Thursday, February 7, 2008

Every Step Of The Way

For those of you that took the time out to visit Nevada Bighorns Unlimited (NBU) website after you read their article, “Wild Horses on the Sheldon National Antelope Range” you may have noticed all the various groups, organizations and agencies NBU is involved in with - one of which is the Natural Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board, a typo they have yet to address as it is suppose to read the NATIONAL Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board.

Larry Johnson, past President of NBU and still listed on the Board of Directors, is currently serving (and has for years) as the representative for Wildlife on the National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board.

Mr Johnson has a passion and interest in wild horse and burro management that has seldom seen an equal, even among long time wild horse and burro advocates themselves and he has been a constant source of guidance and advice when it comes to our wild horses and burros.

Here is list of just a few of his accomplishments:

  • On April 10th, 2001, Mr. Johnson testified to the 107th Congress, Senate Subcommittee on Environment and Public Works in Reno, Nevada and submitted a Wild Horse and Burro Attachment under the heading Project Funding Needed. His testimony and support were instrumental in helping secure the funding that launched the removal of over 70,000 wild horse and burros from public lands.

    While he submitted evidence of wild horse and burro damage to fragile ecosystems, he made no mention of the livestock industries contributions to deteriorated rangeland or watershed conditions. The statement he submitted to the Senate Subcommittee Hearing declared one of the major threats to watershed health is an overabundance of wild horses and burros on rangelands. (1)
  • On October 27th, 2003, he testified again at the House Resource Committee in efforts to secure continued funding for wild horse and burro removals and cited their “excessive numbers and overpopulation” as causing the alarming results of rapid loss of wildlife habitat in Nevada as well as across the Great Basin. (2)
  • On February 9, 2007 Mr. Johnson provided public comments as a representative of the Coalition for Nevada Wildlife to the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners advising the Commissioners that Washington was cutting the Wild Horse and Burro Program by $5 million dollars, which would result in eliminating wild horse and burro removals except in Wyoming due to a court order/settlement. He stated that this must not be allowed to happen and reminded the Commission of a resolution they had passed two years ago to litigate the subject of forced wild horse and burro compliance. He concluded his comments to the Commission by recommending that they “need to take whatever steps are necessary”. (3)

    As a result of Mr. Johnson’s advice, the Nevada Wildlife Commission instituted Item #6 on their agenda during the March 30-31, 2007 meeting and they discussed initiating litigation against BLM to force them to continue wild horse and burro removals, both in Nevada and Nationally.

  • On May 16th, 2007, the Bureau of Land Management conducted their required annual hearing on the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles to remove wild horses and burros from public lands for the state of Nevada. One hundred and thirty public comments were received regarding the issue, 129 to protest and one in support. Larry Johnson was the lone voice in support of using helicopters to continue to remove wild horses and burros from public lands through this method.
  • Larry also works closely with the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society whose cited goals and Mission Statement includes #5 - Support the reduction of feral burro populations in bighorn sheep habitat.

    When BLM was questioned about this possible conflict of interest, Acting Assistant Director for Renewable Resources and Planning, Jim Murkin responded, “the claim of ethics violations and conflict of interest of a particular member of the Board for representing the interest for which he was selected is not valid.” No mention was made as to whether these allegations of conflict of interest were investigated.

So if anybody happens to be in Tuscon, Arizona for the upcoming National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Meeting, be sure to stop by and thank Larry and Nevada Bighorns Unlimited for all their hard work in helping America’s wild horses and burros - whether through securing funding for their removals, advocating helicopter captures or now expressing concerns about the costs of holding all our wild horses and burros in government pens, they have been there every step of the way!

At least there is a bright note for one wild species on the horizon - bighorn have now expanded to an estimated 50,000 throughout the West.

Click Here to read Mr. Johnson's 2001 Statement

(1) Full committee field hearing, State wildlife and conservation needs, Reno, Nevada, Wild Horse Management-Attachment, Bureau of Land Management Update March 2000
(2) Forest & Rangeland Health in Nevada’s Great Basin, Oversight Field Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health of the Committee on Resources, U.S. House of Representatives, 106th Congress, First Session, October 27, 2003, Ely, Nevada, page 43
(3) Draft Minutes, Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners’ Meeting, Nevada Department of Wildlife, February 9th -10th 2007, page 17.

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