Horse News

Judge Rules BLM Violated Grazing Laws in South-Central Idaho

Sources: Multiple/Story by

BLM Breaks the Law for Benefit of Bedfellow Welfare Ranchers

BLM destroying the last of Wyoming's Wild Horses for the benefit of Welfare Ranchers ~ photo taken last week by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BLM destroying the last of Wyoming’s Wild Horses for the benefit of Welfare Ranchers ~ photo taken last week by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BOISE IDAHO – A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management once again violated federal laws when it issued grazing permits instead of analyzing how grazing could harm sage grouse in four allotments in south-central Idaho.

In a ruling released Monday, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill found that the BLM failed to consider stopping grazing in any of the proposed management plans in the agency’s Burley Field Office.

The decision is round two of a lawsuit led by conservation group Western Watersheds Project that is challenging nearly 600 BLM grazing allotments spread across southern Idaho.

Winmill agreed that the BLM is allowed to automatically renew grazing permits without conducting lengthy environmental reviews.

However, it must still comply with federal laws requiring the agency to study rangeland degradation.

47 replies »

  1. Radio Show (shows are archived so you can listen at any time)

    Christine Porter from CLEAR THE BENCH ARIZONA joins the show at 7:30 pm CST to talk about the formation of this group and its mission.

    Toward the end that the Arizona judiciary remains impartial, apolitical, and able to dispense justice, we are organized to hold all judges, courts, commissioners, court officers and personnel accountable to the People and Constitutions of Arizona and the United States.

    Clear the Bench Arizona is located in Phoenix and works with many people who have been victims of the court system, Arizona State Bar and attorneys and is seeking to clear up and clean up the system from politics and profiting off of the people it is supposed to protect.

    Educate Arizona voters on the importance of judges observing principles of the “rule of law” in deciding cases;

    Educate Arizona voters on their right to non-retain judges who do not follow these principles;

    Evaluate judicial performance on the basis of the Arizona Constitution, established statutory law, legal precedent, & “rule of law” principles (as a means of providing substantive information to educate voters).

    Address the failure to correct documented misconduct in the recent past as the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct is not a sufficient means of addressing Arizona’s judicial corruption;


  2. Scientific literature not produced by the federal government suggests that the sage grouse may not be a species at all, but a sub-species. If it is a subspecies, trying to keep the bird from mating with other subspecies where the offspring have traits of both parents will be next to impossible. It’s like having Arabians, Morgans, and Quarter Houses on the same land while trying to preserve pure Arabians. Unless they are fenced or physically separated from all other members of their species, it is impossible to prevent hybridization or cross breeding. Sage brush is not a native plant and was brought here by Eurasian settlers, so the issue of when and where the sage grouse was established is questionable. Furthermore, most grouse are now living in boreal forests rather than grasslands. FWS and BLM know so little about species behavior and response to climate change, its frightening to think these people have the jobs they do. The research is there; they either can’t find it or can’t interpret it. There is also the possibility that they think they are too smart and nature will bend to their will instead of them fighting every natural system nature has in place.


    • Sagegrouse is also called a prarie chicken. Rather than getting into another Georgian knot of what did who to whom, let’s just say Its presence and its habitat is like the red clover – an indicator.


    • HH, can you provide credible sources describing how sagebrush is not native and how it was brought here? I searched but didn’t find any such information.


      • I have the information in a Google document. The source is a U.S. biologist who has done quite a lot of research on large mammals (which would include diet) at the times of their various disappearance dates. He was bemoaning that horses are given no rights at all, and that at the same time, sagebrush is considered native. It looks to me from the evidence I found that both sage brush and grouse arrived at a time known as the “great biological interchange.” Although this may have happened more than once, the timing of this seems to be around 10,000 years ago. I believe they came across Beringia. The grouse may have flown over with seeds or parts of the plant on them or the wildlife from Siberia may have brought it with them. The Smithsonian has used an encyclopedia that was written by another person who is considered an expert by some, but whose work contains very little evidence of research. Lots of theoretical and anecdotal evidence, but little quantitative evidence. I’ll try to find a print resource on the Internet. I don’t like to share too many of them. Most of the documents I originally found have been removed or altered.


  3. HoofHugs, you might find this article interesting
    There appears that Wild Equines are under attack on more than one continent.
    They removed several of my comments and then closed comments altogether.
    Snowy Mountains in Kosciuszko National Park
    The grim story of the Snowy Mountains’ cannibal horses

    “Culling also best way to save environment”
    “Shooting from helicopters must be allowed”
    “Culling is an integral and effective component of pest animal management programs throughout Australia, and aerial shooting has to become a major component of the Kosciuszko horse control program”


    • Louie, saw this article earlier – they sure do have the pro-slaughter lingo down, don’t they? The pictures just don’t back up their “story”. They claim the packed down path going by the dead horse was made by “hundreds or thousands” of horses? Frankly, it looks like the deer trails here in the winter & there are maybe 20 deer in this area!!! Ridiculous.


    • Using the hysterical word “cannibalism” hardly fits what this report shows. Horses all over the world eat each other’s manure as a matter of course, and if these horses were starving and some predator opened the gut cavity (as is normal), taking advantage of what undigested food (and enzymes/bacteria) might be there isn’t startling to me. I used to have a horse that loved ham sandwiches… guess I missed my ten minutes of fame.


      • Icyspots–that is cute about the ham sandwiches, we used to live by a young girl whose horse loved bologna and twinkies.


      • when i worked in a boarding/training stable years ago, during the summer we would have BBQs every weekend, the grill and picnic table were located near one of the paddock fences .. if we were not careful and removed the uneaten cooked burgers and hot dogs from the table as soon as we were done eating, one of the boarders horses would reach over the fence and steal them off the plate as soon as our attention was elsewhere.


  4. Nevada Department of Wildlife keeps tally on sage grouse populations by counting the wings of those taken by hunters.
    In Nevada, where the little critter’s leks are located, the threat to their homes isn’t what they share the range with so much as how much of their habitat gets ‘chained’ out of the ground for development and forage (read: cattle fodder) planting.
    They live most of their lives in the same leks that their parents and grandparents, et al, occupied.
    They can maintain a stable population because if they lose their eggs or infants to predation, they will almost immediately fill the void with another group of eggs. But they don’t migrate far from where they were born.
    If they are beginning to fail as a species, we have to look no further than how they are ‘managed’. Every time humans bring a species to ruin, they scramble madly – and do it badly – to fix the damage they’ve done.
    I’m tickled whenever WWP gets involved. Somebody’s gonna end up cryin’, for sure.


  5. Finally!

    Winmill agreed that the BLM is allowed to automatically renew grazing permits without conducting lengthy environmental reviews.

    This ought to be enough of a free pass without going for it all?


    • Hmmm. Ida, I guess I’m not understanding you here. It seems you found this less burdensome for the BLM viz. environmental reviews and therefore a good thing?


      • No, no – I thought that they were exempt from a lengthy environmental review generally anyway and that grazing permits were automatically renewed, but required to study rangeland degradation (and I assume try to mitigate, in this case for the sage grouse) is what is breaking the law? I thought they were two separate issues, but maybe I am wrong?


      • Ida, you probably know more than I do on this score, but my understanding is that grazing leases are (at least on paper) subject to review and modification to suit management plans, in some instances requiring reduction of or removal of animals, or limiting duration or frequency of grazing. Every 10 years they expire, but the original lessee always has first priority on leasing for the next 10. The permits are supposed to be reviewed and altered as needed to maintain rangeland health, but all to often no oversight is accomplished and abuses perpetuate.
        Some reviews I have looked include a standard set of management options, which include alternatives such as making no changes or making identified changes in, say, stocking rates.
        What this recent judgement brings to light is an option that wasn’t considered, and should have been, was the removal of all grazing and its anticipated effects.

        The federal laws concerning rangeland degradation are a whole ‘nother beast and are what the judge here did not excuse the BLM from honoring. So they are two separate but linked issues.


    • OK! I probably don’t know more than you, but I care deeply about our horses. I don’t like the fact that the grazing permits are automatically reviewed without a lengthy review, but at least this ruling acknowledges that cattle grazing does degrade the environment, and doesn’t put all of the blame on our wild horses (or juniper trees, or ravens in the case of sage grouse habitat.) Getting ranchers and oil companies to do the right thing in exchange for keeping endangered wildlife from being added to the ESL doesn’t look very promising!


      • The ranchers would not know what exchanging the conservation of land and wild animals for the opportunity to graze their defenseless animals on our public lands. Being as how they demand predators be killed off (thus efffecting the entire ecosystem to spin down to a sterile and dull landscape) and graze more animals then permitted and for longer perios than alllowed. They would give you a blank stare and then wake up, to ask what’s in it for me. You are right, Geri.


  6. The sage grouse is used for an excuse so other agendas can be pushed. Hendrickson cried sage grouse at a Board meeting in Utah, you really think she gives two s***s about the birds ?? Boy they get so creative in finding anything to mislead from their real goals… eradicating horses at ANY COST. It is not that they “can’t find or interpret science” when it is so readily available from independent outside experts… it is they don’t want to acknowledge it even exists as it impedes their agendas. It is beyond disgusting what is happening !


    • You are absolutely right. The most ludicrous thing is; they “protect” the sage grouse, so they could hunt it. Just like bighorn sheep.


  7. To me, the sage grouse are another “canary in the coal mine” reminder that our complete ecosystem is in danger.

    Excerpt from WWP announcement:
    “The Department of Interior should take heed of today’s win and realize that protecting and recovering sage-grouse on BLM lands is going to mean doing a lot more than status quo. It is going to require the immediate implementation of seasonal and utilization limits on livestock grazing, rapid improvements in its site-specific management, and a COMPLETE OVERHAUL OF ITS RUBBER STAMP PERMIT RENEWALS.”

    PS A few years ago I read (BLM or USFW or NDOW… can’t remember) that hunting (shooting/killing) sage grouse did not harm them. I realize that they were trying to minimize the effects of hunting on the population as a whole … but wouldn’t anyone with a drop of common sense at least start their “protection” process by eliminating hunting them? And what was ridiculous was the wording that stated hunting them would not harm them … idiotic in theory and in practice and in the use of the English language.


    • Dear GG, the BLM has been talking out of both sides of their mouth for years,nothing they do or have done ever makes any good sense, they are a corrupt agency , that needs to be done away with and replaced …………..


    • Daryl, I believe it is because they are a government agency, they are appointed, not voted in…………………………………


  8. Can anyone tell me why the BLM requirements for their new long and short term holding facilities includes the requirement they must be adjacent to or east of the Mississippi River? What part of the law about managing them “where found” in 1971 included anything adjacent to the Mississippi? Why are 31 federal contracts only being allowed to be bid on by so few states, none of which are in the homelands of the west’s wild horses? I had some folks maybe interested but they don’t qualify due to geography. What gives, and is this legal?


  9. This is like an avalanche. It keeps gaining momentum. Unfortunately it’s not to protect the horses but rather the little sage grouse…
    Maybe it’s the way to go about it. I don’t know of it will help the horses but I sure hope they benefit from it.


    • Terri I hope you are right but can expect the arguments against cattle will be the same as will be used against wild horses as regards Sage Grouse.





    The long-term survival of a large ground-dwelling bird that lives in sagebrush throughout much of Northern and central Nevada could soon become the next big battle between ranchers and the federal government.

    Rather than the recent isolated case involving Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy, the decision on whether to name the greater sage-grouse a threatened or endangered species could harm economic activity across 11 Western states, including 17 million acres in Nevada.

    Such a designation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would potentially pit the bird and its surviving habitat against some of Nevada’s biggest industries, including ranching, energy development and mining.

    It would make the battle over Bundy’s cattle and his use of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management grazing lands pale by comparison.

    U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., made the point in a recent interview along with U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., on a Las Vegas news program that touched on the Bundy situation.

    In remarks on “What’s Your Point” on KSNV-TV, Channel 3, Heller said cattle ranchers have seen the lands they can graze on reduced by half over the past 30 years.

    “Wait till they list the sage-grouse,” he said. “I’ll tell you, every cattleman here knows that their life span, their occupation, is short. Wait till the sage-grouse comes.”

    Reid countered that climate change, which has decimated the range with wildfires, is why there is less grazing land available in Nevada.


    The bird faces a threat to survival due to habitat loss and fragmentation from wildfires, energy development and invasive plant species, the wildlife agency said in a report released in 2013.

    The birds, which can stand 2 feet tall and weigh as much as 7 pounds, occupy about 56 percent of their historical range in Nevada, which includes much of Northern Nevada and central Nevada. There are also populations along the Nevada-California border.

    The Nevada Department of Wildlife estimated their numbers in the state at 85,778 in 2012, while the 2013 number is 10 percent to 15 percent lower due primarily to drought conditions.

    The birds, indigenous to the Western United States and southern Canada, are known for their complex courtship ritual, which involves the males displaying their plumage in barren areas called leks to attract mates.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined in 2010 that the sage-grouse deserved listing but was precluded from doing so because of more pressing priorities.

    A decision on how to proceed must come by September 2015 as a result of a court-ordered settlement between the agency and environmental groups.

    Concerns over the potential listing prompted Nevada and other Western states to propose conservation plans to protect sage-grouse habitat, which often coincides with cattle grazing areas.

    The Nevada Agriculture Department reported in 2011 that cattle and calves were Nevada’s leading agricultural industry, totaling $732 million, or 62.5 percent of all farm receipts. The agency said there were 470,000 cattle and 29,000 dairy cows in Nevada in 2012.

    Gov. Brian Sandoval issued an executive order in 2012 creating an advisory council to work on the issue, citing concerns over the economic impacts of such a designation.

    “Listing the greater sage-grouse as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act would have significant adverse effects on our state,” he said.

    Nevada issued its initial plan later in the same year, but it is now undergoing revision before being submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September in an effort to head off a listing. The submission will become Nevada’s 2014 state plan on how to address the health of the species.

    Despite the declining populations, the sage-grouse is a game bird and hunting is allowed in Nevada in areas with sufficient populations. Seasons are limited to late September and early October. As part of the brief season, hunters provide the state Wildlife Department with a wing from each harvested bird, which has given the agency a database to assist it in monitoring the birds. In 2010 7,355 birds were harvested out of an estimated fall population totaling 141,996.

    State wildlife spokesman Chris Healy described the bird’s taste as “gamey chicken.”


    Former state Sen. Dean Rhoads, who has worked as a rancher on his Tuscarora spread since 1966, called the potential listing a serious threat to ranching and mining.

    According to the Public Lands Council, a group representing cattle and sheep producers who hold public lands grazing permits, and on which Rhoads serves: “A listing could destroy ranching both on public and private land. Once a species is listed, anyone can sue to put a stop to your everyday ranching activities in ‘critical habitat’ areas — simply by claiming that you are ‘modifying’ the bird’s habitat.

    “Even where grazing is allowed to continue, (the Fish and Wildlife Service) will put a whole new layer of regulation on your allotment — regulation that you may not be able to afford.”

    But unlike battles over the listing of the spotted owl in Oregon and the desert tortoise in Southern Nevada, both coming in 1990, Rhoads said those opposing a listing are better prepared with scientific backing to make their case.

    “It has been a wake-up call for us,” he said. “We’re trying to follow the recommendations that scientists have suggested, such as doing rotational grazing.”

    Rhoads said there are fewer sage-grouse today than years ago, and human development is a likely contributing cause. But expanding wild horse populations, which the BLM has so far failed to address, contribute to the bird’s decline as well, he said.

    Grazing and the sage-grouse can coexist, Rhoads said.

    The birds rely on sagebrush both for food and shelter and typically seek out water each morning. Predators include hawks, coyotes and badgers. Ravens eat the young and the eggs before they hatch.

    Ron Torell, president of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association and an Elko County rancher, said a listing “has the potential to be one of the biggest impacts on rural Nevada in my lifetime.”

    “The livestock industry fears that a listing would make our industry an endangered species as well. It has the potential to bring rural Nevada to its knees.”

    Torell said he supports some protections for the birds, and noted voluntary efforts are underway to improve habitat and make other changes to improve its chances of survival.

    “We are doing everything we can to avoid the listing. But we’re not going to turn it around in just a few years. It will take time and we need some balance.”


    Nevada’s response to the sage-grouse issue is being handled by the Sagebrush Ecosystem Program formally established by the 2013 Legislature to head off a listing of the bird.

    Program Manager Tim Rubald said he and his staff of four answer to the 15-member Sagebrush Ecosystem Council, first created by Sandoval’s 2012 executive order.

    The updated state plan now being developed would create a credit and debit system to ensure there is no net loss of population or habitat, Rubald said. If a proposed development would damage habitat, there would be an offsetting improvement elsewhere to compensate, he said.

    The offset would have to be created before a disturbance would be allowed. The idea is to allow development to occur while still protecting the sage-grouse, Rubald said.

    The focus of the state’s efforts is the greater sage-grouse found in Northern and central Nevada, he said. There is another distinct grouse population in western Nevada and eastern California that is on a separate timeline for action, Rubald said.

    The 15 initial draft plans for saving the sage-grouse in different regions of the West, developed by the BLM, were not well received by the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife.

    “In some cases, the plans did not adopt the strongest conservation measures for sage-grouse, even when doing so would have only minor impacts on future land use and development,” the group said. “For example, some plans did not propose restrictions on natural gas and oil drilling in essential sage-grouse habitat, opting instead for more accommodating standards — even where there is little potential or interest in developing the resources.”

    U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., recently introduced a bill that would require federal agencies to fund conservation efforts.

    “The No. 1 threat to sage hen habitat in Nevada is wildland fire,” Amodei said. “Yet the federal land management agencies, who own the vast majority of the habitat, have not prioritized funding needed to undertake the necessary work to conserve the resource and prevent the ESA listing.

    “Instead, they point fingers in an attempt to saddle state and private landowners with the responsibility for funding projects that are absolutely the responsibility of the federal government,” he said. “This is nothing short of extortion and sadly adds another chapter to the war on the West st


    • Just to reiterate the obvious, there is a direct link between increasing severity and frequency of wildfires and the spread of cheatgrass (a non-native species) introduced specifically for cattle (another non-native species) to eat. Wild horses do eat some in spring and can pass seeds but this plant isn’t desired by any ungulates once it goes to seed.


  11. Speaking of grouse, here’s an article describing the proposed 2015 BLM budget:

    And this: “In a report highly critical of the BLM, the panel said the agency should invest in widespread fertility control of the mustangs instead of spending millions to house them.
    It concluded the BLM’s removal of nearly 100,000 horses from the Western range over the past decade is probably having the opposite effect of its intention to ease ecological damage and reduce overpopulated herds.”

    If they took out 100,000 horses in just the past ten years, and adopted out the average of 4%, and now have just under 50,000 in holding, where did the other 46,000 horses go???????????????

    Died of old age and stress?


    • Glad someone else is watching the numbers. You would have so much fun reading the EAs. Thing is, how do we get one of these fat jobs? Its even easier than predictng the weather! Just write a bunch of half baked adjectives and name every rock so you can throw around names and sereptitiously throw in some real science, then some cattle figures, then some real hard “facts” about the effect of the horses. Oh, yes – it is like a blender and when done voila – “the horses MUST go! Bad horsey.”I truly hope that in one of these NEPA lawsuitts someone really takes one of these New Age EAs apart and calls them out for the joke they are. But back to the numbers – WHERE ARE THE HORSES!


      • Jan, I was next going to try to figure out how many horses are left, and determine what percentage of each horse would belong to each American citizen. Total US population divided by the number of horses still wild, and then the total including both wild and captive. I suspect we’d each only get a few molecules….


    • Icy…

      I did this chart a few years back and keep on top of it every year, based on Public Land Statistics, published by BLM.

      I think it asks more questions than it answers, but I hope you find it useful.

      2000 8,631 6,202 2,429
      2001 13,277 7,630 5,647
      2002 12,029 7,746 4,283
      2003 10,081 6,165 3,916
      2004 9,899 6,644 3,255
      2005 11,023 5,701 5,322
      2006 9,926 5,172 4,754
      2007 7,726 4,772 2,954
      2008 5,275 3,706 1,569
      2009 6,413 3,474 2,939
      2010 10,255 3,074 7,181
      2011 8,877 2,844 6,033
      2012 8,255 2,583 5,672
      2013 4,176 2,311 1,865
      TOTALS 125,843 68,024 57,819


  12. Well, interesting numbers. In 13 years they took out over 125,000 animals. If we have only 30,000 or so left in the wild (and many of these are now non-reproducing) it seems true they could be effectively extinct in as just over three years. 2017 will not be the year of the horse, but may be the year of the end of the wild horse.


  13. Excellent data, Lisa and than you for sharing it.
    May I add (or ask) that it is my understanding that the SOLD (sale authority) wild horses and burros are included in the “adopted” category. Therefore, of the 68,024 that were supposedly “adopted”, it is my belief that (as with the Tom Davis 1,700 wild horses and burros that BLM sold him, that “disappeared” – and many more similar situations) most of those counted as adopted actually were sold and most of those sold actually went to slaughter.
    I don’t for one second think that BLM found safe and caring homes for 68,024 of our wild horses and burros.


    • GG, couldn’t we ask them to prove it? Seems to me they require adopters to jump through a lot of hoops the entire first year before legal ownership is transferred. There are records someplace.


      • Yes, please ask – maybe starting with the PR person, Debbie Collins but don’t expect to get much from her except standard BLM BS … but it might be interesting to hear her answer and you could ask her where those records could be found so that you can FOIA them – but don’t expect a miracle or even a straight answer.
        Anyway, you could FOIA the data but that is also not easy or quick but worth a try. I have had an ongoing FOIA regarding water/bait trapping since October 2012 and have only received dribbles of information. I know other people who have FOIA’s that get no answer and although that is illegal on their part … the only thing you can do is keep asking … or file a law suit. It appears to me that the BLM FOIA officers have been told to do their best to ignore all wild horse and burro FOIA’s.
        So, I do encourage you to file a FOIA on this and let us know your progress and results.
        In the meantime, you will notice that there is no category in Lisa’s data for “adopted” vs. “sales” and I am sure they were lumped together as “adopted” – great cover up for their thousands they sold – mostly to eventual slaughter.


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