A timeline of scandals and ethical shortfalls at Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department

by EVLONDO COOPER as published on MediaMatters.org

The man that wanted to bring horse slaughter to Montana and the U.S. has a growing list of further indiscretions developing

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is being investigated for multiple scandals involving potential Hatch Act violations, excessive travel expenditures, and apparent coziness with industries he’s entrusted to regulate. Under his leadership, the Department of Interior (DOI) has been credibly accused of doing the bidding of dirty energy lobbyists, misappropriating government resources, discriminating against Native American employees, and censoring scientific reports. Even in an administration that may be the most unethical in modern history, Zinke’s corruption and managerial ineptness stand out.

Journalists have been dogged in documenting questionable ethical behavior at DOI during Zinke’s 14 months at the head of the department. The following is an overview of original reporting on scandals and controversies at Zinke’s DOI:

July 26, 2017, Anchorage Daily News: Zinke threatened to pull support for projects in Alaska after Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted “no” on Obamacare repeal. On July 26, Zinke called both of Alaska’s senators, Lisa Murkowski (R) and Dan Sullivan (R), to inform them that Murkowski’s vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act jeopardized administration support for projects in Alaska, including expanding oil drilling. Sullivan called Zinke’s message “troubling,” and Murkowski told E&E News, “It was a difficult call.” The DOI’s inspector general opened an investigation into the incident, then dropped it in late August. The Government Accountability Office is still looking into the matter, and it’s drafting a legal opinion on whether Zinke threatened the senators, CNN reported this April.

September 28, 2017, Politico/Wash. Post: Zinke gave a speech to a hockey team owned by a campaign donor, then chartered a $12,000 flight home. Zinke traveled to Las Vegas on June 26 to give a motivational speech to a hockey team at the behest of team owner Bill Foley. After the speech, Zinke flew on a charter flight that cost taxpayers over $12,000 to an airport near his Montana home, aboard a plane owned by oil and gas executives. An inspector general report released on April 16, 2018, found that Zinke and his aides failed to relay important details about the trip to ethics officers, including Foley’s role as one of Zinke’s largest campaign contributors and the fact that the speech was unrelated to Zinke’s work as interior secretary. According to Politico, Foley donated $7,800 to Zinke’s 2014 congressional campaign, while employees and political action committees associated with his financial services company donated another $166,860. The inspector general also found that the $12,000 charter flight “could have been avoided.” The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether Zinke’s speech violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits employees of the executive branch from engaging in partisan politics.

October 5, 2017, Politico: Zinke’s participation in a Republican fundraiser in the Virgin Islands possibly violated the Hatch Act. During what DOI labeled an official trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Zinke attended a fundraiser for the Virgin Islands Republican Party on April 1, 2017. Donors paid up to $5,000 per couple for a picture with him. After concerns were raised, the Virgin Islands Republican Party reimbursed taxpayers for the trip. But Zinke’s prominence at the political fundraiser still may have violated the Hatch Act according to complaint filed by the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit, government watchdog organization.

November 20, 2017, Politico: Zinke’s wife used Interior staff and resources to coordinate her travel with her husband’s. Lola Zinke relied on DOI staff to ensure her travel arrangements allowed her to accompany the interior secretary during some of his official events and trips, including ones to California, Alaska, Norway, and Greenland. “While the department says Lola Zinke paid her own way, the records show Interior used staff time to coordinate some of her activities while traveling with her husband,” Politico reported. One ethics expert called that “an ethically gray area.” Some ethics watchdogs are also concerned that Lola Zinke is using her access to high-level events to further her own political career; she is campaign chair for a Republican Senate candidate and has worked on the Trump campaign and transition teams. The DOI’s inspector general tried to investigate whether these actions and other travel arrangements by Ryan Zinke constituted an abuse or misuse of government resources, but the investigation was stymied “by absent or incomplete documentation for several pertinent trips and a review process that failed to include proper documentation and accountability,” according to a memo released on November 15.

December 7, 2017, Politico: Zinke spent $14,000 on helicopter rides so he could attend a swearing-in and ride horses with Vice President Mike Pence. Zinke put taxpayers on the hook for a pair of helicopter trips that blurred the line between his professional and personal obligations. On June 21, he attended the swearing-in of his congressional replacement, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT), then took an $8,000 helicopter ride to an emergency management exercise in West Virginia. In July, Zinke took a $6,250 round-trip helicopter flight from Washington, D.C., to Yorktown, VA, to guarantee he was back in time to go horseback riding with Pence and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). The inspector general’s office declined to confirm an investigation into these specific helicopter rides, but spokesperson Nancy DiPaolo told CNN on December 8, “We are taking a comprehensive look at the secretary’s travel since he took office.”

December 29, 2017, Newsweek: Zinke spent almost $40,000 in wildfire preparedness funds for a helicopter tour of Nevada. Days after firefighters managed to largely contain the Whittier Fire in California, Zinke used nearly $40,000 from wildfire preparedness funds to pay for a helicopter tour of Nevada on July 30 that did not include any visits to fire zones. DOI initially told Newsweek the tour was “in full compliance of all federal regulations.” But after Newsweek provided Interior officials with documentation showing the tour was paid for with funds “earmarked for such uses as worker pay and to purchase equipment,” DOI admitted the helicopter tour “was charged to the account in error” and said it would pay for the ride from “a more appropriate account.”

January 22, 2018, HuffPost: Zinke failed to disclose his shares in a firearms company and signed orders that could have benefitted the firearms industry. As nominee for interior secretary, Zinke neglected to inform the Office of Government Ethics that he retained 1,000 shares in PROOF Research, a rifle and weapons-parts manufacturer founded in Zinke’s hometown. Cabinet appointees are required to disclose all assets worth $1,000 or more. Although there is some dispute about the value of Zinke’s shares, HuffPost notes that Zinke’s long relationship with the company may have given it special access at Interior. Zinke provided consulting services to PROOF in 2011-12. As interior secretary, he met with PROOF CEO Larry Murphy and a company lobbyist about a month after he was confirmed. Zinke also enacted policy changes — such as rescinding the ban on lead ammunition and expanding hunting access at wildlife refuges — that might have benefitted the firearms industry.

February 1, 2018, Politico: Interior appeared to cave to pressure from MGM to stonewall a casino proposal backed by two Native American tribes. The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes received indications from Interior officials last May that the department would clear the way for the tribes to build a casino in Connecticut, about 12 miles from MGM Resorts International’s nearly $1 billion casino complex in Massachusetts. But MGM launched an aggressive lobbying campaign to convince Interior’s political appointees to change course, including outreach to Zinke via multiple meetings and phone calls with two Nevada Republican lawmakers closely allied with MGM. MGM lobbyists were invited by Zinke for a social visit two weeks before the agency was to decide on the tribes’ request. MGM lobbyists also met with Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, whose former firm also lobbies for MGM. Bernhardt signed an ethics agreement barring him from “participating in matters involving his former employer,” according to a recent ThinkProgress story. On September 15, DOI informed the tribes that it would delay its decision, even though federal law requires it to decide yes or no within 45 days. Records obtained by Politico show that “career staffers were circulating what they labeled ‘approval’ letters just 48 hours before their political bosses reversed course and refused to either OK or reject the tribes’ application.” The DOI’s inspector general has opened an investigation into the incident.

March 9, 2018, AP: Interior planned to spend nearly $139,000 to upgrade Zinke’s office doors. Interior officials approved a contract to renovate “three sets of double doors in the secretary’s office, including two doors that open onto a corner balcony with a spectacular view of the Washington Monument and the National Mall,” The Associated Press reported. Though Zinke scoffed at questions about the excessive price of the doors renovation during a Senate hearing on March 13, two days later he told the House Committee on Natural Resources that he negotiated the price down to $75,000. Despite this, House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) sent Zinke a letter on March 22 asking for a briefing “on the need to replace the doors and provide details on the acquisition process, bidding and receipts,” per Reuters.

March 11, 2018, USA Today: Zinke’s trip to Pennsylvania to announce $56 million in grants during a close campaign may have violated the Hatch Act. Toward the end of a tight campaign for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone, Zinke went to nearby East Bethlehem to announce $56 million in grants to clean up abandoned mining sites in the area. The entire event, “had the feel of a hastily arranged news conference/town hall meeting/political opportunity,” according to the local Observer-Reporter. While Saccone was among the politicians present, his challenger did not attend. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether Zinke’s trip was designed to benefit Saccone politically.

March 15, 2018, AP: Zinke stacks wildlife-trade advisory board with trophy hunters. Zinke appointed trophy hunters, including some with direct ties to the Trump family, to an advisory board tasked with rewriting federal rules to allow the importation of body parts from slain African elephants, lions, and rhinos. The Associated Press reported, “A coalition of more than 20 environmental and animal welfare groups objected that the one-sided makeup of the council could violate the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires government boards to be balanced in terms of points of view and not improperly influenced by special interests.” Most board members belong to hunting clubs or the National Rifle Association, and one member co-owns a private hunting reserve with Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. The Trump administration officially lifted a ban on importing elephant parts from Zimbabwe and Zambia on March 1.

March 21, 2018, Politico: Zinke had a security detail during his two-week vacation in Greece and Turkey. Ryan and Lola Zinke’s two-week vacation in Greece and Turkey to celebrate their 25-year wedding anniversary also included a security detail, according to records obtained by Politico. Besides these bare facts, the public still does not know important details about this arrangement including “exactly how many security personnel accompanied the couple, who paid for them, how much they cost or whether they traveled with Zinke and his wife, Lola, for the entire trip,” Politico reported.

March 27, 2018, Politico: Florida’s offshore drilling exemption may have been intended to benefit Gov. Rick Scott’s Senate campaign. On January 4, 2018, Zinke announced a controversial proposal to allow offshore drilling in many new coastal areas, including off the coasts of Florida. Five days later, Zinke exempted Florida from the expanded drilling after a supposedly spur-of-the-moment encounter in the Tallahassee airport with Florida Gov. Rick Scott. But records reviewed by Politico in March “showed that top officials from the offices of both Scott and the Interior secretary were in regular contact for several days leading up to the sudden announcement, contradicting the supposed spontaneous event that portrayed Scott as protecting Florida’s environment.” According to The Washington Post, “The whole episode seems to have been designed to demonstrate Mr. Scott’s power and influence, by having him appear to summon the interior secretary to his state and bring him to heel in an afternoon.” Scott announced his Senate candidacy on April 9, 2018. The next day, CNN reported the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether Zinke’s Florida announcement violated the Hatch Act.

March 28, 2018, TPM: Zinke’s mass reassignment of career Interior employees may have violated federal anti-discrimination laws. Last July, Zinke initiated the reassignment of 35 Senior Executive Service members at DOI, of which 27 were ultimately transferred. Many were told to “either accept a new placement on the other side of the country or in a role unrelated to their background, or leave the agency,” according to Talking Points Memo. The DOI’s inspector general concluded the reassignments occurred “without a written plan or clear criteria, and without consulting with the departmental leadership,” which created the perception that staff were reassigned for “political or punitive reasons.” Because a third of those reassigned are Native American, DOI may have violated federal anti-discrimination laws, as well as its own Indian Preference rules, as TPM later reported. Zinke has reportedly told senior staff that diversity is not important. After a congressional hearing in March, he was also accused of racial insensitivity for responding “Oh, konnichiwa” to Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) after she shared the experience of two of her grandfathers who were held in internment camps during World War II.

April 6, 2018, Reveal: National Park Service deletes climate change from months-delayed report on sea-level rise. “National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge,” according to an investigation conducted by The Center for Investigative Reporting and published on its Reveal website. The Department of Interior oversees the National Parks Service. Cat Hawkins, the head of the National Park Service’s climate change response program, made the deletions, in possible violation of Interior rules prohibiting political appointees from influencing scientific and scholarly activities. The report was also delayed for 10 months, which hindered park managers’ ability to access the latest research about how to mitigate the effects of extreme weather and sea-level rise on their parks. Zinke told the House Committee on Natural Resources in March, “I didn’t change a paragraph — a comma — in any document and I never would.” But Senate and House Democrats have called for DOI’s inspector general to investigate the matter in light of Reveal’s reporting.

April 16, 2018, HuffPost: Oil industry rep uses perch on DOI advisory group to push “wish list” of regulatory rollbacks. Under Zinke, advisory groups at DOI have been packed with industry representatives who want looser regulations. Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance (WEA), a lobbying group that represents 300 oil and gas companies chairs one such group, which is tasked with recommending how Zinke should manage federal lands for fossil fuel development. The group’s recommendations, which included regulatory rollbacks that had been on WEA’s wish list for years, was initially drafted by Tripp Parks, WEA’s head of government affairs. According to HuffPost, “A document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that Parks created the draft recommendations one day before Sgamma circulated them to committee members overseeing the working group.” As the Sierra Club’s legal director told HuffPost, “It’s a very clear instance of regulatory capture.”

https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/05/07/A-timeline-of-scandals-and-ethical-shortfalls-at-Ryan-Zinkes-Interior-Department/220123

Western Values Project to Pruitt and EPA: Help us hold Interior accountable

by as published on Western Values Project

Watchdog group files FOIA request to learn what the EPA knows about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

After The Atlantic reported that embattled Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s communications team has been pushing negative stories attacking embattled Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Western Values Project (WVP) submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the EPA to find out what they know about Secretary Zinke.

For more than a year, the Montana-based Western Values Project has filed various FOIA requests with the Department of Interior, published a comprehensive research site on the Department at https://departmentofinfluence.org/ and released numerous reports on the Interior Department’s troubling conduct that has undermined the nation’s public lands.

In response to The Atlantic story, Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger released the following statement:

We have a simple request of Administrator Pruitt: make public all the material your team has been pushing on Secretary Zinke. The public has a right to know what EPA officials are saying behind closed doors to reporters about their ethically-challenged colleagues in the cabinet. Western Values Project aims to hold policymakers to account, and we appreciate the staff at the Environmental Protection Agency helping expose any wrongdoing that Secretary Zinke’s been involved in.”

Feel Good Sunday: Video – Bouncing Baby Goats

“Alright, time to mentally and emotionally check out for a bit and share a few giggles.  Last week we had the Donkeys bring a smile to our faces but a minor player in the video event were goats, hence, goats it is for today.  Baby goats.  So have fun, relax and we will catch you on the flip side.” ~ R.T.


An Ancient Horse Is Unearthed in a Utah Backyard

By Laura M. Holson as published in The New York Times

Paleontologists recently determined that a skeleton discovered during a landscaping project belonged to a horse from the Pleistocene Era.

An illustration of Haringtonhippus francisci, an extinct horse species that was found in North America during the last ice age. Rick Hunter, a Utah paleontologist, said the horse, whose skeleton was discovered in a Utah backyard, may have looked similar to this.CreditJorge Blanco


The horse had arthritis when it died. It is possible, too, that it had bone cancer in one ankle.

That can happen to any horse once it gets to be a certain age. This one is nearly 16,000 years old.

Paleontologists last week identified the skeleton of a horse from the ice age in Lehi, Utah — a particularly unusual discovery given that much of the western part of the state was underwater until about 14,000 years ago. Buried for thousands of years beneath seven feet of sandy clay, the remains were discovered only when the Hill family began moving dirt around their backyard to build a retaining wall and plant some grass.

Laura Hill said she and her husband, Bridger, uncovered the skeleton last September, but didn’t think much of it at first. They wondered if it was a cow; Lehi is about 15 miles from Provo and was once mostly farmland that hugged the edges of nearby Utah Lake. She consulted a neighbor, a geology professor at Brigham Young University, who examined the bones, and guessed they were from a horse from the Pleistocene Era.

“I was shocked,” Ms. Hill said. “This is something we did not expect.”

Utah is home to several fossil sites where dinosaurs and other ice age animals, including mammoths, mastodons and saber-toothed tigers, have been discovered. Horses have roamed North America for 50 million years, said Ross MacPhee, a curator in the department of mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History. During the Pleistocene Era, the continent was dominated by two kinds of horses, he said, adding that he believes today’s domesticated horses are linked to one of those breeds. Despite harsh conditions, Mr. MacPhee said, “those horses could live anywhere.”

Rick Hunter, a paleontologist at the Museum of Ancient Life, a short drive from the Hill home, said Ms. Hill approached him last month to investigate the family’s discovery.

“She came in and said, “I found a skeleton in the backyard and I don’t know what to do,’” Mr. Hunter recalled. “I replied, ‘I do.’” Last week he and a team from the museum’s lab, where they study dinosaur fossils, went to her home.

The skeleton was missing its head, but was otherwise intact. Mr. Hunter estimated the horse to be the size of a Shetland pony; it was found lying on its left side, with all four legs tucked near its torso. Parts of the skeleton were damaged from exposure to weather. Curious onlookers had picked at the ribs and other bones.

Mr. Hunter did not know how the animal died, but he has a theory. Utah was covered during the last ice age by Lake Bonneville, a prehistoric lake. (The Great Salt Lake as it currently exists is a remnant of Lake Bonneville.)

Perhaps the horse was trying to escape from a predator and ran into the lake, Mr. Hunter surmised. “Horses can swim,” he said. “Maybe it got trapped out there, drowned and sank to the bottom.”

Mr. Hunter said he and his team visited the site at the Hill home for two days last week to excavate the remains. The bones were uncovered in a sandbank seven feet below the surface. “This is not uncommon,” the paleontologist said. Still, there was the question of what happened to the head.

He broadened the search to 50 feet beyond the original site. In the expanded area the group found bone fragments, molars and small pieces of the skull. Mystery solved: The skull had been shattered and moved when the landscaper cleared the land.

The skeleton was taken back to the museum last week, where it will be cataloged, preserved and repaired. Unlike with dinosaurs, the horse’s bones were dehydrated and not yet fossils. Fossilized minerals in bone turn to stone, but the horse was not old enough for that to have happened. That posed a problem for Mr. Hunter’s team. “If they dry too quickly, they will crack,” he said. “You have to cure them slowly.”

Mr. Hunter also hopes to pin down the horse’s age with greater precision. The current estimate of 14,000 to 16,000 years is the team’s best guess until it can be studied further. Once the skeleton is reassembled, Mr. Hunter said, he would like it to become a permanent exhibit at the Museum of Ancient Life. Mr. MacPhee of the American Museum of Natural History concurred.

“It’s important that it ends up in an institution somewhere,” he said.

Ms. Hill said she and her husband were not sure what they were going to do yet. She said neighbors had flocked to the backyard to see the oddity before it was removed, and family members were advising the couple to have the skeleton appraised. (They are hoping to get a tax deduction if they donate it.) “It would be nice to have it here at the museum,” Ms. Hill said. “Mr. Hunter does want us to donate it.”

When Mr. Hunter visited last week he brought a volunteer who talked to the neighborhood children about Lake Bonneville, ancient animals and, of course, the horse in the backyard. Mr. Hunter said he would name it “Hill Horse” in honor of the family that found it.

Ms. Hill was pleased. “Now all these little kids want to be paleontologists,” she said with a laugh.

Will Justice Be Served? Horse Sues Former Abuser In Groundbreaking Lawsuit

Texas authorities investigating missing Georgia horses

By: Randy Travis as published on Atlanta’s Fox 5

Texas authorities have started their own probe in connection to an alleged scam involving more than 50 missing horses from Georgia and across the Southeast.

Click on image to view video

– This modest border town may be more than a thousand miles from metro Atlanta, but it’s very much on the minds of Georgians horrified about what may have happened to their horses. That’s because for 75,000 horses each year, this is where they spend their final days on U.S. soil before being shipped to a Mexican slaughterhouse and turned into horse meat for someone’s dinner plate.

Texas authorities have started their own probe in connection to an alleged scam involving more than 50 missing horses from Georgia and across the Southeast. The FOX 5 I-Team broke the story last month of a veterinary school student accused of tricking more than 30 owners into donating their horses with the promise of a better life. The group NetPosse.com says it continues to get new complaints each week.

Many of those owners had developed health issues or personal tragedies that forced them to advertise for a new home for their horses rather than put them down. They told police 23-year-old Fallon Blackwood answered those ads with the promise their horse would live with her own horses on a farm near Boaz, Alabama. But those donated horses have disappeared. Blackwood faces a criminal charge in North Carolina of obtaining property using false pretenses. She’s out on bond until her next hearing June 11.

Lindsay Rosentrator of Roswell fears her horse Willie wound up sold for slaughter.

“I hope to find him,” she admitted. “But just knowing where these horses go it’s just.. I hate feeling so out of control for his well-being right now.”

According to a police report with the Maverick County, Texas sheriff’s department, a law firm representing Lindsay says Willie and other horses “were taken to Stanley Bros Auction” in Attalla, AL, about 120 miles from Atlanta. Horses destined for slaughter eventually show up at Stanley Brothers’ main pens in Bastrop, Louisiana. That’s another 400 miles. The company has a Facebook page seeking bids from the public to spare their lives before the “ship date,” before the horse heads south to Mexico.

“They’re really just saying they’re going to be put on the truck so people will feel bad with their bleeding hearts and purchase them,” an undercover equine investigator told us. She’s a private citizen certified in Texas to investigate animal cruelty. She also volunteers with the Equine Welfare Alliance, a group that has spent years tracking horses through auctions like Stanley Brothers. She asked us not to use her name.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she explained. “To see these animals just ended up in the wrong place.”

Michael and Greg Stanley currently face criminal charges in connection to what happened to a 65-year-old retiree and horse advocate in 2016. Andrew Payne sat in his pickup trying to take pictures of the Bastrop, Louisiana facility. Instead, members of the Stanley family confronted him. On the cell phone video you can hear him being attacked from behind. Payne had to have facial reconstructive surgery. His alleged attackers go to trial in June. They also face a civil suit.

No one from Stanley Brothers would return our requests for comment.

The Maverick County Sheriff’s department tells the FOX 5 I-Team it is now investigating whether Stanley Brothers shipped any of the missing horses to Eagle Pass — about 700 miles from Bastrop — and whether those horses had the proper ownership records.

We were there when Lynley Edwards of the Edwards & Johnson law firm in Canton filed the complaint. She made clear her goal.

“To find them,” Edwards explained. “Find out what happened to them. And help the victims obtain justice.”

Eagle Pass is clearly a horse trading hub. We watched a trailer packed with horses work its way over the International Bridge and into Mexico where — unlike in the U.S. — horse slaughter for human consumption is allowed. The meat can wind up as far away as Russia and Vietnam.

But just like many of those other horses involved in the Fallon investigation, Lindsay Rosentrator’s Willie was sick, taking regular medicine that should have made him ineligible for slaughter and food.

Eagle Pass is the closest border crossing to Bastrop, Louisiana.

“I’d say the chances of Willie coming through Eagle Pass are exceptional,” declared the private equine investigator as we stood outside the main kill pen. That’s the Chula Vista farm, down a well-worn dirt road a few miles south of Eagle Pass.

We drove down that road and took a walk around the property. Three trailers stood in the parking lot packed with horses and donkeys waiting for the Mexican drivers to haul them across the border and another 10 hours to the slaughterhouse. More horses quietly waited their turn in nearby pens, green tags pinned to their backs.

Green. The color of money. And in this place, the color of death.

“We cross horses to Mexico but everything here is legal,” assured Jose Martinez, the manager of Chula Vista.

We brought pictures of Willie and the other missing horses. Martinez agreed to take a look. Quickly.

“We cannot take a picture of every horse,” he explained. We brought out Willie’s picture.

“Would you remember? This was a big one. 17 hands.”

“No.”

“It would have been some time in February. Middle of February.”

“Mmm mmm. No sir.”

Another quick glance and he was ready for us to leave. More horses to load. And somewhere soon, more mouths to feed.

US Army – Civilian led Environmental Division / Range Control at Fort Polk proceeds with unethical capture methods

They’ve reached a new low!

Despite ongoing litigation the US Army – Civilian led Environmental Division / Range Control at Fort Polk again has decided to proceed with unethical capture of horses using damaging capture methods.

As of 4/30/18 it is reported that approx 37 Horses are in the North Fort holding pen. The pen is approximately 150ft x 150ft and is holding studs, mares and babies all together.

70% of horses in holding have wounds / deep lacerations on the pastern or fetlock area ….indicative of winching and/or roped and dragged by legs

Additional documented injuries are as follows:

  1. Gray mare yellow puss coming out of fetlock wound
  2. Bay yearling can’t put weight on hind end
  3. Boss stud has laceration on neck

Majority of the horses are injured.

Initially 9 horses were seen late last week and over night the count grew to 37 so these horses are likely to be in holding at another location before being brought to the holding pen located on North Fort Polk.

Pegasus’s witnesses and experts, including Dr. Brendan Batt, Dr. Tom King, Stacey Alleman McKnight, and Dr. Bruce Nock, as well as other local organizations have explicitly expressed that they are available to the Army for consultation and would love to help. The Army should also consult with Dr. Sponenberg (Amicus) and the Livestock Conservancy, as well as national groups like HSUS, state groups like COLAA, and organizations with wild horse experience including American Wild Horse Campaign.

The only way to find the best solutions is to engage in honest and open consultation with as many experienced people, experts, and local stakeholders. It is extremely unfortunate that the Army has chosen to ignore help and proceed with cruel and inhumane capture methods.

The horses are in immediate danger and urgently need veterinary care due to injuries sustained during unethical and inhumane capture.

Under Louisiana Criminal Law Statue § 14:102.1 it is a Crime to withhold veterinary care once the horses have been remanded into their custody.
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Feel free to include the following in your message:

The Army’s capture methods have injured the Fort Polk horses, and failure to provide veterinary care now that the Army has captured the horses and are keeping them in a corral is an ongoing crime in Louisiana. The Army must hire an INDEPENDENT veterinarian, one not associated with the contractors who inflicted these injuries, to treat the horses’ wounds and provide ongoing care while they are in the Army’s possession:

A. (1) Any person who intentionally or with criminal negligence commits any of the following shall be guilty of simple cruelty to animals:

(c) Having charge, custody, or possession of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, unjustifiably fails to provide it with proper food, proper drink, proper shelter, or proper veterinary care.

(i) Mistreats any living animal by any act or omission whereby unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain, suffering or death is caused to or permitted upon the animal.

(3) For purposes of this Subsection, if more than one animal is subject to an act of cruel treatment by an offender, each act shall constitute a separate offense.

La. Revised Statute § 14:102.1

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Contact Key Decision Makers and implore them to allow an INDEPENDENT veterinarian to address the welfare of these horses.

I encourage EVERYONE to contact the following people IMMEDIATELY and you are more than welcome to cc me on any and all correspondence relating to the welfare of these horses, cc this email address: admin@pegasusequine.org

1) Contact LDAF State Vet Dr Brent Robbins
email: StateVeterinarian@ldaf.state.la.us

Dr. Jonathon Roberts
email: jroberts@ldaf.state.la.us

Dr Diane Stacy
email: dstacy@ldaf.state.la.us
phone: 225-925-3980

2.) Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry

Mike Strain
phone: 225-771-8942
email: info@mikestrain.org
email: commissioner@ldaf.state.la.us

John Walther, Assistant Commisioner
email: BrandCommission@ldaf.la.gov

File a Complaint: 225-922-1234
Livestock Sanitary Board: 225-925-3980
Buying/Selling/Transport without certificate
Livestock: 800-558-9741

3.) Director / Chief Environmental Division at Fort Polk – Milton Wayne Fariss
phone: 337-531-7008

4.) U.S. ARMY provided Website specific to these horses & Public Affairs:
website: http://www.jrtc-polk.army.mil/trespass_horses.html
email for Public Affairs at JRTC Fort Polk – U.S. ARMY:
usarmy.polk.imcom.mbx.pao-public-response@mail.mil
phone: 337-531-1344
phone: 337-531-1418

5.) Contact Armed Services Commisson
website: https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/
email: julie_tarallo@mccain.senate.gov
email sandra.ross@mail.house.gov

6.) Louisiana Senator – Bill Cassidy
phone: 202-224-5824
email: ron_anderson@cassidy.senate.gov

7.) James N. Mattis, Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

 
Photos taken at North Fort Polk Holding Pen 3/29/18-3/30/18
 

Click Here to read more about LAWSUIT FILED TO PROTECT LOUISIANA’S WILD HORSES December 2016

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BLM Lays Out Plan to Manage Wild Horses and Burros to Extinction

 

The Bureau of Land Management Lays Out the Plan to Manage Wild Horses and Burros to Extinction

By Debbie Coffey and Carol Walker, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

4/30/18

The BLM has submitted a report to Congress “Management Options for a Sustainable Wild Horse and Burro Program” with recommendations on managing the wild horses and burros on our public lands as well as the 46,000 held in short and long term holding facilities.

Some of the suggestions include killing (misidentified as “euthanasia”) 10,000 wild horses and burros, massive roundups of 50,000 wild horses and burros currently on our public lands, then sterilizing 80% of the wild horses and burros that remain, and removing limitations on sale of these wild horses and burros, which exposes them to the risk of sale to slaughter. The options offered in this report would not lead to sustainability, but to the extinction of wild horses and burros on public lands, likely within the next generation or two.

Here is the BLM’s plan: http://www.wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/BLM%20Management%20Options%20for%20a%20Sustainable%20Wild%20Horse%20and%20Burro%20Program.pdf

The BLM is asking Congress for permission to proceed with these extreme measures, and yet the basis for this plan is rooted in false claims.

“Since receiving federal protection in 1971, wild horse and burro populations on public lands have dramatically increased, far exceeding what is healthy for the land and the animals.”

The BLM’s population estimates remain wildly inaccurate. Wild Horse Freedom Federation prepared a White Paper in 2017, that provided a review of the BLM’s own statistics where, according to the BLM, some herds of horses have increased by as much as 750% to 1,250% in only one year. This is biologically impossible and scientifically indefensible.

The BLM claims “The current overpopulation of wild horses and burros threatens the overall health of the western rangelands, degrading ecosystem function and limiting forage and water available for domestic and wildlife species, including game and nongame species.”

Privately owned livestock vastly outnumber wild horses and burros on public lands. Blaming wild horses and burros for all of the range degradation on our public lands and scapegoating them for loss of sage grouse habitat is at very least without any scientific basis. According to Western Watersheds Project, a conservation non-profit: “Public lands ranching is the most widespread commercial use of public lands in the United States. Ranching is one of the primary causes of native species endangerment in the American West; it is also the most significant cause of non-point source water pollution and desertification.”

Journalist Vickery Eckhoff points out that “the 2014 BLM and USFS livestock grazing receipts ($17.1 million) tell a different story: the equivalent of 2.1 million cattle outnumbering 56,656 federally protected wild horses and burros by 37:1.”

Eckhoff also states, “These privately owned livestock are allocated 97 percent of western forage on all 251 million acres. This is compared to 3 percent allocated to 56,656 wild horses and burros occupying just 29.4 million acres.”

http://dailypitchfork.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/BLM_USFS-grazing-analysis_2014_Daily-Pitchfork.pdf

“In establishing the “Appropriate Management Level” (AML) for wild horses and burros on the public lands, the BLM uses scientific principles of rangeland management to determine the population of wild horses and burros that the habitat can sustain.”

When Congress enacted the Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burros Act of 1971 (16 U.S.C. §§ 1331- 1340), the wild horses & burros were to be protected in their historic herd areas. In 1971, wild horses & burros occupied 53.8 million acres managed by the BLM, but now wild horses and burros are on only 26.9 million acres. The BLM has not only eliminated half the land where wild horses and burros were to be protected, but on the remaining acres, oil and gas, livestock grazing and other uses are squeezing out the wild horses and burros.

Most BLM Land Use Plans, including Resource Management Plans (in effect for 20 years unless revised) and Environmental Assessments, do not even allow for numbers of wild horses or burros that are high enough to maintain a minimum viable herd number in their “Appropriate Management Level” (AML). BLM allows some herds to have only 15-20 animals. There are over 150 wild horses in only 27 of the 148 wild horse Herd Management Areas, and there are over 150 burros in only three of the 30 documented burro herds. If the BLM is allowed to achieve their stated goal of “achieving AML” of only 26,000 wild horses and burros then many of these herds will not remain viable and wild become extinct or be zeroed out.

Dr. E. Gus Cothran, an equine geneticist used by the BLM for decades, has consistently stated that wild horse and burro herds need a minimum of 150-200 members, with at least 150 breeding age adult animals, to sustain genetic diversity in the herd and maintain a viable population.

The BLM harps on the cost of warehousing the 46,000 wild horses and burros purported to be in holding facilities. However, Wild Horse Freedom Federation investigations revealed that only about 1/3 to 1/2 of the wild horses the BLM and their contractors claimed were on many of these facilities were actually there. Wild Horse Freedom Federation’s White Paper detailed this, and we notified members of Congress. All of these wild horses and burros that the BLM claims are in holding, aren’t all there. The missing horses have likely already ended up in the slaughter pipeline. And the wild horses and burros were grazing at no cost on public lands.

Regarding the BLM the BLM’s proposed actions, none of them are in the best interests of wild horses and burros. The BLM wants to reduce the time that it takes for adopters of wild horses and burros to receive title, from 1 year to 6 months. They want to designate any horse over 5, instead of over 10, as a “Sale Authority” horse, subject to sale without limitation, and they want to pay anyone who wants to adopt or purchase a horse or burro $1000. All of these proposals are geared toward making it easier for people to sell their wild horses and burros to slaughter.

Killing the wild horses and burros that the BLM currently holds in both long and short term holding is not euthanasia. Euthansia is putting a suffering animal out of its misery. The BLM would be killing healthy wild horses and burros, and it would most likely be in the ugliest way possible. There would be mass shootings and possibly even aerial shootings, and burials in mass graves. Many could be shipped to slaughter plants in Mexico.

The sterilization of 80% of wild horses and burros that are left on public lands would be inhumane, cruel, dangerous and a guarantee of extinction. Methods that were being considered in 2016 for spaying wild mares included methods that were untested and extremely dangerous, in unsterile environments with no or minimal post operative care and would lead to many dying of infection or trauma. Here are respected Veterinarian Don Moore’s comments on the proposed methods of spaying wild mares:

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/DonMooreCommentsOregonSpayProposal.pdf

The BLM is proposing “partnerships” with state and local agencies that would allow them to transfer wild horses and burros in large numbers and strip them of any protections from sale or slaughter or other forms of mistreatment. The public needs to be concerned about these, particularly when the wild horses and burros are to be shipped overseas. One proposal that seems to be gaining momentum is to ship thousands of wild horses to Russia to be used as prey (food on hooves) for Siberian tigers. As if this wasn’t ridiculous enough, they are asking that U.S. taxpayers to pay for shipping them to Russia.

http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/blog/truth-7-blm-considered-sending-2000-wild-horses-russia-used-prey-siberian-tigers-amur-leopards-pilot-program/

The BLM’s failure to manage wild horses and burros on our public lands and their willingness to continue to round up and remove wild horses and burros and then warehouse them leaving far more in captivity than on public lands where they belong is a direct result of pandering to special interest groups, such as grazing and oil and gas exploration. The “crisis” if there is one, is of the BLM’s own making, with decades of mismanagement and lack of responsiveness to wild horses advocates who have many solutions and also volunteers to help keep wild horses wild and free on our public lands, where they belong.

Wild horse Freedom Federation has recommendations on wild horse and burros management which we have sent to Congress, and you can view these recommendations here: http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/news-alerts/recommendations-wild-horse-burro-management/

What can you do to help?

Take, Mail, email or fax this document http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/BLMLaysOutPlantoManageWildHorsestoExtinction.pdf

plus the WHFF recommendations above to your Senators and Congressmen.  plus the WHFF recommendations above to your Senators and Congressmen   http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/news-alerts/recommendations-wild-horse-burro-management/

Tell them you oppose all of the BLM’s Plan.

You can also download Wild Horse Freedom Federation’s White Paper here: http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/white-paper/

How to Contact Congress:

Contact Your Senators:https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

Contact Your Representatives:https://house.gov/representatives/find/

To find out more about Wild Horse Freedom Federation and our work to keep wild horses and burros wild and free on our public lands visit: www.WildHorseFreedomFederation.org

To find out more about Equine Advocates and their work on equine welfare and horse slaughter issues, visit: www.equineadvocates.org

 

Targeted Grazing Scam

By as published on The Wildlife News

The Idaho BLM is implementing what is sometimes called “targeted grazing” with livestock in an effort to reduce large wildfires. The theory is that if livestock graze enough of the “fuel”, then large wildfires like the 600,000 Murphy Complex or the Soda Fire which burned across southern Idaho in recent years could be more easily controlled.

On the surface, this strategy seems plausible. Less fuel should mean fewer large fires. But here’s the rest of the story.

First, nearly all the acreage burned annually is the result of a very few large fire complexes. For instance, in the years 1980-2003 there were 56,320 fires in the Rocky Mountain states. Of those fires, 96% of the blazes were responsible for charring only 4% of the total acreage burned. By contrast, 0.1% of the fires—less than 50—were responsible for over half the acreage burned during that time.

Therefore, the fires that are the biggest threat to both human communities and the ones fuel treatments like targeted grazing seek to control are those very infrequent but large blazes.

However, large blazes occur during what are categorized as “extreme fire weather” conditions. These conditions include serious drought, low humidity, high temperatures and most importantly high winds.

The reason winds are key to fire spread is because they “fan” the flames, and toss embers 1-4 miles ahead of the fire front, making any attempt at containment impossible. A narrow strip of targeted heavily grazed rangelands is not going to stop a wind-driven blaze since burning embers will easily be blown over any fuel reduction.

Numerous studies of large fires have acknowledged this, including A University of Idaho study, following the 2007 Murphy Complex fire, that burned more than 600,000 acres, which found “much of the Murphy Wildland Fire Complex burned under extreme fuel and weather conditions that likely overshadowed livestock grazing as a factor influencing fire extent and fuel consumption in many areas where these fires burned,”

Another widely cited study done in Arizona heralding the benefits of “targeted grazing” on wildfire reduction, concluded that while fuel removal by livestock might reduce fire spread under low and moderate fire weather conditions the situations where it might be beneficial were limited to small areas, and under less than extreme fire weather.

The authors concluded “Targeted grazing treatment did influence fire behavior in grass/shrub communities, but its effects were limited. Although it is a promising tool for altering fire behavior, targeted grazing will be most effective in grass communities under moderate weather conditions.”

In other words, targeted grazing is limited in affecting fire behavior and outcome under the extreme fire conditions agencies like the BLM seek to control.

To have any effect on fuels, the areas targeted for grazing need to be scalped down to stubble. This removes the hiding cover for wildlife, results in soil compaction, serious impacts on native grasses due to “overgrazing” and destruction of soil crusts.

Loss of soil crusts is important because this facilitates the establishment of cheatgrass, a highly flammable annual. So, in effect, target grazing often creates a more flammable zone of cheatgrass.

Another issue is the very low probability that a fire will encounter any fuel break. Because the conditions under which a blaze is transformed into a large, unstoppable wildfire are so rare, most fuel breaks never encounter a fire, making their implementation a waste of time and money.

Target grazing is like “investing” in the lottery. Yes, you can always point to someone who is a winner, but most people buying lottery tickets are just throwing away their money. It’s the same with “fuel treatments” like targeted grazing.

Feel Good Sunday: Donkeys to Make You Laugh

“Okay, let’s take a few seconds out and recharge a little bit and nothing will bring a smile to your face quicker than the benevolent actions of our barnyard comedians, donkeys.  We all are due a few moments of comic relief so take just a few second and mentally cuddle with these outrageous little equine jesters.  Enjoy.” ~ R.T.