Teen Essay: For those who never gave up wanting a pony

Alder Jakovac is an 8th-grader at Mendocino K-8

Alder Jakovac is an 8th-grader at Mendocino K-8

Many of us go through that “I want a pony!” phase. For a lot of us, that dream is never fulfilled. However, there are many horses out in the world who are considered “unwanted” or “extra.” Many of these are perfectly sound, healthy horses.

When looking for a horse to buy, many good options are not even considered. Rescue horses are most commonly overlooked. This is because rescue horses are usually believed to have problems. These problems could include the horse not being perfectly sound, having small health problems. The horse could even have trust issues or be spooked easily due to neglect from past owners. Their owners may have been unable to give them proper care, and so they gave them up. There’s a chance that the horse just wasn’t able to perform in the discipline their owner rides in. Sadly, even a small problem like this causes careless owners to send their horses away.

Eighty percent of first-time horse owners reportedly get rid of their horse within 5 years. Many of these horses are sent to auctions, and some are purchased by buyers who intend to kill them. Often such buyers can outbid those interested in giving a horse a good home.

Horses can be saved from such a tragic fate, however. Horse rescues across the United States work hard to save these animals from being slaughtered. Lots of rescue horses are available to adopt for a reasonable price, and it only takes a little research on the Internet to find one near you.

When considering a horse, you first have to decide if you are ready to take on the responsibility. Owning a horse is a lot of work, but by taking that work on, you gain an amazing friend and companion. Aside from that, you save the life of an innocent animal.

Next you have to decide where the animal will stay: on your own property or boarded at a nearby stable. Wherever your new family member is living, make sure to clear up some time in your schedule to spend time with the horse and gain its trust. Depending on the horse’s past and what information the rescue center provides, you may be able to ride the horse after he or she settles in. Even if a horse is not rideable, it is still a great companion for anyone. Just spending time with horses is shown to help people relax and may even lower blood pressure, improving overall health and mood…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story and to comment at the Press Democrat

Foreign-owned mines operate royalty-free under outdated US law

blackhillshorses-1200x639 (1)

SOURCE:  revealnews.org  from The Center for Investigative Reporting

By / January 21, 2015

Let’s say you own 245 million acres.  And underneath that land are billions of dollars worth of minerals – gold, silver, copper, uranium and more.  Would you let foreign companies in to tear up your land, put your water at risk and take those minerals without paying royalties?

You already are. That’s the amount of public surface land controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the federal government’s biggest landholder. And companies that mine these lands are exempt from federal royalty payments.

And it’s happening right now.  Take, for example, the Dewey Burdock uranium project in South Dakota.  It encompasses 240 acres of public surface land, plus more than 4,000 subsurface acres of uranium-rich earth.

As of two months ago, a Hong Kong-based company had secured the right to mine and profit off that uranium, used to replenish nuclear power plants around the world, particularly in China.  In November, Hong Kong’s Azarga Resources merged with Powertech to become Azarga Uranium and manage the Dewey Burdock project.

Azarga will pay no royalties to the United States government.  Thanks to the Mining Law of 1872, which still governs uranium and other “hardrock” mining to this day, any company can extract and sell minerals from public lands without paying a cent in royalties to the federal government.

A spokesman for the mine, Mark Hollenbeck, points out that the mine will be paying South Dakota a severance tax, which is a tax on extracting nonrenewable resources.

Besides the royalties issue, some community members worry this mine will put their drinking water at risk.  In-situ uranium mining by nature takes place where there is groundwater.  The process involves injecting chemicals into the aquifer where the uranium ore is.  The chemicals leach the uranium from the rock, and the uranium is then pumped to the surface.  At Dewey Burdock, opponents are concerned that the radioactive, uranium-laden groundwater won’t be contained to the mining site.

Last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released testimony from geologist Hannan LaGarry.  LaGarry found serious flaws in the company’s analysis of the groundwater geology.  He concluded that that there is a risk of groundwater contamination if the mine is allowed to go forward.

The mining company opposed the release of the testimony.

In the U.S., the aquifer by law must be restored to its previous condition when mining is finished.  That means the water must be cleaned enough to put it back to its pre-mining uses.

A Hong Kong-based company has secured the right to mine and profit off the Dewey Burdock uranium project in South Dakota.

But if that happened in this case, it would be a first.  A 2009 report from the U.S. Geological Survey says, “To date, no remediation of an ISR (in-situ recovery) operation in the United States has successfully returned the aquifer to baseline conditions.”

In August 2013, the Rapid City Council unanimously voted to oppose the project.  The proposal site sits on the southwest rim of the Black Hills at the South Dakota-Wyoming border.

Other groups, such as the Clean Water Alliance, the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary and tribal alliances also oppose the project. There are concerns about water quality, water quantity, Native American cultural preservation and effects on tourism – one of the state’s biggest industries.  The Black Hills are home to Mount Rushmore, wild mustangs and the Black Hills National Forest.

“We’re concerned tourists aren’t going to be excited being greeted by uranium mines and the water quality issues that go with them,” said Lilias Jarding of the Clean Water Alliance.

The project has its permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission but it is still waiting on approval from the Bureau of Land Management as well as permits from the Environmental Protection Agency and state mining and water boards.

So what is this 140-year-old law that allows foreign companies to make a profit off of resources owned by the collective American public?

The ‘lords of yesterday’

The Mining Law of 1872 is one of the more high-profile, outdated “lords of yesterday” policies created in a long-gone era of Western expansion that still govern our natural resources.  This law sets out how people and companies prospect and mine for certain minerals on public lands.

Today, we’re taking a big-picture look at what makes this law so outdated and how that’s coming back to haunt us.  But first, two quick facts:

  1. This law applies only to hardrock minerals – gold, silver, copper, iron, uranium and the like.  It doesn’t apply to oil, gas and coal.
  2. When I say “public land,” I mean land that’s managed by the federal government. Mostly, it falls under the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service, but there’s a handful of other federal agencies that also manage public land.

And a quick history: When the Gold Rush started, the government didn’t have much control over Western public lands.  Prospectors would discover gold on public land but it wasn’t clear what their rights and responsibilities were.  Most mining camps had self-governing bodies that allowed for unrestricted mining on public lands.  But some in the East saw the miners as stealing public resources. Westerners fought back.  They argued the miners were providing a public service by spurring economic and land development in the Wild West. Court rulings tended to side with the miners, and eventually the Mining Law of 1872 codified the right to explore and extract a range of minerals on public land.

So what’s the controversy now?  The law was written to encourage development when the West was still wild. You could hardly make the case that the West hasn’t been tamed.

Hardrock mines pay no royalties

To put it another way: Hardrock-mining corporations that profit off of public resources don’t pay the government for the privilege to do so.

Gas and oil companies, for comparison, do.  They pay 12.5 percent royalties.  In fact, the federal government made more than $11 billion from oil, gas and coal royalties in fiscal year 2011.  Royalties are based on revenue from the extracted resource.

We have only the vaguest idea of how much money the federal government is missing out on by not collecting royalties from hardrock mines.  The feds don’t even collect data on how many tons of minerals are extracted from mines on public lands.

A 2012 Government Accountability Office report attempted to pin this number down.  It couldn’t.

It nonetheless roughly estimated $6.4 billion in hardrock-mining profits from public lands.  If the industry paid royalties comparable to oil and gas, hardrock royalty payments would be as high as $800 million.

Typically, much more modest royalty rates of 4 to 8 percent are proposed.  Using that, the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining cites a conservative estimate of around $100 million in foregone royalties a year.  A Democratic Party report last year, when a reform bill was in play, placed an estimate at $182 million.

That 2014 reform bill proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives would have established a royalties system.  The money collected would have gone to cleaning up waste at abandoned mines.  But that bill, along with many similar bills from past congresses, failed, largely thanks to industry lobbying.

The National Mining Association argues that the U.S. is the most expensive place in the world to mine.  Imposing royalties would put U.S. miners at an economic disadvantage, say the association and mining executives.

But the lack of royalties isn’t fair to taxpayers, especially when the federal budget is tight, said Autumn Hanna at Taxpayers for Common Sense.

“We are the owners of the resources,” she said. “We should be paid for the minerals taken off federal land.”

No environmental protections

Donkeys graze in the Black Hills mountain range in South Dakota near the site of a proposed uranium mining project.

For just 1 ounce of gold, a mine today can create 30 tons of waste rock.  That’s because we don’t mine today like we did in 1872.  Flakes of gold in streams are unheard of today. Now it’s all about wresting microscopic bits of dust from rock.  This method, called “heap leaching,” uses dangerous chemicals – cyanide in the case of gold – and creates literally tons of waste.

The writers of the 1872 mining law never imagined that.  Acidic rivers that can’t sustain life, ponds filled with chemical waste and threats to biodiversity weren’t on their radar. And so, the 1872 mining law includes no environmental protections.

Miners today have to comply with the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other federal, state and local environmental laws.  Even so,conservationists argue, those laws aren’t specific to the mining industry and don’t provide adequate protections.  For example, a Bush-era change to the Clean Water Act actually made it easier to dump mine waste into streams.  And the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was amendedto exclude mine waste from federal hazardous waste regulations.

“The environmental laws we have right now are not really covering the damage done by the hardrock mine industry,” said Lauren Pagel, policy director for the nonprofit environmental group Earthworks.

Mining wherever, whenever

Another major concern is that the government pretty much can’t say no to a claim application.  The “right to mine” is a long-standing interpretation of the 1872 law, meaning that as long as you pay your fees, you have the right to mine on that land. (Certain areas, including national parks and wilderness refuges, are off-limits, though). The idea behind this is that public land should be put to the “highest and best use.” Long ago, the Bureau of Land Management established a precedent that mining is just that. That means a mining company can mine where it wants, when it wants, regardless of whether or not it’s near a sensitive environmental area.

Another missing protection for more than 100 years was reclamation.  Companies could simply walk away from their mine when it stopped being profitable.  There was no requirement to clean up after themselves or reclaim the land.  By the early 1980s, new requirements were put into place to prevent that.  Nonetheless, there are more than 500,000 abandoned mines on public lands today, some of which pose serious environmental threats.

Laws of the past cost taxpayers today

Legacy laws like these are what legal scholar Charles Wilkinson dubbed the lords of yesterday.  In his 1993 book, “Crossing the Meridian,” he wrote that the lords of yesterday:

“… are the controlling legal rules, usually coupled with extravagant subsidies, (that) simply do not square with the economic trends, scientific knowledge, and social values in the modern West.”

Designed to spur development in the American West of the 19th century, these laws still govern our natural resources in the 21st.  Nowadays, long after the taming of the West, they contribute to environmental degradation, favor corporate special interests and cost the government and taxpayers hundreds of millions, if not billions.

“It isn’t that people back then were being stupid or ignorant or greedy,” Wilkinson told me.  “But they were responding to circumstances so different than we have today.”

Take, for example, the case of Cortez Mine in Nevada, one of the biggest gold mines in the U.S. Owned by Canada’s Barrick Gold, it produced 1.3 million ounces of gold in 2013. With gold averaging $1,400 an ounce that year, that’s a value of more than $1.8 billion. It paid nothing in royalties to the federal government.

That’s because gold mining is covered by this 1872 mining law.  It was originally supposed to make it easier for the “go West, young man” adventurer who trekked across the Rockies with little more than his canvas tent, a shovel and a pick.

But today, CEOs and giant earthmovers have replaced him and his sluice box.

We’re launching a reporting campaign digging into the legacies of these lords of yesterday.

I’ll be looking at mining, grazing and water issues, focusing in particular on how certain legacy laws and policies allow private interests to make a profit off public resources at the expense of the taxpayers and the environment.  Archaic laws allow ranchers to graze their sheep and cattle in national forests and on other public land for cheap and allow big farms to get subsidized water, even in times of drought.

Remember last year’s armed standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and federal employees?  The Bureau of Land Management was coming to impound his cattle because Bundy hadn’t paid (way-below-market-rate) fees for grazing his livestock on public land in decades.  Bundy’s belief that he has a right to graze on public lands unbothered and unregulated – and the government’s decision to back off and let him – are also holdovers from the 19th century rise of the West.

Stick with us as we explore the consequences of these outdated policies and figure out why they’re still around today.

If you have a personal experience or thoughts about how archaic natural resource policies affect us today, email me at rbale@cironline.org.

This story was edited by Robert Salladay and copy edited by Stephanie Rice.

Rachael Bale can be reached at rbale@cironline.org. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachael_Bale.

93 workers laid off at Empacadora de Carne de Fresnillo


ewa & whff
Today’s News
93 workers laid off at Empacadora de Carne de Fresnillo

Published on Saturday, February 14th 2015 in pagina24.com
Plant retains 122 workers.

*70% of the horses slaughtered came from the United States, where in many places their slaughtering is forbidden.By Margarito Juárez GonzálezFresnillo, Zac. The company “Empacadora de Carne de Fresnillo” laid off 93 workers because horsemeat sales decreased by a 60%. The dismissed workforce will be hired back in case exports increase this year.Horsemeat sales to European customers decreased due to many factors, principally because of a lower demand but particularly because the company did not comply with several quality regulations pertaining to the slaughtering process and sanitary conditions.

This drop in meat exports caused the dismissal of 93 workers from said city. Most of these workers reside in slums and shantytowns close by the metropolitan area.

The plant remains in operation since it still maintains two key outlets, namely the sale of equines [sic, author likely meant equine meat] at national and local level. The company exported to European countries since it has Belgian investors. The plant is 50 years old.

Several company executives claimed this year was one of the most difficult times for them, financially speaking, and that they were not expecting to dismiss such a number of employees.

There is another equine slaughter plant in the municipalty of Jerez de Garcia Salinas which is also on the brink of closing down because of the same reasons that Empacadora de Carnes de Fresnillo.

It is worth noting that in the last years no such a drastical drop in the exports of equines [sic, again the author is likely referring to equine meat] to the European Union was ever registered.

cc horse

Template design and image copyright Terry Fitch
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US judge rejects Nevada ‘Welfare Rancher’s’ bid to dispose of Wild Horses

Source: MyNews3.com

Private "Welfare Cattle" being herded onto BLM Antelope Complex in Nevada, while Wild Horse roundup was being conducted ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Private “Welfare Cattle” being herded onto BLM Antelope Complex in Nevada while Wild Horse roundup was being conducted ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

RENO, Nev.  — A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a coalition of rural Nevada counties that wanted to force the government to sell or otherwise dispose of tens of thousands of mustangs in U.S. holding facilities.

The judge in Reno ruled Thursday in favor of wild horse advocates who said the effort backed by the Nevada Farm Bureau was led by ranchers who want a bigger share of forage for their livestock. They said it would force the sale of federally protected mustangs for slaughter.

U.S. District Judge Miranda Du dismissed the suit as a broad attack on the Bureau of Land Management‘s overall wild horse policy in 10 western states. She says it lacks specifics needed to order BLM to round-up more horses, and get rid of the ones they have.

(additional information supplied by other sources): The successful motion to dismiss the case was brought by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) , author Terri Farley and photographer Mark Terrell.

Wild Horses: Adobe Town Wild Families Reunited at Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

SOURCE:  wildhoofbeats.com

By Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Bronze Warrior and his mares

In September last year when I first saw a noble older wild stallion with spectacular spots leading his family in Adobe Town, my heart broke because I knew what was going to happen to them in a matter of days – they would be separated from each other and lose their home in Adobe Town and their freedom forever. When I called Manada Kalimian of the Cana Project, I was hopeful she could save a few of these horses from living out their days in holding pens or an even more uncertain future.

Snowfall at Sunrise

Snowfall and Bronze Warrior

A week and a half ago, six wild horses from Adobe Town that were rounded up in the Checkerboard Roundup and were held in Rock Springs, Wyoming arrived at Cana Project, and families were reunited as they joined the four Adobe Town horses that had come from Canon City, Colorado in January.

Snowfall, Theordore and Diamond Girl

We arrived as the sun had just disappeared and needed headlights to make sure the gate to the corral was secured before unloading the six wild horses into the corral next to their family members. All of them got out of the trailer and walked into the corral, and with hay and water ready for them, I felt sure that they would be fine overnight, and I headed to the cabin.


Investigation: Horse slaughter and rampant violations continue despite EU ban on Mexican horse meat


Chicago (EWA) – Equine Welfare Alliance and Wild Horse Freedom Federation today released the second part of a two month investigation into the Mexican horse meat trade following a ban imposed on the meat by the European Union (EU). The ban that became effective January, 15th, was imposed following Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) audits that found the meat unsafe for human consumption due to drug residues.

As if to emphasize the need for the EU ban, tests on Mexican horse meat found Ractophine on January 14th, then Isoxsuprine hydrochloride and Zilpaterol hydrochloride a few days later.

The two part investigation consisted of observation of the Eagle Pass border crossing in Texas where many horses are exported to slaughter in Mexico, and an exhaustive search of US, Mexican, EU and international trade records.

Before the ban, 87% of the horses slaughtered in four EU approved plants in Mexico (105,406 in 2014) came from the US, and 78% of the meat from those horses was exported to the EU. Given these numbers, the flow of US horses to slaughter in Mexico was expected to dwindle after the deadline.

The investigators at the export pens found and reported multiple violations of the Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter regulations [9CFR88]. Specifically, violations of the mandatory 6 hour offload rest period for the horses were noted. The investigators also observed one violation of a rejected blind horse, and they filmed a donkey being trampled in the back of a livestock trailer as it departed the pens.

The APHIS inspector, who is responsible for enforcing compliance with 9CFR88 was filmed arriving at the Eagle Pass pens in a vehicle registered to El Retiro Livestock, a registered owner-shipper, over whom the inspector should have been exercising compliance authority.

Analysis of the data collected indicated that the four European multi-national corporations that control the plants were able to juggle their shipments so that their plants in other countries, which were still EU approved, picked up the EU trade while the Mexican plants took over their former accounts.

While the exports of horse meat from Mexico to the EU were largely curtailed after the deadline, EWA investigators detected two shipments of horse meat to the EU that were shipped after the January 15th deadline. The shipments were reported to pertinent EU authorities but no explanation was received to date.

While the report did not find an immediate reduction in horses going to Mexico, it did find the trade will likely be disrupted to some extent. Virtually all of the countries now supplying the lucrative EU market have also received unfavorable FVO audits, and face possible banning themselves.

Russia, a significant past customer for Mexican horse meat had itself banned the meat for a year ending in August of 2014 due to drug residues. Russia was expected to be a significant alternative market after its ban expired, but the devaluation of the Russian ruble appears to have derailed that alternative.

The most recently released data portionof the report contains a detailed history of all Mexican horse meat exports over past years, as well as an analysis of market shares. The report predicts a 30% to 50% decrease in US horses going to Mexico in the coming year.

Given the rampant violations found in the investigation, more frequent monitoring is planned for the future.

The Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA) is a dues-free 501c4, umbrella organization with over 330 member organizations, the Southern Cherokee Government and over 1,150 individual members worldwide in 23 countries. The organization focuses its efforts on the welfare of all equines and the preservation of wild equids. www.equinewelfarealliance.org

Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF) is a registered, Texas non-profit corporation with federal 501(c)3 status. WHFF puts people between America’s wild equids and extinction through targeted litigation against governmental agencies whose documented agendas include the eradication of wild horse and burros from public, federal and state  lands. www.wildhorsefreedomfederation.org

Wisconsin veterinarian works to help horses in Haiti

travelhaiti10f-1-web photo:  New York Daily News 

Horses and guides stand ready to take visitors up the steep mountain path that leads to the Citadelle Laferriere in northern Haiti

SOURCE:  Leader-Telegram

With over 100 million working equids in the world and about 99 percent of those in developing countries with only 1 percent of equine veterinarians located in developing countries, care for those working animals is sparse, according to Judy Batker, a Wisconsin veterinarian who travels to Haiti to provide veterinary services for donkeys and horses.

I had a chance to hear Batker recently speak at the Wisconsin Dressage and Combine Training Association’s annual meeting in Wisconsin Dells.

Batker, a University of Wisconsin Madison 1995 graduate who co-owns Country View Veterinary Services in Oregon, has started a group called “One Horse at a Time.” The goal is to help the Citadel horses in Milot, Haiti. The horses on average are about 12 hands and weigh about 450 pounds. In comparison, the average quarter horse is about 15 hands and 1,000 pounds.

There are about 100 horses at Milot whose jobs are to carry tourists up a steep mountain to the Citadel fortress. The mountain is about 3,000 feet high and the fortress another 1,000 feet high. The fortress was built by Haitian slaves about 200 years ago.

The horses tend to be very malnourished with severe saddle sores and parasites, Batker said.

Her initial trip to Haiti was in February 2013 and she returned in February 2014 to provide care to the Citadel horses. Care includes treating saddle sores, parasites and gelding horses.

“Two families, about six to 12 people, often depend on each horse for their sole income,” Batker said. “The money earned buys food and sends their children to school. On average each horse makes three to five trips up the mountain per week. This equals $30 to $50 per week split between the families. There is nothing leftover to care for the horses. They do the best they can – both the people and the horses.”

Veterinarians traveling to Haiti hope to train vet agents in the region to provide animal car as needed and to educate the horse owners and handlers on care and nutrition It is a collaborative effort between Batker, Kelly Crowdis of the Christian Veterinary Mission, World Horse Welfare and the Haiti Ministry of Tourism.

“Our hope is to make the lives of these little horses better and longer, thus helping the families (who) depend on them,” Batker said, noting the average lifespan is probably under 12 years for the horses. Mares tend to have shorter lives, particularly if they have a foal.

As of August Batker started a sponsorship program where people can sponsor and individual Citadel horse, learn the name of the animal and its history.

At the gallop level or $150 the donation contributes to veterinary care, vet agent training, extra feed and saddlery improvements for the horse. The donor receives pictures and reports on an individual horse they select and sponsor.  At the trot level for $75 the donation contributes to bet care, vet agent training and extra feel. General progress reports are received on the Citadel horses. A donation of $30 is the walk level and will contribute to vet care and vet agent training. There are also general progress reports on the horses.

In the works, is a plan to have tourists buy extra feed at the top of the mountain to give to the horses they rode. It is similar to buying feed at a petting zoo. It also would employ two to three locals and help keep the horse nourished.

For more information on Batker and the “One Horse at a Time” program or to sponsor a horse visit www.equitarianinitiative.org or find them on Facebook.

Federal lands must not go to the states

The opinion piece below makes one really important point: Public lands belong to the American people.  All of us.   If states obtain these lands, they will likely sell them off.  Unfortunately, we are seeing disgraceful corporate exploitation of public lands under the BLM and Forest Service, as well.  But we know things would be worse for the wild horses and burros if public lands were under control of states.   –  Debbie

th  photo:  BLM

SOURCE: dailyinterlake.com

By Riley McClelland

National forests and Bureau of Land Management lands belong to all of us. They do not and should not belong to the states in which they exist. These federal lands are much too important to be managed by state agencies guided by politicians. With federal ownership, each of us has a potential say in how these great landscapes are managed, no matter their location.

Montanans can influence how the Tongass National Forest (Alaska) is managed. Alaskans, or citizens of any state, have a right to help determine how the Flathead National Forest is managed. That is as it should be. These lands have multiple benefits for the entire country: the production of clean water, wilderness, diversity of natural habitats for wildlife, a variety of outdoor recreation pursuits, selective harvesting of second-growth timber, and mining at appropriate sites.

Transferring federal lands to the states could bring back the disgraceful corporate exploitation that occurred throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. Forests were plundered for timber, minerals, land speculation, and other utilitarian interests, without regard to the long-term interests of the general public. This land abuse motivated Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot to successfully fight for the establishment of forest reserves, national forests, and the U.S. Forest Service. In his first annual address to Congress (1901), Republican President Theodore Roosevelt said: “The forest reserves should be set apart forever for the use and benefit of our people as a whole and not sacrificed to the shortsighted greed of a few.”

It is true that there have been plenty of problems in the management of federal lands — for example the “timber mining” that occurred in the Bitterroot National Forest in the 1950s and 1960s (refer to the Bolle Report (1970), “A University View of the Forest Service,” Senate Doc. 91-115). Currently, the Forest Service and BLM are underfunded in critical programs. As a result, law violators go unprosecuted. Impacts of proposed timber sales, roads, mines, and motorized use are inadequately evaluated. Incomplete evaluation results in successful litigation by organizations, demonstrating that the agencies are not doing a satisfactory job in those cases.

Existing problems could be resolved by a Congress interested in furthering natural resource conservation. Federal management of public lands would greatly improve if agencies were properly funded and enabled to consistently follow sound ecological principles, rather than being pressured to adopt political goals. There is no way that state legislatures would improve the funding for managing these lands (note the failure to properly fund the state park system!). This would create an obvious rationalization for selling valuable parcels.

Read the rest of this opinion piece HERE.


Research on baby horses who avoid mothers triggers new autism studies

SOURCE:  The Sacramento Bee


Only a few days old, a thoroughbred foal runs in the pasture with its mother at the Victory Rose Thoroughbreds ranch in Vacaville last week. When a foal is born with maladjustment syndrome, an autism-like syndrome where foals don’t not acknowledge their mothers or want to nurse, John Madigan, a veterinary professor and specialist in equine and comparative neurology at UC Davis, has been working with owner/breeder Ellen Jackson. LEZLIE STERLING LSTERLING@SACBEE.COM

by Edward Ortiz

On a thoroughbred ranch in Vacaville, a 3-week-old foal gallops close to its mother. Their bond seems natural, but it didn’t start out that way.

When the foal was born, it completely ignored its mother and refused to nurse.

UC Davis veterinary specialist John Madigan intervened moments after the birth with a novel treatment he calls “the squeeze.” It’s attracting attention from researchers studying autism in children, who see a possible parallel between Madigan’s work with horses and a similar technique – called kangaroo care – that’s often used on pre-term infants.

“The phenomenon that Madigan has observed in foals is interesting and dramatic,” said David Stevenson, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University.

Over the past five years, a dozen foals at Victory Rose Thoroughbreds in Vacaville have been born with neonatal maladjustment syndrome, or NMS, in which they are emotionally detached from their mothers. In each case, horse farm owner Ellen Jackson called Madigan, a UCD veterinary professor and specialist in equine and comparative neurology.

First identified in the 1950s, neonatal maladjustment syndrome affects roughly 5 percent of newborn horses.

“When these horses are born, they will walk to a corner and just stand there,” said Jackson, who has owned her farm for 25 years.

To counteract the condition, Madigan ties a soft rope harness around the foal’s body and gently squeezes it to increase pressure. The squeeze causes the foal to drop over and go to sleep.

After several minutes, the pressure is released and the foal awakens. Madigan said that in all cases where he has intervened with a foal with NMS, the foal has shed its detached behavior and run to its mother to interact and feed.

“We’ve had a dramatic improvement in 12 foals,” he said.

The squeeze technique is part of body of research that Madigan and others at UC Davis are pursuing to see if there’s a connection between high levels of neurosteroids in the blood and the later development of autism. Madigan said the foals born with NMS he has studied had high levels of neurosteroids in their blood, whereas foals that readily interacted with their mothers had normal neurosteroid levels.

Neurosteroids are brain steroids that can cross the blood-brain barrier and dampen the central nervous system. Further study into their effect at certain birth stages may offer a clue as to why some infants later develop detached behavior or symptoms associated with Autism Spectral Disorder, or ASD, said Madigan.

“The behavioral abnormalities in these foals seem to resemble some of the symptoms in children with autism,” Madigan said.

Madigan said he believes that neurosteroids are a crucial factor in a horse making a successful transition from birth to consciousness. He was the lead researcher on a 2011 study in which healthy foals given neurosteroids began displaying a lack of affinity for their mothers and a decreased response to stimuli.

High neurosteroid levels in the womb protect the mother by keeping babies asleep and lessening physical activity – like galloping – that could hurt her.

The UC Davis research may offer a valuable clue to what may lead to the development of autism in human infants – particularly pre-term infants and cesarean birth babies, and those that spend a very short time in the birth canal.

Madigan said he believes that if a foal passes too rapidly through the birth canal or is delivered via cesarean section, it loses the pressure on its body that signals the body to drop neurosteroid levels. He sees a potential parallel in human infants. Three studies conducted in the past two years suggest that pre-term babies are at higher risk for developing autism.

One Finnish study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2012, found that babies weighing less than 3 pounds were three times as likely to develop ASD compared to normal-weight babies.

As in horses, neurosteroids are also emerging as a potential culprit in human autism. A 2013 study by Polish scientists found that autistic children tested at ages 3 and 9 had significantly higher salivary concentrations of a group of steroid hormones than control children.

The success of Madigan’s squeeze technique has prompted him and other researchers to begin studying whether kangaroo care, a common treatment to improve the health of premature infants, could also help prevent disorders on the autism spectrum. Pioneered in Bogota, Colombia, in the late 1970s, kangaroo care has become a widely used treatment for pre-term babies in neonatal units in the United States. A parent or caregiver places a mostly naked baby on their chest, skin to skin, and holds them there, sometimes for hours. The baby is secured to the caregiver with a stretchy cloth band.

Stanford University’s Stevenson has joined Madigan in applying to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for a $100,000 grant to fund combined veterinary and human research on kangaroo care and neurosteroids. The question is whether infants who receive kangaroo care will experience a drop in steroid levels.

If they get the money from the Gates foundation, Stevenson and Madigan plan to study neurosteroid levels in the blood and saliva of 42 pre-term infants – some of whom get kangaroo care and some of whom don’t.

“The plan is to apply for a much bigger grant to expand the study to obtain greater understanding, including neurosteroid risk factors associated with preterm birth,” Stevenson said.

Two different studies will soon be underway at UC Davis to establish whether elevated levels of neurosteroids, during and after birth, may be a factor in the eventual development of ASD.

In one of the studies, scheduled for completion this fall, doctors at UC Davis will take blood samples from six pre-term babies in intensive care and six babies from the newborn nursery, said Mark Underwood, chief of neonatology at UC Davis Children’s hospital. The blood samples will then be checked for neurosteroid levels. In another study, an existing database of 1,800 children will be used to help establish whether neurosteroids are a factor in the development of ASD.

While establishing a definitive link between neurosteroids and autism will require more research, Madigan says, his squeeze technique is already producing results for Jackson, the horse ranch owner. It has saved her from paying for the hundreds of hours of round-the-clock care – including bottle feeding – required for foals with maladjustment syndrome.

“Almost all of the foals that we have squeezed wake up out of that, and they’re almost normal,” Jackson said.


Horses Understand Human Gestures

by Zoe Gough as published at BBC

Editor’s Note: “On this ‘Feel Good Sunday’ we would like to share with you an enlightening article from the BBC on how our equine companions might just be a little more perceptive than some may think.  Of course, to this readership, this is old news but it bears reinforcement for those who cast a blind eye to the uniqueness of all that is equine.  Enjoy your day, my friends, and by all means…keep the faith.” ~ R.T.

Horses can read human signals and use their own experiences when responding to tasks

Horses (Equus caballus) were first domesticated around 6,000 years ago and have performed many important roles since then, but their ability to understand the gestures of their human handlers remained unstudied until fairly recently.

To date research has suggested that while horses are able to understand some signalssuch as pointing, they are only able to use these signals when the human remains near to the reward.

Their level of ability has previously been said to be similar to that of goats and cats, they are able to use human gestures even though they cannot be said to understand the meaning attached to the gesture.

A study in 2004 suggested that horses had limited short-term memory and may not have a prospective memory, which reminds them to do something at a later date, but more recent studies have shown horses do use short-term memory in foraging tasks.

Now a group of Italian-based scientists have demonstrated that horses are not only capable of reading human actions but can also change the way they respond to a task based on their own experiences.

“It is easy to understand in humans but not usual when referring to animals,” said one of the authors, Dr Paolo Baragli, from the University of Pisa, Italy.

“If an animal doesn’t solve a task as we expected this doesn’t mean that it’s not able. There is the possibility that it is using a different strategy to what we expect.”

Twenty four adult horses of different breeds were trained to approach an overturned bucket and move it to find a carrot hidden underneath it. They were then split into two groups of 12.

The findings are published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

In the experiment the first group of horses had to find a piece of carrot under one of three overturned buckets after seeing a person hide it. The horses had to wait 10 seconds after it had been hidden and the person had left the area before attempting to locate it.

Speed over accuracy

The same experiment was carried out with another 12 horses that had to find the food on their own without any additional information from a human.

To begin with the horses that had seen the carrot being hidden chose the correct bucket on their first attempt more often than those who had not seen the carrot being hidden, although they took more time to do it.

Later the same horses found the carrot in less time but took more attempts to find it.

The authors suggest that this was because the human’s signals became less important, as the horses learned that they received the same reward whether they took the time to make a decision or simply guessed.

In the later trials, researchers also found that the horses that had seen the carrot being hidden tended to go to the bucket where they had found the food in their last attempt.

Survival skills

This indicates that horses can remember where food is hidden even after a delay, by understanding the meaning of a person being near to the target location (the bucket with the carrot underneath).

Horses are also able to change their decision-making strategy between the reliability suggested by human signals and a more immediate reward. This means they can choose whether or not to use signs given by humans depending on whether they desire speed or accuracy.

Dr Baragli said that rather than being developed abilities, the researchers think these cognitive skills are essential for the horse’s survival.

“To our knowledge this paper is the first to demonstrate that horses are able to make a choice based on information obtained by environmental stimulus (humans), and then the same horses can change their behavioural strategy based on experience to better solve the same problem,” Dr Baragli said.

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