The Murderer’s Creek Wild Horse Territory is located southwest of John Day, Oregon, and includes 73,609 acres of Forest Service land, 34,879 acres of Bureau of Land Management land, 23,773 acres of private land, and 10,479 of state land. Scoping comments for the Murderer’s Creek Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) are due by Aug. 15, 2019. We are sharing the comments submitted by Grandma Gregg (below) for your consideration of talking points.
Here are documents for your review:
Photo: Forest Service
Their preferred method to submit comments is electronically to the Comment Analysis and Response Application (CARA) database at https://cara.ecosystemmanagement.org/Public/CommentInput?project=44570
However, we encourage you to send or fax your written comments. Written comments concerning the project may be submitted using the following methods:
• Postal mail: Bob Foxworth, District Ranger, Blue Mountain Ranger District, Malheur National Forest,
431 Patterson Bridge Road, PO Box 909, John Day, Oregon 97845
• Hand delivery: Bob Foxworth, District Ranger, Blue Mountain Ranger District, Malheur National
Forest, 431 Patterson Bridge Road, John Day, OR 97845
• Fax: 541-575-3319
Here are excerpts from Grandma Gregg’s comments:
United States Forest Service
Malheur National Forest, Blue Mountain Ranger District
Supervisor’s Office/Blue Mountain Ranger District
431 Patterson Bridge Rd.
PO Box 909
John Day, Oregon 97845
United States Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
Prineville District Office
3050 NE 3 rd Street
Prineville, Oregon 97754
Attn: Dennis Teitzel, District Manager
Re: Public Comment Murderer’s Creek Wild Horse Joint Management Area Herd
Management Area Plan (HMAP) Scoping
I require that the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) consider my scoping comment very seriously and include it in the administrative record for this Murderer’s Creek forthcoming proposal. All of my questions and requests for information included in this letter are to include both the USFS and the BLM segments of the Murderer’s Creek HMA.
The USFS and BLM are in the process of developing a plan to consider the
management of wild horses in the Murderer’s Creek Wild Horse Joint Management
Herd Area and the scoping notice for the plan indicates that USFS and BLM intend to
prepare an EA to address the impacts of the proposed plan and alternatives. I require
that any NEPA analysis regarding this management plan must fully disclose all
environmental impacts, and consider reasonable alternatives. Nature is the true
manager for these wild lands, flora and fauna and nature is not static and this herd area
has been under the control and effects of nature for thousands of years and therefore
the HMAP plan and the ultimate decisions must first take into serious consideration the
natural environment that has evolved over the years.
NEPA requires that the USFS and BLM adequately evaluate all potential environmental
impacts of proposed actions. To meet this obligation, the USFS and BLM must identify
and disclose to the public all foreseeable impacts of the proposed action, including
direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts.
I require that any NEPA analysis of this proposed action include but not be limited to a thorough consideration of the following significant impacts of this action:
(1) impacts on the genetic viability of the Murderer’s Creek wild horse population,
(2) the social, behavioral and physiological impacts of the stress of capture and captivity on wild horses,
(3) the social, behavioral and physiological impacts of population growth control measures on wild horses,
(4) the ecosystem impacts of removing wild horses from public grazing land, in comparison to the ecosystem impacts of allowing and removing and reducing grazing by cows and sheep,
(5) the impacts of helicopter drive trapping on the wild horses and sage grouse and other wildlife;
(6) the impacts of water/feed trapping on the wild horses and other wildlife,
(7) the economic impacts of requiring taxpayers to absorb the astronomical cost of these captures and maintaining any additional wild horses at USFS or BLM holding facilities, and
(8) the ethical impacts of a wild horse management program that takes wild horses and burros from the open range and dooms them to a lifetime on USFS or BLM feedlots and/or being sold with no restrictions or oversight.
BLM and the USFS should be focused on protecting natural, free, wild horse populations on the range as the United States law requires and not rounding up wild horses and confining them on public or private feedlots.
I require the USFS and BLM consider and provide to the public, the actions, results and impacts including repeated removals and “distribution” of the horses that have previously been captured over the past forty-eight years [since 1971]. This requirement includes any and all genetic testing done and the past and current genetic viability of the wild horse population discovered by the testing. BLM’s own equine genetics expert, Dr. Gus Cothran, has expressed concern regarding the genetic viability of both wild horse and wild burro herd populations under the management of the BLM. Across the West, wild horse herds have been decimated and continued capture and removal and any chemical or surgical procedures BLM or the USFS authorizes and induces causes a high risk of the genetic viability of yet another wild horse herd. Given the repeated and relentless reduction of the wild horse population, the USFS and BLM must analyze the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of and proposed reduction of the Murderer’s Creek wild horse herd, in their care and under their congressionally required protection.
As required by NEPA to bring federal action in line with Congress’ goals and to foster environmentally informed decision-making by federal agencies, NEPA “establishes ‘action-forcing’ procedures that require agencies to take a ‘hard look’ at environmental consequences.” …I hereby require that the requested highly relevant and scientifically supported information be included in the USFS and BLM’s “hard look”. Additionally, these scientific research and reports that I require must become a part of the administrative record for this scoping and the upcoming HMAP and also must be provided to the public and the decision makers.
The National academy of science (NAS) research report
The 2013 NAS report states, “Management of free-ranging horses and burros is not based on rigorous population-monitoring procedures.” The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has not established the true population numbers of wild horses and burros on their congressionally designated range lands and therefore there is no justification for any capture/removal or temporary or permanent sterilization of wild horses. None.
The NAS findings clearly state that the BLM has failed to provide accurate estimates of the nation’s population of wild horses and burros. Therefore, the NAS cannot conclude that a state of over-population exists and or provide a recommendation for artificial management considerations such as fertility controls to control populations for which the complex population dynamics are currently unknown.
This National Academy of Science [NAS] report reviews the science that underpins the Bureau of Land Management’s oversight of free-ranging horses and burros on federal public lands in the western United States and the report goes on to say, “The Wild Horse and Burro Program has not used scientifically rigorous methods to estimate the population sizes of horses and burros, to model the effects of management actions on the animals, or to assess the availability and use of forage on rangelands.”
The NAS report continues:
– Management of free-ranging horses and burros is not based on rigorous population-monitoring procedures. At the time of the committee’s review, most Herd Management Areas did not use inventory methods or statistical tools common to modern wildlife management. Survey methods used to count animals were often inconsistent and poorly documented and did not quantify the uncertainty attached to counts.
– On the basis of information provided to the committee, the statistics on the national population size cannot be considered scientifically rigorous. The links between BLM’s estimates of the national population size and its actual population surveys – the data that underlie these estimates – are obscure. The procedures used to develop population estimates for the Herd Management Areas from counts of animals are not standardized and frequently not documented.
The NAS institute said the report lent credence to accusations that the bureau [BLM] has been ignoring science and grossly mismanaging the wild equines, and that it pursued policies that favored corporate livestock grazing interests over the interests of the wild horses and burros. That, it said, was in direct contradiction to the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.
National Academy of Science (NAS) report and recommendations.
The USFS and BLM, per NEPA law, are required to examine a full range of alternatives in the analysis documented in an EA/EIS. Reasonable alternatives are defined as those that are economically and technically feasible, and that show evidence of common sense. I require the BLM and USFS to consider reasonable alternatives, including:
- A very careful consideration and proof of reasoning when evaluating an AML to meet the needs of the Murderer’s Creek wild horses. The Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) ruled that the term “appropriate management level” is “synonymous with restoring the range to a thriving natural ecological balance and protecting the range from deterioration.” The IBLA concluded that “section 3(b) of the Act does not authorize the removal of wild horses in order to achieve an AML which has been established for administrative reasons, rather than in terms of the optimum number which results in a thriving natural ecological balance and avoids a deterioration of the range.”
- Proof and examples of the usage and methods to determine usage of wild horses versus livestock usage. Per the unanimously passed United States 1971 Congressional Wild Horse and Burro Act, the land is to be “devoted principally although not exclusively to the wild horses and wild burros’ welfare in keeping with the multiple-use management concept of public lands.” The HMAP must be consistent with the USFS and BLM’s responsibilities under the Wild Horse and Burro Act, ensuring that the Murderer’s Creek wild horses are considered as “an integral part of the natural system of public lands” and prioritizing wild horses, not private/corporate non-native sheep and cattle, on this herd management/territory area. In addition, grazing of livestock on public lands is not a right – it is a privilege whereas grazing of wild horses and burros on public land herd areas is legally designated by Congress. The examples and proof that is required must include all livestock fencing and cross-fencing.
Livestock and livestock fencing jeopardize the health and wellness of the congressionally designated wild horses on their legal lands. It is the law whether the USFS and BLM or livestock stakeholders like it or not – America was built and has survived almost two hundred and fifty years because we made laws and learned to follow these laws and our ancestors fought and died for American citizens to be able to have the LAWS of the United States. To ignore the laws of the United States of America is treasonous.
This statement and the USFS and BLM’s interpretation of this federal law and examples of their treatment of this law on the Murderer’s Creek wild horse area must be included in the upcoming EA/EIS:
The EA/EIS must examine and include analysis of rangeland expansion/improvements to ensure adequate forage and water resources available for a viable herd. “Proper management plans “require a strong information base,” including data on the “(a) biological potential for the area; (b) numbers and combinations of herbivorous animals that can be safety carried on the area; (c) kinds and amounts of forage and habitat required by the animals; (d) effects of herbivores on vegetation and each other; (e) effects on soil and hydrology; and (f) an understanding of the economic and social values associated with the area.” (NAS 1982)
In addition, the forthcoming EA/EIS must include:
- All historical, current and future ten-year range monitoring and plans.
- All PZP darting records for the past ten years including darted mares that subsequently had a live birth foal and all darted mares that have died including basic statistics on those (age at death and reason for death) and all proposed PZP (or any other method of herd population control – including sterilization and castration) plans for the next ten-year plan.
- An updated and scientifically supported and defensible census of all on the range wild equine that includes all horses born and died in the past ten years and age at death and cause of death.
- An updated and scientifically supported and defensible census of all off the range (previously removed) Murderer’s Creek wild equine that includes all horses born and died in captivity since the recent ten years of capture/removals and age at death and cause of death.
- Any and all possible alternatives to any removals or contraceptives or any form of population control (including sterilization and castration).
- A no action alternative – with detailed scientific review of this alternative – both pro and con.
- A discussion and a map regarding all fencing, gates and cattle guards within and bordering the Murderer’s Creek HMA/Territory and reason for fencing.
- A scientific discussion regarding how fencing and cattle guards and gates influence the wild horses from accessing any water sources and forage sources and how it effects wild equine genetic variability.
- The HMAP proposal EA/EIS must include a section discussing those alternatives that were considered but rejected with a detailed explanation of the reasons for their elimination and not just respond “outside the scope”. Nothing is “outside the scope” if it affects the wild equine that are congressionally designated on these lands and the NEPA law requires that all relevant scientific information be provided to the American public and that that information be taken a “hard look” at by the decision makers and not swept under the rug.
POPULATION AND APPROPRIATE MANAGEMENT LEVEL (AML)
The proposed appropriate management level for the Murderer’s Creek herd is between 50-140. https://www.fs.fed.us/wild-horse-burro/territories/MurderersCreek.shtml
The Murderer’s Creek Wild Horse Territory is located southwest of John Day, Oregon, and includes 73,609 acres of Forest Service land, 34,879 acres of Bureau of Land Management land, 23,773 acres of private land, and 10,479 of state land.
As the district court explained in Dahl v. Clark, the test as to appropriate wild horse 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 or USFS required to maintain any specific numbers of animals or to maintain populations in the numbers of animals existing at any particular time. The only law that requires the BLM to maintain populations is the 1971 Congressional law. The law must be followed and the law states, “that wild free-roaming wild horses [and burros] are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural ecosystem of the public lands”. Thus, an AML established purely for BLM or USFS administrative reasons because it was the level of the wild horse and/or burro use at a particular point in time or imagined to be an advantageous population for the USFS or BLM cannot be justified under statute.
Do not try to tell the public and me that the subject of the appropriate management level set by the USFS and BLM for this herd is “outside the scope” because nothing could be further from the truth – as a matter of fact, it is the major scope of the issue. The NEPA law requires that all relevant scientific information be provided to the American public and that that information be taken a “hard look” at by the decision makers. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that to ensure that environmental assessment statements reflect a careful consideration of the available science, and that areas of disagreement or uncertainty are flagged rather than being swept under the carpet.
The Wild Horse and Burros AML now used for the Murderer’s Creek Herd Area/Territory must be unbiasedly evaluated and raised to accommodate the current and future populations that are congressionally designated to live on that land and the suggestion to raise the AML is within the scope of this upcoming EA/EIS document. Reviewing and raising the AML is entirely relevant to this proposal and must be reviewed by the decision makers and made a part of the administrative record and this be provided to the public in the EA. The law states, and it is within the USFS and BLM’s ability to increase the wild horse AML on the Murderer’s Creek Herd Area by reassessing and amending plans under BLM’s Adaptive Management Policy (established by Interior Secretary Order N0. 3270, March 9, 2007); which states: “establishing the agency policy to incorporate Adaptive Management into management programs [including] to reassess and increase Appropriate Management Levels (AML) for wild horses.”
Using BLM’s own published maximum “240 acres per horse” per year (half of this usage per burro) statement the wild horses’ legally designated Murderer’s Creek legally designated land could today accommodate at least 422 wild horses. In addition, most ranchers factor only 125 acres per ~1000-pound bovine per year in a high desert environment. If we thereby use the 125 acres of high desert ecosystem per ~1000-pound animal on the Murderer’s Creek herd area, the actual number of wild horses that could be supported would be well over 811 wild horses. This is figured using simple mathematics and common sense.
Although I am not suggesting that 811 wild horses should be considered as the Appropriate Management Level (AML) for this herd, by law the USFS and BLM can and should “close appropriate areas of public lands to grazing use by all domestic livestock, if necessary, to provide habitat for wild horses; to implement herd management actions; or to protect wild horses or burros from disease, harassment, or injury”. 43 C.F.R. § 4710.5. It is the United States federal law.
Designated wild horse (and burro) herd area ranges are to be devoted principally to the protection and preservation of wild horses (or burros). This means that other uses may be constrained to the extent necessary to provide fully for the wild horses’ (and wild burros’) welfare. This obviously will require reductions or closure to livestock grazing regardless of the political influence or threats or bullying by the grazing permit holders or others with a financial interest in the legal wild horse and burro land. The definition “range” means the amount of land necessary to sustain an existing herd or herds of wild free-roaming horses and burros, which does not exceed their known territorial limits [in 1971].
An EA/EIS must consider alternatives that would mitigate any need to remove any of the wild horses both temporarily or permanently and must provide the following specific data and a complete analysis of accommodation of the present wild horse without removals; pursuant to CFR 43 C.F.R. 4710.5(a)
An EA/EIS must include a complete and detailed breakdown of range monitoring data for the past ten years, including data distinguishing wild horses from wildlife and livestock impacts; all of which must be provided to the American public. Without this the EIS/EA and any subsequent action will be in violation of the NEPA requirements and thus illegal. Keep in mind that to ignore or falsify this data is a violation of Title 18. Title 18 (18 U.S.C. § 1001). Making false statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001) is the common name for the United States federal crime laid out in Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which generally prohibits knowingly and willfully making false or fraudulent statements, or concealing information, in “any matter within the jurisdiction” of the federal government of the United States, even by mere denial 18 U.S. Code § 1519 – Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations Current through Pub. L. 114-38. (See Public Laws for the current Congress.) US Code Per the US Department of Justice, the purpose of Section 1001 is “to protect the authorized functions of governmental departments and agencies from the perversion which might result from” concealment of material facts and from false material representations.
An EA/EIS must include the research and monitoring data and the scientific methods used to differentiate between wild horses versus wildlife versus livestock. This monitoring research and its subsequent report data and summary must include all information on all methods used by the USFS and BLM to determine and differentiate between wild horse usage and wildlife usage and livestock usage of forage and water usage in at least the past ten years. Details:
- Water usage designation
- Foraging wildlife
- Wild horses
- Domestic livestock
- Forage usage designation (AUMs)
- Foraging wildlife including
- Wild horses
- Domestic livestock
- Water and land usage designation for other current or likely “multiple uses” including but not limited to:
- Wind turbine
- Oil and Gas
- Sold/leased to outside communities or individuals or companies (not used within the HMA/HA/Territory)
I require that the following alternatives be impartially analyzed in the upcoming EA/EIS:
The reduction or termination of livestock grazing for the next ten years instead of reduction of wild horse numbers in the Murderer’s Creek herd area. Presently tens of hundreds, if not thousands of domestic livestock are permitted to graze the public lands portions of the Murderer’s Creek wild horse legally designated lands while fewer than only 50-140 wild horses are proposed to be authorized. Wild horses and burros are legally DESIGNATED on the Herd Management Area (HMA) and livestock are only PERMITTED. Definition of the word “designated” is to “set aside for” or “assign” or “authorize”. Definition of “permit” is to “allow” or “let” or “tolerate”. The wild horse (and wild burro) lands and resources are set aside for, and assigned and authorized for, the use of wild horses (and burros) whereas the livestock is only allowed and tolerated and let to use the public range resources. While commercial livestock grazing is permitted on public lands, it is not a requirement under the agency’s multiple use mandate as outlined in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA). Public land grazing clearly is a privilege not a right, while the BLM and USFS are mandated by law to protect wild horses and burros. Therefore, I require a complete, valid and scientific assessment including the explanation of the methods used for the assessment, of the past and current animal unit months (AUMs) for the Murderer’s Creek herd management/territory lands including allotments for livestock, wild horses and other wildlife be evaluated and presented to the public for review.
I require the EA/EIS to include the alternative of legal reduction of private/corporate domestic livestock grazing in the HMA, pursuant to 3 C.F.R. 4710.3-2 and 43 C.F.R. 4710.5(a), in order to accommodate the current wild horse population level. The USFS and BLM’s authority to reduce livestock grazing pursuant to 43 C.F.R. 4710.5 in order “to provide habitat for wild horses or burros.” There are no restrictions on usage of this authority as it is fully available to the USFS and BLM as an option within the EA/EIS versus the policy of continuing the cycle of perpetual roundups and removals procedures.
I require the EA/EIS provide all livestock use information and all livestock monitoring information for all allotments for the past forty-seven years [since the 1971 ACT became law].
All genetic sampling data and analysis of the horses in the HMA/Territory done within the past twenty years and if no research was done then the reasoning behind that decision including BLM/USFS’s presumption that there was not a need for such research.
Required in the EA/EIS: The environmental impacts of any proposal to make or re-affirm private/corporate domestic non-native livestock grazing as the predominant use in the Murderer’s Creek wild horse legal herd area/territory including all details of research studies and methods of research of these studies.
Required in the EA/EIS: The recreational use impacts due to lost opportunities for wild horse viewing, independent research and photography, and human need for solitude and meditation; all of which are popular public activities in this Murderer’s Creek area, including all details of research studies and methods of research of these studies.
Required in the EA/EIS: The economic impacts of the proposed action, including lost revenues, costs for roundup and lifetime holding of horses vs. the economic benefits to American taxpayers of reducing or eliminating taxpayer subsidized livestock grazing in this area including all details of research studies and methods of research of these studies.
I require the forthcoming EA/EIS to provide to the public information of any and all livestock grazing allotments including but not limited to the allotment name, number of acres, number of AUMs, number of livestock number and type (cattle/sheep/other) and grazing dates as well as a map of the grazing allotments in the USFS portion of Murderer’s Creek wild horse area.
THRIVING ECOLOGICAL BALANCE
I require the EA/EIS to provide to the public scientifically supportable and defensible research, reports and methods the BLM and USFS used to obtain the data for the following:
*Acres allocated per Animal Unit Month
*Current and historical grazing allocations for livestock
*Temporary or extended grazing permits issued in the last 10 years
*Total available water sources in the area
*How many water sources have been fenced and why
*Miles of fencing in the area and purpose of this fencing
*Total big game species populations in the area, including how many BLM and USFS plan to manage for if those species are not currently at their maximum population targets and most important:
*How the BLM and USFS distinguishes wild horse use from other rangeland users.
Categories: Wild Horses/Mustangs