Countdown to Helicopter Season (part 1, funding the schedule)

The sound of the chopper running wild horses and burros into a trap marks the end of life in the wild.

Roundups mark the fiscal year calendar the agency runs on and the space between two distinct branches of the wild horse and burro program.

A helicopter drive draws in the media and the public. However, that moment in time is simply that, one moment in a severely broken system. 

This week we will bring you a series of articles about roundups; how, why, who and what we can do to create change. 

Part 1 will cover funding. Part 2 (CAWP) and Part 3 will cover the methods of justification (the paperwork). Each piece will have a specific action item you can take.

You can download a copy of the latest schedule, that includes the helicopter capture of 300 wild burros beginning May 28, HERE.

Roundups begin long before the chopper flies.

How The Schedule Is Funded.

The roundup schedule runs on the fiscal year that is funded through the Appropriations process. A bill is introduced in Congress, that must pass House and Senate before being signed by the President. This bill funds federal programs beginning October 1 through the end of the following September. Example: fiscal year 2022 begins Oct. 1, 2021.

The roundups we are seeing now (through the end of Sept) are all funded by the 2021 Appropriations bill.  For fiscal 2021 BLM was  awarded $102,620,000 for the wild horse and burro program. This is simply $42 million over 2019 levels to accelerate the status quo and label many operations “fertility control.”

The funding was awarded after BLM provided Congress with the 2020 report on the program. Many advocates call Congress and say “reject the Path Forward,” the lobby document pushed by Chris Stewart (R-UT). What many advocates are failing to recognize is that “Path Forward” is simply a lobby document that has already been incorporated into BLM planning and gained the additional funding in the 2021 spending bill.

The “Path Forward” officially lives in the BLM Report to Congress 2020. That report is still being used as the baseline for both Congress and the agency.

If you want to help tank the “Path Forward,” you need to get Congress to reject the 2020 report and hold a hearing. If not, funding for fiscal 2022 will incorporate the document and raise funding again. The new bill will now include a massive “partnership” opportunity that will include bait trapping and fertility control by many ranchers, something BLM has been trying to slide in for years. Many advocates are also left trying to compete for this funding and some have been working hard to get fertility control into a “paid contract” system.  (Action here)

Confusion, Dec 2020

Once the budget allotment for the year has been determined State offices collect requests from district offices for areas to be rounded up that have the required paperwork completed (NEPA).

Then the national office will determine which states get how much money for the “range” program and roundups. State offices control the funding that goes to the districts for any range monitoring, hiring personnel, equipment, and roundups. The national office controls funding for the system of “adoptions” and holding (including all the funding for the ill conceived Adoption Incentive Program that has been funneling a record number of young wild horses into the slaughter pipeline, taxpayer subsidized).

Essentially there are two distinct branches of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program that draw paychecks and policy from two different bureaucratic pipelines. The BLM employee that works in a district office is in a completely different food chain than the employee that works at a facility. Many times these employees are rather clueless when it comes to answering questions about the other “branch” of the program; that is how distinct these branches are.

Funding for roundups also includes areas that do not make the schedule. These operations are often labelled as “emergency.” The situations in these areas are not unknown and often the paperwork to get the area on the regular schedule are not completed (or a project for mining or livestock was approved and the horses are in the way). Last year we saw several of these emergencies and each one points to a severe lack of planning and transparency. We expect several of these later this summer in areas BLM continually kicks proactive planning down the road.

The roundup schedule can change rapidly. Removals can be added, moved and dropped depending on funding and litigation.

The Centennial EA went out for comments that were due April 15. Prior to releasing a final EA, BLM has already placed a helicopter roundup on the schedule to begin May 28.

Helicopter roundups can run from July 1 through Feb 28 for wild horses. BLM considers March through June (arbitrarily) foaling season. For wild burros, BLM does not recognize a foaling season.

This roundup is being funded through the 2021 Appropriations bill that was approved after BLM provided the (long overdue) 2020 report to Congress. That report incorporates “Path Forward.”

Removals present one moment in time in the life of a wild horse or burro that changes everything. A moment they jump from the range program into the system of holding.

Creating reform that can minimize, or stop, a roundup begins long before a chopper flies. As advocates our work must also begin long before a herd hits the schedule.

You can help!

You can send a fast letter to your representatives as the 2022 spending debate begins by simply clicking HERE. 

We also suggest making a call. Find your reps HERE.

Sample script: 

I am calling about the  Appropriations 2022, Interior spending bill. I am calling about the 2022 funding of the Wild Horse and Burro program. 

Please propose an amendment to the (spending) bill.  Mandate that no funding should be used to remove/sterilize/apply fertility control until BLM creates actual management planning for a herd as outlined in the handbook mandated by the Code of Federal Regulations.

BLM admits they are required to create these planning documents called a Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP). Yet, BLM claims the law never set a timetable to create them. 

The law to protect and manage our herds was passed 50 years ago this year. It is long past time that BLM create management plans.

Please create incentive for BLM to follow the law. No funding should be spent on Herd Management Areas where BLM has no Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP).

Help keep us in the fight.   

If you are shopping online you can help Wild Horse Education by choosing us as your charity of choice on IGive or Amazonsmile.com 

Learn More:

Fast guide to Appropriations 

“Helicopter Hearing” in CA May 13

Let’s Talk (BLM Report and the NAS)



Categories: Lead