On the heels of the monstrous Antelope Complex roundup in NV (that took 2203 wild horses and killed 11) a ten-hour drive will take you into Sand Wash Basin where a controversial roundup is underway.
When an agency finalized a “gather” decision (Environmental Assessment or EA) an Appeal period is the final step toward proving the decision is legal. The Federal Land Management Policy Act (FLPMA) provides the right to the public to engage in decision making and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guides that analysis process.
On August 17 the BLM approved a ten-year “gather plan” for the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area. The deadline to file any appeal or protest is August 16. An Appeal is filed with a Federal court called the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA).
The roundup is likely to reach the objective outlines in a decision that has not even passed the Appeal hurdle. As of yesterday, 422 were captured and 1 has died. The agency could reach their capture goal in 3 or 4 more days.
The “gather plan” approves a mishmash of fertility control substances, IUDs and sterilization. This is a gross deviation from the status quo of the actions of the last decade in the HMA. None of these decisions were made with any depth of public input through management planning: the Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP).
Instead of allowing the public their right of Appeal, the agency declared an “emergency.” The contractor that ripped through the Antelope Complex, another operation done as an “emergency” to skirt the normal scheduling process, headed to Sand Wash. The operation began demonstrating the same rapid-fire roundup style we saw at Antelope. There are more “emergency” operations to get to in order to use all the funding before the fiscal year expires (if agencies have a surplus at the end of the year, they do not get additional funding the next year).
“Not only are citizens being deprived of the right to fully engage the NEPA process through a complete and thorough review under Appeal, but the harms to the public resource and the public interest are extreme. The agency is carrying out this operation without adhering to the most basic premise of the 1971 Act, humane handling. The distress this is causing the public is unnecessary and callous. The drought “emergency” is simply non-existent when a large livestock turnout is on schedule and sage-grouse hunting will proceed,” said Laura Leigh, Wild Horse Education.
WHE is one of the organizations that filed an Appeal against this breach of public trust by the agency. WHE filed to add our voice and distinct argument to the growing chorus that includes Governor Polis and Congressman Neguse.
“The agency wonders why there is so much anger stirring in the public? They need to take some responsibility for causing it. The public is pushed out of deep decision making for wild horses as the agency calls livestock operators their ‘customers’ and mining executives their ‘clients.’ On top of it all, the agency will pick ‘preferred partners’ on wild horses and burros that simply agree with the agency and only want to address population growth suppression.”
“Management goes much deeper than that. The agency needs to open real management planning and stop perpetuating the fraud that a gather plan is a management plan. Until advocates can actually have input on herd size, range preservation, genetics, water improvements, etc., there is no ‘public’ in the public lands Wild Horse and Burro program.”
During the Antelope roundup our team met with DC program leads and the CAWP team lead for BLM. The deficits in addressing the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) have existed since the agency finally placed the policy into contracts late in 2015 and fully implemented in 2016. It took years of relentless litigation just to get the framework for a policy and a promise for review and revision.
To date, WHE is the only org to ever litigate abuse at roundups. Since the policy was included into contracts we have exhausted all potential remedies and, unfortunately, see the necessity to prepare to address these issues again in a courtroom.
“To have one’s rights stripped to fully engage in management of a public resource (wild horse) is outrageous. When you see this kind of treatment to wild horses in a relatively small HMA, where people have named every horse and the area is a literal tourist attraction, the additional pain and suffering the agency is causing the public at Sand Wash is indefensible.”
Over the weekend our WHE team set aside our regular tasks and was busy on the backside providing information to several individuals taking additional action for SWB.
Categories: Wild Horse Education