Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Say It With A Smile

"As someone who has photographed the same herd for the past few years, I'm pleading that you look into the records. Something isn't right. Southern Oregon BLM shows that there are approximately 1,000 wild horses in the various herds spread over many areas. Yet, local ranchers that pay for their cattle to SHARE the area with the horses claim that the numbers are higher than what I have seen with my eyes. The horses are restricted to particular areas, and blocked in by fences. When the food gets scarce, and the water gets low, the ranchers pull their cattle out, and the horses are left with next to nothing. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?"
Anonymous Post
AWHPC Petition
Summer 2008

One of the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) recommendations to BLM last November was to increase public access to information about the Wild Horse & Burro Program. (Providing better public access is also one of the key issues in the recently introduced legislation, H.R.1018 – Restoring Our American Mustangs (ROAM) as well.)

In response to the GAO recommendations, BLM began publishing monthly statistics of public interest, which included adoptions, sales, short and long term holding numbers as well as the number of wild horses and burros removed during the round ups.

When I first discovered BLM was finally taking this step in the right direction, I loudly applauded their efforts - but my elation was quickly dampened and here’s why.

To go back a little in time, since discovering BLM published Post-Gather Reports after each round up, I have routinely requested copies of these reports for well over 2 years now. However, when I requested a copy of the Post-Gather Report for Utah's Sulphur wild horses conducted last November, BLM WH&B State Lead Gus Warr politely responded that sending them to the National Program Office would be a top priority so they could be posted on BLM’s website - but no, I wasn’t going to get a copy of the report – at least, not from him. (Note: This was implied since he never included the report nor did I receive any further communications from him).

This led to questions with the National Program Office about whether BLM would continue to supply the public with these valuable reports and that is how I discovered a change in policy had been made. Specifically, I was asked to no longer contact any WH&B Specialist, Field Office or State WH&B Lead with any future requests for Post-Gather Reports though BLM stated they would be happy to continue to provide them via a contact from the National Program Office instead.

So began the several month trek to acquire documents that use to only take a few weeks - still, BLM finally made good on their promise and the post-gather reports arrived!

The only reason I have chosen to share this little “behind the scenes” story is this:

Though BLM posting a few more statistics on the Wild Horse & Burro website helps create the illusion of BLM’s compliance with recommendations to increase their transparency, in my opinion, they immediately seized the opportunity to yet again circumvent the very intent of WHY there continues to be long standing public concerns about what is REALLY going on behind the scenes.

But back to the Post-Gather Reports…..

When I finally received them, I was absolutely in shock! Since then and for many weeks now, I have been trying to get even the most minimal answers about “WHAT HAPPENED HERE?!?!?”

Though BLM has assured me they are working on provide answers – I continue to wait, and wait, and wait – and today, I have decided enough is enough and I’m just not going to wait anymore…

In a recent email exchange with a fellow horse advocate, they recommended I shorten my articles and try to be more optimistic about the WH&B Program. I have been reflecting on their words and admit, the darkness I have found myself engulfed in since I began to discover what has been going on behind the scenes of wild horse and burro “protection” (and horse slaughter for that matter), has taken its toll on my spirit.

So, I’m going to try something new.

Since I can’t really find it in me at the moment to be more optimistic about the future of America’s Mustangs & Burros since “Burns-Amendment-Co-Sponsor” Senator Harry Reid recently gave his nod of approval towards “Wild-Horse-And-Burro-Cleansing-Campaign-General” Bob Abbey for his choice as the next National Director for BLM, (Mr. Abbey is the ex-BLM Director for Nevada who went to Congress with “The Plan” for our wild horses and burros that has now threatened their very lives), I am going to reach back to a happier time when ignorance was bliss to present the next story, a time when I was able to easily smile at the days events – unlike now.

So without further ado, I will keep it short and let BLM tell the story instead…
Large numbers of dead horses were observed in certain areas of both HMAs where the emergency gather operations were taking place. Most probably died due to lack of adequate water and forage. Most carcasses appeared to be from one to four months old….” Pg. 6.


Anonymous said...

Hard to smile when certain information was provided (at least to a few who requested it specifically) and after the GAO report which stated they needed to provide MORE info they now provide LESS!!

Shame on the BLM. They work for us and the government should (unless it is a matter of national security) be transparent so we can see how our tax dollars are spent. But, what can you expect from an agency that has ALWAYS attempted to withhold necessary information? Reporter George Knapp has had difficulty getting documents requested under FOIA, as have other groups and news agencies. BLM has gotten away with this for FAR too long. It is time that accountability is DEMANDED.

Anonymous said...

As one who lives right next to the Sulpher Herd, I could have predicted this outcome without even a crystal ball. That herd of horses has been left unmanaged because of issues related to some special line of 'wild' horse (I think they call them Spanish Barb). Large ungulates, left unmanaged, without natural predation, will eventually rise in population to the point of a crash. This winter was evidently crash time for the sulpher herd. In touring the area last summer and fall, the range was in terrible condition. I commented to several other folks that there was so little feed that even the jack rabbits were leaving. The cattle have been removed from this area long ago. Most of the area is managed as a wildlife management unit. As long as you folks fight against responsible management of 'wild' horse numbers, you can count on periodic die-offs or population crashes. If the horses are not managed humanely, they are left to nature; and nature is not humane.

Anonymous said...

Since you bring up George Knapp, it is criminal that he use his power of the press position to advocate a political position that is irresponsible to sound resource management. If he wants to be an advocate for wild horses, let him do it on his own time, and not force the public to listen to his lying, factless, dribble.

Preserve The Herds said...

First off, the herd that had large numbers of dead horses was in Oregon, not Utah. Read BLMs report as provided in the link. Secondly, a wild horse advocate happened to be right next to an area the Sulphur wild horses were roaming before the November gather and watched "private" livestock get turned out on the range this summer, livestock which could easily trespass on the adjacent public lands. She was so concerned about the terrible range conditions (and she too was very concerned about what would wildlife be left with after the grazing), she contacted BLM about it and that is how we learned they were on "private" land. Maybe you should contact the rancher that would turn his animals loose despite such bleak conditions. Third, the Sulphur wild horses were rounded up in the summer of 2006, so they have not been left "unmanaged" as you have claimed. Fourth, since the die off was in OREGON, you should re-read the quote posted at the top of this story as it discusses very UNNATURAL conditions; fences, entrapment to prevent migration, cattle consuming the resources until there was nothing left for any species and the ranchers lying about the number of actual horses on the range. Furthermore, there is a huge body of evidence that indicates lying about population numbers is so prevalent, that no sincere "management" is possible for any species because the BLM is not reporting nor is it sincerely interested in reporting the objective truth. No, nature is not humane but the majority of evidence in the wild horse and burro issue points to the lack of humane treatment coming from BLM management actions and non-compliance with laws to pander to the livestock, mining and hunting industries. Lastly, your concern for George Knapp investigating lack of accountability within a government agency IS exhibiting journalistic integrity of the highest sort. Investigating waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars is a legitimate and necessary function of our media as recognized by our forefathers in the formulation of this country. If you sincerely believe that using one's position in the media to beat a drum that only serves one's personal agendas, perhaps you should take up your argument with Bill O'Reilly or the entire FOX news team as they more closely resemble the "lying, factless, dribble" you express concern about and their sphere of influence is on a much larger scale than the occasional investigative reports Mr. Knapp presents. For the record, that is what Mr. Knapp does for a living, produces investigative reports to help inform the public on a large variety of issues, not just wild horses and burros. In actuality, he is one of the few that DOESN'T let political and industry giants persuade him from his path of responsible reporting. However, I do have to agree with you on one point - mostly those reporters who try to tell the public what is really going on are often treated like criminals for their courage in not bowing to their corporate Lords.

Spanish Sulphurs said...

The BLM has mismanaged the Sulphur herd. They ignored Dr. Sponenberg's recommendation on how to manage for Spanish type and now we hardly have any Spanish horses left. I own a Sulphur mare. She came from the 1998 gather. The last great gather occurred in 2001. That gather was Spanish horse after Spanish horse. Now, we are stuck with horses that every once in a while look like a classic Sulphur that is coming off of the range. The Spanish Sulphur breed represents the very last of the historic Spanish horses of old California. Please view my website to learn more about this amazing and historic breed of horse. California's Spanish horse breed!