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Commenting on a Roundup (Calico EA)

Calico Complex

Sample comments for Calico, scroll to bottom of the page.

What is a comment period?

When people ask that question most often it references the “public comment” period associated with a roundup plan published by the BLM. (The BLM manages more wild horses and burros than all other jurisdictions combined, so for the purpose of this article we will focus on BLM.)

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970 “requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions.” Proposing to remove/sterilize/apply fertility control to wild horses or burros in a Herd Management Area (HMA), or complex of HMAs, over a ten year period, is one such proposed action governed by the NEPA process.

Chart taken from NEPA handbook

In 1976 the Federal Land Management Policy Act (FLPMA) mandated a new planning system, one that requires broad public participation, not just the involvement of those who may be directly affected by a decision. (This Act also gave BLM required review of grazing fees, ended homesteading and granted law enforcement authority to the BLM, among other things.)

Essentially, these two laws create a framework. BLM knows what they want to do. Yet, they have to create “alternatives” and “analyze” the impacts of each. They must interface with stakeholders and the public.

The “who, how, what and why” of this process, and the vague language associated with the process that is manipulated by industry and the “friends and family club,” is what sets up most environmental litigation today.

Wild horses and burros are a public lands resource. This process governs any proposed action that impacts them and their environment. This is why you can comment on “Preliminary Environmental Assessments” prior to their approval.

Soldier Meadows allotment, Calico Complex

How Do I comment?

Comments on an EA are not like contacting your reps in Congress. When contacting Congress to address policy change, the budget and reform, numbers really matter (3 branches of government distinctions). Example letters to Congress from WHE volunteers HERE.

When commenting on an EA the comments must fall into a category the agency defines as “substantive comments,” and numbers of comments do not influence the outcome.

From BLM:

Substantive comments often address one or more of the following:

    • New scientific information or data that would have a bearing on the analysis;
    • Errors in the analysis, assumptions, methodology, or conclusions;
    • Misinformation that could affect the outcome of the analysis;
    • Requests for clarification;
    • A substantive new alternative with a mix of allocations that differs from those under any of the proposed alternatives.

The process is filled with acronyms and official lingo and deadlines. It may seem complicated. However, once you start to engage on a regular basis, you will find the process rather simple… yet, simply cumbersome. “It ain’t rocket science.”

Calico wild horses

Example of Crafting Comments, Calico (For those that “want to know” this article walks you through an EA. A few simple sample comments for the Calico EA at the bottom of the page):

The Preliminary EA is open for comments on the Calico Complex “ten year” roundup plan. Comments are due by May 13.

To find the paperwork for the NEPA process you go to the BLM E-Planning site. The link for Calico is here.

Edit: You can download the EA from our site HERE if you are having trouble loading the BLM page. 

You should be able to access all of the documents and maps on the page for the action you are commenting on or researching. Many times, as with the 2021Calico, the document is labeled wrong. In this case it appears someone began editing off a 2019 document and never changed the name. If you click the link for the “2019 Calico Complex Final Preliminary EA,” the 2021 EA will load. 

We also suggest quickly scrolling any Appendix that might be loaded with the EA. Often, a fast scroll of the Appendix will give you a good idea of what to expect as you move on to the EA to craft comments.

There is only one attached Appendix to this EA. A fast scroll will show you that various fertility control substances, IUDs, mare sterilization, field gelding and vasectomies are planned for Calico. If you have information on any of these procedures that you have used in comments on past EAs, this would be the time to create your own appendix for your comments that you can reference as you write your comment letter. Creating a doc you can edit and add to as an “attachment” to your comments can make crafting your comments easier in the future. Save your comments from previous EAs. You might be surprised at how similar they remain, rather copy/paste, instead of actually addressing public concerns. (if you are having trouble loading the BLM page you can download their Appendix here)

Next, open the EA. Every EA starts with a description of the general area, starts with “overpopulation” and all of those that agree population suppression is a priority and then will usually simply state that the population size (AML) was reaffirmed in a land use plan that simply took the same numbers from the 70’s and carried them forward. This section begins to create the legal foundation for “purpose and need.” From all wild horse and burro roundup EAs: The need for the action is to prevent undue or unnecessary degradation of the public lands associated with excess wild horses and burros, and to restore a TNEB and multiple-use relationship on the public lands, consistent with the provisions of Section 1333 (b) of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA). 

If an EA does not clearly demonstrate that the proposed action will meet the objectives of “purpose and need” it is invalid.

Calico roundup

The next section will include “authorities” and the underlying “planning” documents an EA claims to comply with. You can look up each document, or ask BLM for a copy, and check each claim if you have a lot of time.

Essentially what you will find are lists of planning documents for everything from livestock to sage grouse. What you (probably) wont find are any Herd Management Area Plans (HMAP).

So when advocates say “wild horses and burros are scapegoated and just removed to suit other interests,” it is not simply assertion. It is a fact that there is a glaring absence of actual management planning for our herds. Calico is no exception.

Note that in your comments on Calico.

Calico roundup

The next section will present the “Alternatives” for you to comment on.

This is what the agency wants to do, and states exactly which alternative they have already chosen, by calling “Alternative 1” the Proposed Action: “Gather and Remove Excess wild horses and burros to low AML, implementation of population growth suppression utilizing vaccines for horses and burros, IUDs for horses, sex ratio adjustments for horses and managing approximately ¼ of the mares at low AML as a permanently non-reproducing portion of the population, including mares that are sterilized with a non-surgical procedure.”

As you craft your letter this is the alternative you should focus on as you determine if BLM provided appropriate analysis of the effects of the action on the public resource. To us, this is a mishmash that BLM has appeared to toss out without really determining what methods are appropriate for the specific area.

A comment could be phrased: BLM has appeared to throw every possible population suppression tool option into this EA without site specific analysis that shows why these methods, in such a combination, are best for this complex of HMAs. Alternative 1 includes a mishmash of fertility control options where the cumulative effects are not analyzed in any form. Repetitive language that repeats each process does not determine suitability for the complex nor does it represent rigorous scientific analysis. None of these methods were approved in any actual Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) and therefore, approval of any of these options in a “gather plan” is not appropriate. 

Somedays we play “where are the cows?’ Sometimes where they should be, sometimes where they are not.

Livestock

Every single EA will state that removing or reducing, livestock equates to: “This alternative was not brought forward for analysis because it would be inconsistent with the current land use plans,” and “The proposal to reduce livestock would not meet the purpose and need for action.”

However, the EAs all state that the “purpose and need” for the EA centers around range degradation and the need to achieve a “thriving natural ecological balance.”

Protecting wild horse habitat must be in a management plan to protect a species. BLM gives you a Greater Sage Grouse plan that can impact livestock and wild horses, but you do not get one to protect wild horses.

So you can address your comments about livestock, even though BLM says you can not, by using something like this: “BLM provides no underlying HMAP that analyzes the effects of livestock on wild horse habitat and notes limitation, distinctions and tools to address those impacts. My ability to address damage to my interest has been hamstrung. Until BLM addresses an HMAP wild horses should not be removed in a fashion that simply suits a current livestock permit. Not crafting an HMAP leaves serious doubt that the proposed action will achieve a thriving natural ecological balance and rectify damages (likely) caused by livestock. In addition, this EA fails to disclose turnout times and associated numbers, specifically, of each livestock grazing allotment in the Calico Complex.” 

Sterilization:

On page 59 of the EA the discussion about “nonsurgical” sterilization of mares begins. Basically, they are talking about “gluing” or “burning and scarring” the oviducts of mares causing permanent sterilization.

You can state that “the nonsurgical sterilization of mares, presented in Alternative 1, is experimental, extreme and not proven to be warranted as appropriate for this HMA complex in the EA.” You can then chose one of the other alternatives or state something like “sterilization in any form, of mares or stallions, has not been approved  in underlying planning in an HMAP and should be omitted from all alternatives.”

One of the reasons you should always download any attachments and check documents EAs assert they comply to, is that often they do not comply or the document they state contains a specific procedure simply contains no such procedure.

In the Calico EA BLM states that all Alternatives: “Fertility control monitoring of treated mares would be conducted in accordance with the CAWP outlined in Appendix A. ”

CAWP does not contain any protocol or procedure for the application of IUDs, nonsurgical sterilization, surgical sterilization or even darting.

So you could write: “BLM states compliance with the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy and erroneously states that all fertility control would be done in compliance with CAWP. CAWP contains no provisions for the procedures outlined in this EA. Until CAWP is revised, BLM must drop these methods from any and all proposed actions.” 

Calico foal born in holding, separated from mom, starved before being euthanized by BLM.

To submit comments you again visit the E-Planning site. Click HERE.

Next to the document you are commenting on, in this case the mis-marked EA that states 2019 but is the 2021 EA, there is a button that says “Participate Now.” You must submit comments by May 13.

You can combine the comments (we have combined them at the bottom of the page for you) in this article or craft your own. 

When BLM finalizes the EA, if they fail to address the comments appropriately, that is when legal action could begin. 

We hope you found this article helpful as you continue on your personal journey of advocacy. 


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You can submit comments by clicking the “Participate Now” button on the BLM E-planning site HERE.Comments must be submitted by May 13.

Combined Comments you can embellish on:

I submit these comments re:DOI-BLM-NV-W030-2019-0019-EA Calico Complex Wild Horse and Burro Gather Preliminary Environmental Assessment.

BLM has appeared to throw every possible population suppression tool option into this EA without site specific analysis that shows why these methods, in such a combination, are best for this complex of HMAs. Alternative 1 includes a mishmash of fertility control options where the cumulative effects are not analyzed in any form. Repetitive language that repeats each process does not determine suitability for the complex nor does it represent rigorous scientific analysis. None of these methods were approved in any actual Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) and therefore, approval of any of these options in a “gather plan” is not appropriate. 

Nonsurgical sterilization of mares, presented in Alternative 1, is experimental, extreme and not proven to be warranted as appropriate for this HMA complex in the EA. Furthermore, sterilization in any form (mares or stallions) has not been approved  in underlying planning in an HMAP and should be omitted from all alternatives.

BLM states compliance with the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy and erroneously states that all fertility control would be done in compliance with CAWP. CAWP contains no provisions for the procedures outlined in this EA. Until CAWP is revised, BLM must drop these methods from any and all proposed actions.

BLM provides no underlying HMAP that analyzes the effects of livestock on wild horse habitat and notes limitation, distinctions and tools to address those impacts. My ability to address damage to my interest has been hamstrung. Until BLM addresses an HMAP wild horses should not be removed in a fashion that simply suits a current livestock permit. Not crafting an HMAP leaves serious doubt that the proposed action will achieve a thriving natural ecological balance and will rectify damages (likely) caused by livestock.

In addition, this EA fails to disclose turnout times and associated numbers, specifically, of each livestock grazing allotment in the Calico Complex.

Name and contact info.

 

 

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