Scott Sonner on BLM Nevada Director urging the roundup of 4,000 mustangs

SOURCE:  Las Vegas Sun

“Suggesting that wild horses are a problem for sage grouse, while ignoring the comparatively massive impacts of cattle and sheep, is a bit like suggesting that the captain of the Titanic should be worried about the ice cubes in his passengers’ cocktails rather than the icebergs floating in the North Atlantic.”  – Erik Molvar, WildEarth Guardians wildlife biologist

BLM’s Nevada director urges roundup of 4,000 mustangs

In this June 5, 2013 photo, some of the hundreds of mustangs the U.S. Bureau of Land Management removed from federal rangeland peer at visitors at the BLM's Palomino Valley holding facility about 20 miles north of Reno in Palomino Valley, Nev. The Cloud Foundation and Friends of Animas are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare wild horses threatened or endangered in North America under the Endangered Species Act. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

In this June 5, 2013 photo, some of the hundreds of mustangs the U.S. Bureau of Land Management removed from federal rangeland peer at visitors at the BLM’s Palomino Valley holding facility about 20 miles north of Reno in Palomino Valley, Nev. The Cloud Foundation and Friends of Animas are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare wild horses threatened or endangered in North America under the Endangered Species Act. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

RENO — Concerned about continued deterioration of drought-stricken rangeland in Nevada, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s state director wants to round up 4,000 wild horses in Elko County — more mustangs than were gathered across 10 Western states combined last year.

BLM Nevada Director John Ruhs says it’s unlikely he’ll be able to consider lifting livestock grazing restrictions in the northeast corner of the state without removing the mustangs from four-herd management areas over 600 square miles stretching to near the Utah line.

Ruhs, Gov. Brian Sandoval, livestock interests and state wildlife officials argue the roundups also would benefit the greater sage grouse.

Nevada Agriculture Director Jim Barbee anticipates that without the roundups, anywhere from a 25 percent to a total reduction in grazing will be necessary in some areas, resulting in as much as $1.8 million in damages to Elko County’s economy.

Conservationists say the call for more roundups is a misguided attempt to placate ranchers at the expense of horses and grouse. Cattle do far more damage than mustangs to the range and the imperiled bird, they say.

“The BLM is scapegoating wild horses instead of addressing the true causes of range degradation and threats to sage grouse,” said Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.

Nevada is home to nearly 28,000 wild horses — more than half of the 47,000 estimated in 10 western states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

BLM officials argue the range can sustain less than half that many — about 12,000 in Nevada and 26,000 nationally.

Ruhs estimated in an April 13 letter to the agency’s headquarters that it would cost about $4 million to remove about 4,000 animals in Elko County. He said the population of those herds is at five times the appropriate carrying capacity. “Some of the allotments/pastures within the impacted area will need to be closed to livestock grazing in 2016 and into the future to limit further damage to these ecosystems or until appropriate management of the wild horses has taken place,'” he wrote.

Sandoval warned last week if the Interior Department refuses to adequately fund the program, “the state will pursue all legal options to protect our local producers and communities.”

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, said in a letter to Secretary Sally Jewell that he’s disappointed the BLM has not responded to a request he and others made in November for an update on herds across the West.

“Over the past few years, many ranchers have already taken reductions in their grazing allotments, yet horse populations have only increased, not decreased, over that time,” Heller wrote Friday.

The BLM gathered 7,242 horses nationally in 2012; 4,064 in 2013; 1,689 in 2014; and 3,093 last fiscal year. It removed about 1,000 in Oregon in November, about 125 in southern Nevada in February, 54 in Utah in March, and this summer plans to remove about 535 in Wyoming and 300 in Utah.

But the agency currently plans no large-scale roundups in Nevada — or anywhere else — through the end of September because of budget shortfalls driven largely by the cost of housing more than 45,000 mustangs now in government corrals and pastures at a lifetime cost of $48,000 per animal.

The Nevada Association of Counties, Nevada Farm Bureau and others filed a lawsuit last year to force the government to step up roundups, but a U.S. judge in Reno dismissed the case.

“Unfortunately, the removal of cattle from areas where horse populations are significantly over (appropriate management levels) does not alleviate the impacts to native species, including sage grouse,” Nevada Cattlemen’s Association President David Stix Jr. said.

WildEarth Guardians wildlife biologist Erik Molvar disagreed. “Suggesting that wild horses are a problem for sage grouse, while ignoring the comparatively massive impacts of cattle and sheep, is a bit like suggesting that the captain of the Titanic should be worried about the ice cubs in his passengers’ cocktails rather than the icebergs floating in the North Atlantic,” he said.

21 comments on “Scott Sonner on BLM Nevada Director urging the roundup of 4,000 mustangs

  1. BLM bureau of land mismanagement ! Just a overreaching over paid agency that is Inhumane from the top down. Aka TURDS.

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    • Yes vote and rally the troops … Be the voice for our horses we must stand up for something or we will fall for anything !

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  2. I absolutely love this statement from wildlife biologist Erik Molvar. “Suggesting that wild horses are a problem for sage grouse, while ignoring the comparatively massive impacts of cattle and sheep, is a bit like suggesting that the captain of the Titanic should be worried about the ice cubes in his passengers’ cocktails rather than the icebergs floating in the North Atlantic,”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This 3 year research study of Greater Sage Grouse nest predation, published in 2008 fails to even mention wild horses as a factor in population declines due to nest failure. It did, however, document at least one instance of a cow eating a grouse egg, and other instances of nest abandonment caused by cattle. It was conducted in NE Nevada and published in 2008, evidently a peer-reviewed publication.

    (Having seen cattle eat almost anything, it would not surprise me if in drought or poor forage conditions they would predate eggs, which are highly nutritious).

    Most common predators were identified as Ravens, Badgers, and to a lesser extent, rodents.

    The research area is shared with grazing cattle. They reported:

    “One of six encounters by cows resulted in damage to one egg. At one nest, a cow flushed an incubating grouse, causing an egg to be displaced from the nest bowl; the cow subsequently was recorded eating the egg, leaving shell fragments. The cow sniffed and moved, but did not eat, other eggs in the nest bowl, then moved the camera out of position. Following subsequent nest visitation, three other eggs were damaged in the nest and the grouse appeared to abandon the nest. In sac of the five other cow encounters, grouse were flushed from their nests and cows sniffed eggs, but did not consume them. We suspected abandonment by a cow flushing the grouse at one other nest.”

    Article info:

    Predators of Greater Sage-Grouse nests identified by video monitoring.
    Peter S. Coates, John W. Connelly, and David J. Delehanty
    Journal of Field Ornithology 79(4):421-428, in (August?) 2008.
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1557-9263.2008.00189.x

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  4. for 1, their are 2 politicians that I DON’T plan to re-elect, what bunch of hypocrites.
    Wonder how much they got paid for stick with the cattle rancher? Horses have been photographed with different species, why not the stupid grouse. There again the blm has been caught doing many wrongs, that DON’T make a right. They continue on. The Big or in different, Rancher keep paying the politicians off. When
    Can we get these greedy SOB’s to stop. There should be enough to SHARE! Now that there are how many thousands of horses in holding, spending how much per horse, sounds like another excuse to slaughter. That is ALWAYS THEIR REMEDY

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    • I love the wild horses just knowing they are free is the most wonderful feeling in the world I will fight to the end. God will comeback at the end of time to make things right. Why not start now leave our horses free and wolves and all wildlife.

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  5. CONFLICT OF INTEREST INVESTIGATION:

    Federal law cannot be violated under a consent decree. The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, constitute the supreme law of the land. The constitutional principle derived from the Supremacy Clause is Federal preemption. Preemption applies regardless of whether the conflicting laws come from legislatures, courts, administrative agencies, or constitutions. Cornell University Law School. “Supremacy Clause” law.cornell.edu

    Regulatory capture is a form of political corruption that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure; it creates an opening for firms to behave in ways injurious to the public (e.g., producing negative externalities). The agencies are called “captured agencies”.

    I repeat, “Regulatory Capture” is a form of political corruption that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.

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  6. Expenditures and Collections
    “In Fiscal Year 2014, the BLM was allocated $79.9 million for its rangeland management program. Of that figure, the agency spent $34.3 million (43 percent) on livestock grazing administration. The other funds covered such activities as weed management, rangeland monitoring (not related to grazing administration), planning, water development, vegetation restoration, and habitat improvement. In 2014 the BLM collected $12.1 million in grazing fees.” http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/grazing.html

    To simplify this mathematically, the intake of monies from grazing was $12.1 million and the expense of monies for grazing was $34.3 million. This is a clear deficit of $22.2 million LOST due to public lands grazing in one year! The tax-paying public is sick and tired of paying for and losing this kind of great amount of money for the sake of private/corporate livestock grazing.

    What can be done to address the problems associated with public lands livestock grazing? There is a simple answer: end it. Get the cows and sheep off, let the wild creatures reclaim their native habitat, and send the ranchers a bill for the cost of restoration.

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    • GG, it will take Congress or action by the President to end this broken program, and that will only happen if people vote. Those benefiting from or stuck in the system will not and probably cannot make the required changes. We need to elect people we think will make better decisions on our behalf, especially on our public lands.

      SO VOTE EVERYONE

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  7. BLM WEIGHS WILD HORSE IMPACT MUCH MORE HEAVILY THAN CATTLE
    Agency Sage Grouse Review Puts Thumb on Scale to Magnify Wild Horse and Burro Effects
    Posted on Sep 16, 2014
    http://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/blm-weighs-wild-horse-impact-much-more-heavily-than-cattle.html

    The method used by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to assess range conditions is seriously skewed toward minimizing impacts from domestic livestock and magnifying those from wild horses and burros, according to an appraisal by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, the BLM’s approach to range management targets scattered wild horses and burros while ignoring far more numerous cattle.

    The agency’s assessment is part of a 2013 report on factors influencing conservation of the Greater Sage-Grouse, a ground-dwelling bird whose numbers have declined as much as 90% across the West and which is under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act. That report concludes that twice the area of sage grouse habitat is negatively impacted by wild horses and burros than the area negatively impacted by livestock. A PEER appraisal of the methodology found –

    • BLM calculates the “area of influence” of wild horses and burros on sage grouse habitat based merely on their presence within Herd Management Areas in sage grouse habitat, while it considers livestock impact to have occurred only when livestock grazing allotments fail the agency’s Land Health Status (LHS) standard for wildlife;

    • If the agency used the same approach for calculating the area of influence of livestock within BLM grazing allotments on sage grouse habitat as it did for wild horses and burros, the area of influence for livestock would be roughly 14 times that given in the report and more than six times that of wild horses and burros; and
    • Within BLM’s own grazing allotment LHS database records, livestock grazing is cited as a cause of failure to achieve a land health standard 30 times more often than are wild horses and burros.’

    “At BLM apparently not all hooves are created equal,” said PEER’s Advocacy Director Kirsten Stade, noting that the LHS evaluations cover more than 20,000 grazing allotments and examine whether a grazing allotment meets the agency’s standards for rangeland health with respect to several vegetation and habitat conditions. “This helps explain why wild horses are regularly removed from the range but livestock numbers are rarely reduced.”

    The BLM assessment influences not only the agency’s range management decisions but also will figure into the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision on whether to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
    Last year in response to a complaint by PEER filed under agency Scientific Integrity policy, BLM claimed that it does not have enough “reliable data” about commercial livestock impacts to include them in current assessments of environmental conditions on Western range lands. Yet, BLM has more data on the grazing that it authorizes through permits than virtually every other topic.

    “When it comes to cattle, BLM plays with a marked deck,” Stade added, pointing out the PEER analysis that will become part of PEER’s new grazing reform web center set to launch in several weeks. “We are posting BLM’s own data in a way that allows apples-to-apples comparisons while displaying satellite imagery that depicts the true livestock landscape impacts.”

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  8. OTHER Multiple Use Projects NOT mentioned (or hoping we’ll forget)

    BLM overlooks arsenic & mercury, but gets rid of wild horses
    https://ppjg.me/2012/06/28/blm-arsenic-mercury/
    June 28, 2012 Debbie Coffey

    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)?
    http://elkodaily.com/news/local/blm-approves-bald-mountain-expansion/article_d9ade7e3-e9ad-5f56-8695-c4a7f5ec2184.html
    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: http://www.epa.gov/region9/nepa/letters/emigrant-mine-feis.pdf and
    http://www.epa.gov/region9/nepa/letters/GenesisMineProjectFEIS.pdf
    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.
    SOURCES:
    http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/info/newsroom/2012/june/elko__blm_hauling.html
    http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/field_offices/ely_field_office/minerals/bald_mountain_north/baldnorth_complete.Par.84811.File.dat/DEIS%20BaldMtnNorthOpsArea%20Complete.pdf
    http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/field_offices/battle_mountain_field/blm_information/nepa/mount_hope_project.Par.16231.File.dat/MountHopeDraftEIS-CH3-3-1Intro_3-2waterquan.pdf
    http://www.epa.gov/region9/nepa/letters/emigrant-mine-feis.pdf
    http://www.epa.gov/region9/nepa/letters/GenesisMineProjectFEIS.pdf
    http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/field_offices/ely_field_office/nepa/ea/2012/eydopea2012.Par.60680.File.dat/PEA%20June%202012%20Oil%20and%20Gas%20Competitive%20Lease%20Sale%20Preliminary%20EA.pdf
    http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/field_offices/ely_field_office/minerals/bald_mountain_north0/bmnafeis_taxts.Par.83129.File.dat/01%20-%20Cover%20matter.pdf

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  9. Stop what you are doing and leave the wild horses alone. Your agency is supposed to protect them, not destroy them for your ulterior motives, which I am sure is related to getting the land for cattle grazing and mining.

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  10. Nine (9) states have more cattle than people.
    Rank State Human Cattle Ratio
    1 South Dakota 844,877 3,650,000 4.32
    2 Nebraska 1,868,516 6,150,000 3.29
    3 Montana 1,015,165 2,550,000 2.51
    4 North Dakota 723,393 1,770,000 2.45
    5 Wyoming 582,658 1,270,000 2.18
    6 Kansas 2,893,957 5,800,000 2.00
    7 Idaho 1,612,136 2,190,000 1.36
    8 Iowa 3,090,416 3,700,000 1.20
    9 Oklahoma3,850,568 4,300,000 1.12
    http://beef2live.com/story-cattle-inventory-vs-human-population-state-0-114255

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