A Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee will hold an oversight hearing this week to discuss strategies to reduce growing wild horse and burro herds.
Tomorrow's Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining hearing will "examine long-term management options for the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Program," according to summary written by GOP staffers.
The hearing comes in advance of a much-anticipated report BLM is expected to submit to Congress next month detailing specific strategies and funding estimates for reducing the number of wild horses and burros.
What exactly BLM plans to include in the report is unclear. But Steve Tryon, BLM's deputy assistant director for resources and planning, is scheduled to testify at tomorrow's hearing and will almost certainly be grilled about the upcoming report.
One thing the report will not include is a standing Trump administration request for Congress to lift language in appropriations bills that forbids BLM from using euthanasia on healthy horses and burros that cannot be adopted.
Casey Hammond, the Interior Department's principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management who is temporarily overseeing BLM, announced last week at a national wild horse advisory panel meeting that euthanasia is "not an option that's being discussed in the bureau or the department".
How that new Trump administration position sits with conservative Republicans, like subcommittee Chairman Mike Lee of Utah, remains to be seen. But the topic of euthanasia as a option for culling herd sizes is likely to be a major topic of debate at the hearing.
Among those scheduled to testify is Ethan Lane, chairman of the National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition, which advocates for downsizing herds on public lands to sustainable levels.
Lane is also senior executive director of the Public Lands Council and of federal lands for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Both groups joined the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and others in devising a macabre plan submitted to congressional appropriators in April to reduce growing herd sizes without resorting to euthanasia or unrestricted sales (The Path Forward, 10 Years to AML proposal).
Nancy Perry, ASPCA's senior vice president of government affairs, is also scheduled to testify.
The hearing comes as federal land managers say there are at least 88,000 wild horses and burros roaming 27 million acres of herd management areas — more than three times the appropriate management level of 26,690 animals deemed sustainable for natural resources and the wildlife that live on the rangelands.
The 88,000 wild horses "is very, very far away from healthy herds," Hammond told the wild horse advisory board last week.
BLM has ramped up organized roundups of wild horses and burros, as well as efforts to get these animals adopted. But the bureau estimates that it costs about $50 million a year — close to 70% of the Wild Horse and Burro Program annual budget — to care for the animals held in off-range holding corrals and pens.
"We often forget about that number," Hammond said, referring to those costs.
"That's what's eating up a significant portion of the budget that Congress has given us just to take care of the [animals] we've taken off the range [in order] to have a healthy range that we don't have," he said. "So the challenges are significant."
Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, July 16, at 2:30 p.m. in 366 Dirksen.
Source: E&E News
Who’s overgrazing BLM lands? Subsidized livestock. BLM data shows it.
The below spreadsheet converts grazing receipts reported by the BLM for private livestock grazed under the public lands grazing program, allowing a direct head-to-head comparison between the number of wild horses (WH) estimated by the BLM and permitted cattle grazing from 2002-2018 (see column 9). What does the data show? Cattle historically outnumbering WH by a factor of 71:1 (in 2002), 92:1 (2007) and 28:1 (2018).
This isn’t the story the BLM tells the public. In fact, the BLM doesn’t publicly report subsidized livestock numbers. It hides them, instead spinning a story of overpopulation and overgrazing by wild horses to justify costly WH roundups, removals, sterilization and sale/euthanasia proposals.
The column 9 ratios prove that justification to be false. And the ratios low-ball how many cattle actually compete with wild horses for water, forage and land, since grazing fees are calculated according to self-reported rancher AUMs and do not reflect underreporting and trespass grazing (like the more than $1 million that Cliven Bundy owed in back grazing fees in 2014). So the actual number of subsidized, privately owned livestock on public lands is likely much much higher.
Other Key Findings:
The identities of the permittees are sometimes obscured by corporate names, but data provided by the BLM shows that the folks leasing great swaths of public land to graze their cattle and enjoy enormous government subsidies include both people and corporations on Forbes “Billionaires” and “Richest Americans” lists (see p. 138 or click here).
When advocates claim that livestock outnumbers and out-grazes wild horses on public lands, this is not an emotional argument or an opinion. It is an argument based on the above data from the BLM and other government sources — data that the BLM doesn’t make available to the public and media, because it doesn’t want them to know…about the cattle, their owners, the damage they cause, and the massive subsidies they are taking from average Americans.
Sources for BLM spreadsheet data:
Column (1) BLM budget justification reports. 2018 $ are estimated. 2002-2017 are actual. (2) BLM website (3) calculated by dividing column 1 by column 2, then by 12 (4) multiply column 3 by 2 to account for 1 animal unit = 1 cow and her calf or 1 horse (5-6) BLM website (7) total columns 5+6 (8) column 4 divided by column 7 (9) column 4 divided by column 5. All data compiled by dailypitchfork.org.
Source: The Daily Pitchfork
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
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