The U.S. Forest Service recently proposed red tape that requires reporters to obtain permits to shoot photos or videos, even on an iPhone, in federally designated wilderness areas. If reporters don’t get the permit, they have to pay a fine.
U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., today called for the immediate withdrawal of a misguided U.S. Forest Service rule, which would require permits and fees – potentially up to $1,500 – from reporters and bloggers who take photographs or videos in wilderness areas.
In a joint letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Wyden and Barrasso wrote that the proposed rule clearly violates the Constitution’s First Amendment protections for press freedom.
“The proposed directive is a direct violation of American First Amendment rights and likely unconstitutional,” the senators wrote. “This creates a serious litigation risk for the Forest Service, while providing no clear benefits for wilderness management.”
Furthermore, the creation of a potentially expensive and burdensome permitting process for those who wish to document the beauty of natural places runs directly counter to the spirit of the Wilderness Act. It is especially galling that the agency would propose these rules on the 50th anniversary of that landmark law.
“These lands are meant to be enjoyed by all Americans, not kept from them,” Wyden and Barrasso wrote. “The ability to photograph, experience and learn about these places should not be unduly restricted.”
Click Here to read the full letter to Secretary Vilsack.
This proposed rule makes it clear that the Forest Service believes wilderness is government land – not public land. Please let the Forest Service know what you think about this proposal by commenting here before November 3rd: http://1.usa.gov/1tYjzIK
Bipartisan Poll Finds Western Voters Oppose Transfer of America’s Forests and Public Lands to State Ownership
According to new public opinion research released today, a majority of voters in eight Western states oppose the idea that the management and costs of America’s national forests and other public lands should be transferred to state governments. The survey of 1,600 voters, conducted jointly by a bipartisan polling team of two leading national opinion research firms, Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, is the first in-depth analysis of Western voters’ views about state-level proposals to transfer U.S. public lands to state ownership.
Across the eight-state region, 59 percent of respondents agree that having state government assume full responsibility for managing U.S. public lands, including paying for all related costs, would not be fair to taxpayers in their state. These voters believe that transferring U.S. lands to state ownership would result in having to raise state taxes or sell off prized lands to cover expenses. Only 35 percent of respondents agreed with the arguments put forward by proponents of efforts to transfer U.S. lands to state control.
“In New Mexico, we have a deep connection to our public lands. They are part of our history, our culture, and our economy,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D). “These lands belong to all of us, and it is imperative that we keep it that way. Efforts to seize or sell off millions of acres of federal public lands throughout the West would bring a proliferation of closed gates and no trespassing signs in places that have been open and used for generations. These privatization schemes would devastate outdoor traditions such as hunting and fishing that are among the pillars of Western culture and a thriving outdoor recreation economy.”
“It’s no surprise that Montanans want to keep their public lands public,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D). “These places not only create lasting memories for our families, they are also huge economic drivers for our communities. We must keep these treasured places accessible for our kids and grandkids, and I will keep working to improve that access.”
In 2012, the State of Utah enacted a law calling for U.S. public lands to be transferred to the state of Utah. Similar proposals have been put forward or are in development in seven other Western states.
“The overwhelming majority of Westerners view the national forests and other public lands they use as American places that are a shared inheritance and a shared responsibility,” said David Metz, president of FM3 Research. “Rather than supporting land transfer proposals, voters say their top priorities are to ensure public lands are protected for future generations and that the rangers and land managers have the resources they need to do their jobs.”
The survey was conducted by phone between September 10 and September 14 and reached 1,600 voters; 200 voters in each of the states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. For a summary of state-specific results, click here.
“The idea of states taking over control and the costs for managing these lands is pretty divisive. Successful policy proposals usually start with far greater support,” said Lori Weigel, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies. “The first barrier this proposal seems to encounter is that while the federal government isn’t popular in these states, voters are far more positive about the role these specific agencies are playing.”
Although more Westerners disapprove than approve of the job the federal government is doing—at negative 41 percent approval —more Westerners approve than disapprove of the jobs that U.S. land management agencies are doing; the approval ratings for the Bureau of Land Management—14 percent—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—58 percent—the U.S. Forest Service—57 percent—and the National Park Service—60 percent—are all well higher than their disapproval ratings. What’s more, 94 percent of respondents’ said that their last visit to national public lands was a positive experience.
“This bipartisan research found that Americans believe we should be protecting parks and public lands for future generations, not selling them off to the highest bidder,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress. “It also shows that the politicians and special interests behind these land seizures schemes are well outside the mainstream in the West.”
For an analysis of the survey results, click here.
For a PowerPoint summary of the bipartisan research, click here.
For the survey results, click here.
State Efforts to ‘Reclaim’ Our Public Lands, by Jessica Goad and Tom Kenworthy
“Bundy’s Buddies” – Four-part series from the Center for American Progress Action Fund
Source: Center for American Progress
For more information, please contact Tom Caiazza at 202.481.7141 or email@example.com.
Agency Sage Grouse Review Puts Thumb on Scale to Magnify Wild Horse and Burro Effects
The method used by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to assess range conditions is seriously skewed toward minimizing impacts from domestic livestock and magnifying those from wild horses and burros, according to an appraisal by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, the BLM’s approach to range management targets scattered wild horses and burros while ignoring far more numerous cattle. The agency’s assessment is part of a 2013 report on factors influencing conservation of the Greater Sage-Grouse, a ground-dwelling bird whose numbers have declined as much as 90% across the West and which is under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act. That report concludes that twice the area of sage grouse habitat is negatively impacted by wild horses and burros than the area negatively impacted by livestock. A PEER appraisal of the methodology found:
“At BLM apparently not all hooves are created equal,” said PEER’s Advocacy Director Kirsten Stade, noting that the LHS evaluations cover more than 20,000 grazing allotments and examine whether a grazing allotment meets the agency’s standards for rangeland health with respect to several vegetation and habitat conditions. “This helps explain why wild horses are regularly removed from the range but livestock numbers are rarely reduced.”
The BLM assessment influences not only the agency’s range management decisions but also will figure into the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision on whether to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
Last year in response to a complaint by PEER filed under agency Scientific Integrity policy, BLM claimed that it does not have enough “reliable data” about commercial livestock impacts to include them in current assessments of environmental conditions on Western range lands. Yet, BLM has more data on the grazing that it authorizes through permits than virtually every other topic.
“When it comes to cattle, BLM plays with a marked deck,” Stade added, pointing out the PEER analysis that will become part of PEER’s new grazing reform web center set to launch in several weeks. “We are posting BLM’s own data in a way that allows apples-to-apples comparisons while displaying satellite imagery that depicts the true livestock landscape impacts.”
Compare BLM claims to what their data reveal
The relative negative influence area of feral ungulates with respect to domestic livestock based on BLM’s spatial analysis approach (USGS OFR 2013-1098) are completely at odds with BLM’s own land health standards (LHS) evaluation causal data, used to inform BLM’s analysis. BLM concludes in OFR 2013-1098 that the negative area of influence of feral ungulates is twice that of domestic livestock, when the records show that only 3% of grazing-related failures of standards are attributed to wild horses and burros.
The EU said today it has tightened rules to prevent horsemeat inadvertantly or fraudulently ending up in food across the bloc and avoid a repeat of last year’s scandal.
The European Commission said revised rules will require all horses before their first birthdays to be implanted with microchips, a kind of passport that must now be entered into centralised databases in all 28 member states.
“The introduction of a compulsory centralised database in all member states will assist the competent authorities to better control the issuance of the passports by different passport issuing bodies,” the Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, said in a statement.
Not all countries, particularly Britain and Sweden, had such databases, EU sources said.
Under the new rules, all horses born after July 1, 2009 will also have to have microchips implanted in them. The new regulations will take effect in January 2016, while countries that do not have centralised databases will have until July 2016 to set one up, the Commission said.
The chips will serve as a medical record that would reveal whether a horse has been treated with bute or other medicines that disqualify the animal to be used for food consumption.
“As promised, this is another lesson drawn from last year’s horse meat fraud: the rules endorsed by the member states will strengthen the horse passport system in place,” EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said.
“I believe that closer cooperation will enhance the safeguards which prevent non-food quality horse meat from ending up on our plates,” he said.
The scandal started in January last year, when beefburgers sold in several British and Irish supermarket chains were found to contain horsemeat, before spreading to more than a dozen other countries.
Thousands of DNA tests on European beef products showed more than 4.5 percent were tainted with horsemeat after cases across Europe sparked consumer outrage and forced companies into costly product recalls.
A separate test of horse carcasses showed just over 0.5 percent were positive for phenylbutazone, a painkiller for horses potentially harmful to humans.
Borg and other officials insisted last year the core problem was one of fraud – horsemeat being passed off as beef – and not food safety.
Source: New Straits Times
Click Here for EU Press Release
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Rock Springs Field Office will proceed with the removal of all wild horses from checkerboard lands within the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas (HMAs).
Preparations will commence on Sept. 12. Removal operations are anticipated to begin on Sept. 15. Public observation will depend on access, location, operational activity and weather. To be informed of these observation opportunities, please contact Shelley Gregory at 307-315-0612 or firstname.lastname@example.org to have your name added to the notification list.
This removal comes at the request of a private land owner and is authorized under Section 4 of the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, which requires the removal of wild horses from private lands at the request of a landowner. This removal is also required under the provisions of the court-approved 2013 Consent Decree between the BLM and the Rock Springs Grazing Association, which provides a schedule for the removal of wild horses from checkerboard lands within the HMAs.
For more information about the wild horse removal and observation opportunities, please visit www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/programs/Wild_Horses/14cb-removal.html.
Source: September 11, 2014 - BLM Press Release
A federal appeals court yesterday denied a bid by wild horse advocates to block the Bureau of Land Management's removal of roughly 800 wild horses from a checkerboard of public and private rangelands in southwest Wyoming in a win for ranchers and the state government.
The decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest in a long-running battle between ranchers and mustang advocates over how to contain hundreds of wild horses that have strayed onto private lands owned by the Rock Springs Grazing Association.
The 2-million-acre checkerboard was created in 1862 when Congress awarded the Union Pacific Railroad Co. odd-numbered tracts of public lands along a railbed right of way as the company completed a transcontinental railroad. Much of the private lands are now owned by the grazing association.
BLM plans to begin rounding up horses Sunday or Monday from checkerboard lands within the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas, as required under a March 2013 settlement it signed with the grazing association.
Under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, BLM must remove wild horses that stray onto private lands.
Horses will be removed from the roughly 1.2 million acres of the herd management areas that fall within the checkerboard, out of total HMA areas of about 2.4 million acres. Removed horses will be offered for adoption or held in long-term pastures, said BLM's Rock Springs Field Office Manager Kimberlee Foster.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) yesterday cheered the court's ruling, arguing that removing horses would protect ranchers and the native elk, deer and pronghorn that roam alongside the horses. [Click Here to read Governor Mead's Press Release]
"Wyoming is not against wild horses on public lands, but they must be managed appropriately," Mead said in a statement.
But wild horse advocates claimed BLM has flouted its legal mandate to protect wild mustangs. Plaintiffs trying to block the roundup included the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), the Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, and wild horse photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl.
"This ruling allows BLM to blatantly violate multiple federal laws and essentially turns over our public lands to private livestock interests," said Suzanne Roy, director of AWHPC. "It sets a terrible precedent not only for wild horses but also for the responsible management of our public lands by elevating commercial livestock interests over the public interest and federal law."
While both the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming and the 10th Circuit denied emergency motions to stop the roundup, the case will still proceed to the merits after the operation, the groups said. A key issue in the case was what section of the wild horse act BLM should apply in pursuing the roundup.
BLM claimed that Section 4 requires the agency to swiftly remove horses that stray onto private lands when requested by a landowner. BLM authorized the removal under a categorical exclusion, bypassing a lengthier National Environmental Policy Act review. But wild horse advocates say BLM should have followed Section 3 of the act, which allows horses to be removed in order to maintain "a thriving natural ecological balance" with other wildlife. They also argued BLM needed to perform a full NEPA review.
But the district court noted that without fences, it is all but impossible for BLM to keep horses from wandering onto private lands in the checkerboard without intensive management. "All parties agree that the ownership pattern of the checkerboard makes it impossible to manage either the public lands or the private lands independently of the other," the court said this summer.
The 1971 law requires BLM to both protect wild horses and contain them to where they roamed in 1971. But that mandate has proved challenging as wild horse herds can double in size every four years, and removing them has been both a fiscal and political burden for BLM.
For more than three decades, the Rock Springs Grazing Association had agreed to allow up to 500 wild horses to roam free among herds of cattle it grazes on the checkerboard. But as numbers swelled into the thousands, the horses degraded the rangelands and left less forage and water for cattle and big game.
The grazing association, the nation's largest, sued BLM in July 2011, claiming the agency had failed to hold up its end of the agreement.
Source: Greenwire, by Phil Taylor
USDA Reports Inspectors Issued Nearly Twice as Many Horse Soring Violations at this Year’s Walking Horse Show
Federal and local inspectors issued nearly twice as many soring violations at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration as in the 2013 show, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released this week.
A group of largely USDA monitors found 219 violations of the Horse Protection Act during the 11-day competition in Shelbyville. Those figures come after years when fewer violations — including last year’s low of 110 — were identified at the championship event.
The jump in violations comes as the Tennessee Walking Horse industry continues to writhe over accusations of widespread soring, which happens when a horse’s legs are hurt intentionally to exaggerate the high gait for which the breed is known. While industry reformers call for a federal law they say would eliminate the major causes of abuse, others say more objective testing would weed out the industry’s worst trainers and owners.
The report said those apparent signs of soring disqualified 166 competitors during the event — 15.4 percent of all of the horses inspected. [Click Here to read full USDA report]
The vast majority of the violations and disqualifications developed from horses that had signs of a banned substance on them or through the industry’s scar rule, which prohibits horses with past signs of soring from being shown.
The figures proved that federal officials were willing to enforce Horse Protection Act regulations at a higher rate than others designated to inspect, said Keith Dane, vice president for equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States.
More than 50 percent of the 389 horses inspected at the Celebration by USDA officials showed signs of soring, the federal report said.
“All these years the industry has said they’ve solved the problem, yet soring is still rampant,” Dane said.
Celebration CEO Mike Inman questioned the difference shown from this year’s figures, saying that federal officials enforced the scar rule differently than in years past. He said that using fewer subjective ways to monitor a horse would bring more consistent inspection results.
“We’ve had the same horses and the same inspectors for years,” Inman said. “The only thing that’s changed is the interpretation.”
Officials with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said no inspection procedures were altered during the Celebration, department spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said.
Instead, she said, inspectors were using more advanced technology to identify sored horses and penalize their trainers. This year, thermal imaging was used to better recognize abnormal temperatures that can show signs of abuse.
“Soring practices are always evolving and require APHIS to incorporate state of the art technology to capture soring techniques that may not be visible to the naked eye,” Espinosa said in an email.
She did not respond to additional questions about whether the technology used was tied to this year’s rise in violations.
Call for legislation
Because of the technology present, Dane slammed the calls for more objective testing by Celebration officials.
“They ask for science, and when they don’t like the results, they object,” Dane said. He cited the number of violations in repeating his call for Congress to approve the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, which would ban the chains and special pads tied to the most competitive levels of the industry.
Inman supported alternative legislation that he said would strengthen current laws and provide more objective ways to evaluate a horse and eliminate the field’s worst abusers.
“The PAST Act seeks to eliminate soring by eliminating the breed,” Inman said.
Only one of the USDA violations was issued against a flatshod horse, a performance category that doesn’t use padded shoes or other devices. Because multiple violations could be issued to a horse, the number of violations could differ from the number of disqualifications, the report said.
Source: The Tennessean by Brian Wilson Reach Brian Wilson at 615-726-5970 and on Twitter @brianwilson17
HELP PROTECT HORSES FROM THE CRUELTY OF SORING!
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S. 1406 / H.R. 1518) will amend the Horse Protection Act to end the industry’s failed system of self-policing, ban the use of devices implicated in the practice of soring, strengthen penalties, and make other reforms needed to finally end this torture. Please contact your U.S. representative and ask them to cosponsor the PAST Act!