BLM Caves to Utah Welfare Ranchers

Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat  ~  photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The federal Bureau of Land Management will likely clear most if not all the wild horses from a West Desert block of state land in July as part of a newly approved plan to remove 200 wild horses from Utah rangelands this year.

The Interior Department this week greenlighted Utah BLM’s request to gather these horses in the face of mounting pressure from state and local officials concerned that overpopulation of wild horses is damaging a parched range and could force ranchers to reduce cattle grazing levels.

“It’s a bittersweet thing to me,” said Beaver County Commissioner Mark Whitney. “Juan [Palma, BLM’s state director] means well, but it’s only a drop in the bucket in what needs to be done in the West Desert because they’ve let the problem get so out of control, especially in drought conditions.”

BLM’s plan calls for rounding up 140 horses on the Blawn Wash herd area that overlies 26,000 acres overseen by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) west of Milford.

Blawn Wash has been a source of tension for state trust lands managers who amassed this block of rangelands several years ago with the expectation that horses would no longer be allowed to graze them, according to Kim Christy, SITLA’s associate director.

“This goes beyond revenue generation. This is a severe resource degradation issue that’s attributable to overstocking of horses,” Kristy said.

SITLA’s Blawn Wash holdings cover 2,000 animal-unit months, or AUMs — the amount of forage that support a cow-calf pair for one month.

“For the three grazing permittees, it’s vital for their survival,” Kristy said.

Under the new authorization, another 50 “nuisance” horses are to be trapped in corrals on private lands, and ten more are to be removed from public lands in Beaver County because they hang around State Route 21, posing a threat to traffic safety, according to BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall. These numbers include the eight that have already been trapped on private ranch lands this spring.

The Blawn Wash gather is part of a string of West Desert roundups undergoing an environmental assessment. This proposal envisions the removal of 600 to 700 horses, mostly from the Bible Spring Complex in western Iron County. This would be accomplished in four roundups over the next 10 years.

Click (HERE) to comment directly at the Tribune

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Poor Contracting Practices at BLM

SOURCE:                                                                              By

BLM BadgeA government employee who stepped into a contractor’s role is among the  targets of a report criticizing contracting practices at the Bureau of Land  Management.

The Interior Department office of inspector general says in a recently  released report,  dated Sept. 30, that a BLM project officer placed a request to modify a  contract, “in effect, representing the contractor.”

The project officer and the contracting officer involved had to be counseled  on proper contracting practices, the report says.  At the time of the report, the  BLM was finalizing guidelines to outline the responsibilities and limitations of  contracting officers and project officers.

The audit stemmed from the OIG’s prior discovery that BLM had made payments  for costs that exceeded the amount agreed to in a contract and also for costs  that the contractor incurred outside the period of performance.

Auditors found contract files that lacked evidence of market research, price  analyses, and whether invoices were reviewed before payments went out. In  response,  BLM says contracts are now subject to random reviews to check for  completeness.


Department of Interior’s “Where Are They Now?”

SOURCE:  PPJ Gazette

by Debbie Coffey

Copyright 2013/ All Rights Reserved.


“But two of the highest-ranking officials who were subjects of the investigations will apparently escape penalty. Both retired during the investigation, rendering them safe from any administrative punishment, and the Justice Department has declined to prosecute them on the charges suggested by the inspector general.”  Their current locations and occupations cannot be verified at this time. ”


Guess where some of the Department of Interior’s personnel are now (after running wild horses off their federally protected Herd Management Areas)?

Ken Salazar

Secretary of the Department of Interior, 2009 – February, 2013

In June, 2013, it was announced that Ken Salazar became a partner in the law firm WilmerHale in Denver.  WilmerHale represented BP after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  (This huge environmental disaster happened under Salazar’s watch as Secretary of the Interior.)  What’s really funny is a quote by Salazar in the Denver Post:

“I said in 2010 I will put my boot on the neck of BP,” Salazar said. “I will be completely segregated from revenues that come in from BP. I am not going to represent BP, and I’m not going to make any money from BP now or ever.”

When asked how much money he is being paid as partner, Salazar said, “It’s a very good package.

Wilmer Hale has also represented Monsanto.  

Ron Wenker

Director of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Nevada and was even the Director of the entire BLM for awhile!

WenkerRon Wenker was arrested in 2012 for sexually abusing a girl (a relative) from the time she was 8 years old until she was 13 years old, when he was finally caught by the girl’s brother.

So, the man who led the Nevada BLM and even led the ENTIRE BLM for a short while, was quoted on as making the following statements to detectives:

“Wenker said inappropriate touching escalated to oral sex. He said his behavior was “very dumb” and “illegal.”

“Ronald added that he has a deep emotional bond with (the relative) and that he thought she was enjoying the touching as much as he was,” detectives wrote of Wenker’s interview.

“…Ronald added that he isn’t a pedophile and that he had a deep, emotional attachment and love for his (relative) that evolved into a sexual relationship,” the detectives continued. “Ronald stated that he had been struggling with the urge to have sexual contact with (the relative) over the years, but he never sought any help or counseling with the issue. Ronald stated that he was telling himself ‘no more’ but he slipped …”

Think about it.  This was happening during the time Ron Wenker was at the pinnacle of major BLM decision making and this is an example of his reasoning, judgment, and (lack of) ethics.

In May, 2013, Wenker was sentenced to three life terms after pleading guilty to Sexual Assault and Lewdness with a Minor Under the Age of 14.  He will be eligible for parole in 30 years.

Bob Abbey

Director of the Bureau of Land Management

Bob Abbey retired in May, 2012 to rejoin his family full time in Mississippi, but in June, 2012 he rejoined his old business partners in what is now called Abbey, Stubbs & Ford Inc. in Henderson, Nevada.

Their clients include the Southern Nevada Water Authority (trying to pipeline all that water out of northeastern Nevada to Las Vegas), Coyote Springs Land Co. LLC, with business connections with Harvey Whittemore (one of Sen. Harry Reid’s closest friends), who controls Coyote Springs,  a proposed development about 50 miles north of Las Vegas (which  might benefit from the pipeline). 

Other clients include BrightSource Energy, a developer of large-scale solar thermal power plants (which has plans to build a 960MW solar thermal power plant within the Coyote Springs development), pharmaceutical companies and many more.

Gale A. Norton

Secretary of the Interior, 2001-2006

Gale Norton was closely linked to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and after leaving the Department of the Interior, she became General Counsel for Royal Dutch Shell (oil company). 

She is now President of Norton Regulatory Strategies (Denver, CO) a company that helps “CEOs and corporate boards understand risks and evaluate the strength of company plans for energy, mining, and other land-intensive investment projects” and “prepares persuasive materials to ensure agencies consider the effect of new regulations on your business.”

She is also a Senior Advisor at Clean Range Ventures (an energy technology venture capital firm) and an Advisory Board Member at Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute.

J. Steven Griles

former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior

According to ABC news, “J. Steven Griles, the former deputy secretary at the Interior Department, has been sentenced to 10 months in prison and must pay a $30,000 fine after pleading guilty to obstructing a congressional inquiry into disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  In pleading guilty, Griles admitted that he knowingly and willfully lied and concealed material information from senators and Senate investigators about the unique relationship that he had with Abramoff immediately prior to and during his tenure as DOI Deputy Secretary…”

Before Griles’ conviction, he left the White House to become a lobbyist for ConocoPhillips.  Steve Griles is now listed as a partner at Gresham Consulting Group (in North Carolina, but the company is also registered in Nevada).

Sue Ellen Wooldridge

Deputy Chief of Staff for Gale A. Norton, Secretary of the Interior

Norton’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, purchased a $980,000 vacation home on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, together with two other individuals: Don R. Duncan, who was the vice president for federal and international affairs (and a lobbyist) for ConocoPhillips, and J. Steven Griles (above), her boyfriend at the time.

Nine months after buying the home with Duncan and Griles, and just before stepping down, Wooldridge approved consent decrees giving ConocoPhillips three more years to pay millions of dollars in fines for a Superfund toxic waste cleanup and install pollution controls (which are estimated to cost US$525 million) at nine of its refineries.

Wooldridge is currently listed as the manager of the Gresham Consulting Group (of which J. Steven Griles is a partner), a Business Entity filed in 2008 in Nevada.

Gregory W. Smith

was the former head of the Minerals Management Service’s Royalty-In-Kind (RIK) office in Denver, CO.  Smith and other workers at the Minerals Management Service RIK accepted lavish gifts, rigged contracts, had sex with and did illegal drugs with representatives of the oil companies.

Parts of the Department of Interior Inspector General’s report are X-Rated, so you’ll have to read the report if you want the sordid details.

The report contains many details, including “between April 2002 and June 2003, Geomatrix Consultants, Inc. (Geomatrix), an environmental and engineering consulting firm, paid Smith over $30,000 for his work in marketing Geomatrix to various oil and gas companies, most of whom, because of their business relationships with RIK, were considered prohibited sources.”

The New York Times stated this about Smith and his boss, Lucy Q. Denett: “But two of the highest-ranking officials who were subjects of the investigations will apparently escape penalty. Both retired during the investigation, rendering them safe from any administrative punishment, and the Justice Department has declined to prosecute them on the charges suggested by the inspector general.”

Their current locations and occupations cannot be verified at this time.

However, other Minerals Management Service employees were found guilty of felonies.

Not only is there a revolving door between the Department of the Interior and special interests, there is a pervasive attitude, from the leaders at the very top, down to the wranglers at wild horse holding facilities, that they are above the law and not accountable to the public.


BLM Announces Three Selections for National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board

English: Bureau of Land Management logo

English: Bureau of Land Management logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Source: Unedited BLM Press Release
Release Date: 03/27/13
Contacts: Tom Gorey, 202-912-7420

The Bureau of Land Management announced today that the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture have made selections for three positions on its National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. Timothy J. Harvey of Campton, New Hampshire, has been re-appointed for the position representing Humane Advocacy; Rick Danvir of Evanston, Wyoming, has been appointed for the category of Wildlife Management; and John Falen of Orovada, Nevada, has been appointed for the position representing Livestock Management. Each individual will serve a three-year term on the Advisory Board.

>Mr. Harvey, owner of the Merry-Go-Round Pens, LLC, Western Safety Stirrups, LLC, and Journey Horses Farm, has been a horse professional and experienced trainer for the past 20 years. An established clinician who organizes training seminars and clinics with several top trainers, Mr. Harvey specializes in colt starting and foundation training based on natural horsemanship and traditional vaquero (cowboy) training methods. Mr. Harvey is an innovator who has also operated a therapeutic riding program centered on fostering the emotional well-being of victims of abuse and people with anger-management issues.

Mr. Danvir is a professional wildlife biologist with a Bachelor of Science degree from Utah State University in Wildlife and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Technology from State University of New York. Currently working with the Deseret Land and Livestock ranch – a northern Utah operation known for its multiple-use management of wildlife and domestic livestock – Mr. Danvir is Wildlife Manager for Deseret Western Ranches. Mr. Danvir is affiliated with several wildlife-related organizations, including the Utah Wildlife Board, the Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit Association, the Utah Foundation for Quality Resource Management, the Society for Range Management, the Center for Holistic Resource Management, and the Nature Conservancy.

Mr. Falen, a graduate of the University of Idaho with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Husbandry, is a longtime advocate of responsible wild horse management and has spent years dealing with wild horse issues, both on and off the range. He has 20 years’ experience serving on numerous boards and committees regarding wild horse management, including the Mustang Heritage Foundation (MHF) and the Public Lands Council’s Wild Horse and Burro Committee. A respected leader in the livestock community at both the state and national levels, Mr. Falen is Past President of the Public Lands Council and serves on the Board of Directors for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.   (Mr. Falen, a member of the MHF Board of Trustees, will recuse himself from issues concerning MHF, which is a BLM partner in promoting public adoptions of wild horses and burros.)

The nine-member National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board advises the BLM, an agency of the Interior Department, and the U.S. Forest Service, part of the Agriculture Department, on the management, protection, and control of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands and national forests administered by those agencies, as mandated by the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Members of the board, who represent various categories of interests, must have a demonstrated ability to analyze information, evaluate programs, identify problems, work collaboratively, and develop corrective actions.

How the Department of the Interior Sold Out America’s Wild Horses

Source: by as published in The Atlantic

A federal judge in Wyoming is now reviewing a dubious agreement between local ranchers and the BLM that would eliminate millions of acres of wild horse habitat.

Say you were sitting in a law school classroom taking an exam, or you were on a panel of experts talking about ethics in government, or you were the Inspector General of the Interior Department or a member of Congress, or you were just a plain old citizen who still believes that public officials ought to be honest brokers in conflicts between competing interests — and the following hypothetical were posed to you. What would you think? What would you say? What would you do?

In 2010, Jane Doe was a deputy assistant secretary at the Department of the Interior. With strong ties to the oil and gas industry, over two separate stints at Interior, she was publicly indifferent and sometimes hostile toward the nation’s wild horse herds, which under federal law are supposed to be protected and managed by the Bureau of Land Management. For her positions, she was sharply criticized by wild-horse advocates.

One day that year, some ranchers and livestock operators met with Jane Doe to discuss their frustration about the number of wild horses living and roaming in and around the “checkerboard” area, a mix of private and public land, in a Western state. The BLM, these folks told her, wasn’t doing enough to remove horses from the land — portions of which they lease from the federal government at well below market rates.

There was a decades-old agreement between them and the BLM, the ranchers told Jane Doe, a deal enforced in 1981 by a federal judge. At the time, the feds agreed to manage the herds and remove most of the horses from the Checkerboard except for those the ranchers reluctantly agreed to allow to stay. The feds have reneged on the deal and the terms of the court order, the ranchers now claimed, and something had to be done about it.

Jane Doe listened to these advocates for an industry the Interior Department directly regulates. And then she offered some advice. If she stridently reminded the ranchers of the BLM’s persistent removals of wild horses from the Checkerboard, roundups of thousands of mustangs over the decades which had angered wild horse advocates in the area, it is not reflected in the record.

Instead, what is on the record, what in fact the ranchers later would include in their court filings, is that Jane Doe told the ranchers that “litigation” against the Interior Department “would be necessary to secure additional funding for wild horse gathers.” She had, in effect, told them to sue her own agency to force Congress to pay the cost of ridding the Checkerboard of most of its federally-protected horses.

Within a year, the ranchers did just that. They filed a lawsuit in federal court to force the BLM to eliminate wild horses from the Checkerboard. Jane Doe and the BLM did not aggressively defend the lawsuit. They did not point to all of the work the BLM had done over the decades to rid the land of the horses. They did not encourage wild horse advocates to join the litigation on behalf of the herds. Instead, the BLM and the ranchers entered into a Consent Decree which, they claimed, was “in the public interest.”

The proposed deal would remove approximately two million acres of wild horse habitat in that Western state. It would immediately eliminate wild horses from two herd management areas and gradually reduce to zero the population in a third area. In return, the ranchers would allow a few hundred horses to temporarily remain on the Checkerboard but pay no additional leasing fees for the public land upon which their livestock are permitted to graze.

The federal case came before a federal trial judge, who happens to be married to the former governor of Wyoming. The former governor is no friend to the wild horses. In fact, his tenure was marked by a great deal of animosity toward the herds. The judge’s decision — whether to approve or deny the Consent Decree or suggest modifications to it — could come at any time.

Jane Doe, as you may already have guessed, is Sylvia Baca, the former Interior Department official. The ranchers in the scenario are the folks at the Rock Springs Grazing Association. The judge is U.S. District Court Chief Judge Nancy D. Freudenthal. Her husband is former Governor Dave Freudenthal. The horses exist today, at least for now,  in the Checkerboard in and around Sweetwater County, Wyoming. Here is some background on the case.

Questions of Form

Let’s for now leave aside the merits of the case. Let’s focus solely on the integrity of the process and the appearance of impropriety. Do you think it is appropriate for a federal official to invite a lawsuit against the very agency for which she works? Do you think it’s a conflict of interest for that agency then to enter into a Consent Decree for the very remedy that was the subject of the lawsuit that the official encouraged to be filed? As a basic precept of ethics and governance, is that how we want and expect our public officials to act?

The Consent Decree reads like a capitulation by the feds. It does nothing to protect the horses or to recognize that the ranchers receive enormous financial benefits from the below-market leasing rates on public land. The BLM and the ranchers, it reads, “have concluded their discussions and the parties agree that it is in the public interest to resolve this controversy and enter into a stipulation with respect to the wild horses located on private RSGA land and to initiate a process to better manage wild horses on the adjacent public lands,” and further:

that the parties have engaged in arm’s length negotiations, and that it is in the interest of the public, the parties, and judicial economy to resolve this action through settlement.

I guess it all depends upon what your definition of “arm’s length negotiations” means. How can it be so when an agent of one party, an official in government no less, advises the other party to sue? At a minimum, the circumstances surrounding the initiation of the lawsuit, and the resulting one-sided terms of the deal itself, raise legal and ethical questions about whether the deal truly is “in the public interest” or whether it is, instead, an example of raw political power imposed upon suppliant regulators by the very industries they are supposed to regulate.

Questions of Substance

Wild-horse advocates were allowed to intervene in the Wyoming litigation and they allege the obvious: collusion. From the very start of the case, they argue in their brief opposing the Consent Decree, “it is clear that RSGA and the BLM planned to use this litigation … to require the agency to remove more wild horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard than is currently permitted under the existing laws and factual circumstances that apply to these matters.” Not only should the Consent Decree be rejected, they argue, but the case should be dismissed.

The ranchers cannot validly claim that the feds did not abide by the 1981 argument, these advocates contend, because the BLM has capably removed thousands of excess wild horses from the Checkerboard over the past 30 years. Moreover, because of the unique topography of Sweetwater County — because the horses roam back and forth between public and private land — the ranchers and the BLM can’t simply agree between themselves to remove the horses from public lands without undertaking a comprehensive review required by federal law.

“[T]he agency has not even prepared an Environmental Assessment,” lawyers for the horse advocates have told Judge Freudenthal, “let alone determined that its decisions to remove all of the wild horses … is not an action that may significantly alter the environment and hence require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement.” The decades-old agreement, in other words, can’t be used to justify an end-run around the existing federal rules and regulations, which are designed to protect both the horses and the environment.


It’s not hard to see the roots of the ranchers’ frustration. Though they are the beneficiaries of “welfare ranching” because of the below-market lease rates they pay for the use of federal grazing land, and though there is evidence suggesting that livestock do more damage to that land than do the horses, these folks believe that they have a legal right to force the removal of the wild horses because of the old deal they made with the BLM — rubber stamped by a judge 30 years ago — which permitted the horses to stay in the Checkerboard as charity cases.

Knowing that the environmental studies referenced by the wild-horse advocates would be lengthy and expensive, and in the end might not justify the removal of all of the horses from the Checkerboard, the ranchers and livestock tribunes tried a short-cut. I don’t blame them. That’s what industry does. What’s wrong here — on so many levels — is that the BLM, supposedly a neutral public referee between competing interests, has been consistently complicit in a plan to evade the very legal requirements which are designed to protect the horses, and the land for that matter, from the particular machinations of a single industry.

The last word here goes to Lloyd Eisenhauer, born and raised in Wyoming, still a resident there, and a former BLM official with direct and extensive knowledge of the conditions in Sweetwater County as well as the relationship between the wild horses of the Checkerboard and the ranchers and livestock operators in the southern part of the state. In opposing the Consent Decree, Eisenhauer swore an affidavit which ought to be the first thing that Judge Freudenthal reads as she decides what to do here. From this affidavit, three points. First:…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the article in it’s entirety and to Comment


Information supplied by

Blames Lack of “Seamless Data” for Excluding Livestock from Range Assessments

BLM: “The (Welfare) cows ate my homework!”

Private Cattle being moved on Antelope Complex while the BLM was removing wild horses ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Private Cattle being moved on Antelope Complex while the BLM was removing wild horses ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Washington, DC — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says it was an absence of “reliable data”—and not politics—that caused it to exclude consideration of commercial livestock impacts from multi-million dollar assessments of environmental conditions on Western range lands. BLM thus rejected the first scientific misconduct complaint filed against it by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which today released a detailed rebuttal of BLM’s self-exoneration.

In a letter dated January 2, 2013, Louis Brueggeman, the BLM Scientific Integrity Officer, rejected the PEER scientific misconduct complaint filed more than a year earlier, on November 30, 2011. He concluded that the complaint had “no merit” since the decision to exclude grazing was reached independently by study team leaders (all BLM managers) solely for “technical reasons” relating to the “lack of sufficient existing data” about livestock impacts.

In reaching this conclusion, BLM ignored meeting minutes produced by PEER in which BLM managers are quoted saying that study of grazing impacts would concern “stakeholders” and the Washington Office due to “fear of litigation.” The claim that the real reason was lack of data does not hold water because:

  • Attempts to exclude grazing began at the earliest stages of the study, before data availability was even examined. Further, BLM assertions of data gaps were never examined, let alone verified;
  • Other factors being studied, such as invasive species, also have data gaps but these issues did not prevent invasive species from being selected as a study focus; and
  • BLM managers hid the existence of a major livestock database which was never given to researchers.

“Caught with its pants down, BLM would have us believe it is wearing ankle warmers,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the $40 million study was the biggest in BLM history but will end up being largely useless. “As by far the biggest disturbance factor on Western range lands, commercial livestock grazing simply cannot be left out of a scientific landscape assessment.”

PEER today asked Dr. Suzette Kimball, the Scientific Integrity Officer for the entire Interior Department, to reject BLM’s findings and institute an independent review. This is the first scientific misconduct complaint filed against BLM under rules purporting to prevent political manipulation of science.

“Unless some standards of credibility are applied, agencies will be able to simply deny instances of scientific misconduct, no matter how well documented or compelling,” Ruch added. “This scientific integrity process will become a complete joke if BLM can get away with claiming ‘the cows ate my homework.’”

See the original scientific integrity complaint

View the BLM response

Read the PEER letter to Dr. Kimball

Examine line-by-line rebuttal

Look at the damage wreaked by commercial livestock

Related Articles


Call to Action from  American Wild Horse

BLM Plans to “ZERO OUT” and Destroy Two Unique Wild Horse Herds

Public Comment Deadline: December 7, 2012

Taking its marching orders from Wyoming’s powerful livestock industry, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is planning the second roundup in less than three years of wild horses living in the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in Wyoming’s pristine Red Desert region. The 1.5 million-acre public land area is managed as a complex due to wild horse movements between the two HMAs. The roundup is proceeding despite the fact that the Adobe Town HMA is substantially below the low end of the Allowable Management Level (AML) of 610 – 800 horses. Even more disturbing, the BLM intends to remove all wild horses on “private land or checkerboard land within the Rock Springs Office portion of the HMA.” Since the majority of the Salt Wells HMA is “checkerboard” (alternating public and private land parcels), and since the wild horses living there cannot tell the difference between public and private land, this raises the alarming possiblity that the entire HMA will be zeroed out!

This stepped-up roundup plan is the result of a a lawsuit filed last year by the Rock Springs Grazing Association, which owns or leases the checkerboard lands for livestock grazing. The legal action — which the Interior Department itself advised ranchers to file — seeks to compel the BLM to remove all wild horses from the public and private lands in the checkerboard area. AWHPC and our coalition partners, The Cloud Foundation and the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, have intervened in this lawsuit in an attempt to prevent the government from simply settling the case by agreeing to wipe out all the horses on the 2 million acres that constitute the Wyoming checkerboard. Yet, deciding not to wait for the outcome of this litigation, the BLM is now proposing this potentially devastating roundup.

The BLM allows the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA) to graze the annual equivalent of 15,000 cows — or 75,000 sheep — in the alltoments that lie within and around the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek HMAs, while restricting the wild horse population in this vast area no more than 1,165. The RSGA members enjoy the privilege of grazing their livestock on our public lands, as well as the benefits of the taxpayer subsidies that underwrite below-market grazing rates. It’s time for our government to demand that, in return for those privileges, the RSGA members be required to tolerate the presence of America’s cherished wild horses on the public and private lands in this area.

Please submit your comments today during this scoping period for the development of an EA on this unnecessary, cynical and egregious wild horse roundup and removal plan.

If you prefer, you can submit your comments no later than December 7, 2012 via email, fax or U.S. postal mail to:

Jay D’Ewart, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist
BLM Rock Springs Field Office
280 Highway 191 North
Rock Springs, Wyoming 82901
Fax: (307) 352-0329

Electronic comments must be sent to the following email address to be considered:
(Please include “ATSW Scoping Comment” in the subject line.)

Background Information

Adobe Town HMA

The Adobe Town HMA is located in south-central Wyoming between Interstate 80 and the Colorado/Wyoming border. It encompasses 472,812 acres of which 444,744 are BLM-administered public lands. The topography of the area is varied with everything from colorful eroded desert badlands to wooded buttes and escarpments. In between are extensive rolling to rough uplands interspersed with some desert playa and vegetated dune areas. Limited, sensitive desert riparian areas are important features of the landscape. Winters are long and severe. Annual precipitation ranges from less than seven inches in the desert basins to more than twelve inches at some of the higher elevations. Elevation ranges from 6600 ft to 7800 ft along Kinney Rim, which forms the western boundary of the HMA. Some of the HMA is in the Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area. Other features in the area include the Cherokee Trail, the Haystacks, and Powder Rim. The Allowable Management Level for wild horses in this HMA is 610-800, with BLM managing for a target population of 700. The current estimated wild horse population in the Adobe Town HMA is BELOW the low end of the AML at 433 horses.

Salt Wells Creek HMA

The Salt Wells HMA encompasses 1,193,283 acres, of which 724,704 acres are BLM-administered public lands. The majority of the herd management area consists primarily of checkerboard land ownership area created by the Union Pacific Railroad grant in the Northern portion. Consolidated public lands with state school sections and small parcels of private land making up the majority of lands in the southern section of the HMA. Topography within the herd area is generally gently rolling hills. There are several small streams passing through the area, and some high ridges. Elevations range roughly from 6,300 to 7,900 feet. Precipitation ranges 7-10 inches in lower elevations and 15-17 inches at higher elevations, predominately in the form of snow. The area is unfenced other than portions of boundary fence and right-of-way boundaries along I-80.

The AML for this HMA is 251-365 horses. The current population is estimated to be 572 wild horses. A full range of colors is present. This herd has a high number of palominos and sorrels with flaxen manes and tails. Other horses’ colors are bay, brown, black, paint, buckskin, or gray.

Livestock Grazing in the Complex

22 livestock grazing allotments lie partially or wholly within the Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek Herd Management Areas.

The BLM allocates a total of 177,829 Animal Unit Months (AUMs) for livestock grazing in these 22 allotments. This is the annual equivalent of 14,819 cow/calf pairs or 74,095 sheep. Meanwhile the agency allows a MAXIMUM of 1,165 wild horses in these two HMAs.

More information:

2012 Scoping Notice

Photographer Carol Walker’s Blog, “Wild Horses: Only the Complete Destruction of the Red Desert Herds Will Do

The Atlantic, “On Wyoming’s Range, Water is Scarce, but Welfare is Plenty

2010 Adobe Town/Salt Wells Creek Roundup Environmental Assessment

2010 BLM Adobe Town/Salt Wells Creek Gather Reports

Click (HERE) to fill out Auto-Letter at AWHP

Proper Access to Obama’s BLM Wild Horse Traps Continued to be Denied

(In My Infuriated Opinion) by R.T. Fitch ~ Author/Director of HfH Advisory Council

1.5 Miles from Trap Site Doesn’t Cut It

Photographer Terry Fitch and Reporter Laura Leigh documenting horses at Litchfield during Twin Peaks stampede ~ photo by R.T. Fitch

For weeks taxpaying United States citizens have been attending the often brutal wild horse stampede being conducted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in north east Nevada.  These citizens have come of their own violation and funded by their own labor to stand as witnesses, in protest, for the wild horses while the very federal agency that they fund with their hard earned dollars, against their will, continues to push them further and further away from the dastardly deeds that are continuing to be committed.

Today, additional equine advocate journalists will join the team as Terry and I travel as credentialed journalists and photographers for Horseback Magazine.  The Nevada state office of the BLM subscribes to the Straight from the Horse’s Heart blog and will be fully aware of our arrival and attendance.  Likewise, the editorial staff of HB magazine have forwarded our credentials to both Washington D.C. and to the Nevada BLM offices.  We are curious if the added camera lenses and pens result in observation areas being pushed even further back from the current ridicules and insulting 1.5 miles away.  Time will tell if the BLM will step up to the plate and behave in a manner conducive of an agency of the United States or if they will continue to attempt to cover up their constitutional transgressions by denying the free press their first amendment rights of access and covertly brutalize the very horses that they are charged to protect.

Again, time will tell but either way the hay bale falls the readers of SFTHH and Horseback Magazine will be the first to know.

“We are Watching!”

May the Force of the Horse© be with us all.

Revenge of the Bureau of Land Management

by George Knapp as printed in Las Vegas City Life

Obama’s Abbey is a Leader?!?

Bob Abbey got his itty-bitty, teeny-weenie feelings hurt

Should an agency of the federal government be able to conduct business on behalf of American taxpayers based on mood swings, capricious whims, and hissy fits? Is petulance an appropriate reaction for the head of a sprawling agency which plays a vital role in the daily life of our country?

I ask these broad questions because I don’t want some readers to tune out once they see the words “wild horses” in this column. Yeah, I know. I write about the mustangs a lot. But this isn’t a column about poor horsies shivering in the cold or staring at you with those big, sad eyes. This is about how government works, who it is beholden to, and why our country is seemingly unable to solve any problem. What’s happening at the Bureau of Land Management makes the agency a poster child for all that is wrong with government. Politicians can promise change and reform, but it is the career civil servants, the immovable, unyielding bureaucrats who decide what does or does not get done in Washington.

You may have read a few days ago BLM Director Bob Abbey issued a death sentence for a proposed wild horse eco-sanctuary in Northern Nevada. This is the plan touted for the last three years by businesswoman and philanthropist Madeleine Pickens, wife of oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens. The Associated Press reported Friday Abbey released a statement that rejected the Pickens plan for a wild horse sanctuary, saying “it would not save taxpayers any money and doesn’t include enough water and grazing area for the mustangs.”

Sounds like a fairly definitive statement from the BLM, right? The AP isn’t known for getting its stories completely wrong, especially when those stores are based on released statements, as opposed to interviews wherein someone can be misquoted, which is the favorite excuse of bureaucrats who screw up and say something they later regret. Is it possible the venerable AP got is story completely and totally wrong, that it misread the statement altogether?

I think if someone were to ask Abbey what he meant to say, they would find out that the Pickens plan is not really dead after all and that Abbey didn’t really say any such thing to a reporter. Maybe Abbey really was misquoted (doubtful), or maybe he changed his mind (possible) or maybe he realized that his decision smacked of pettiness and hurt feelings. Whatever the case, Abbey has told folks in Washington that he did not declare the Pickens plan to be dead and is willing to talk about it more. Beware the tempter tantrum of a lifelong bureaucrat with tears in his eyes and a pout on his mug. Poor widdle guy.

How do I know Abbey’s words were poorly chosen and spoken in haste? Because they are total bullshit, and BLM knows it. For the past few months, Abbey and others from the Interior Department have been bragged again and again about their plans to create public/private partnerships. A mere three weeks ago in Las Vegas, Abbey said the Pickens plan had merit and that he had high hopes for it.

As for the claims the plan won’t work, again BLM knows better. Back In December, BLM honchos met in Elko with the Pickens folks to hash out the details. They basically decided then and there to green light the ecosanctuary, starting with 1,000 horses that are now being warehoused in short-term holding corrals. The math is inescapable. It costs the government — read, taxpayers — $5.75 per day to feed a single horse in short-term holding. The horses that would be turned over to Pickens’ sanctuary would cost only $1.75 per day. Moving those initial 1,000 horses from government corrals into an ecosanctuary would save BLM $1.6 million in the first year, not a huge amount but a good start for this pilot program.

And the BLM has 40,000 will horses in its facilities. It spends tens of millions every year just to feed them. And the statement that there isn’t enough water or forage for horses on the land purchased by Pickens is so patently false that it is embarrassing to hear Abbey make such a claim. Pickens bought two ranches with 18,000 deeded acres and more than 500,000 leased public acres attached.

There isn’t enough food and water for 1,000 horses on more than half a million acres? Ridiculous. Makes one wonder how cattle ranchers have raised vast herds of cows on the same land for more than half a century. Gold mines adjacent the Pickens land have to divert tens of thousands of gallons of groundwater every single hour just to keep from being flooded. There’s plenty of water, and more than enough forage, which means Abbey has resorted to simply making stuff up as a reason to dismiss the Pickens plan.

When I say it stems from sheer petulance, I’m not kidding. BLM keeps saying the Pickens idea is promising but keeps coming up with new hoops for Pickens to jump through. She has done everything they’ve asked, put a pile of her own money on the barrel, and still can’t get BLM to give her the green light. The latest monkey wrench is the order from BLM that Pickens spend $250,000 on a 15-month engineering and environmental assessment, and when that’s finished, she might have to pony up for a full environmental impact statement, which requires another year or so.

Pickens is not used to operating at government speed. This latest stall tactic from BLM suggested to her that the agency will happily drag this out as long as possible, make it as expensive as possible, and even then there are no guarantees. BLM is quite happy to spend millions a year on the same old strategy of rounding up horses, stashing them in corrals, and caring for them until they die. Pickens decided to make her point by taking out full page ad in Politico which criticized BLM;s foot dragging.

The very next day, Abbey announced that the Pickens plan, the same one he had touted for weeks, was dead. Or maybe not. So you tell me, why did he do it?

I get the feeling the BLM is not comfortable dealing with a strong woman like Pickens. To have her take out a newspaper ad criticizing BLM was to much for the bureaucrats to handle. Even though the pilot program is solid on every level, BLM stands ready to kill it because the agency’s feelings are hurt.

That, in nutshell, is what’s wrong with government.

George Knapp is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS-TV Channel 8. You can reach him at

Mare Shot at Contested BLM Wild Horse Stampede

Press Release from The Cloud Foundation

New York Federal Court to Hear Wild Horse Case

Cloud - the face of the American Mustang

New York, NY (October 15, 2010)—A New York Federal District Court Judge will consider a request on October 20 to stop the federal government’s roundup and removal of Colorado’s North Piceance wild horse herd. Second-string contractors, hired by the BLM, already have killed one mare who attempted to escape with her baby. They roped her, choked her down, kicked her and then dragged her into the trailer. Yesterday the mare was shot. An application for a Temporary Restraining Order/Preliminary Injunction was filed yesterday by the plaintiffs, Habitat for HorsesAmerican Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), The Cloud Foundation, Toni and Don Moore, DVM in order to stop the roundup. This legal action is co-funded by Habitat for Horses Advisory Council and the ASPCA.

“The wild horses already rounded up need to be returned to the range now. The BLM must take responsibility for the violent treatment and death of the Colorado mare and the hundreds of mustang deaths this year alone,” asserts Cloud Foundation Director, Ginger Kathrens.

A hearing has been scheduled in the U.S. District Court in New York City for October 20th where the BLM will be required to defend its North Piceance roundup which is in violation of multiple federal laws .

Wild horses and burros are now mismanaged at levels far below genetic viability across the West, contrary to the guidelines in BLM’s own management handbook. The BLM selectively uses and repeatedly distorts the actual number of wild horses and burros on the range while dismissing their most effective natural predator—the mountain lion—as non-existent. Wild horses are a return-native species to North America and add to the biodiversity of our public lands, improving their ecosystem. There are currently more than 40,000 wild horses and burros in government holding and BLM continues with plans to roundup and remove more than 11,000 this fiscal year. The herds are often replaced with energy development and welfare cattle. More than 100 herds have been completely eliminated since the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, along with the theft of more than 24 million acres of land designated for their use.

54 members of Congress asked the BLM to cease roundups in July, joining the call for an immediate moratorium on roundups. A congressionally-requested National Academy of Sciences investigation will begin early in 2011 but will come too late for thousands of wild horses and burros without an immediate halt to the taxpayer-funded roundups.

Kathrens continues, “In my opinion the BLM has lost the privilege of managing America’s wild horses and burros. It is time to create a new Bureau that works to sustain and protect our celebrated herds—not eradicate them.”

Links of interest:

Legal documents at HfH Advisory Council

Lawsuit filed to save Colorado herd

French TV reports on wild horses

Congress Sends Letter to stop roundups to Secretary Salazar

Roundup Schedule

Unified Moratorium on Roundups Letter

Stampede to Oblivion: An Investigate Report from Las Vegas Now

Short link 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