"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.
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
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.
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
******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 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is about to embark on the next step in its devastating plan to wipe out nearly half of Wyoming's remaining wild horse population. The agency is seeking public comments on the proposed roundup of 164 wild horses from the Great Divide Basin Herd Management Area (HMA). The action begins the BLM's plan to eradicate wild horses from ("zero out") this important Wyoming HMA.
Just over two years ago, the BLM captured and removed 1,000 wild horses from Divide Basin. Now the agency is again planning to use our tax dollars for another helicopter roundup that will terrorize and traumatize these animals.
The action is completely unjustified because the HMA is well within the allowable management level (AML) of 415-600 horses set by the BLM itself!
The sole purpose of this roundup is to appease local ranchers who want all wild horses removed from the checkerboard portion of the HMA, an area that comprises nearly half of the HMA.
Let's start 2014 -- Year of the Horse -- right by getting in thousands of public comments urging the BLM to consider alternatives to the proposed action and laying out the specific environmental and social impacts that must be analyzed before this action can begin to go forward. Click Here to Take Action!
Public Comment Deadline: January 10, 2014
Source: The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) whose mission is dedicated to preserving American wild horses and burros in viable free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. AWHPC's mission and grassroots efforts are supported by a broad-based coalition of more than 50 public interest groups, environmentalists, humane organizations and historical societies representing over 10 million supporters. A campaign, as opposed to a stand alone organization, the AWHPC operates under the 501c3 structure of Return to Freedom, which is its parent organization.
Comments for the Bureau of Land Management public scoping period to address wild horse and burro management are due Sept. 27. The wild horse and burro analysis is part of the Rock Springs Resource Management Plan, though it addresses wild horse herding areas close to Rawlins, such as the Great Divide Basin Herd Management Area.
Serena Baker, public affairs specialist for the BLM High Desert District, said two records of decision will be released in 2016 — one for Rock Springs and one for Rawlins.
In 2011, the Rock Springs Grazing Association filed a lawsuit against the BLM to get the BLM to remove all wild horses from private land within the “checkerboard” pattern of mixed land ownership. To settle the lawsuit, on April 3 this year the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming approved a consent decree, which outlines specific wild horse management analyses the BLM must perform.
The four herd areas affected by the analysis will be the Salt Wells Creek, Adobe Town Complex, Great Divide Basin and White Mountain, according to the consent decree. There are 610-800 horses in Adobe Town, 205-300 in White Mountain, 250-365 in Salt Wells Creek and 415-600 in Great Divide Basin, said Ben Smith, wild horse specialist, who attended an open house meeting about the analysis on Thursday.
The consent decree states that the BLM analyze three of the four herd areas and change their designations from herd management area to simply herd area, which means the BLM would not manage any wild horse herds on that land, Smith said.
The White Mountain herd would be managed as a non-reproducing herd, which means the BLM would spay or geld every horse in the herd, Smith said. Other horses that were also spayed or gelded would be rotated into the herd as the number of horses began to dwindle.
Though the BLM has agreed to remove wild horses from the checkerboard private land areas, the consent decree only dictates that the BLM perform an analysis on the herd management areas.
Comments may be emailed to RockSpringsRMP_WY@blm.gov (include “Wild Horse Scoping” in the subject line), faxed to (307) 352-0329, or mailed to the Bureau of Land Management, Rock Springs Field Office, Wild Horse Scoping, 280 Highway 191 North, Rock Springs, WY 82901.
Source: Rawlins Times by Kate Snyder
RAWLINS, Wyo. (AP) — The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a wild horse roundup in Wyoming in an area in Sweetwater and Carbon counties, from Interstate 80 south to the Colorado border.
The agency says the public can comment before June 10 on an environmental assessment of the proposed roundup, which would help the agency reduce conflicts between wild horses and private landowners in the area.
The BLM estimates there will be nearly 1,450 wild horses there by the summer. The BLM says the ideal population is between 861 and 1,165 wild horses. It proposes gathering hundreds of horses in August, returning some of the mares to the area after they've been treated with a fertility control drug, and preparing other horses for sale or adoption.