Educate Yourself (Public Land Grazing)

This series of articles is being published with no pictures, no video. These articles are being published for reading during a “stand off” in Oregon by extremists in the “State’s Rights” agenda that have taken over a bird sanctuary. (landing page linking articles https://wildhorseeducation.org/2016/01/17/educate-yourself-introduction/)

Propaganda is a dangerous tool, no matter who wields it. It leads to the creation of stronger “fringe” and extraordinary frustration to those taking a more pragmatic approach to creating changes in the system. In this instance (pertaining to wild horses and burros) we do have extremists agendas, all public land becoming the property of states (essentially to sell off and use for finite purpose, not for all Americans and to resume mustanging, or the sale of wild horses for slaughter) and “animal rights” (another “self centric” movement that has at the core a concept that range resources are limitless and that stopping the public from eating meat, stops problems for wild horses). Both of these agendas are extremist and bad for the horse, the land and any concepts set down by our founding fathers for our nation being “for all.”

The agencies that manage public land (BLM, USFS, USFWS, NPS) are nothing more than “regulatory agencies.” If you can imagine a pendulum the fulcrum is the agency, the position of the space the object on the other side occupies “swings.” The object is the space of the reality of management practices. The “swing” is determined by mandates and laws that come from the public through Congress and through engagement.

However a dangerous precedent has been set. Not just in recent times, but throughout history, intimidation can also push the pendulum.

In this section we want to give you some background on pubic land ranching.

The federal system of grazing management began with the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. After the American Revolution this facilitated the systematic survey and settlement of the lands that the original 13 colonies ceded to the federal government. Congress established the General Land Office in 1812 to oversee the disposition of federal lands. The Homestead Act and Mining Law of 1872 were added as western expansion continued. (The Homestead Act was responsible for many of the properties still passed down to new generations in the present day western states).

The late 19th century saw a shift from the ideas of expansion to one of protecting the resources on the land for the American public at large . We saw the beginning of a National Park system (Yellowstone as a National Park in 1872) and laws created to manage the resources on, and beneath, the land for the general “good.”

In 1934 we saw the Taylor grazing Act appear with the intention of setting up grazing districts to be managed by the federal government. This created the Grazing Service. In 1946 the Grazing service was merged with the General Land Office and the Bureau of Land Management was born. The land management policy of the federal government before 1946 involved easy access of federal resource to miners, ranchers and farmers. Grazing on federal lands continued under a system of “allotments,” where ranchers paid a monthly fee to graze each cow and her calf. (The fee was 5 cents in 1906, the equivalent of $1.14 today; in 2016 the fee is $1.69.)  note: These low fees (and other subsidies) are where the term “welfare ranching” originates.

(previous three paragraphs taken from this page that has extensive explanation and comparison to wild horses and burros https://wildhorseeducation.org/welfare-ranching/)

The Taylor Grazing Act was also passed to stop people from killing each other over a blade of grass, but it did not stop intimidation from the livestock community to public land managers.

Not until the 1976 enactment of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) did the BLM have a multiple-use, sustained-yield mandate. FLPMA was another attempt to get the “range” itself into the conversation of managing public land for all. It also increased the danger to anyone attempting to actually manage the range under the mandate. High Country news “must read” http://www.hcn.org/issues/46.18/defuse-the-west.

Today the public knows “Bundy,” Grass March and “State’s Rights.” But this movement has been active through other names as well. “Our goal is to destroy, to eradicate the environmental movement,” said Ron Arnold, of Seattle, Wash., one of the leaders of the wise-use movement, in 1991. “We’re mad as hell.” It’s one thing to talk about anger and destruction; another to act out those feelings. Since 1989, there have been over 100 incidents of harassment against environmentalists and public employees, almost half of which occurred in the past year.”

Our founder, Laura Leigh, has her personal favorite “land manager” in history, Don Oman. Oman worked for Forest Service. In order to understand the reality of management, we need to understand the realities that are lived. (In order to understand and effectively advocate for wild horses and burros our philosophy at WHE was we need to literally “live it.” Core to our work).

This is the reality Oman lived: ”Either Oman is gone or he’s going to have an accident,” said Winslow Whitely, who has one of the biggest herds in the district. ”Myself and every other one of the permit holders would cut his throat if we could get him alone.” Read entire article here: http://www.nytimes.com/1990/08/19/us/trouble-on-the-range-as-cattlemen-try-to-throw-off-forest-boss-s-reins.html?pagewanted=all

“Any public land manager is not doing his or her job if the resources of water, soil, wildlife, fish, recreation and scenic beauty do not improve under their control. The downward trend has to end. No activity should take place on the public’s lands unless those resources can be improved. To do otherwise permanently closes options for the future.” Don Oman, 2001 article

Fortunately in a culture ruled by fear (that is how public land is managed to this very day) Don Oman stands as an inspiration to those seeking change inside, and outside, the system. Unfortunately people like Oman are rare.

In an article published this week from AP that has appeared in multiple sources, including the Elko Daily (cow country paper in NV) “Back in the day, they used to call the BLM the Bureau of Livestock and Mining because that seemed to be the only uses for those lands,” Freemuth said. “That’s blown away now. You’ve got urban users. You’ve got environmental concerns. You can understand how (ranchers) feel threatened by the whole thing.”

As wild horse and burro advocates why should you care? Because you are in danger of unwittingly becoming part of the problem.

The progress being made in recent years is real. It is what is pushing the pendulum back toward center. It is what is causing the “ruckus” from the extremists set on regaining control. A need to regain control, in and of the nature of that very statement, means that iron grip is slipping. Ignoring that progress has been made is the fastest way to undo it.

The word you need to understand is accountability. Accountability to the environment, wild horses and process, not a dismantling of it. That is exactly what the current propaganda storm is intending to create. The propaganda storm is intended to create profit, both for livestock and extreme “animal rights.” (We will write more about that in a section that deals with extremists in “advocacy”).

It is more than past time for everyone to “elevate the I.Q.” and find a spine of steel. The “range wars” are real. Historically those that led change based on any action that spoke to integrity of process found themselves targeted. The same holds true today.

We recently wrote an article about todays range management “a layer of… bricks.”

“Enough is enough,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based Center ecologist. “As of December 2011, more than 80,600 acres of desert tortoise habitat have been destroyed in Clark County under the pretense that the agreed-on steps were being taken to help tortoises in protected areas. But since 1998, grazing that was supposed to be eliminated at Gold Butte has gone on, despite two federal courts saying it should stop.”

Watching the new “Bundy debacle” in Oregon, do you know who Mrowka is? Do you care?

Before you share one more article, respond to one more sensationalist plea from any side that has “disband the BLM” as a tag line, you should find out. Step back from the need to learn all you need in 40 characters or less. Lives depend on it. Everything that lives and breaths on the range and the range itself, depend on it.

Looking for a “click and send” letter will not help. This issue is going to intensify heading into the next election. The only way to dismantle this reality ruled by fear is to arm yourself, with knowledge … and act with accountability to all the lives that hang in the balance, human and wild.

Why is WHE a target? Because we have created change, not just Facebook “likes” and big mailing lists (it is not the size that matters, it is what you do with it). WHE is a link in a chain, for change. If you click and read be aware that these are “Bundy agenda supporters.” https://wildhorseeducation.org/2015/08/08/fish-creek-protect-the-harvest-borba-and-duquette/

One of the things we talk about as being essential to creating change is “self policing.” That runs true for federal land managers, ranchers, extraction and environmental concerns. A system managed because of a pendulum that swings due to fear will never be one managed as intended, fair and equitable. We hope that everyone gets a bit better at that.A war that can not be won is one based on “lifestyle choice” and personal opinion. The only way to win a road that continues to swing the pendulum to a place where it becomes rigid and stops being pushed by fear, is with fact. Giving the village idiot the gun (all interests) might be a good comedy, but it creates a lousy reality.