The third wild horse ecosanctuary in the United States for off-range care of excess wild horses and burros will be located seven miles north of Lander, the Bureau of Land Management announced today. The new ecosanctuary would be operated on the 900-acre Double D Ranch, located seven miles north of Lander and would initially hold up to 100 horses, with the first horses arriving as early as the spring of 2015. The ranch is within the Wind River Indian Reservation.The ranch is located to the east of U.S. Highway 287 and east and south the Blue Sky Highway (WYO 132) between Plunkett Road and the Ethete intersection.
The BLM’s Lander Field Office issued a Decision Record, resulting from an Environmental Assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, that addresses comments from the public and adjacent landowners. The Environmental Assessment can be accessed at www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/lfo/ecosanctuary.html. The Decision Record, which finds no significant environmental impacts from the ecosanctuary, initiates a 30-day appeal period during which the public may express comments.
The ecosanctuary would be run by Dwayne and Denise Oldham, who own and lease portions of the Double D Ranch. It would be the second BLM-private ecosanctuary to be located in Wyoming; a 290-horse ranch is already operated by Richard and Jana Wilson on the 4,000-acre Deerwood Ranch near Centennial, Wyoming. A third ecosanctuary, known as the Mowdy Ranch, operated by Clay and Kit Mowdy, holds 153 horses on 1,280 acres and is located 12 miles northeast of Coalgate, Oklahoma, in the southeastern part of the state.
“This advances our efforts to improve the BLM’s management of and care for America’s wild horses and burros,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “Although the challenges facing our Wild Horse and Burro Program remain formidable, every step forward moves us closer to our goal of more effective and efficient stewardship of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range.”
“The Lander Field Office has worked closely with the Oldhams to ensure that proper care will be provided for the wild horses and to address the concerns of neighboring landowners,” said BLM Lander Field Manager Rick Vander Voet. “We look forward to a long, successful partnership with the Double D Ranch.”
The wild horse ecosanctuaries, which must be publicly accessible with a potential for ecotourism, help the BLM feed and care for excess wild horses that have been removed from overpopulated herds roaming Western public rangelands. The BLM enters in partnership agreements with the ecosanctuary operators, who are reimbursed at a funding level comparable to what the agency pays ranchers to care for wild horses on long-term pastures in the Midwest. The partnership agreement requires that any profits from tourism activities at the ecosanctuary must be used to defray operating costs, thus saving taxpayer dollars.
Long-term plans under the BLM-Double D partnership agreement include a learning/visitor information center, tours, gift shop, and campground. The Double D Ranch plans to invite the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapahoe Tribe of the Wind River Reservation to partner in running the learning center, which will interpret Native American culture and the historic role of the horse. The Wind River Visitors Council, Lander Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Lander support the ecosanctuary and would help promote public visitation to it.
The BLM estimates that 49,209 wild horses and burros are roaming on BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states, based on the latest data available, compiled as of March 1, 2014. Wild horses and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, the BLM, as part of its management of public rangeland resources, must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to control herd sizes.
The estimated current free-roaming population exceeds by more than 22,500 the number that the BLM has determined can exist in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses. The maximum appropriate management level (AML) is approximately 26,684.
Off the range, as of November 2014, there were 48,447 other wild horses and burros fed and cared for at short-term corrals and long-term pastures, which compares to the BLM’s total holding capacity of 50,153. All wild horses and burros in holding, like those roaming Western public rangelands, are protected under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, as amended.
Source: County 10
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
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.
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
The owners of a corral in Scott County where more than 50 wild horses were reported to have died last week have denied that any wrongdoing on their part could have led to the incident. Since then the number of reported horse deaths has risen to 75.
After investigations at the facility, located East of U.S. Highway 83 on Road 70 in Scott County, findings by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) indicate the main reason the mostly older horses died was the stress they suffered after being moved from their original pasture to the corral. Their feeding and crowding issues also were considered as factors.
Some of the horses at the corral, managed by Beef Belt LLC, were found down and were euthanized because it was determined they could not get back up, according to Paul McGuire, BLM’s public affairs specialist.
“It is also true that the horses could have been affected by the food mix, as well as the quantity of the feeds,” McGuire said.
The Bureau of Land Management reported last week that it had started investigating a case in which 57 wild horses died at a corral in Scott County, Kansas.
Reports indicated the horses were transferred from a range managed by the BLM because an open-pasture contractor had reported he would not be taking on all the 47,300 horses that he had previously been managing. The Bureau then sought another place where the 1,900 animals (1,500 mares and 400 geldings) could go, as they had to leave by June 1, 2014.
The manager of the corral, Steven Landgraf, one of the owners of Lakin Feed Yard, which specializes in corrals just like the one in Scott County, denied any wrongdoing on the part of the staff at the corral.
“We did our best to take care of them. It is not like we did not do our job,” Landgraf said. “As animals get older, they die. The animals that have died have all been between 19 and 20 years old. It is a fact of life; how do you say this without being cruel?”
Landgraf explained further that the organization has cows and buffaloes that die there frequently.
“It is normal to have 4 percent or 5 percent of deaths with cattle, so this does not really count as out of the ordinary,” he said. “There were 1,490 of them that came in, and, if these few died, it shouldn’t be such a big deal.”
Five more horses died between Saturday and Monday. Four of them were euthanized, according to the BLM.
“I have a cow herd. When the cattle get to be this old, we sell them so they can be turned into hamburger. That’s not the way with horses; we can only take care of them. If they are old, they naturally succumb to nature,” Landgraf said.
According to McGuire, it is part of the contractual arrangement that if there are deaths on these private holdings, they must be reported immediately.
“I always report to customers because I am accountable every day,” Landfgraf said. “I don’t treat these animals any different from my father’s animals, which are on this land.”
BLM officials say they responded immediately when reports of the horse deaths were made. The ensuing investigation informed their decision to leave the animals at the corral, but adjustments were made in their care.
“There were basically three principle causes: one is that these animals are older; anywhere from 15 to 20 years. Because of that, they didn’t endure the stress of the move quite well. When they arrived here, the environment was very different because they had to learn how to feed from the bunks. Some of the less dominant horses succumbed to the stress,” McGuire said.
Though the bureau insists stress was the main cause of the deaths, they introduced significant changes in the feeding regime at the corral, pointing to this as another notable probable cause.
“We have asked the operator to increase the quantity of feeds from 18-20 pounds a day to 26 to 28 per day. We also asked them to increase the energy density of the feeds. The mixture of grass and alfalfa is now balanced in favor of alfalfa,” McGuire said.
BLM has never had to move such a large number of animals, McGuire said.
“This case is unique because these animals were taken off of a pasture where they’d been living. BLM has never moved such a large number of older horses to a feedlot from a pasture situation. This is kind of a first for the agency,” he said.
The animals were moved to the corral in the course of one week. BLM’s representative says the move included 200 animals per day. “We had to move the horses immediately. It was an unavoidable situation that we had to respond to,” McGuire said.
According to McGuire, the last horse arrived at the corral June 22. The contractor received a monthly report at the end of June. At that time, the report indicated only about three deaths, which did not alarm BLM. The next report came at the end of July, and BLM noticed a spike in the number of deaths. That was on Aug. 5.
“It seems the measures we have taken so far have achieved what we intended: to get the horses stabilized. The deaths have tapered off, and the horses have a very healthy appearance and seem to be doing quite well,” McGuire said.
BLM also advised the contractor to spread the horses out to more lots so that they are not crowded in one as they were initially, according to McGuire.
Joseph Stratton, who works with the Washington office of BLM and is charged with technical matters of these operations, put the matter in context: “Sometimes, no matter what you feed these animals, when they are stressed, their bodies will not accept the feed. They retreat metabolically instead. Sometimes the bacteria in the horse’s stomach cannot process the new feed, which is different from the pasture. They could eat and still be thin.”
According to Stratton, the horses feed three times a day starting at 6:30 a.m., with this first feeding lasting an hour to an hour and a half, since there are 28 pens. At 10 or 11 a.m., they come back for another feed. In the afternoon, about 2 to 3 p.m., they come back for another.
“Before everybody goes home, they go back and pick up what the horses have dropped and throw it right back into the bunk, so there is no waste,” Stratton said.
Source: The Garden City Telegram by Steven Tendo firstname.lastname@example.org
Click Here for BLM's August 15, 2014 Press Release on the Death of the Horses
Scott City, Kan.—The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has launched an investigation into the cause of death for 57 wild horses that were recently transferred to a corral in Scott City, Kan. The BLM, which manages 49,200 wild horses and burros on the range and 47,300 in open pastures and corrals, strives to ensure that herd sizes on the range remain in a healthy balance with other public rangeland resources and uses and places a priority on the well-being of the animals in its care.
After removal from the range, the BLM aims to place animals that are not adopted onto open pastures, often in the Midwest. In March 2014, an open-pasture contractor in Kansas informed the BLM that he would not renew his existing five-year contract, requiring the BLM to remove about 1,900 animals (1,500 mares and 400 geldings) by June 1, 2014. Due to concerns about the older age of many of the animals and the stress associated with being moved, the BLM worked to find an appropriate facility as close as possible to the open pasture. The BLM located an in-state facility that could accommodate the animals and began moving 1,493 mares to the Scott City corral. The transfers were completed on June 22.
On Aug. 5, the contractor informed the BLM that a number of the transferred mares died between June 22 and Aug. 5; as of Aug. 15, a total of 57 transferred mares had died. On Aug. 12, a team of BLM personnel and a veterinarian from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service arrived on site. The team is investigating the situation; determining the causes of death; evaluating the facility, the corral feed and feeding practices; and taking actions to support the short- and long-term needs of the horses. After arrival, the team euthanized an additional 13 mares that were determined to have little to no chance for survival due to health issues.
Preliminary findings from the team’s USDA large animal veterinarian indicate that the animals died as a result of their age combined with stress from the recent relocation, the shift from pasture to corral environment and the change from pasture feed to processed hay feed. There is no indication of infectious or contagious diseases being the cause.
“Our team is working closely with the corral operator to make adjustments to the care of the animals,” said USDA veterinarian Dr. Al Kane, who is on the investigation team. “The horses have been fed three times a day since the beginning. In addition to increasing the amount of feed being offered during feedings, we’ve worked with the onsite veterinarian and the operator to increase the energy density of the horses’ feed by increasing the ratio of alfalfa to grass in the hay mix. This helps support the horses’ nutritional needs during the transition from open-pasture to the corral environment,” he added.
Once the investigation is concluded, the team will complete a report that will be made publicly available.
Credentialed media are invited to attend a facility tour on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Interested members of the press should contact Paul McGuire at (405) 826-3036 or email@example.com for additional information and details.
Source: Bureau of Land Management Press Release
Federal land managers are under fire from animal welfare activists for seeking extra holding space for wild horses removed from western rangelands.
With current facilities nearing capacity, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is accepting bids until Aug. 29 from contractors interested in either operating short-term corrals in 31 states in the Midwest and East or long-term pastures.
After removing horses from the range, the bureau places them in short-term facilities until they're either adopted or shipped to pastures in the Midwest where they spend the rest of their lives.
The agency routinely thins what it calls overpopulated herds on public land. BLM officials, in a statement Thursday, said they plan to open "multiple" short-term corrals that can handle at least 150 horses each in various states along and east of the Mississippi River. They also seek one or more long-term pastures that can accommodate from 100 to 5,000 mustangs each.
The bureau has not yet awarded contracts for bids it received earlier this year from contractors interested in running short-term corrals in 17 states in the West and Midwest.
Bureau spokesman Tom Gorey said the total number of new holding facilities and their cost would depend on the number and quality of bids submitted. About two-thirds of the agency's budget covers holding costs.
"We want to get out of the holding business, but at the moment that's not possible," Gorey told The Associated Press. "The bottom line is we have to make sure we have enough off-range holding for horses that are removed."
Budget constraints are prompting the bureau to remove just 2,400 wild horses and burros from the range during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, down from 4,176 in 2013 and 8,255 in 2012. The vast majority of animals targeted for removal are horses.
But horse advocates criticized the agency's plans for more holding space, saying it continues to "stockpile" horses at a growing cost to taxpayers with about as many mustangs now living in holding facilities as on the range.
"The BLM continues to refuse to reform its broken wild horse program," said Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. "The agency is intent on sticking American taxpayers with the bill for rounding up and warehousing captured mustangs instead of listening to the scientists and the American public, and humanely managing wild horses and burros on the range."
Gorey said activists' demands to halt the removal of horses from the range are unrealistic because herds grow at an average rate of 20 percent a year and can double in size every four years.
According to the latest figures provided by the BLM, a total of 49,209 horses and burros freely roamed 10 Western states as of March 1, the vast majority of them mustangs. That estimate exceeds by more than 22,500 the number the BLM has determined can exist in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses.
Off the range, there were 47,272 wild horses and burros in short-term corrals and long-term pastures as of July 30, the agency said.
Source: The Associated Press, by Martin Griffith
Click Here for BLM's Wild Horse and Burro FY14 Round-Up Schedule
Burros are among my favorite of the animals residing at our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, with their long ears and friendly stares. We have a couple hundred of rescued burros there, and visitors seem to have a special fascination with them, too. As with all of the animals at the ranch, they've landed there because of some tale of woe - in most instances, because the burros have gotten a raw deal from the federal government, which manages, or mismanages, their populations on the vast reaches of public lands in the West.
Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the federal government, through the Bureau of Land Management, is mandated to maintain populations of wild horses and burros in the 11 western states where they live. There are only about 40,000 wild horses and only 8,000 burros, and three quarters of the horses are in just two states - Nevada and Wyoming. The remaining states have relatively small populations, typically with 3,000 or fewer animals. There are millions of cattle and sheep on those federal lands, yet ranchers complain of too many wild equids.
The government has been rounding up and removing horses and burros, ostensibly to control these wild populations and minimize their ecological impact. In the process, the feds have been building a captive equine population now in the tens of thousands, at short-term and long-term holding facilities. Just last week, the BLM released new information that its personnel and contractors would round up nearly 2,400 more wild horses and burros this year. The cost of the round ups and housing and feeding the animals is now cannibalizing about two-thirds of the budget for the program, which has been widely regarded through the years as a case study of mismanagement.
For years, we have pressed the Bureau of Land Management, which runs the program, to focus instead on fertility programs to manage populations - a solution that the National Academy of Sciences also recommended in a report commissioned by the BLM. The BLM has been slow to implement the recommendations of the NAS.
Now, in what can only be described as a case example of poor decision-making, BLM is undertaking a pilot program with the Department of Defense and Heifer International and intends to allow the transport of 100 burros to residents in Guatemala, for use as working animals. While burros have been traditionally used for this purpose, this use is at odds with the provisions of WFHBA, which requires that the BLM's first priority has to be the humane treatment of wild burros in their care.
We are not insensitive to the difficult and challenging lives of people and animals in Guatemala and other developing countries, and we acknowledge the value and importance of working animals worldwide. Through Humane Society International (HSI) and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Program (HSVMA) affiliates, we have a robust and proactive assistance program that helps provide veterinary care and other resources in these countries. But Guatemala has burros of its own, and does not need shipments of burros compliments of the BLM - a practice that simply relieves pressure on BLM to revamp its program and protect our nation's heritage of responsibly managing wild horses and burros.
We do work with BLM, through our Platero Project, to adopt out burros to suitable owners. So far this year we have placed 190 burros and we remain committed to getting more burros placed in good, local homes. Ultimately though, the solution must be on-the-ground management through fertility control, to obviate the costly and dangerous round-ups and removals and to prevent the population boom of horses and burros in captive holding facilities.
Source: The Humane Society of the United States
TAKE ACTION >>> Guatemala has burros of its own and does not need shipments of burros from the United States. Contact BLM now to keep our nation's wild burros on American soil.