Summer in the West is intense as the mega-drought moves through the better part of the last decade and climate changed induced “fire seasons” increase.
Drought is not listed as an unexpected emergency, like fire or a hurricane. Drought is predictable and slow moving. Agencies know drought is coming, have time to take action to prevent damage to the range, and to stop wild horses from experiencing one of the most painful deaths, dying of dehydration.
DROUGHT IS A DRIVING FACTOR IN THE ACCELERATION OF THE ROUNDUP SCHEDULE. Yet at the same time the BLM is increasing water hauls, water improvements, to keep domestic livestock on your public lands pounding the range into dust!
The agency is trying to hide the fact that they have done nothing to protect wild horses and have even helped accelerate “drought emergency.”
The cows need to come off before ONE wild horse is removed due to drought.
(To go directly to the “Action item update” scroll down to red text.
In 2013 the BLM approved “Drought EAs” and an Internal Memorandum was released (still active as no new IM took it’s place).
Example of text: Regardless of weather or climatic variation, the BLM must manage public land resources to achieve and sustain their long-term health and productivity. Lack of water due to drought stresses ecosystem functions and processes. Land uses and activities authorized or managed by the BLM affect the condition of public land resources. The BLM must modify authorized uses or management practices when necessary to lessen their impact to drought-stressed public land resources. This includes but is not limited to activities such as grazing, recreation, lands actions and minerals activities.
Since these drought EAs were approved, and supposedly addressing drought was made a priority for the agency, the BLM has done very little to reduce the impacts of private profiteers to the natural environment and absolutely nothing to preserve habitat within HMAs to sustain wild horse populations.
The cows need to come off before ONE wild horse is removed due to drought.
In 2020 the BLM knew that drought was an increasing issue. In HMAs BLM knew that wild horses have little access to water in their own HMAs (particularly during drought) and when moving off HMA, still have very few options to get a drink that are not fenced off.
Even with a well-known and expected increased drought in 2021,BLM did not reduce livestock, create water improvements (that give access to wild horses). The agency has completely shirked their responsibility to protect wild horses and the range they need to survive (as the 1971 Act intended).
Action item update
By April the agency had not taken any actions to protect forage in HMAs from domestic livestock. We asked you to sign-on to a simple letter we have sent district to district, state office to state office. Over 20,000 of you have added your names and comments to our letter. Several of you have begun to write your own letters. (You can see the action item here)
We have also suggested that as you engage Congress surrounding spending bills that you make drought (habitat protection) your number one request for funding. (3 action items HERE)
There is a sheer lack of actual management planning documents for each herd that address anything in depth. Management is not all about population growth suppression (roundups, fertility control). Population growth suppression is a tiny piece of management, yet BLM produces only “gather EAs” and not management planning.
Through a volunteer project our drought inquiries went out to all districts and state offices.
Instead of simply providing a list of what a district might be doing to address drought in an HMA, each district and state forwarded inquiries to the national office!
We have simply asked district by district for a list of actions they have taken to protect wild horses and no one will provide us with an answer to that simple request. Instead, BLM national had public affairs, not a range team, respond:
Thank you for reaching out to the Bureau of Land Management with your questions. This response is on behalf of the various offices that received your email.
The BLM is committed to the welfare of wild horses and burros on public lands. The agency is preparing and reacting to the drought season which, as you suggest, is anticipated to be exceptionally dry this year. BLM district and field offices across the West are monitoring conditions on public lands, including the health of the wild horse and burro herds under BLM management. As many areas of public land continue to be affected by chronic overpopulation of wild horses and burros, the impacts of drought will further reduce availability of water and forage for wild horses, wildlife and livestock. Off-range corral facilities are preparing for intake of imperiled animals as conditions continue to deteriorate in many places on public lands.
To the extent possible under state laws, the BLM works with private owners of water rights to provide access to their water for wild horses and burros. Existing natural water sources on the landscape for which BLM holds water rights, or for which no water rights exist, are and remain available for wild horses, burros and other wildlife. In emergency situations, the BLM may haul water temporarily to animals in need until further action can take place. Hauling water is not an ideal long-term solution because it can prevent migration of animals to other natural water sources, and can cause animals to become habituated to a single area, which causes further deterioration. The BLM’s long-term goal is to manage self-sustaining populations of healthy wild horses and burros in balance with other uses and the productive capacity of their habitat.
Especially in times of drought, it’s important to carefully manage all uses on public lands to ensure sustainable yield. The BLM continues to work with livestock permittees to take voluntary reductions in livestock numbers and season of use to provide additional sources of forage and water for wildlife and wild horses and burros during times of drought. On a case-by-case basis, the BLM works with livestock permittees to reduce or modify grazing management to address drought-related forage and water concerns on grazing allotments that overlap with herd management areas.
We hope we have adequately addressed your questions. Thank you for your concern for America’s wild horses and burros.
One district has put out a scoping document that addresses water hauls for wild horses, yet lumps in domestic livestock as being eligible for those water hauls! If water needs to be hauled for domestic livestock (that stay in the area of a water haul and trash the range) in a drought, those cows need to come off. The cows never should have been allowed out in the first place!
The distress in wild horse HMAs is due to decades of the agency prioritizing industry (livestock and mining) and never doing anything to protect wild horses. The local hunting clubs who have friends at BLM will get their guzzlers to keep game species alive. The livestock get to keep going out and destroying habitat. Wild horses? if you read the note from BLM public affairs above you would think wild horses created all the damage and are even responsible for increasing drought conditions.
Please add your name to this letter:
Nada Culver, Acting BLM Director,
When we inquire at a district level to gain information on how the agency is protecting wild horses from drought on a case-by-case basis we are sent a public affairs message from the Washington office. This is inhibiting our ability to advocate and engage to protect our interest. In order to accurately and appropriately address our concerns to protect our legally cognizable interest, we must have access to site specific information that is currently being inhibited.
We, the undersigned, request that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) create a Drought focused web portal that lists the actions each district is taking to protect the range, wildlife, wild horses and burros from the drought.
Please specifically address:
- All actions taken since IM-2013-094 was issued that restrict livestock.
- Any Environmental Assessments proposed to protect the district from drought.
- Any water hauls, fence removals, and water improvements to help distribute populations of wild horses throughout their HMAs.
We expect the agency to become proactive and protect our wild horses and their vital range lands from the damage done by profit driven interests. The cows need to come off before a single wild horse is removed “due to drought”.
The roundup of wild horses in the Conger HMA is up next on the gather schedule. Conger is actually part of a complex of HMAs that include the Confusion HMA where our litigation helped put an end to the brutality of spaying via colpotomy and remains an active force toward the creation of a long term management plan.
The drought is a driving force in accelerating removals. For decades the agency has shirked protecting the range. We need to force the agency to recognize we will no longer tolerate the absurdity of their public affairs teams that parrot the old lies. Removing wild horses “for their own good,” and at the same time spending millions in tax-payer dollars to keep the cows out during the same drought, is not ok.
We want transparency from the agency and we want it now. What are you doing to protect wild horses from drought and the increased damages from industry during drought?
Sign the action item above.
Help us keep our legal actions alive and our teams in the field. Without your help, none of our work is possible. Thank you!
Categories: Wild Horse Education