Horse News

BLM Overlooks Arsenic & Mercury; But Gets Rid of Wild Horses

by Debbie Coffey ~ Director of Wild Horse Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation ~

reprint from the PPJ Gazette

BLM’s hurry to remove wild horses is to avoid having a bunch of horses drop dead in a pile somewhere from water contamination

In 2010, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gave the green light to the expansion of a mining project within the Triple B Herd Management Area (HMA) in Nevada, even knowing about mercury in the watershed and higher levels of arsenic in the surface water. Since grazing allotments seem to be in the hydrographic basin with “mercury deposition contributions to the watershed,” this would seem to put human food and health at risk. The BLM turned a blind eye and approved this project, and now they’re falling all over themselves to declare there’s not enough water for the wild horses because of “drought” and they now plan to waste taxpayer dollars on water trapping, and later helicopter roundups, to remove the wild horses.

But you can’t say they’re not rosy optimists. In the 2009 Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Bald Mountain Mine (the mining project given approval to expand operations), under Surface Water, BLM states:

“In general, established background water quality levels are good with the exception of arsenic, which exceeds the 0.05 mg/l Nevada water quality standard.”

In other words, the water quality is good, except for all the arsenic, which is higher than a safe level. How much does it exceed the Nevada water quality standard?

It kind of makes you wonder if part of the BLM’s hurry to remove wild horses is to avoid having a bunch of horses drop dead in a pile somewhere from water contamination. Not that the BLM would care about the horses, but they wouldn’t want anything to further damage their poor (and continually plummeting) public image.

It seems that BLM’s idea of a “thriving ecological balance” and concern about “degradation to the range” is very selective. The only thing “green” about this is the money that’s being raked in while public lands are being raped. Again, the BLM has asked for public comments, which again, they will ignore. My comment about their latest plan to get rid of the wild horses is:

June 26, 2012

Mr. Byran Fuell, Field Manager
BLM Wells Field Office
3900 E. Idaho St.
Elko, NV 89801

 RE:  Water trapping in the Triple B Herd Management Area

Dear Mr. Fuell:

The following are my comments regarding the BLM’s water “resource concerns” and supposed “severe drought” to use water trapping to remove wild horses and “relieve pressure on springs or until a helicopter gather can take place.”

1)  If the BLM has legitimate “resource concerns” for water in the Triple B Herd Management Area (HMA), the expansion of the Bald Mountain Mine (BMM) shouldn’t have been approved by the BLM in 2010, since BMM is WITHIN the Triple B HMA and will now use an additional 250 afa (acre feet annually) of water.  Did the BLM prepare 1′ or 5′ water drawdown maps for this expansion project before approving the expansion (only a year and a half ago)?

2)  Did the BLM not anticipate droughts in the driest state in the nation when it considered that this additional 250 afa, meant that just this one project would use about 81,462,750 gallons of water each year?  BMM plans to mine for another 10 years, so it will use over 800 million gallons of water.  Didn’t the BLM consider that this might dry up streams in the Triple B HMA?

(Looking at the past history of the Bald Mountain and Mooney mines, even if they both used only 300 afa for only the past 20 years, that would mean they’ve already used 1,955,106,000 gallons of water.)

3)  When the BLM approved an additional (approximate) 3,418 acres of disturbance on public lands for the BMM expansion, (and all the extra water) did the BLM negotiate with Barrick to make accommodations for, or share, any water for wild horses?

4)  The Mount Hope Mine, near Eureka, seems to be only about 10-15 miles from the western edge of the Triple B HMA.  This mining project will also use a lot of water.  There could be a shared aquifer or interflow between aquifers, which could also affect water (and forage) in the Triple B HMA.

5)  I see from the BLM 2012 June Oil and Gas Lease Sale Nomination Parcel map, that the parcels are just outside the eastern side of the Triple B HMA.  These will use water and fracking (risking contamination of water).

6)  It looks as if a portion of the Triple B HMA and most, if not all, of the Cherry Springs Wild Horse Territory are in the Huntington Valley Hydrographic Basin.  Your office should be concerned that this basin seems to have the highest level of mercury deposition “contributions” to watershed in the state of Nevada.  What made these “contributions” (Hint: these are near BMM) and how can the BLM “relieve pressure” on springs from this?

7)  It seems the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has had recent concerns about the BLM’s lack of protection of water resources from other mining projects in the Elko BLM District:    and

8)  Have any extractive “uses” (mining, oil and gas, geothermal) in the Triple B HMA and nearby areas, been asked to curtail water usage during this severe drought?

9)  Is water from any of BLM’s water rights permits in the area being utilized for water for the wild horses?

I urge the BLM to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) and include maps showing water sources currently available to the wild horses, data and maps of any possible water contamination and water monitoring plans.  While an EA is being prepared, I urge the BLM to continue to haul water (and hay, if needed) to the wild horses you have a mandate to protect.

I also urge the BLM stop wasting tax payer money to use helicopters to remove wild horses from this HMA.   A wild horse only drinks 10-20 gallons of water a day, very little compared with the uses above, and they cause much less “degradation” to public lands.  If the BLM plans to leave only about 472 wild horses on almost 1,683,000 acres of the Triple B Herd Management Area, the BLM continues to “manage” the wild horses to extinction.


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20 replies »

  1. RT not sure about the geography here but I KNOW FOR ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that the mountain range going around I 80 at Hwy 93–which may be a bit north of these HMA’s had snow on the top of the mountains last July. This was the second and third week of July. I still have the pictures to prove this. It’s hard to imagine that there is ANY drought in Nevada ( I know Laura has said one exists in S Jackson Mtn Range). I say this cause from what I saw last year ALL the mountains along I 80 had snow on them in the second and third week of July. It’s just hard to believe that that much water has been used since…

    I drove east from Reno all the way to Wells where as you know Hwy 93 is.

    Oh that mountain range lies on the south side of 80. All my prints come date and time stamped.

    I saw a report that said BLM will do water and bait trapping for the remainder of Triple B. I wish they’d just stop.

    Just as an aside here–Hwy 93 is the Hwy from 80 you take to get to Mustang Monument which sadly still hasn’t opened…


    • The BLM CLAIMS there is drought, but we need to ask for their data, which means maps of water resources, with indications of which streams and sources have “dried up,” any photos of horses they have AT these particular sources to prove these are the sources the horses actually use, etc. There seems to be very little data made available to the public to support BLM claims of drought. Each area needs to be researched for MAN MADE causes of drought, which indicates mismanagement of public land use by BLM.


  2. Wild Horse Annie (Velma Johnston) said many, many years ago that BLM had in the past allowed “bad and careless patterns” to be established in their administration of the federal rangelands that, in turn, had “given rise to commercial exploitation.” “…I have made it very clear that it is the commercial exploitation of the mustangs for personal financial gain that must be stopped. These exploiters have carried on their operations with the benign blessing of the Bureau of Land Management for too long a time now, and unless proper legislation is enacted to prevent the complete anhiliation [sic] of the horses and to provide for the building up of their quality; this will be just one more example of the many times our American heritage has been sold down the river.”
    – “Wild Horses of the West” by J. Edward De Steiguer

    As Ms. Coffey explained in detail, this exploitation by BLM of our public wild horses and burros and public land and public water continues to be FAR worse than any of us knows… Wild Horse Annie saw it coming.


    • YEs!! We need to be writing solid and airtight legislation that will do this. Thanks so much for saying this. This needs debate and then decision making among us and then written to a T. Wether a reinforcement of the 1971 act which would throw out the Burn’s and other amendments or something new. THIS NEEDS TO BE DONE!! This is OUR responsibility to do this. There is no excuse why this has not begun and been out there for us to rally behind.


  3. GREAT WORK, Debbie!
    Where will they hide the dead people? No wonder so many are sick.
    BLM approves Newmont’s Genesis Project
    May 26, 2011 4:54 pm • ADELLA HARDING Mining Editor
    ELKO – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has approved Newmont Mining Corp.’s Genesis Project, which will provide a new supply of gold ore from north of Carlin for the mining company.
    The Elko BLM District’s Tuscarora Field Office signed the record of decision and modification of the plan of operations Wednesday and announced the approval today.
    “We are delighted about receiving the record of decision for our Genesis Mine Project. The advancement of the Genesis Project through our internal project pipeline supports our growth strategy and will allow Newmont to sustain jobs along the Carlin Trend,” Newmont Director of Environmental Permitting Jerry Pfarr said today.
    The Genesis Project includes expanding the existing Genesis open pit, backfilling the Bluestar and Beast pits then partially backfilling the Genesis pit as mining progresses over a 12-year mine life and expansion of two waste dumps.


  4. These are some of these multi-national corporations that we keep hearing about, as America’s Wild Horses and Burros AND Public Resources disappear.
    Newmont Mining Corporation is primarily a gold producer, with significant assets or operations in the United States, Australia, Peru, Indonesia, Ghana, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico. Founded in 1921 and publicly traded since 1925, Newmont is one of the world’s largest gold producers and is the only gold company included in the S&P 500 Index and Fortune 500. Headquartered near Denver, Colorado, the company has approximately 43,000 employees and contractors worldwide

    Liked by 1 person

    • I photographed a Newmont facility and saw the pollution with Craig Downer in 2010. The constant running of huge dump trucks created a cloud of dust around the entire area. Sediment ponds of yellow and orange goo were nearby and a couple reservoirs were within only a few miles. These mines are enormous. We were told not to approach the facility by someone on a speaker at the entrance. This is on public lands. Nearby were already zeroed out HMAs.


  5. This should be reason for doing studies on the HMAs for water quality and mortality with horses who have died being examined and samples tested. We have no independent research on our wild horses which would shine a light on any of the stresses they have been living with already from the many disturbed areas around old mines as well. The 1971 Act calls for independent research which has never been attempted.

    If we could get some scientific studies approved upon any of the HMAs we may be able to save the herds there. We need all manner of studies but it is not possible to study a rapidly declining and disappearing subject! Stop the roundups! Do the science!

    This is also another reason why these favored corporate uses of the wild horses habitat’s should be paying restitution so horses may be moved to safe places and not removed for life. Sue a corporation on the law! Make them pay for the science!! Policies are not laws. Policies are preferences. Why does BLM prefer to break the law rather than actually take responsible care of the wild ones? We have educated ourselves in the why! Now, getting our feet dug in and not accepting these zero and negative! population policies on our wild herds is going to have to get louder and stronger. Peaceful, but louder and stronger!

    What we do as a whole is going to help keep the herds in the eye of the public. Keep calling your reps and the White House and talk to the Democratic committees working to reelect Obama in your state. Get these people to acknowledge all the issues we are concerned with. Tell them all this has been a stacked deck against the horses and Obama needs to make a new assessment of his decision to allow the DOI/BLM to create havok on the range and stupidity in the confinement of tens of thousands of our Lawfully protected wild ones!

    Check out Protect Mustangs .org and find the rally planned in CA. coming up soon.

    Thanks Deb Coffee. This shows us BLM and these corporations are fully aware of the significance of their actions. Anyone living in Nevada is aware of the presence of arsenic in the water. It was one of the first things pointed out to me the last time I visited.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If we were Defenders of Wildlife, an organized and funded ,org with many thousands of members, we would be suing the corporation and the BLM! Think about this!! Go after the guilty parties together. It is not impossible to win and it happens because these alliances regularly break laws to get what they want.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. AND, as BLM removes America’s Wild Horses and Burros from Public Lands at taxpayer expense…
    BLM uses MORE taxpayer money to put them????
    AND guess what? Taxpayers may or may not ever see their Wild Horses and Burros ever again. IF they’re lucky, they may get a “guided tour” now and then…if they’re lucky:
    Release Date: 06/15/12
    Contacts: Tom Gorey , 202-912-7420

    BLM Seeks Bids for New Long-Term Pastures to Care for Wild Horses

    As part of its responsibility to manage and protect wild horses and burros, the Bureau of Land Management is soliciting bids for new long-term pasture facilities – located in the continental United States west of the Mississippi River – that provide a free-roaming environment. The solicitation is for one or more pasture facilities accommodating 800 to 2,000 wild horses. Each pasture facility must be able to provide humane care for a one-year period, with a renewal option under BLM contract for a five- to 10-year period. The BLM may require having one or two public and/or media tours hosted by agency staff and the contractor during the life of the contract. The solicitation is open until August 1, 2012, and is 100 percent set aside for small businesses under the North American Industry Classification System.
    The BLM’s bidding requirements are posted in solicitation L12PS00589, the details of which are available at To obtain the solicitation: (1) click on “Search Public Opportunities”; (2) under Search Criteria, select “Reference Number”; (3) put in the solicitation number (L12PS00589); and (4) click “Search” and the solicitation information will appear. The solicitation form describes what to submit and where to send it. Applicants must be registered at to be considered for a contract award.
    The BLM manages wild horses and burros as part of its overall multiple-use mission. Under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the BLM manages and protects these special animals – declared by Congress to be “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” – while ensuring that population levels are in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses. To make sure that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands, the BLM must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to control the size of herds, which have virtually no predators and can double in population every four years. The current free-roaming population of BLM-managed wild horses and burros is estimated to be 37,300, which exceeds by nearly 11,000 the number determined by the BLM to be the appropriate management level. Off the range, as of June 2012, there are more than 45,000 wild horses and burros cared for in either short-term corrals or long-term pastures. All these animals, whether on or off the range, are protected by the BLM under the 1971 law.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Over 22 MILLION ACRES have been taken from WH&B…ZEROED OUT. That lands needs to be returned to them. We DO NOT need to pay for long-term pastures.

    22.2 million: Number of acres WH&B have lost since 1971
    21,354: WH&B population as of 2/28/11 using BLM’s own data & 20% growth model (independent analysis)
    Compiled by Carla Bowers,10/26/11, Revised 11/6/11
    For NAS/NRC Study Panel of BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program
    All numbers above are verifiable

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Right on Debbie!
    21,354 WH&B population as of 2/28/11 – how is this number verifiable? 20% growth rate? That’s not verifiable either. I think people would be shocked (except BLM & their interests of course) to know how low the actual number really is. Critically endangered species!


  9. Why can not ALL the Organizations , but I mean AAAAAAAAALL, from “HSUS ” to “Defenders of Wildlife” to ” PCRM’ , to ” PETA” etc.etc, send out an Alert to all their Activist’s and all their members, to let them know, : “WHAT IS GOING ON”, !!!! “The CRIMINAL doings” toward our People and the Wild Horses,.This is done by the ” BLM.”. The so-called Stewards , who are supposed to be protecting, instead of Abusing and Ignoring the rules of this Country. “The Health Issues for people and Animals,and the survival of the Wild Horses” ,who are a part of the American History. We ALLLLLLLLL have to stand together, and stop this WRONG , this EVIL


  10. Great job Debbie. I think this needs to go to the media under the category of danger that incompetent, law breaking, federal agencies, particularly one like Interior that has lacked a permanent IG for at least three years. Send to your reps and committees that oversee Interior and Public Lands.

    A lot of our Representatives and Senators will be spending the upcoming holiday week in their home districts. Some of them may be taking part in public events related to the July 4th celebration including parades, fireworks, and picnics. Check out ways that might be available to engage our public officials.


  11. How hypocritical on the part of BLM to plan for drastic reduction of the wild horse herd all the while approving such enormous mining projects that suck up enormous quantities of water and leave it contaminated. A blind eye to the real problem, scapegoating of the wild horses as is par for the course for BLM, and rank hypocrisy!


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