On File: Roberts Mountain

What a crazy week! Our team is working hard on the backside on the frontline of the fight to protect our wild horses and burros. From our cases in Bordo in NM, Pancake and Blue Wing in NV and more, our teams have had a flurry of work to do (as well as all the “comment periods” that begin setting the stage for legal action like at the Pryors). A couple of deadlines hit to get the first round of briefs out or “forever hold our peace.” It was a slide into home base … but, hot off the overworked laptops, WHE just filed legal action at Robert’s Mountain. Teamwork.

A bit of background

All over the West plans are being approved that sit on top of inaccurate and archaic assertions. Numbers of wild horses and burros “allowed” on the range (that BLM calls an Appropriate Management Level or AML) were set at the same time as boundary lines were rapidly penciled in without any data on how the herds used the range. This made both the boundary lines, and any stocking level in those boundaries, nothing more than a baseline to keep the livestock permittees on public lands happy. If you know about the years when the Act was passed (the 70s) and the years the Act was finally codified (regulations approved in the 80s), you know that was an intense time when any environmental protection, regulation, restriction, was vehemently and even violently opposed. “How many horses and where they would be” became a tool of placation for most land managers… and wild horses and burros were shoved into boundary lines that made no scientific sense, just what is called “administrative ease.”

Robert’s Mountain is a great example of a place BLM knows they did it… keeps saying they are going to do something about it… and then drops the ball. Is the ball being dropped due to politics of today, “buddy clubs” or just that the office can’t seem to get it together? It really doesn’t matter.

It is more than simple irresponsibility to approve a “remove and use every fertility control method in the books” for ten-years on a frame they know is wrong. (While they keep approving more mining and livestock projects in the area.)

So, WHE had to take a stand.

The case at Robert’s (without the legalese)

BLM has done nothing about humane handling deficits. Calling a single national hearing on motorized vehicles (when the regulations state a local hearing) “compliance,” and never responding to a single and valid concern, is not “ok.” In fact, it is more than an indication that continued violations of the CAWP policy will occur.

BLM creates these “Gather and fertility control Environmental Assessments,” but does not analyze or disclose the all of the issues involved in the stated action (ie. trap location, holding corrals, processing facilities). First Amendment issues are at risk, as well as horse health, when the actual analysis of the actual proposed action is ignored.

Instead, BLM puts in a lot of things into their “Gather-EA”  to make it look like a management plan… but you cannot comment on any of that stuff or they call your comment “outside the scope” and ignore it. In fact, BLM Gather-EAs are pages and pages longer (than they should be), take longer to write, than if they just did the herd management area plan (HMAP) that would let you comment on all they put into a gather-ea (but maybe that it what they are trying to avoid?) they would have less paperwork and maybe start creating a justified decision somewhere, just one?

At Robert’s, BLM admitted the underlying deficits when they began scoping to update the Resource Management Plan (RMP) back in 2012. In 2013, they even began creating maps to fix it (as scoping was underway and WHE participated). Then they said they did not have the money to do the RMP revision… but could do an HMAP to start an amendment to the RMP (often instead of redoing and entire RMP, BLM will create a specific decision that amends an RMP so something like a mine can go in using new methods, etc. and could do the same for wild horses). Then, in 2017, BLM bailed on the HMAP (as they began to create new “partnership” models under Path Forward for ramming through all kinds of population growth suppression tools, i.e. fertility control).

Instead, BLM released a plan to remove wild horses using the AML they know is wrong, inside and outside boundaries they know are wrong, and forever impact the herd using everything from IUDs (without monitoring for complications) to every kind of vaccine they can approve now and in the next ten-years (PZP, GonaCon, SpayVac, etc.).

Once begun, these actions will impact this herd for decades to come. BLM cannot be allowed to carry out this plan at Roberts. Claiming they will fix the issues at some undisclosed date (that could be another decade from now) is a shirking of responsibility to the public and public resource. The damage will last longer than a lifetime… because BLM cannot do what is right?

We had to take a stand.

Our opening briefs were filed today and more will be filed in the next 30 days for Robert’s.

Robert’s horses live in an area where they have survived in rough terrain and rough circumstances. These gorgeous wild horses are a real testament to all we love about these resilient beings.

In the coming weeks, as time allows, we will tell you more about this amazing herd and share some of our stories over the years.


Thank you for keeping us in this fight!

Categories: Lead