The single greatest threat to our wild horses and burros is habitat loss and fragmentation. Our ranges are not open spaces managed for a “thriving natural ecological balance.” Our western ranges are managed to suit the biggest buck and bully in the room, fenced and fragmented. Summer 2021 will be a brutal reminder of the consequence. (Scroll to red text for action items on the budget and more! The budget debate is at the bottom.)
Extreme drought for 2021 has been apparent in “wild horse country” since 2021 began. Drought on the range effects everything from forage availability to the ability to get a single drink.
Simply put, water is life. Without water every single wild thing on our western ranges will suffer and many will die.
Has BLM done anything about it? They have had plenty of notice. Scientists have been stating we had entered into a mega-drought. In 2013 the agency began approving “Drought EAs” so they could take rapid action.
What have they done? Over the last few years they have approved mine after mine drawing precious water tables down. They have approved livestock project after project that fences more range, shuts off waters to “rest” areas when cows come off (even though those sources that now have a spigot were created because natural springs were destroyed by livestock), failed to repair waters wild horse have access to, approved a handful of wildlife waters (to keep game species alive for hunters and fenced wild horses off)… basically they have done absolutely nothing to ensure wild horses have access to water.
Why has the agency taken no action on the active EAs that would allow them to close livestock grazing, prepare water hauls and use funding to repair waters for wildlife and wild horses? Probably because the last time they tried the Grass March took off and began threatening BLM employees (many of the same people behind the Grass March were at the event in DC in January that made headlines around the world).
We are hearing all kinds of promises about protecting species and our environment. All we have gotten on wild horses is money for grants and “partnership proposals.” Why?
You can help us gain a hearing into the Wild Horse and Burro program. We need to deal with the “bully factor.” Click HERE.
Last year the drought, coupled with the actions and inactions of the BLM, was a brutal thing to watch.
We contacted BLM week after week in 2020 asking when they were going to repair/replace waters and/or get enough water hauled. We watched many of the wild ones we love suffer and dozens die.
In January of 2021 the BLM could see we were already in drought. A fragile growing season for plants on the range would begin in just months. The small runoff from snowpack would provide “only so much water.”
Did BLM move to manage our ranges for a “thriving natural ecological balance” and to protect the range for wild horses as the law requires? No. The cows went out and drank water and ate the sparse green that sprouted.
The roundup schedule includes the HMAs BLM has added during the “normal course.” The “emergency roundups” are not on the regular schedule “until emergency” places them there through a process that does not require the normal paperwork and can pull funding from outside the “scheduled” operations.
Last year we saw several HMAs hit in the round of “emergency.” These are not actual emergencies like fire, these are expected events due to the actions/inactions of the agency.
From the instructions for approved REAs:
“Field offices must be aware of whether and to what extent drought conditions exist within their area of jurisdiction.”
“Drought and its effects on resources is a gradual phenomenon. A delay in taking timely action to mitigate the effects, while undeniably urgent, does not rise to the standard for an Emergency Action under NEPA. As appropriate, line managers will use the decision process specific to their programs to implement adjustments of uses or activities to mitigate the effects of those activities on natural resources stressed by drought.”
The drought EAs have failed to produce any action. The agency has failed to create actual management plans (HMAPs) to protect our herds.
BLM has been an abysmal failure in protecting your public lands and public horses from this epic drought.Wild horses keeling over from a lack of water will sure fit that “overpopulation” memo and satisfy the Grass March and their buddies.
We received multiple responses (from BLM) that primarily indicated that BLM had not begun drought monitoring in HMAs, had not restricted any livestock, had not improved any water source for wild horses.
Some state and district offices (BLM) responded that they would notify us when they went to do monitoring, invited us to come along and that they would send us updates. Needless to say, we have received no updates.
URGENT BUDGET ACTION
Many of you are contacting Congress as the budget debate moves forward.
Today, the urgency lies in getting the range open: fences down, industry out, waters running. We need working plans to save them on the range, instead of perpetrating the most abusive aspect of the entire program: destroying the resources the wild needs to survive and then blaming them for it.
We ask that you send this letter. Send this fast click and send letter by clicking HERE.
Then dial 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative. You can say:
“I’m a constituent, and I’m calling to ask that you please do all you can to influence changes to the Department of Interior Spending bill for the Wild Horse and Burro Program.
- Designate $5 million for water source creation and repair in HMAs. The agency has failed to protect water for wild horses and burros and allowed the sources to go into disrepair and be turned off.
- Defund removal plans where the BLM has skirted the NEPA process and failed to create a management plan for the herd, an HMAP. Without planning, nothing will work.
- Designate specific funds to provide for an open online portal where the public can access range monitoring, roundup veterinary reports, shipping manifests and death statistics.
- Defund the Adoption Incentive Program pending a review.
- Maintain the provision to defund sales without limits (open sales to slaughter).
If they say they only take messages supporting bills, state that you want an appointment to speak to the aide that handles public lands.
Wild horses and burros are a public resource that is governed by public lands law. Yet, wild horses are not treated as a protected resource with management planning that protects their habitat. Any other species would not be blamed for industry shrinking their habitat, but wild horses are. It needs to stop.
Help keep us in the fight.
Categories: Wild Horse Education