BLM Rescinds Permit for Deadly Wolf Derby

“Good news for the Wild Horses & Burros on two counts:

  1. Leaving predators on public lands may FINALLY allow mother nature to manage wildlife correctly as she has since the beginning of time.
  2. Hope that public pressure/opinion truly can have an impact on the BLM and the means in which they mismanage public lands…keep the faith!” ~ R.T.

Defenders of the predator’s introduction decry what they call Idaho’s “War on Wolves.”

TWIN FALLS • The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn its permit to allow a wolf and coyote derby on public land near Salmon.

Seven groups had been suing to stop the derby planned by the hunter rights group Idaho for Wildlife to hold on public land in January.

The lawsuits and pile of public comments in opposition to the derby likely led to the BLM’s decision, Defenders of Wildlife spokesman Shawn Cantrell said Tuesday.

“I think one can infer some combination of those two led to the decision,” he said. “We’re obviously very pleased that they have.”

The BLM had approved the five-year permit a couple of weeks ago, saying no significant environmental impact from the derby was apparent.

Now the derby will be held on private land, as it was last year, said Idaho for Wildlife spokesman Steve Alde. The BLM permit would have roughly doubled the land available by providing access to federal land.

“The BLM at the D.C. level has become too politically influenced and motivated,” Alde said, as requiring an extensive environmental review “for only 100 to 150 hunters to cover over 3 million acres is absurd and ridiculous.”

The first derby in December 2013 drew about 100 hunters and negative media attention from outside Idaho. The news website Vice ran a lengthy article by someone who went undercover to participate.

Last year, 21 coyotes were killed but no wolves. The wolves were the focus, though, of derby supporters and opponents.

Wolves were largely eradicated decades ago, but they have been a controversial issue in Idaho and elsewhere in the West since their reintroduction in the 1990s, often pitting environmentalists against ranchers, hunters and others who didn’t want to see wolves return.

Defenders of the predator’s introduction decry what they call Idaho’s “War on Wolves.”

Wolf hunting started in Idaho in 2008. The political argument since has been how much hunting to allow and how much state money to spend controlling the wolf population.

The Republican-dominated Legislature, with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s strong support, created a Wolf Depredation Control Board earlier this year to oversee the killing of problem wolves.

daho Democrats tend to favor killing fewer wolves and spending less money to do it. Environmental groups in Blaine County, one of Idaho’s few blue bastions, have been leading the way, working with local sheepherders on non-lethal wolf-control methods.

The green groups that were suing cheered the BLM’s decision, saying the derby undercut the wolf population’s recovery.

“The public spoke loud and clear against this wildlife killing competition, and we are glad to see senior officials at the Department of the Interior ultimately respond to the public’s opposition by directing that the permit be withdrawn,” said Suzanne Stone, of Defenders, in a news release. “By denying the permit, BLM is supporting sound wildlife management practices as opposed to endorsing archaic killing competitions on our public lands that Americans so clearly oppose.”

“We’re so glad that the deadly derby has been canceled this year,” said Amy Atwood, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These sort of ruthless kill-fests have no place in this century. We intend to pursue every available remedy to stop these horrible contests.”

Alder said derby participants will have to sign a waiver saying any animals taken on public land won’t qualify for the derby. Idaho for Wildlife started the application process early, as BLM advised, he said.

He blamed the BLM’s D.C. office for revoking the permit and said his group will “push for more legislative oversight of this out-of-control agency that is now caving to the radical anti-hunters.”

Alder said the group again will offer two cash prizes. Excess money will be given to charities, including to support a rancher who, Alder wrote, lost most of his calves and 13 adult cows to wolves over the summer and may have to get a job at ShopKo to make ends meet.

The derby will be held Jan. 2 to 4.

Second Call for Nominations for BLM Wild Horse and Burro Special Interest Advisory Board

Forward by R.T. Fitch ~ president/co-founder Wild Horse Freedom Federation
Press Release – BLM.gov

“Well it appears that the BLM and Department of Interior just did not get enough horse slaughter, hunting and cattle proponents nominated to their horse hating advisory board so they are going out for a second round hoping for more horse eaters and sterilizers to come forward.  Last year, when they turned their back on Ginger Kathrens’ nomination, by a congressman no less, for the advocate position I lost all faith in anyone being able to make a difference on this board of wild horse and burro haters.  Several current members publicly and in print promote horse slaughter while others want to sterilize mares IN THE FIELD. 

The only ray of sunshine in this entire mess is that the BLM makes up their own rules as they go so they don’t even listen to the advice that their own special interest mouthpieces give…their program of managed extinction simply rolls on with a vengeance. 

Sadly, there may come a day when they won’t need the bunch of phonies anymore because there just simply won’t be any more wild horses and burros left to torture and maim.  Our public lands will be “multi-purposed” into oblivion and the sound of thundering hooves will be nothing more than a very distant and fond memory.  If we do not stop them and stop them soon, that picture will surely be painted.” ~ R.T.


Release Date: 11/18/14
Contacts: Tom Gorey, 202-912-7420

BLM Advisory BoardThe Bureau of Land Management today announced a second call for public nominations over a 30-day period to fill three positions on its national Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.  To be considered for appointment, nominations must be submitted via email or fax by December 18, 2014, or postmarked by the same date. The BLM announced its second formal request for nominations in today’s Federal Register (November 18) at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-11-18/pdf/2014-27273.pdf.

Those who have already submitted a nomination in response to the first call for nominations (published in the Federal Register on August 29, 2014 (79 FR 51601)), do not need to resubmit.  All nominations from the first and second calls will be considered together during the review process.

Nominations are for a term of three years and are needed to represent the following categories of interest: wild horse and burro advocacy, veterinary medicine (equine science), and public interest (with special knowledge of protection of wild horses and burros, management of wildlife, animal husbandry, or natural resource management).

The Board advises the BLM, an agency of the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture, on the protection and management of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands administered by those agencies. The Board generally meets twice a year and the BLM Director may call additional meetings when necessary.  Members serve without salary, but are reimbursed for travel and per diem expenses according to government travel regulations.

The Advisory Board comprises nine members who represent a balance of interests. Each member has knowledge or special expertise that qualifies him or her to provide advice in one of the following categories: wild horse and burro advocacy; wild horse and burro research; veterinary medicine; natural resources management; humane advocacy; wildlife management; livestock management; public interest (with special knowledge of equine behavior); and public interest (with special knowledge of protection of wild horses and burros, management of wildlife, animal husbandry, or natural resource management).

Individuals shall qualify to serve on the Board because of their education, training, or experience that enables them to give informed and objective advice regarding the interest they represent. They should demonstrate experience or knowledge of the area of their expertise and a commitment to collaborate in seeking solutions to resource management issues.

Any individual or organization may nominate one or more persons to serve on the Advisory Board; individuals may also nominate themselves.  In accordance with Section 7 of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, Federal and state government employees are not eligible to serve on the Board.

For those interested, please submit a nomination letter and full resume. The following information must be provided: the position(s) for which the nominee wants to be considered; the nominee’s first, middle, and last name; business and home addresses and phone numbers: e-mail address; present occupation/title and employer; education (colleges, degrees, major field of study); career highlights; qualifications: relevant education, training, and experience; experience or knowledge of wild horse and burro management; experience or knowledge of horses or burros (equine health, training, and management); and experience in working with disparate groups to achieve collaborative solutions. Applicants must also indicate any BLM permits, leases, or licenses held by the nominee or his/her employer; indicate whether the nominee is a federally registered lobbyist; and explain why the nominee wants to serve on the Board. Also, at least one letter of reference from special interests or organizations the nominee may represent must be provided.

Nominations may be submitted by e-mail, fax, or regular mail. E-mail the nomination to stbohl@blm.gov.  To send by the U.S. Postal Service, mail to the National Wild Horse and Burro Program, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 1849 C Street, N.W., Room 2134 LM, Attn: Sarah Bohl WO-260, Washington, D.C. 20240.   To send by FedEx or UPS, please send to the National Wild Horse and Burro Program, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 20 M Street, S.E., Room 2134 LM, Attn: Sarah Bohl, Washington, D.C., 20003. Or fax to Ms. Bohl at 202-912-7182. For questions, please call Ms. Bohl at 202-912-7263.

Stop the BLM from sending older wild horses to slaughter

PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK ON YOUR FACEBOOK PAGES!  The older wild horses are the most vulnerable to end up in the slaughter pipeline.  We need to find adopters.

painy

Wild_Horse_Burro_Radio_Logo

 

Listen to the ARCHIVED SHOW Here!

This is a 1 hour show, recorded Nov. 19, 2014.

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Tonight’s guests are Carol Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation and Ginger Kathrens, the Founder and Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation.  

Both fought to keep wild horses on federally protected Herd Management Areas in Wyoming, and both witnessed the roundups of these wild horses.  And both are among those posting photos of the wild horses that were captured in Wyoming, so that these horses can be adopted rather than end up going to slaughter in the future.

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You can read Carol Walker’s article HERE, but some excerpts are below:

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Beautiful young mares 1-4 years old in pen 21

I have broken the photos down into age groups.

First are the foals and weanlings in this link:

http://www.livingimagescjw.com/CLIENTS/14NovemberCanonCityWeanlings/

Images 1-5 in pen 13A, images 6-57 are in the two adjoining weanling pens, 36C and 36D, images 146-149 are in pen 23.

Then the young mares, ages 1-4 in this link:

http://www.livingimagescjw.com/CLIENTS/14NovemberCanonCityYoungMares/

Images 59-93 are in pen 21, images 94-100 are in pen “No Man’s Land”, images 101-125 are in pen 22 and images 126-145 are in pen 25.

Then the young stallions, (soon to be gelded) ages 1-4 in this link:

http://www.livingimagescjw.com/CLIENTS/14NovemberCanonCityYoungStallions/

Images 150-155 are in pen 8B, images 156-225 are in pens 3 and F, images 226-246 are in pen G.

The older mares, ages 5 and up are here:

http://www.livingimagescjw.com/CLIENTS/14NovemberCanonCityOlderMares/

Images 339-387 are in pen 26, images 388-441 are in pen 18. You may notice hip brands on some of these mares – this is because they were treated with birth control, PZP either in December of 2013 and/or October of 2010.

The older stallions, 5 and up:

http://www.livingimagescjw.com/CLIENTS/14NovemberCanonCityOlderStallions

Images 247-313 and 327-338 are in pens 19b and 19C, images 314-327 are in pen 9.

photo below, 2 of the older stallions

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photo below, some older mares

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PLEASE NOTE, MARES COULD BE PREGNANT, SO YOU COULD BE GETTING 2 FOR THE PRICE OF 1, BUT BE AWARE WHEN FACTORING IN THE PRICE OF HAY AND CARE, TO MAKE SURE YOU CAN AFFORD 2 HORSES.

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Two stunning weanlings, a dun 9135 and a grulla 9133 in pen 36C

 

You can use the neck tag numbers on the horses for identification purposes.

Some notes about the horses – the 9000 numbers are from Great Divide Basin, the 7000 numbers are from Salt Wells Creek and Adobe Town.  They do not list any horses as being from Adobe Town, but there are Adobe Town horses mixed in with the Salt Wells Creek horses.

These are NOT all the horses brought in during the Checkerboard Roundup.  The other 600+ are at Rock Springs Corrals.  They are not ready for adoption there yet.  There are also about 100 weanlings and yearlings and two year olds from Salt Wells Creek that went to Axtell, Utah’s wild burro facility.

IF YOU CAN ADOPT A HORSE:

You can call to adopt at anytime with an approved adoption application).  To find out more about individual horses or to download adoption forms can be found at these links:

http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/wild_horse_and_burro.html

https://www.blm.gov/adoptahorse/onsitegallery.php?horseCategory=99

Through the Canon City BLM office, the first 150 miles of shipping is FREE!  (If 5 people in the same area adopt, that means 750 miles are free, so buddy up!)  There are group shipping options as well for folks that are interested in the horses, but live a distance away.  Please contact the BLM office directly for specifics.

Lona Kossnar at (719) 269-8539, or email her at lkossnar@blm.gov

Please be kind to and patient with Lona – she will have lots of folks contacting her and I know she will do her very best to help all of you!

Pam Nickoles was also there photographing and you can view her images here:

(http://www.nickolesphotography.com/f106188461) entitled “Canon City BLM Checkerboard Horses”

And Amanda Wilder, who has images on her Facebook page with each horse identified by tag number:

https://www.facebook.com/amanda.wilder.9/media_set?set=a.956769531003850.1073741848.100000124357258&type=1&pnref=story

and photos are also on The Cloud Foundation website

This radio show is hosted by Debbie Coffey, Vice-President & Director of Wild Horse Affairs at Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

_______________________________________________________________________________

To contact us: ppj1@hush.com, or call 320-281-0585

LISTEN TO ARCHIVED RADIO SHOWS: Continue reading

A new map shows rangeland health nationwide

SOURCE:  HIGH COUNTRY NEWS

Searchable BLM reports and satellite images for 20,000 grazing allotments.

by Tay Wiles

When the Bureau of Land Management ordered the removal of cattle from public rangeland this summer near Battle Mountain, Nevada, the state was in its third year of severe drought. Conditions were too dry to sustain the number of cattle that were grazing there, the BLM contended. Locals responded in part by announcing a “Cowboy Express” ride from Bodega Bay, California to Washington, DC to protest federal overreach and to demand that local District Manager Doug Furtado be ousted.

Disagreements like the one in Battle Mountain are hardly novel in Western politics. But this week, a new tool to understand livestock impact on public lands was thrown into the mix. Washington, DC-based non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) released an interactive map that collates over 45,000 BLM records that diagnose 20,000 allotments across the nation. The map is seven years in the making, the result of Freedom of Information Act requests PEER and Western Watersheds Project put to the BLM.

Damage to the land from livestock can be seen in satellite images.

According to the map, 29 percent of allotted land, or 16 percent of the number of allotments, has failed to meet BLM standards of rangeland health due to impacts of livestock. Those assessments are based on a specific set of criteria, including things like watershed conditions, water quality, soil health and habitat for at-risk species.

 

 

Shaded areas indicate where rangeland has failed to meet BLM health standards between 1997 and 2013.

In addition to looking at the macro-scale numbers of how much land has passed the BLM health test, the new map shows satellite images of each individual allotment—a way to “sky truth,” as PEER puts it, what the agency is reporting. So, if the BLM says a piece of land is doing just fine, or if the BLM claims the landscape is taking a beating, anyone can zoom in to look for themselves and get details like the number of cattle on how many acres. Soil and vegetation disturbances from mining, agriculture, livestock or off-road vehicles are visible in the satellite images. A group of allotments in eastern Montana, for instance, are categorized as healthy, but are also clearly being used to grow crops. And they’re sitting in prime habitat for Greater sage grouse—a species that U.S. Fish & Wildlife is currently considering listing as endangered. (There’s an optional map layer that allows you to overlay grouse habitat.) PEER Advocacy Director Kirsten Stade says examples like this raise the question of how an area dedicated to crops or livestock could be considered “meeting all standards,” when the majority of native vegetation has been supplanted.

 

 

In some cases, the map shows a whole bunch of unhealthy, red-tinted, allotments butting against green-tinted, healthy ones. That kind of scenario may be an indication that adjacent district offices are interpreting rangeland health differently and calling “healthy” what the manager next door may deem “unhealthy” or vice versa, even though they’re in the same ecosystem with similar needs. In the case of Argenta, where the cowboy express came from, the fact that the allotment in question (which itself appears to have an incomplete assessment and tinted grey) is surrounded by either red or un-assessed land “suggests that maybe Doug Furtado wasn’t so far off in his call that grazing needed to be reduced on this allotment,” Stade said.

The Argenta allotment is highlighted in blue. Red areas failed to meet BLM rangeland health standards because of livestock impacts. Yellow allotments failed for non-livestock reasons, and orange allotments failed for unknown reasons. Grey areas have either no or incomplete assessments, according to PEER’s data.

For its part, the BLM responded to an initial PEER report from 2012 with qualms about the non-profit’s methodology. In any given unhealthy allotment, there may be a number of acres that are actually healthy, despite the fact the parcel on the whole is deemed a failure. But the non-profit was grouping all acres as unhealthy, which the BLM said skewed the data to be worse than it actually was. The BLM website says that the agency is creating its own mapping system that will show rangeland health acre-by-acre, instead of by allotment.

The agency also says it has “taken action to correct grazing management on 86 percent of the 1,925 allotments where livestock grazing was determined to be the cause for not meeting land health standards.”

The PEER map includes blue-tinted areas that represent Greater sage grouse habitat, underneath the tens of thousands of tinted grazing allotments.

One reason PEER is publicizing the new data set is to push the BLM to be more consistent in its rangeland health evaluations. The agency is supposed to complete assessments of each allotment every decade, but many of the allotments PEER inquired about had reports that were 15 years old or more. The project is also meant to bring information together that, until now, has been scattered throughout district field offices across the country, PEER says. Tools like this one could help the land agency take a more landscape-scale approach to management,

Blue highlights indicate where BLM rangeland health assessments mentioned oil development. The PEER map can be searched for a range of impacts to ecosystem health.

 

looking at full watersheds rather than just one piece at a time. And best-case scenario, these types of tools will add another layer of real information to the often emotion-driven debates around public land use in the West.

For more High Country News coverage of public lands debates, see our recent investigation, Defuse the West, which looks at threats to public-land employees and confrontations with local land users.

Tay Wiles is the online editor at High Country News.  Homepage photo of the Argenta allotment in Nevada courtesy Western Watersheds Project.

$10 Million in Grants being Awarded by the BLM to Study Sterilization of Wild Horses

http://m.cnsnews.com/news/article/melanie-hunter/blm-spend-10m-contraception-wild-horses-burros

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

When I was at the August Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting in Riverton, Wyoming, I listened to the BLM present its plan for awarding ten million dollars in grants to study sterilization of wild horses.  They plan to announce in January which proposals will be accepted, and award 1 million dollars to each proposal. The Advisory Board Members and BLM staff lamented that birth control doesn’t work so they need to keep studying – while also laughing about “well, we KNOW sterilization works!”

This is actually completely untrue, about birth control not working.  There have been 30 years of studies proving that Native PZP, the one year drug used on mares does in fact work.  Currently, Native PZP is being used very effectively to control populations of horses in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and in the McCullough Peaks Herd.  The goal for the local BLM office and the groups working with them in both these areas is no more roundups.  Manage the wild horses on the range where they belong.  Do not add to the ridiculous number of 50,000+ wild horses in holding facilities and feed lots, but control the numbers in a way that will sustain numbers needed for maintaining genetic viability, be reversible, and is humane.  It is also important not to use PZP on small herds that are way below the numbers necessary for maintaining genetic viability, like herds that have an AML of 40, 50 or 60 horses.

There is a terrific video by Dr. Alan Rutberg, PhD of Tufts University at the 2014 American Equine Summit in his aptly named talk called “Embracing Failure: Why the BLM will not use Fertility Control” http://www.equineadvocates.org/video.php?recordID=45

The bottom line is that it is hard.  BLM does not want to use birth control because it takes time, money and resources.  They would far rather pursue a permanent solution, sterilization, even if it is dangerous and cruel.

The studies that are being considered include gelding, chemical sterilization, chemical vasectomies, and spaying of mares.  These inhumane, dangerous procedures would be done in the field.

All of these studies on the sterilization of stallions make no sense – unless you sterilize ALL the stallions in the herd, you are not doing an effective job at controlling the population because 1 stallion can breed and impregnate many mares.  Instead, using birth control on the mares is what needs to be done.

Consider the Sand Wash Basin Herd in Colorado.  Wendy Reynolds, the Field Manager of the Little Snake Field Office in Colorado has applied for a study of chemical vasectomies of stallions:

http://www.blm.gov/style/medialib/blm/co/resources/resource_advisory/northwest_rac/minutes.Par.25789.File.dat/NW%20RAC%20resolution%202014-001a.pdf

This is despite the fact that currently the BLM is currently using PZP-22 on the wild horses of Sand Wash Basin.

This ten million dollars should be spent in funding birth control programs using Native PZP on the range, studies of wild horses on the range, and range improvements.

If the BLM begins sterilizing horses on the range, this will be the beginning of their final solution for our wild horses – a solution that will bring about the zeroing out of our wild herds.

Related articles:

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/blog/wild-horses-the-proposed-destruction-of-the-sand-wash-basin-herd

 

The BLM’s Whitewash of the Reveille Roundup

by Debbie Coffey    Copyright 2014      All Rights Reserved.

The BLM’s Tonopah Field Office in Nevada claimed there were 168 wild horses, and there was a “need” to do a roundup (and waste taxpayer dollars) since there were 30 wild horses over the Appropriate Management Level (AML).  But lets look closely at this slight of hand.

The BLM rounded up 120 wild horses, gave PZP fertility control to 50, which they were to return, but by removing 70, left only 98 wild horses on the Reveille HMA, making it a non viable herd.  (And, they gave PZP to 50 out of that 98!)

Now, lets look at the numbers of LIVESTOCK on the Reveille HMA:

(These livestock numbers are from the BLM's Rangeland Administration System)

(These livestock numbers are from the BLM’s Rangeland Administration System)

Click on image for enhanced view

The 105,474 acre Reveille HMA is WITHIN the Reveille GRAZING allotment, which is 650,250 acres.  There is only one permittee, and it is half owned by FALLINI and half owned by the H. FALLINI LIVING TRUST.  You can read an article about them HERE.
The BLM allows this grazing allotment to graze 2,440 cattle for 6 months out of the year (compared to 98 wild horses now) but was fretting about 30 wild horses over the AML?

Horses that graze on the Reveille Herd Management (HMA) area were some of “Wild Horse Annie’s” favorites, according to the BLM’s announcement of their scheduled roundup which started on Nov. 3.  The historical significance of this herd did not stop the BLM from rounding them up.

So when you now read about the adoptions or get sidetracked about the handling of the horses during the roundup, don’t forget the big picture of what really happened here.

Don’t forget that the BLM is reducing yet another wild horse herd population to a level that is no longer genetically viable.  Currently 70% of the wild horse herds in the United States are being “managed” by the BLM at a level below levels required  (150-200 reproducing wild horses) to maintain the genetic viability of the herd.

Don’t forget that the BLM is managing the wild horses and burros to extinction.

Don’t forget the BLM is doing little to reduce or suspend livestock grazing on public lands.

The BLM is duping the public and then trying to whitewash it with PR.

 

BLM: lots of red tape, but still manage to favor cattle

“When they bought the property, fence posts surrounded the land due to an adjacent cattle allotment that hadn’t been used in a while.  Mike and Connie say BLM asked them if they would help assist in removing the fence posts, as the allotment would never be sold again.  Soon afterwards, the allotment was sold and now cattle occasionally roam the couple’s yard.

Because BLM allows the new landowner to use the water from the spring area for the cattle, Mike and Connie claim their water is left to a dribble and is contaminated with cow droppings.”  

This story even mentions that the BLM is not following the NEPA process on public lands…sound familiar?

SOURCE:  Idaho Press-Tribune

Landgrab:  Idaho couple fights long land battle with BLM

CHALLIS — When Mike and Connie McGowan bought their Challis property in north-central Idaho in 2005, they never expected that their new dream home would turn into such a nightmare.

About four years ago, the McGowans were notified by the Bureau of Land Management that due to newly-conducted land surveys, 2 of their 8.9 acres of property had actually belonged to the BLM.  This resulted in an unintentional trespass violation issuance.

For the past four years, the couple has reached out to multiple local and federal government agencies to try to get their acreage dispute solved.  But they have encountered nothing but red tape and frustration every step of the way.

“When I found out, I went to the BLM immediately and asked questions,” Mike said. “They told me that I did have a problem but they didn’t think I’d live long enough to get it resolved.”

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The problem is magnified, as Mike has a $100,000 workshop located on the disputed two acres, which he uses to repair motorcycles, dirt bikes and RVs. The shop is a major source of income for the couple.  Even though they are both in their early 70s, both Mike and Connie still work.

“It was during the good times in Idaho and we paid a high price for the property, knowing that we could build a nice shop to operate our business,” Mike said.

In 2010, the McGowans were first alerted to the problem when they were contacted by a Challis real estate office, asking if they would be interested in selling their land to a professional buyer.  After talking it over and deciding to listen to the offer, they received a callback from the broker saying there were problems with the property lines.

The McGowans claim the professional buyer was a representative from the local BLM office.

The property was originally surveyed in the 1970s.  Before the McGowans bought the property, the title had changed hands seven times.  Every title from this period shows the land was surveyed and documented at 8.9 acres.

With this proof in hand, they filed for a color of title application with BLM in 2010, which would have settled the acreage dispute by grandfathering the 8.9 acres. However, the application was denied.

“We were told by BLM not to file an appeal because they said they were in the process of selling us our land back,” Connie said.  “Well, they changed their minds about selling us the land.  But they didn’t tell us until after the 30-day period to file the appeal had passed.”

According to Todd Kuck, the field manager for the BLM office in Challis, the only way for BLM to dispose of federal property is through changes to its resource management plan.  The plan is updated every 15 to 20 years and the last time the plan was amended was in 1999.

“There are about 90 unintentional trespass cases like this that we know about in Custer County,” Kuck said.  “We are keeping a list of these properties for when we do make amends to the resource management plan.”

Kuck says the next amendment process could begin within the next couple of years.

Even though this problem has been going on for four years now, the McGowans have continued to pay property taxes on the disputed two acres.  This is because the county assessor still lists their property at the original 8.9 acres.

“The county assessor’s office agrees with us,” Mike said.  “We own 8.9 acres.”

After the color of title application failed, the McGowans tried to obtain a special use permit from BLM, which would renew every three years.  It would also allow them to use the disputed two acres until the resource management plan could be updated.  This turned out to be a bust as well.

“The BLM people came out and told us they could get a permit for us within a few days and that it would cost $750,” Mike said.  “We wrote them a check and we never heard back. When I went down to the office, I found out the $750 was for back rent from when the new BLM surveys went into effect.”

This past summer, the McGowans say they were told a permit could be issued for the entire two acres. However, they claim BLM told them that due to the property’s close location to the Challis Bison Kill Site and a wild herd of bighorn sheep, a permit could only be issued for the shop, not the disputed two acres.“How are we supposed to trust these people when they keep going back on their word,” Connie said.

Mike disputes the Challis Bison Kill Site is even a historical site, claiming it is merely “a gravel pit,” where natural materials were transported by dump truck.

The couple has also had problems with BLM’s assertion that they did not have any water rights to a nearby spring, even though Mike and Connie say they have paperwork from the courts proving they have exclusive rights to the spring.  An $800 right of way lease was charged for the water pipe leading from the spring to the house because it passed through BLM land.

When they bought the property, fence posts surrounded the land due to an adjacent cattle allotment that hadn’t been used in a while.  Mike and Connie say BLM asked them if they would help assist in removing the fence posts, as the allotment would never be sold again.  Soon afterwards, the allotment was sold and now cattle occasionally roam the couple’s yard.

Because BLM allows the new landowner to use the water from the spring area for the cattle, Mike and Connie claim their water is left to a dribble and is contaminated with cow droppings.

“When you look at it in black and white, these BLM people are either very incompetent or they’re harassing us, or both,” Mike said.

Mike says his charge of harassment stems from BLM closing off parcels of public land around Challis a few years earlier.  The McGowans disputed the closures, claiming that BLM broke the law because they did not follow the NEPA process regarding public lands or hold public meetings before the closures went into effect.

They also claim BLM was not happy about a 12-mile off-road trail he helped construct on behalf of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

“I was told by a BLM official at a public meeting that ‘we hadn’t heard the last of this,’” Mike said.  “That’s when the nightmare began for us.  We were told about the issue with our land soon after that.”

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