BLM Agrees to Beef Up Livestock Range Condition Reports



Data Quantifying and Qualifying Grazing Effects on Land Health Belatedly Restored

Washington, DC — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has agreed to restore key data to reports measuring how well vast federal rangelands are protected from damaging overgrazing in response to an administrative complaint filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The restored data reflects whether overgrazing or other factors are degrading the condition of 150 million acres of federal rangelands across a 13-state area covering most of the West.

The PEER complaint was filed in December 2014 under the Data Quality Act, which requires federal reports – especially those that are statistical in nature – to be complete, unbiased and of the highest accuracy and utility. The complaint targeted BLM’s 2013 Rangeland Inventory, Monitoring, and Evaluation (RIME) report, released a month prior, which is supposed to detail which lands are failing to meet range health standards for water, vegetation, soils and the ability to support wildlife. That 2013 report, and subsequent reports, omitted key data displayed in previous reports which showed –

  • The number and land area of grazing allotments meeting and failing rangeland health standards;
  • The reasons for violations of land health standards, such as whether it was due to overgrazing or from other causes; and
  • Whether land conditions are improving or declining or whether BLM is taking any management steps to restore degraded rangeland.

“Without this data, it is difficult for Congress and the public to measure the success or failure of BLM’s rangeland management,” said PEER Advocacy Director Kirsten Stade, who had labelled the incomplete report as “RIME without reason.” “We found it hard to believe that something as slow-moving as grazing livestock could not be adequately monitored.”

BLM initially rejected the PEER complaint but granted its appeal in a letter dated February 12, 2016. In subsequent communications, BLM indicated that it will correct not only the 2013 RIME report but the 2014 and 2015 editions, as well. The BLM had blamed a failed computerized mapping system as the reason it had stopped displaying import landscape health data.

BLM claims that it will develop new data reporting and mapping standards later this year, but has rebuffed suggestions that the agency put these changes out for peer review. Moreover, the agency has yet to provide much insight into what format this reporting system will take. BLM did not respond to an offer for free use of the Grazing Data Interactive Map developed by PEER, which web-displays data from BLM’s Land Health Status record system overlaid with high-resolution satellite imagery, permitting users to actually eyeball the land health conditions.

“PEER is tracking the disturbing trend of worsening range conditions across the 20,000 BLM grazing allotments,” added Stade, noting that much of the missing data covers the period when drought conditions across much of the Sagebrush West worsened. “We are concerned that BLM is poised to repeat the same mistakes by developing a new monitoring system behind closed doors that obscures rather than reveals the real conditions on public rangelands. Why should data about public lands grazing be kept secret?”

Read BLM letter granting PEER appeal

See the PEER Data Quality Act complaint

Visit the PEER Grazing & Mapping website

Look at PEER’s successful appeal

View BLM emails explaining further relief

NYC Court May Open Door for Wild Horse Release

(The News as We See It) by R.T. Fitch

Judge to Render Ruling Tomorrow, Oct 21, 2010

Today, lead counsel Bruce Wagman, of the Schiff Hardin law firm, reported that the TRO hearing for the Habitat for Horses, ASPCA, Cloud Foundation, Toni and Dr. Don Moore suit against the BLM for rounding up wild horses in the Colorado North Piceance area has netted several positive results for both the horses and the American public.

“Of primary importance is the issue of venue has been ruled upon”, stated Wagman, “In the eyes of the court the ASPCA does have standing with these horses and the case will remain in New York”.  Last week the BLM attempted to persuade the court to move the case to a more BLM “friendly” western state or to Washington D.C. This request has now been withdrawn by the federal government.

Wagman went on to report that the court also found that plaintiff Dr. Don Moore has suffered irreparable harm by removing said horses who he has personally known for decades.  The BLM stated that Dr. Moore could just go elsewhere to see wild horses and the court agreed that such an option was not suitable or appropriate.

Still remaining to be decided is the main point of law, argued by the plaintiffs, that the BLM has not proven that the horses are indeed “excess”.  The law suit states that the BLM is in violation of the Data Quality Act and does not use contemporary and updated information in deciding how many horses should be removed from public lands and which herds should actually be “zeroed” out.

The judge intends to make his ruling, tomorrow, October 21st 2010.  If in favor of the horses the captured equines will be returned to the range and the helicopter stampede will be concluded.  If not, the BLM will continue to conduct their ill conceived stampede and additional wild horses will be added to the 40,000+ confined animals that the BLM holds in concentration camps across the U.S..

Group Lawsuit Filed to Stop Destruction of Colorado Mustang Herd

Press Release from HfH Advisory Council and The Cloud Foundation

Suit seeks immediate injunction, cites BLM’s violations of four Congressional Acts

New York City, NY (October 7, 2010)— A case filed today against Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar in federal court aims to stop the elimination of wild horses from Colorado’s North Piceance herd area. Plaintiffs Habitat for Horses (HfH), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), The Cloud Foundation (TCF), Toni Moore and Dr. Don Moore challenge the BLM’s ongoing illegal treatment of wild horses residing on public lands and it’s intention to completely remove all wild horses from this area beginning October 11, 2010.

The Plaintiffs’ attorneys, Bruce Wagman (Schiff Hardin) and Valerie Stanley, are asking the court for an injunction to stop BLM from removing any of these wild horses pending a complete judicial review of the BLM’s conduct. The complaint cites four counts and violations committed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM): violation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Information Quality Act and the Federal Land Policy Management Act. The suit has been brought against BLM Director Robert Abbey and Field Manager of the Colorado White River Field Office Kent Walter, in addition to Secretary Salazar.

“The BLM’s ‘shoot from the hip’ policy of indiscriminately destroying and removing long standing wild horse herds has to come to an end,” says R.T. Fitch, Volunteer Executive Director of co-supporting organization HfH Advisory Council“Poor accounting, outdated data and disengagement from the reality of the range is the hallmark of the BLM’s business plan. They must be stopped.”

On September 10th, 2010 the White River Field office of the BLM issued its final decision to completely and permanently eliminate the herd of wild horses which has lived in partnership with the natural environment in the Herd Area for centuries.

BLM and other public agencies have eliminated over a third of wild horse herds  designated for protection by Congress in 1971,” explains Cloud Foundation Volunteer Executive Director, Ginger Kathrens. “Colorado has only a few hundred wild horses remaining and the destruction of yet another herd is unthinkable—cruel, costly and completely unnecessary. It is a managing to extinction policy that must stop.”

This action is co-funded by HfH Advisory Council and the ASPCA. A suit filed last week to protect the nearby West Douglas wild horse herd has so far resulted in a one-year postponement of that “zeroing out action.” The case remains in court.

The Cloud FoundationHfH Advisory CouncilASPCA and over 200 other organizations and tens of thousands of members of the public continue to call for an immediate moratorium on BLM wild horse and burro roundups. To date the BLM has not changed course and plans to roundup and remove a total of 3,295 wild horses and burros before the end of the year. Currently, nearly 40,000 wild horses and burros are held in pens and pastures at taxpayer expense.

Links of interest:

Legal documents filed today:

Congress Sends Letter for Wild Herds to Secretary Salazar

Roundup Schedule-

American Herds – “What’s Left?”

Unified Moratorium on Roundups Letter

Mestengo. Mustang. Misfit.  America’s Disappearing Wild Horses – A History

Straight from the Horse’s Heart

Stampede to Oblivion: An Investigate Report from Las Vegas Now

Shortlink to this release

Photos, video and interviews available by request from the Cloud Foundation

The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana. 107 S. 7th St. – Colorado Springs, CO 80905, p. 719-633-3842

The Habitat for Horses Advisory Council is the “The Legal Voice of the American Equine” and is comprised of like-minded equine welfare oriented organizations and individual advocates. The Council works to progress relevant issues imperative to furthering the safety and well being of horses, both domestic and wild, in the United States. Habitat for Horses Advisory Council is a registered 501c4 non-profit corporation. P.O. Box 213, Hitchcock, TX 77563, p.1-800-974-FOTH

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was the first humane organization in the Western Hemisphere. Our mission, as stated by our founder, Henry Bergh, in 1866, is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. 424 E. 92nd St New York, NY 10128-6804, p. 212-876-7700
Legal Documents Downloadable in “Box” Widget Bottom Right of Page

Moratorium on Wild Horse Roundups Is Essential

by Carrol Abel ~ President of The Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund

Live Link to Roll Call News

Survivors of Twin Peaks Stampede ~ Photo by Terry Fitch

Escalated removals of wild herds from the West are categorized as necessary by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management officials. In a recent article, BLM Director Bob Abbey cited the need to “protect wildlife habitat, the horses themselves and the public rangelands from the environmental effects of herd overpopulation” as reasoning behind what appears to be a mad rush to clear the herds from publicly owned Western rangelands.

There are four elements involved in deciding how many animals are “excess,” thus satisfying criteria for their removal: current population, appropriate management levels, rangeland health and multiple-use requirements. Sound decisions on how many mustangs are to be removed, if any, and how frequently the gathers occur must be justified by solid science. The BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program is fraught with scientific uncertainty associated with these critical management assumptions.

Animal welfare advocates are not alone in questioning the science behind the massive wild horse and burro removals currently in contention. The Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General released an evaluation report in April titled “Interior Lacks a Scientific Integrity Policy.” It states, in part, that “without policies to ensure the integrity of its scientific research, Interior runs the risk that flawed information will reach the scientific community and general public, thereby breaching the public’s trust and damaging Interior’s reputation. The time for a comprehensive scientific integrity policy at Interior is, therefore, long overdue.”

Establishing appropriate management levels for wild horse and burro populations is an example of scientific integrity lost. A 2008 Government Accountability Office report states that the bureau “has not provided specific formal guidance to field offices on how to set AML.” Equitable multiple-use policies also come into question with GAO findings that 27 percent of BLM field offices in its survey did not consider data from actual forage use by livestock when setting appropriate management levels. Clearly, the ability to properly determine appropriate management levels with current methods is questionable.

The U.S. Institute of Environmental Conflict Resolution was recently hired by the bureau to develop an effective strategy to engage the public in Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. Published findings in April cite the National Research Council’s 1982 perspectives on “data gaps, the role of social factors in decision making, the persistence of conflict over values, and research priorities,” as remaining relevant today. Its extensive interviews with BLM employees show internal skepticism, as revealed in the following statement, “BLM hiring and staffing for the program does not reflect a priority on scientific expertise. The questions, data gaps, and research issues identified by the committee as priorities to support effective management do not appear to have been addressed.”

Abbey’s announcement in June of an “unprecedented new direction” for the Wild Horse and Burro Program and the request for public comment on Salazar’s new initiative was met with a degree of hope from animal welfare advocates. But the June publication of the bureau’s handbook on wild horse and burro management shattered that optimism.

The handbook, which is the first of its kind and was undoubtedly in its final stages when Abbey made his announcement, quotes the legal requirement for maintaining a wild horse’s free-roaming behavior — but provides for their removal should they migrate from their designated areas. Further damaging public trust, the creation of nonreproducing herds on their home range — a decision that was supposed to come after September’s closure of public comments — has already been made and is outlined in the document.

The Data Quality Act of 2001 was passed to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility and integrity of information disseminated by federal agencies. Published guidelines for the BLM state, “Information presented or submitted to Congress, which is simultaneously disseminated or previously disseminated to the public is exempt from these Data Quality Act guidelines.” Lawmakers and their constituents concerned about wild horse issues should ask questions — and then further question the answers given.

The bureau’s past actions give the impression of an attitude of omnipotence. By all appearances, the agency has disregarded recommendations from the GAO, Office of the Inspector General and the National Research Council pertaining to the Wild Horse and Burro Program.

Congress now shoulders the moral obligation and the responsibility to intercede on behalf of the American public. A nonpermanent moratorium on wild horse and burro roundups and removals, barring emergency conditions, is an appropriate action at this historic crossroad. Review of the scientific evidence on which wild horse and burro policies are based is crucial to the well-being of America’s wild herds — and the re-establishment of public trust.