Friday, July 24, 2009

Wielding Wildlife (And Other Stories)

"To kill elk, hunters have to access elk"

Photo and quote from "Elk Management in 5 Western States (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado and Utah) - A Challenge For Us All"

2007 estimated elk populations within these states -
675,000 to 700,000.

Well, who didn’t know this was coming?

Today, an article in the Ely Times announced Nevada Wildlife Commissioners and Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) have given two thumbs up to opening several areas in the Nevada to livestock grazing, which had been closed due to wildfire damage. Click Here to read, “State Wildlife Commission to open areas for grazing”.

Wonder if that includes many of the burned areas in the Ely District wild horses were removed from back in 2006 to "protect the range"?

Notice it doesn’t say “BLM to open areas for grazing” (though in reality, that IS who has the last say in the matter) but it does disclose the power of NDOW in Nevada.

After all, that’s how NDOW’s Lincoln County Elk Management Plan slid through without any public consultation or legally required NEPA review (BLM approved the plan under a “Categorical Exclusion”, which allows them to circumvent any sort of analysis or public reporting on the project), even though elk - at least at that time before BLM recently zeroed out the 1.6 million acres for wild horse use – would out number wild horses in the area by a ratio of 3-1. Today, this disparity would climb even higher….

The article also implies what wild horse and burro advocates have known for years; many BLM'ers aren’t really doing much monitoring of resources, are they? Based on my own experience, NDOW range reports are often used to tell BLM what is happening on the range (it’s one of the reason’s why some of the Ely District’s livestock grazing authorizations repeatedly reference “wild horses” as “feral horses” as BLM just copy and pastes what NDOW reports).

Yes, the same NDOW who;

*Makes money off of increasing big game hunting tags while trying not to piss off the local ranchers too much to increase their grip on the resources,

*Oversaw the "managment" of the only riparian area in the Rattlesnake Wild Horse Herd Management Area BLM reported in 2006 that elk had been causing extensive damage too since 2002 including preventing rangeland recovery from wildfire damage,

*And, the same NDOW whose Game Division Chief, Dr. Russ Mason, held lengthy conversations with Las Vegas news reporters about his “incriminating email”, which repeatedly asserted National Park Service (NPS) at Lake Mead National Recreation Area routinely shot “protected” BLM burros for population control. According to Dr. Mason’s email, NPS was the only agency who managed these feral populations correctly. (By the way, NPS adamantly denied Dr. Mason’s allegations). Click Here to read George Knapp’s, “Nevada Wild Horse Policy: Shoot First” to learn more.

Meanwhile, the Ely Times also announced the Nevada Cattleman’s Associations roped in White Pine County for a counter-suit against Western Watersheds Project (WWP) recent legal challenge of livestock grazing on 25 million acres of public lands across the West. WWP has included more than two-dozen Resource Management Plans approved by BLM during the land use planning frenzy initiated during the Bush Administration. Click Here to read “County Joins Suit To Protect Public Grazing”.

With only BLM on the side of wild horse and burro preservation (well, that and the law), notice how the article reports the Cattlemen’s Association hopes to get some portions of the lawsuit transferred to Nevada Courts instead?

Gee, I wonder why....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wild Horse Wipe Out (Ongoing..)

Ely Wild Horse Gather - 2006. Government Accountability Office.

Sure, the BLM SAYS it has no money - that’s why they keep finding funding to remove the wild horses and burros they can’t afford to keep and according to Carol Walker, wild horse and burro advocate, professional wildlife photographer, and author of the stunning recent release, “Wild Hoofbeats”, BLM reported to the National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board that they intend to take off about 9,000 more in Fiscal Year 2010. (Click Here to read Carol’s post, “Wild Horses – Press Release and BLM Advisory Board Meeting – 6/17/09)

But never mind BLM has no money to take care of them once captured, it is to protect the range- for the cattle, the sheep, the bighorn, the elk, and in the case of the Ely Districts new gather proposal, it’s also about the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s multi-million dollar water rights soon to be shipped to Las Vegas for more 5-star golf courses in the middle of the desert.

Currently, BLM is accepting public comments (kinda) for the Caliente Complex wild horse removal proposal. This is the last leg of the Nevada Ely District’s Office ongoing march towards the final elimination of almost 1.6 million acres of wild horse habitat “zeroed out” this past December in their new Resource Management Plan (RMP) - even while Madeleine Pickens is trying to secure 1 million acres to protect them.

For the record, once BLM signs the final decision to remove these horses down to the new “allowable management level” (AML) of 0, this will initiate the one and only opportunity for the public to legally appeal BLMs decision to zero out the Herd Management Areas through the Interior Board of Land Appeals (BLM calls it “dropping its Herd Management Area status”, which is why the former HMA’s are now being called Herd Areas instead).

Though BLM already zeroed these areas out this past December, in order to legally appeal a BLM decision, first BLM must issue a final decision to take action on that decision. The land use plan could NOT be appealed last December because BLM failed to take definitive action on the habitat wipe out and their issuance of a zero tolerance policy for any wild horse population whatsoever in this livestock dominated area.

Because these removals are “legally crucial”, we can count on BLM being sorely tempted to issue the final decision under the “Full Force and Effect” clause they created for themselves back in the 90’s, which allows them to begin removing the wild horses before the ink even dries on the decision (usually the morning after the 5:00 p.m. signature). This then allows IBLA to rule (like they always do) that since all the wild horses are now sitting in holding pens, appealing their removals is a “moot point”.

Also, I have been told a federal court will not stop BLM either by issuing an Injunction if the removals are already underway (though I can’t confirm this through my own experience). In other words, there is absolutely no way the public can stop BLM and BLM knows it, so a Full Force and Effect issued the day before the final removals is a perfect choice for government officials seeking to permanently screw the public out of our wild heritage.

However, this isn’t the only option BLM has to screw us with as they have a myriad of weapons to throw at us.

They may decide to use the "Nuisance Gather" or the "Emergency Gather" clause to take them out, just like they already did prior to releasing the news of the new RMPs Final Decision to the public. Click Here to read "Losing Ground" and how they have already used this before!

Or they may decide to pull the same crap they pulled on the Nevada Wild Horse Range gather last summer by only giving a “verbal order” to remove them. Here, BLM gets to circumvent any legal challenge by failing to “sign” a decision and IBLA is bound by the fact that they can’t rule on a decision without a signature. Though BLMs lawyers (known as the Regional Solicitor), can submit volumes of evidence regarding the actions taken as a result of those “verbal orders”, it’s like those actions don’t exist because it was only done “verbally”. How convenient…..

Also, something I learned from the appeal I filed about the Nevada Wild Horse Range AMLs is, apparently, there is a special division of IBLA that legal challenges to a land use plan must be filed in - and it’s NOT the place BLM tells you about in the “Public Notice of Right to Appeal” included in every decision they crank out.

I consider this just a tad on the side of FRAUD but that may be just my opinion. Though the flyer states the public has the right to appeal the decision at THIS address, turns out that only applies to the REMOVAL of the wild horses, not the AMLs BLM is reducing the wild horses and/or burros too IN the removal proposal. That’s a whole other, unrelated, disconnected department.

But wait – there’s more! Not only does the public have to file one appeal for removing all the wild horses and then a separate appeal for the new AMLs of 0 issued in the land use plan, these two appeals won’t be enough to cover all the areas BLM zeroed out because BLM is splitting up the decisions via separate proposals. In order to address all the herds and habitats the new RMP zeroed out, the public would have to file at least two appeals per each final decision BLM issued. How’s that for a mountain of work and impossible legal fees?

But no worries, since the wild horses will most likely already be gone before anyone could submit legal documents to IBLA or a federal court anyway, it would be ruled as moot point. So better luck next time public!

You know, one of the federal laws BLM and other government agencies are bound to examine is something ex-President Clinton passed concerning “Environmental Justice”. They actually have a box they are required to check off to see whether the proposal disproportionately affects the environment of people granted minority or low income status. Whenever I see this, I’ve often wondered if the general public could claim “minority status” under this law since the only thing the government is sure to include the public in is milking our paychecks for funding these proposals that continue to rob us of our heritage and our future.

Wild horse and burro advocates have it especially tough since the majority of their funding goes towards adopting, rescuing and caring for the never-ending stream of animals BLM continues to pull off the range. So what could possibly be left for legal battles to keep them ON the range?

Does anyone think it is possible to file a class-action lawsuit that would read something like, “American Public vs. The Department of the Interior” as the DOI has apparently become a sovereign nation all unto itself and anyone who tries to stop them may now be considered an “eco-terrorist”? (See BLMs Alternative Management Options Draft Report on BLMs development of wild horse and burro disposal ideas. Also, see how the BLM planning team included the need to consider tightening security, moving the kill operations “off site” from any public, media or Congressional attention and “insulating” those who would butcher our wild heritage from public, media and/or Congressional scrutiny/criticism – Click Here, page 21, paragraph 3)

Anyway, here’s the scoop on the proposal….

Click Here to read the Preliminary EA for the Caliente Complex Wild Horse Removal.

Notice how they say that “in depth monitoring” was performed? Well, if it was, they have NEVER released even a hairs breath of it to the public. Many of these exact same HMAs were issued “new” AMLs in 2003 and even back then, the “monitoring reports” BLM made reference too and supposedly included as an Appendix never managed to make it to THAT EA either. (Though I’m sure they have had sufficient time to manufacture them since such a stink has been previously and consistently made about the utter lack of data used and/or released to the public in all their prior proposals).

Though BLM tried to zero the herds out back in 2003, they were caught by advocates who pointed out that BLM could only do this in a land use plan, (which is also highly questionable as legal experts I’ve consulted have stated that no such ruling exists allowing BLM the authority to override a Congressionally mandated land use designation requiring them to be preserved and protected where they were found in 1971). So, begrudgingly, the BLM in Ely issued the lowest AMLs they could think of while boosting the livestock authorizations as soon as the permits were up for processing again. (For one such example, Click Here to read “Forage Anyone?”)

Also, with respect to wild horse “management”, the land use plan itself was a ridiculous chart of boxes BLM checked off to “validate” why they couldn’t, (or more accurately, wouldn’t) manage for wild horses anymore. When BLM approved of the RMP, American Herds did an in depth series of articles examining some of the facts behind what is really going on in the Ely District. If you’d like to know more, here are the links.

11/30/08 “A Slight of Hand” – Examines the acreage deals given to “priority” wildlife species of which wild horses weren’t considered part of and how thousands of acres of wild horse habitat just “disappeared” in the land use planning process.

12/04/08 “Watch The Rabbit Disappear” – Examines the legally mandated issues of forage production and carrying capacity to determine AML, which were never actually included in BLMs decisions to zero out both herds and habitat.

12/08/08 “For Our Next Trick” – The “new” and severely reduced HMAs BLM will still allow wild horses in – until next time they issue a new land use plan, amend the land use plan, create a new Herd Management Area Plan or issue a new AML decision….

12/13/08 “Nothing Up Our Sleeve” - Examines expanding wildlife populations in the area and the “water wars” - with wild horses falling on the wrong side of the fence – AGAIN!

12/23/08 “The Magicians” – Examines the livestock forage allocations in the Ely District reported at a healthy 545,267 Animal Unit Months as of FY2007 (drought, what drought?). In case anyone wonders why wild horses are “starving” and BLM is getting measurements of “heavy utilization” currently being pawned off on the horses, check out these livestock statistics.

12/29/08 “The Prestige” – The history, laws, policies and regulations that BLM has and continues to violate as they move in to take the last of these remaining wild horses.

1/08/09 “Abracadabra Addendum” – Examines two huge new multi-million dollar developments in the same areas as the wild horses are being removed from.

Additionally, the Environmental News Service has published an excellent article, "BLM's Wild Horse Elimination Plan Angers Ecologist" by wildlife ecologist and long-time wild horse advocate, Craig Downer, which challenges the barely comprehensible logic of the Ely BLM “team’s” move to zero out the herds. Click Here to view.

Public Comments on the Caliente Complex must be
mailed and postmarked by
July 18, 2009
Send to: Victoria Barr – Field Manager
Caliente Field Office -Bureau of Land Management
P.O. Box 237 - Caliente, NV 89008

Now, the BLM has stated it will NOT ACCEPT any email comments but they failed to mention anything about faxes, so if you are running a little short on time, here’s the Caliente Field Office fax number that they also conveniently failed to include in their public contact information: Caliente Field Office Fax #: (775) 726-8111.

For the record, when I have previously questioned BLM about why they refuse to accept email comments in some proposals (usually the controversial and/or proposals related to wild horses and burros), they have responded with, “Our system just isn’t set up to handle that kind of volume”. Though they are perfectly capable of setting up a system TOO handle “that kind of volume” and they are obviously expecting enough comments to be concerned about it, apparently they didn’t feel the need to hear what the public might have to say about the continuing wild horse wipe out.

So after you submit comments to Ms. Barr in Caliente, perhaps you should drop a line to a system that CAN handle large volumes of emails. Tell the Secretary of the Interior what you think of how his “authorized officers” are handling things out West, how advocates have been asking for answers to the obvious illegal “zeroing out” of these herds since last fall with no one YET stepping up to the plate to provide sincere answers or how the BLM Ely District is trying to hide from public protests as yet again, more special interest projects paid for by the many to benefit the few continue to wipe out our herds!

Contact the Department of the Interior at:
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240
Phone: (202)208-3100