Wild Horse Education

The “New Rule”

Last look home. Look back at his home where decades of over grazing by domestic livestock and expanding mining have fragmented his home and caused the loss of freedom and family.

There is a lot of buzz about a proposed “new rule” that would supposedly help elevate environmental concerns as a component of the current “multiple use” mandate of land management. 

Many of you have been writing to us because you have seen news stories and press releases.

The final rule has not been published yet. When the proposed rule is officially published in the federal register, a public comment period will open. At that time we will break down the rule, the rule-making process and have sample comments for you. 

You can see the draft HERE.  (This is an unofficial prepublication version of this document. The BLM expects that the same or a substantially similar document will be posted in the Federal Register. The final document published in the Federal Register is the only version of the document that may be relied upon.)

A few wild horses released into an area of a massive livestock project, mine expansion and the Greenlinks transmission line after a roundup of nearly 2000 on the over 1 million acre complex.

Why is a new rule needed?

Yes, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) already authorizes BLM to consider environmental concerns on equal footing with industry (livestock, mining, energy). No matter how many assertions they make that they do, they don’t. This notation has translated in practice to focus on the word “consider” environmental concerns and affirmed by the courts into “it was listed in the planning, even though not scientifically evaluated and any equity or balance is lost in planning and practice.” “Consider” is all they need to do to make being an agent for industrial devastation technically legal.

A new rule is needed to get BLM to take the actualization of “thriving natural ecological balance” needs to be made on equal footing in actual planning documents and actual science (and not simply used as a soundbite). 

A BLM coopted by livestock and in the pocket of extraction needs a “new rule.” But is this proposed change just a way to gaslight through so-called green energy? Or should we be more optimistic? We are still reviewing the rule, we already know the promises.

Will the new rule change anything for wild horses and burros?

Probably not. BLM personnel still make claims that wild horses don’t need to be considered because they are invasive (like at the recent meeting of the Greenlinks North transmission line).

In sage grouse planning (the big 2015/16 planning process so the Greater Sage Grouse would not be listed as an endangered species) wild horses and burros were first on BLMs list to remove to improve sage grouse habitat. Limiting mining or livestock just became part of the “mitigation” game. In many ways… this proposed rule just rearranges the old sage grouse discussion language and we expect wild horses to get a “short end,” again.

The only thing we see that might be of benefit will be changes to language that the courts will need to interpret. It will mean running expensive lawsuits to see if we can get any of these changes to include the way BLM does the paperwork for wild horses and burros. (Remember, BLM does not even have basic management plans, just removal plans, So any “new rule” will not be incorporated into on range herd management plans… because they do not exist.)

Examples of language that will probably need the courts to decipher to determine if BLM needs to include wild horses: The new rule states that “this applies to all BLM-managed public lands and programs” and not just areas with a special designation. Another states:  “protect intact landscapes, restore degraded habitat, and make wise management decisions based on science and data.”

Will this help protect horses and habitat? It is highly likely that any language in a rule change will need to be clarified through the courts.

  • Remember the Code of Federal Regulations already states BLM meeds to do Herd Management Area Plans (HMAP) for all herds and they create layers of jargon and claim they do not need to.

We see a lot of reference to rangeland health, eco-systems and tribal consultation (that is already supposed to happen) for inclusion of indigenous knowledge.

The new rule discusses the leasing of public lands for conservation. But how much will that cost and will BLM just claim underlying planning (the old Land Use Plans, LUP) won’t allow horses to be included? Will this new rule actually trigger amending LUPs? BLM has amended archaic LUPs for mining and livestock but has failed to create Herd Management Area Plans (HMAP) to trigger LUP amendments for wild horses or opened up those plans for any change in wild horse management since the 80s (it is all still just about population growth suppression: roundups and surgery or drugs to stop reproduction).

Will this new rule impact plans already approved or in the courts?

We won’t know until we see what is published in the federal register. We have it on the list to discuss with our attorney concerning cases we have in the courts.

Our team is reviewing the proposed rule. At this time we see the old structure rearranged. We will keep dissecting and researching. When the proposed rule is published in the register, we will have extensive comments for you to submit.

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Categories: Wild Horse Education