(Characters have changed, content/intent same this year as yesteryear)
Through the Eyes of the Wild Ones
(to be sung to the tune of “The 12 days of Christmas”)
(to be sung to the tune of “The 12 days of Christmas”)
Secretary of Interior Ryan “Dinky” Zinke has made it a point to declare that energy concerns had nothing to do with his recommendation to President Trump that Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be cut by 85 percent and the remnant hacked into bits. There’s no mine in Bears Ears, he told reporters after Trump issued two proclamations Tuesday cutting Bears Ears and another national monument in Utah, the Grand Staircase-Escalante.
But The Washington Post has obtained documents showing there was heavy lobbying in favor of reducing the monument’s acreage by the owner of the nation’s only remaining uranium mill. It sits just outside the boundary of Bears Ears as designated last year by President Obama, but miles away from the new boundary under Trump’s truncated designation.
Juliet Eilperin’s report on the documents shows that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, lobbied the Trump regime to shrink the monument—which is rich with scenic beauty and ancient American Indian archeological sites—to make it easier to access deposits of uranium ore:
In a May 25 letter to the Interior Department, Chief Operating Officer Mark Chalmers wrote that the 1.35 million-acre expanse Obama created “could affect existing and future mill operations.” He later noted, “There are also many other known uranium and vanadium deposits located within the [original boundaries] that could provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.” […]
Energy Fuels Resources did not just weigh in on national monuments through public-comment letters. It hired a team of lobbyists at Faegre Baker Daniels — led by Andrew Wheeler, who is awaiting Senate confirmation as the Environmental Protection Agency’s deputy secretary — to work on the matter and other federal policies affecting the company. It paid the firm $30,000 between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, according to federal lobbying records, for work on this and other priorities.
The company’s vice president of operations, William Paul Goranson, joined Wheeler and two other lobbyists, including former congresswoman Mary Bono (R-Calif.), to discuss Bears Ears in a July 17 meeting with two top Zinke advisers.
Although there are a few rich deposits in the world that are as much as 18 percent uranium, most sources, like those in Utah, are well below 1 percent. A mill uses various techniques to turn the ore into yellowcake—U308, triuranium octoxide. The milling process also leaves behind massive piles of tailings—powdery, slightly radioactive waste. The yellowcake is shipped to processing centers that turn it into uranium hexaflouride, which is then enriched to a level useful as fuel in commercial power reactors, a higher level for test reactors and production of medical isotopes, or to a much higher level for use in making nuclear weapons.
Right now, the price of yellowcake is about $25 a pound, well below Energy Fuels Resources’ $40-$50 break-even point. Unless that changes, no new mines are likely to be excavated in the parts of Bears Ears sheared away by Trump’s proclamations. But EFR is looking with hope at the Asian market, where a number of new uranium-fueled nuclear power plants are planned or already under construction and could boost uranium prices.
The U.S. market won’t help. Construction on two new nukes in South Carolina was begun in 2013. After delays and massive cost overruns, the half-completed project was shuttered this summer. Finishing them would have doubled their original estimated cost of $9.8 billion. In all likelihood, come the new year, two nukes being built in Georgia that are in the same delay-and-overrun bind as South Carolina’s will also be shuttered without producing a single kilowatt of electricity. No other U.S. power projects are in the works and are unlikely to be any time soon, if ever.
It may make no difference at Bears Ears. If some already launched lawsuits against shrinking the monuments upends Trump’s proclamations—as many close observers strongly believe will be the case—Bears Ears will return to its originally designated boundaries, and there won’t be any uranium ore mined from deposits near the Energy Fuels Resources mill.
In response to President Donald Trump’s announcement of historic reductions of protected public lands in Utah, Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project, released the following statement:
“This decision is a dangerous turn in our nation’s approach to protecting the places that have forged the Western way of life. The fact that an American president would unlawfully remove protections on iconic public lands for political gain should deeply disturb anyone who wants these places, which are a birthright to our children, to continue to benefit all of us.”
“For his part, Secretary Zinke should be ashamed of his role in this craven decision to allow special interests to exploit the kinds of places President Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act to protect. Fortunately, legal experts overwhelmingly agree that undoing these protections is unlawful and will not stand.”
“Future generations are counting on our system of checks and balances to stand up to this shocking abuse of power.”
It is not with a personal grudge, whim or politically charged prejudiced that I write about newly appointed Secretary of the Interior Ryan “Dinky” Zinke but instead it is with an all too clear memory of where this political animal first crawled out from underneath his rock and embarrassed humanity by opening his mouth and exposing the stone cold heart that resides within the shell of his human body.
This man, and I use the term loosely, has been practicing for years to be the public, political egomaniac that he is today. Under investigation for multiple misuses of tax payer dollars, trying to shrink current national monuments and public land, walking back restrictions on sick trophy hunter imports, adorning his office with dead and murdered animals and most importantly to equine advocates, trying to strip the federal protections from our iconic wild horses and burros while promoting the slaughter of said equines for human consumption, the list is endless.
Late last year, when the name Zinke first floated to the surface as a possible appointee for the DoI slot, I immediately saw the greasy slick begin to form on the surface of that Cabinet Kettle and the stench brought back some ugly memories. All that is “Dinky” is not what it appears to be.
Below is just one of many articles that chronicle Zinke’s early political quest to butcher, slaughter and kill American horses; a concept abhorrent to over 80% of American citizens. It is just the first installment of a ‘look-back’ onto the man that is charged with protecting our public lands and all of the creatures that walk upon their cherished soil. It is unfathomable that such a reprehensible character has slithered his way into a position where he can now manipulate and collude with his special interest good ole boys to diminish all that is natural for the sake of money, power and ego.
Back in March of 2009 he gets in his quotes (below) and tells the world what to do with ‘old horses’.
This guy has got to go!
by By Kahrin Deines, Flathead Beacon//
HELENA – Horse slaughterhouses might find a new home in Montana if a bill to spur their construction passes one more hurdle in the state Senate.
House Bill 418, which senators endorsed Thursday on a vote of 27-23, aims to rein in possible state court actions that might discourage construction of a horse slaughterhouse in Montana.
It follows the closure of the country’s last slaughter facility in DeKalb, Ill., after the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an Illinois law prohibiting slaughter of horses for human consumption.
After one more successful vote in the Senate, the measure introduced by Rep. Ed Butcher, a Republican horse owner from a central Montana farming community, would move to the governor’s desk.
In Thursday’s Senate debate, the bill’s passage was hitched to Montana’s roots as a Western ranching state, with supporters urging fellow lawmakers to view horses as livestock that can outlive their commercial purpose.
“This is horse country, and it’s good horse country, and there’s a heritage there that we don’t want to lose,” said Sen. Rick Ripley, R-Wolf Creek.
Without a nearby slaughter facility, supporters said, the abandonment of old, sick or injured horses will likely increase as the country slumps further into the hardships of an economic recession.
“When a horse is too old to breed, too old to ride, or too expensive to feed, a horse is disposed of,” said Sen. Ryan Zinke, R-Whitefish, who carried the bill in the Senate.
As it stands now, old horses can be set out to pasture in a handful of equine shelters in the state, or disposed of through euthanasia — options that some Montanan horse owners cannot afford, according to those who wish to see a slaughter facility in the state.
The bill’s opponents, however, bridle at the suggestion that slaughterhouses somehow align with the customs of a state where self-reliance is a core value.
“Yes, we’re in tough economic times, but I was raised like most of you to take personal responsibility for the decisions you make, including the decision to own a horse,” said Sen. David Wanzenried, D-Missoula.
The legal protections the bill would give slaughter companies have also prompted criticism.
“I don’t think there’s a business that we give a blank check to that says no injunction,” said Sen. Rick Laible, R-Darby, one of two Republicans voting against the bill.
The bill would require those challenging a slaughter facility permit to post a bond worth 20 percent of its construction costs. It would also prohibit courts from halting construction of a facility once it’s been approved by the state.
Other states where horses play a vital role in the economy have also recently considered studying the impact of opening slaughter facilities, and legislation is afoot elsewhere that asks Congress to support states’ rights to regulate horse transport and slaughter.
Most of it, though, is directed at a bill pending in Congress that would prohibit transporting across U.S. borders horses that would be killed for meat, effectively removing Canada and Mexico as slaughter destinations.
If a slaughterhouse were to open in Montana, old horses from other states could be brought here for processing, with the meat going to overseas market and other byproducts used in things like glue — a prospect that some argue would sully Montana’s reputation, but not one that frightens those in favor of the measure.
“I don’t care about what Chicago or anybody else says. I care about what Montanans say,” Zinke said in his closing remarks.
Finally, a bit of good news for our wild horses and burros; yesterday, November 20th 2017, the Senate Appropriations Committee released a draft version of their Interior Appropriations Bill with wording that maintains the current protection of our wild horses and burros, the same wording that the House stripped from their bill several months ago.
A big shout out of thanks to Senators Murkowski, Udall and the entire committee for their commitment to uphold the wishes and desires of the American people.
Likewise, many thanks to all of you who are the voices of the voiceless who have worked tirelessly to reach out to your elected officials to ensure that their voting represented what YOU, the tax paying American citizens, wanted versus a lobbying private interest group.
But the fight is not over, now the House and Senate will meet to hash out their differences and produce a final Bill so our attention will turn to the principles on the House’s committee. The information on the committee’s make up should be forth coming within days and when it is available, we will be back up on our soapbox asking for your help.
Stay tuned and thank you for your support of the wild ones and for allowing us to continue the fight for both the equines and for you. Your kind donations are always greatly appreciated and used wisely for the benefit of the horses and burros.
Keep the Faith.
SOURCE: The Week
Why the Interior Department desperately needs beat reporters
The federal agency’s treatment of wild horses has been scandalously poor. But you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspaper.
by Andrew Cohen
Consider, for example, an unfortunate story published last month in The Washington Post about America’s wild horses and their human stewards at the Bureau of Land Management.
The average reader of this story, headlined, “U.S. looking for ideas to help manage wild-horse overpopulation,” likely came away from it with a grossly distorted view of the problems facing the herds, how those problems came to be, and what federal officials are doing (or not doing) to solve them. All of the appropriate voices were heard from, all the advocates and bureaucrats, all the lawyers and county commissioners — but the result was a cacophony, and not the symphony a good story ought to be. Critical context and perspective were missing from this report, as were key facts and history. The result was an inaccurate, incomplete mess.
There is a difference between a story that scratches the surface of a conflict and something that offers valuable insight into it. The only reason I can tell the difference in this instance is because I have spent a lot of time over the past three years reading and writing about the worsening plight of the nation’s wild horses, the federal government’s antipathy toward them, the political and economic reasons for this deliberate indifference, and the media’s casual disregard for this breathtaking breach of public trust.
Horses that have been treated with birth control are released back into the wild. | (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
What to do with the nation’s wild horses is not a simple question, and there are no easy answers. But the problem is not the most complicated ever faced by our federal government, either. There is plenty of room in this country for its herds, and there are plenty of reasonable policies that could be implemented to manage them on the range if federal officials mustered up the political courage to do so. Those officials haven’t — and without more public pressure they won’t — because of the enormously powerful lobbies aligned against the horses. You would know virtually none of this by reading the Post story, or pretty much any mainstream news organization’s story about wild horses.
The governing statute, signed into law by President Richard Nixon in December 1971, is the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. It requires the federal government to protect, manage, and control the nation’s herds. The inherent contradictions between those three verbs — protect, manage, control — has caused four decades of political and legal strife. The law no doubt has saved the herds until now, but it has been winnowed down, by subsequent legislation and administrative fiat, to where the horses today again are imperiled.
The Obama administration, under pressure from industry lobbyists, has rounded up tens of thousands of horses under the guise of “management” and “control.” Instead of roaming free on vast swaths of land out west, at virtually no cost to you or me, the horses are kept in holding pens at significant public cost. What was a “crisis” only to ranchers and farmers a few years ago is now truly a national “crisis.” There are more wild horses in captivity than in the wild because the government has made it so.
The last secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, was himself a rancher who was openly hostile to the herds. Current Secretary Sally Jewell has either ignored the issue of wild horses or has misrepresented the essence of the problems they face. A National Academies of Science report on the horses published last year, which in several important respects was sharply critical of the BLM’s policies, has been virtually ignored by the Interior Department, which won’t talk about it except to mischaracterize some of its contents. No major media outlet has covered this angle to the story.
There are great, untold stories here just begging for beat reporters to dig in. Jewell, steeped in scientific training, is ignoring the advice of federal scientists. The industries pushing to rid public lands of wild horses are the very ones benefiting from far-below-market federal leasing rates. By rounding up the herds to benefit those ranchers, the federal government has made the horses welfare wards. And now the feds are lamenting the costs and looking to get rid of the animals. What’s happened here is the classic American story: Money makes political power and political power makes all the difference in the world.
The government rounds up wild horses, to be adopted or housed indefinitely. | (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The intended takeaway of the mainstream narrative goes something like this: Earnest, humble public servants have run out of bright ideas and thus need the wisdom and ingenuity of the American people to help them save wild horses. There are more horses than anyone thinks, the BLM says. They are reproducing at rates faster than anyone can count. The cost of keeping them in pens is too high. “We haven’t had many options,” Joan Guilfoyle, a BLM chief says in the Post story. Left out in most stories is that the BLM itself created the current crisis by aggressively rounding up horses and by failing to use proven fertility-control measures.
Often left out: The lack of scientific rigor employed by the BLM in its estimates of how many horses the land can sustain; the fact that federal scientists found BLM policies are actually accelerating wild horse reproduction; the fact that the Interior Department has refused to answer in-depth questions about the report.
What does the media like to focus on? The specter of horse slaughter, which is illegal in the United States but which is occurring anyway under cover of darkness.
Horses to be housed by the government are tended by a wrangler. | (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The tragedy of the story of the horses today, and the tragedy of most coverage of it, is that there really is a crisis that won’t be solved until the BLM candidly addresses the problems it has created. The biggest failure of the Post article — and most articles on this topic — is that in addition to exonerating the BLM, it suggests that the policies now in place are the result of inexorable facts and law imposed upon officials. That’s wrong. The policies that have placed 50,000 federally protected horses in mortal danger today represent political choices that could be reversed if federal officials exercised the will to do so.
Fact: There are reasonable birth-control methods that could limit the herds’ population growth — methods the NAS report endorsed but which the BLM won’t implement.
Fact: Almost all of this is being done in the dark, without proper legislative oversight or bureaucratic transparency or accountability.
You won’t get the best answers if you don’t ask the right questions of the right people. Stories like this essentially are “beat” stories, and they cannot adequately be told unless they are told by reporters who can recognize immediately when they are being fed bullshit by the sources they have contacted for comment.
There are several reasons why there are so few “beat” reporters covering the Interior Department today. Money is probably the biggest. In the same way that media organizations have scaled down their foreign coverage, they’ve also drawn back from regular coverage of those federal agencies that don’t generate the sorts of sexy “political” stories everyone seems to like. It’s expensive to keep an Interior “beat” reporter on the road all year. This beat’s stories don’t fall from trees as they do at the Justice Department or on Capitol Hill. It takes time to understand the dynamics, the players, and the game.
Another reason we don’t see more beat reporters on the public-lands front, I believe, is geographical bias. The vast majority of the work of the Interior Department occurs, and is felt, by those who live far beyond the media centers of the Northeast. Many people back East, including many who run media organizations, simply don’t care enough about the issues raised by the work of the department to commit themselves to regular coverage of those issues. These horses are so far away from the concrete and steel canyons of New York or the statues and boulevards of Washington, they might as well be dreams to some people.
This is a shame, and a lost opportunity, because it’s easy to see in the work of the Interior Department a microcosm of all the political tensions we focus upon more generally in Washington. Interior is a federal agency manipulated by petty bureaucrats whose policies are influenced by special interests. With virtually no oversight, these officials directly control hundreds of millions of acres of land and the fortunes of millions of people. Oil and conservationism, gas and the environment, nature and nurture, it’s all on this beat. If I were a young journalist looking to make a name, I would run toward these stories.
Let me close by making a prediction. If the Post, or any other news organization, were to focus on this beat, and hire a team of smart, aggressive journalists to dig deep into what’s happening here, that team would quickly start churning out groundbreaking stories that would generate acclaim and increased public awareness. These investigative journalists would find one compelling story after another. And we’d all be the better for it.
Let’s hope Sally Jewell answers questions about the mismanagement of the BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program and comes up with plans for immediate reform. Below is a video of Sally Jewell addressing employees of the Dept. of Interior. Let’s hope she remembers she works for the American public. – Debbie
SOURCE: Committee on Natural Resources
Full Committee Hearing To Examine Interior Department’s Operations, Management, Rulemaking
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to Testify
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 9, 2013 – The House Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing on Wednesday, July 17th entitled, “The Department of the Interior Operations, Management, and Rulemakings.” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will be the sole witness testifying at this hearing. This will be Secretary Jewell’s first appearance before the Committee.
“Oversight of the actions of the Interior Department is a priority for the Committee and this hearing will allow the opportunity for both Republicans and Democrats to ask questions of Secretary Jewell. We look forward to her first visit to the House Natural Resources Committee,” said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04).
WHAT: Full Committee Oversight Hearing on “The Department of the Interior Operations, Management, and Rulemakings”
The Honorable Sally Jewell
Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior
WHEN: Wednesday, July 17, 2013
WHERE: 1324 Hearing Room in the Longworth House Office Building
Visit the Committee Calendar for additional information, once it is made available. The meeting is open to the public and a live video stream will be broadcast at http://naturalresources.house.gov/live.
By Debbie Coffey Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved.
The Bureau of Land Management adoption site for wild horses at the Sundance Ranch in Redlands, CA, has excellent shade structures that don’t seem to put the horses in any danger, are open to the air on all 4 sides, and also allow sunlight on the ground in the morning and afternoons, to help kill bacteria.
Look, they even added some trees for shade OUTSIDE of the pens.
Depending on the position of the sun, the shade covers different areas of the ground. To accommodate snow at other BLM facilities, this type of roof might need to cover more area and be more steeply pitched. But the posts are attached to the fence and don’t seem likely to cause injury to the horses.
Then again, the BLM hasn’t worried too much about the danger to the wild horses during roundups and transportation, during the use of a hot-shot, in squeeze chutes, and during the field spaying mares or gelding of cryptorchids (killing many in the process), which also don’t happen to wild horses out in the wild, so why BLM’s big concern about some posts attached to a fence?
While the shade cover at the Sundance Ranch in Redlands might be improved (the roof could be a little higher and an expert could make sure a horse can’t get its head caught between any pipes) this is a huge improvement over most BLM facilities (including Palomino Valley and Indian Lakes Road), and it accommodates all of the horses in this adoption site’s care.
Why can’t the BLM, the Department of Interior agency that drops millions of taxpayer dollars on the roundups of wild horses every year, fork over some money for shade structures like this? The Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, has a mandate to protect the wild horses. The BLM can build shade structures like the ones pictured, so why won’t they? How many more horses have to die before the BLM provides shade and shelter to captive wild horses?
The BLM can (and does) whip up an “emergency” roundup at the drop of a cowboy hat. Send your Congressional representatives these photos, along with the photos taken by many wild horse advocacy groups and individuals at Palomino Valley, and demand some of the “loot” from the Department of Interior’s oil & gas royalties subsidize the building these shelters for the wild horses, since the wild horses are being removed from their Herd Management Areas (HMAs) for oil and gas development on the same lands within the HMAs.
Also, demand a stop to all roundups and a Congressional investigation into every aspect of the BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program.
Guest OpEd by Lisa LeBlanc
A New Year. New chances, new reasons for enthusiasm, for change, for hope. Events concerning long-standing Wild Horse and Burro issues seem ripe with optimism – in new policies released by the Bureau of Land Management, in legal pursuits finally given merited gravity, in earnest investigations into violations of Federal laws as they apply to the Wild Horse and Burro Act.
Recent experiences have shown that some outwardly earnest investigations into administration of the Act, a Public Law, were less than adequate, with teams primed for participation in events tailored for their observations or inquiries conducted by the agency itself.
The resulting reports were equally less than adequate.
Any solid investigation should result in changes to the policies that required the investigation in the first place. And the investigations should be conducted by the agency’s independent watchdogs – the Offices of the Inspectors General.
In December, 2011, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) released a report, “Time To Appoint an Effective Inspector General at Interior”, authored by Kirsten Slade. The report outlined issues which had occurred under Earl Devaney as Inspector General. According to the report, among many transgressions, low to mid-level personnel in investigations were named and/or punished, while high level appointees were shielded, remaining anonymous. Mr. Devaney was eventually appointed to oversee fraud on stimulus funds. He then retired in 2011.
Enter Acting IG Mary Kendall. PEER contends Kendall, a long-time aide of Devaney’s, perpetuated those same erratic practices, including:
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch stated, “Interior continues to lurch from debacle to debacle in part because the work of the Inspector General generates heat but sheds little light.” And that “Interior’s Office of Inspector General desperately needs new leadership.”
In a related article entitled “Rising Doubts on Interior Inspector General”, dated October, 2012, Director Ruch states, “To be effective and remain independent, an IG must be willing on a daily basis to get canned or resign if the mission is compromised.”
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO), had also released a report, “Where Are All The Watchdogs?”, which illustrates those agencies with no permanent Inspectors General. The Department of Interior, as of this writing, has been without a permanent IG for 1,412 days, since February, 2009; Acting IG Mary Kendall is still in charge of Interior’s investigations.
Why the necessity for a permanent IG? POGO explains:
Why Having a Permanent IG Is Important:
OIGs are best positioned to be effective when led by a highly qualified permanent IG, rather than an acting official or no IG at all. Permanent IGs undergo significant vetting—especially the IGs that require Senate confirmation—before taking their position. That vetting process helps to instill confidence among OIG stakeholders—Congress, agency officials, whistleblowers, and the public—that the OIG is truly independent and that its investigations and audits are accurate and credible.
In addition, a permanent IG has the ability to set a long-term strategic plan for the office, including setting investigative and audit priorities. An acting official, on the other hand, is known by all OIG staff to be temporary, which one former IG has argued “can have a debilitating effect on [an] OIG, particularly over a lengthy period.” Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has echoed that sentiment, saying “Even the best acting inspector general lacks the standing to make lasting changes needed to improve his or her office.” (emphasis added)
Investigations into the Bureau of Land Management’s violations of policies and administration of the Wild Horse and Burro Act, a Public Law, must be viable, ethical and independent of the Bureau of Land Management’s purview. At this juncture, the Bureau has difficulty acknowledging violations exist, choosing instead to characterize disobedience or abuse as anomalies, cloak them in secrecy or ‘privacy’, or worse – claim ignorance of their occurrence. Typically, it’s lax rendition of those policies in lieu of any admission of wrong doing.
The purpose of this report is not to corner either the Bureau of Land Management or the OIG. Instead, it’s an invitation – for an honest and rigorous examination of the pertinent facts. An examination which should be, at the very least, the same caliber and quality as:
The only apparent deficiency? The Public – though proven to be fully capable and meticulous in both gathering evidence and rendering conclusions – is not an acceptable investigative body of the Federal Government.
According to POGO, the offices of Inspectors General :
“…serve as independent watchdogs within federal agencies and are essential to a well-functioning federal government.”
Perhaps it’s time the Public weighed in.
The Wild Horse and Burro Act is Public Law 92-195, not simply a list of suggestions for selective interpretation. Time has marked nearly four years without a permanent and effective IG at the Department of Interior. That same time frame has shown Public appeals for genuine inquiry into questionable practices in the Wild Horse and Burro Program are consistently trivialized and the excessive, rationalized.
(The web site for the ‘Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Interior’ is currently ‘unavailable’ due to security concerns.)