Nevada Lawsuit Exposes Underbelly of the Public Lands Grazing Disaster

Source: The Cloud Foundation

Nevada organizations come to aid of welfare ranchers

Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat  ~  photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. (Jan. 17, 2014) A lawsuit brought by the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) and the Nevada Farm Bureau (NFB) against the federal government claims wild horse overpopulation creates serious environmental concerns for horses, wildlife, and the ecology of rangelands, yet makes no mention of the glaring inconsistencies between policies of wild horse management and the free ride granted to federal livestock grazing.

The lawsuit accuses the federal government of failing to comply with the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act by not keeping wild horse populations within Appropriate Management Levels (AML) set by the BLM.  The lawsuit claims that the wild horses have damaged public land and demands not only removal of “excess” wild horses, but the disposal of removed wild horses that are incarcerated in holding facilities.

“Even though millions of privately-owned livestock occupy public lands, the few remaining remnant wild horse herds take the blame for the degradation,” states Ginger Kathrens, Volunteer Director of The Cloud Foundation. “This lawsuit exposes the bias against wild horses and hopefully allows for the truth to get out to the American public.“

“The staggering cost of the federal grazing program is borne by you and me.,” states Craig Downer, Nevada ecologist and author of The Wild Horse Conspiracy.“ American taxpayers subsidize welfare ranching to the tune of $123 million each year in direct costs and an estimated $500 million to $1 billion annually in other direct and indirect costs.”

Beef from public land grazing accounts for less than 3% of the American beef production as reported in the Center for Biological Diversity’s   Assessing the Full Cost of the Federal Grazing Program.

“When it comes to managing Wild Horses and Burros on public lands, the BLM has tried to accommodate extractive users, including welfare ranchers, by reducing most of the wild horse and burro herds to levels which jeopardize their future existence,” added Kathrens.  “The Cloud Foundation is suggesting a common sense approach in which wild horses and burros are managed on the range, at a much reduced cost to the American taxpayer.  This needs to happen now.  Wild horse herd sizes must increase which will require federal grazing decreases on the 11% of federal lands where wild horses live.  Wild horses and burros need not pay the price of freedom and family for an irresponsible, money draining grazing program.”

“The relative proportions of wild horses and burros, and livestock on the public lands reveal gross inequities,” says Downer.  “Even in wild horse territories, domestic livestock is allocated 82% of forage leaving 18% for wild horses and burros.  Wild horses and burros are managed on only 11% or 31.6 million acres of public lands as compared to the 238 million acres of BLM and Forest Service land open to livestock grazing.  Domestic livestock outnumbers wild horses on public lands 50:1.”

“This recent lawsuit harkens back to the days of the Sagebrush Rebellion, a 1980’s movement to turn control of Federal Public lands to local authorities,” says Kathrens. “There are still rebels out there who seek to control vast areas of the West for personal gain; wild horses and the 1971 Act stand in their way.”

The unanimously passed 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act stated its intention clearly:

That Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene.

Links: 

Nevada Farm Bureau counties allege feds mismanage wild horses – NBC News, Daniel Arkin

Nevada Association of Counties, farm bureau sue feds over management of wild horses

Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act

Assessing the full cost of the Federal Grazing Program

BLM Report: Public lands ranching fails rangeland health standards on a third of rangelands assessed, 33 million acres

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16 comments on “Nevada Lawsuit Exposes Underbelly of the Public Lands Grazing Disaster

  1. The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act was clear but was adulterated by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR’s) written some five years later by the BLM and made part of the Federal Land Protection and Management Act of 1976.

    Pull up ’43 CFR 4700′ and read it next to the WFRHB Act. You’ll see where the ‘multiple use’ policy began to chip away at the rights given the horses by the Act. One such example is the Act only referred to “Horse Ranges” where the horses were to be considered ‘principle’. The CFR’s instigated a new classification of “Herd Management Areas” (HMA’s). To placate the Act four of the original “Horse Ranges” were left with that designation (the Pryor’s is one) and the remaining areas as were classified as HMA’s.

    Note the difference in descriptions:

    § 4710.3-2 Wild horse and burro ranges.
    Herd management areas may also be designated as wild horse or burro ranges to be managed principally, but not necessarily exclusively, for wild horse or burro herds.

    § 4710.3-1 Herd management areas.
    Herd management areas shall be established for the maintenance of wild horse and burro herds. In delineating each herd management area, the authorized officer shall consider the appropriate management level for the herd, the habitat requirements of the animals, the relationships with other uses of the public and adjacent private lands, and the constraints contained in § 4710.4. The authorized officer shall prepare a herd management area plan, which may cover one or more herd management areas.

    The horses and burros went from 1st class citizens to 3rd class inhabitants. Congress does have the right exempt certain public lands from the ‘multiple use’ policy but will they? Or are they so indebted to lobbyists that they will allow the home ranges of our wild horses and burros, protected by law, to continue to diminish under the footprints of oil/fracking rigs, and the hooves of millions of cattle and sheep?

    They have to decide to either restore and exempt all of the original lands once considered horse ranges, rescind all grazing permits from those lands and release the captives back to their homes or continue on with the current failed management of our public lands and our wild horses and burros. The first saves us money, the later continues to waste taxpayer monies and allows for further deterioration of our public lands.

    How smart are your Congressional Representatives?

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  2. Excellent article, Ginger and Craig ,and information from Steve.
    So far Congress has done nothing to help our wild horses and burros.

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  3. It would be interesting (from a cvic point f view) to FOIA the rulemaking files for those regulations. Public comment period had to have been held. Wonder who commented and what the responses were. Regulations are tricky to write (if you are an honest person) and have to go through close examination for criteria of implementation as the law actually does trump, if the regulation is clearly interferring with the intent of the law. From my point f view, every modification of the Law has originated from a corrupt mind. And I only say that because the authorization BLM acts frm causes such pain, terror and death (continuing if they are adopted by equally brutal minded humans) for the horses so it is clear to me the regulations are wrong. BLM creates internal policies implementing the regulations.

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    • Jan, I keep wondering if the US citizens can also file suit – a class action suit – against the BLM for the long list of “management” practices which run counter to the original law as written and as intended, including some of those late-night amendments. My understanding is the original 1971 law as created by the demand of the US public, and then unanimous act of Congress. What has happened since has returned us nearly to the pre-1971 crisis situation, only with a lot more dollars spent, and tens of thousands of horses disappeared and captured. Since theoretically we, the people, own the public lands and the horses and burros, do we not have some right here to countersue the BLM for demonizing and destroying herds while simultaneously spending taxpayer dollars to subsidize for-profit livestock grazing interests? There is no public benefit to having private livestock grazing public lands that I can determine, but the horses we pay to protect in place lose ground, their freedom and their lives, all contrary to the original law.

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  4. Also, the Omnibus signed by Pres Obama DOES continue law that BLM is not to fund any killing of healthy WHB, nor pay expenses for sales to kill buyers (transporting to kill buyers is paying costs, so actually BLM was violating law when they did transport the Adobe Town, Salt Wells, Twin Peaks stallions and pregnat mares from the Burns facility) to Tom Davis. It also provides that USFS is to transfer funds to BLM to gather and adopt wild horses from forest lands – so there should not be any further auctioning of them. And I wonder if that provision was on the books last year with the McDermitt and Roosevelt roundups. It never made sense to me that the whb were protected fromm kill buying only if they were in BLM hands.

    Please help pass S541 or H1094 to ban slaughter of American horses, wherever they are.

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    • I think that the language in the new spending bill that defunds the BLM’s “sale authority” is the first time on the books since the Burns Amendment gave the BLM authority to sell without restriction in 2005. Anyone know who got that language in there? Or have the exact language? I’ve read two paraphrases of it (one at the ALDF blog) and one here. http://hslf.typepad.com/political_animal/2014/01/omnibus-for-animals.html

      Would be nice to know more about this provision and who put it there.

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      • Okay, answering my own question and clearing up my own confusion. The language is the “Rahall/Whitfield Amendment” that was first in the FY 2006 spending bill (to effectively “repeal” the sneaky Burns Amendment), again in the FY 2007 bill and in every spending bill since: “Appropriations herein shall not be available for the destruction of healthy, un-adopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the [BLM] or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.” The Nevada Farm Bureau opposed the Rahall Amendment the first time around. The recent lawsuit alleging BLM mismanagement was probably encouraged by the BLM to force Congress to give the funding back because the BLM can’t get it by a vote.

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      • Tand B, is this language strictly BLM or does it also include the USFS, who also manage our wild horses and burros?

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      • Hi, I left a follow up comment. This language is the Rahall Amendment that was added to the 2006 spending bill (and every one since, including 2014) to answer the Burns Amendment. It’s not new (some reports I read seemed to suggest something new–my mistake) but I think the Nevada Farm Bureau lawsuit is an attempt to get rid if it. Anyway, applies to BLM only.

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  5. The BLM/Secretary of Interior (Department of Justice) cannot be trusted to zealously defend this suit on their own. Does anyone know which advocacy organizations may have standing to intervene (and have taken steps to do so) or could (and plan to) file amicus briefs? Cloud?

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  6. So WHO benefits from removing WH&B from Public Land?
    This looks to be more about MONEY than about Range Health.
    http://nvnaco.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=18
    NEVADA ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES (NACO)
    Associate Members

    http://www.nvnaco.org/images/agenda%20nov%2022.pdf

    Bank of America
    Greg M. Titus, Sr. Vice President
    Nevada Government Banking
    401 South Virginia St. 2nd Floor
    Reno, NV 89501-2196
    (775) 688-8783
    bankofamerica.com

    • Barrick Gold Corporation
    Michael J. Brown, Vice President – U.S. Public Affairs
    101 Constitution Avenue, NW Suite 665 East
    Washington, D.C. 20001
    (202) 682-9499
    http://www.barrick.com

    • ING
    Steve Platt, Regional Director
    844 West Nye Lane #101
    Carson City, NV 89703
    (775) 886-2402
    http://www.ing-usa.com

    Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County
    Lee Gibson, Executive Director
    P.O. Box 30002
    Reno, NV 89520-0002
    (775) 348-0400
    http://www.rtcwashoe.com

    Las Vegas Valley Water District
    Patricia Mulroy, General Manager
    1001 S. Valley View Blvd.
    Las Vegas, NV 89153
    (702) 870-2011
    http://www.lvvwd.com

    Newmont Mining Corporation
    Mary Korpi, Director, External Relations
    16555 Mountain City Highway
    Elko, NV 89801
    (775) 778-4000
    http://www.newmont.com

    Nevada State Bank Daniel Dykes, Vice President P.O. Box 2351
    Reno, NV 89505
    (775) 783-6347
    http://www.nsbank.com

    NV Energy
    Linda Bissett, Government Affairs Executive
    P.O. Box 10100
    Reno, NV 89520
    (775) 367-5681
    http://www.nvenergy.com

    Western Insurance Specialties
    Anne Peirce and
    Todd R. Biggs, Co-owners
    443 West Plumb Lane
    Reno, NV 89509
    (775) 826-2333 or
    (800) 342-0707
    http://www.wisnv.com

    Willis Pooling
    Robert Lombard, Vice President
    1755 E. Plumb Lane, Suite 269
    Reno, NV 89502
    (775) 323-1656
    http://www.willispooling.com

    Swendseid & Stern
    John Swendseid, Attorney At Law
    50 West Liberty, Suite 660
    Reno, NV 89501
    (775) 323-1980 or Las Vegas (702) 387-6073
    http://www.sah.com

    Hobbs, Ong & Associates
    Guy S. Hobbs and
    Katherine W. Ong
    3900 Paradise Road, Suite 152
    Las Vegas, NV 89169
    (702) 733-7223
    http://www.hobbsong.com

    Lumos & Associates
    Charles L. Macquarie, P.E.
    Chief Executive Officer
    800 E. College Parkway
    Carson City, NV 89706
    (775) 883-7077
    http://www.lumosengineering.com

    GE Energy
    Holly Spiers, Community Relations
    1631 Bently Pkwy, South
    Minden, NV 89423
    (775) 215-1500
    http://www.ge-energy.com/oc

    Southwest Gas Corp.
    Debra Gallo, Director, Government and State Regulatory Affairs
    P.O. Box 98510
    Las Vegas, NV 89193
    (702) 876-7163
    http://www.swgas.com

    CenturyLink
    Brian McAnallen, Government/Business Affairs Manager
    330 S. Valley View Blvd.
    Las Vegas, NV 89107
    (702) 244-7500
    http://www.centurylink.com

    The Hartford
    Tom Verducci, Regional Manager
    9850 Double R Blvd, Suite 201
    Reno, NV 89511
    (702) 862-1227
    http://www.thehartford.com

    Nevada Public Agency Insurance Pool & Public Agency Compensation Trust
    Wayne Carlson, Executive Director
    201 S. Roop Street, Suite 201
    Carson City, NV 89701
    (775) 885-7475
    http://www.poolpact.com

    Summit Engineering
    Benjamin H. Veach, P.E. AICP
    Project Manager
    5405 Mae Anne Avenue
    Reno, NV 89523
    (775) 747-8550
    http://www.summitnv.com

    Union Pacific Railroad
    Wesley Lujan, Public Affairs
    915 L Street, Ste. 1180
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    (916) 789-5957
    http://www.up.com

    BEC Environmental
    Eileen Christensen, President
    7660 West Sahara Ave, Ste. 150 Las Vegas, NV 89117 (702) 304-9830
    http://www.becnv.com

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  7. Sue is banking on this. And her latest interview with Brownfield News comes with a contaminated threat-such as Congress will Rue the Day the horses will die from the Under funded BLM holding these animals in the midst of a drought and they may all be found dead…..wow! And then she alludes to the fact that the tribal horses will meet a certain fate. I really hope these horses don’t suddenly wind up dead, because it sounds like she is Alluding to something bad…as well. The fact is this is a ploy for the slaughter plants, but what alludes me is if the horses are alive and bad for the environment, then if they are butchered up by a plant, unhealthy, disheveled, and possibly dying upon arrival mixed in with horses that have received vet treatment and care….and they stand by the fact they are NOT creating an environmental hazard that way….do they never read or listen to what they say? But I have a concern that we may be approaching the point where they may begin to kill these horses in holding deliberately citing its the lack of forage and water….And, I want to also present that this suit seems to be trafficking the horses to slaughter, how convenient if they win the suit to kill horses they would have no alternative but to do so….wouldn’t that make the Holding pens….. Kill pens? I am sorry, but my mind is looking at a pretty warped picture, and no matter which way you attempt to view the situation, it looks the same-Deceptive!

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  8. I tried to post on the NBC site, but they won’t post links. There’s no point in posting unless facts and verification can be given. All they have are arguments which are not productive.

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  9. Connecting the Dot$

    BLM SELLS 160 ACRES NETTING $23 MILLION FOR PROJECTS IN NEVADA

    Las Vegas –The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today sold 160 acres in 24 parcels for $23,840,000 during a competitive-public-land sale. The agency offered 440 acres, in 28 parcels, under the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (SNPLMA).
    The parcels offered for sale varied in size from 2.5 acres to 250 acres. The 28 parcels offered appraised at a fair market value (FMV) of $25,283,000. The largest parcel to receive a bid, 20 acres, sold for $2.1 million at FMV. Four parcels, including the 250-acre largest parcel, received no bids.
    BLM Number Size (Acres) Appraised Value ($) Sale Price ($)
    N-78190 2.50 $490,000 $660,000
    N-91783 5.00 $830,000 $830,000
    N-91794 10.00 $1,050,000 $1,050,000
    N-91795 3.75 $300,000 $370,000
    N-81899 2.50 $200,000 $200,000
    N-91796 10.00 $1,050,000 $1,050,000
    N-91797 17.50 $1,840,000 $1,950,000
    N-91786 10.00 $1,100,000 $2,100,000
    N-91806 2.50 $465,000 $650,000
    N-91807 20.00 $2,100,000 $2,100,000
    N-91808 7.50 $790,000 $1,050,000
    N-91787 2.50 $200,000 $330,000
    N-91809 5.00 $525,000 $525,000
    N-91788 2.50 $225,000 $225,000
    N-91789 5.00 $815,000 $1,300,000
    N-91810 10.00 $1,050,000 $1,050,000
    N-91812 12.50 $1,310,000 No Bids
    N-91782 2.08 $108,000 $210,000
    N-91815 3.15 $135,000 $205,000
    N-79534 16.25 $1,415,000 $2,400,000
    N-91790 2.50 $250,000 $730,000
    N-91791 5.00 $600,000 $1,250,000
    N-91793 7.50 $750,000 $2,200,000
    N-91792 2.50 $290,000 $335,000
    N-91827 2.50 $235,000 No Bids
    N-91844 5.00 $1,070,000 $1,070,000
    N-91842 17.50 $3,500,000 No Bids
    N-91124 247.59 $2,590,000 No Bids
    Total Acres Available Total Appraised Value Total Sale Price
    440.32 $25,283,000 $25,283,000
    Total Acres Sold Total Appraised Value Full Purchase Price
    160.23 $17,648,000 $23,840,000
    The successful bidders are required to pay 20 percent of the bid by 3:00 p.m. on the day of the sale. The remainder of the bid is due within 180 days.
    In accordance with the SNPLMA, monies generated from the sale of public land may be used for specific purposes including parks, trails, and natural areas; capital improvements, conservation initiatives; and for the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands. Additionally, 10 percent of the funds will go to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and five percent will go to the Nevada State General Education Fund.

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