BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting: August 25, 2014

Eyewitness Report

BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting

Riverton, Wyoming

August 25, 2014

The BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board met on August 25, 2014 in Riverton, Wyoming, a remote and difficult to access location for most attendees. All nine Advisory Board members were present. This board is stacked against wild horses, with five of the nine members connected to the livestock industry. Dr. Spratling revealed his true colors recently by participating in a despicable pro-horse-slaughter video in which the producers watched and filmed a horse dying of starvation and did nothing to intervene.


 

The BLM presented a series of updates and reports to the Board on its program. Much of the information presented at the meeting and the transcript can be found here.

Key takeaways from the meeting are highlighted below. The BLM:

  • Has reduced the numbers of wild horses it intends to remove from the range due to lack of holding space. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, which ends this month on September 30, the agency is targeting just 3,000 wild horses for removal from the range, and is proposing a similar number for FY 2015.
  • Is restricting wild horse removals to those related to litigation, private landowner requests, public safety/nuisance issues and emergency situations.
  • Has received applications for “Population Growth Suppression” research proposals, which are currently being reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The NAS will make recommendations to the BLM for funding priorities.
  • Is also embarking on studies with the U.S. Geological Survey, including non-invasive (fecal) DNA-sampling, development and testing of radio collars, “effects of wild horses on plant communities across a productivity gradient,” carrying capacity modeling, population and economic model, and “sentinel population” studies.
  • Is separately pursuing field trials of surgical sterilization of wild horses (spaying mares/castrating stallions) on the range, despite the strong NAS recommendation against these methods.
  • Continues to under-utilize the currently available, NAS-recommended method of fertility control — PZP. In fact, the agency will spend just $189,000 for application of PZP in FY 2014.
  • Has proposed a $79 million budget for FY 2015; 63% of the budget will be spent to round up and stockpile wild horses in holding facilities. Just 3% of the budget will be spent on “population growth suppression” with a small percentage of that funding spent on administration of the proven PZP vaccine.
  • Acknowledged that the deaths of at least 80 of 1,400 wild horses relocated from a long term holding pasture to a feedlot in Kansas could be attributed to age, trauma, stress and change of feed. The horses had to be relocated after the long term holding operator declined to renew his contract with the BLM to hold horses and gave the agency 30 days to relocate the horses. The BLM said that 1,400 mares were sent to the feedlot while an undisclosed number of geldings were relocated to a pasture closer by. The BLM also said it will be more transparent in the future regarding such relocations of horses in holding. (On September 6, 2014, the Utah Department of Corrections gave BLM a 30-day eviction notice for nearly 1,200 wild horses incarcerated at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison.)
  • Is undertaking a national programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate various alternatives for wild horse management and their impacts. At the request of the cattlemen on the Advisory Board, the EIS will look at the “economic costs’ of leaving horses on the range.
  • Is proceeding with a “humanitarian” “pilot” program to send 100 American burros to Guatemala to be used as work animals. This project could set a precedent for the shipment of other burros and horses out of the country where their fates and welfare cannot be assured. (If you have not yet taken action against this ludicrous idea to spend American tax dollars to send U.S. burros to a desperately poor Central American country that has no animal welfare laws or animal health services but already has an abundance of equines, please do so here.)
  • Is also undertaking socioeconomic research to determine public attitudes toward wild horse and burro populations and management as well as the adoption demand for wild horses. The agency is also planning an “analytic deliberation pilot project” for “inclusive, collaborative stakeholder engagement.

In addition, the Forest Service reported that it is beginning a national process to develop agency-wide standards and management plans for its wild horse territories.

The meeting, which was located in remote Riverton, WY, was attended by a good showing of wild horse advocates as well as a parade of ranchers. The ranchers complained loudly about wild horses allegedly over-running the range and impacting sage grouse, a bird that the Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended for Endangered Species Listing. Of course the ranchers neglected to mention that in Wyoming, as elsewhere in the West, livestock vastly outnumber wild horses. In fact, Wyoming ranchers graze their livestock on more than 18 million acres of BLM land in the state, while wild horses are restricted to less than 4 million acres. Fewer than 4,000 wild horses remain in Wyoming at a density of 1 horse per 900 acres – hardly an overpopulation problem.

AWHPC’s Suzanne Roy traveled to Riverton to address the Advisory Board and deliver the signatures of more than 40,500 citizens, who signed a petition opposing the BLM’s proposed roundup of more than 800 wild horses from checkerboard lands in the Adobe Town, Salt Wells, and Divide Basin Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in Wyoming. AWHPC, our coalition partner The Cloud Foundation and our founding organization Return to Freedom, along with wild horse photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl have filed a lawsuit to block that action.

Suzanne was also pleased to join Simone Netherlands of Respect4Horses, Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation, Carol Walker, who is a board member of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, and others at a press conference during the meeting.

Kudos for the meeting go to the Advisory Board’s humane advocate, Tim Harvey, for addressing the elephant in the room — the unfair allocation of resources within Herd Management Areas. Harvey reported that he had researched the situation with the pending checkerboard roundup, and 80% of the forage in the HMAs is allocated to privately owned livestock and not to federally protected wild horses. Harvey termed this “unfair” and worthy of further discussion. His forthright and unprecedented acknowledgement of this heretofore unspoken reality evoked ire from the cattlemen on the board, including board chair Spratling, who was visibly angered by Harvey’s words.

View our live tweets from the meeting as well as AWHPC statements here.