Drought, Vegetative Fuel, Remove the Horse, Increase the Cows (maps)

With BLM dropping population numbers for wild horses and burros and citing drought as a driver to continue the assault against wild horses, we thought we would republish an article from earlier this year about one of the ways “different rules and tools” are used for profit driven interests to keep them expanding.

We hope this information helps you as you reach out to your representatives in Congress during the budget debate that is set to fund another year of this onslaught.

Drought is real, so is climate change.

Broken Arrow (Indian Lakes) off-limits facility is now home to once free wild horses including those from Barren Valley, an area just hit with a massive grazing plan to turn out more cows.

Why do we see articles touting news ways to put out more cows and massive mining expansion and the word “drought” is never mentioned, but with wild horses and burros the word is used like a bottom line for removal? 

Contradiction has always driven the way public lands are mismanaged. (On-Range WHE overview report HERE)

WHE and WLD have partnered in two legal cases: Wilson Creek (Eagle, Silver King and Chokecherry HMAs) and Alvord (Barren Valley, a bit of Steens, HMAs). These are two instances where large scale removals of wild horses preceded massive livestock plans to increase cows. Drought being used as a driver to remove wild horses. “Fire fuel reduction” and carbon sequestration being used as a driver in the plans to increase cows.

Many of you have seen the word “drought” used increasingly to remove wild horses and burros from the 12% of public land they occupy in 10 western states.

We do not hear the word “drought” used to close livestock to grazing or used to create any limitation on the massive mining boom in the West. We see expanding pipelines, fencing and water hauls for livestock to increase their territory. We see mine after mine approved.

Wild horses and burros are a public resource; planning must protect and preserve them. Mining and livestock are permitted uses; permits can be approved, limited or denied, based on environmental factors and other considerations.

So why is the word “drought” being used to hammer wild horses down to the numbers Congress found “fast disappearing” when the 1971 Act was passed? Probably because it is a convenient and simple word to use to justify an action (that would happen with or without any drought) and avoid the deeper discussion.

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The maps above coincide with the creation and execution of the “BLM 2020 plan.” The BLM 2020 plan was presented to Congress and is entering into the 3rd year of being funded as the Appropriations debate begins. What is happening today is not driving the removals of today. The plan began as “Ten Years to AML” in 2016 and had a name change in 2018 when livestock signed on openly to “Path Forward.”

It is not drought driving the current policy, it is an agreement that is years old and incorporated (by name) into BLM reports to Congress since 2018.

This agreement to reduce wild horse and burro numbers to a national “AML” (Appropriate Management Level)that was established during political haranguing in the 1970’s), came after a stupendous failure of the BLM (and other federal agencies) to address damage done by livestock to our public lands as the need to protect habitat for the Greater Sage Grouse hit a fever pitch as proposed listing on the Endangered Species Act loomed large.

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In 2013 and 2014 a small effort was made to close or limit a few grazing (private European livestock) allotments. Several BLM districts were instructed to create district wide Drought Environmental Assessments (EA). When the triggers were met to close those allotments all hell broke loose in the West and protest camps, illegal fences/roads, threats etc. became the norm. (It should be noted that during those years removals of wild horses were at the lowest rate in decades, the feds beginning to recognize it was not the horses causing the damage.)

Instead of removing livestock, BLM caved. Millions of dollars have been spent (taxpayer money) to keep livestock grazing running. These efforts run from new fencing to full on teams working hard to find as much junk science as they possibly can to justify leaving cows (or increasing them) and further fragmenting and destroying wild habitats being turned into lowland wastelands. (These efforts are convoluted and intense. Examples include Argenta allotments and Wilson Creek. Wilson Creek spans Silver King, Eagle and Choke Cherry  wild horse HMAs)

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BLM has removed thousands of wild horses from areas where they have implemented grazing schemes to “keep the cows on” that further fragment wild horse habitat with fences and pipe water into additional areas the cows can. now move into and destroy (as they have destroyed almost every lowland in the West.)

One of the tools the livestock industry has repeatedly used to deny that drought should inhibit grazing of cattle and sheep is something called the “vegetation drought response index” to dispute the attempts of BLM to use the “drought monitor” to close grazing allotments.

When livestock interests go into Congress (or BLM offices with their lawyers on speed dial) they use the vegetation maps to stop BLM from restricting livestock. Yet, at the same time, the same people, use the drought monitor maps to insist that wild horses need to be taken down to the lowest numbers possible as fast as possible.

Mining essentially has the most political clout in the nation, hence they have the most impact on where and how they can operate. Mining is rapidly expanding in the most arid areas in the West and drawing more water than most towns near their operations. We do not see mining halted due to drought.

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Maps above show oil and gas, mining claims, grazing allotments and wild horse/burro Herd Management Areas (HMA) in Nevada.

Nevada has more than half of our wild horses (more than all other states combined). The BLM manages 63% of the land base of the state; all federal jurisdictions combined manage 81% of land in the state.

When you overlap the maps, how can wild horses need to be removed due to drought and no private profit driven interest has to cease causing massive impact?

When you see the next reporter use “drought” in a headline claiming drought is driving the removal of wild horses, they need a reality check.  If the drought is driving the stockpiling of wild horses in holding facilities and sliding of wild horses through the sales program into the slaughter pipeline, why is nothing else on public lands being driven to downsize?

(Note: Appropriate Management Level, AML, is a pure numbers game begun in politics of the 70s and just carried forward in Land Use Plans. Don’t use an AML that has never actually been changed through any planning for wild horses to claim any “overpopulation.” You fail Algebra 101 if you do that. BLM knew the original counts are flawed. In 2013 the National Academy of Sciences chided them on that again. So BLM changes counting methods, but they don’t apply the same changes to the original number. It’s like a toddler sitting there saying they have 6 marbles, “I always had six marbles.” You tell him, “You have more under the couch and in the seat cushions.” You pull out 20 more marbles, that were always there. The toddler acts like he had 6 ,and the 6 magically multiplied, and now he has 26. “No dear, you always had 26.” If you change methodology you have to change the original variable (if you are comparing that number to one set before the method change). The number we have today could be the same number we had in 1971 (if the same counting and padding method were used on both numbers). It’s algebra 101. These AMLs were not set in management plans for wild horses, HMAP, they were set in LUPs that took into account what profit driven uses would want back in the 70s and 80s and just carried forward.)

The removal plans we see today were created in 2016.
Yes, drought and climate change are real; but so is scapegoating of wild horses. Both have been very real for decades. What we are seeing is status quo scapegoating, not policy driven by facts and science. What we are seeing is not any representation of a “fair multiple use.”

Politics, profits and backdoor deals are driving this roundup machine funded by a taxpayer that does not financially benefit from the destruction of their public lands. 

You can take Action today against drought schemes and more HERE.

Help keep us in the fight. 

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Categories: Lead