America’s Wildlife Body Count

as published on/in The New York Times

“Wild Horses & Burros could be an addition to this most interesting, yet terrifying article as the BLM continues it’s quest to destroy all wild equines that roam free on their rightful range for the benefit of government subsidized ranching.  BLM and cattlemen are a match born in hell.!” ~ R.T.


“…it routinely kills predators and an astounding assortment of other animals — 3.2 million of them last year — because ranchers and farmers regard them as pests…”

Until recently, I had never had any dealings with Wildlife Services, a century-old agency of the United States Department of Agriculture with a reputation for strong-arm tactics and secrecy. It is beloved by many farmers and ranchers and hated in equal measure by conservationists, for the same basic reason: It routinely kills predators and an astounding assortment of other animals — 3.2 million of them last year — because ranchers and farmers regard them as pests.

To be clear, Wildlife Services is a separate entity, in a different federal agency, from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, whose main goal is wildlife conservation. Wildlife Services is interested in control — ostensibly, “to allow people and wildlife to coexist.”

My own mildly surreal acquaintance with its methods began as a result of a study, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, under the title “Predator Control Should Not Be a Shot in the Dark.” Adrian Treves of the University of Wisconsin and his co-authors set out to answer a seemingly simple question: Does the practice of predator control to protect our livestock actually work?

unwantedbirds

To find out, the researchers reviewed scientific studies of predator control regimens — some lethal, some not — over the past 40 years. The results were alarming. Of the roughly 100 studies surveyed, only two met the “gold standard” for scientific evidence. That is, they conducted randomized controlled trials and took precautions to avoid bias. Each found that nonlethal methods (like guard dogs, fences and warning flags) could be effective at deterring predators.

Seven other studies met a slightly lower scientific standard, but produced conflicting results or were inconclusive.

So why is this agency so focused on killing predators? While predators are far from the leading cause of death of livestock, they are the most visible. Killing as many of them as possible in turn can feel like a deeply gratifying solution, in a way that dealing with disease or bad weather never has been. We seem to kill predators out of mindless, even primordial antipathy, rather than for any good reason. It is how we managed by the mid-20th century to eradicate gray wolves almost completely from the lower 48 states.

According to the Treves review, one organization of wildlife managers published a number of flawed or biased studies on lethal control in its scholarly journals. Then, in 2004, it published an article debunking some of those flawed studies. Thereafter, though, the same journals continued to cite the flawed studies as if they were still valid. Authors, editors and peer reviewers alike were seemingly blinded by conventional wisdom that killing predators protects livestock.

unwantedmammals

I thought Wildlife Services might have a different perspective on the Treves study, and this is where things turned weird. Gail Keirn, a legislative and public affairs aide for Wildlife Services, declined to arrange an interview. The agency would accept written questions, she said, to be answered in writing, a useful formula for public relations, not journalism. I’ve had better luck getting access at the C.I.A.

Soon after, Dr. Treves held an online session to introduce his study. Two journalists joined the conversation. But so did four other people — Wildlife Services employees, who refused to identify themselves by name despite repeated requests by Dr. Treves. The conversation stumbled to an awkward close.

It was a creepy moment, but it was also wonderfully inept. Even if Ms. Keirn wouldn’t identify herself, her phone number, from which she had dialed into the session, was prominently displayed in a screen shot Dr. Treves sent me afterward. When I emailed to question Ms. Keirn about it, she protested, “I thought this was an open forum” and a good opportunity for Wildlife Services “to learn more.” Later, she sent me a written statement from a Wildlife Services official who ignored the Treves study while citing some of the same studies found to be flawed in that 2004 critique.

It was perfect as slapstick, but also a pity, because taxpayers who spent $127 million in 2014 for the agency’s wildlife damage management operations deserve transparency. Instead, the agency reveals little more than its annual body count, listing only the species, the number of dead and the method of killing. Last year, for instance, it killed 68,905 coyotes using calling devices, snares and traps, “M 44 cyanide capsule” and other poisoning devices, and guns, sometimes fired with the help of “night vision/infrared equipment,” and sometimes from helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft.

toolsofthecullBut why were different species killed, or where? Your guess is as good as mine — and not just about the predators but about the agency’s decision to kill 17 sandhill cranes last year, or 150 blue-winged teal ducks, or 4,927 cattle egrets. Before killing 708,487 red-winged blackbirds that year, did anyone weigh the damage they do to ripening corn and other crops against the benefit they provide by feeding on corn earworms and other harmful insects? Is the scientific support for killing 20,777 prairie dogs (on which the survival of species like the burrowing owl and the black-footed ferret depend), better than that for killing predators?

There is no way to verify the numbers Wildlife Services provides. The habit of secrecy is a pity because even critics of Wildlife Services acknowledge that killing is sometimes necessary. Feral swine (42,250 killed last year) are, for instance, a menace to agriculture and endangered species alike. Lethal control for livestock protection also “has to be on the table,” said Lisa Upson, executive director of the Montana conservation nonprofit group People and Carnivores. Ranchers will experiment with nonlethal methods first only if they have the option, as a last resort, of killing a specific individual predator that repeatedly attacks livestock. “A lot of ranchers have accepted that wolves are here to stay and have moved to saying let’s try some preventive things,” Ms. Upson said.

In Montana, Wildlife Services has recently begun to collaborate with Ms. Upson’s group and the Natural Resources Defense Council, both longtime critics, on nonlethal predator deterrence projects.

There is reason to hope for more substantial change. Last month, the Obama administration overrode objections by the State of Alaska and announced that 73 million acres of national wildlife refuges there are off limits to what Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, described as that state’s “withering attack on bears and wolves.” The next step ought to be a closer look at the federal government’s own predator control programs.

In their study, Dr. Treves and his co-authors urge the appointment of an independent panel to conduct a rigorous large-scale scientific experiment on predator control methods. They also recommended that the government put the burden of proof on the killers and suspend predator control programs that are not supported by good science. For Wildlife Services, after a century of unregulated slaughter of America’s native species, this could be the moment to set down the weapons, step out of the way, and let ranchers and scientists together figure out the best way for predators and livestock to coexist.

Wild Horse & Burro Advocate Hits Back at Bogus BLM Numbers and Bad Math

“In response to a recent Elko Daily Free Press article, which was biased and riddled with BLM BS and propaganda, a wild horse & burro advocate comments in an attempt to set the record straight.  Said comment is worthy of being repeated…many times over!” ~ R.T.


COMMENT:

BLM's war on America's wild horses and burros at Antelope Valley, 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BLM’s war on America’s wild horses and burros at Antelope Valley, 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“Fraudulent Growth Rates: Three herds were featured on the Advisory Board’s tour — Antelope Valley, Goshute, and Spruce Pequop. A review of BLM’s alleged growth figures for those herds showed biologically-implausible increases. From a combined total of 1,440 wild horses in 2013, BLM claimed the herds grew to 3,025 wild horses by 2016, a 110% increase. That would mean a 37% average growth rate, which is 740% times the norm. Moreover, if given a 37% growth rate, then to overcome foal mortality (50%) and adult mortality (5%), the average birth rate would have to have been 84% — which is 420% times the norm. The advisory board members unknowingly “drank the Kool Aid” — they swallowed BLM’s propaganda. Truth be told, the range they toured had been degraded by livestock, which outnumber those few wild horses by a ratio of 100 to 1.

Allotments Not Necessarily Rested: Just because allotments are listed as officially rested from livestock-grazing does not mean they actually are. BLM lets ranchers self-report whether they run cattle or not, and then bills them accordingly. So, if grazing permit-holders don’t report use, BLM doesn’t bill them, and declares the allotments to be in “voluntary non-use.” Conditions are egregious in Nevada, where permittees have defied BLM’s authority to rest allotments from grazing. Ranchers went ahead and put cattle out on the range anyway, despite the drought, and then tried to get the local BLM Field Manager fired. But instead of penalizing the scofflaws, BLM administrators pandered to them, waiving fines and allowing the illegal grazing to continue. Even when BLM tried to enforce the rules, politics blocked those efforts. For instance, a particularly-rebellious permittee openly grazed his cattle beyond the authorized season, running up nearly $30,000 in fines for repeated and ongoing willful trespass. But one of his US Senators asked BLM’s Director to reduce the charge to simple trespass — which he did — and to lower the fine — which he also did — to $6,000.

Wild horses are underpopulated: Per BLM’s own geneticist, 83% of wild-horse herds suffer from arbitrary management levels (AMLs) set below minimum-viable population. For instance, the AML for Oregon’s Beaty’s Butte herd restricts the stocking-density to 1 wild horse per 7 square miles. Imposing such a low density is absurd, but it is done for a purpose. Because by inflating the numbers to make it seem as if there are 2 wild horses per 7 square miles, then BLM can technically declare an “overpopulation” and cite the herd for being at “double the number” that the preposterous AML allows. Please note that, in contrast, BLM authorizes 119 cattle per 7 square miles. After eliminating 99% of the Beaty’s Butte herd, BLM replaced the wild horses with cattle to accommodate a rancher, who had secured a contract to supply grass-fed beef to an upscale grocery chain.

Wild burros are also underpopulated: Again, per BLM’s own geneticist, 90% of wild burro herds suffer from AMLs set below minimum-viable population. For instance, the AML for Arizona’s Black Mountain herd restricts the stocking-density to 1 burro per 4 square miles. The idea that 1 little burro would need 4 square miles of range is just silly, particularly because BLM authorizes 68 cattle per 4 square miles. But, as with the wild horses, by exaggerating the figures to make it seem as if there are 2 burros per 4 square miles, then BLM can call the herd “overpopulated” and point to their being at “twice the AML.”

Save Money, Save Lives: The Wild Horse and Burro Program, if run correctly — that is, per the minimum-feasible management-model specified by Law — would be cost-effective. BLM does not lack for resources. There are 22 million acres of legally-designated herd areas — which BLM previously took away for administrative convenience and political expediency. That land can and should be reopened as habitat. The wild horses and burros now held captive can then be released to those areas, where the cost of their upkeep will be $0.” ~ Mary Beth Delvin

Feel Good Sunday II: Fixing With Feed – How to Choose the Correct Feed for Your Horse

Submitted by Nancy Parker

When choosing feed for your horse, there are plenty of things you need to keep in mind, from the horse’s age and activity level to any health problems that are currently plaguing the animal. And that is why the Animal Health Company decided to come out with this brand new infographic that takes a close look at what is considered to be the ideal diet for most horses, sometop feeds that can help prevent diseases in horses, some common but essential rules of horse feeding, and of course, how to assess how much of feed your horse needs.” ~ Nancy


fixing_with_feed_2_

Feel Good Sunday: Band of Rebels ~ White Horses of Camargue

Video Provided By:  Drew Doggett as published on the Total Horse Channel

Click Image to View Video

Click Image to View Video

Presenting sweeping panoramas of the horses galloping through the Camargue marshlands of Southern France, this video explores the relationship of the guardian caretakers and the horses. Dating back to the 1500s, the guardian’s role is a time-honored tradition based on mutual, earned trust and respect enabled by their history living among these wild animals.  The original score is composed by Christopher Ward, a multi-platinum and Oscar and Grammy-winning producer, arranger, and composer.

10 Things You Should Know about Wild Horses & Burros AND the Bureau of Land Management

by Alicia Bayer as published on the Inquisitor

“Why stop at 10, there is so much, much more love to share about the BLM and their gross mismanagement of our wild horses and burros, so much more.!   We are not on board with 100% of what is written here but there are several poignant points worth noting.” ~ R.T.


“…the agency sold 1,794 wild horses for $10 each to a Colorado rancher who sent them to slaughter”

There has been a lot of frenzy about the news that the Bureau of Land Management’s advisory board voted to recommend euthanizing 45,000 wild horses. Rumors and contradictions have been flying since the announcement. Here are 10 things you should know about the issue.

1. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) itself did not vote to euthanize the horses. Its advisory board, the Bureau of Land Management’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, made the controversial decision. As the Inquisitr reported Wednesday, this board voted to recommend euthanizing the horses. At that time, the BLM had not commented on whether it would take their advice.

2. The BLM has now said that they will not euthanize the horses. WTTW reports that the bureau usually takes several months to respond to their advisory board’s recommendations, but they reacted quickly this time in response to the public uproar.

“The BLM will not euthanize or sell without limitation any healthy animals,” BLM spokesman Jason Lutterman told the press. “We’re going to continue caring for and seeking good homes for the un-adopted animals in our off-range corrals and pastures.”

3. The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act (Public Law 92-195) put the Bureau of Land Management in charge of ensuring “the protection, management, and control of wild free- roaming horses and burros on public lands.”

“That Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene.”

The act further says that they must be “protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”

4. According to the act, wild horses may be removed if they are old, sick, or lame and destroyed in the most humane manner possible. Capture of excess wild horses is allowed under the act, provided there are suitable adoptions for them where they can be provided with adequate care. No more than four wild horses are to be adopted by any one individual in a year unless the person can prove that he or she can properly care for more. The act further says that if there are excess wild horses that cannot be adopted, they should “be destroyed in the most humane and cost efficient manner possible.”

5. The BLM has been in trouble for their treatment of wild horses in the past. The Washington Times reported in 2015 that the agency sold 1,794 wild horses for $10 each to a Colorado rancher who sent them to slaughter. An investigation revealed that the bureau did not follow their own rules to protect the wild horses, including limiting the number sold to each individual and ensuring that they were going to good homes and not to slaughter. (MORE)

Federal report: Colorado wild horse buyer sold mustangs for slaughter

Reports are also rampant of abuse of the horses during roundups and in their holding facilities. The Humane Society reports that they have witnessed abuses such as a BLM contractor who appeared to hogtie and leave a lost foal in the path of stampeding mustangs, for instance. The BLM publicly admitted to some abuses on its own website, such as using electrical prods on horses. There are also many concerns about the use of helicopters to round up wild horses and burros and the fact that long runs often permanently separate foals from their mothers.

6. Wild horses are allegedly not native to the United States, but neither are cattle. Proponents of euthanizing the horses are quick to point out that wild horses were brought to the United States by the Spanish in the 16th century and are not native to America. However, the lands where wild horses are being removed are often being used for grazing cattle, which are not native either.

Nature World News reports that the species that’s currently the most damaging to our ecosystems is cattle and that 41 percent of all land in the United States is now grazed by livestock.

“Livestock are one of the main drivers of ecological degradation globally, and the crisis is only becoming worse. Grazing has a place in just about every agricultural system, but introducing large numbers of grass-munching cattle into areas where cows were not previously found is rapidly wreaking havoc on native ecosystems – so much so that the practice can now be characterized as an ‘invasive species.’”

One Green Planet reports that cattle now outnumber wild horses 50 to one.

7. Fracking and other forms of Big Energy are also driving forces behind the removal of wild horses and the loss of resources that all wild animals depend on.

“It is very clear that the energy frontier has a significant impact on wild herds, as well as all other interests on western public land,” says Wild Horse Education.

They point out that energy projects are given special status and are exempt from many regulations on public land, and that processing like fracking require massive amounts of water in areas that are plagued with drought as it is.

8. Wild horses have been used to rehabilitate prison inmates since 1986 through the Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP). The program, which began in Colorado, now runs in five states. WHIP matches up wild horses and burros with inmates to receive “personal and extensive training as part of an inmate rehabilitative program.”

9. Some of these trained horses now work for the border patrol. The BLM sells some of the trained horses to work the Canadian and Mexican borders.

“All of our mustangs can move up a trail at a good pace. ATV’s can’t get up there. Trucks can’t get up there.” said U.S. Border Patrol ranger Bobby Traweek on the BLM website.

The bureau also points out that not only are the horses excellent at working the rough terrain and handling dangerous situations, but they cost the Border Patrol half of what they’re used to paying for trained horses.

10. Wild horses and burros are available for adoption, starting at only $125 each.

Click (HERE) to visit original article

TWO WINS FOR AMERICAN NATIVE WILD HORSES

“The attached press release, below, gives the inside story of how the Oregon wild mare sterilization experiments were stopped by an appeal to the Department of Interior’s IBLA (Interior Board of Land Appeals) by a coalition of equine advocate, animal welfare and environmental groups.  Thanks again to all the individuals and groups that supported our appeal and kept believing we could win.  The topsy turvy events of the past week demonstrate that unity is more important than ever to protect our public lands and the wild animals we cherish.” ~ Charlotte Roe


Citizens Against Equine Slaughter

8 month old fillies at BLM's Hines, Oregon holding facility...saved from the "experiments" ~ photo by R.T. Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

8 month old fillies at BLM’s Hines, Oregon holding facility…saved from the “experiments” ~ photo by R.T. Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

In a precedent setting case with the Department of Interior’s Board of Land Appeals (IBLA), environmental, animal welfare and wild horse advocate groups joined forces to defeat Bureau of Land Management (BLM) brutal plans to sterilize 225 wild mares, fillies and foals in Oregon’s Hines corrals in cooperation with Oregon State University (OSU).

On July 29, 2016, the BLM and IBLA received a Notice of Appeal and Stay of Implementation Petition from a coalition of 14 environmental groups. The Notice/Stay named Citizens Against Equine Slaughter (CAES), Oregon Wild Horse & Burro Association (OWHBA), Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition (COWHC) and Wild Equid League of CO (WELOC) as the main appellants.

On August 4, 2016, BLM filed a motion to dismiss the appeal with the IBLA. They claimed appellants did not have standing or proper representation.

On August 12, Appellants delivered a response to this motion proving that our representative was indeed a pro se attorney and that she was the founding member of the lead advocate group, Citizens Against Equine Slaughter (CAES). Several affidavits were delivered proving standing of all the appellants. In particular, one member of both CAES and OWHBA who is disabled, challenged BLM’s claim of no standing of a person who cannot physically stand out on the range or travel to the holding pens as often as BLM felt was necessary to be considered sufficient for “standing.”

Two other appeals filed by individuals were dismissed September 7, 2016, for lack of standing. This coalition’s appeal was the only action that stood. Three lawsuits were also filed, but the Board’s procedures dictate that these legal challenges could not be considered until the it acted on the IBLA appeals.

On August 29th, 2016, the Coalition filed their Reasons for Appeal Brief. Among the affidavits delivered with this brief were the eyewitness testimony of an individual who watched Dr. Leon Pielstick perform ovariectomy via colpotomy on burros and mares during a public workshop in Arizona. This video and testimony demonstrated that the procedures were not successful, and that the death rate was significantly higher than that allowed by veterinary standards.

Seven business days after the reasons for appeal and these documents were presented in the case, the BLM submitted a Motion to Vacate and Remand. This was done because BLM no

longer wished to implement the Decision of Record (DR). In all likelihood, the Agency chose to avoid the risk that the Board could rule against it, setting precedent for the horses. On September 9, 2016, the IBLA Vacated and Remanded the DR to the BLM. This action meant the BLM’s decision to sterilize the wild mares and foals was vacated and rescinded. Implementation of these experiments would now be illegal.

The pressure put on the Department of Interior and BLM due to this Appeal, public outrage and a combination of related actions stopped BLM and OSU from submitting these wild mares to barbaric, unwarranted experiments and dangerous surgeries that would have resulted in the deaths of many mares, aborted foals, and permanent injury for countless others that may have survived.

To date, the coalition is formed of the following groups: Citizens Against Equine Slaughter, Oregon Wild Horse & Burro Association, Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition, Wild Equid League of Colorado, In Defense of Animals, Wild Horse Freedom Federation, Union for the Preservation of Wildlife, Animal Rights Leadership Council, Animal Horse Defense Coalition, Mobilization for Animals, Monero Mustang, New Mexicans Against Horse Slaughter, Wild Horse Observers Association and Pity Not Cruelty.

The coalition is growing and will continue to fight to keep wild horses and burros alive and free, and to defend all wildlife and the health of public lands.

The day we received the news of the victory with IBLA, the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Council voted with one dissent (by Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation) to recommend that the BLM euthanize all ‘unadoptable’ horses in long-term holding. This would mean killing some 45,000 healthy wild horses that the BLM had removed from the range. Killing captive prisoners whether human or animal is NOT what we or most Americans can accept. It HAD to stop, and it has been stopped by a tremendous civic uproar. This afternoon BLM announced that it has no plans to perform mass euthanasia. Our wild horses and burros have had a good week. How long will it last?

For questions or more information please contact:
Val Cecama-Hogsett, CAES & OWHBA media liaison Phone: 541.315.6650
Email: val4.wildhorses@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CAES4OWH/

News analysis: Lawyers to debate what makes a wild horse wild

By Dave Tomlin / Ruidoso News, N.M. (TNS) as published in the Albuquerque Journal

“How does the Livestock Board distinguish this herd from the Placitas herd in the Court of Appeals case?”

photo courtesy of wildhorsesofalto.blogspot.com

photo courtesy of wildhorsesofalto.blogspot.com

As the lawyer for the New Mexico Livestock Board stood before him last week, District Judge Dan Bryant asked what is sure to be a key question if the lawsuit over the future of the wild horses of Alto goes to trial.

“How does the Livestock Board distinguish this herd from the Placitas herd in the Court of Appeals case?” Bryant asked Asst. Atty. Gen. Ari Biernoff.

The judge was referring to a case in which the appellate court ruled last year that the Board shouldn’t have treated a free-roaming herd of wild horses near Placitas as if they were “estray” livestock, just as they tried to do with the Alto herd.

To those who love Lincoln County’s free-roaming horses, the answer is self-evident. There’s no difference at all between the Alto horses and the Placitas horses, and the Livestock Board is wrong again.

The horse advocates may be exactly right. But that doesn’t mean lawyers won’t find plenty to argue about as they belabor what may look to equine-loving eyes like the obvious, if and when Bryant takes the bench to preside over Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) v. New Mexico Livestock Board.

Here are some of the legal and factual points a trial may raise:

1. The Court of Appeals opinion accepted WHOA’s claim that the Board “took the auctioned Placitas horses directly from public land before auctioning them.” But the Alto herd was penned up by a private landowner who summoned the Livestock Board to collect them.

We’ll discuss later why it might matter a lot where the Board picked up the horses. But one side, or maybe both, may argue that the Court of Appeals was misinformed about where the Placitas herd was picked up and by whom.

Corrales attorney David G. Reynolds, an attorney for one of the private landowners who intervened in the Placitas case on the Livestock Board’s side, told the News last month that the herd was actually captured on private property just like the Alto herd.

The point was never hashed out in court because 2nd District Court Judge Valerie Huling dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals sent it back to her for trial, but last week Huling dismissed it again because the Placitas horses are all gone and there’s no longer any herd to argue over. As lawyers say, the case is “moot.”

But since Bryant may have to decide whether the Court of Appeals ruling controls the outcome of the Alto case, he might hear arguments or evidence that the relevance of the appellate court opinion should be discounted because it was based on incorrect facts.

2. The New Mexico Livestock Code defines a wild horse as “an unclaimed horse on public land that is not an estray.”

The wording of this statute is the reason it might matter where the Board picks up any given group of unclaimed horses. The Court of Appeals ruling never says what an unclaimed horse on private land might be, because it presumed the Placitas herd was on public land as the statute appears to require.

Biernoff told Bryant last week that this is a “critical” difference between the Placitas and Alto cases. But even if the facts show that both herds were actually taken by the Board from private land, the Board may still argue that the Court of Appeals ruling doesn’t apply to the Alto herd.

Bryant could end up scratching his head over how much the extensive reasoning in the Court of Appeals decision depends on where the horses happened to be picked up.

He also may be asked to consider whether the legislature really intended to say that a wild horse suddenly stops being wild whenever it strays or is lured or led from public land onto private land.

Reynolds told the News a wild horse on public land turns instantly into “a large packrat” on private land in the eyes of the law. Since neither the statute nor the Court of Appeals ruling says anything about a free-roaming unclaimed horse on private land, he said, such a beast has no more legal standing or protection than a varmint.

But Albuquerque attorney Steven K. Sanders, who has represented WHOA in both cases, told the News last week before the hearing that this would be “a travesty” and could not have been what the legislature meant the law to say.

3.The Livestock Code says “public land” does not include federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service or state trust land controlled by the state land office.

When you take all that away, plus all private property, an awful lot of Lincoln County is off the table as the kind of land on which a free-ranging horse can be considered legally wild, if the statute means exactly what it says.

Bryant ruminated aloud about that in court last Friday, even though nobody had asked him to. He seemed to conclude that in dealing with this case he will have to decide whether the Alto herd could have spent significant time on “public land” as the Livestock Code defines it.

It’s hard to say how important that will be to the case. But if Bryant was already thinking about it on his own in a preliminary hearing, a smart lawyer would probably have to consider it very important.

4. The only other definition in state law of a “wild horse” besides the one in the Livestock Code doesn’t seem to fit the Placitas and Alto herds.

The Court of Appeals opinion cited a New Mexico Administrative Code section that said a wild horse is a feral horse in an “untamed state having returned to a wild state from domestication.”

That doesn’t describe the wild horses in these cases, which everyone seems to agree have never been owned by anyone in their lives.

But it’s still possible the code section may come into play anyway. Read on.

5. State law defines livestock as “domestic or domesticated animals.” WHOA says that means the Placitas and Alto herds can’t be livestock. The Livestock Board begs to differ.

Biernoff indicated in last week’s hearing that the Board may try to portray the Alto herd as domesticated.

“We’ll have testimony about how this herd was living,” Biernoff told the judge. “We believe that the horses were being fed, having social interaction with people. We might need more evidence on this.”

Biernoff questioned some of Sanders’s witnesses about the Alto horses’ docile behavior. Then he called Caroline McCoy to the stand. McCoy is the property owner who penned up the 12 Alto mares and foals for the Livestock Board to take away. She described how she led them easily into an enclosure while riding her all-terrain vehicle.

Finally Biernoff called a Lincoln County rancher named Ashley Ivins to testify. His main goal with Ivins seemed to be to have her describe her familiarity with the kind of mustangs found on federal Bureau of Land Management ranges and how different they are from the Alto horses.

“They’re true wild horses,” Ivins said. “They’re mean and wild. They won’t eat out of your hand or be near people.”

So the definition of “domesticated” may be among the points Bryant will be asked to consider. And even if he agrees with the Board that the Alto horses have displayed domesticated behavior, he would have to weigh that against the fact that they’re also unclaimed and free-roaming.

Not many cases give a district judge the chance to address important gaps in the law left by both the state’s legislature and its second highest court. The novelty of the judicial opportunity could have been one reason Bryant put a stop to the Livestock Board’s attempt to auction the Alto herd.

But the judge was clearly troubled by the possibility that the Livestock Board is finding it easier to win wild horse cases on the auction block than in the courtroom, especially after the Placitas judge concluded that if the herd is gone, the case goes away too.

Bryant asked Biernoff during the hearing how a court could ever get a chance to review the Livestock Board’s actions and decide the legal issues surrounding New Mexico’s unclaimed, free-roaming horses if the Board were allowed to keep selling them off as soon as it gets its hands on them.

Biernoff uttered some words in reply to the judge’s question, but they didn’t contain a good answer. That’s because there probably isn’t any.

Update: Hold your Horses…Wild Burros and Horses not to be Murdered by BLM, YET!

“In my Humble Opinion” ~ R.T. Fitch, president of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Last Friday, with only one dissenting vote, the BLM’s appointed Advisory Board recommended that all horses and burros in holding should be either killed or sold. That’s it, down and dirty.

Message to the BLM Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board

Message to the BLM Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board

The above inane recommendation came as no surprise to many of us as we have been saying for years that the BLM is deliberately creating a crisis by pulling wild horses and burros off from their rightful range and placing them on contractor’s land across the country at taxpayers expense. Such an idiotic plan is not sustainable and they are hoping for some drastic action to take place to get rid of the native wild animals so that their welfare cattle bedfellows can have the public land all to themselves.

Getting the hand picked and appointed special interest members of the board to vote to do so kept the BLM’s hands clean and allowed the lemmings on the board to be their fall guys, although they are too dense to know it. The recommendation was/is non-binding BUT it opens up the door and begins the discussion, again.

Back in 2011 the sitting “Boared” recommended researching and experimenting with sterilizing wild mares in the field, and five years later what did the federal governments most corrupt agency attempt to do, conduct experiments on sterilizing wild mares in the field. (Plans now nixed)

Tom Gory, mouthpiece for the BLM, stated yesterday that the BLM, proper, had made no decision to murder (and that IS the correct word) 45,000 wild equines in holding and will continue to care for the horses and burros that they have ripped from their rightful land, separated from their families and shoved into gender specific herds.. Everything is okay, don’t bet on it!

There IS a silver lining to this gross and demonic recommendation, though:

  1. It has revealed to the public the corrupt and cruel intent of this handpicked board of fools. They are an embarrassment to this country and should all be removed from their volunteer positions. Good air is being wasted.
  2. The wild ones finally found a voice in the mainstream press, although the story might have been skewed a bit people still sat up and paid attention, that is a mega-win for the horses and burros.
  3. Super bad press for the BLM; their idiot plan backfired and although they did not make the recommendation, they were whispering in the ears of their little demented buddies to do so. It is always a good day when the horse haters get a little bad press as they speak nothing but lies and untruths to the press and public. Good to see their big fat backsides singed a little bit.

But don’t let your guard down, this has been the plan of the BLM for years and the only way to stop it is to either wrest the control of the wild ones out of their bloody little fists or legally chop them off at the knees and stick a fork in them.

What would be YOUR preference?

SAFE Food SAFE Horses Grassroots Coalition Will March on DC with Wild Horses, Public Lands and Horse Slaughter Risk Warnings

News provided by SAFE Food SAFE Horses Coalition

September 22 open-to-public rally at Capitol links slaughter of U.S. horses to food safety risks and wild horse removals to public “land grab” attempt

Simone, John Holland of EWA and R.T. Fitch of WHFF protesting in D.C.

Simone from Respect4Horses, John Holland of EWA and R.T. Fitch of WHFF protesting in D.C.

STUART, Fla., Sept. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — SAFE Food SAFE Horses Coalition (www.safefoodsafehorses.org) invites the public to the “March on DC” on September 22, 2016 to urge our lawmakers to protect our wild horses and public lands from needless destruction, and Americans from the grave health risk resulting from their unknowing consumption of toxic meat from slaughtered U.S. horses entering the U.S. and global food supply.

Highlights of the March are expert presentations by Congressman Patrick Meehan, Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation, Cameron Harsh of the Center for Food Safety, John Holland , R.T. Fitch, Freddie Hudson and others.  The rally begins at the USDA Whitten building on Jefferson Avenue with speakers, followed by a short “March” to the Capitol Plaza for more presentations and speeches.

On the following day (September 23), a free double-feature will be held at the Capitol Visitors’ Center, showing the award-winning documentary “From the Kill Pen”, followed by the true Cinderella story of “Harry and Snowman”.

The goals of the March are to:

  • Demand Congress enforces the spirit and intent of the Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Protection Act of 1971 and rejects the BLM WH&B Advisory Committee’s recommendations to destroy America’s captive wild horses being held in long and short term holding.
  • Alert Americans to a congressional “Public Land Grab” plan to hand over taxpayers’ public lands to the states, to be sold to private corporate interests for mining, fracking and welfare cattle grazing.
  • Compel Congress to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act S.1214/HR.1942 to protect our food supply by banning the slaughter, and transport to slaughter of U.S. horses.
  • Alert Americans to the health risks that the slaughter of U.S. horses creates: A study published in 2015 reported that the US food supply is contaminated with horse meat. U.S. horses do not meet Federal standards required for food animals, and may harbor FDA-banned drugs, toxins and deadly diseases. The US imports millions of pounds of “beef” from Mexico into the US annually, which has been shown to contain up to 40% horse meat
  • Expose serious horse-related food safety issues involving the USDA, which is responsible for food safety, yet due to lack of funding and oversight, allows egregious violations of USDA policies . A prime example is the Slaughter Horse Transport Program which has only two people assigned to monitor safety at twelve U.S. border crossings.

Please join “We the People” in protecting our food, families, public lands, horses, and American heritage.  Media contact:  contact@safefoodsafehorses.org

SAFE Food Safe Horses Coalition is a non-profit entity representing over 20 organizations and 1.75 million people. Its missions are to protect the food supply by banning the slaughter of American horses and protect our wild horses and public lands.

Video – http://origin-qps.onstreammedia.com/origin/multivu_archive/PRNA/ENR/FromtheKillPenTrailerFinal.mp4

SOURCE SAFE Food SAFE Horses Coalition

BLM Wild Horse Advisory Board Proposes Euthanasia of Excess Mustangs: Q&A With Ginger Kathrens

As published on HorseNation.com

Horse Nation spoke with Advisory Board volunteer Ginger Kathrens, who voted in opposition to the controversial proposal calling for the euthanasia or sale of 45,000 mustangs currently in BLM holding facilities.

BLM Antelope attack in 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BLM Antelope attack in 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board consists of representatives from both the public and multiple (special?) interest groups, serving to discuss key issues and help advise to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the (mis)management of wild horses on public lands. In its meeting at the end of last week, the Board visited Herd Management Areas, or HMAs, to observe wild horse ecosystems at work. The Board also deliberated over the pressing issues of mustang management across the American West, culminating in a proposal that reads as follows:

Follow the stipulations of the Wild Horse and Burro Act by euthanizing or offering for sale without stipulation all suitable animals in short and long term holding facilities.

This radical proposal has already been met with massive waves of public outcry as news rippled across social media on Friday, September 9. To help readers understand the issue, here are some key facts and figures, as stated by the BLM:

  • Under protection, wild horse and burro populations have grown an estimated 15-20% annually, which required the BLM, the government agency charged with protecting wild populations, to created Appropriate Management Levels, or AMLs. AMLs state the number of horses each HMA can handle to sustain a balanced ecosystem with wildlife, vegetation, soil, water and in some cases, livestock.
  • The current total AML for BLM public lands is 26,715.
  • Censuses estimate that as of 2015 there were over 67,000 wild horses living on public lands.
  • Long- and short-term holding facilities operated by the BLM currently house 45,000 wild horses.
  • About two-thirds of the BLM’s annual budget supports horses in holding facilities — about $50 million.

The proposal for sale or euthanasia was voted in favor by seven of the eight members of the board. The sole vote in opposition was cast by Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation: Kathrens has spent an estimated 12,000 hours observing and documenting wild horses all over the west, most famously the Pryor Mountain herd on the Wyoming/Montana border. Her work in chronicling the mustang stallion Cloud and his social band and family in a PBS documentary series has brought the mustang crisis to a personal level for Cloud’s fans and followers, and The Cloud Foundation has worked hard to educate the public and encourage the public to get involved in mustang advocacy.

Horse Nation spoke with Ginger Kathrens to learn more about her reasons for opposing the proposal and her thoughts on alternative solutions.

HN: The concept of euthanizing 45,000 horses is horrific — that aside, what was your reasoning for opposing this proposal?

Because I believe that healthy horses shouldn’t pay the price for government mismanagement that’s gone on for decades. There have been alternatives to manage horses on the range for years, and they were not being utilized. Some herds right now are already able to do this: the tools available are used to manage their numbers on the range and only require small or even no roundups at all. The Pryor Mountain herd is one example.

Unlike other hooved mammals, horses have a unique social structure — the males don’t just come in and breed and then leave; the stallions stay with family bands in social units. The helicopter roundups shatter these social bands: families are broken up, the remaining horses restructure socially and then there’s a spike in reproduction accordingly.

HN: Can you could pinpoint one turning point where you feel the BLM went wrong in managing wild horses?

They were never managing the range. In 1971, the Wild Horse and Burro Act was passed and the BLM was charged with managing the herds and the range. In 1972, 1973, they did their censusing of wild horse populations, and in 1974 they completed their reports on where they would set up management areas. In 1978, they reported 54,000 horses living in 339 herds on management areas. A recent count reports 179 herds.

The BLM set the Appropriate Management Level [AML] at 26,715 and no one really seems to know how that number was determined. It appears to be a low number based on what was already out there at the time.

Now, we have herds that are too small to maintain genetic viability — Dr. Gus Cothran of Texas A&M did research that found that you need around 150 members for genetic viability, and most of the herds are not even at that bare minimum. Now, there are a few herds that are far larger; there’s a herd in Nevada of over 1,000 animals living on a million acres.

The cheatgrass crisis has hit everywhere. Cheatgrass is an opportunistic invasive, and the only way to get rid of it is by tilling up the earth and replanting. The BLM has described that the crested wheatgrass is the only plant that will out-compete cheatgrass. Of course, you can only till and replant in certain areas — that won’t work in rocky, rugged areas.

HN: What would you offer as an alternative solution to the current crisis?

There are certainly much more humane alternatives for sure — we need to use PZP! Using the PZP vaccine involves a lot of hard work but it’s been proven to be effective. The Pryor Mountain herd currently has zero population growth through the use of PZP. Rounding horses up with helicopters is easy and PZP is going to involve much more work.

More of the horses in short-term holding can be moved to long-term holding facilities — there are more long-term holding facility contracts coming in now to open up more opportunities. Some of these horses from short-term holding can be repatriated on Herd Management Areas (HMAs) where horses have been removed, as non-producing animals: stallions can be gelded so the mares are not exposed. It costs an estimated $5.50 per horse per day to keep an animal in short-term holding, and about $2 a day per horse in long-term holding. The majority of horses are in long-term holding right now.

At that point, PZP needs to be used aggressively on the existing wild populations to really cut back on births so we can achieve zero population growth. PZP-22 has a multi-year factor.

Yes, it will take a lot of hard work — it will take a lot of volunteers to be out there in the field. It’s easy to push a pen and paper around at a desk all day and it’s hard to go out there and document where the horses are, who they are, how many, where the food and water sources are. But we have over 100 volunteer trained darters — myself included — who are not in places they need to be because the BLM has not used the resource.

HN: One of the big criticisms of PZP for population control is that there are horses in inaccessible places where they cannot be routinely darted.

Yes, there are — I spoke with some of the people involved in a herd removal in a rugged section of Nevada and they know there are still horses out there. That would be a good place to repatriate a gelding-only group from short-term holding.

There are many places where it’s going to be difficult, but it’s always possible — the key is knowing where the horses are. For example, in the Pryor herd, at certain times of the year we know exactly where the horses will be because they won’t be on top of the mountains in the snow. It’s going to require a really solid knowledge base — we will need to build a database on the horses themselves, documenting what they look like, their markings and identification, as well as the geography of an HMA, where the water and feed is — we can use technology like drones, trail cameras. In areas that we can’t easily access the horses, we can use bait and water traps and use small dart guns.

It’s not going to be easy, but it’s possible.

HN: If you’re recommending repatriation of horses from short-term holding, do you believe that overgrazing is an issue on the range?

Overgrazing comes from livestock. The horses have become the scapegoat.

We visited an HMA that hadn’t had any livestock on it for eight years — part of it looked good, part of it not so good. The cheatgrass came into the area because it had been overgrazed by sheep. I’m glad we got to look at that particular area, because it let me see the extreme and compare it to the normal.

But this “the sky is falling and the horses are taking over the range” mentality is not correct.

HN: Let’s talk about the Advisory Board proposal — do you believe that there’s a possibility this recommendation could come to pass?

Absolutely I do. A few years ago there were secret meetings taking place in the BLM about how many horses they could kill annually. These only came to light thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and it somehow never got the press coverage I felt it deserved. Some of those people are still in high-level positions at the BLM.

This recommendation could come to pass because it’s easy. It’s not easy to go out there and actually euthanize those horses, no — but it’s an easy solution when compared to the hard work it would take to resolve the crisis through other means. Now, there are wonderful people in the BLM, don’t get me wrong — but there are plenty of others who would be willing to carry that out.

It’s still a difficult thing to do — no one wants to go out and tell their employees to go euthanize thousands of horses.

HN: How do you think it came to this point — that this recommendation is even a feasible option? Is this a power-play move to try to leverage more funding?

I still don’t understand it. Congress would have been willing to give the BLM more money — or so I hear from my Congressional representative on the Appropriations committee.

No one discussed this recommendation with me prior to introducing it. The subcommittee discussed it prior for some time, but when it was introduced at the board meeting I was fairly rattled.

It still doesn’t have to come to this: it’s possible to do on-the-range management. It will take real censusing, mapping, going out there. I’ve been working so hard to get volunteers out there on the ground. All of these tools have been available for a long time but never utilized.

HN: Do you think this recommendation might work as a scare tactic to encourage more public involvement with mustang management?

I certainly hope so! There was a massive public pushback on the proposed mare sterilization project and that project was canceled just recently. There’s going to be even more public outcry about this proposal.

I always encourage people to do something positive: it doesn’t do any good to just scream and yell on social media. Get out and volunteer, if you can. If you can’t, write a politely-worded letter to your government representatives. Do something positive and we can affect change.

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