happening right now appears to be the beginning stages of something even more severe. As we head into summer, the stage is set for an escalation of extreme dry conditions and another dangerous fire season ahead. Fire season has already begun in many western states.
In 2013 many western states began putting “Drought EAs” in place. These drought EAs gave federal land managers the authority to minimize or close livestock grazing allotments as markers of drought showed that if they did not, catastrophic conditions would develop for wild horses and wildlife.
US Drought Monitor has been reporting escalating drought conditions. The weather service has been reporting that there is no relief in sight. Federal land managers have not taken action to reduce the risk to wildlife and wild horses from overuse during drought by domestic livestock that have other options for food and water, wildlife does not.
The “growing season” for grasses (forbs and shrubs) is dependent on water, air temperature, soil and other factors. In many places the growing season for grasses simply did not happen this year, even areas normally covered with invasive non-native grass, like cheatgrass, simply have not happened.
A combination of a dry winter, and a forecast that indicates another very dry and hot summer ahead, should have seen a flurry of actions under the drought EAs that are already in place.
In fact, we have seen sheep and cattle out during the fragile growing season as BLM issues EA after EA to remove wild horses, remove more trees and approve more fencing, projects that turn off water when cows are not out to (rest an area that has been cow bashed) and “outcome based” grazing schemes for livestock. A “status quo” approach is continuing full-steam even though the reality of the range is far from “status quo.”
If managers fail to act now, wildlife and wild horses will suffer dearly this summer, again. (devastation at Fish Creek last year HERE)
Our founder Laura Leigh once said “For the sake of argument, I have a magic wand. I remove all the wild horses and our rangelands are still in a downward spiral. I wave it and remove all the cows and sheep and viola! our rangelands begin to heal.”
During this drought, our rangelands really do need some extra care, if we care about anything that could allow the preposterous assertion that land managers make decisions for a “thriving natural ecological balance.”
The following (simple) letter will be sent to state directors all over the West, we will continue to send these letters and update you on any responses:
Please take action and reduce or remove domestic livestock during the 2021 drought. It is within your authority to utilize provisions in the “drought EAs” now, before it is too late to help wildlife, wild horses and range health.
As a taxpayer, I expect you to take your responsibility to the American public seriously and protect public resources from profit driven enterprise at this fragile time.
Please publish the actions you are taking to protect public resources under the active drought EAs.
You can add your name here:
BLM continues to “blame the horse” so they do not have to address the livestock industry.
In the area of the Martin Fire (where 400,000 acres of wild horse habitat were lst) the BLM proposes to hit that complex with another large roundup that, if you do the math, targets every single horse left in the 1.2 million acre complex. The Owyhee roundup and more HERE.
Are land managers ignoring the drought EAs because of the “extremists of public lands?”
In 2014 the BLM tried to close, for the season, grazing allotments in a place called “Argenta” in NV. It led to litigation, that the permittees lost, and the decision to close was affirmed. So the permittees organized protest camps and a movement they called “The Grass March.”
Intimidation and politics caused the BLM to cave. The taxpayer paid for a team and projects, with a bill of over $2 million total, to keep “the cows out.”
Will everything on our pubic lands suffer because it is simply easier to look for a scapegoat like the wild horse? Or should managers actually do the job the taxpayer pays them to (and continues to pay their benefits package for the rest of their lives)?
If you agree that managers need to do something besides kowtow to livestock, cause suffering during drought for every living thing on public lands and blame the wild horse, add your name to our letter.
The Final EA for removal of wild horses of the Desatoya is out. Our legal team is working on litigation. The final EA to remove wild horses down to low AML of 127 as more than 1000 cows are run in year round grazing permits. BLM is finalizing the wild horse removal before they finalize the permit renewals that continue that stocking rate, kill trees, approve more fences.
The area is already showing signs of drought and not one action has been taken by the BLM to reduce livestock impacts, not one.
More on Desatoya and other areas we are watching this season, soon.
The failures of BLM to create actual management planning, not just removal plans, for wild horses will cause multiple places to hit the roundup schedule under a label of “drought emergency” again this year. These are no “emergency” situations that simply happened, they keep happening because BLM has failed miserably in their mandates to manage.
Help keep us in the fight.