The “welfare ranchers” on public lands whine and blame the wild horses & burros for eating too much forage, but the bigger problem is that the Bureau of Land Management turns a blind eye to the impacts of privately owned livestock grazing on public lands. This article by Grandma Gregg rings true today.
by Grandma Gregg
How BLM “researches” their Wild Horse and Burro Usage Data
Years ago, BLM Director’s Challenge awarded $300,000 to assist field offices in on-the-ground volunteer field research about our wild horses and burros and our public lands. The research on the public lands was to be done by the public under the direction of BLM. I witnessed a member of the public who just happened to be an environmental scientist/ biologist (obviously the BLM representative didn’t know that) getting a return phone call from BLM Eagle Lake field office employee Derek Wilson, the coordinator for this “volunteer opportunity”.
This BLM representative told the potential volunteer that the assessment was to be on the Twin Peaks HMA and all usage found was to be counted as wild horse and burro usage regardless if the usage was from private livestock or other wildlife. Since this was to be done on an HMA that had 82% of its forage allocated to privately-owned domestic livestock the biologist asked how the study would differentiate between the usage of livestock and wild horses/burros. The BLM told the biologist that ALL usage observed during the study would be attributed to the wild horses and burros … ALL … and none to the livestock or any other possible user – regardless of the fact private domestic livestock was permitted about 5 times more than the permitted wild horses and burro usage. It clearly appeared from what the BLM representative explained, that the BLM were going to use the public volunteers to gather information to paint another negative picture for the horses and burros based on this fraudulent, non-scientific study.
I was in the room during the phone call. The biologist remained cool calm and collected and polite … but got the same “all-resource-usage-observed would be delegated to the wild horses and burros’ usage” explanation from the BLM over and over. It was obvious to me that the BLM representative had no idea he was talking to a biologist and experienced wild horse and burro observer who was completely knowledgeable of the entire issue. The BLM representative had trapped himself in an attempted fraudulent so-called study but his canned response was not fooling this scientist. With a scientist’s point of view, the biologist politely continued to ask the same question until the BLM representative became rude with the potential volunteer and threatened to hang up and discontinue the phone call. Although this supposed scientific study was ultimately unsuccessful and just so we all are aware … that is how the BLM does their so-called “scientific studies”.
Per information I acquired from BLM’s Nancy Haug, the Eagle Lake BLM field office never did approve a single volunteer for this project although she admitted they did keep $9,000 of the $25,000 that was designated to go to this aborted research project.
The law clearly states in its interpretation that “excess” wild horses and wild burros are not determined by numbers but must be determined by the monitoring of their habitat. The test as to appropriate wild horse and burro population levels is whether such levels will achieve and maintain a thriving ecological balance on the public lands. Nowhere in the law or regulations is the BLM required to maintain any specific number of animals or to maintain populations in the number of animals existing at any particular time Dahl v. Clark, supra, at 595. A determination that removal is warranted must be based on scientifically defensible research and analysis, and on legitimate, non-biased monitoring programs, which include valid, justifiable studies of grazing utilization of all animals on the habitat in question, including trends in range conditions and actual use. The Eagle Lake field office’s 2012 attempt to use funds from the BLM Director’s Challenge award volunteer field research was despicable as well as deceitful with what would have ultimately been deceptive and non-scientific data and duplicitous data.
Here is the official announcement of the volunteer program:
On Jun 11, 2012, at 3:40 PM, Fontana, Joseph J wrote:
The BLM is seeking volunteers to help with resource monitoring projects in wild horse and burro herd management areas.
For Immediate Release: June 11, 2012 CA-N-12-70
Contact: Jeff Fontana (530) 252-5332 (email@example.com)
BLM Announces Volunteer Opportunities in Wild Horse Country
Volunteers are needed to assist the Bureau of Land Management with rangeland health monitoring on northeast California and northwest Nevada public lands that provide habitat for wild horses and burros. The project will run two to three months this summer in the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area northeast of Susanville, Calif. and the Nut Mountain and High Rock Herd Management Areas east of Cedarville, Calif.
Interested volunteers can apply by filling out the online volunteer application at http://www.volunteer.gov and emailing a resume with two references to firstname.lastname@example.org. The complete job description can be found by using the keywords Twin Peaks on the volunteer.gov website.
Volunteers will develop landscape descriptions; take photographs, record geographic information system data, measure grazing use of various plants and record information on condition of streamside areas, also known as riparian areas.
Some techniques will require skill and proficiency in scientific methods, while other tasks will require lesser degrees of skill. All volunteers should have experience working in rugged and remote backcountry conditions, and could have to hike several miles to reach some monitoring areas. Map reading skills are important.
“This monitoring work is important because riparian areas are critically important to wild horses and burros and to other range users,” said BLM Northern California District Manager Nancy Haug. “We need to collect information about conditions and trends in these areas, which are the most productive, diverse and sensitive on public lands. The volunteer work will assist the BLM in expanding the number of monitoring sites in our herd management areas, thus increasing our knowledge about conditions.”
Volunteers will need to provide their own high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles and must be capable of driving in rough terrain and adverse weather. There is no salary offered, but the BLM can reimburse for expenses including personal vehicle mileage.
More information is available by contacting Derek Wilson at the BLM Eagle Lake Field Office,
-BLM- Northern California District 355 Hemsted Drive Redding, CA 96002
Public Affairs Officer
BLM Northern California District
(530) 252-5332 (desk) (530) 260-0189 (cell)