by Debbie Coffey, V.P. and Director of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved.
On October, 16, 2014, the Bureau of Land Management Ely District in Nevada issued a news release announcing that in early November, it would begin a roundup to remove “approximately 120 excess wild horses from in and around the Triple B and Silver King Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in eastern Nevada.” And “The helicopter gathers are necessary to prevent further damage to private property and provide for public and animal safety.”
For one thing, per BLM’s website, “Nevada is an open range state. It is the responsibility of the private land owner to build a legal fence to keep livestock off private land.”
Let’s take a closer look at what this news release did and didn’t say.
Silver King HMA
The BLM stated this: “The District will remove up to 50 excess wild horses from in and around the Silver King HMA. The horses to be gathered are located about 120 miles south of Ely. They are a safety concern on U.S. Highway 93 and are damaging private property, resulting in property owner complaints. AML for the Silver King HMA is 60-128 wild horses. The current population is 452 wild horses.”
The BLM omitted informing the public of the excessive numbers of livestock in the Silver King HMA, which is shown in the chart below.
The information on the 2 graphs below was taken directly from information on BLM’s Rangeland Administration System database.
Triple B HMA
The BLM stated this: “The District will remove about 70 excess wild horses from the Triple B HMA, located about 30 miles northwest of Ely, that are damaging private property, and harassing and breeding domestic stock resulting in landowner complaints. Appropriate Management Level (AML) for the Triple B HMA is 215-250 wild horses. The current population is 1,311 wild horses.”
Again, the BLM omitted informing the public of the number of livestock on this federally protected HMA for wild horses.
“NUISANCE” HORSES ON PRIVATE PROPERTY?
The BLM seems to act in collusion with ranchers when it actively advises ranchers to send letters of complaint to them to remove “nuisance” wild horses from private property.
At a Modoc-Washoe BLM Experimental Stewardship Program committee meeting in northern California, ranchers were told to use the “Coleman property request” as a “template” for everyone else’s “problem.” (The “problem” was supposed wild horses on private property).
In a Nevada Society of Rangeland Management newsletter, it states: “I requested a response from BLM due to the Section’s concerns with WH&B. I received this from Alan Shepherd, Nevada WH&B State Program Lead / Joan Guilfoyle, BLM Division Chief for WH&B Program, dated May 5, 2014…
How will the potential gathers be prioritized?
• BLM has tasked a small group of managers and field staff to prioritize any potential removals within the program based on court orders, private property concerns, and public health and safety concerns. This team will also be considering concerns from the on-going drought across the West that
has led to declining animal and rangeland conditions.”
It states in the Code of Federal Regulations,“§4720.2-1 Removal of strayed animals from private lands
Upon written request from the private landowner to any representative of the Bureau of Land Management, the authorized officer shall remove stray wild horses and burros from private lands as soon as practicable…The request shall indicate the numbers of wild horses or burros, the date(s) the animals were on the land, legal description of the private land, and any special conditions that should be considered in the gathering plan.”
Note that this regulation only authorizes the BLM to remove wild horses from private lands, NOT to then remove the wild horses from an HMA forever.
“In Fallini v. Hodel, the court ruled that §4 of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act does not impose a duty on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to prevent wild horses from straying onto private lands. The court rules that §4 of the Act does not impose a ministerial duty on BLM to prevent wild horses from straying onto private lands. The plain language of the section creates no express duty and the court finds no implied duty. Congress clearly anticipated in §4 the possibility of wild horses straying onto private land, but it rejected the use of intensive management techniques.”
Since removing “nuisance” horses that are on private property is now becoming so widely talked about, and since the BLM is facilitating this, it now seems that this is an “intensive management technique.”
Even if the BLM removes wild horses from a private property, on what does the BLM assume it has authorization to completely remove those wild horses from the HMA?
When the BLM cites a “need” to roundup wild horses because they wandered onto private property, or are somehow a danger to the public, or because of drought, the BLM is grasping at straws for reasons to roundup wild horses and remove them to cater to their Most Special Interest.
A November 2012 PEER report concluded that “The biggest and most ambitious scientific undertaking in the history of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is languishing after it was revealed the agency directed scientists to exclude livestock grazing as a possible factor in changing landscapes.”
And “the agency’s own records show that the primary cause (nearly 80%) for BLM lands not meeting range health standards is damage from livestock, far eclipsing drought, fire, invasion by non-native plants or sprawl – the factors BLM now calls ‘overarching.’”
And just last month, another PEER report pointed out: “The method used by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to assess range conditions is seriously skewed toward minimizing impacts from domestic livestock and magnifying those from wild horses and burros…” And, “within BLM’s own grazing allotment LHS database records, livestock grazing is cited as a cause of failure to achieve a land health standard 30 times more often than are wild horses and burros.”
The BLM determined that such a low number of wild horses be allowed on these Herd Management Areas in the 2008 Ely District Resource Management Plan (RMP).
However, 88 grazing allotments (3,247,411 acres) were not even evaluated “for meeting standards of rangeland health” when the BLM Ely District issued its Resource Management Plan in 2008 (Appendix E, Table E-2).
Out of the 88 Ely District grazing allotments that weren’t evaluated for meeting standards of rangeland health, 4 grazing allotments were in the Silver King HMA (Highland Peak, Pioche, Rattlesnake, and Ely Springs) and 1 grazing allotment was in the Triple B HMA (Maverick Springs).
And where is the proof (GPS, time and date stamped photos) that the wild horses were actually on private property? (And frankly, some ranchers could even drive the wild horses onto their property as an excuse to have them removed from public lands permanently.)
Is there REAL PROOF that wild horses actually did any of the damage the ranchers are claiming they did? Or are these complaints convenient assumptions? For instance, how would the ranchers know it was a wild horse that broke a sprinkler instead of a domestic horse or a cow?
Did all of the ranchers include the required legal land descriptions (township and range numbers) in their letters of complaint? Is the BLM only removing wild horses that were actually on the private property, or all the wild horses in the area? How long were the wild horses on the private property? An hour?
Apparently, it’s okay with the BLM if livestock are on roads and a danger to the public. And while ranchers complain that wild “nuisance” horses wander onto their private land, the ranchers feel an entitlement to let their excessive numbers of privately owned livestock create a nuisance on and damage to PUBLIC lands. And it’s all on your dime.
The BLM did an Ely District Public Safety and Nuisance Gather Environmental Assessment
BLM gave this roundup a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).