Environmental and Wild Horse Advocates Agree: Livestock are the Problem on Western Ranges

SOURCE:  The Wildlife News

By Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project

When Erik Molvar of Western Watersheds Project (WWP) and Val Cecama-Hogsett of Citizens Against Equine Slaughter (CAES) met at a law conference in the spring of 2016, they had differing views of wild horses but they also had one clear common goal: to change the reality of the damage being done by livestock overgrazing the arid lands in the West.

Western Watersheds Project has long-advocated for the reduction and cessation of public lands livestock grazing to benefit ecological function and wildlife. WWP has no formal position on the origin of free-roaming horses, but supports science-based management of public lands and prioritize some threats more than others. Some of our members love wild horses and want to see them flourish, while others are opposed to them and consider them a pest. But all of our members agree that we want public lands to be restored to landscapes replete with native vegetation, native wildlife and healthy streams and rivers, as set forth in our mission.

Read the rest of this article HERE.

Groups File Formal Petition to Ban Cyanide Traps in Wyoming

Story by as published on the Casper Star Tribune

“We’re not at war with native wildlife, and it is irresponsible to allow poison landmines to be sown anywhere in Wyoming,”

Star-Tribune File Photo

A coalition of environmental groups formally petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday asking for a ban of M-44s, a cyanide trap used to kill coyotes across the state.

Many of the groups, which include Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity, filed a similar petition in Idaho in March. Wildlife Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, decided to remove all M-44s from private, state and federal land in Idaho.

“We’re not at war with native wildlife, and it is irresponsible to allow poison landmines to be sown anywhere in Wyoming,” said Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “Wildlife Services got rid of M-44s in Idaho, and they should do the same in Wyoming before more pets, and even people, get hurt or killed.”

Trappers in Wyoming began using M-44s in 1975. The traps kill by injecting sodium cyanide powder into an animal’s mouth that releases hydrogen cyanide gas when mixed with saliva. Because the poison is metabolized instantly, M-44s are seen as a less hazardous way to kill predators than poisons like the now-banned 1080, which stays in carcasses and eviscerated populations of predators such as eagles and wolverines.

In the winter, the USDA Wildlife Services might have about 250 M-44s on the landscape in Wyoming, Mike Foster, state director of Wildlife Services, told the Star-Tribune in April.

The state Department of Agriculture also allows licensed commercial or private users to place the traps. The department’s predator management coordinator estimated about 300 were in the state in the winter.

Very few are on the landscape in the summer.

The petition addresses both Wildlife Services and the state Department of Agriculture.

Wildlife Services received the petition Tuesday and will respond directly, said USDA spokeswoman Lyndsay Cole.

Wyoming’s Department of Agriculture had not yet received a formal petition and as a result had no comment, said spokesman Derek Grant.

http://trib.com/lifestyles/recreation/groups-file-formal-petition-to-ban-cyanide-traps-in-wyoming/article_d6d4b320-09ad-5077-90de-14987261c0f5.html

New Government Report on Trespass Livestock

Source:  Western Watersheds Project

“For decades our wild horses and burros have been scapegoated as the primary reason for ecological destruction on our western public lands while in reality, the documented destruction has come from private, welfare livestock allowed to graze our land at subsidized prices while far out numbering the federally protected wild equines. 

This may come as a bit of a shock (tongue in cheek) but several of our federal agencies (BLM and USFS for example) are critically ate up with collusion and cronyism leading to a system of ‘good ole boy’ favoritism towards federally subsidized welfare grazing with little or no control YET the agencies, along with their welfare ranching buddies, point fingers at the wild horses and burros for grazing damage while they hold actual research at bay that verifies it is their private cows and sheep that are doing the damage and NOT the wild horses and burros.

Instead of reducing or eliminated grazing permits the BLM and USFS spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to attack, harass, capture, abuse, torture, experiment upon, warehouse and even sell horses and burros off to slaughter AGAINST the will of American taxpayers and  politicians.

Although today’s installment does not address wild horses and burros specifically it speaks to the problem that is used as an excuse for the corrupt agencies to illegally remove the protected equines from public lands while welfare cattle and sheep run amok.  It is all so screwed up that it is difficult for a sane mind to wrap itself around, but for the sake of the wild horses and burros we need to “get it” and continue to fight and speak on their behalf.  Become conversant on the subject, please, and ensure that all who you know are equally aware as it is only through the force of numbers will we be able to win this war.  Keep the faith my friends and keep on keeping on.” ~ R.T.


July 29, 2016
Online Messenger #335

photo by Jonathan Ratner

photo by Jonathan Ratner

A recently released report from the Government Accountability Office conclusively found what many WWP members already suspected: 1) Trespass livestock grazing is a pervasive problem; 2) It causes widespread ecological damage on public lands; 3) Land management agencies don’t adequately document these violations; and 4) Forest Service trespass fees are too low to serve as a deterrent. These facts add up to a very grim picture about illegal grazing activities on the lands owned and cherished by all of us.

WWP has been documenting trespass livestock grazing for years, reporting observations of cows and sheep in the wrong pastures, staying too long on an allotment, and on sensitive areas that are supposed to be protected from damaging hooves. These types of reports don’t get taken seriously and the agencies – despite BLM regulations requiring them to take action – often just deal with permittees through a casual conversation rather than formal documentation.

The GAO report verifies that the agencies are intimidated by dealing with high-profile repeat offenders and anti-government protestors, leading to a cycle of increased trespass grazing. The GAO found that even when the agencies do deal with trespassers, the penalties assessed are often too low to act as a deterrent.  This is especially true for the Forest Service where the penalty for trespass grazing may be even less than the cost of permitted grazing elsewhere!  Some ranchers consider these penalties “the cost of doing business” – within a business model that already steals value from our public trust lands.

As if these findings weren’t bad enough, add them to the fact that the GAO found much the same thing in 1990. The agencies largely ignored the government’s recommendations then; will they pay any heed now?

The report is a useful update on the general status of this overlooked issue, and it is due to the hard work of WWP staff in D.C. that this report was requested by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Congressman Grijalva released his own press statement on the GAO findings. Grijalva stated “federal agencies’ first responsibility is to ensure the public receives a fair return for the use of public land. Right-wing anti-government rhetoric should not prevent agencies from enforcing laws written to protect the environment and economy of Western states.”

Thank you, Congressman Grijalva. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Jonathan Ratner of Western Watersheds Project on Wild Horse & Burro Radio (Wed., Feb. 10th)

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Wild_Horse_Burro_Radio_Logo

Join us on Wild Horse Wednesdays®, Feb. 10th, 2016

4:00 pm PST … 5:00 pm MST … 6:00 pm CST … 7:00 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 is a 1 hour show.  It will be archived so you can listen to it anytime.

_____________________________________________

Jonathan-Ratner

Our guest is JONATHAN RATNER, Western Watersheds Project’s Director for Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.  Jonathan joined WWP after a stint with the Forest Service in which he documented severe degradation caused by livestock grazing.  When his reports were consigned to the ‘round file’ by the Forest Service, he left and came across Western Watersheds Project and started WWP’s Wyoming Office.

Jonathan will talk about public lands ranching, the most widespread commercial use of public lands in the United States.  Jonathan will also talk about BLM grazing allotments within Wild Horse & Burro HMAs, and “Data Trespass,” Wyoming’s fancy name for it’s Ag Gag law.

Ranching is one of the primary causes of native species endangerment in the American West; it is also the most significant cause of non-point source water pollution and desertification.

Tonight’s show is hosted by Debbie Coffey, V.P. and Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

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

Continue reading

Judge Rules BLM Violated Grazing Laws in South-Central Idaho

Sources: Multiple/Story by

BLM Breaks the Law for Benefit of Bedfellow Welfare Ranchers

BLM destroying the last of Wyoming's Wild Horses for the benefit of Welfare Ranchers ~ photo taken last week by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BLM destroying the last of Wyoming’s Wild Horses for the benefit of Welfare Ranchers ~ photo taken last week by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BOISE IDAHO – A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management once again violated federal laws when it issued grazing permits instead of analyzing how grazing could harm sage grouse in four allotments in south-central Idaho.

In a ruling released Monday, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill found that the BLM failed to consider stopping grazing in any of the proposed management plans in the agency’s Burley Field Office.

The decision is round two of a lawsuit led by conservation group Western Watersheds Project that is challenging nearly 600 BLM grazing allotments spread across southern Idaho.

Winmill agreed that the BLM is allowed to automatically renew grazing permits without conducting lengthy environmental reviews.

However, it must still comply with federal laws requiring the agency to study rangeland degradation.

Welfare Ranchers Desperate to Destroy Public Wildlife Habitat

Source:  by Dean Ellis (less headlines) as published at the Capitol Press

Subsidized Cow Grazers Want to Take More Land from Wild Horses and Burros

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

MELBA, Idaho — A local rancher has donated a registered Angus heifer that he will sell at auction to raise money for a pending legal battle over an issue industry leaders fear could significantly reduce public lands grazing in the West.

South Mountain Ranch co-owner Matt Duckett hopes to sell the animal several times during his ranch’s annual production sale Feb. 11. He will donate the proceeds to help offset legal costs in the so-called Owyhee 68 case.

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill in 1999 ordered the BLM’s Owyhee field office in southwestern Idaho to rewrite 68 grazing permits that it renewed in 1997. Winmill’s decision to void the permits was the result of a lawsuit by Western Watersheds Project, which argued that the permits weren’t properly analyzed according to the National Environmental Policy Act.

The new permits were issued throughout 2013 and in most cases reduce grazing by 30-50 percent, according to Duckett and Idaho Cattle Association officials.

“(Ranchers) basically have to cut their cow herds in half to meet the requirements,” Duckett said. “Most businesses can’t cut their revenue in half and stay in operation.”

The decisions are being appealed by the ICA and Owyhee Cattlemen’s Association. WWP is also appealing them and the grazing reductions won’t go into effect until the appeals are resolved.

The 68 permits include 120 grazing allotments and affect hundreds of thousands of acres of land.

While the impact to Owyhee ranchers is significant, the BLM’s decisions could also set precedence for new grazing permits throughout the West, said ICA Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott.

Prescott said ICA officials believe BLM reduced grazing to try to avoid litigation from WWP.

“If that is allowed to happen, the BLM could apply that model to many more permit renewals to come,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve taken such a strong stance on this issue.”

Heather Feeney, a spokeswoman for BLM’s Idaho office, said the agency did not base its decisions on an effort to avoid litigation.

Winmill ruled that the field office didn’t adequately analyze the permits under NEPA and ordered it to go back and conduct a NEPA analysis in the process of considering the renewal of the permits, she said…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story and to comment directly at Capitol Press

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Good News for Montana’s Bison

Update from Western Watersheds Project

A Victory that all Wild Animal Advocates can Cheer

An open letter from Summer Nelson, Montana Director;

Yellowstone Bison © Ken Cole

Yellowstone Bison © Ken Cole

Friends,

Bison gained ground in Montana yesterday when a state district court judge ruled in favor of allowing them room to roam out of Yellowstone National Park during winter months.

Western Watersheds Project and Buffalo Field Campaign intervened in a lawsuit on behalf of the State of Montana to defend wild bison against a litany of claims raised by the Park County Stockgrowers’ Association, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, and Park County. The livestock interests sued state agencies involved in bison management after the state allowed bison migration into the Gardiner Basin north of Yellowstone National Park in spring of 2011.  Western Watersheds Project and other bison advocates welcomed the change as an important step in bison recovery because the bison naturally attempt to access the habitat in the Gardiner Basin, and scientists have indicated it is critical to the population’s long-term survival.

I was fortunate enough to witness the bison re-inhabiting the Gardiner Basin when I visited that spring to attend a public meeting about the proposed expansion area. It was such a treat to revel in the presence of the native bison without having to also witness the animals being harassed by agents with horses, helicopters, ATVs or snowmobiles!

Shortly after the state announced it would agree to allow bison to regularly migrate to and inhabit the Gardiner Basin, the livestock interests filed lawsuits challenging Montana’s authority to allow bison to exist in the state. Their claims ran the gamut of legal imagination, and each and every one was struck down in yesterday’s ruling. The court declared the state had acted within its authority to allow bison to migrate to their native habitat, and that living with wildlife like bison is simply part of living in a state like Montana.

Western Watersheds Project and Buffalo Field Campaign were jointly represented by Western Watersheds Project attorneys, including myself, and private attorney (and long-time bison supporter) Ted Fellman. Together, we were able to present the testimony of two Gardiner Basin residents who value and support the presence of wild bison in the place they call home.  Their voices were an important antidote to the complaints of the vocal minority that was and is the Stockgrowers’ Association and Montana Farm Bureau. Conservation groups Bear Creek Council, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and Natural Resources Defense Council were also intervenors and were represented by Earthjustice, providing a strong show of support for the state’s position.

Thanks to everyone who helped America’s wild bison have more room to roam in winter!

Summer-Nelson-signature

 

 

 

Summer Nelson
Montana Director

Western Watersheds Project Wins Stays Blocking Implementation of Four BLM Decisions

By Katie Fite, Biodiversity Director of WWP

Western Watersheds & Judges Continue Attack on Welfare Ranchers

Western Watersheds Project (WWP) has received notification that Judge Harvey C. Sweitzer of the Department of Interior Office of Hearings and Appeals granted four Stays halting Bureau of Land Management grazing decisions on 48,000 acres of public land in the Grouse Creek, Meadow Creek, Rock Creek and Trail Creek Allotments in the Pahsimeroi River Watershed of central Idaho. The allotments are located in critical habitat for Greater sage-grouse whose numbers have been declining for many years in central Idaho.

In issuing these now-Stayed grazing decisions, BLM’s Challis Field Office greatly mis-represented the conditions of Greater sage-grouse, pygmy rabbit, and aquatic habitats on the allotments. Instead of curtailing the impacts of existing levels of livestock use of the public lands, BLM sought to maintain the destructive levels of grazing by developing water pipelines, fences and other industrial infrastructure that degrades wildlife habitat, introduces weeds, and otherwise diminishes the natural values on these public lands.

The Stayed Bureau of Land Management grazing decisions for these four allotments followed a previous Western Watersheds Project victory in 2011 in which Judge Edward J. Lodge of the Idaho federal district court agreed with Western Watersheds Project and overturned earlier BLM grazing decisions for the same allotments.

Western Watersheds Project’s campaign to bring better management for watershed health and wildlife habitat in Idaho’s Pahsimeroi River watershed is finally changing many decades of mismanaged livestock grazing thereby protecting wilderness values and wildlife habitat including lands essential for the survival of Greater sage-grouse, Chinook salmon and Bull trout.

Also in the Pahsimeroi River watershed, Western Watersheds Project secured in 2010 another court victory protecting wilderness values on the Burnt Creek Allotment.

Special thanks for this collective effort are due are due Kenneth Cole – WWP’s NEPA Coordinator, Alex Brott – WWP’s Summer Intern from Whitman College, and Jon Marvel – WWP’s Executive Director.