As The Dust Settles (Ramble, Rant, Roundup Report)

Fast commentary from our founder on the roundups you are watching this year. A “rant” on the current state of “wild horse country” that BLM seems to think they can fix by doling out grants.  

Note: I know when I write this way BLM gets annoyed. Instead of actually addressing what we bring to the table, they fill the table with people that will gloss over the real issues and help find something “non offensive” to talk about. Whatever. As I sit here working all of this is swirling in my head and my personal “health” requires that I write it and share. Long ramble, but bear with me. 

As the temperature drops and roundup season (July 1 through the last day of February) drives on, propaganda flies from the livestock industry, livestock bias media and politics. 

But when the “dust settles,” it is clear that BLM manages our public lands prioritizing livestock and mining. While editing video from roundups over the last few weeks this reality should be painfully obvious to anyone with eyes.

At the ongoing Clan Alpine roundup it looks like BLM either was simply lazy and did not move cows or was waiting for a call back from the permittee to see if they were allowed to move the cows. Instead of stopping the operation they created a dangerous situation where pilot had to navigate dust, cows, wranglers and a trap he seems to have trouble with… to try to weave horses into the catch pen (video above and below). 

It took 7 runs and 3 hours… 7 runs and 3 hours before the cows were pushed out of the trap area and the path toward the trap. 

7 wild horses have died in 4 days. BLM says that 3 had signs of obvious cancer and 2 had “abscesses.” Nearly half the horses that died on this range were diagnosed with cancers with only a fast run through a field chute. IF this is the case, how many will be diagnosed when a closer look can happen at the facility?

Just asking logical questions. Will there be an environmental analysis of health risks to domestic cattle included in the permit renewal? Will you include the higher cancers in horses in your next analysis of transmission lines, like the additional one you have planned for this area in Greenlinks North?

At Robert’s Mountain, mitigation for mining expansion requires that they clean up some of the damage they cause (the insane spread of weeds and invasive plants). So from a plane, at the exact time and place a chopper stampeded horses toward the trap, the equivalent of Roundup was being sprayed on your public lands. Our onsite observer noted that she could not tell if the horses looked “dipped in liquid and rolled in flour” from sweat and dust or the stuff the plane was spraying. (In the video above you can see that BLM thinks that observers with cameras are more disturbing to horses than a flatbed unloading heaving equipment nearly on top of the trap.)

Did anyone from BLM look to see when they themselves approved the roundup and the Roundup? nope. Just get all the “mitigation” done so the mine can operate and the livestock permittee won’t get blamed for range damage… remove horses as part of that “mitigation” and get them out of the way of those mining trucks.

During the Moriah Herd Area (HA) roundup the ability to actually assess condition of wild horses (and handling practices) was obstructed until the very last day (above). We are not just out there to get pictures of a chopper driving horses but how BLM is handling those horses as they have a “welfare program” that contains no enforceable policy and we have had to file litigation, again.

On that last day, BLM was so far out of the Moriah HA they were really just outside the Antelope HMA that got hit with a roundup this summer. No matter how BLM on the ground tries to spin this, horses by Tippet are NOT Moriah horses. 

Moriah is a Herd Area. In other words, a place originally designated for wild horse use and then, without any actual data-based analysis, the area was removed for use. The area has always had horses in it, they do well there. The Secretary has the authority to repatriate these areas and has, not once, exercised that authority. Instead, just one horse standing in a place like Moriah becomes a rallying cry for “wild horses are so overpopulated they are leaving their areas” without any logic behind it… and BLM never fixes it.

Why do we need to go back to court on issues like simply getting an enforceable welfare policy? Because BLM does not take their Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program (CAWP), that was only put into place after 6 years of litigation, seriously. Heck, most of them do not even KNOW that temporary holding corrals are NEVER supposed to be more than half full. Video above is TODAY at Clan Alpine.

How do we address CURRENT and CRITICAL veterinary standards like Air Quality and Heat Index with an agency that doesn’t understand the dangers of overstocking of a pen, dust control and gaps between chute and trailer? or even appear to care. Running into barbed wire or hitting a horse with a helicopter bring really bad press; that they seem to understand.

During a release in Idaho BLM included a few older mares from faraway HMAs to address genetic viability issues. The average lifespan of a wild mare runs from 18-22 years. The GonaCon hormonal fertility control BLM put onboard will probably last longer than the mares will live. How do they address genetic viability if they can’t reproduce? Oh, the Advisory Board or DC told you to, so you did it?

Where’s the data?

When people “assume” BLM did some kind of range health study to determine damage caused specifically by wild horses and that removing horses will somehow fix that damage? Please keep in mind BLM did not even check when timing on the Roundup was being sprayed while they sent the chopper into the air to catch horses. They will allude that they have done these “studies” to Congress and media, but no such studies exist because BLM says they “do not have personnel and time.” 

There are no studies showing removing horses (while rapidly expanding mining and new fencing and water pipelines for cows) takes one single step toward improving “Thriving Natural Ecological Balance” (TNEB) a main objective BLM states every time a horse is removed. Instead, what we see is a rapidly declining environment and barely a horse in the years following these large roundups.

BLM has “gather assessments” and not management plans. Where BLM asserts they have a “management plan” if you check, you see it is just a “gather/fertility control plan.” For 50 years the entire program is remove, stockpile, whine, find loopholes to empty pens… and repeat. 

The law requires BLM to do open and official management planning in a process outlined as the “Herd Management Area Plan” or HMAP. BLM does not deny that they have been required to do these for over 40 years. They simply say the law does not say “when” they need to get them done. Not kidding. This is the line BLM is using in numerous court cases, now. 

“Thou shalt not kill,” but you did not say when.

Seriously, that is the logic here. We have to see how the courts interpret and decide and be ready if we need to take this absurdity to a higher court

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Above: When you see horses coming in to trap uninjured, but offloading at temporary corrals with a high incident of facial injuries you ask BLM to check the trailers to see if floors are being cleaned or if there are bent or broken edges… but BLM instead checks the SEMI trailer that takes horses to the facility and says “all good.” It adds a whole new level of “Are you kidding me?

When an advocate tries to address the very real conversation about the lack of any planning to actually manage and protect the herd (as outlined by law), the “adult” conversation goes Kindergarten really fast. 

Recent (annoying) propaganda:

“Wild horses are really aggressive and chased me!” Response: Then you did something really stupid. Did you throw rocks or get aggressive first? Whatever you did, would you do it to a bull elk and call him “aggressive” if he charged you for threatening his calves and cows? Just tell the horse it is pretty and you are sorry for scaring it and… back off like you would with any wild being. They are not saddle horses. In fifteen years I have not been chased, not once. A few bachelors trotted close and snorted a warning, had their pictures taken and, when their curiosity was satisfied that I was not a threat, trotted off. Maybe if I did bad things to horses, or was afraid of things bigger than me, I might have been scared? Horses have incredible senses and can smell you (and your attitude) from 2 miles off and can even hear your heartbeat from 4 feet away.

Horses chase off everything from water! Response: Wild horses move in to water and move off because they are afraid another stud will come in and take his mares and, yes, there ARE predators on the range. Wildlife (death) Services is very busy taking out lions and coyotes every year. HOWEVER, when more than one mine is approved in an HMA taking away vast territory, fencing off a bunch more and drawing down water (and more fences are approved for livestock), wild horses may only have access to shrinking water supplies. In many cases an HMA may only have 1 year round water source horses can even get to (that is unstable in a climate change world). An HMA may have no year round waters for horses due to the absurd way BLM set boundary lines based on zero data. Due to the sheer lack of identification and protection of resources our wild horses need to survive in any actual management plan, dying from a lack of water is a real thing. Would you risk your life for the water that keeps you alive? We are likely to see vast changes in behavior due to the manmade desperation in many wild species in the coming years.

We have seen thin livestock out on the range all year. Oddly, animal rights groups leave public lands “drop off and pick up” ranching alone and never talks about the issue of dropping a domestic animal off on the range to fend for itself… even in winters where BLM approves hay drops because cows are dropping dead in deep snow. Ranching in most western states is NOT like ranching you see in the movies; it has been romanticized far more than wild horses have.

Livestock is under such hardship from wild horses! Response: Dear Lord, help me try to even answer this one without swearing. Livestock gets the lions share of grazing land. Domestic livestock is the number one cause of range degradation in the West. In most of the West, livestock was given the political clout to set the rules to feed “Western expansion” in the most arid states in the nation. 66% of public lands is open to private livestock grazing. 12% is set aside to include horses or burros… and even in the 12%, livestock gets 80% of the grass BLM claims grows in these areas while only producing less than 3% of meat produced in the US nationwide. All of this is run under massive subsidies with a cost to permittees of less than a single can of dog food to feed a cow and calf for a month, predators killed, subsidized water pipelines and fences, reimbursement for dead cows, wild horses removed from allotments and states even help you appeal decisions when BLM or USSFS tries to reduce your cow footprint. (Example: A Guideline prepared by the NV State Department of Agriculture, using tax money, to help permittees deal with BLM/USFS).  Just stop whining. Livestock gets an automatic 45-Stay when they file an Appeal (and they file ten times more than wild horse advocates do) and usually a settlement. BLM usually ignores our Appeals and plows ahead. A wild horse advocate can barely get an answer to a basic question without being told “file a Freedom of Information Act request.” Just stop whining. 

I have to get back to the pile of work on the desk. Thank you for bearing with me as I get all of that out of my system.

When the dust settles, it should be really obvious that wild horse and burro protection, preservation and data-based management are simply NOT a priority for the BLM. 


You can follow reports from the ongoing Clan Alpine roundup HERE.

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Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education