Group sues to stop roundup of 10,000 wild horses

(WILD HORSES Jan. 30, 2018) — EcoWatch reports:

Animal rights group Friends of Animals has filed a lawsuit over a planned wild horse roundup in Nevada.

The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Reno, the Associated Press reported. It claims that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws by approving the removal of nearly 10,000 mustangs over 10 years in a 4,900-square-mile expanse of federal rangeland near the Nevada-Utah border.

Michael Harris, director of the group’s Wildlife Law Program in Colorado, said the roundups could occur without public notice or comment and without site-specific analysis of each individual gather.

The “roundup decision is unprecedented in size and scope,” the suit states, and would allow BLM to “continually roundup, remove, drug and castrate wild horses for 10 years after the initial roundup.”

Continue reading at EcoWatch »

• See also Nevada could give away nearly 3,000 free-range horses in May »

Featured Image: Las Vegas Review Journal 

Nevada could give away nearly 3,000 free-range horses in May

(WILD HORSES) — Benjamin Spillman, reporting for the Reno Gazette Journal writes:

Nearly 3,000 free-range horses in Nevada’s Virginia Range could be under new ownership by the end of May, according to state officials.

The Nevada Department of Agriculture on Tuesday published a request for proposals for people willing to take ownership of the iconic herd.

The Nevada quarter features three wild horses roaming freely. Three is about all that may be left if the BLM and State of Nevada has their way.
The Nevada quarter features three wild horses roaming freely. Three is about all that may be left if the BLM and State of Nevada has their way.

Opponents of the proposed giveaway say it “spells disaster” for the herd, which many consider symbolic of Nevada’s western culture.

The proposal is the result of a breakdown between the Nevada Department of Agriculture and the American Wild Horse Campaign, the non-profit organization once had an agreement to manage the horses on behalf of the state.

“The NDA set the stage to destroy the Virginia Range horses by canceling the community-based cooperative agreements for humane management,” Deniz Bolbol, spokesperson for the campaign said in a written statement. “That’s unconscionable and we will not allow it to stand.”

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Protestors gathered Wednesday, January 3, 2018 in Carson City to call on Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to undo a decision by the Department of Agriculture to offer approximately 3,000 free range horses to a private group.

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A Mustang murder mystery in northern Nevada

WILD HORSES NEVADA (Warning: Graphic Image) — On May 10, 2017, Tuesday’s Horse received an email from the Professor and Chair of the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department of a California University stating he was leading a student field trip in Northumberland Canyon south of Austin, Nevada the previous weekend and they discovered the following:

We came across six horse carcasses, all missing their heads. This was very disturbing to the students and I am trying to figure out what happened. Was there planned culling of wild horses? Why would the heads be removed?

The headless remains of a Mustang found in northern Nevada taken by a student while on a geological field trip in the Austin area. May 2017.
The headless remains of a Mustang found in northern Nevada taken by a student while on a geological field trip in the Austin area. May 2017.

The Professor had not been able to reach the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) so reached out to us for assistance.

At long last I tracked down the right BLM office thanks to the coordinates the Professor provided.

After several email exchanges and a few phone calls with a BLM agent in that office, we made little progress figuring out what had happened to these Mustangs or why.

Here is a summary of those exchanges:

• It is highly likely these Mustangs were shot and killed. Although rare in the area, other wild horses have been shot and killed and left on the side of the road in much the same manner.

• The heads were either removed by trophy hunters or for use in local rituals. It is also possible someone discovered the carcasses and removed the skulls much later and cleaned them to use as relics. The heads are not missing because of scavengers.

• Due to the vastness and remoteness of the area it is close to impossible to find any witnesses. Investigators often have to rely on hearsay such as “someone bragging” about the kill.

My BLM contact agreed to talk with other field agents plus get in touch with the U.S. Forestry Service for their input.

A few days later my BLM contact reconnected to tell me that wild horses killed in suspicious circumstances do fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forestry Service and they would determine whether or not to investigate.

An agent of the U.S. Forestry Service contacted me with the following:

• They had discovered carcasses like these the previous year, perhaps even as early as Spring 2016, and they were “probably the same ones”.

• Due to the condition of the carcasses and the amount of time elapsed they have little to nothing to go on and did not feel it warranted the time and expense of an investigation. No one offered an explanation why they took no action at the time they first found the dead horses other than “it’s too hard”.

• They have come across dead Mustangs before where they suspected foul play and occasionally seen heads removed like this.

• The missing heads were not the result of scavenging.

It was never quite clear to me when coming across something like this, how they determine when it is worth investigating and when it is not.

The BLM and USFS were not the only ones. I also contacted a noted investigative reporter who also declined.

So Now What?

The agents I dealt with were responsive. Perhaps it ended the way it did with me at the direction of higher ups.

Yet wait a minute. Any way you look at it, murdering a Mustang is a federal crime. Murdering six. Leaving the six dead horses at the side of the same road. Removing their heads. Surely that warrants at least some looking into.

Something must be done or these murders, even if only committed sporadically, will continue.

I offered a reward for the arrest and conviction of these Mustang Murderers. The response?

I appreciate knowing about the reward and I will see how that might be promoted.

End of story? I thought so until a few minutes ago. We’ll let you know. Stay tuned.

Nevada Public Radio: Will wild horses be dragged away?

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Wild Horses) — There is an interesting program on wild horses on Nevada Public Radio.

The article gives us this grim reminder, “Secretary of the Department of the Interior Ryan Zinke supported measures for horse slaughter when he was a Montana Congressman.”

What we found most helpful was in public comments, written by Marybeth Devlin, which should give anyone interested in America’s wild horses, whether you are new or have been following this issue for a long time. Here is what Devlin wrote:

1. Overpopulation: Is the Big Lie, the pretext for BLM’s war against the wild horses. According to the guidelines of BLM’s own geneticist, the arbitrary management levels (AMLs) of 83% of wild-horse herds — and 90% of wild-burro herds — are set below minimum-viable population (MVP).

2. Normal Rates: Horses are slow to multiply. Gestation lasts 11 months, and a mare produces 1 foal. Per independent research, the average herd-growth rate of wild horses is 5%, while the growth rate of burro herds is 2%.

3. Bogus Rates: BLM reports growth rates orders-of-magnitude higher than normal. Here are a few examples of biologically-impossible 1-year increases reported by BLM for herds in Nevada: Eagle Herd 52% — 10 times the norm, Silver King Herd 109% — 22 times the norm, and Lava Beds Herd (burros) 775% — 388 times the norm. These false figures have been called to the attention of BLM, but the data have not been corrected.

4. Criminal: By publishing false information, BLM appears to be violating Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, which prohibits making false or fraudulent statements knowingly and willfully. BLM also appears to be in violation of the Information Quality Act and the Department of the Interior’s Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct, which require it to disseminate information obtained through “as rigorous scientific and scholarly processes as can be achieved.”

5. Overgrazing, Under-Billing: It is the millions of non-native livestock that are degrading the public lands. BLM lets ranchers self-report whether they run cattle or not, and then bills them accordingly. If permittees don’t report use, BLM doesn’t bill them. BLM calls it “voluntary non-use.” According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, the direct and indirect costs of the Federal Grazing Program may result in the loss of as much as $1,000,000,000 — that’s one billion (1,000 million!) dollars — every year.

6. Rogue Permittees: Conditions are egregious, particularly in Nevada, where permittees defy BLM’s authority to rest allotments from grazing. The renegade ranchers go ahead and put cattle out on the range anyway, despite the drought. But instead of penalizing the scofflaws, BLM panders to them, waiving fines and allowing the illegal grazing to continue. As the Cliven Bundy affair evidenced, BLM has lost control of the range. BLM administrators are intimidated by aggressive ranchers and their “Oath Keeper” supporters, heavily armed with sights trained on BLM employees. So, BLM has kowtowed to the graziers, whether or not they have a valid permit, submit required reports, pay their grazing-fees, comply with the grazing-season, or recognize BLM’s authority.

7. Resource v. Use: Wild horses and burros are a resource of the public lands — like other wildlife. Commercial livestock-grazing, in contrast, is a use of the public lands. The distinction between a resource and a use is important and — as Clarke and Leigh (2016) pointed out — that difference needs to be understood. Livestock-grazing (a use) negatively impacts wild horses and burros (a resource).

8. PEER Reveal: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) found that BLM’s method of assessing range conditions is skewed to minimize impacts from domestic livestock and to magnify those from wild horses and burros. BLM thus favors “use” and blames “resource.”

9. Predators: The right way to right-size the wild-horse population is Nature’s way — predators. But those predators — mountain lions, bears, wolves, and coyotes — are persecuted mercilessly. Herd-areas must be made safe for predators. Cost: $0.

10. Restore Habitat: For political expediency, BLM closed 22,229,731 acres of the mustangs’ original habitat. That land must be reopened, and the captive wild horses and burros returned to their range. Cost: $0.

By the way, “The BLM declined to be interviewed for this panel.”

• Go here to listen and read related article.

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Wild Horses Nevada. Andy Barron / AP Photo.