“The status quo still isn’t working for our wild horses and burros, the ecology on the range, or the American taxpayers”
BLM attacking wild horses – photo by Carol Walker
When Congress passed the omnibus appropriations bill last month, legislators included a mandate for the Bureau of Land Management to provide a new wild horse and burro management plan. The mandate was joined by a $5.55 million cut to the program.
The statements accompanying the appropriations bill for 2019 said the House and Senate committees that oversee the Interior Department, including the BLM, were “extremely disappointed” in the agency’s failure to produce a comprehensive plan that was originally requested in the FY17 spending package. Legislators said they wanted a plan “to address the fast-rising costs of the Wild Horse and Burro program and overpopulation of wild horses and burros on the range,” and asserted that continued “failure to address these problems is irresponsible and will result in irreparable damage to the landscape and the welfare of the animals protected by the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act” of 1971.
Congress requested a plan from the BLM that:
reduces the complexity and cost of contracting policies and procedures;
eliminates unnecessary environmental reviews;
simplifies and expands the use of partnerships and cooperative agreements;
identifies statutory and regulatory barriers to implementing the plan; and
has the goal of reducing costs while improving the health and welfare of wild horses and burros, and the range.
The statement directs the BLM to provide the plan within 30 days of enactment of the act, but it is still unclear if the deadline will be met. Until the BLM provides a comprehensive plan and corresponding legislative proposals, legislators said the appropriations committees will “maintain the existing prohibitions and reduce the resources available for the program.”
The BLM is working on the “final stages of developing a plan to Congress” describing “several management options aimed at putting the Wild Horse and Burro Program back on a sustainable and fiscally responsible track,” Amber Cargile, BLM’s acting national spokeswoman, told E&E News.
This strong statement expresses Congress’ continued frustration with the growth of wild horse and burro populations, the cost of sustaining current management practices and the political challenges facing the program. The administration’s recent budget proposals have also expressed a need for policy and management changes.
The House Appropriations Committee made changes to wild horse and burro management in its FY18 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill in an attempt to improve the program’s outcomes, but this bill never made it to the Senate.\
“The status quo still isn’t working for our wild horses and burros, the ecology on the range, or the American taxpayers” Rep. Ken Calvert, R-California, chairman of the House appropriations subpanel on interior department spending told the Associated Press.
As of March 2017, the BLM estimated more than 73,000 wild horses and burros existed across 27 million acres of federal herd management areas in 10 western states. More than 45,000 additional horses and burros are held in off-range corrals and pastures. This is 90,000 more animals than the agency’s established population objective, known as the Appropriate Management Level, of less than 27,000. AML is set in land use management plans based on the health of the rangelands, and in balance with other uses on the range including wildlife and livestock grazing. When populations exceed this level, the ecologically feral species negatively impact the rangelands.
In 2016, The Wildlife Society testified at a House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing, expressing the need for more active management of wild horse and burro populations. The National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board has also expressed frustrations with the program and made strong recommendations to change the current management paradigm at its previous meetings.
I want to personally thank all of you who called, emailed, faxed, wrote and met with your Senators and Representatives on behalf of our wild horses and burros before the Spending Bill was passed last week. Congress did maintain protections for wild horses and burros BUT they demanded that the Bureau of Land Management, who is tasked with managing and protecting wild horse and burros on our public lands submit a “comprehensive plan and any corresponding legislative proposals” within 30 days.
Why is this a reason for concern? Because the very language of the directive to the BLM points at drastic measure. “the failure to address these problems is irresponsible and will result in irreparable damage to the landscape and the welfare of the animals protected.”
This leaves the door wide open for the BLM to recommend killing (this is NOT “euthanasia”) the 45,000 wild horses and burros in holding as well as the 45,000 still on our public lands who are deemed “excess”and allowing the BLM to to remove protections from wild horses and burros that are in captivity and transfer them to federal, state, and local agencies, send them overseas and put them in “partnerships” that are not in their best interests. All of these alternatives will expose them to possibly being shipped to slaughter.
Wild Horses and Burros need to be humanely managed on the range, while wild and free on our public lands. Destroying them to pander to the Cattleman’s Association is not the solution. We are concerned that once the report is delivered to Congress before the end of April that the BLM could start killing and transferring wild horses and burros very quickly.
Please continue to follow our alerts and posts and requests for action during this very crucial time.
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
Arbitrary management level (AML): The “overpopulation” of wild horses is a concocted crisis.
Per the 438,140 acres — 685 square miles — of mustang habitat, BLM manages the Beatys Butte herd down to the AML’s low end — 100 — restricting the stocking density to one wild horse per 4,381 acres — almost seven square miles!
Sparsely populated, widely dispersed: Other herds in Oregon besides Beatys Butte are similarly restricted.
One wild horse per 4,500 acres — seven square miles — Warm Springs.
One wild horse per 5,062 acres — 8 square miles — Paisley Desert.
Most grazing slots given to cattle: Within Beatys Butte — where wild horses are, by law, supposed to receive principal benefit of resources — livestock occupy 90 percent of the grazing slots — called “animal unit months” (AUMs).
Normative annual herd-growth equals at most, 5%: Gregg, LeBlanc, and Johnston (2014) disclosed the average birth rate among wild-horse herds is 20 percent, but 50 percent of foals perish. The population-gain from surviving foals (10 percent) minus a conservative estimate of adult-mortality (5 percent) equals a normative herd-growth rate of 5 percent.
Fictitious figures: BLM’s herd-growth figures are falsified. Repeatedly, BLM reports one-year increases far beyond what is biologically possible.
170 percent — 34 times the norm — Stinking Water.
179 percent — 36 times the norm — Paisley Desert.
256 percent — 51 times the norm — Beatys Butte **
317 percent — 63 times the norm — Jackies Butte
** BLM reported that the Beatys Butte population grew from 117 horses to 416 horses in one year, an increase of 299. If so, to overcome foal-mortality (50 percent) and adult-mortality (at least 5 percent), that would mean each filly and mare gave birth to 10 or more foals.
Overpopulation is a false flag: Excess is found only on BLM’s falsified spreadsheets.
New Uniform “Vision Cards” Display Images of Oil Rig and Livestock Grazing
Washington, DC — U.S. Bureau of Land Management employees are now under orders to wear “Vision Cards” on their uniforms displaying official maxims, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These cards are little message boards with aphoristic statements about vision, mission, values, and guiding principles of the BLM.
“The person of federal employees should not be used for political messaging,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the Vison Cards’ similarity to propaganda placards used by totalitarian regimes. “This is supposed to be the Bureau of Land Management not Mao’s Red Guard.”
The two Vision Cards for uniform wear repeat language from the agency website. The cards –
Display the image of an oil rig and what appears to be livestock grazing, in contrast to the official BLM logo which shows a tree, river, and mountain;
Reference serving “stakeholders” and “customers” but do not mention serving the public; and
Declare that the purpose of improving “the health and productivity of the land” is “to support the BLM multiple-use mission.”
It is not clear from where the order to wear the Vison Cards emanates. BLM has no permanent director nor has the Trump White House even named a nominee. During the past year, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and a small band of political appointees in DC have dictated BLM policy. While reports of the mandatory card display have reached PEER from the West, the organization is still trying to determine whether the order is national in scope.
Colorado River Drinking Water Source for 40 Million
2018: 831 Active Uranium Mining Claims Near Grand Canyon
2011: Before Ban, 3,500 Claims
WASHINGTON – If the Supreme Court lifts the moratorium on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, the expected surge in active claims would endanger not only a cherished national landmark, but also the drinking water for 40 million Americans, according to the Environmental Working Group and Earthworks.
Between the current leanings of the Supreme Court and the Trump administration being in power, the mining industry clearly sees an opportunity to open up uranium extraction along the canyon rim for the first time in a decade. There are currently fewer than 900 active uranium claims near the canyon, compared to almost 3,500 before the ban.
Last week two mining industry lobbying groups petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the 20-year moratorium for uranium mining on more than 1 million acres of land along the canyon rim, put in place in 2012 by then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. The mining groups are seeking reversal of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ December ruling to leave the ban in place.
“If the Supreme Court decides in favor of the uranium industry, it could permanently scar a sacred landscape that is the jewel in the crown of America’s natural heritage, and threaten the drinking water of 40 million Americans from Los Angeles to Las Vegas,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “President Trump has shown total disregard for preserving natural resources and protecting public health, and if the court overturns the ban, the Grand Canyon could soon fall victim to his radical agenda.”
“The 1872 Mining Law effectively leaves public lands managers no choice but to permit proposed mines on sensitive lands like those near the Grand Canyon, unless they are specifically protected,” said Earthworks spokesperson Alan Septoff. “If the Supreme Court removes this protection, it will leave the Grand Canyon at the mercy of a mining industry, which has already polluted 40 percent of the headwaters of Western watersheds and left taxpayers with a $50 billion abandoned-mine cleanup bill.”
In 2011, EWG and Earthworks analyzed federal data from the Bureau of Land Management and found roughly 3,450 active uranium mining claims within the 1 million-acre area of the Canyon. The Obama administration temporarily protected this land under its freeze on new claims. Former President Obama placed the moratorium on future uranium mining claims near the north and south rims of the Canyon in order to better assess the risks mining presented to the environment, including drinking water sources.
As a result, the number of active claims plummeted in the years after the ban took effect. Today, the Grand Canyon Trust estimates there are 831 active uranium claims in the Canyon’s withdrawal area. According to the trust, 93 percent of the claims are held by three Canadian companies and one British firm. That number could once again surge into the thousands if the Supreme Court vacates the moratorium.
Metal mining, including for uranium, has long threatened the drinking water sources in the western United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are more than 500 abandoned uranium mines in Arizona and other parts of the desert west awaiting cleanup.
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Our guest tonight is Ann Marini, Ph.D., M.D., and she will be talking about the drugs that the Bureau of Land Management gives to wild horses and burros. John Holland of Equine Welfare Alliance will be joining in on the discussion. We compiled a sample list of drugs from information on FOIA requests and from verification by BLM staff.
Dr Marini earned both her Ph.D. degree from the Department of Biochemistry, 1978, and her medical degree from the Georgetown School of Medicine in 1980. She completed a residencies in medicine at UMASS Worcester, Massachusetts; 1980-1983; and in Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, 1983-1986. She was a Senior Staff Fellow at NINDS/NIMH, 1986-1993. Her research interests include neuropharmacology, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, Mechanisms of Neuronal Cell Death and Neuronal Intrinsic Survival Pathways. Dr. Marini’s group published the peer-review article: Association of phenylbutazone usage with horses bought for slaughter: A public health risk authored by Nicholas Dodman, Nicolas Blondeau and Ann M. Marini and this manuscript was published in the peer-review journal Food and Chemical Toxicology in 2010.
1/17/18 – Carol Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation, on efforts to get the BLM to allow her to photograph wild horses at Axtell (Utah) and Bruneau (Idaho) off range corrals (where the public is not allowed to see them) to help facilitate adoptions. Listen HERE.
1/19/18 – Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. Erik is a contributor to The Hill and his blog posts can be found here. Western Watersheds Project (WWP) aims to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and legal advocacy. Listen HERE.
While the BLM has still refused to make arrangements to let Carol Walker and Ginger Kathrens go to take photos (for free) of wild horses to help facilitate the needed adoptions of over 1,000 wild horses on private property at Axtell, Utah, the BLM shells out millions of dollars a year to Mustang Heritage Foundation to facilitate adoptions, including, for the first time that we know of, shipping wild horses overseas. Over 2 months ago, Wild Horse Freedom Federation filed a Freedom of Information Act to find out who actually applied for and bought these wild horses, so we’re happy that, coincidentally, the BLM finally came out with the PR piece below on their Oregon facebook page. While the BLM continually touts Mustang Heritage Foundation activities as saving money, remember that the wild horses & burros would cost nothing grazing on the 22 million acres of their federally protected public lands that have been taken away from them. ( And, if Sandra is a TIP trainer, they get about $1,000 for training each wild horse.) And, don’t get me started on subjecting wild horses to a 9-hour-long international flight. – Debbie
In the case of adoptions, the BLM even holds onto the horse title for a year, giving the agency time to check on the animal and ensure it is receiving proper care.
Animals that have already been put up for adoption three times, or those that are 10 years or older, are available for outright purchase.
Clark has used both methods — adoption and purchase — and in 2017 she took in 25 Oregon wild horses.
The large-scale acquisition is only possible via a new program called Storefront, a partnership between the BLM and the Mustang Heritage Foundation that caters to elite trainers.
The initiative is aimed directly at increasing adoption rates by making more gentled wild horses available to potential adopters.
There are 14 Storefronts in the U.S. and Clark’s is the only one sending wild horses overseas, according to Casey Graham, program director with the Mustang Heritage Foundation.
Graham called Storefront an “exclusive program” only available to “qualified, vetted trainers.”
Capacity and location are also large benefits to the Storefront program, said Robert Sharp, a manager of the BLM wild horse program in Oregon.
Every Storefront needs to be able to handle at least 10 horses and serve as a pick-up, drop-off location for other trainers. In the case of Clark’s ranch in Georgia, called Rackettown Mustangs, it is much closer to her German clients than the BLM corral in southeast Oregon.
“I think it’s a great program because it exposes these horses to easier physical access for the general public looking to adopt,” said Sharp.
“It’s pretty neat hearing what these mustangs mean to them in Germany,” he added.
Krystal Johnson manages the BLM wild horse program for the entire eastern half of the country. She has two teams to cover 31 states.
A Storefront like Rackettown Mustangs, with an established trainer and a facility big enough for a semitrailer full of horses to turn around, is huge for reaching more local markets, she said.
“It takes a certain person to really have the experience and the facility to be successful,” said Johnson.
Mustang Makeover, German style
Oregon wild horses live in some of the most remote places in America.
From the quiet, desolate range where they were born, it is hard to imagine that these symbols of the West would one day be sold for thousands of dollars, sent on a 9-hour-long international flight and finally be performing in a packed stadium.
“I just fell in love,” said Walter via telephone from Rackettown Mustangs last fall, where she was choosing her own Oregon wild horse to adopt.
Walter is from Giessen, a community about 30 miles north of Frankfurt in the middle of Germany, and said her heart helped her pick a 4-year-old black mare from the Beatys Butte herd in Oregon.
“Her eyes have touched me a lot and I want to give her a good home in Germany,” she wrote later via email.
The German makeover show was modeled after the popular Extreme Mustang Makeover events in America, where trainers compete for prizes and get 100 days to go “from wild to mild” with a horse.
Fifteen of the 16 wild horses used in the German Mustang Makeover were from Oregon.
Horse lovers like Walter need an expert intermediary trainer like Clark to acquire horses legally and get them fit to fly without compromising their wild characteristics.
“The challenge was to have them still wild,” said Clark, who retains a small German accent but also peppers her English with Western slang like “y’all” and “I reckon.”
“I will help everyone who wants to adopt, regardless whether here or in Germany,” she said.
Michael and Silke Strussione, creators of the German Mustang Makeover, said “people went crazy” for the Oregon wild horses.
The couple partnered with Clark and explained via email what it was like for the new German trainers to receive their horses from the animal lounge at the Frankfurt Airport. “You see them, you love them — they feel it, you’re a team,” wrote Michael Strussione. Preparations for the 2018 German Mustang Makeover, including the selection of new Oregon wild horses, is already well underway, said Strussione.
A wild horse from the South Steens herd in southeast Oregon runs near Frenchglen, Oregon, May 23, 2017. Photo courtesy Chuck Martin
From Europe, to Europe
Some American wild horses are descendants of domestic horses brought over by European explorers in the late 15th and 16th centuries. Over the last 500 years or so, the horses successfully adapted and become part of Western culture, hence the 1970s act of Congress protecting them and the immense overseas interest in these living, breathing symbols of America. “I think there is a certain kind of fascination with the great American West,” said Madison Shambaugh, aka Mustang Maddy, the professional horse trainer and wild horse advocate who was a featured guest at the German Mustang Makeover. “It’s expansiveness, beauty and wilderness is captivating, and to many, the mustang is a representation of this magical place,” added Shambaugh. The overseas interest in American wild horses isn’t necessarily a brand new concept, either. One ranch in Baker City, Oregon, has been sending wild horses to Denmark for at least a decade.
The team at Mustang Heritage Foundation said they have received interest from people in New Zealand and Argentina.
Also in the summer of 2017, a 5-year-old mare from Beatys Butte was trained in California, exhibited at an Extreme Mustang Makeover event outside Seattle, and purchased by a famous dog musher in Finland. “Oregon horses have been popular for years and years,” recalled Rickman of the BLM. “This is just the first one that is this big – this amount of horses,” she added.
Now it’s y’all’s turn
Back at the airport tarmac, as the cargo plane carrying Oregon wild horses to Germany was taking off last year, Clark streamed her farewell wishes live on Facebook. “I did my part, now it’s y’all’s turn in Germany!” she said. “Here they come!” The long process to get wild horses into good homes, or “forever homes” as Clark likes to call them, can take years. First the horses are gathered and given a medical inspection, then the adoption process begins, which in Oregon includes an online video showing each horse running in the BLM stables. The popular videos, viewed by thousands in Europe alone, coupled with the new Storefront program, are creating a digital marketplace of sorts and exposing new potential horse owners to wild horses.
Then Clark’s phone rings and the work begins. “She’s one of those people – she’s not just a trainer, she actually cares for the horses,” said Rickman. “The work that she’s done has been huge in helping us,” said Johnson of the BLM Eastern States Office, adding that Clark’s international connections have “opened up more people’s eyes for the potential of the animals.” It’s all about that “forever home” for Clark. She will train a horse as much or as little as her clients want, as long as she knows they will go to a good home. “That’s why we’re doing this – to know that these horses will have a loving home,” she said.
If the BLM would raise the livestock grazing fees, even just a little bit, they’d have plenty of money to be transparent. Also, there is little that can possibly “slow down the agency’s decision-making process” since it remains in the dark ages.
“Media requests only make up a fraction of the total requests agencies receive, but the new policy setting an organizational “cap” on requests could severely hamper the work of journalists – and concerned citizens – trying to use FOIA for its intended purpose.”
Bureau of Land Management looks to limit the number of FOIA requests organizations can file with the agency
Recommendations appear to target media requests, and raise the cost of already prohibitive processing fees
According to records obtained by the Washington Post, the Bureau of Land Management is recommending new legislation that would limit the number of FOIA requests individuals and agencies could file with the agency, create stricter criteria for fee waivers, as well as increased fees for “search and redaction.”
For justification, BLM cites the agency’s limited resources, which in turn causes requests to “slow down the agency’s decision-making process.” In Financial Year 2016, the report states, the agency’s FOIA work cost $2.8 million, which was approximately .2 percent of the agency’s total budget of $1.3 billion that year.
A Dog-Eating Siberian Tiger Is on the Prowl and Authorities Can’t Find It
Forest authorities in Russia are scouring the frozen countryside in a frantic search to find a Siberian tiger that is preying on local dogs in a remote Siberian village.
The Amur tiger, an endangered species, was bred in captivity and then released into the wild as part of a conservation campaign that has the personal backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It is not the first time a tiger released through Putin’s campaign has caused consternation with local communities: in 2014, another tiger cub crossed into China in 2014 and killed five chickens.
Now residents of a small village near the border with China, in Russia’s eastern Primorye region, have claimed that one of the animals has been attacking dogs, killing and then dragging away their carcasses.
Wild Horse Freedom Federation issues THE TRUTH to share Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents and information with the public. Be sure to subscribe HERE to Wild Horse Freedom Federation, so that you can receive email alerts.
THE TRUTH #13 – FOIA documents reveal more proof of BLM’s lack of oversight of record keeping for wild horse long term holding facilities.
(Note: The BLM does NOT put wild burros in long term holding facilities. Please be sure to ask the BLM why they don’t put wild burros in long term holding facilities.)
In the contracts between the BLM and most wild horse long term holding facility contractors, there is language that states:
“Provide weekly monitoring of the animals to assess their health and determine death loss. Prior to submission of the monthly invoice the contractor will conduct a complete inventory of all wild horses. The results of each inventory will be included in the monthly invoice.”
“Each death shall be recorded by the freezemark and/or description of the animal, date the animal was noted as dead and then submitted on each months invoice.”
Debbie Coffey, V.P. of Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF) has filed FOIAs for years of invoices for all long term holding facilities. WHFF (in their White Paper issued July, 2017 found HERE) detailed that many long term holding facility invoices did not include the required freezemark number or description of dead wild horses.
FOIA documents recently obtained prove that Lili Thomas, who was the Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) and overseeing the long term holding facilities, was missing many invoices and death records in her files, and had to ask the contractors to supply them to comply with one of our FOIA requests.
Read the rest of this article and see FOIA documents HERE.
Be sure to subscribe HERE to Wild Horse Freedom Federation, so that you can receive email alerts.
Read all of THE TRUTH and see other FOIA documentation HERE.