"It really at a fundamental level provides some stability for the grazing industry by assuring that our permits will be renewed in a timely fashion," said Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.The legislation allows agencies to approve permits in the face of environmental lawsuits against permit renewals.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials reported a permitting backlog of more than 5,600 permits nationwide in September. At the time, Congress was required to renew these permits annually.
"The agencies didn't have the resources to meet that requirement, (which) basically put people in a position where they couldn't get their permits renewed in a timely manner," Magagna said. "In some cases, they couldn't graze their livestock for extended periods of time."
Under current law, permitting is subject to environmental analysis prior to renewal of a permit. The new legislation allows federal agencies to approve permits without requiring environmental analysis. Agency range managers will still conduct environmental reviews at their discretion. Magagna said the new law focuses range management on the health of allotments.
"Environmental analysis has been tied to permit renewal, and really that analysis isn't about the permit. It's about the actual range condition," he said. Sen. John Barrasso, the author of the bill, said it will provide added protections for Wyoming ranchers seeking consistency in their operations.
"For too long, our ranching families have been the target of anti-grazing litigation that puts their grazing permits in jeopardy,” Barrasso said.
The legislation passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Source: Billings Gazette, by Trevor Graff
Wyoming public lands grazers could see shorter permitting times after Congress passed a bill seeking to streamline grazing permit renewals. The Grazing Improvement Act, approved last week, allows the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service to speed the renewal of the agency's 10-year grazing permits.
This new Wyoming lawsuit is a waste of public tax dollars amounting to nothing but a display of chest-pounding bravado to appease ranchers and energy extraction capitalists. This positioning is also a show of allegiance and support for the fringe political initiative to have states take over the management of public lands. It should be duly noted that after BLM's September 2014 round up in Wyoming, the entire population of horses in the state is now only about 2,000 horses! ~ Horses For Life
CHEYENNE, Wyo.- Today, the State of Wyoming filed suit against the United States Department of the Interior and the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the federal government's failure to appropriately manage wild horses in Wyoming. Wyoming announced its intent to sue in August.
“The lawsuit asks the court to force the BLM to manage wild horses in Wyoming as required by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act,” Governor Mead said. “It is my belief, and the belief of other western governors, that the BLM does not have the resources to manage wild horses effectively. By filing suit it sends a message that wild horse management is a priority and the BLM must be provided the funding necessary to manage them.”
The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act requires the BLM to manage wild horses below previously set appropriate levels and to remove excess horses when populations exceed those levels. Herds will continue to exponentially grow beyond what the BLM determined is ecologically appropriate for each herd management area (HMA). These herds have population growth rates that range from as low as 25% to as high as 58% each year. Horses often stray from HMAs onto state and private land.
“Excess wild horses in Wyoming can harm the habitats used by other wildlife species, including sage-grouse, antelope, deer and elk,” Governor Mead said. “Overgrazing caused by overpopulation threatens all animals including horses.”
- View Wyoming's December 8, 2014 Petition for Review. Additional documents, including correspondence with the BLM, can be found on the Attorney General's website at: http://ag.wyo.gov/current-issues.
Source: Wyoming Governor Press Release
Is Wyoming waking up to the reality of our nation’s unworkable approach to managing wild horses? The horse issue is so heated and divisive, that I’m a natural skeptic.
However, the recent news that a group of Wyoming legislators is urging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to rethink its approach to horses makes me, at least, somewhat optimistic.
According to an Oct. 28 article in The Horse magazine, legislators also plan to work with Gov. Matt Mead’s office to educate Wyoming residents about horse management issues. Although this discussion is prompted more by land-use concerns than by wild horses, more dialogue is welcome.
Federally protected wild horses on public land have no intrinsic economic value, yet compete with the enormous economic interests of the livestock industry, mining, energy development, and recreational use.
According to financial data supplied by the BLM to the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, the agency spent 67 percent of its total annual $77 million wild horse budget, in 2014, rounding up, removing and stockpiling horses from federal lands. It spent a mere 0.3 percent on population growth suppression for 450 mares. Three of five wild horses now live in government holding pens and pasturages, costing taxpayers an estimated $120,000 per day. Worse, each removal merely speeds up the reproductive success of horses remaining in the field.
Although BLM field censusing is not scientific, the agency claims there are 40,000 wild horses on federal lands that can sustain less than 30,000. With few natural predators, however, populations will grow. The federal government’s Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program can place only a few thousand horses each year. There is no good outcome to the current situation until BLM starts to aggressively curb wild horse population increases.
One strategy that could help significantly is more widespread use of wildlife contraception, as advised by the National Academy of Sciences in 2013. The immunocontraceptive vaccine, native PZP, has a long track record of success in wild horses, dating back more than 25 years.
Today, native PZP vaccine is used in more than 20 Herd Management Areas (HMAs)—several in Wyoming. Model PZP programs at McCullough Peaks HMA, near Cody, and the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, traversing the Wyoming/Montana border, have sharply reduced population growth. Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range, near Grand Junction, Colorado, has also demonstrated the value of fertility control.
This vaccine blocks fertilization in mares and other animals, such as bison, elephants and urban deer. It can be administered by a rifle-fired dart and doesn’t harm existing pregnancies or an animal’s health. Unlike earlier, hormone-based wildlife contraceptives, PZP breaks down in the mare’s body and will not pass into the surrounding environment, or to other horses. The vaccine is also reversible.
BLM has been studying contraceptive agents for years and is said to be holding out for a longer-lasting vaccine. Mares that receive native PZP need boosters every year for the first two-to-three years and then every-other or every third year. This presents challenges in large HMAs. However, horses can be gathered expressly for treatment in temporary corrals through bait or water trapping. That presents a minor challenge compared to the expense and man-hours required for humanely accommodating growing numbers of once-wild horses. Had more HMAs started using immunocontraception 15-plus years ago, as advised by the scientific community, horse populations would be far lower.
In some HMAs and wild horse ranges, volunteer groups have been trained to dart mares with native PZP and to track those requiring boosters. This is far less costly than paying more and more to round up, feed and care for these animals off the range. Caring for a horse over a 30-year life span costs taxpayers around $45,000, compared to well under $1,000 to gather, treat, and release a wild mare with native PZP.
How long should we wait for the perfect solution? I hope our legislators and the BLM conclude that further delay in not using the best available tool we have—native PZP—makes no horse sense.
Source: OpEd Casper Star Tribune by Patricia M. Fazio, PhD
Patricia M. Fazio, Ph.D., is an environmental editor, historian, and scientist, with a special interest in the federal wild horse issue—leading to her dissertation on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, completed in 1995.
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.
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
******FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE******
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Governor Matt Mead reminded the U.S. Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that under the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act the federal government must remove excess horses from its Herd Management Areas. Currently horses overpopulate seven of those areas in Wyoming. The requirement to remove excess horses is not discretionary in federal law.
“Wyoming must enforce its rights under the Wild Horse Act,” Governor Mead wrote to the Secretary of the Interior and head of the BLM. “I have appreciated your cooperation in other matters and hope we can remedy this problem in that vein.”
Governor Mead gave notice that if the Department of Interior and BLM do not comply with the law in the next 60 days Wyoming will proceed in court.
“I hope that you will take immediate action to remedy these violations in Wyoming,” Governor Mead wrote.
Separately, the BLM is planning to remove wild horses from land in southwest Wyoming pursuant to an agreement between the BLM and private landowners. The area involved is part of the checkerboard where private, federal and state lands are intermingled. Wild horse advocates are challenging this course of action and Wyoming is intervening in that lawsuit. The State of Wyoming owns approximately 62,000 acres in the area.
Wyoming’s livestock leases are managed to protect natural resources and maximize revenue. Wild horses are not managed and increased populations of the horses interfere with the State’s ability to get the full value of the leases for the benefit of schools. Additionally, the lands are damaged when there is an overpopulation of wild horses.
Wyoming Governor Press Release
August 25, 2014
CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Gov. Matt Mead will oppose a lawsuit filed by environmental groups trying to block the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from proceeding with a plan to round up and castrate hundreds of wild stallions in the southwestern part of the state, his office said Thursday.
Steve Ferrell, policy adviser to Mead, said the state intends to enter the lawsuit to argue that the roundup should proceed to stop the wild horses from hurting rangelands.
The BLM plans to use helicopters to gather nearly 900 wild horses from the White Mountain/Little Colorado herd management areas between Rock Springs and La Barge starting next month. The agency plans to castrate all the stallions it captures and release 177 of them back to the range.
The BLM estimates roughly 1,000 horses are in the area but says there should be no more than 400. Officials say they expect to capture 90 percent of the horses on the 60-mile wide area.
The Western Watersheds Project and American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and others filed the lawsuit in Washington, D.C., this week against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and BLM officials. The groups argue the roundup would violate federal law.
An agency spokeswoman has declined comment on the lawsuit.
"Overabundance of wild horses has impacts on the range," Ferrell said. "That creates impacts on rangeland use by livestock and habitat use by wildlife. And so these two particular herd management areas are over the appropriate level as defined by BLM now. We'd like to see these two gathers implemented so they can get back into the prescribed population level."
The state and the BLM entered an agreement in 2003 requiring the federal agency not to allow wild horse populations to exceed what the federal agency determines are appropriate levels. Mead, a rancher, earlier this week said overpopulation of wild horses must not be allowed to hurt rangelands.
"What I am seeking on our public lands is a balance," Mead had said. "Right now, with the number of wild horses on the range, there is an imbalance. We have a consent decree with the BLM on wild horse management, and we expect the BLM to abide by that decree."
Jon Marvel of Hailey, Idaho, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, said his group filed the lawsuit to try to counterbalance what it sees as the traditional behavior of the BLM and western politicians who believe the only legitimate uses of public lands are to support ranching and energy development.
"One of the great ironies of the American West is that politicians like Gov. Mead tend to intervene on the side of public lands ranchers and against wildlife and wildlife habitat, and the interests of the majority of the citizens of Wyoming and the United States," Marvel said.
Suzanne Roy, campaign director with the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, said she expects attorneys on Friday will ask a federal judge in Washington for a court order blocking the roundup. She said a hearing on the request could come as soon as next week.
"Even though Wyoming advertises its wild horses as a reason for people to come and visit, it's no surprise that the state is actively supporting efforts to get the wild horses off of public land," Roy said. "Like the BLM policy, the state's policy is driven by livestock interests. And it comes at the expense of our wild horses and a lot of other wild animals as well."
Source: Billings Gazette / Associated Press