Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Game Over

“The Secretary is authorized and directed to protect and manage wild free-roaming horses and burros as components of the public lands, and he may designate and maintain specific ranges on public lands as sanctuaries for their protection and preservation…. “

The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act
Public Law 92-195
Section 1333

Despite the passage of federal laws to stop those who had been driving the American wild horse into extinction, many had already become well entrenched in respectable positions. As a result, they now had the unique advantage to manipulate governmental systems and they immediately set about to use this vantage point to corrode the new law.

As with most wars, the heart of the conflict was rooted in controlling and harvesting tangible resources and a new battle to push America’s wild herds into the most remote and hostile regions began.

With each passing decade, as cities grew and urbanization spread, even these areas began to be coveted. What little crumbs the majority of the free-roaming populations had once been allowed now came under further scrutiny as the sons of the fathers continued the family tradition.

In the way that only legal jargon seems to do, through vague phrasing and nebulous concepts, it was easy to allocate more and more forage for livestock, no matter what the cost to the wild horse and burro herds or their “protected habitat”.

It was in the 1998 Congressional Subcommittee Hearing of National Parks and Public Lands that a Nevada County Commissioner presented his vision of what America’s wild horse and burro population should look like when he stated, “We need to consider the idea of having one or two herds of horses in each state”, a vision that mirrored those once intent on eradicating the wild horse from the American West.

Nevada rancher and long time State Senator Dean Rhodes warmly embraced the idea by adding, “Then you could remove all the other horses from the west on much of our grazing lands.”

While our wild horse and burro herds have been disappearing from the American scene, BLM shrugs their shoulders, claiming there is little they can do, as they continue to dish out the lions share of forage pie on to the cattlemen’s plate. After all, they argue, the law never specifies how much each should get….

For thirty-seven years, this game has been played with America's wild horses and burros always on the losing end and those who value them have watched our herds “legally” disappear only to see livestock still grazing were wild herds once roamed.

It is BLMs own Code of Federal Regulations that states:
“If necessary to provide habitat for wild horses and burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros from disease, harassment or injury, the authorized officer may close appropriate areas of the public lands to grazing use by all or a particular kind of livestock.”
C.F.R. 4710.5 (a)

Yet BLM has continued to circumvent the intent of PL 92-195, which is to protect and preserve America's wild horses and burros, has continued to ignore the law by zeroing them out and “re-zoning” their habitat (despite Congress declaring this habitat was dedicated for the purpose of preserving them for future generations) and has continued to ignore their own regulations mandating livestock must go before the wild horse and burro herds do.

As the general public has tried to challenge BLM by pointing out the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act mandates their home ranges were to be devoted principally to their welfare, as with any species protected habitat is set aside for, the BLM often smugly rebuts ~ this clause only applies to “specially dedicated” wild horse or burro ranges.

In other words, it wasn’t good enough for Congress to have set aside the land once for their protection, now the public has to petition the Secretary of the Interior for a “special designation” if wild horses and/or burros are to be bestowed the honor of having their habitat managed in such a manner as to be “principally devote” to their welfare.

So perhaps the public should take matters into their own hands and close the legal loophole once and for all.

Petition the Secretary of the Interior to designate every remaining area wild horses and burros are still found in and have it declared a Range, which is to be “devoted principally but not exclusively to their welfare in keeping with the multiple-use concept for the public lands.” PL 92-195, 1332 (c)

Then the next time BLM starts scratching their heads, shrugging their shoulders and mumbling they were never told “who gets what”, the public can show them (or a judge);

In wild horse and burro habitat, they get at least 51% of the forage pie.

Game over....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Being designated a Range didn't do much to secure the protection of the wild free-roaming horses on the Nellis Range! The wild burros on the Marietta Range seem to be faring better, but only time will tell! The Marietta Range offers an opportunity ti protect the burros as worthy of preservation...they are indeed "living symbols of the historic & pioneer[ing] spirit" of Nevada & its mining history.