Wild Horse Education

Habitat Fragmentation, what are we doing?

A roundup starts long before a chopper flies. Rapidly expanding mining, “green energy” and livestock use are squeezing the resources available on our public lands, including the areas designated for use by wild horses and burros. Many times as mining expands and draws down water tables, puts up fencing and expands roads, BLM does a livestock water pipeline to expand the range available to cows and sheep, but will designated that when livestock is off, the water is off.

What is happening? Wild horse Herd Management Areas (HMA) are not contiguous acres (open range). HMAs are fragmented by fencing for livestock and mining, roads that carry fast moving (huge) mining trucks. Springs are drying up as water use by industry intensifies in drought.

Only 3% of meat utilized in industry comes from public lands livestock producers that get (on average) 84% of available forage on any given range. For a very long time domestic livestock production has been found to be the single most impactful source of rangeland degradation. The livestock program costs the taxpayer money; not enough money os collected through grazing fees (that remain at historic lows) to even cover the cost of issuing a permit.

Many of you see these outrageous figures again and again in your newsfeeds on social media. It is one thing to talk about it, another to do something about it.

But what are we doing about it?

Right now WHE has active legal action against many of the plans that will impact wild horse and burro habitat.

A few examples:

In January of 2021, Wild Horse Education and WildLands Defense filed against a plan that impacts 1.3 million acres of wild horse habitat at Eagle, Silver King and Choke Cherry. This massive plan approved by BLM is so convoluted that the court does not appear to know how to deal with it and has broken the case into 8 pieces (essentially 8 different cases). Essentially we argue that the Environmental Assessment (EA) process BLN used was “too small” for a grazing scheme like this and they needed to do either a larger Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or broken it down into smaller EAs. The case is still active and Western Watersheds has also filed a separate case. However, the way the court is handling this has essentially proven our point. ~ This case is still active. Yet, while this case sits in the court, BLM is creating multiple EAs that overlap the area creating new livestock projects. It seems this effort is to skirt the delay created by the legal actions and get projects moving for livestock,,,, no matter how they have to convolute the process.

Last year, litigation derailed a massive project for livestock expansion in Oregon. BLM went ahead and created a new plan for grazing expansion in the Alvord. This week, WHE and WLD refiled a new case. (Working to protect any public resource, not just wild horses, is an ever vigilant and ongoing task; profit driven interests have politics and funding behind them.)

Last week WHE and WLD filed an appeal of the Ely District BLM Bristlecone Field Office’s “Long and Ruby Valley Watershed Restoration Plan” Environmental Assessment (EA) and Final Range Decision. The project entails extensive livestock grazing facility construction and purposeful sagebrush habitat destruction. This project overlaps the Triple B HMA (many of you followed the roundup with our team coverage). This livestock scheme was approved prior to the release of a massive plan to expand the mine in the same area.

Yesterday, WHE and WLD filed an appeal of a plan to drop hay on the range to feed domestic cows and sheep on public lands, leaving them in the lowlands that wildlife and wild horses need when there has been heavy snow.

Our teams are busy. Yesterday, we found 3 more grazing projects in the process of being approved that will (eventually) lead to removals of wild horses. We need to hustle and meet the deadlines to get comments on file so we can be ready to take more action.

Help keep us in the fight.

Categories: Wild Horse Education