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.