Challis wild-horse policy is biased

Wild horses on the Challis Herd Management Area in Idaho (photo: BLM)

The Idaho Mountian Express just posted an OpEd by Marybeth Devlin.  Although her comment was edited a bit, Marybeth stated “You never know who will be receptive to the message of Truth.  I am grateful to Idaho Mountain Express.”

SOURCE Idaho Mountain Express

By MARYBETH DEVLIN

The population management level at the BLM’s Challis Herd Management Area (185 to 253 horses) is a political construct. Per the 167,848 acres—262 square miles—of this horse-herd management area, the management level’s high bound—the maximum number of horses that BLM claims the range can support—limits the population to one wild horse per 663 acres, which is more than a square mile.  However, its low bound—the number down to which BLM manages the herd—restricts the stocking density to one wild horse per 907 acres, which is about one and a half square miles. Even if there were 292 wild horses present, as the BLM says, it would mean one horse per 575 acres.  No reasonable person would deem that excessive.

Contrast that with the livestock density:  Per the typical six-month season, the stocking density that BLM approved for livestock in the Challis wild-horse habitat is one cow and calf pair (or five sheep) per 88 acres. That equates to just over seven pairs—14 cows or calves (or 35 sheep)—per square mile.

Livestock get most of the grazing slots. Within the Challis Herd Management Area—where the mustangs are, by law, supposed to receive principal benefit of resources—livestock have been awarded most of the animal-unit months: 11,439 AUMs (84 percent) to commercial livestock and 2,220 AUMs (16 percent)—to wild horses.

The BLM claims the Challis herd increased from 241 horses in 2016 to 292 horses in 2017, a growth rate of 21 percent. Gregg, LeBlanc and Johnston (2014) found the average birth rate across wild-horse herds to be just under 20 percent. But they also found that 50 percent of foals perish before their first birthday.  Thus, the birth rate is just a temporary blip in the data.  To find the herd growth rate, we start with the surviving foal rate (10 percent) and then subtract a conservative estimate of adult mortality (5 percent).  So, the expected, normative herd growth rate is, at most, 5 percent.

The BLM’s claimed rate is more than four times the normative growth rate. The likely explanation for the discrepancy is that the BLM incorrectly used the somewhat-higher-than-average birth rate as the growth rate.  However, given BLM’s 13-year history of injecting the Challis fillies and mares with the pesticide-sterilant PZP, the birth rate should have been significantly lower than average.  Not only is it higher, but it is misreported as the growth rate.

The BLM says it plans to conduct an aerial census soon. However, that’s not encouraging. Read the rest of Marybeth’s OpEd HERE.

19 comments on “Challis wild-horse policy is biased

  1. This author has time and time again proven the misinformation that the BLM has and continues to state to the public and to our senators and representatives. Almost every management issue concerning wild horses and burros depends on accurate population estimates. Reliable, science-based population estimates are needed for maintaining everything from herd health to habitat carrying capacity to genetic diversity. Scientifically supportable and defensible population estimates of wild horse and burro populations are not accomplished by BLM. Because population estimates drive nearly all management decisions pertaining to wild horses and burros, accuracy is vital. “The BLM clearly recognizes that its census methodologies may not be providing accurate estimates.” (1991 National Academy of Science NAS) “The accuracy and precision of current wild horse survey methods have not been rigorously tested.” (2013 NAS) “At present, the accuracy of the majority of BLM’s population estimates is suspect.” The BLM’s aerial and ground surveys are not scientifically supportable and not defensible and therefore not credible. Tools are available to prove accurate census taking – such as Go-Pro video on all census flights and photographing/filming of all wild horses and burros found during on the ground censes taking. Wild Horse Freedom Federation WHFF White Paper, “…BLM’s growth estimates and population increases on specific HMAs is biologically impossible and scientifically absurd. The BLM has reported, on more than one occasion, statistics that would establish a 750 to 1250 percent increase in population over the course of a year.” Even a 750% annual increase would require every single horse to produce more than 7 surviving foals each year – including all the old and all the young and even the stallions! This is biologically impossible. BLM fraud must be exposed.

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  2. In all these discussions it is worth pointing out the reproductive rates of other species also being managed on the public lands. Also kudos for pointing out what the BLM never seems to, that wild horses die naturally (or accidentally) so there is a mortality rate that needs factoring in. (One wonders if AMLs are ever adjusted in the documented instances of criminal killing of wild horses).

    Adult, healthy female horses produce only one foal per year, and rarely twins. In that case, one usually doesn’t survive, and as noted, foal mortality in the wild is generally high per various studies.

    This is just a rough outline, but could be useful information for calculating use of forage on public lands. A comparative reproduction rate chart would help put better focus on range management, where the endlessly and passionately cited “20%” reproductive rate of horses is used to incite outgrage and near-panic on occasion.

    It also bears repeating that AMLs seem to calculate foals as needing the resources of an adult horse (AUMs are calculated for every individual horse and foal in many instances) whereas with cattle a single AUM aims to account for forage use of a cow and calf — which by the end of the grazing season can easily amount to 1,500 lbs. of animal being considered only a single AUM (these are based on 1,000 lbs. for cattle). It is less clear if the sheep AUM (5 sheep) includes only adult sheep or those five and their twin lambs, which would really be 35 sheep at the end of the season if none were lost.

    The general land grant university-based forage management rule is that 25% of all forage produced in a given season will be consumed by wildlife and insects, and the plants themselves need 50% to survive and thrive, leaving only 25% for ALL OTHER introduced grazers. Those being removed at the end of the grazing season offer no relief biologically, as most species are then dormant (not growing). The actual use during the actual growing season for the vegetative species most used must be what is monitored and that information used to adjust management decisions.

    Some studies I’ve saved off documented lagomorphs as the primary overgrazers in Western ecosystems.

    ANNUAL REPRODUCTION NORMS FOR PUBLIC LANDS GRAZERS

    Elk: single calf, twins rare

    Deer: twins common, sometimes triplets (species and conditions dependent)

    Moose: single, twins about 30% of the time

    Pronghorn: single, twins rarely

    Cattle: single, twins rarely

    Sheep: twins, triplets rarely

    Prairie Dogs: four to six pups
    Interaction with cattle grazing: http://gprc.org/research/prairie-dogs-the-truth/prairie-dogs-and-soil-impacts/

    Lagomorphs (rabbits): 30 day gestation, two to four litters of up to five or so.

    Point being, the use of only a reproduction rate is too simplistic for any useful discourse.

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    • As you said, the reproduction (birth) rate of any species vs the survival to adulthood (reproductive age) varies considerably for any species – especially in the wild. I have no doubt that you have reviewed this scientifically supportable research study which showed that although the average wild horse reproduction (birth) rate was near 20% annually only about half of those wild horses even survived to the age of yearling. In addition, there is also an adult mortality rate (usually 5% is considered average) that they don’t figure in. Therefore, the BLM’s continually spewed 20% yearly wild horse herd population is fraudulent – no doubt about it.
      https://rtfitchauthor.com/2014/04/28/report-wild-horse-population-growth/

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      • Yes! I think it is important when folks toss out the “double in five years” dogma that it be put in context with other species rather than held up as an isolated and alarming statement which fails to account for mortality or the manipulation of natural predators or natural processes.

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  3. I tried to expose the fraud within the Challis BLM wildhorse management in 2005. I traveled to Washington DC area to a BLM advisory board meeting to advise them of their misinformation, flawed statistics, and mismanagement of the wild horses captured in the Challis corrals. They didn’t even want to hear the truth from me, who was “boots on the ground” there…..while they sat in their offices without knowing the truth. I experienced 2 round ups of the Challis Herd Management area. They were done using statistics from 1968. The wild horses that were captured were fed PURE ALFALFA HAY. I saw this with my own eyes. I requested thru FOIA(Freedom of Information Act) the qualifications of the BLM person in charge of wild horse management then, Kevin Lloyd, ……all they could show was study in range management…but nothing pertaining to any knowledge of wild horses. I use to ride the area (Challis Herd Management Area, (HMA))on my horses, and use to see the wild ones. It was incredible. Then after the round ups in 2004 and again a few years later, there were none. There were stallion piles (where the stallions would mark their territory)……and then they were ‘ghost piles’…no new fresh ones. It is so refreshing, that after all these years the truth is coming out. The BLM was in collusion with local ranches to allow more cows and to blame the wild horses for range degradation….I found this out thru FOIA as well. I hope things will change, for the better, for the horses.Thank you for this article.

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      • I will try and find the FOIA reports. I am in Hawaii now, and all my files are at my cabin in Idaho (bordering Challis HMA)
        When the 2nd round up took place (can’t remember which yr. ’08 or ’09?….I was alerted to helicopters flying over private land….the caretaker came to my cabin and told me. The helicopters chased the horses off private land to adjoining BLM land…proceeded to capture them. They ran a mare (all this in the hot sun) forcing her to leave her very young foal behind. Somehow in the night the mare made it back to her foal. I was talking on the phone to Ginger Kathrens when I was alerted of this. Before running out my door to confront the BLM, Ginger gave me the phone # of Ed Roberson, Deputy Director (or Assist.deputy director) of Renewable Resources and Planning. I found where the BLM was conducting the round up and confronted them. The head of the Challis BLM, David Rosenkrance, introduced himself..said” nice to meet you”….I said , ” you’re not going to think so when I’m finished saying what I’m going to say”…I asked them why they were doing this…. as I walked away after telling them how wrong it was what they were doing…I said (without really knowing how true it would become) that Washington DC would hear about this. (I know they were thinking….oh sure) I got back to my cabin and tried the phone # Ginger had given me. By god, Ed Roberson answered his phone!…We had a lengthy conversation about what was happening…and solutions for better management, ie, managing them on the range, natural predation, birth control. Anyway at the end of the conversation, I asked him for a favor…to view the captured horses in the corrals in Challis. The next morning I got a call from the head of Challis BLM, David Rosenkrance, telling me that he had gotten a call from Washington DC, telling him to let me view the horses in the Challis corrals!!!!!….I got Elissa Kline (Photographer, who had been documenting this herd for years) to meet me there. Very sad. They suspended all operations while I was there. One horse had already broken his neck 11 were killed in the roundup..ELEVEN HORSES DIED. Mares were separated from their young foals..it was pathetic. Then I got a call from Tom Dyer, the Idaho State BLM director. He set up a meeting with me, where we could discuss management options. I have to thank Ed Roberson for this. I turned over what info I had to the wild horse advocates in Ketchum/Sun Valley area, as I knew they would have more traction in gathering advocates and spreading awareness. Which did happen. Thru the FOIA info, I found out that David Rosenkrance (head of Challis BLM)..I saw a signed copy…had given the head of the ranch Mountain Springs (owned my Mary Hewlett(Packer) Jaffee) renewed lease to graze cattle on the BLM land where the wild horses roamed….THE HEAD OF THE RANCH WAS LAST NAME…. ROSENKRANCE. It was in the FOIA report.

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      • I have more….can I send them to you privately?
        some answers to my FOIA questions…look at #1.and #11:
        FOIA
        1. Full accounting of expenses—$403,000.00
        2. Who were the contractors—K&G Livestock
        3. How much contractors paid including the helicopter pilot—$108,370.27
        4. Accounting of every horse—Challis Summary
        5. How many horses were adopted—97
        6. How many horses sent to long term holding and where—45 via Rock Springs WY
        facility
        7. How many horses were killed and their cause of death—11—death report
        8. How many foals weaned—36
        9. Ages of weanlings when adopted—less than 1 year
        10. Qualifications of a horse specialist—SF 171 and Horse Specialist job description
        11. The amount of revenue generated from this event (adoption/sales)—$9460.00

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      • Golde, can you send FOIA etc. info to RT Fitch directly, as his team is effectively assembling and compiling such information. Your first hand information and documentation will be valuable in the ongoing aggregation of evidence.

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    • American Horse Protection Association, Inc., Et Al. v. James G. Watt, Secretary, United States Department of the Interior, Et Al., Appellants., 694 F.2d 1310 (D.C. Cir. 1982)

      The legislative history of the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978, however, demonstrates that Congress did not intend what my colleagues say. The Conference Committee, which inserted the disputed language into Section 1333(b)(2), expressly warned of the dangers of hasty Bureau decisionmaking. It noted that,
      [i]n summary, the conferees agreed that excess numbers of wild horses and burros must be removed from the range,
      but that caution must be exercised in determining what constitutes excess numbers.23

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  4. American Horse Protection Association, Inc., Et Al. v. James G. Watt,

    In 1981 BLM proposed to cull a further 200 horses from the then 400-animal herd. The district court denied permission.16 It found that BLM had failed to comply with the court’s 1976 decision instructing the Agency to give serious, detailed consideration to the possibility of protecting the horses’ winter range by restricting cattle grazing. Further, the court rejected BLM’s argument that 1978 amendments to the Wild Horse Act superseded the 1976 judicial stop order against removals pending careful study of a winter range management plan. Based upon these two determinations the court ordered that the 1976 injunction remain in full force and effect.

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  5. From PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)
    2002

    BLM IDAHO DIRECTOR FORCED TO RESIGN
    Senator Craig Behind Ouster

    Boise, ID – Martha Hahn, the Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Idaho resigned today rather than accept an involuntary transfer to a National Park Service appointment in New York. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) has long sought Hahn’s removal and convinced top Interior officials to make the move, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

    This January, Interior Deputy Secretary Steven Griles, a former lobbyist occupying the number two spot below Secretary Gale Norton, officially notified Hahn of her removal. The notice directed her to assume a heretofore non-existent post as Executive Director of the National Park Service New York Harbor operations.

    U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) has made no secret of his efforts to remove Hahn. Most recently, Craig denounced BLM’s decision to restrict grazing in Owyhee County, calling the BLM action “an affront” that he would try to reverse in Washington, DC. Since the 2000 election, Sen. Craig has new influence within Interior. For example, Tom Fulton, the Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary for Lands & Minerals Management that oversees BLM, is a former Craig campaign manager..

    “Martha Hahn’s removal is part of an unfolding purge of principled professionals within the top ranks of Interior,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The message is not subtle: any federal manager in Idaho who displeases a crony of Larry Craig risks a similar fate.”

    Steven West, an official with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, has told associates that he is slated to replace Hahn. While the BLM Idaho post does not require Senate confirmation, it is widely expected that Sen. Craig will be allowed to choose Hahn’s successor..

    https://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/blm-idaho-director-forced-to-resign.html

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  6. another paper I wrote: 9/25/2009
    I am tired of making calls to the BLM, Dept. of the Interior, and the Wild Horse and Burro Agency , begging them to stop the cruelty and inhumane practices employed in their round ups of wild horses.
    I am appalled at what my government has allowed to happen to America’s wild horses and burros.
    The BLM has grossly mismanaged our Wild horses and burros and are on a path of MANAGED EXTINCTION.
    With this said, I publically accuse, those who have been entrusted with humanely managing America’s Wild Horses and Burros, Ken Salazar, Bob Abbey, and Don Glenn with murder and cruelty of America’s wild horses and burros. And charge you with lying to the American public.
    In 2004 at Challis, Idaho, I witnessed a wild horse being shot by the BLM, because of their inept and inadequate procedures employed in their HELICOPTER ROUND UPS.
    Two months ago I was witness to another round up of the Challis herd. The herd has been decimated. The “Horse Specialist” , Kevin Lloyd, does not know anything about herd dynamics. Quite evident in his quote in the Mountain Express newspaper, “….now the bands won’t fight so much…”
    They completely destroyed herd dynamics ,leaving an uncertain legacy for the future of this herd. They tore young foals, some only days old, from their mothers…never attempting to pair them up.
    The CAYUSE HELICOPTER PILOT repeatedly trespassed over a ranch, when specifically told not to. The pilot flew as if he had a vendetta against these horses…with absolutely NO regard for their lives. He got paid per horse. It was brutal. That night a mare made it back to her abandoned young foal, along with a few other stragglers who evaded their traps.
    When told by the caretaker at the ranch, what had happened, I drove out and found the staging area . I confronted the head of the Challis Field office, and Kevin Lloyd, the “Horse Specialist” in charge of operations. When asked why they flew over a ranch, when it had been previously discussed and told not to,….his remark to me ”…… I forgot to tell the pilot not to fly over there.” The next day, they did it again…running mares, foals…brutally. One neighbor who witnessed it said , “he couldn’t believe how fast the helicopter was chasing the horses…all he could see was dust….”
    Another neighboring rancher went out to confront the BLM again after the second day….he was handcuffed and cited. He too, was told by Kevin Lloyd, “I forgot to tell my pilot not to fly over there….”
    The lives of these horses mean nothing to these people. Who are these “horse specialists’?
    The BLM lies about numbers. When asked about how many horses were rounded up in the Challis round up, it varied from day to day. 364. 366???? Will we ever know? When asked how many horses were killed, it again varied… ….6 one day, 9…then 11….”But their deaths were not attributed to the round up…” according to the “Horse Specialists”….They are just statistics to the BLM.
    Another lie. At the round up of the Pryor Mtn. wild horses, as long as the NBC camera was rolling the BLM claimed, “…we want to be transparent, we have nothing to hide…” But when the cameras were gone, and the humane observer was told that one of the wranglers wanted to use a cattle prod on the horse, Floyd, who was so fightened……the wrangler said he wouldn’t use it as long as she was there with her camera. The next day,she was denied entry to the processing area.
    Convicted Felons are allowed to have BLM contracts. Dave Cattoor Helicopter Company.
    And these are the people entrusted to manage America’s wild horses.?
    The American People are DEMANDING A CHANGE IN THE ONGOING EXTINCTION OF AMERICA’S WILD HORSES AND BURROS.
    .

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  7. Challis Wild Horse Herd Management Area Bait Gather
    DOI-BLM-ID-I030-2017-0003-DNA

    Only authorized personnel will be allowed on site during the removal operation.

    • Private landowners or the proper administering agency(s) will be contacted and authorization obtained prior to setting up traps on any lands which are not administered by BLM.

    If you have any questions, feel free to contact Kevin Lloyd Challis Field Office Wild Horse and Burro Program Lead at (208) 879-6200.
    /s/ Todd Kuck 01/17/2017
    Todd Kuck Date
    Challis Field Manager
    https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/nepa/70764/95992/116093/2017BaitGatherDecisionRecord.pdf

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