Groups Rally for Public Lands, Protest Modesto ‘Range Rights’ Conference Featuring Ammon Bundy

Press Release from the Center for Biological Diversity

“Ammon Bundy and his fanatical followers are on a road show to incite division and hatred for our public lands…”

MODESTO, Calif.— Anti-government militant Ammon Bundy and other proponents of seizing federal public land from public ownership are scheduled to speak Saturday at Modesto Junior College as part of the annual Range Rights Symposium. Local residents will join members of the Center for Biological Diversity to rally for public lands during the event.

“Ammon Bundy and his fanatical followers are on a road show to incite division and hatred for our public lands,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bundys are trying to grow a menacing fringe group that wraps itself in flags and cowboy hats to fool people into believing deranged and dangerous conspiracy theories. They’ve shown they’re willing to use force and intimidation to take what doesn’t belong to them.”

What: Rally outside Range Rights Symposium

When: 3 p.m., Saturday, April 21

Where: In front of the Ag Pavilion, Modesto Junior College — West Campus, Modesto, Calif.

Background
In 1998 and again in 2013, courts ruled that hundreds of the Bundy family’s livestock had been illegally roaming 750,000 acres of sensitive public land near the Nevada-Arizona line. The courts ordered that the cows be removed.

But when federal authorities attempted to remove the cows in 2014, the Bundys organized a dangerous armed standoff and intimidated the government into halting the operation.

Today much of the land the Bundy’s cows continue to occupy is protected as Gold Butte National Monument. Cliven Bundy, the patriarch of the family, owes more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees and fines, according to federal officials.

In January a federal judge in Nevada dismissed all charges against him and his sons related to the 2014 Bunkerville standoff.

In 2016 Ammon Bundy led an armed takeover and occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, which did significant damage to the refuge and divided the local community. Ammon Bundy and six co-defendants were acquitted by a jury in October 2016.

The Bundys and their followers have been emboldened by these recent court victories. They’re making appearances throughout the West to foment anti-public-lands sentiment and spread misinformation in an attempt to wrest control of public lands from the American people. The animals, plants and communities that rely on and cherish public lands are threatened if the Bundys’ radical ideology spreads.

Contacts: Ryan Beam, (928) 853-9929, rbeam@biologicaldiversity.org
Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449, pdonnelly@biologicaldiversity.org

Wild Horse Hater Ryan “Dinkie” Zinke refers to himself as a geologist: That’s a job he’s never held

BLM’s Beatys Butte “Model” Program: The Devil is in the Details

A special feature article on Straight from the Horse’s Heart:

(Photo:  BLM)

Beatys Butte is a Herd Management Area (HMA) of wild horses in SE Oregon.  With 437,000 acres, the AML, the appropriate management level of allowed wild horses on that acreage, is set at 100-250.  The program was designed as a closed loop system.  Horses on the range were to be bait trapped yearly.  Some would be given fertility inhibitors to manage population growth and some, 20 colts and fillies, would be brought in to resupply the training center in Adel, Oregon, for training and adoption.  The program was designed by ranchers, elected officials, fish and wildlife agencies, the BLM, and “advocates.”  The initial cost was $425,719 for the gather, training and adoption program over a 5 year period.  It appears money also came from the sage grouse program.  The concept of the program appears to be good, but is the execution acceptable?

This program is poised as a “MODEL” but is it a “MODEL?”

  • In November, 2015, 1070 Beatys Butte wild horses, out of about 1400 or 1500 wild horses on this Herd Management Area, were gathered and removed from the range.  Nobody talks about them today.  Nobody talks about the fact that they were to be used to do different sterility experiments on the mares until the BLM was stopped.  Nobody talks about the fact that some were sent to feedlots.  Nobody talks about the fact that some were sold to Dave Duquette of the pro-horse slaughter group Protect the Harvest (and a couple of other people), only to be spayed (likely by Oregon veterinarian Leon Pilstick) and sent to Futurity Contests to be used for reigning, when their bones hadn’t yet fused.  Nobody talks about the callous, abusive handling of these wild horses.  After all, this is a “MODEL” program.
  • The AML was set at 100-250 with the idea the BLM would put only 100, the lower AML, on the 437,000 acre range spouting “a thriving, natural ecological balance.”  Dr. Gus Cothran, the equine geneticist hired by the BLM, laughingly says there should be a “minimum” of 150 to 200 in a herd with 150 effective breeding age animals to have a slow genetic decline.  In other words, there should be many more wild horses if the herds are to be healthy.  With only 100 wild horses, they are not thriving.  With only 100 wild horses, they are far outnumbered by the 4000 plus livestock grazing on Beatys Butte.  A “MODEL” program?
  • The BLM wants to gather the remaining 200 wild horses on the range, even though they are not over AML.  Is this even legal?  A “MODEL” program?
  • Then the BLM wants to select 60 stallions in the Burns Corrals to put back on the range and 40 mares.  In other words, it wants to also skew the sex ratio, even though Paul Griffin, the lead researcher for the BLM, says sex ratio skewing is now believed to be detrimental to the herd’s social behavior and dynamics.  The Oregon BLM maintains this 60-40 sex ratio does not affect the growth of the herd, as opposed to the 50-50 ratio, so even why do it?  A “MODEL” program?
  • In addition to the sex ratio skewing, the BLM wants to give fertility inhibitors and fertility boosters to the 40 mares now confined in Burns for two years before they are returned to the range.  Then BLM figures it will bait trap 30% of the horses per year and dart them again.  Dr. Kirkpatrick would likely roll over in his grave if he knew the PZP program he developed was being administered in this way.  The BLM allowing only 100 wild horses not only compromises the continuance of the herd, but the sex ratio skewing and the application of the PZP further compromises the continuance of the herd.  This is setting up the herd for collapse.  The BLM isn’t worried.  They say they will just bring in horses from other herds to bolster the genetics of the herd.  So much for the closed loop idea of the Beatys Butte program.  The 1971 Law said the horses were supposed to be “where found.”  A “MODEL” program?
  • At the first Beatys Butte Mustang Adoption Event, the message booming over the PA System to the audience was “This year we have 10 Beatys Butte horses for adoption.  Next year we will have 20.”  First of all, the 10 for this year were not from the Beatys Butte range. Eight 2 year olds were likely born in captivity at the Burn’s Corral.  Then next year, it is unlikely that 20 will be from the Beatys Butte range, because of the 40 PZPed mares.  You’ll be lucky if you have one.  Not to worry, the BLM will bring in colts and fillies from other HMAs and call them Beatys Butte horses.  Again, so much for the closed loop.  A “MODEL” program?
  • With 60 stallions and 40 mares (Beatys Butte horses) from the Burns Corrals and with infusing horses from other herds into this herd, it seems a selective human based breeding program is being promoted and developed.  This is not a wild horse program.  A “MODEL” program?
  • The training and adoption event this past Saturday, April 14th, brought into question the practices of these aspects of the “MODEL” program.  Two 4 and 5 year olds were featured and eight 2 year olds.  The 2 year olds came to the facility last September at the age of 1.  In the brochure given, the public was told all the horses have been ridden in the mountains in the snow, mud, trees and rocks.  The public was also told these horses had been used in gathering, sorting and and trailing cattle in rough terrain.  Bumpy, at about 1 or 2 years old, is seen pulling a cart with a 200 to 250 pound man behind him.  Horse veterinarians will tell you that horses should not be ridden beyond a walk until they are 3 years old, and not ridden at a trot or gallop until they are 5 years old, because their bones are not fused.  Riding too early can create lameness problems when they are older.  A “MODEL” program?
  • The public is told the program is supported by ranchers, advocates, and government officials.  Yet no advocates are seen on the Board.  What is the cost for such a facility just to train 10 or 20 horses a year?  With only an adoption event one time a year, this does not seem cost effective. Should the other 162 HMAs across the West have this type of facility as well?  Should more wild horses be removed from other HMAs yearly to train just 20 horses for this adoption event?  A “MODEL” program?                                                                                                                                                                                  While the concept of a rangeland management, training, and adoption program might seem to be a good idea, this is not rangeland management and the details of this program are anything but ideal.  In fact, the details are egregious and do not benefit America’s wild horses on or off the range.  And, this “model” program does not benefit the American taxpayer.

Contact Rob Sharpe or James Price of the Oregon Wild Horse and Burro Program for more information or to address your grievances.

An interesting fact:  In 2009, the BLM conducted a gather and removal of Beatys Butte wild horses, leaving a reported 102 wild horses on the HMA.  With a 20% growth rate, 354 horses would have been on the HMA in 2015-2016.  Yet the BLM reported 1400 wild horses were there.

 

 

 

 

Mesa Verde National park prefers removal of ‘trespass horses’

Source:  the-journal.com

About 80 horses live off the land at Mesa Verde National Park (photo: The Journal file)

Mesa Verde National park prefers removal of ‘trespass horses’

Proposal includes five-year capture plan and a last resort

By Jim Mimiaga Journal Staff Writer

Mesa Verde National Park is seeking public comment on a plan to remove free-roaming horses and cattle from the park’s interior.

Currently, about 80 “trespass horses” and 12 feral cattle roam the backcountry of Mesa Verde, which is known for its Ancestral Puebloan ruins. The animals are not considered wildlife, and the park does not allow livestock grazing under its management policy.

On Friday, a Livestock Removal Environmental Assessment was released for a 30-day public comment period on the issue. The park’s preferred Alternative B includes a phased, proactive approach to remove all livestock within five years, and improve the park’s boundary fencing over the next 10 years to prevent livestock from re-entering the park.

“We are working on how to humanely remove livestock from the park and identify potential homes for captured, unclaimed livestock,” said Mesa Verde National Park Superintendent Cliff Spencer. The primary capture methods identified in the preferred alternative include baited pen trapping and horseback roundups.

The National Park Service will coordinate with the Colorado Brand Inspection Division and local brand inspectors to identify possible owners of the trespass livestock, and will follow the most humane methods as defined by the American Veterinarian Medical Association, the park said.

Read the rest of this article HERE.

HOW TO COMMENT:

The 30-day public comment period for the draft Livestock Removal Environmental Assessment opened on Friday, April 13. Comments are requested by Sunday, May 13.
The public comment site is available online at bit.ly/2JL0CFK
A printed copy will be available for review at the Mesa Verde

Craig Downer’s 2017 report on 5 wild horse herds and Herd Management Areas in Oregon

Source:  The Wild Horse Conspiracy

Kiger Mustang HMA, Oregon 10/2017.  Photo copyright Craig C. Downer 2017

Craig C. Downer, wildlife ecologist, has issued a report, including research by Marybeth Devlin, on 5 wild horse herds and Herd Management Areas in Oregon.

These include the South Steens HMA, Kiger Mustang HMA, and Three Fingers Wild Horse HMA in southeastern Oregon, the Paisley Desert HMA in south-central Oregon (managed by the BLM) and the Big Summit HMA (managed by the Forest Service) in the Ochoco National Forest.
You can read the report HERE.

Congress demands wild horse and burro plan from BLM

By Charlie Booher as published on Wildlife.org

“The status quo still isn’t working for our wild horses and burros, the ecology on the range, or the American taxpayers”

BLM attacking wild horses – photo by Carol Walker

When Congress passed the omnibus appropriations bill last month, legislators included a mandate for the Bureau of Land Management to provide a new wild horse and burro management plan. The mandate was joined by a $5.55 million cut to the program.

The statements accompanying the appropriations bill for 2019 said the House and Senate committees that oversee the Interior Department, including the BLM, were “extremely disappointed” in the agency’s failure to produce a comprehensive plan that was originally requested in the FY17 spending package. Legislators said they wanted a plan “to address the fast-rising costs of the Wild Horse and Burro program and overpopulation of wild horses and burros on the range,” and asserted that continued “failure to address these problems is irresponsible and will result in irreparable damage to the landscape and the welfare of the animals protected by the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act” of 1971.

Congress requested a plan from the BLM that:

  1. reduces the complexity and cost of contracting policies and procedures;
  2. eliminates unnecessary environmental reviews;
  3. simplifies and expands the use of partnerships and cooperative agreements;
  4. identifies statutory and regulatory barriers to implementing the plan; and
  5. has the goal of reducing costs while improving the health and welfare of wild horses and burros, and the range.

The statement directs the BLM to provide the plan within 30 days of enactment of the act, but it is still unclear if the deadline will be met. Until the BLM provides a comprehensive plan and corresponding legislative proposals, legislators said the appropriations committees will “maintain the existing prohibitions and reduce the resources available for the program.”

The BLM is working on the “final stages of developing a plan to Congress” describing “several management options aimed at putting the Wild Horse and Burro Program back on a sustainable and fiscally responsible track,” Amber Cargile, BLM’s acting national spokeswoman, told E&E News.

This strong statement expresses Congress’ continued frustration with the growth of wild horse and burro populations, the cost of sustaining current management practices and the political challenges facing the program. The administration’s recent budget proposals have also expressed a need for policy and management changes.

The House Appropriations Committee made changes to wild horse and burro management in its FY18 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill in an attempt to improve the program’s outcomes, but this bill never made it to the Senate.\

“The status quo still isn’t working for our wild horses and burros, the ecology on the range, or the American taxpayers” Rep. Ken Calvert, R-California, chairman of the House appropriations subpanel on interior department spending told the Associated Press.

As of March 2017, the BLM estimated more than 73,000 wild horses and burros existed across 27 million acres of federal herd management areas in 10 western states. More than 45,000 additional horses and burros are held in off-range corrals and pastures. This is 90,000 more animals than the agency’s established population objective, known as the Appropriate Management Level, of less than 27,000. AML is set in land use management plans based on the health of the rangelands, and in balance with other uses on the range including wildlife and livestock grazing. When populations exceed this level, the ecologically feral species negatively impact the rangelands.

In 2016, The Wildlife Society testified at a House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing, expressing the need for more active management of wild horse and burro populations. The National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board has also expressed frustrations with the program and made strong recommendations to change the current management paradigm at its previous meetings.

http://wildlife.org/congress-demands-wild-horse-and-burro-plan-from-blm/

US Court Overturns Round-Up of Wild Horses in Oregon

as published on USNews.com

A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management violated environmental law by conducting an emergency round-up of wild horses in eastern Oregon because the agency did not fully consider the impact of its actions.

Steens HMA wild horse family ~ photo by R.T. Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management violated environmental law by rounding up wild horses in eastern Oregon without fully considering the impact of its actions, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon’s ruling could mean that some of the horses will be returned to the Three Fingers Management Area in Malheur County, the Capital Press reported. The judge is expected to rule separately on what to do in light of the violation.

The nonprofit group Friends of Animals sued after the BLM gathered up the horses following a 2016 wildfire that made water and forage scarce. The agency had planned to gather up 50 horses before the blaze, but instead decided to do an “emergency gather” of 150 horses because the fire had burned up so much available grassland and made water scarce.

Friends of Animals alleged the emergency action “went far beyond what was necessary to control the immediate impacts” of the fire without a proper review under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

Instead of permanently removing the horses, BLM could have relocated the horses, used fencing to keep them out of fire-damaged areas or provided extra water sources, the group argued.

The BLM should have conducted a new analysis of the environmental impact after the fire and not relied on its earlier analysis, Simon said.

Lucinda Bach, attorney for the government in this case, said she couldn’t comment on the ruling.

Capital Press was unable to reach an attorney from Friends of Animals for comment.

Louisiana’s Wild and Free Roaming Horses

“The remarkable beauty of one of Louisiana’s best kept secrets is threatened”

Local reporter, Rickie Smith, from The Leesville Leader, has published an article about the unique herds of wild horses seen on Peason Ridge. The article, Wild Horses Embedded in Peason History   highlights the uniqueness of the this area and its wildlife, especially the wild horses who have thrived here for over a century. Please take a moment to read and share the article, as well as show your appreciation to Mr. Smith for getting the word out about the unique herds of culturally significant wild horses in Louisiana.

Recap on the Peason Ridge Heritage Tour:

The Peason Ridge Annual Tour, held on March 30th, 2018 was truly amazing. Mr. Rickey Roberson, our tour guide and local historian, shared his extensive knowledge about an area in west central Louisiana, known as Peason Ridge. The Ridge is situated between the Sabine River and the Red River, called the Neutral Zone where Native Americans and settlers traded during precolonial times.  We learned the locations of each homestead and what crops they grew. Some of the fruit trees still thrive to this day. We learned where each fresh water spring is located, as well as locations of natural salt licks! These natural resources are still providing key nutrients to the wildlife in the area; such as, the unique herds of gaited wild horses, wild turkeys, bobcats, wild hogs, cougars, black bears and the red-cockaded woodpecker which is classified as endangered, just to name a few.

Wild horses and cattle were driven right across vast un-fenced area of what is now Sabine Parish to the livestock markets in Natchitoches in the 1800’s. (Sabine Parish is only 14 miles from Texas border). Saddle horses and wild horses were documented as being sold in 1800’s estate sale records in the Kisatchie region, where Native Americans traded horses before and into the turn of the century.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was when Mr. Robertson explained to all in attendance that the wild and free roaming horses are the last standing reminders of our ancestors in this vast Louisiana landscape know as Peason Ridge.

Brigadier General Patrick D. Frank,  new JRTC Commanding General, kicked off the tour with a speech thanking the Heritage Family members for their sacrifice of loosing their land, which was taken by the Military via imminent domain in 1942, forcing homesteaders to leave.

The tour was escorted by a US Army Captain Jason James. In his opening statement Capt James mentioned how the US Army cares about the environment and preservation of it, as well as the preservation of the old homesteads and artifact areas (most of which are marked with orange stakes). Capt. James even specifically said how they “take care and protect the Red-cockaded Woodpeckeras well as the Horses”.

All in attendance loaded onto an Army bus and spent four hours touring the area. There is so much land to cover and the horses seem so small on this vast Louisiana landscape, its truly breathtaking! The next tour of Peason Ridge is scheduled for October 2018.

In addition to the footage from Peason Ridge, I received several photos from the Drop Zone area of Fort Polk. The video above shows the two distinct areas of concern, which are approx 30 miles apart.

  1. Peason Ridge
  2. Main Base / Drop Zone.

The video is rather long but there are so many wonderful pictures that needed to be shared for everyone to see the remarkable beauty of one of Louisiana’s best kept secrets.

The majority of the public is against these wild, free roaming horses being systemically removed from these wildlife areas, where they and their progeny have coexisted in this rich environment for a century . The locals, as well as all who have come to know and appreciate them, view the wild horses as a unique reminder of days gone by in this historic region of precolonial Louisiana.

It is vital that the public CONTINUE to engage decision makers.

Make your voice heard TODAY.

Please take a moment to contact federal and state officials asking them to protect Louisiana’s wild and free roaming horses!

Take action by ALDF
http://aldf.org/blog/take-action-protect-louisianas-wild-horses/

Mike Strain
(225) 771-8942
info@mikestrain.org
commissioner@ldaf.state.la.us
File a Complaint: 225-922-1234
Buying/Selling/Transport without certificate
Livestock: 800-558-9741

Bill Cassidy
(202) 224-5824
http://www.cassidy.senate.gov
https://twitter.com/BillCassidy
https://www.facebook.com/billcassidy

John Kennedy
(318) 445-2892
(337) 436-6255
(202) 224-4623
https://www.kennedy.senate.gov/public/email-me
https://www.kennedy.senate.gov/public/

John Bel Edwards
(844) 860-1413
(866) 366-1121
govpress@la.gov
https://www.facebook.com/LouisianaGov/
https://twitter.com/LouisianaGov

Jeff Landry
(225) 326-6079
(225) 326-6200
ConstituentServices@ag.louisiana.gov 
https://www.facebook.com/LandryforLA/

Billy Nungesser, Lieutenant Governor
ltgov@crt.la.gov
(225) 342-7009
(504) 433-1200

Go to @fortpolkhorsesPEGA for more info or http://www.pegasusequine.org

Is the Government Destroying the American West Ecosystem by Favoring Cattle Over Wild Horses?

by as published on OneGreenPlanet.org

“Wild horses play a crucial role in keeping the ecosystem of the west balanced…”

Welfare Cattle herded into Antelope Complex as wild horses are being rounded up ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation


Imagine walking through a trail alongside the golden grasses of an open prairie in the Western United States when all of the sudden you are stopped frozen by the sound of a thunderous noise of hooves approaching from a distance. As you listen closely, you hear whinnying and soon, the herd is within your sight. With their power, grace, and majesty, horses can aesthetically make any landscape appear beautiful.

But horses also have a much greater purpose, as they help to physically maintain and benefit the health of prairie ecosystems. Millions of horses once roamed free in the Wild West. Unfortunately, by the time the first federal wild free-roaming horse protection law was enacted in 1959, the mustang population had already been drastically reduced. This law only prohibited hunting horses with the help of motor vehicles.

While the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is now the primary authority that manages wild horse populations. However, the BLM favors cattle interests over that of the wild horse which has lead to the steady decline of the wild horse population. Wild horses play a crucial role in keeping the ecosystem of the west balanced.

Managing Horse Populations to Benefit Cattle

In certain locations, natural horse predators, such as wolves, are now scarce and as a result, the BLM is “concerned” with regulating horse populations to avoid competition with land for domestic cattle. To manage the horses, the bureau issues roundups of wild horses to transfer them to a captive lifestyle. Their methods are often considered inhumane. For example, in 2014, the BLM poorly planned a roundup of approximately 800 horses from private and public lands. Ten died in the process, including four foals and the horses all experienced immense stress and discomfort (not to mention they lost one of the most valued ideals of America – freedom). Approximately 270,000 horses have been removed from U.S. land since 1971.

Furthermore, supply has exceeded demand for selling captured horses for an adoption fee of $125 and most horses end up at auction where they can be purchased for any use the buyer the wishes … sadly most of the time this means they are sold to slaughter for meat.

In order to validate their actions, the BLM has claimed that horses are overpopulating, while destroying critical habitat. Where is this evidence? Nobody knows … We do, however, have ecological evidence of how horses benefit their environment.

Horses Versus Cattle: Benefits of Horses for the Environment

While the BLM is concerned with avoiding grazing competition between wild horses and domestic cattle, there seems to be lack of attention toward addressing the impacts cattle are having on the environment. The ratio of cattle to wild horses on public lands is fifty to one. Wild horses are critical architects of the western ecosystem, so rather than wasting tax dollars funding roundups, if the BLM is really concerned with protecting public lands they should instead focus on protecting horses.

To illustrate the benefits of the presence of the wild horse, let’s look at comparison to how horses affect their ecosystem versus cattle.

1. Maintaining Grass 

While cattle do not have upper teeth and use their tongues to wrap around grass to pull it from the roots, horses only graze the tops of grass blades, allowing grasses to regrow in a healthier state.

2. Improving Soil Quality

Unlike cattle, horses are not ruminants and therefore, do not have four sections of their stomach. This means that their waste contains more nutrients. When horses defecate, they give back to the land through enhancing soil quality. Cattle operations often cause water pollution due to waste containing hormones, antibiotics, heavy metals, ammonia, and pathogens. Many animals depend on horse manure to help maintain soil moisture to prevent brush fires.

3. Use of Water Resources

While cattle enjoy chilling out by water sources, horses are respectful of their ecosystem. Instead of causing erosion and scaring away species diversity (like cattle do), horses tend to drink and move on, leaving minimal impact on stream habitats.

4. Grazing Habits

Since horses are travelers and cattle prefer to just hang out, horses do not exhaust grazing areas like cattle do. Horses are also picky about what they eat and avoid consuming pretty flowers, allowing wild flowers to survive. If a horse consumes seeds, they can still germinate after being passed and thus, horses act as important sources of dispersal for plant species.

5. Lending a Hand to Other Species

In cold climates, many animals will follow the path of horses in order to find access to food and water. The powerful hooves of a horse have the ability to break through ice, making streams once again potable for other animals. Furthermore, horses can make their way to grasses through deep snow, allowing other animals to also graze where horses have been.

Grazing cattle, on the other hand, pose a threat to 14 percent of endangered animal species and 33 percent of plant species as they encroach further into their territory.

Stop Roundups to Save Horses

Cattle are given priority over land because ranchers pay a tax to the BLM for every head of cattle they graze on public lands. The myth that the wild horse poses too much competition to cattle is a simple lie used to justify their systematic removal. It would not be far off to say that cows have become an invasive species in the West, leading to the downfall of keystone species who help to keep the native ecosystem healthy.

Criticism grows over Ryan “Dinky” Zinke’s pick to head wildlife service

“”Putting Combs in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Service is like appointing an arsonist as the town fire marshal,”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is appointing a top critic of endangered species protections the head of the agency charged with protecting the critters, while moving to remove protections from nearly 300 animals.

Susan Combs was supposed to serve as Zinke’s undersecretary for policy, but because of holdups in the Senate, he has chosen to appoint her as the acting head of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The decision was taken last month, but news outlets began pointing out her hostility toward the Endangered Species Act on Wednesday. The Washington Post cited a statement in which she likened an animal being placed on the endangered list to a “Scud missile” — the weapon of choice of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The Interior Department said Combs will serve as the acting assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife, until a deal can be reached to confirm her as the agency’s top policy official.

But that didn’t stop conservation groups and activists from pointing out Combs’ lack of compatibility with the goals of the Endangered Species Act.

“Putting Combs in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Service is like appointing an arsonist as the town fire marshal,” said Stephanie Kurose, an endangered species specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The group is suing the Trump administration for the harm posed to species by President Trump’s proposed border wall.

The group on Wednesday used the media attention gathering against Combs to underscore a proposed rule that it argues would remove protections from almost 300 species.

The proposed rule was sent to the Office of Management and Budget on Monday for preliminary review. The rule would remove the blanket application for the Endangered Species Act’s section 4(d) decisions, which are used by the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate a species as threatened. The 4(d) designation is typically one step away from listing a species as endangered under the law.

“The Trump administration just issued a death sentence to nearly 300 threatened species,” said Noah Greenwald, the conservation group’s endangered species director. “If enacted, this rule could be the end for iconic wildlife like the northern spotted owl and southern sea otter.”