BLM is “cowed” by Livestock Industry

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

Below is a letter to the Editor of the Elko Daily Free Press by George Wuerthner

SOURCE:  Elko Daily Free Press

Editor:

The recent August 11 editorial approving of Secretary of Interior Zinke’s review of the sage grouse recovery plans may sound good to the livestock industry but it does not represent the best science.

As a former BLM botanist and an ecologist, I can attest to the fact that the BLM is “cowed” by the livestock industry. And the assertion that “well managed” grazing “may” be beneficial to sage grouse, is like saying chemo treatments might be good for one’s health. Only in rare instances, can livestock be considered “beneficial” to sage grouse.

The fact remains that livestock grazing is the SINGLE biggest negative impact on sage grouse. Livestock production impacts sage grouse at multiple stages of its life cycle. For instance, the BLM and the editorial in the Elko Daily appear to suggest that “invasive plants (meaning cheatgrass) and wildfire are the greatest threat to sage grouse.”

This is true as far as it goes. It’s like suggesting that diabetes is a threat to American health without naming sugar and obesity as the ultimate factors. Livestock, by disturbing biocrusts, promotes the establishment of cheatgrass. In addition, by preferentially consuming the native grasses, livestock reduces their competitiveness, giving the advantage to cheatgrass.

Of course, the widespread invasion of the highly flammable cheatgrass, promoted by livestock grazing, is a major factor promoting so many large range fires.

Livestock also consumes the forbs (read flowers) that sage grouse chicks need during the first few months of their lives. Sage grouse chicks also require wet meadows and riparian areas for foraging on forbs and insects, and nothing has done more damage to western arid riparian areas and wet meadows than trampling by livestock.

Let’s not forget that fences are a major source of mortality for the slow flying sage grouse, and what factor is responsible for most of the fences on western rangelands? Livestock!

Livestock grazing, by reducing the height of residential vegetation, also reduces the hiding cover for chicks and adult grouse, making them more vulnerable to predators. And fence posts are a preferred lookout for raptors which can p

Indeed, due to predation risk, some studies suggest sage grouse will avoid fence lines for up to a mile—removing a significant amount of the habitat that might otherwise be available to them.

Stock troughs are also a breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus, which in some parts of the sage grouse range is a major source of mortality.

These are only a few of the ways that livestock production harms sage grouse. The only reason the BLM says livestock may be beneficial is that it is weak-kneed and has been systematically had its scientific staff ignored, demoralized and eliminated.

George Wuerthner

Range Riders-a false solution for predator-livestock conflicts

By as published on Wildlife News

“…these conservation groups conveniently ignore and fail to inform their membership and media of the multiple ways that livestock production harms wildlife, and ecosystems, no doubt while receiving big donations for their silence. They are, thus, directly culpable for helping to continue the livestock hegemony and destruction of our public lands.”

Private Cattle being herded onto public land at Antelope AS wild horses are being stampeded away ~ photo by Terry Fitch

Tom Sawyer would be proud of the “progressive” livestock producers who “love” predators.  These ranchers are continuously held up as a “win-win demonstrations” by collaborating so-called conservation groups who promote these operations as examples of how wildlife and ranching can co-exist.

You know the names, in part, because there are so few of them around the West that the same operations are continuously written up in the media and promoted by conservation groups-Malpai Borderlands group in Arizona and New Mexico, Lava Lake Land and Livestock Company in Idaho, JBarL in Montana’s Centennial Valley, and the Tom Miner Association adjacent to Yellowstone National Park.

The problem is that all these feel-good examples have two problems.

One they are the exceptions, not the rule. In all cases, they are livestock operations owned by wealthy individuals or those who have some connection to wealth. As a result, they can implement management practices that cannot be scaled up across the landscape. The Malpai had the support of the late Drum Hadley, Anheuser-Busch beer heir. Lava Lakes is owned by Brian and Kathleen Bean, who live in San Francisco where Brian is an investment banker. The B Bar Ranch in Tom Miner Basin is owned by Mary Ann Mott of Mott Applesauce fame. And the JBarL is owned by Peggy Dulany, heir to the Rockefeller fortune.

The sad thing about all these ranching operations is that the owners are wealthy enough that they don’t need to run livestock at all—likely it is a tax write off.  Indeed, if they were truly interested in helping wildlife instead of promoting the cowboy myth, they would volunteer to retire their public lands grazing allotments and contribute their vast fortunes towards retiring other grazing allotments.

Some of their holdings are substantial—the Bean’s Lava Lakes ranching operation includes 24,000 acres of private lands and controls over 900,000 acres of public lands allotments. Imagine if they retired their grazing allotments instead of running vast herds of sheep on them.

Instead, these “progressive” ranching operations are fawned upon by conservation organizations and receive numerous accolades and promotions of their livestock products (higher priced “grass fed beef and/or lamb). This includes groups like NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife (DOW), Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Montana Audubon, and the Nature Conservancy, among others.

All the while these conservation groups conveniently ignore and fail to inform their membership and media of the multiple ways that livestock production harms wildlife, and ecosystems, no doubt while receiving big donations for their silence. They are, thus, directly culpable for helping to continue the livestock hegemony and destruction of our public lands.

It would analogous to the American Cancer Society promoting filtered cigarettes arguing that they were slightly healthier than unfiltered smokes, and failing to acknowledge that cigarette smoking was a major cause of cancer.

To give an example of this collusion between ranchers and so-called conservation groups, I recently received an email about a “Range Rider” program at the Anderson Ranch in Tom Miner Basin (link here https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=e8f5b5d8e3&view=att&th=15b71e2eda289a5f&attid=0.1&disp=safe&realattid=f_j1jblcbx0&zw).

For a mere $600 you can ride a horse around in the mountains, and for dinner eat grass fed beef of animals you helped to keep out of the mouth of a wolf or grizzly.

You will learn how to harass predators like grizzlies and wolves so the ranchers can continue to run livestock on our public lands with a minimum of losses from predators.

In addition, there is the warm fuzzy feeling you’ll get knowing that, according to the ranch website, range riders help the ranch document predator losses so they can obtain more money from the state predator reimbursement program (again why do wealthy people need our tax dollars to maintain their ranching operations).

The people who fall for this gimmick no doubt believe they are saving predators. That is the message that supporting national organizations like NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife try to put forth.  Want to save wolves—come help harass public wildlife so that ranchers won’t kill them.

Unfortunately, the Anderson Ranch and supporting so called wildlife groups are perpetuating wildlife conflicts, not ultimately eliminating them.

Keep in mind that cattle and/or sheep grazing on public lands are consuming forage that would feed elk and other native wildlife which is the food base for native predators. Funny how TNC, GYC, DOW and NRDC and other groups never mention this as a cost of public lands livestock operations.

The mere presence of livestock socially displaces native wildlife like elk which avoid areas actively being grazed by domestic animals. And therefore, are pushed into less suitable habitat. Again, this harms the natural prey of predators like wolves and grizzlies. Again, no mention of this by the collaborating groups.

Nor do these so-called wildlife groups point out that you as a range rider are there to harass predators so someone’s private livestock (like the Anderson Ranch) can profit from public lands, while native predators like wolves and grizzlies are displaced from their natural habitat.

These groups also don’t mention the collateral damage from livestock. The spread of weeds. The soil compaction. The pollution of waterways from manure. The destruction of biocrusts. The spread of disease from domestic animals to wildlife. The trampling of riparian areas. The fences that block wildlife migration. The hay fields that require irrigation which drains our rivers and destroys aquatic ecosystems.

And I have yet to see any of these groups drawing the connection between livestock methane production and global warming.

Indeed, I would venture to bet that these so-called “wildlife friendly” ranch operations have these impacts—which overall are far worse for the ecological health of our public lands than the loss of an occasional wolf or bear—regrettable as that may be…(CONTINUED)

http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2017/04/17/range-riders-a-false-solution-for-predator-livestock-conflicts/

Wyoming Opinion Differs on Leaked BLM Talking Points and Expanding Energy Development

by as published on The Casper Star Tribune

“Let me make one thing clear: The Interior Department is in the energy business,”

English: Bureau of Land Management logo

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

A leaked draft of a new priority list from the Bureau of Land Management recently put energy development front and center among the agency’s initiatives.

In Wyoming, where the BLM manages 17.5 million acres of public land, any changes in how the agency permits and leases land for drilling oil and gas, or digging coal, sparks debate between those seeking to do business and those who want to reserve more land for public use and conservation.

The five-point draft from the BLM lists a number of priorities for the agency, like promoting energy independence for the U.S. and developing habitat improvement projects. The majority of the bullet points concern fossil fuel development. They include streamlining the drilling application process, opening new lands for drilling and addressing a “backlog” of industry requests. E&E News obtained a copy of the document and reported on its contents April 10.

 A spokeswoman for BLM said the list reflects the multi-use responsibility of the BLM but emphasized that it is not a final draft.

“While these documents are still in draft form, these talking points are being assembled by the team at the BLM to clearly lay out our continued commitment to ensure opportunities for commercial, recreation and conservation activities on BLM-managed lands,” said spokeswoman Megan Crandall in a statement. “Our multiple-use and sustained yield mission for managing public lands on behalf of all Americans supports an all-of-the-above energy plan, shared conservation through tribal, state and local partnerships, public access for recreation and other activities and keeping America’s working public landscapes healthy and productive.”

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story.

http://trib.com/business/energy/wyoming-opinion-differs-on-leaked-blm-talking-points-and-expanding/article_5105a15d-51f8-5e1b-8751-8624c707cc55.html

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!

Laird Lucas (Exec. Dir.) and Talasi Brooks (Staff Attorney) of Advocates for the West, on Wild Horse & Burro Radio (Wed., 9/28/16)

painy

Wild_Horse_Burro_Radio_LogoJoin us on Wild Horse Wednesdays®, Sept. 28, 2016

6:00 pm PST … 7:00 pm MST … 8:00 pm CST … 9:00 pm EST

Listen to the archived show (HERE!)

You can also listen to the show on your phone by calling (917) 388-4520.

You can call in with questions during the 2nd half hour, by dialing (917) 388-4520, then pressing 1.

This show will be archived so you can listen to it anytime.

laird-lucas-headshot-180x180Laird Lucas, Exec. Dir., Advocates for the West

talasi-brooks-headshot-180x180

Talasi Brooks, Staff Attorney

Our guests tonight will be Laird Lucas (Executive Director) and Talasi Brooks (Staff Attorney) of Advocates for the West, a public interest, nonprofit environmental law firm with an 85% record of legal success protecting the wildlife and wild places of the American West.

Advocates for the West are fighting to protect wildlife, land, water and air. Their wildlife cases wield the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws to stop and prevent habitat destruction, from unchecked grazing to motorized vehicles to industrial degradation. Advocates for the West are protecting sage grouse. They fight damage to our public lands from logging, mining, and countless other degradations. Their water-focused cases employ the Clean Water Act, the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, other environmental laws, and basic common sense to stop pollution, protect streams and watersheds, and improve water quality. Advocates for the West utilize the Clean Air Act and other environmental statutes to stop toxins, waste and pollutants that go airborne, so we can all take a breath of fresh air.

Some of the recent cases of Advocates for the West involve Wildlife Services wolf-killing in Idaho, protecting wild and scenic rivers, Point Reyes National Seashore in California, CuMo Mining Exploration, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Dept. of Energy and more.

This show will be hosted by Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

To contact us: ppj1@hush.com, or call 320-281-0585 Continue reading

Scott Sonner on BLM Nevada Director urging the roundup of 4,000 mustangs

SOURCE:  Las Vegas Sun

“Suggesting that wild horses are a problem for sage grouse, while ignoring the comparatively massive impacts of cattle and sheep, is a bit like suggesting that the captain of the Titanic should be worried about the ice cubes in his passengers’ cocktails rather than the icebergs floating in the North Atlantic.”  – Erik Molvar, WildEarth Guardians wildlife biologist

BLM’s Nevada director urges roundup of 4,000 mustangs

In this June 5, 2013 photo, some of the hundreds of mustangs the U.S. Bureau of Land Management removed from federal rangeland peer at visitors at the BLM's Palomino Valley holding facility about 20 miles north of Reno in Palomino Valley, Nev. The Cloud Foundation and Friends of Animas are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare wild horses threatened or endangered in North America under the Endangered Species Act. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

In this June 5, 2013 photo, some of the hundreds of mustangs the U.S. Bureau of Land Management removed from federal rangeland peer at visitors at the BLM’s Palomino Valley holding facility about 20 miles north of Reno in Palomino Valley, Nev. The Cloud Foundation and Friends of Animas are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare wild horses threatened or endangered in North America under the Endangered Species Act. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

RENO — Concerned about continued deterioration of drought-stricken rangeland in Nevada, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s state director wants to round up 4,000 wild horses in Elko County — more mustangs than were gathered across 10 Western states combined last year.

BLM Nevada Director John Ruhs says it’s unlikely he’ll be able to consider lifting livestock grazing restrictions in the northeast corner of the state without removing the mustangs from four-herd management areas over 600 square miles stretching to near the Utah line.

Ruhs, Gov. Brian Sandoval, livestock interests and state wildlife officials argue the roundups also would benefit the greater sage grouse.

Nevada Agriculture Director Jim Barbee anticipates that without the roundups, anywhere from a 25 percent to a total reduction in grazing will be necessary in some areas, resulting in as much as $1.8 million in damages to Elko County’s economy.

Conservationists say the call for more roundups is a misguided attempt to placate ranchers at the expense of horses and grouse. Cattle do far more damage than mustangs to the range and the imperiled bird, they say.

“The BLM is scapegoating wild horses instead of addressing the true causes of range degradation and threats to sage grouse,” said Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.

Nevada is home to nearly 28,000 wild horses — more than half of the 47,000 estimated in 10 western states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

BLM officials argue the range can sustain less than half that many — about 12,000 in Nevada and 26,000 nationally.

Ruhs estimated in an April 13 letter to the agency’s headquarters that it would cost about $4 million to remove about 4,000 animals in Elko County. He said the population of those herds is at five times the appropriate carrying capacity. “Some of the allotments/pastures within the impacted area will need to be closed to livestock grazing in 2016 and into the future to limit further damage to these ecosystems or until appropriate management of the wild horses has taken place,'” he wrote.

Sandoval warned last week if the Interior Department refuses to adequately fund the program, “the state will pursue all legal options to protect our local producers and communities.”

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, said in a letter to Secretary Sally Jewell that he’s disappointed the BLM has not responded to a request he and others made in November for an update on herds across the West.

“Over the past few years, many ranchers have already taken reductions in their grazing allotments, yet horse populations have only increased, not decreased, over that time,” Heller wrote Friday.

The BLM gathered 7,242 horses nationally in 2012; 4,064 in 2013; 1,689 in 2014; and 3,093 last fiscal year. It removed about 1,000 in Oregon in November, about 125 in southern Nevada in February, 54 in Utah in March, and this summer plans to remove about 535 in Wyoming and 300 in Utah.

But the agency currently plans no large-scale roundups in Nevada — or anywhere else — through the end of September because of budget shortfalls driven largely by the cost of housing more than 45,000 mustangs now in government corrals and pastures at a lifetime cost of $48,000 per animal.

The Nevada Association of Counties, Nevada Farm Bureau and others filed a lawsuit last year to force the government to step up roundups, but a U.S. judge in Reno dismissed the case.

“Unfortunately, the removal of cattle from areas where horse populations are significantly over (appropriate management levels) does not alleviate the impacts to native species, including sage grouse,” Nevada Cattlemen’s Association President David Stix Jr. said.

WildEarth Guardians wildlife biologist Erik Molvar disagreed. “Suggesting that wild horses are a problem for sage grouse, while ignoring the comparatively massive impacts of cattle and sheep, is a bit like suggesting that the captain of the Titanic should be worried about the ice cubs in his passengers’ cocktails rather than the icebergs floating in the North Atlantic,” he said.

Biologists Criticize Science In BLM Plans To Help Sage Grouse

“Granted, this story is not about Wild Horses and Burros BUT it does speak to the BLM’s poor math, lack of science and inconstancy in properly managing any form of wildlife on our public lands.  It’s all the same and scientists are screaming at them to get their facts right, just as we have been doing for years.  Good read!” ~ R.T.

“Unfortunately, the protections vary a lot from plan to plan, and most of those are not based in science as they are cherry picking pieces of science to make things easy,”

Sage GrouseIn late 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether to list the Greater Sage Grouse as an endangered or threatened species.  In preparation for this decision, another federal agency, the Bureau of Land Management, is coordinating a set of plans aimed at protecting the bird and keeping it off the endangered species list.

A group of sage grouse scientists, however, say those plans lack sound science and fail to adequately protect the grouse.

In a Thursday conference call, Ken Rait, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts Western Lands Initiative, said that wildlife biologists believe “there is significant discrepancy between science and the plans.”

In a June letter sent to Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, a group of 15 wildlife scientists, 12 of them with doctoral degrees, outlined some of the problems they saw with the draft plans. (Final versions will be released in early 2015, so the BLM may still revise them.)

One problem with the plans, the scientists said, is that they lack consistency, “essentially creating 15 different management approaches to sage-grouse conservation within and across state boundaries.”

While some variations are necessary due to regional differences, the variability in the plans is not based in science, the biologists said. For example, one plan may require a certain buffer distances for oil and gas activity or surface disturbance from a priority conservation area or sage grouse breeding ground, and another plan would have a different requirement.

“Unfortunately, the protections vary a lot from plan to plan, and most of those are not based in science as they are cherry picking pieces of science to make things easy,” said Terry Riley, a wildlife biologist and director of conservation policy at the North American Grouse Partnership.

The other criticism the scientists laid out is that the conservation measures the BLM recommends are not supported by the best available science.

Matt Holloran, a principal and senior ecologist with Wyoming Wildlife Consultants, also criticized the BLM draft plans for failing to come up with a coordinated effort to manage invasive species like cheatgrass and medusahead, which, after wildfire, come in and take over important sagebrush habitat. In fact, in some of the plans, burning sagebrush was considered as a tool in wildlife managers toolboxes, which Holloran said was a bad idea.

“The science is pretty conclusive that fire should not be considered a management option,” he said…(CONTINUED)

Environmental Groups Eye Idaho BLM Sage Grouse Ruling

By Keith Ridler as published in the Reno Gazette-Journal

“Ruling could give leverage to Wild Horse & Burro Advocacy”

Greater Sage GrouseBOISE — A small portion of a federal judge’s ruling in Idaho against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management concerning grazing permits in sage grouse habitat is being eyed as a potential lever by environmental groups considering similar lawsuits in other states.

Most of U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s 21-page decision late last month involved his ruling that the agency violated environmental laws in issuing permits on four grazing allotments in south-central Idaho, considered test cases for about 600 other permits.

But he used three pages near the end of his decision to rule on a separate matter that the agency incorrectly used a congressional budget rider to issue additional grazing permits in south-central Idaho with no environmental analysis at all.

“This is a clear shot across the bow of the BLM,” said Todd Tucci, an attorney for Advocates for the West that represented Western Watersheds Project in the lawsuit. “I will bring this argument to any federal court in the country and feel very comfortable about my likelihood of success.”

Ken Cole of Western Watersheds Project said the BLM has used the rider to issue hundreds of grazing permits across the West. Winmill’s decision only pertains to Idaho, but conservation groups in other states are viewing the winning lawsuit as a possible template.

“This is a legal victory that is certainly going to get a lot of scrutiny from environmental groups moving forward,” said Erik Molvar of WildEarth Guardians….(CONTINUED)

National group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, has doubts about BLM study on Wild Horses and Burros

By ZACHARY MATSON of TODAY’S NEWS-HERALD

“…more than 95 percent of the negative impact on the bird’s habitat would have been caused by grazing compared to the wild animals.”

wild burro captured by BLM ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

wild burro captured by BLM ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

A Washington D.C.-based nonprofit on Tuesday released an analysis of Bureau of Land Management data that calls into question the agency’s study of the relative habitat impacts of wild horse and burros, and cattle grazing.

The organization, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, argued that the methods the BLM used to study Western range conditions overstates the role that burros and wild horses have on habitat destruction, while understating the impacts of cattle grazing.

“The implication is that if the agency tells us the wild horses and burros have larger impact, they can argue roundups (of horses and burros) will have positive impacts on… habitat and livestock grazing can go unchanged,” the nonprofit’s advocacy director Kirsten Stade said.

Peter Lattin, who used to work as a contractor with BLM but moved to PEER after disagreements with the agency’s methods, said he and the organization have put together a database of BLM grazing allotments by pulling together hundreds records from a Freedom of Information Act request.

The analysis dealt primarily with habitat of the sage-grouse, a ground-dwelling chicken located largely in Nevada that is under consideration for endangered species status, but the organization has compiled data on BLM land management throughout the West. The BLM does not manage for sage-grouse habitat in Arizona.

In the BLM’s study of impacts on sage-grouse habitat, they measured all acres that had burros and wild horses but only the grazing allotments that had scored poorly on habitat health assessments, Lattin said. As a result the BLM reported nearly twice as much of the sage-grouse habitat is negatively impacted by burros and wild horses as by livestock grazing.

“They used the same term but treated them with entirely different methods,” he said.

Lattin said that if BLM had used the same methods, more than 95 percent of the negative impact on the bird’s habitat would have been caused by grazing compared to the wild animals.

Stade said that by downplaying impact that cattle grazing has on sage-grouse habitat the BLM makes it more difficult that the species could become listed and distorts policymaking as land managers set out to protect the species…(CONTINUED)

Combination of Welfare Cattle and Fires could Spell Extinction for Wild Horse and Burro Herds

Guest OpEd (IMO) by Grandma Gregg (SFTHH Exclusive)

“… why would the BLM allow the fire to continue burning and not put it out quickly?”

Magic and his mare, Hope, near fence one year ago…the same area the fire swept through last week with the horses still unaccounted for ~ photo by Grandma Gregg

The Twin Peaks Herd Management Area fire (Rush fire) might have started with lightening but allowing it’s non-stop devouring of 313,911 acres (so far) was a management decision.  Why do I think that?

The Herd Management Area does have peaks and valleys but is generally gentle slopes with mainly grasses and sage with some juniper trees (see photo).  The over-story (tree cover) in most places is so lacking that a person can see for many miles in most directions.  I have some fire and heavy equipment background when I tell you that a lowbed truck and trailer hauling in a fire dozer could easily and safely get to most areas on the Herd Management Area.  A forest fire often jumps from tree top to tree top and is very difficult to put out but this was not a forest fire – it was a high desert fire.  A few rings around the fire would have made an efficient firebreak before it got past the very first day – a couple of hundred acres along with some dousing of hot spots and the fire would have been out.

So … why would the BLM allow the fire to continue burning and not put it out quickly?  Let’s look at the history and management issues and future of this and other public lands and ask ourselves some questions.  Twin Peaks is completely covered by grazing allotments – nine of them. Based on year round usage, only 18% of the forage is designated for wild horses and burros and the remaining 82% is given away to livestock. In the minds of livestock ranchers, any and all wild horses and burros are taking the forage right out of their livestock’s mouths and the money out of their pockets.  By the way if history repeats itself, all the burned grazing allotment fences will be replaced using our tax dollars, and the ranchers will also be able to apply for extra federal cash subsidies because of the fire and their “losses”.  Follow the money.

The grazing allotments on the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area are crisscrossed by lots and lots of fences and cattle guards – all are a potentially death trap for wild horses and burros caught in a firestorm.  Since the livestock use the public forage why would it help to let it burn?  Because the fire will have burned the majority of the native forage – sage and juniper and grasses – the BLM will claim the erosion control will become the utmost concern before the winter arrives.  That makes sense, but exactly what are they going to plant for the erosion control?  If the BLM follows its most recent policy it will seed with non-native grass seed especially useful for livestock.  Starting to ring any bells yet?

The great basin sage-steppe wild lands are an important natural resource, including critical habitat for sage grouse among other native wildlife.  Ah Ha!  Another species that the BLM will be glad the fire destroyed – the sage grouse itself and its natural environment.  So the fire got rid of three of the major head-aches for the BLM – Wild Horses and Burros, Sage Grouse and the native Sage and Juniper habitat.

It appears to me that although the land itself may be damaged from the fire for a while, the seeding and then of course chemical herbicides that will be applied for the next few years to eradicate the unwanted cheat-grass will ultimately make a lot of money for large biological chemical companies and the livestock permitees and the final result will be the BLM will have a clear slate for energy extraction, wind and or solar or whatever other money making deal they can arrange behind the public’s back – and into their pocket.  Oh … did I mention that at the tax-payers’ expense the fire contractors (dozers and water trucks and fire crew kitchens and even showers) are all paid big dollars per day that they are on the fire … the more days … the more money.

Then to top it off, the BLM will then say the land is not feasible to manage for Wild Horses and Burros.  Their next step will be to remove any remaining Wild Horses and Burros that were able to survive this tragic fire.

Please understand that I highly respect and appreciate all the fire-fighters on this or any fire.  They risk their lives every day they are out there fighting and they hold a very high place in my mind and heart.  It is the agency’s corrupt decision-makers MIS-management of our land and our wildlife and our Wild Horses and Burros that disgusts me.

In summary, the BLM’s behind the door decision to allow our Twin Peaks Herd Management Area land and it’s wildlife and Wild Horses and Burros to be decimated is a win-win for BLM management and a lose-lose for our wild ones and for you and me.