Killing Wild Horses & Burros is NOT Enough, Zinke Now Puts Cross-Hairs on U.S. Taxpayers

Press Release from Center for Western Priorities

Zinke stacks the deck against the working American public

DENVER—Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today announced members of a new “Royalty Policy Committee” which will advise the Interior Department on how to “modernize” public land management.

The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“Talk about stacking the deck. This committee is hand-picked to give oil, gas, and coal companies what they want while ripping off taxpayers. The committee members from ‘Academia and Public Interest Groups’ don’t represent a single public interest group. The political members of the committee represent Republican governors, while states with Democratic governors don’t get a seat at the table.

“When Secretary Zinke took office, he inherited a department that had already taken large steps toward modernizing America’s oil and gas royalty rates, ensuring taxpayers get their fair share for resources owned by the American people. Under his leadership, the Interior Department has rolled back all of those programs, and replaced it with an advisory group that has collectively dedicated hundreds of years to drilling and mining on public lands and waters without regard for our air and water, or the best interests of taxpayers.”

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Speak Up Against BLM’s Plans to Decimate Wyoming’s Red Desert Wild Horse Herds

by Carol Walker as published on Wild Hoofbeats

“The BLM should raise the Appropriate Management Level for the Red Desert Complex wild horse populations…”

Red Desert Wild Horses at Risk of Removal and Slaughter

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is planning a massive roundup and removal of 2,096 horses, or 80% of the 2,620 horses in the Red Desert Complex that includes Antelope Hills, Crooks Mountain, Green Mountain, Lost Creek, and Stewart Creek Herd Management Areas.  BLM wants to end up with a  low Appropriate Management Level of only 524 wild horses on 753,000 acres of public land.

Please also consider that any horses currently in short and long term holding, as well as any removed from their homes on public lands this year will be in jeopardy of being sold without limitation and may end up at slaughter if the Trump Budget is passed.

There is no question that these horses will be better off left on the range. Not only will they continue to live out their lives free with their families as wild horses should, but they will not become a further burden on taxpayers who are paying to warehouse 45,000 wild horses currently. This roundup is senseless, cruel, and may result ultimately in the deaths of thousands of these wild horses.

Please write a letter to the BLM asking them to NOT roundup and remove over 2000 wild horses from the Red Desert Complex. If they need to control the numbers on the range, there are methods of birth control that can be used, but only if the herd size is in the genetically viable range of 150-200 adult wild horses. The Bureau of Land Management is accepting comments on a revised Environmental Assessment for a proposed helicopter roundup and removal of most of the wild horses living in Wyoming’s Red Desert Complex despite the thousands of public comments made on this plan in 2015 calling for the more humane method of bait trapping be used if horses were to be removed.

In order to reach the low Appropriate Management Level of 524 wild horses, the Proposed Action would remove approximately 80% of the horses, or about 2,096 horses, in the Complex – about 1,518 horses within the HMAs and 578 horses outside of the HMAs.  If any mares older than one year old are released back into the HMAs, they would be treated with PZP. This would reduce the size of the herds in the complex to dangerously low numbers, especially if the aerial census counts performed by the BLM which use outdated statistical models to “estimate” and pad herd numbers are wrong. Three out of five of these herds would be reduced to numbers below those needed to maintain genetic viability.

The BLM should raise the Appropriate Management Level for the Red Desert Complex wild horse populations. The BLM must also fairly allocate range resources to ensure that wildlife – including wild horses – have a fair share of the forage on our public lands, rather than giving exorbitant resources to the privately owned cattle and sheep operations. 7-11 times as much forage is allocated to privately owned livestock over wild horses. These numbers should be changed – decrease livestock grazing in these wild horse management areas by retiring grazing leases.

Ask BLM to select the NO ACTION ALTERNATIVE.

Please make your comments in your own words – the online form letters are only counted as one – so you need to write your own comments.

Please send them in by June 5 by email or mail to the addresses below:

Comments may be emailed to RedDesertComplex_HMA_WY@blm.gov

Please include “Red Desert Gather EA Comments” in the subject line.

Mail

Tim Novotny
BLM Rawlins Field Office
1300 N. 3rd Street
Rawlins, WY 82301
Clay Stott
BLM Lander Field Office
1335 Main Street
Lander, Wyoming 82520

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/blog/speak-up-against-blms-plans-to-decimate-wyomings-red-desert-wild-horse-herds

Tell Congress: Back Off Legislation Using Sage Grouse to Transfer Public Lands

Source: Western Watershed Project

“These bills would do the opposite of what their titles suggest by handing over management of your federal public lands to states…”

Greater sage-grouse in flight © Ken Cole/WWP

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) have introduced legislation that is an extreme and irresponsible attack on your public lands and the wildlife they support. This bill has the Orwellian title of the “Greater Sage Grouse Protection and Recovery Act,” (S.273, H.R.527).

These bills would do the opposite of what their titles suggest by handing over management of your federal public lands to states that want more industrial destruction of sage grouse habitats, and by blocking conservation efforts under the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws that protect our environment. A more accurate title would by the “Greater Sage Grouse Extinction Act.”

Tell your elected representatives that you support sage grouse and oppose the gutting of federal environmental protections!

This bill would undermine the most essential environmental protections on federal lands. State sage grouse plans are far weaker on habitat protection than the recent federal sage grouse plans (which are not biologically adequate but, for now, that another matter). Where state and federal plans differ, the Bishop-Risch extinction act would give state governors in pro-industry states like Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho control over all decisions on federal public lands that involve sage grouse – that’s virtually every public land decision!

At the same time, this bill would exempt such state decisions on public lands from basic environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. That means no examination of environmental impacts, no weighing of environmentally responsible alternatives, and no public input on the decisions that determine the fate of your public lands. And to cap it all off, this bill would block lawsuits on these decisions, meaning that state governors could violate federal environmental laws as much as they like without worrying that their actions will be overturned by the courts!

This bill also attacks the Endangered Species Act by preventing the greater sage-grouse from being protected under the ESA before 2027, regardless of how low their populations go, or how much scientific evidence shows that urgent protections are needed to avert extinction.
 
Make a phone call to your Representative and Senators or write and urge them to vote against extinction and stand up for our federal environmental safeguards!

Phone calls are even better than emails. Please call or write today!

When the BLM Talks Wild Horses and Burros, They Lie

There is an age old adage that asks, “How do you know when ‘so and so’ is lying, when their lips are moving.”  That does a pretty good job of describing one of America’s most corrupt federal agencies, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

For years the BLM has lamented how they have too many horses and burros in long term holding, because they keep ripping them off from their legal and rightful home, and in so doing they have created an artificial fiscal emergency where they have even whispered about KILLING the horses in an effort to save money. 

Now that a federal judge has stopped them from illegally assailing wild horses in Wyoming, and deemed that they have broken the law doing so in the past, they are crying that they will not have enough horses to adapt out, below, which is a program they have pointed to as a failure over and over again.

You can’t have it both ways and this is, again, clear evidence that the BLM speaks out of both sides of their mouths and uses mainstream media as a tool to lie to and influence the tax paying public.  Disgusting.

So please, let the reader beware, if a sentence or headline has the acronym BLM in it you can pretty much be assured that it will be filled with untruths, bad science and inaccurate figures all paid for with your tax dollars.  We really, really can do better than that.” ~ R.T.


the-ranger

http://www.dailyranger.com/story.php?story_id=25339&headline=ruling-on-wild-horse-roundup-could-affect-honor-farm

‘No Ambiguity:” Court Tells BLM It Cannot Treat Public Land as Private

by Arno Rosenfeld  as published on the Casper Star Tribune

The appeals court ruled that while the BLM claimed it was justified in treating the entire checkerboard as private, given the “unique land management situation” the agency lacked the authority to make this judgement.

Destruction of Wyoming's Adobe Town herd by the BLM ~ photo by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Destruction of Wyoming’s Adobe Town herd by the BLM ~ photo by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The Bureau of Land Management may not treat public lands as private out of practical considerations, a federal appeals court wrote in an opinion released this week.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an Oct. 14 ruling that concluded the BLM’s 2014 roundup of wild horses in the checkerboard region was illegal. Monday’s decision explained the court’s reasoning.

The judges wrote that the BLM violated the Wild Horses Act due to the difficulty of rounding up horses in the region, where public and private land alternate in one-square-mile plots in south-central Wyoming.

 “Its methodology was to treat public lands as private lands,” Judge Monroe McKay wrote in a concurring opinion. “But, though the BLM’s solution to the problem presented by the checkerboard may seem reasonable, it is not in accordance with the [law].”

The case originated in 2013 when the Rock Springs Grazing Association sued the BLM demanding the agency remove wild horses from their land in the checkerboard.

The BLM agreed to do so and determined the only way to keep horses off the grazing association land was to remove them from the public plots of land as well, given that the area is unfenced and horses move around on a daily basis.

But horse advocates sued the BLM claiming that while the agency can unilaterally remove horses from private land, it must go through an extensive review process before removing horses from public land.

A U.S. District Court in Wyoming initially sided with the BLM but the 10th Circuit decision overturned that ruling and agreed with the argument made by horse advocates.

 The appeals court ruled that while the BLM claimed it was justified in treating the entire checkerboard as private, given the “unique land management situation” the agency lacked the authority to make this judgement.

There is “no basis for BLM to construe the terms ‘privately owned land’ and ‘private lands’ to include the public land sections of the checkerboard,” the court wrote.

“[P]ractical realities do not provide BLM with the authority to construct the [Wild Horses] Act in a manner contrary to its plain and unambiguous terms.”

While the ruling released earlier this month halted the BLM’s checkerboard roundup planned for Oct. 18, Monday’s full opinion may set a precedent for similar cases around the West.

The groups that sued the BLM, including American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and the Cloud Foundation, argued that the BLM’s actions in the checkerboard posed a wider threat to public land management.

If the BLM was allowed to treat public lands within the checkerboard as private for purposes of horse roundups, the groups argued the agency could also treat other public land as private if it helped them meet their land management objectives.

But the 10th Circuit decision may put this concern to rest.

“[T]here is simply no ambiguity in the terms ‘public lands,’ … and ‘private lands,’” the court wrote.

BLM PATS WELFARE RANCHERS ON THE HEAD IN ADDITION TO THEIR FEDERAL $UBSIDIES

Story by Grandma Gregg

Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat DURING a BLM roundup at Antelope Complex, NV. ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat DURING a BLM roundup at Antelope Complex, NV. ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation


The Bureau of Land Management announced its Rangeland Stewardship Awards for 2016 and gave the awards to welfare ranchers. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported the federal government spends at least $144 million each year managing private livestock grazing on federal public lands, but collects only $21 million in grazing fees—for a net loss of at least $123 million per year.

The Rangeland Stewardship-Permittee Award went to the Mori Ranch in Tuscarora, Nevada

USDA subsidy information for Mori Ranches LLC

Mori Ranches LLC received payments totaling $464,477 from 1995 through 2014

PLUS

USDA subsidy information for Mori Ranches LLC

Mori Ranches LLC received payments totaling $140,486 from 1995 through 2014

The Sage-Grouse Habitat Stewardship-Permittee Award went to the Drewsey Ranch in Burns, Oregon

USDA subsidy information for Drewsey Field Ranch Company

Drewsey Field Ranch Company received payments totaling $243,900 from 1995 through 2014

https://farm.ewg.org/

http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2016/september/nr_09_09_2016.html

New Lawsuit Filed to Stop BLM Wild Horse Roundup in Wyoming Checkerboard

Action Comes As Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Considers Legality of BLM Decision to Eradicate Wild Horses from Public Lands in the Area

photo by Carol Walker

photo by Carol Walker ~ Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Cheyenne, WY (October 4, 2016) – The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), Return to FreedomThe Cloud Foundation, and photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl filed suit yesterday in U.S. District in Wyoming against the BLM, challenging the agency’s decision to conduct another wild horse roundup in the Wyoming Checkerboard in the southern part of the state. The wild horse advocates are represented by Bill Eubanks of the public interest environmental law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP.

The lawsuit is the latest chapter in an ongoing legal battle against over the BLM’s plan to eradicate wild horses from a two million acre area of public and private land at the request of the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGS). The RSGA owns or leases the private land blocks in the Checkerboard and views wild horses as competition for taxpayer subsidized livestock grazing on the public lands in the area.

On September 19, 2016 the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the plaintiffs’ appeal of a lawsuit challenging the 2014 BLM Checkerboard roundup in which 1,260 wild horses were rounded up by helicopters and removed from the range. At issue in both cases is the legality of the BLM’s reliance on a request from private landowners to remove wild horses from private lands as an excuse to eradicate them from the public lands in the area as well. 

“The BLM is turning over control of more than one million acres of public land to private grazing interests that want wild horses eradicated from the range. This sets a terrible precedent that jeopardizes the safety and future of wild horses across the West,” said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of AWHPC. 

“The BLM’s concession to wipe out wild horses in Wyoming is not only illegal, but a blatant slap in the face to the majority of Americans who want to enjoy wild horses on our public lands,” said Neda DeMayo, CEO of Return to Freedom. “We’re committed to upholding the law and protecting our wild horses and public lands from special interests who monopolize the resources there.”

“It doesn’t speak well of BLM, when the agency jumps the gun while the jury is, literally, still out on this issue,” states Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “Until the Checkerboard lands are consolidated into large blocks of private and public lands, this controversy will continue.”

“The BLM once again shows blatant disregard for both legal statutes and the wild horses in its care. We should not have to fight to protect our wild horses from the BLM,” said Carol Walker, who has extensively observed and photographed the wild horses in the Wyoming Checkerboard.

The latest lawsuit challenges the BLM’s decision to round up an estimated 550 wild horses from the Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek and Great Divide Basin Herd Management Areas beginning on October 18. The plaintiffs will seek an injunction to prevent the BLM from beginning the roundup until the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the initial lawsuit.

In fight over Wyoming’s wild horses, advocates see test of public land stewardship

By Arno Rosenfeld as published on the Casper Star Tribune

“The Rock Springs (Welfare) Grazing Association did not respond to a request for comment…”

A wild horse family in Adobe Town

A wild horse family in Adobe Town ~ photo by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

A federal court battle over the fate of wild horses in Wyoming’s high desert could have implications for the management of public lands across the American West.

Wild horse advocates claim the Bureau of Land Management has ceded control over public lands near Rock Springs to local landowners. The federal agency claims it is only trying to fulfill its legal obligations to keep the horses off private grazing areas.

Underpinning the dispute are lofty notions of the American mustang as a symbol of the country’s pioneer spirit facing off against ranchers who claim wild horses are feral nuisances, an invasive species competing with productive livestock for precious resources in the arid west.

The debate centers on about 2 million acres of “checkerboard” land just east of Rock Springs. Created in 1862 as part of negotiations with the Union Pacific Railroad, odd-numbered blocks of public land were sold while the even-numbered blocks were retained by the federal government.

Today, the Rock Springs Grazing Association owns the private blocks and uses the entire checkerboard area to graze sheep. With wild horses on grazing association land exceeding the numbers set by federal policies, the group sued the BLM in 2011, demanding that the bureau remove all horses from private land. The two parties settled in 2013, and the BLM recently announced plans to remove all horses from the private and public lands within the checkerboard area. The first roundup occurred in 2014.

“It’s an impossible task for BLM to remove just from the private lands within the checkerboard area,” the bureau’s Rock Springs field manager Kimberlee Foster said. “It’s not fenced, the horses move freely … they might be on private land and half an hour later they’re on public land.”

But under the Wild Horses and Burros Act of 1971, Congress stipulated distinct procedures for removing horses from private and public lands. The BLM argued — and a U.S. District Court agreed — that the bureau could treat the entire checkerboard area as private land for the purpose of removing horses.

A group of wild horse advocates is now appealing that decision and argued before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver this week.

Bill Eubanks, an attorney representing the horse groups, said that while he understands the challenge of managing the combination of public and private lands in the checkerboard, the BLM is still obligated to protect wild horses on public lands.

“The one thing you cannot do as an agency charged with implementing … the Wild Horses Act is to throw up your hands and say we’re just going to violate the statutes,” Eubanks said.

If the BLM is allowed to treat public land interspersed with private holdings under the laws governing private land, there could be repercussions for federal land management across the country, Eubanks said. He said there were 20 checkerboard parcels of land across the country with wild horses; many other public lands with wild horses are adjacent to or surrounded by private land.

“I’ve honestly never seen an agency treat public land as private,” Eubanks said. “If BLM can do this here, it’s a practice and approach that can be used everywhere across the country.”

Foster, the BLM field director, disputes the notion that the Wyoming fight will have any broader application. The Rock Springs grazers initially allowed some wild horses on their land before revoking their consent — a situation Foster called “extremely rare.”

Eubanks said that the bureau’s obligation under the Wild Horses Act should never have been affected by an agreement — or lack thereof — with private landowners and that Foster’s contention that the Rock Springs situation is unique “is from an objective standpoint completely false.”

The Rock Springs Grazing Association did not respond to a request for comment. However, attorneys for the association argued in a court brief that the BLM should be allowed no discretion in removing all horses from the checkerboard area.

“[T]he only way any wild horses can be maintained on the Checkerboard is with RSGA’s consent,” the brief argues.

The case is wrapped in acronyms, lengthy environmental reviews and legal precedents. The Rock Springs case centers on three “herd management areas” known as Divide Basin, Salt Wells Creek and Adobe Town. About half the area of those three pieces of land is taken up by the checkerboard…(CONTINUED)

http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/in-fight-over-wyoming-s-wild-horses-advocates-see-test/article_ee791e48-d8db-5cdf-ad6f-a61b051d24c1.html

Update: Hold your Horses…Wild Burros and Horses not to be Murdered by BLM, YET!

“In my Humble Opinion” ~ R.T. Fitch, president of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Last Friday, with only one dissenting vote, the BLM’s appointed Advisory Board recommended that all horses and burros in holding should be either killed or sold. That’s it, down and dirty.

Message to the BLM Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board

Message to the BLM Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board

The above inane recommendation came as no surprise to many of us as we have been saying for years that the BLM is deliberately creating a crisis by pulling wild horses and burros off from their rightful range and placing them on contractor’s land across the country at taxpayers expense. Such an idiotic plan is not sustainable and they are hoping for some drastic action to take place to get rid of the native wild animals so that their welfare cattle bedfellows can have the public land all to themselves.

Getting the hand picked and appointed special interest members of the board to vote to do so kept the BLM’s hands clean and allowed the lemmings on the board to be their fall guys, although they are too dense to know it. The recommendation was/is non-binding BUT it opens up the door and begins the discussion, again.

Back in 2011 the sitting “Boared” recommended researching and experimenting with sterilizing wild mares in the field, and five years later what did the federal governments most corrupt agency attempt to do, conduct experiments on sterilizing wild mares in the field. (Plans now nixed)

Tom Gory, mouthpiece for the BLM, stated yesterday that the BLM, proper, had made no decision to murder (and that IS the correct word) 45,000 wild equines in holding and will continue to care for the horses and burros that they have ripped from their rightful land, separated from their families and shoved into gender specific herds.. Everything is okay, don’t bet on it!

There IS a silver lining to this gross and demonic recommendation, though:

  1. It has revealed to the public the corrupt and cruel intent of this handpicked board of fools. They are an embarrassment to this country and should all be removed from their volunteer positions. Good air is being wasted.
  2. The wild ones finally found a voice in the mainstream press, although the story might have been skewed a bit people still sat up and paid attention, that is a mega-win for the horses and burros.
  3. Super bad press for the BLM; their idiot plan backfired and although they did not make the recommendation, they were whispering in the ears of their little demented buddies to do so. It is always a good day when the horse haters get a little bad press as they speak nothing but lies and untruths to the press and public. Good to see their big fat backsides singed a little bit.

But don’t let your guard down, this has been the plan of the BLM for years and the only way to stop it is to either wrest the control of the wild ones out of their bloody little fists or legally chop them off at the knees and stick a fork in them.

What would be YOUR preference?

BLM Wild Horse Advisory Board Proposes Euthanasia of Excess Mustangs: Q&A With Ginger Kathrens

As published on HorseNation.com

Horse Nation spoke with Advisory Board volunteer Ginger Kathrens, who voted in opposition to the controversial proposal calling for the euthanasia or sale of 45,000 mustangs currently in BLM holding facilities.

BLM Antelope attack in 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BLM Antelope attack in 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board consists of representatives from both the public and multiple (special?) interest groups, serving to discuss key issues and help advise to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the (mis)management of wild horses on public lands. In its meeting at the end of last week, the Board visited Herd Management Areas, or HMAs, to observe wild horse ecosystems at work. The Board also deliberated over the pressing issues of mustang management across the American West, culminating in a proposal that reads as follows:

Follow the stipulations of the Wild Horse and Burro Act by euthanizing or offering for sale without stipulation all suitable animals in short and long term holding facilities.

This radical proposal has already been met with massive waves of public outcry as news rippled across social media on Friday, September 9. To help readers understand the issue, here are some key facts and figures, as stated by the BLM:

  • Under protection, wild horse and burro populations have grown an estimated 15-20% annually, which required the BLM, the government agency charged with protecting wild populations, to created Appropriate Management Levels, or AMLs. AMLs state the number of horses each HMA can handle to sustain a balanced ecosystem with wildlife, vegetation, soil, water and in some cases, livestock.
  • The current total AML for BLM public lands is 26,715.
  • Censuses estimate that as of 2015 there were over 67,000 wild horses living on public lands.
  • Long- and short-term holding facilities operated by the BLM currently house 45,000 wild horses.
  • About two-thirds of the BLM’s annual budget supports horses in holding facilities — about $50 million.

The proposal for sale or euthanasia was voted in favor by seven of the eight members of the board. The sole vote in opposition was cast by Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation: Kathrens has spent an estimated 12,000 hours observing and documenting wild horses all over the west, most famously the Pryor Mountain herd on the Wyoming/Montana border. Her work in chronicling the mustang stallion Cloud and his social band and family in a PBS documentary series has brought the mustang crisis to a personal level for Cloud’s fans and followers, and The Cloud Foundation has worked hard to educate the public and encourage the public to get involved in mustang advocacy.

Horse Nation spoke with Ginger Kathrens to learn more about her reasons for opposing the proposal and her thoughts on alternative solutions.

HN: The concept of euthanizing 45,000 horses is horrific — that aside, what was your reasoning for opposing this proposal?

Because I believe that healthy horses shouldn’t pay the price for government mismanagement that’s gone on for decades. There have been alternatives to manage horses on the range for years, and they were not being utilized. Some herds right now are already able to do this: the tools available are used to manage their numbers on the range and only require small or even no roundups at all. The Pryor Mountain herd is one example.

Unlike other hooved mammals, horses have a unique social structure — the males don’t just come in and breed and then leave; the stallions stay with family bands in social units. The helicopter roundups shatter these social bands: families are broken up, the remaining horses restructure socially and then there’s a spike in reproduction accordingly.

HN: Can you could pinpoint one turning point where you feel the BLM went wrong in managing wild horses?

They were never managing the range. In 1971, the Wild Horse and Burro Act was passed and the BLM was charged with managing the herds and the range. In 1972, 1973, they did their censusing of wild horse populations, and in 1974 they completed their reports on where they would set up management areas. In 1978, they reported 54,000 horses living in 339 herds on management areas. A recent count reports 179 herds.

The BLM set the Appropriate Management Level [AML] at 26,715 and no one really seems to know how that number was determined. It appears to be a low number based on what was already out there at the time.

Now, we have herds that are too small to maintain genetic viability — Dr. Gus Cothran of Texas A&M did research that found that you need around 150 members for genetic viability, and most of the herds are not even at that bare minimum. Now, there are a few herds that are far larger; there’s a herd in Nevada of over 1,000 animals living on a million acres.

The cheatgrass crisis has hit everywhere. Cheatgrass is an opportunistic invasive, and the only way to get rid of it is by tilling up the earth and replanting. The BLM has described that the crested wheatgrass is the only plant that will out-compete cheatgrass. Of course, you can only till and replant in certain areas — that won’t work in rocky, rugged areas.

HN: What would you offer as an alternative solution to the current crisis?

There are certainly much more humane alternatives for sure — we need to use PZP! Using the PZP vaccine involves a lot of hard work but it’s been proven to be effective. The Pryor Mountain herd currently has zero population growth through the use of PZP. Rounding horses up with helicopters is easy and PZP is going to involve much more work.

More of the horses in short-term holding can be moved to long-term holding facilities — there are more long-term holding facility contracts coming in now to open up more opportunities. Some of these horses from short-term holding can be repatriated on Herd Management Areas (HMAs) where horses have been removed, as non-producing animals: stallions can be gelded so the mares are not exposed. It costs an estimated $5.50 per horse per day to keep an animal in short-term holding, and about $2 a day per horse in long-term holding. The majority of horses are in long-term holding right now.

At that point, PZP needs to be used aggressively on the existing wild populations to really cut back on births so we can achieve zero population growth. PZP-22 has a multi-year factor.

Yes, it will take a lot of hard work — it will take a lot of volunteers to be out there in the field. It’s easy to push a pen and paper around at a desk all day and it’s hard to go out there and document where the horses are, who they are, how many, where the food and water sources are. But we have over 100 volunteer trained darters — myself included — who are not in places they need to be because the BLM has not used the resource.

HN: One of the big criticisms of PZP for population control is that there are horses in inaccessible places where they cannot be routinely darted.

Yes, there are — I spoke with some of the people involved in a herd removal in a rugged section of Nevada and they know there are still horses out there. That would be a good place to repatriate a gelding-only group from short-term holding.

There are many places where it’s going to be difficult, but it’s always possible — the key is knowing where the horses are. For example, in the Pryor herd, at certain times of the year we know exactly where the horses will be because they won’t be on top of the mountains in the snow. It’s going to require a really solid knowledge base — we will need to build a database on the horses themselves, documenting what they look like, their markings and identification, as well as the geography of an HMA, where the water and feed is — we can use technology like drones, trail cameras. In areas that we can’t easily access the horses, we can use bait and water traps and use small dart guns.

It’s not going to be easy, but it’s possible.

HN: If you’re recommending repatriation of horses from short-term holding, do you believe that overgrazing is an issue on the range?

Overgrazing comes from livestock. The horses have become the scapegoat.

We visited an HMA that hadn’t had any livestock on it for eight years — part of it looked good, part of it not so good. The cheatgrass came into the area because it had been overgrazed by sheep. I’m glad we got to look at that particular area, because it let me see the extreme and compare it to the normal.

But this “the sky is falling and the horses are taking over the range” mentality is not correct.

HN: Let’s talk about the Advisory Board proposal — do you believe that there’s a possibility this recommendation could come to pass?

Absolutely I do. A few years ago there were secret meetings taking place in the BLM about how many horses they could kill annually. These only came to light thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and it somehow never got the press coverage I felt it deserved. Some of those people are still in high-level positions at the BLM.

This recommendation could come to pass because it’s easy. It’s not easy to go out there and actually euthanize those horses, no — but it’s an easy solution when compared to the hard work it would take to resolve the crisis through other means. Now, there are wonderful people in the BLM, don’t get me wrong — but there are plenty of others who would be willing to carry that out.

It’s still a difficult thing to do — no one wants to go out and tell their employees to go euthanize thousands of horses.

HN: How do you think it came to this point — that this recommendation is even a feasible option? Is this a power-play move to try to leverage more funding?

I still don’t understand it. Congress would have been willing to give the BLM more money — or so I hear from my Congressional representative on the Appropriations committee.

No one discussed this recommendation with me prior to introducing it. The subcommittee discussed it prior for some time, but when it was introduced at the board meeting I was fairly rattled.

It still doesn’t have to come to this: it’s possible to do on-the-range management. It will take real censusing, mapping, going out there. I’ve been working so hard to get volunteers out there on the ground. All of these tools have been available for a long time but never utilized.

HN: Do you think this recommendation might work as a scare tactic to encourage more public involvement with mustang management?

I certainly hope so! There was a massive public pushback on the proposed mare sterilization project and that project was canceled just recently. There’s going to be even more public outcry about this proposal.

I always encourage people to do something positive: it doesn’t do any good to just scream and yell on social media. Get out and volunteer, if you can. If you can’t, write a politely-worded letter to your government representatives. Do something positive and we can affect change.

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