Horse News

Department of the Interior Needs an Inspector General – Now

Guest OpEd by Lisa LeBlanc

“Where are all the Watchdogs?”

doiA New Year.  New chances, new reasons for enthusiasm, for change, for hope. Events concerning long-standing Wild Horse and Burro issues seem ripe with optimism – in new policies released by the Bureau of Land Management, in legal pursuits finally given merited gravity, in earnest investigations into violations of Federal laws as they apply to the Wild Horse and Burro Act.

Recent experiences have shown that some outwardly earnest investigations into administration of the Act, a Public Law, were less than adequate, with teams primed for participation in events tailored for their observations or inquiries conducted by the agency itself.

The resulting reports were equally less than adequate.

Any solid investigation should result in changes to the policies that required the investigation in the first place. And the investigations should be conducted by the agency’s independent watchdogs – the Offices of the Inspectors General.

In December, 2011, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility  (PEER) released a report, “Time To Appoint an Effective Inspector General at Interior”, authored by Kirsten Slade. The report outlined  issues which had occurred under Earl Devaney as Inspector General. According to the report, among many transgressions, low to mid-level personnel in investigations were named and/or punished, while high level appointees were shielded, remaining anonymous. Mr. Devaney was eventually appointed to oversee fraud on stimulus funds. He then retired in 2011.

Enter Acting IG Mary Kendall. PEER contends Kendall, a long-time aide of Devaney’s, perpetuated those same erratic practices, including:

  • Deep-sixing its own reports for political reasons and waging long battles to withhold documents from responses to the Freedom of Information Act. Under Kendall, the IG has paid PEER thousands of tax dollars in recovered fees and costs for successful FOIA suits, including one check from the IG which bounced and had to be replaced; and
  • Pursuing a ham-handed, baffling, nearly two-year probe of Arctic scientists’ 2004 sightings of drowned polar bears in open water following a storm.

PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch stated, “Interior continues to lurch from debacle to debacle in part because the work of the Inspector General generates heat but sheds little light.”  And that “Interior’s Office of Inspector General desperately needs new leadership.”

In a related article entitled “Rising Doubts on Interior Inspector General”, dated October, 2012, Director Ruch states, “To be effective and remain independent, an IG must be willing on a daily basis to get canned or resign if the mission is compromised.”

The Project on Government Oversight  (POGO),  had also released a report, “Where Are All The Watchdogs?”,  which illustrates those agencies with no permanent Inspectors General.  The Department of Interior, as of this writing, has been without a permanent IG for 1,412 days, since February, 2009; Acting IG Mary Kendall is still in charge of Interior’s investigations.

Why the necessity for a permanent IG? POGO explains:

Why Having a Permanent IG Is Important:

OIGs are best positioned to be effective when led by a highly qualified permanent IG, rather than an acting official or no IG at all. Permanent IGs undergo significant vetting—especially the IGs that require Senate confirmation—before taking their position. That vetting process helps to instill confidence among OIG stakeholders—Congress, agency officials, whistleblowers, and the public—that the OIG is truly independent and that its investigations and audits are accurate and credible.

In addition, a permanent IG has the ability to set a long-term strategic plan for the office, including setting investigative and audit priorities. An acting official, on the other hand, is known by all OIG staff to be temporary, which one former IG has argued “can have a debilitating effect on [an] OIG, particularly over a lengthy period.” Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has echoed that sentiment, saying “Even the best acting inspector general lacks the standing to make lasting changes needed to improve his or her office.” (emphasis added)

Investigations into the Bureau of Land Management’s violations of policies and administration of the Wild Horse and Burro Act, a Public Law, must be viable, ethical and independent of the Bureau of Land Management’s purview. At this juncture, the Bureau has difficulty acknowledging violations exist, choosing instead to characterize disobedience or abuse as anomalies, cloak them in secrecy or ‘privacy’, or worse – claim ignorance of their occurrence. Typically, it’s lax rendition of those policies in lieu of any admission of wrong doing. 

The purpose of this report is not to corner either the Bureau of Land Management or the OIG. Instead, it’s an invitation – for an honest and rigorous examination of the pertinent facts. An examination which should be, at the very least,  the same caliber and quality as:

  • Thousands of hours of authenticated video footage and photographs:  From diverse members of the Public, visual testimony taken during wild equine removals and the processing to holding facilities.
  • Hundreds of verifiable research reports; hundreds of hours spent compiling them.
  • Countless FOIA requests, and the subsequent revelations.
  • Innumerable responses by the interested Public:  In answer to Environmental Assessments, thoroughly reviewed subject matter, successfully countering the lack of science or evidence in those assessments, yet unable to alter the decisions.   

The only apparent deficiency? The Public – though proven to be fully capable and meticulous in both gathering evidence and rendering conclusions – is not an acceptable investigative body of the Federal Government.

According to POGO, the offices of Inspectors General :

“…serve as independent watchdogs within federal agencies and are essential to a well-functioning federal government.”

Perhaps it’s time the Public weighed in.

The Wild Horse and Burro Act is Public Law 92-195, not simply a list of suggestions for selective interpretation. Time has marked nearly four years without a permanent and effective IG at the Department of Interior. That same time frame has shown Public appeals for genuine inquiry into questionable practices in the Wild Horse and Burro Program are consistently trivialized and the excessive, rationalized.

Time’s up.

Resources:

http://www.peer.org/

http://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/2011/12/07/-time-to-appoint-an-effective-inspector-general-at-interior-/

http://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/2012/10/08/rising-doubts-on-independence-of-interior-inspector-general/

http://www.pogo.org/

http://www.pogo.org/tools-and-data/ig-watchdogs/go-igi-20120208-where-are-all-the-watchdogs-inspector-general-vacancies1.html

http://www.doioig.gov/

(The web site for the ‘Office of Inspector General, U.S.  Department of Interior’ is currently ‘unavailable’ due to security concerns.)

14 replies »

  1. Thank you Lisa. The BLM recently responded to one of my EA comments that questioned their refusal to follow the 1971 Congressional WH&B act by stating that the law was written for me (the public) to follow and not them. There-in lies the problem.

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  2. It seems to me the focus of the BLM wild horse program is to “sweep wild horses forever from public lands” and any changes made have been to that end — Any policy changes are meant to lmit the DOIs exposure to criminal charges and investigations, as seen by the scramble to CYA after the Davis debacle..no changes have been enacted to actually protect and preserve the SA wild horses..
    During the first Calico roundup, there existed a set of protocols for roundups..which I read at the time..describing acceptable perameter for helicopter actions, animal welfare procedures that prohibited barbed wire fencing in he vicinity of the capture facility..after the uproar over the first Calico roundup..those protocols disappeared from all documents which is why I cannot link you to them..instead-the BLM turned over all decisions of that nature to the “contractor”..That should be prosecuted as an abdication of their legal responsability

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  3. Lisa, this is a great proposal. Alerting the public that Dept of Interior is investigating and regulating itself will set off the “unethical!” buzzer in most minds, whether they care about wild horses, mining, resources management or simply want bureaucrats held to account.

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  4. RIGHT ON, Lisa,,,TIME’S UP….and we dare not forget about the Forest Service.
    Due today:

    http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6931/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=12436
    TELL FOREST SERVICE: PROTECT WILD HORSES IN DEVIL’S GARDEN PLATEAU TERRITORY
    Feds Developing 15-20 Year Management Plan for California Wild Horse Territory: Your Comments Needed by January 14 2013
    The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is seeking public input for revision of the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory Management Plan (TMP). This plan will establish the short- and long-term policies for management of this wild horse territory for the next 15 to 20 years. The USFS has revised its earlier proposal for wild horse territory and is now proposing to remove habitat from this herd.
    The Devils Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory is approximately 268,750 acres, or 419 square miles, in size. The USFS only allows 275 to 335 horses on this Territory that is also used by 10 different livestock grazing permitees. The proposed management plan calls for a potentially massive roundup in October 2013 to remove as many as 893 wild horses from this WHT. This would be devastating for this herd, which hasn’t been rounded up since 2006.
    This is the scoping period for revision of the management plan, so now is the time to let the USFS what alternatives the public wants to see for management of these wild horses. Please take easy action below to personalize and send in your comments. When you click send, your suggestions will be individually emailed to the USFS.

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  5. Thanks, Lisa.
    I have been wondering whether or not Mary Kendall had been made the permanent IG at Interior. There was a story nearly a year ago about the number of IG positions that remain open. I believe it was in reference to the scandal at GSA. The lack of an IG was listed as a possible reason.

    It is my understanding that the approval of IG’s is in the hands of the Senate. Anything that is in the hands of the Senate is in the hands of Senator Reid. Note that we have not had a budget for over three years. Given what we know regarding the role Senator Reid played in creating the Burns Amendment and getting in the Appropriations Bill for 2005, and given the Salazar proposal which was, no doubt, another instance of one current Senator and one former Senator colluding to remove wild horses and then send them to slaughter after they are no longer in the public eye, Senator Reid is unlikely to shackle his partner in high crimes and misdemeanors.

    Senator Reid does not want anyone to know what he and Secretary Salazar are doing with America’s natural resources. The potential for scandal here is beyond Biblical proportions. Dave Phillips story exposing Tom Davis was a life saver for Secretary Salazar.

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  6. Whenever I read the DOI Office of Inspector General (OIG), an “independent” office to oversee the DOI, I have MY guard up. I have seen them in *inaction in Congressional hearings sitting next to SalaCzar. Intimidated, paid under-the table, corrupt…whatever…forget it! Sickening to hear they will be looking into the Davis, neighbor of Salaar, buying BLM wild horses and selling to slaughter. The cover-up by the BLM has been blatantly absurd, like in-your-face to the public & advocates! So expectations of the OIG is more than a joke. All the aforementioned are “kissin’ cousins.”

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  7. It is time to completely revamp the Offices of Inspector General. We need a person and a team that has knowledge of all the problems facing our National Parks and land management protocol. Go back to the basics and keep things as simple as possible. I think I will work on a new developmental model which includes all of the public lands that the Government is involved with.
    It will take a department that has knowledge of the wet lands, dry lands, horticulture, public lands and the resources we have available to assist in the management of these lands.
    Time is up for a huge change and we must come together. I think we need a person with common values, understanding the new strategy of the laws we put in place. We must abide by laws that are helping to preserve our lands and keep them natural. Placement of our wild horses are necessary when we have the proper food sources in place and adequate water systems in place. Leave our wild horses in places that can be observed for generations to come. We can keep the number of foals and fillies under control well, looking at different birth control methods for some of our wild horses. We need to keep sustainability practices in check with the land and monitor the lands that are working well to help keep our animals safe and free from turmoil. We can plant the proper food sources in various places on these lands once we figure out how many plants per acre we can plant. Trees need to be planted to help in the exchange of carbon dioxide. Tree farms are of major importance, plants are of major importance. Hire me and I will make sure we put the right plants in place. Horticulture teachers and land scape designers, engineers, plumbers,
    Especially a person that loves horses and wild life, who understands the importance of placing our wild animals back into areas that are wild for natural selection for occur.
    I am getting specific here, but we have to plan the right places and put our horses back into the right eco systems. This is where I am working on my plans to provide the proper areas for our horses to survive without too much intervention from man.
    Our government is in dire trouble and so we will need a young core of people to work back in our National Parks and make this work. We need hard working and passionate workers that have the proper knowledge of eco systems, biology, animals, horticulture, etc. So this is where I am developing my expertise. I pray I can get this rocking and rolling soon in the near future.
    It takes guts, I have them. I want to pass every law we can to protect our wild horses from the men and women that are evil and have other agendas on their mind, you all know what I am talking about. Lawyers get on board with us. We are going into rough territory but we are ready to take this on. We are not afraid of you bullies out there so let get prepared. We are on fire and we will protect our wild horses and burros out there struggling to survive because of man’s brutal and wrong decisions and coward acts. So hang on we are in for a bumpy ride. We are horse warriors and we can handle anything that comes our way. God knows best and my decisions I pray will bring us to a clear understanding. We need to battle the laws and get them in place now. Pass the wild horse and burros protection act. We need to pass Stop the round up act. We need to stop horse slaughter all across the globe but we need to have these laws signed for eternity and they cannot be changed ever. Do you politicians HEAR ME? READ my writing. WOOHOOOHOOHOO FOR THE WILD HORSES AND BURROS. WE ARE COMING TO SAVE YOU AS SOON AS WE CAN, READ THIS MY FRIENDS.

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  8. Are you then implying that a vetted, appointed, permanent Inspector General will make BLM/DOI etc, uphold and enforce the 1971 Act? Maybe. But I don’t see this on the horizon. It is another piece of the pie that is smashed. Will an IG make things better and should we begin a new campaign for this one office? Many things are broken. Many lines of communication and compromise are long severed with our agencies. We are struggling with many of these failings at once.

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  9. Indeed, it is high time for integrity at the Dept of Interior and also at the Dept of Agriculture when it comes to the farce of a protective program for wild horses and burros IN THE WILD. the main object has become to displace them or cripple their populations IN THE WILD wherever possible — the very opposite of the core intent of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act. See my book for more scope and details on this horrendous perversion of the law, The Wild Horse Conspiracy, avail. on amazon.com

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  10. “Excellent Idea!!, W H &B Ombudsman in all 50 states ”

    BLM /Interior also need to consider Wild Horse / Horse and Burro have GREAT meaning to advocates.

    Apathy is not acceptable ….and destroying W H &B species is unacceptable…..

    Like

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