Public Lands Issues effect on wildlife and wild horses and burros

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

by Bonnie Kohleriter

Our public lands are now under attack which has enormous consequences for our wild horses and burros and for our wildlife.  The attacks are coming from Trump’s cabinet members, particularly the Dept. of Agriculture and the Dept. of the Interior, and from Congressional Republicans.

First, Rep. Jason Chaffetz R UT, introduced a bill early in January, 2017, to sell off 3.3 M acres of Federal land to states.  With an outcry from conservatives and sports groups, he withdrew that bill.

Then Rep. Jason Chaffetz R UT, introduced a bill later in January, 2017, called the Local Lands Act, wherein Federal law enforcement on our Federal Forest Service (FS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, will be supplanted with State law enforcement with the States being given block grants.  The bill is currently in the Natural Resources Committee: Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry.

Then Rep. Don Young (R) AK, moved a bill, House Joint Resolution 69, through the Congress in February, 2017, wherein the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on Federal Alaskan lands will no longer manage its Federal wildlife, and its Federal wildlife will be managed by the State of Alaska.  Resolution 69 went to the Senate, where Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) AK and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) AK, moved the resolution through the Senate in March, 2017.

It is concerning as attempts are in process to take away Federal land and give it to the States, to take away Federal law enforcement on Federal lands and give it to the States, and to take away Federal management of Federal wildlife on Federal land and give the management to the States.  What’s next?  In addition to give aways, the Senate voted 51-48 to kill the 2.0 plan which was developed by the Dept. of the Interior.  That plan authorized public lands stakeholders to give input into the use of the land.  The killing of the 2.0 plan is designed to give the local and state governments more control over the Federal public lands for development such as use for businesses.

Now Ken Ivory, a Rep. in the Utah State Legislature, under House Concurrent Resolution 22, is asking the President and Congress to repeal the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and grant authority and resources to the States to manage feral horse and burro populations within their jurisdictions.  The Legislature and Governor maintain the horses and burros are damaging the rangelands for wildlife and livestock that share the same areas.  This bill would authorize the States to geld the stallions.  Some outspoken ranchers and hunters want our public land for their gains.  The ranchers in Utah have expressed they want to “harvest” (slaughter) the horses and burros like they harvest cattle.

What else is coming?  Environmental groups have identified “Public Lands Enemies.  Interestingly they are all Republicans. They are:

Sen. Mike Lee           Utah    Sen. Lisa Murkowski Al    Rep Mark Amodei        NV

Sen. Orin Hatch        Utah    Sen. Dan Sullivan      AL    Rep Dean Heller           NV

Rep. Rob Bishop       Utah    Rep. Don Young        AL    Rep Tom McClintock   CA

Rep. Jason Chaffetz Utah    Sen. Jeff Flake           AZ     Rep Doug La Malfa      CA

Rep. Chris Stewart    Utah   Rep. Paul Gosar        AZ     Rep Steve Pearce        NM

Rep. Mia Love            Utah   Sen. Barrasso            WY   Rep Raul Labrador       ID

In California, McClintock is from the Central Valley and La Malfa is from NE California.  La Malfa is a 4th generation rice farmer and has received $ 5M in federal commodity subsidies starting in 1995, or on average a quarter of a million dollars every year from the federal government.  Now that’s the real “welfare” food stamps subsidy.

While Republican Congressional Representatives primarily supported by ranchers and hunters in their respective states, wrangle in Congress to take from the Federal government and give to the States, the Wildlife Services within the U.S. Department of Agriculture yearly brutally kills millions of carnivores and omnivores on our public lands to appease the hunters and ranchers.  The hunters claim the carnivores and omnivores kill the herbivores they want to hunt and the ranchers on our public lands claim the carnivores and omnivores kill their livestock.  The killings are brutal: aerial gunning, cyanide poisoning, steel jaw and leg trapping… In 2016 the Ag Dept. Wildlife Services killed 2.7 M animals on our public lands.  415 gray wolves, 77,000 coyotes, 407 black bears, 334 mountain lions, 997 bobcats, 21,000 beavers, 4000 foxes, …

Our public lands are to have a multiple use mandate, but it seems the powerful, monied hunting and ranching lobbies, as well as now, the gas, oil and mining lobbies in Washington are dictating what will go on with our public lands through their elected congressional representatives.  Get involved.  Contact your elected congressional representatives, especially those on the natural resources, agricultural, and appropriations committees in the House and the agricultural, nutrition, forestry, and environmental and public works and appropriations committees in the Senate.  Tell your representatives what it is you want on our public lands.


15 replies »

  1. Selling a Birthright: What would the West be like without its federal lands?

    By Chris Madson

    I wonder when hunters and anglers in the West are finally going to take to the streets.

    For 30 years, a handful of special interests has been trying to steal the public’s forests and rangelands.

    Why federal lands matter
    This all comes down to a matter of trust: Can state officials, legislators, and bureaucrats be trusted to withstand pressure from oil and gas conglomerates, mining companies, timber magnates, well-connected wind energy corporations, the manufacturers of off-road vehicles, and the livestock industry? Very little that I’ve seen in the last 30 years leads me to believe they can.

    And that’s one of the very few convictions I share with the captains of industry. Like me, they’re certain that most of the politicians at the state level can be bought, bullied, or bamboozled into giving them an even freer hand in “developing” the resources of the West than they’ve had in the past. That’s why they continue lurk in the shadows of the debate, pouring untold millions into the effort to take federal lands away from the rest of us. They want to return to the good old days of the nineteenth-century robber barons when they could take what they wanted, when they wanted it, without any concern for the damage they did to the land and its people in the process. They measure their freedom now, as they did then, entirely by their bottom line.

    I grew up in a place where I had to ask permission if I wanted to pull off on the shoulder of the road. Like so many others, I was drawn to the West by the mountains and sagebrush basins, the badlands and the big sky. I stayed, like so many others, because these places were open to common, everyday people like me. I can’t understand why anyone with a love of these wild places would ever willingly give them up.

    More than government or business, more than constitutions or flags, the land held in common for us all is what keeps real freedom alive in the West. The nation’s forests and ranges are the foundation of a way of life. Without them, this part of the world would be like any other, a landscape whose only purpose is profit, subject to the will of a tiny minority, closed to the rest of us. I can’t even imagine it. I don’t want to try.


    • As I said in my comment on this article (over a year late) this was really a good article – learned a lot – and agreed with most! Allowing the states to have total say on OUR public lands? A disaster!


  2. Regarding Alaskan Wildlife “REFUGES” —last night the Senate voted to rescind the prohibition on killing mother bears and their young in their dens, flying in and killing bears, wolves, and other predators, using traps and baiting to kill predators, and a slew of other animal crimes NOT supported by the science—egregious hunting of apex predator. These people in our Congress are the most mendacious, ignorant humans imaginable. The Alaskan people did NOT support this trash


  3. This is terrifying!! If you have any friends thank them for giving our country away and causing the extinction of many animals. NO ONE listened to those of us who confronted our illustrious Congressional members in DC. We have a country of people who have been living in an alternative dimension. What the hell were they thinking!! Everything is at risk!! Had Hillary Clinton taken her rightful place as President of the already great United States, we wouldn’t be terrified as to our future. If the Millentials are NOT scared they better be! We had Russian interference in our election process and NOW a dictatorship in place with a bunch of Moran’s in cabinet positions. Now where are the costs of all these legal fights going to come from? Those of US fighting for our horses other equines and animals can only give so much. So where does it end? Do we all just have to take our country and our animals back by force? In my estimation only impeachment on a massive scale could remotely scratch the surface. Get the demonstrations and networking going because our poor animals are going to need it!! And the American people!!



    Western Lands Project fights public land privatization in order to protect the environment and the public interest. Our mission is to scrutinize public land trades, sales, giveaways, and any project that would cede public land, and their impacts on habitat and wildlife, natural resources, land use, and communities. Our goal is to keep public land public.

    Each year, approximately 200 land deals are proposed by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, in addition to those introduced by legislation. Western Lands Project scrutinizes them all, challenging those that threaten wildlife, natural resources, open space, and the public interest.

    We rely on project monitoring, policy/agency reform, public education and empowerment, legal challenges, and advocacy. Since our founding in 1997, this multifaceted strategy has proven successful in defending public lands from privatization. By fighting harmful land deals on the ground and by working to improve top-down policies, we are able to tailor an effective and focused response to all kinds of privatization schemes.



    • Apparently, Western Lands was dissolved & Wild Earth Guardians has assumed their “mantle”. Glad it didnt just fade away. Great organizations and wonderful people who work so hard to attempt to make things right. Which is a big job in this climate!


      • We’re greatful for the tremendous amount of work Janine Blaeloch did for so many years researching and writing about public lands swaps.


    • I agree Louie – we all have to come together at some point because thats the only way we can actually get somewhere.


  5. Utah? Which ranks Worst animal welfare rating and No animal laws protecting from Abuse is wanting to have the right to repeal the Act? No wonder. Abusers need the freedom to abuse and kill as they please. This is so ridiculous. Call Congress and Remind them we cannot determine animal welfare based on a State that has the Worst Record of Animal Cruelty! Do they really think thats a good plan? I dont believe Any Congressman or woman wants to face THAT town Hall meeting. Our Congress cannot be that abusive towards animals period! Next, Advocates this is too you personally. Duquette and his group of 5 prohorse slaughter folks that keeps getting less by the minute….it used to be 6 but remember one died. The others decided not to let him bbq their horses and so those 5 use a few Facebook sites and a webpage here or there to manufacture garbage against yoi. Its high time to Let Congress know Advocates Are the people who have been fighting for the Animals and no one is taking Rights away. In fact you need to Promote the fact these guys are just hiding behind their computers and gaining a few pounds of facial hair doesnt make the. A know it all cowhand. In fact, online cowboys are easy to create. Put on an oversized hat blue jeans and button down top it off with a scarf and ranch photo of sonewhere on a ranch and walla your a cowboy rancher. In fact, I have found ranchers dont really spend alot of time on the internet creating sites. They have work to do. Then I also noted most ranchers dont want caught up in the drama, fact and or fiction. Mostly because lies abound even when theres truth. Advocates you neex to step up and explain your background in horses. What you specialize in, what you have done to preserve horses and your knowledge is fromexpirience and no your not just an internet wave runner. Our Congress needs to know that we have solutions and they keep changing the questions hoping for different answers. We need to advise them. These so called felt hats with a chocker bandana and a six shpoter mentality do Not represent the Entire Horse Industry from Coast to Coast, but Advocates are Coast to Coast and our Vast expanse of knowledge whether we work as an Advocate or like myself as an individual for chamge that we know is for the best. Until you explain for yourselves to Congress what IS really taking place it appears only the Ranchers are seen bubble gum and shoe box in hand. We beed a renewed presence. And for them to continually peddle lies such as All the Industry is behind proslaughter is ridiculous. Please Start a new Online list of who is Against the abuse of wild horses and ship it to Congress. We need Congress to understand welfare only requires death as necessary and Thats not what proslaughter is intending.



    WildEarthGuardians sued Nevada Wildlife Services in 2012, claiming Wildlife Services was using outdated NEPA data to support program activities. After successfully beating back a standing issue, the case went forward. After a year of negotiation, a settlement was reached. Wildlife Services will stop all killing activity in Nevada wilderness and wilderness study areas. It will also stop using the 1994 EIS to support program activities around the country and will produce new NEPA data to guide program activity. This may turn out to be a big deal because Wildlife Services will have to adjust its activities to fit current science. If it doesn’t, it’ll get sued again. Many thanks to WildEarthGuardians for taking this issue to court and congratulations on its success. Read the settlement here.



    • Louie, went back to old article from wildlifealliance – a letter written to the Wildlife Society regarding their “belief” that wild horses damage habitat & hurt wildlife! VERY GOOD letter.

      Laura Bies, Director of Government Affairs

      The Wildlife Society

      5410 Grosvenor Lane, Suite 200
      This letter was in an earlier wildlife alliance newsletter written in response to an article by the Wildlife Society: Great pushback to the wild horse detractors!

      The Wildlife Society
      Bethesda, Maryland 20814-2144

      Regarding: TWS publication: FERAL HORSES: GET THE FACTS

      Dear Ms Bies

      Recently, a friend sent me your above-referenced 4-page article which I’d not seen before. Though there is no date or authorship designated, it appears that the piece was probably issued within the past 3-4 years.

      Though the Wildlife Society touts its members professional credentials early on as the authority on this matter, claiming as an organization to purse the “highest standards” and be “committed to science-based policy”, it struck me as odd that TWS used the term, “Feral” in the title instead of “Wild Horse” which is, of course, the legal designation for many of the horses living full-time on public lands in the West.

      (In case you don’t know the difference, the term “feral” is deliberately used by detractors of wild horses, primarily ranchers, farmers, sportsmen and their sympathizers, to attempt to verbally denigrate and humiliate the animal before the public much as the term “Obamacare” was used by Republicans early on instead of the actual name, Affordable Care Act, when talking about the new health care law in public.)

      The one and only horse photo was odd as well, showing an animal that seems unappealing with its small head, long narrow neck, and rangy look. Though I am not a horse owner nor knowledgeable about such characteristics, I have heard conversations among wild horse detractors who appear to delight in claiming that such anatomical features characterize wild horses in general…yet another reason to denigrate them.

      However, as a 45-year resident of Nevada, and as someone who has observed and photographed wild and feral (not living on public land) horses on public and checkerboard lands, and who has observed wild horses after gathers in BLM holding facilities, I have seen many wild horses which have inspired photographers, artists and admirers from around the world because of their shapes, sizes, colors, and associated features, none of which were captured with your photograph.

      Because the title and photograph of the TWS “fact” sheet, suggested to me (and perhaps others readers with similar backgrounds) that objectivity would not likely be found by reading the contents, I was tempted to ignore the document. Then I noticed the reference to the impact of horses on “native habitats and wildlife”.

      Since I live in Nevada, the home of many of our wild horses and burros, and since I know something about the status of wildlife in Nevada by virtue of 40 years of attending meetings of the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners, interacting with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, camping and hiking on public lands in Nevada, and traveling the rural areas of our state for decades, I decided to send you actual facts about Nevada’s wildlife. I do this because unsupported allegations of “damage to wildlife by wild horses” are made frequently by sportsmen, ranchers and farmers.

      While your article did provide some bibliography references in support of the notion that small reptiles and burrowing mammals may be affected by wild horses, and while bighorn sheep were mentioned with reference to certain preferences for water source exclusivity, the “big picture” was missing….particularly with respect to Nevada.

      Here are some actual facts about the status of wildlife in Nevada as of early 2014, and in the face of recurring drought conditions to boot:

      Elk numbers in Nevada are at historic high levels. Nevada has too many elk. No neighboring state wants our elk because they already have too many of their own.
      Bighorn sheep numbers are at historic high levels. Nevada has more bighorn sheep than any state in the country except for Alaska. The Nevada Department of Wildlife is now suggesting that bighorn numbers are exceeding “carrying capacity” and need to be reduced.
      Pronghorns are at historic high levels. Never have there been so many pronghorns in Nevada. They may be reaching “carrying capacity” limits.
      Mule deer numbers have been stable for over a decade. While not at historic high levels, biologists at the Nevada Department of Wildlife believe the current numbers are consistent with the conditions available. No one is suggesting that wild horses are affecting mule deer numbers.
      Waterfowl hunting in this state is limited only by the availability of birds coming down the Pacific Flyway. Drought is the only local factor discussed with respect to waterfowl hunting. Wild horses play no part in the life of the Nevada duck hunter.
      Fur trappers are still free to trap as many animals…from muskrats and beavers, to foxes, to coyotes and bobcats…as they please. Trappers have not been asked to cut back or curtail any of their trapping activities because of wild horse impacts nor have they complained that wild horses are interfering with their activities.
      Fishing opportunities in Nevada are limited only by drought and water conditions. Wild horses have nothing to do with fishing on Lake Mead in Southern Nevada, or with fishing conditions on ponds, lakes and reservoirs in Northern Nevada.
      Birding opportunities in Nevada are unrelated to wild horses. The two Audubon Chapters in Nevada do not cite wild horse activity as a factor of concern in the ability of Nevada birders to enjoy spring and fall migration.
      Rabbit hunters have not complained about a lack of rabbits due to wild horse activity. Neither have they been asked to kill fewer rabbits due to wild horse impacts.
      Reptile collectors, primarily in Southern Nevada, have not appeared at the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners to complain that wild horses are interfering with their ability to collect snakes, lizards and other reptiles.
      Sage grouse hunting still occurs in Nevada. Hunters kill several thousand birds, annually. Sportsmen have not complained that wild horses are interfering with their opportunity to kill sage grouse. Nor have they been asked to curtail or stop sage grouse hunting because of wild horse impacts.
      Upland game hunters still take their bird dogs out to hunt chukkar and quail without any disruption from wild horse activity. No chukkar or quail hunter has, to my knowledge, ever come to the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners and tried to make a case that chukkar are losing out because of wild horses.
      Dove hunting continues to take place in Nevada without any disruption from wild horses.
      I could do more but that would be silly. The point is this: When anybody….TWS, Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners, representatives of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the noisiest of the sportsmen…makes unsubstantiated claims that wild horses are “damaging wildlife”, I do not doubt their sincerity. I simply doubt their facts…or rather, I lament that they don’t have any.

      Putting it another way, for those detractors of wild horses to convince us that their assertion has merit, they’ll need to account for the facts I’ve listed above in order to receive serious consideration.

      There is a bit more to be said. I do agree that reptiles, burrowing small mammals and rodents and other similar species may suffer effects from wild horse activity.. But to seriously consider that possibility, one has to factor in livestock use of the same or similar areas, and use by big game ungulates.

      Speaking of livestock use, here are facts regarding that aspect of the wild horse issue in Nevada:

      -The current “guesstimate” of wild horse numbers in Nevada is between 27,000 – 30,000 according to the habitat biologist from the Nevada Department of Wildlife who so stated in a presentation this past weekend.
      Roughly 300,000 cattle, and 75,000 domestic sheep use Nevada’s public lands (part of) each year, outnumbering wild horses by about 12:1.
      Cows often outweigh wild horses by several hundred pounds.
      Cows have no natural dispersal mechanism equivalent to the band structure of wild horses. Consequently, cows tend to “settle” into places like water sources, shaded areas, along stream banks, grassy meadows and have no incentive to move around without the intervention of the rancher. Wild horses disperse themselves frequently.
      The structure of the cow’s foot…the cloven hoof is, in my view, more destructive to the all-important thin biomass ground cover between sage brush plants than is the flat pancake-like foot structure of the horse.
      Bottom line…..cows definitely leave foot prints…and a lot more….on the ground on public lands in Nevada.

      Here’s the real story from my point of view. The unsupported allegations about damage to the environment and “wildlife” by wild horses as claimed by ranchers, farmers and sportsmen amount to two things:

      Ranchers and farmers view wild horses as “competition” for their own (subsidized) use of the public lands and wish the animals gone for economic reasons.
      Sportsmen make their claims to show support for the livestock industry so that ranchers won’t limit sportsmen’s access to their private lands and to allow for access to public lands just beyond.
      Or so it seems to me.


      Donald A. Molde


  7. Congress’ grizzly betrayal
    By Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post
    Posted March 14, 2017

    “Arguing for passage of H.J. Res. 69, Young told of entering wolf dens and killing mother and pups back when he worked as a bounty hunter of predators. Presumably, this was intended to impress his fellow legislators, as are his office walls, which are bedecked with animal trophies. One eye-catching exhibit consists of a gargantuan grizzly-bear hide tacked to a wall, the beast’s hind legs framing a piece of the Alaskan pipeline.”



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