CLOUDS GATHERING OVER BLM HORSE PROGRAM

by Willis Lamm

Wild Horse Advocate Willis Lamm

Wild Horse Advocate Willis Lamm

It is recognized by most wild horse advocates that the herds of wild horses that roam on our public lands require some degree of management. Herd population growth, loss of predators, intrusion by other land uses, extreme weather events, and the horses’ inability to migrate to new ranges due to man-made barriers require some intervention so that the horses remain in balance with range resources. It is in the application of horse management techniques where the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has demonstrated both competent resourcefulness and gross incompetence. The recent roundup of the iconic “Cloud” and his herd in the Pryor Mountains have provided a shining example of incompetence.

Once while observing a relatively safe and sane round-up in the Buck and Bald HMA (Nevada) I asked contractor Dave Cattoor why this particular gather was going so smoothly when a month earlier a gather at the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge was embroiled in chaos. The answer Cattoor gave was simple. “It’s the contract.”

Cattoor and others in his business are contractors. They perform to the specifications set forth in the gather contracts that they accept. At Buck and Bald, the BLM wasn’t Hell bent to bring in every horse. The horses were moved in slowly. Bands with young foals were left alone. Horses that showed lameness were left alone. Cattoor was not asked to bring in old horses and if some showed up in the corral, enough tail hair was cut so that the helicopter pilot could recognize them as being “releases” after they were turned back onto the range.

Apparently the specifications regarding Cloud’s herd were far different than what we in Nevada recognize as appropriate for “safe and sane” gathers of wild horses.

Perhaps what is far more telling than the poor gather specifications for the Pryor Mountains was BLM’s attitude. Gathers can be dangerous so it is appropriate for BLM to not allow people to just wander around during gather activities. Someone in the wrong place can spook the horses and get them hurt. However in Nevada the BLM customarily makes accommodations for responsible observers to see and report on gather activities. We stay at safe vantage points on the range that are designated by BLM. At the sorting corrals we usually find a spot atop a transport or water truck where we can see the whole operation and not spook the horses. While we may not agree with many of BLM’s gather decisions, Nevada BLM’s reasonable openness instills some confidence that the gathers here are not organized catastrophes.

I was not at the Pryor gather, however from first person accounts, videos, audio recordings and other evidence, the BLM’s whole approach to this gather was faulty. Instead of making adjustments and improvements where warranted, it appears that they turned this event into a covert operation and displayed a hostile attitude against some of the private citizens and advocates present. Having been a public employee myself for 30 years, I have to say that the snips of recorded conversations that I heard were totally improper.

The general attitude within the Department of Interior, of which BLM is a subordinate bureau, has fostered a new round of legal actions brought by private citizens and advocacy groups. There is evidence that some of the data upon which many of the Department’s past management decisions were based were altered. It is therefore reasonable for citizens to question the validity of reports and studies used to justify BLM’s current activities, especially when they simply seem wrong. In fact our Founding Fathers considered it to be our responsibility as citizens to hold our government and its agencies accountable. However the Department of Interior has apparently chosen to be confrontational with the American public rather than engage concerned critics and adjust its policies where appropriate. In this writer’s opinion, the present conduct of the Department of Interior serves as an example of bureaucracy at its worst.

Ironically, America’s wild horses are merely the immediate victims of tunnel vision bureaucracy. Over the long term it is likely the Department of Interior and its subordinate agencies that will suffer most. Aside from a growing pile of lawsuits, Congress is becoming increasingly tired of flawed policies that rack up incredible unnecessary costs and at the same time produce anger among the American constituency. If the Executive Branch of our Federal government doesn’t drag the Department of Interior onto a more appropriate path, Congress will. If one believes the lessons of history, Congress’ solutions may be far more burdensome on the Department than any prompt and appropriate corrections that Secretary Salazar or President Obama might impose.

Advocates across the world feel badly about the mistreatment of Cloud and his famous herd. However the Department of Interior and the BLM may have reached the proverbial “bottom” with respect to horse management policies. Surely they have no other direction to go than “up.”

Post Script:

Horseback Magazine just posted a story about Cloud’s roundup in which BLM spokesman Tom Gorey was quoted as saying, ” The Cloud Foundation is not a credible source for information.” In about 45 seconds a Google search returned scores of incidents where the Department of Interior and/or Bureau of Land Management personnel were involved in altering data, corruption involving millions of dollars, and even accepting drugs, sex and gifts from energy companies. I find it ironic that a spokesman for what could be reasonably be described as the most “incredible” department in our Government’s history would cast dispersions upon an established non-profit group for its criticism of the agency.

Here are but three samples of the reports that I found.

7 comments on “CLOUDS GATHERING OVER BLM HORSE PROGRAM

  1. Thanks for this extremely well written piece focusing on some of the larger concerns that were evident in the Pyror Mountain gather. Wonder who crafted the gather contract. Also wonder who “shut down” access to observers. Is this legal?

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    • I’m wondering the same thing about locking out observers, especially the selected “Humane Observer.” What’s the point of having an objective humane observer if she’s not allowed to observe. HOW can this be legal?

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  2. “…Department’s past management decisions were based were altered.” –

    Like I’ve said all along “WMD – Iraq, EPA reports, etc” I don’t know how old these “altered” documents are, but at least I can suggest this is systemic. Having said that, reports from people like Mr. Lamm proves that there is hope and “reason” regardless of whether each of us agrees with every one of his points or not.

    The whole last Post Script – please tell me what words you googled. I’ve tried to find out this very thing and am apparently off track with my search choices.

    Many thanks you to Mr. Lamm for standing up. You will probbly take some knocks, but I for one really appreciate this.

    By the way, just wathced on PBS internet “The Wolf That Saved America” maybe there are some lessons for success in this piece that could be used to save the wild horses (and of course I added a blog of “how this parallels with the Cloud series – 3rd show airing this Ocober”).

    PS – I’m repeating again – there is a blockbuster movie here, at least as big and dramatic as tobacco! Or, the many other political scandals “based on a true story” of Hollywood fame!

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  3. Hi Mr. Lamm: from Anna “wahpoose of conn usa animal rights pacifist…(and activist; a pacifist by being a long term Vegetarian)

    I read your post on the Mustang Project but they do not post my posts so i write here; you asked me: what am I doing for the Mustangs; am I out west buidling corrals; taking surveys; etc. ?

    answer: no: I live in Conn. a small rural type state of the usa we do not have nor have had any wild mustangs around here for time

    so what do I do? what I do is “I study nutrition; I study the nutritional requirements of Mammals; Birds; Fish; people; plants!

    and so I can see the “Nutritional deficiencies incurred on the Corraled Mustangs to a very high degree; I can see the faults and the inconsistenices of the feed management prog. by Sanford;
    where Sanford actually puts the weak pregnant mustangs on

    A LOW NUTRITON DIET

    now why; WHY WOULD A VET. put a “living pregnant Mare on a a low nutrition diet; even though the Mare is “eating for two ?
    why would Sanford deny Mustang mares the legal right to

    A HIGH NUTRITIOUS DIET?

    this is all written up in one of the HSUS Vet. reports from Fallon !
    so this is why “30 pregant mares perished at Fallon with foal inside

    and so I write to the BLM and I say: a low nutrition diet for prge. mares is the opposite of the prescribed protocol for preg. mares
    Preg. mares are to have a high nutrition diet with Flax; wheat bran!

    take for example the famous video of “downed mare Indian lake

    you see how the Mare struggles to stand up ? why; does the Mare have an external injury? NO; I took the video apart frame by frame and I have 2 frames where the downed mare actually stand up fine
    so she did not have an external injury such as a leg fracture; etc.

    So instead of RE FEEDING THE MARE a high nutritious diet; the BLM “threw a handful of OLD HAY MIXED WITH SAND !

    which spooked the mare; she fell down; and was “subsequently shot by the blm..

    what a spoof ! so that is what I do; I send nutritional info and comments to “officials; to the blm; to anyone who can read…

    what it is: there is a certain Vitamin named Thiamine Vitamin B1;
    what happens is; when a mustang is under stress; the Vitamin B1 is depelted; this causes the Mustang to be very weak and fall down

    and get this: ONE SHOT OF THIAMINE VITAMIN B1 can acutally get a downed mustang to stand up and begin eating in most cases

    this is the type of info I send to the BLM and officials; they don’t get it though; they don’t get what I am talking about see? this is becuz their intent is “not to save mustangs but to “thin the herd

    see imo Sanford denies a nutritious diet to preganant mares as a way to “thin out the herd…

    that is illegal to thin a herd by putting some on an low nutrition diet!

    I would like to discuss this issue; believe me Thiamine B1 works !

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  4. To Mr. Lamm: (ps the dappled horse you have is stupendous ! )

    Mr. Lamm: this is a direct quote from the HSUS Vet. @ Indian L.;

    HSUS report on March 16th; 2010: wrtten by the HSUS Vet. !
    For instance, the adult stallions tend to have the highest body condition score. So their feed eventually needs to be adjusted to provide fewer calories with the same bulk. On the other hand, pregnant mares have by far the greatest energy needs, tend to have the lowest body condition scores, and are the most prone to metabolic problems as their feed improves from the range. Their diet must be slowly brought on to level where their energy needs are met and where they can gain weight. Dr. Sanford explained the feeding plan and preventative medicine program for each group.
    For instance, the adult stallions tend to have the highest body condition score. So their feed eventually needs to be adjusted to provide fewer calories with the same bulk…
    WHAT? the largest and heaviest mustangs get LESS CALORIES?
    Doesn’t Dr. Hock know? The larger the animal; the GREATER the Caloric needs; for example; would you put a BodyBuilder on Less calories than the average Joe? of course not; that would make the body builder lose his weight and his physique; so it is in this case:

    By Doc “Sandpit” Sanford putting the larger physique Mustangs
    on a diet which provides FEWER CALORIES is:
    “insane ! so that is what I do; i correct the mistakes of Doc Sandpit

    “quote: On the other hand, pregnant mares have by far the greatest energy needs, tend to have the lowest body condition scores, and are the most prone to metabolic problems as their feed improves from the range. Their diet must be slowly brought on to level where their energy needs are met and where they can gain weight.

    THEIR DIET MUST BE SLOWLY BROUGHT UP TO A LEVEL WHERE THEIR ENERGY NEEDS ARE MET AND GAIN WEIGHT

    Wrong ! the Pregnant Mustangs should have been aggresively treated with Nutrients; Pellets; mashes; good fiberous hay such as what they were used to eating out on the range…

    so Sanford gives Stallions and Mares LESS Nutrition; not extra nutrition; “how stupid is that ? they don’t save mustangs whatsoever; if your mustang was thin; would you give less feed?
    oh i don’t think so…talks soon; A. Studying nutrition for 5 decades!

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  5. ps i call Vet. Sanford “Sandpit Sanford for leaving foals in sandpits(example: Hope the Foal was left alone in a sandpit for 3 days; no hay was given whatsoever; i think something “wrong with Sanford !

    a. he gives larger Mustangs LESS Calories? is he for real ?
    b. he gives Preg. mares nutrtion slowly over time; hey guess what?

    if you wait too long to give the Mare nutrition; the foal can “perish!
    dumb or what? and foals are born literally on to “burning sand lots!
    catch my drift? not trying to cause trouble; trying to right a wrong !
    Sandford must go on Imcompetancy !

    Like

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